Inkerman Insights on Global Business Threat and Vulnerability

THAILAND’S MILITARY COUP: A DARK NEW ERA?

THAILAND’S MILITARY COUP: A DARK NEW ERA?

The establishment of a new interim legislature in Thailand on 31 July 2014 has been viewed by some as the start of a gradual transition back towards a civilian government, three months after the military junta seized power in the country’s twelfth coup in forty-eight years. The National Legislative Assembly (NLA), which held its first meeting on 07 August 2014, is expected to address a number of pressing issues over the next few weeks, including the appointment of a new prime minister and the formation of the 2015 budget. This will theoretically pave the way for a democratic general election, which the junta has pledged to hold in October 2015. However, there are a number of reasons to suggest that the military high command has no intention of fading quietly into the background. The make-up of the NLA and the temporary constitution are arguably designed to channel power back to the military authorities, while measures put in place by the junta to suppress public dissent show no sign of being lifted. These factors suggest that instead of overseeing a return to a legitimate democratic process, the military is instead attempting to tighten its grip on power in the lead up to the 2015 elections.

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Back into the Fray: An American Re-entry into the Iraqi Quagmire

Back into the Fray: An American Re-entry into the Iraqi Quagmire

The past week has been an extremely busy one in Iraq, with a number of serious developments occurring across the country. On 07 August 2014, US President Barack Obama announced that he had authorised the US military to carry out targeted airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) forces in Iraq. The following day, 08 August 2014, US military aircraft began limited operations in the country’s north. In what is believed to have been one of the first attacks, two F/A-18 aircraft reportedly dropped several laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece that was attacking Kurdish forces not far from Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). This was followed up over the weekend by a series of targeted attacks by both manned and unmanned US aerial vehicles; largely hitting specific small-scale IS assets, less in an effort to destroy militant forces, but rather to stall their advances into Kurdish-held territory. But why has Obama – who has made no secret of his hesitation to consider military operations to counter the Islamists gains in Iraq – chosen this moment to reverse his previous stance? The answer lies in a number of recent events, which constitute a clear deepening of the conflict, particularly the IS advances into areas held by the Kurds, its targeting of embattled religious communities (like the Yazidis), and its seizure of large amounts of heavy weaponry from Iraqi military bases. In parallel to these military developments, Iraq’s political crisis has also worsened, as incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s struggle to hold onto power continues to exacerbate divisions in the nation’s capital.

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CENTRAL AMERICA’S FALLING HOMICIDE RATES: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

CENTRAL AMERICA’S FALLING HOMICIDE RATES: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

Central America has gained fame for being one of the most violent regions in the world. For example, the Guardian published an article in June 2014 on “The 10 world cities with the highest murder rates – in pictures” based on the recent data released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that shows that eight of the ten most violent cities in the world are in Latin America; the Central American cities are Guatemala City, Belize City, Tegucigalpa, Panama City and San Salvador. However, amid this negative press, excellent news has been announced by the Guatemalan and Honduran Presidents; that their latest homicide statistics indicate that instances of homicide have dropped over ten and twenty points in the past two years, respectively. Is this good news just too good to be true?

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LIBYA ON THE BRINK – DIGNITY, DAWN, AND THE DESCENT INTO CHAOS

LIBYA ON THE BRINK – DIGNITY, DAWN, AND THE DESCENT INTO CHAOS

Over the past three weeks, Libya has been variously described as a “failing state”, in “civil war” and, among the more positive reviews, “not complete chaos, yet”. Warring rival militias in the capital, Tripoli, have shut down the country’s main airport, set fire to a major fuel storage facility, sent hundreds of Libyan families fleeing to neighbouring Tunisia, and prompted an exodus of foreign governments from the capital. In Benghazi, Islamist militias have made substantial advances against a coalition of military groupings led by a former general, Khalifa Hifter. Hifter had long claimed that Operation Dignity – his designation for a massive, unauthorised offensive aimed at routing Islamists in all their forms from Libya – would soon expand from Benghazi to the east, towards Derna, and to the west, to Tripoli. It may not have happened by Hifter’s design, nor to his timetable, but the showdown between forces aligned with his anti-Islamist sentiment and those of a determinedly Islamist bent has reached the capital, and now threatens to engulf the country.

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CAN OPTIMISM CONCERNING PEACE PROCESS WITH COLOMBIAN FARC AID INVESTMENT?

CAN OPTIMISM CONCERNING PEACE PROCESS WITH COLOMBIAN FARC AID INVESTMENT?

The international image of Colombia has changed drastically over the past decade. During the 1990s it was internationally known not only for the persistent guerrilla warfare but also exorbitant rates of violence related to drug trafficking. However, the security environment is known to have improved considerably as well as the possibilities for international investment. President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) first advocated an economic policy that strongly encouraged international investment in Colombia. Simultaneously, he implemented the policy of seguridad democrática targeting the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the largest guerrilla group in Colombia, militarily. US aid in the form of Plan Colombia was crucial in this context as huge amounts of military aid allowed Uribe to modernise the Colombian military. The FARC was weakened substantially as a consequence of this policy. This context of increased security in Colombia was used to attract foreign investment by Uribe’s government. This openness to foreign investment has continued under President Juan Manuel Santos since he assumed office in 2010.

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JOKOWI’S ELECTION VICTORY: A TURNING POINT FOR INDONESIA?

JOKOWI’S ELECTION VICTORY: A TURNING POINT FOR INDONESIA?

