Security news

US formally withdraws from Open Skies treaty

By Gareth Jennings 24 November 2020
The United States formally withdrew from the international Open Skies treaty on 22 November, fulfilling the Trump administration’s pledge made in May.  The US, which has been flying the OC-135B in the Open Skies role, withdrew from the international treaty on 22 November. (US Air Force)  “On May 22, the United States exercised its right pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article XV of the Treaty on Open Skies by providing notice to the Treaty Depositaries and to all States Parties of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty, effective six months fro...

Social media disinformation disrupts EU missions worldwide

By Brooks Tigner 20 November 2020
Disinformation campaigns that target the EU’s military and civil security missions in Africa and elsewhere to undermine their credibility are rising, according to EU officials. A new approach to analyse and counter the problem will be launched in the coming months.  “The simple fact is all our missions are being targeted by disinformation,” said Admiral Hervé Bléjean, head of the EU Military Staff and its operational headquarters, Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC). Adm Bléjean and others addressed their remarks to a 16 November...

Damning report alleges war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan

By Julian Kerr 19 November 2020
Australian special forces deployed in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 were involved in the unlawful killing of 39 prisoners and civilians and the cruel treatment of two other individuals, according to a report by the Inspector-General of the Aust...

Vanishing act: policing new Arctic routes as ice cover retreats

By Anika Torruella & Michael Fabey 18 November 2020
As the polar ice mass above the Arctic Circle rapidly retracts due to global warming, diminishing ice is leading to increased maritime access to Arctic sea routes. The decrease in permanent sea ice, especially from June to September, has exposed coastal borders, driven increased military activity, and set the stage for the Arctic region to play a prominent role in geostrategic competition.    Royal Danish Navy Thetis-class frigate HDMS   Triton  (F358) transits Godthab Fjord in August 2020 during Canadian Operation ‘Nan...

Organised crime moves into plastic-waste sector

By Eric Randolph 17 November 2020
The huge increase in the sale and transport of waste plastic has created lucrative and varied opportunities for unscrupulous businesses and organised crime groups (OCGs) to exploit. With the plastics industry continuing to grow and international trade routes for waste becoming increasingly complex, law enforcement agencies (LEAs) face major challenges in monitoring and tackling the problem, while also facing mounting political and civil society pressure for effective action.  The global market for recycled plastics was valued at USD32.6 bill...

Lack of reform in Lebanon imperils state stability

By Nicholas Blanford 16 November 2020
On 6 November, the US Department of the Treasury sanctioned Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) – the leading Christian party in Lebanon and close ally of the powerful Iran-backed Hizbullah – under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act. Bassil, the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun and presidential aspirant, is the most notable figure outside Hizbullah to have been designated to date in Lebanon. Significantly, he was sanctioned for alleged corruption rather than for the FPM’s 14-year alliance with Hizbullah.  Nevertheless, Leba...

Afghanistan sees significant increase in enemy-initiated attacks

By Gabriel Dominguez 05 November 2020
Fighting has intensified in Afghanistan in recent months, with US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) describing the number of enemy-initiated attacks (EIAs) registered between 1 July and 30 September as “above seasonal norms”, according to a report by US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko.  Released on 5 November, the SIGAR’s latest quarterly report cited USFOR-A as saying that “average daily enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan were 50% higher this quarter (July–September) than last quarter (April–June)”...

EU committee debates Islamist terrorism amid attacks

By Brooks Tigner 03 November 2020
A suspected Islamic State sympathiser carried out a shooting attack in central Vienna, Austria, late on 2 November, leaving at least four people dead. At the time of writing, a further seven people were critically wounded in hospital and police had begun a series of arrests in connection with the attack.  The attack highlighted the ongoing terrorist threat in Europe from Islamist extremists. Despite the destruction of its self-declared ‘caliphate’ in March 2019, the Islamic State remains an imminent danger to Europe by inspiring lone-wolf att...

Gun-makers enhance 3D-printing technology

By Matthew Moss 27 October 2020
The use of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has added a new element to firearms technology. For manufacturers it has opened up new development and production processes, while for hobbyists, activists and criminals more affordable ‘desktop’ 3D printers offer potentially unregulated access to firearms.  Craft-produced weapons have a long history of use for nefarious purposes and have characteristics that make them well suited to criminal activities. These types of firearms are unregistered on state weapon databases, are relatively easy t...

