Inkerman Insights on Global Business Threat and Vulnerability

LEND ME YOUR EARS: THE POWER OF ISLAMIC STATE PROPAGANDA

LEND ME YOUR EARS: THE POWER OF ISLAMIC STATE PROPAGANDA

The Islamic State (IS) has made headlines for many reasons – its ability to seize and control territory, its brutal tactics, its rapid expansion that has even brought it near the borders of states such as Turkey and Jordan. However, one of the fundamental factors that has allowed the IS to make such gains has been its ability to recruit foreign fighters from around the world. Recent US intelligence reportedly suggests that as many as 15,000 individuals from around the world have enlisted to fight with the IS in Iraq and Syria. Central to the recruitment of these individuals has been the Islamic State’s technologically-savvy and advanced use of a wide variety of media tools, including social networking sites, recruitment videos and the creation of its own glossy magazine and media centre. The IS is certainly not the first radical Islamist organisation to employ such tactics – Hezbollah is particularly known for its impressive command of media propaganda – however, the IS seems to have the most sophisticated command of such media tools compared to any other widely-recognised terrorist organisation.

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DIALOGUE’S DEMISE – THE DWINDLING PROSPECTS FOR PEACE IN LIBYA

DIALOGUE’S DEMISE – THE DWINDLING PROSPECTS FOR PEACE IN LIBYA

On 23 October 2011, the Libyan people were wildly celebrating the death of one of the world’s most notorious dictators. Fast-forward three years, and it is clear that the celebrations are over. As the past two weeks have seen an alarming intensification of fighting in both eastern and western Libya, internationally-backed national dialogue initiatives have foundered. Negotiations coordinated by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) seem to have been stillborn, as an initial round of talks involving a narrow segment of political actors held in late September 2014 is all that has been achieved thus far. An Algerian-sponsored initiative, slated to be far more inclusive, has similarly stalled before getting off the ground. As violence has worsened in many parts of the country, political developments have also raised further challenges to an inclusive and peaceful resolution to the conflict, leaving the international community at a loss for a next move.

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STATE SANCTIONED SECTARIANISM: THE RISE OF SHI’ITE MILITIAS IN BAGHDAD

STATE SANCTIONED SECTARIANISM: THE RISE OF SHI’ITE MILITIAS IN BAGHDAD

As the body count continues to rise in Baghdad, the troubled security situation is causing great concern that the darkest days of sectarian mayhem – as witnessed throughout 2006 and 2007 – have returned. Shi’ite militias appear to be responsible for much of the bloodshed in the city, and are largely operating with impunity, employing many of the same tactics as the terrorist group that they are ostensibly fighting. These militias, which are strongly backed by Iran, have become one of the main fighting forces of the Baghdad Government, and are now believed to consist of well over 100,000 troops. Despite having played a key role in the campaign against the Islamic State (IS), the resurgence of the Shi’ite paramilitary forces is having a severe and negative impact on the stability of Iraq, particularly on its capital city.

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DOMESTIC EXTREMISM: GERMANY’S FASTEST GROWING PROBLEM?

DOMESTIC EXTREMISM: GERMANY’S FASTEST GROWING PROBLEM?

A number of recent incidents, seen largely as a spill-over from the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq, have brought the issue of Islamist radicalism to the forefront of public discourse in Germany.
On the night of 07 – 08 October 2014, the security forces were forced to intervene after a group of approximately 400 hard-line Islamists formed in response to a large gathering of Kurdish activists, who were protesting outside a Hamburg mosque – believed to be used by radicals – against the assault being carried out by the Islamic State (IS) on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. German police used water cannons and batons to keep the two large groups apart from each other, many of whom were armed with knives and improvised weapons. Fourteen people were injured in the fighting, and another twenty-two arrested. Earlier in the day, Kurdish and Yazidi demonstrators clashed with an Islamist Chechen group in the northern German town of Celle, leaving nine people injured, including four police officers.

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STATE-SANCTIONED HOMOPHOBIA AND THE FOREIGN TRAVELLER

STATE-SANCTIONED HOMOPHOBIA AND THE FOREIGN TRAVELLER

The recent arrest and subsequent brief imprisonment of a British tourist, charged with “homosexual acts” in Morocco has sparked renewed concern regarding the potential risks faced by gay travellers to certain destinations. While most of the world has steadily grown increasingly accepting of homosexuality, there have been some recent notable cases of countries taking steps in the opposite direction. In Uganda, concerted efforts have been made to pass a draconian anti-gay law. The law was struck down in August 2014, but some lawmakers are currently seeking to resurrect it. In Russia, the bizarre legislation banning “homosexual propaganda” was mirrored by an alarming rise in homophobic violence. In Egypt, local activists have claimed that the military-backed government has launched a crackdown against gay men, with most of those arrested being charged with such crimes as “debauchery” since there are no specific penalties for homosexuality in the Egyptian legal system. There are at least five countries in which conviction of certain homosexual activities can lead to a death sentence and some seventy more where it remains illegal in some way to be gay. It is relatively uncommon for foreign nationals to be charged under these laws, but the recent case in Morocco has demonstrated that the risk remains for travellers hailing from a country where homosexuality is not vilified to fall victim to more culturally conservative destinations.

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POLITICS OR PROFIT? THE EVOLUTION OF KIDNAPPING IN SYRIA

POLITICS OR PROFIT? THE EVOLUTION OF KIDNAPPING IN SYRIA

Recent events, most notably the execution of four Western captives by the Islamic State (IS), have focused attention onto the issue of kidnappings carried out by militant organisations in the Middle East. Although extremist groups have long exploited hostage-taking for political, diplomatic or financial gain, it is today an even more effective tactic, due in part to the fact that public audiences are becoming increasingly inured to violence. Horrific events that would previously have garnered world-wide headlines – such as suicide bombings – now often pass largely unnoticed, and fail to elicit the commentary that they once did. Kidnappings remain sensationalist in nature and thus bypass this dynamic by allowing the victim and their story to be personalised, with the uncertainty over their fate creating the suspense necessary for a long-lasting and wide-reaching story, especially if the victim is a foreign national. In addition, kidnapping has also become more profitable for militant movements than ever before, with several sources suggesting that al Qaeda and its direct affiliates alone have taken in at least US$125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which US$66 million was paid just last year, which is a troubling indication of the growing nature of this problem.

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THE CONTEXT OF HONG KONG’S RECENT UNREST: SLIM PROSPECTS FOR A SWIFT END

THE CONTEXT OF HONG KONG’S RECENT UNREST: SLIM PROSPECTS FOR A SWIFT END

Two weeks after Hong Kong student groups began a boycott of their classes, the gathering of demonstrators in the city has swelled by orders of magnitude, and solidified into a resolute unit which forceful blows have proved unable to crack. At the epicentre of this movement are the arrangements for the 2017 election, which shuddered to the surface when Beijing announced on 31 August 2014, that candidates for Hong Kong’s next head of government would have to be approved by a committee (which is widely accepted as being heavily sympathetic to Chinese interests). But why has Beijing’s decree been followed by such a frenetic reaction? The matter extends far beyond the particulars of a vote. As people took to the streets of Hong Kong, whether as challengers to or supporters of China’s stance, they rode the conflicting courses that Beijing and Hong Kong have been following for several decades. Despite recent signs that the green shoots of reconciliation might be beginning to emerge, the ground from which they grow remains cracked and rugged, and prone to further tremors.

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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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