The election of fifty-three-year-old Joko Widodo as president of Indonesia on 22 July 2014 has widely been hailed as a major political turning point for the world’s fourth most populous country. Admittedly, Jokowi, as he is known to his supporters, has many of the right credentials for the position. His humble background, clean image and ability to relate to ordinary people have won over a significant proportion of the population. However, the challenges he now faces are considerable and numerous. A major concern will be Indonesia’s flagging economy, which has recently slowed under the weight of large current account and budget deficits. Jokowi will also need to deliver on his election promise to improve the lot of ordinary citizens, which will be no mean feat in a country where over forty million people live below the poverty line. In the short term, Prabowo Subianto’s decision to challenge the election result is expected to trigger further political instability, with a final decision unlikely to be reached until mid-August 2014.

 

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THE ISIS CRISIS: A RETURN TO CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ?

THE ISIS CRISIS: A RETURN TO CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ?

Unless you have been living under a rock lately, you will undoubtedly have heard of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), sometimes referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and its recent lightning advance across much of western and northern Iraq. To listen to many mainstream media reports, the Sunni militant group is akin to an all-conquering force, brushing aside everything in its path like a modern-day Mongol ‘Golden Horde’. Indeed, the group and its allies have captured a vast amount of territory, particularly in the last fortnight, and have again demonstrated their reputation as a disciplined, well-organised and well-equipped fighting force.  However, much of ISIS’s recent advances have been less about its military prowess and more about its active choice to pragmatically take advantage of opportunities, by using its well-honed ability to find and exploit weakness and division. It is clear that ISIS has helped to “breathe new life into militancy in Iraq, rejuvenating their confidence, resources, and cause”, as part of its efforts to merge regions of Iraq and Syria into a mono-religious state. The growing influence of the militant movement and its divisive agenda represents a key risk to the stability and integrity of the Republic of Iraq, which outweighs the threat it poses as a traditional military force. ISIS is unlikely to be able to generate the numbers and the support forces it would require to take and hold territory for extended periods outside of the so-called ‘Sunni Triangle’ in Iraq. Nevertheless, its true danger may lie in the reinvigoration of the sectarian conflict that so devastated the country between 2006 and 2008.

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2014 FIFA WORLD CUP: CAN PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF “FULLY GUARANTEE PEOPLE’S SECURITY”?

2014 FIFA WORLD CUP: CAN PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF “FULLY GUARANTEE PEOPLE’S SECURITY”?

Despite President Dilma Rousseff’s assurances that Brazil will “fully guarantee people’s security” during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the international community has repeatedly questioned the ability of the government to protect the estimated 600,000 fans due to attend the tournament. Crime levels in Brazil, particularly those related to violent crime, are very high by international standards. Naturally, this poses the most obvious threat to foreign visitors. However, the build-up to the tournament has also been marred by protracted strike action and mass demonstrations in many of Brazil’s major cities. It is important to consider the impact that these unpredictable protests will have on the safety of World Cup fans.

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THAILAND RISK UPDATE – 08 May 2014

THAILAND RISK UPDATE – 08 May 2014

Thailand’s political stalemate continues in the aftermath of the conclusion of two legal cases against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Inkerman Group outlines the political and security risks for Thailand at 08 May 2014.

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WHAT IMPACT DO THE LEGAL AID CHANGES AND DECISION IN OPERATION COTTON HAVE ON THE FUTURE OF LEGALLY AIDED FRAUD CASES IN THE UK?

WHAT IMPACT DO THE LEGAL AID CHANGES AND DECISION IN OPERATION COTTON HAVE ON THE FUTURE OF LEGALLY AIDED FRAUD CASES IN THE UK?

Last week, 01 May 2014, saw the staying of the indictment in the so called ‘Operation Cotton’ case; this was a multi-million pound fraud that centred on the sale of land. This is the first of many fraud cases that is likely to be stayed in this way as a direct result of cuts made to the legal aid budget. The five men involved in the case were on trial for fraud relating to £5 million of UK investors’ money.

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ALGERIAN ELECTIONS: THE UNCERTAINTY OF BOUTEFLIKA’S CERTAIN VICTORY

ALGERIAN ELECTIONS: THE UNCERTAINTY OF BOUTEFLIKA’S CERTAIN VICTORY

It may seem strange to those in countries where election campaigns increasingly look like warped beauty contests in which the person matters more than the policy, that a candidate could stand in a presidential election without once stepping foot onto a podium. Stranger still: that the candidate in question would be all but guaranteed victory in said election. This is precisely the situation, however, in Algeria; with less than a week to go before the election – 17 April 2014 – seventy-seven-year-old incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, silent since the shakily croaked announcement of his candidacy, will almost undoubtedly win a fourth term. However, an increasingly vocal opposition movement has made it clear that it does not intend to allow the elections to pass uncontested; weekly protests have been held to decry political stagnation, raising the much-feared spectre of unrest in Algeria, and making an arguably inevitable result marginally less inevitable.

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CAN AFGHANISTAN HOLD A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION?

CAN AFGHANISTAN HOLD A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION?

On 05 April 2014, Afghanistan will go to the polls, to hold elections for a new president and over 400 provincial councillors. This will be the fifth national election held since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, but will be the first to be held on a constitutionally established election schedule, and also the first to be overseen by a permanent and independent entity, the IECC, rather than the controversial temporary bodies set up to monitor previous votes. Without a doubt, this upcoming election is an important moment in Afghanistan’s modern history, particularly in relation to its often problematic, decade-long democratic transition. A successful election that establishes a legitimate government would deal a substantial blow to the aspirations of Afghanistan’s militant groups. However, a failed election, combined with a coordinated push by Taliban forces, could provide an impetus and a rallying cry to these same extremist groups, potentially reinvigorating the insurgency that has caused so much bloodshed over the past decade. Although the elections could be crucial to the future stability of Afghanistan, the process is likely to be far from smooth, as there are a number of important obstacles that could significantly impact the chances of a successful outcome.

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