Inkerman Insights on Global Business Threat and Vulnerability

THE UBAIDAH ERA: MORE OF THE SAME FROM AL SHABAAB?

THE UBAIDAH ERA: MORE OF THE SAME FROM AL SHABAAB?

On 05 September 2014, the Pentagon confirmed what many suspected: that its air strike against al Shabaab targets on 02 September 2014 had killed the terror group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi al-Muhammad, also known as Ahmed Godane. The loss of its emir naturally comes as a serious blow for al Shabaab, which is the latest in a series of major setbacks since 2011. But what exactly does Godane’s death mean for the terror group and its plans for the future?

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AN EVOLUTION IN SINAI-BASED MILITANCY?

AN EVOLUTION IN SINAI-BASED MILITANCY?

As events in the wider Middle East gather pace – particularly the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq – they have overshadowed (and some would say trivialised) many other more localised threats. One of these threats is that represented by the Egyptian militant group Ansar Beyt al Maqdis (ABM). The Sinai-based extremist movement has been targeted by a massive security crackdown over the past year, but has proven that not only does it have the ability to continue its “traditional” attacks against the security forces, but has also proven its willingness to adopt new strategies. This shift in tactics is believed to have come about partly as a result of increased collaboration between it and other prominent militant organisations, such as the IS. 

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CAPITALISING ON ILLEGALITY: KAZAKHSTAN’S SUPERFICIAL TREATMENT OF THE SHADOW ECONOMY

CAPITALISING ON ILLEGALITY: KAZAKHSTAN’S SUPERFICIAL TREATMENT OF THE SHADOW ECONOMY

Kazakhstan’s new policy for legalising capital from the country’s extensive shadow economy came into effect on 01 September 2014. This will represent the third such campaign within the country since Kazakhstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Based on a decree signed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in June 2014, the new policy will strive to bring new and much-needed funds into Kazakh banks, thus stimulating the economy, by granting tax amnesty for any capital or property acquired outside of the formal economy that individuals declare between 01 September 2014 and 01 December 2015. The Kazakh Government estimates that as a result of this policy banks could bring in an estimated US$ 10 billion. It is important to note that although it seeks to legalise money technically garnered from illegal monetary transactions, to the extent that the funds are originating in a system outside of the established legal economy within Kazakhstan, the government has emphasised that it will not accept any property or capital stemming from corruption or acquired as a result of crimes committed against individuals or against the state constitution. However, it is not clear how the Kazakh Government plans to make this distinction, particularly considering that all three of the aforementioned sources of money play a prominent role in Kazakhstan’s informal economy. Indeed, although the government’s new policy will almost certainly have the desired effect of bringing new funds into the banking system, it will likely fall far short of curbing the country’s extensive shadow economy. In the worst case, it may even encourage and further perpetuate the informal economic system the president has claimed he wants to combat.

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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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