Two injured as Greek minesweeper collides with container ship near Piraeus

By John Pagni 27 October 2020
A collision between a Hellenic Navy minesweeper and a Portuguese-flagged container ship outside the Port of Piraeus on 27 October resulted in two of the warship’s complement being hospitalised and the badly damaged vessel evacuated of all 27 crew before being towed back to base.  The Greek Navy’s minesweeper HS   Kallisto  being towed back to the naval base after colliding with the Portuguese-flagged cargo ship   Maersk Launceston  outside the Port of Piraeus in Athens on 27 October.   (Sotiris Dimitropoul...

Bosnian politics remains mired in stagnation

By Dijedon Imeri 26 October 2020
November 2020 is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Agreement (known formally as the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina). Although the peace accord ended the 1992–95 Bosnian War, political and socioeconomic challenges in Bosnia remain and are the legacy of the Dayton Agreement’s establishment of a federal system that produced reform and enabled a nationalist discourse to dominate.  Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Šefik Džaferović (2nd from left) and members of the Presidency of...

Restrictions on Iran lifted

By Charles Forrester 20 October 2020
The UN arms embargo on Iran has expired as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement covering Iran’s nuclear programme that was signed in 2015.  The agreement set an expiry for the arms embargo of 18 October 2020, five years after the adoption of the agreement. Other controls, such as travel and financial transaction restrictions, have also been automatically lifted as part of the agreement.  A UN arms embargo on Iran has been lifted following the expiration of a time limit within the JCPOA agreement. (Mohsen Shandiz/Co...

Post-coup discord threatens Malian government stability

By Corinne Archer 20 October 2020
Malian soldiers, led by a group of five colonels, forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to step down in a bloodless coup on 18 August. His removal followed weeks of mass street protests involving tens of thousands of Malians calling for his resignation. A turning point in the protests occurred on 10 July when protesters ransacked and set fire to government buildings and the security forces responded with live fire, killing at least 11 people.  The protests were led by a new opposition coalition composed of civil society organisations, reli...

Kosovo and Serbia take tentative steps towards economic co-operation

By Chris Deliso 07 October 2020
A 4 September White House agreement between Kosovo and Serbia may improve political dialogue and economic co-operation, but has also attracted criticism for perceived concessions and an overly broad focus that includes Middle East affairs and Chinese 5G technology. The road to the agreement began in October 2019, when US President Donald Trump assigned then-Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Peace Negotiations.  Diplomatic progress on a new agreement was made in January and February 2020 and a s...

NATO launches latest Bulgarian air policing mission

By Gareth Jennings 29 September 2020
NATO has begun its latest round of policing of Bulgarian airspace, with six Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft of the US Air Force (USAF) flying out of Graf Ignatievo Air Base in the country.  A US Air Force F-16 from the 555th Fighter Squadron seen departing Graf Ignatievo Air Base during recent exercises in Bulgaria, ahead of the relaunch of NATO’s air policing mission in the country. (NATO Allied Air Command/Ericka Woolever)  The recommencement of air patrols on 28 September is part of NATO’s wider enhanced presence in Eu...

Belarusian president likely to hold on to power with Russian help

By Alex Kokcharov 24 September 2020
Mass protests began in cities across Belarus after the opposition rejected the allegedly rigged results of the presidential election on 9 August. According to the Belarusian Central Election Commission’s final count on 14 August, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenka, in power since 1994, received 80.1% of the vote, while the alternative candidate, the political novice Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, received 10.1%.  Tsikhanouskaya refused to accept the result, citing the results of independent exit polls allegedly giving her between 60% and 70...

China's Belt and Road drive falters amid Covid-19 pandemic

By Christian Le Miere 18 September 2020
Reports of the death of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have been greatly exaggerated. Two high-profile tours of Europe by China’s top diplomats in a few days highlighted Beijing’s continued desire to build influence through investment, and in particular the BRI. Politburo member Yang Jiechi visited Greece and Spain on 3–5 September and Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi spent a week visiting France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway from 25 August.  In Greece, Yang pledged alongside Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis t...

Armenia-Azerbaijan territorial dispute remains critical flashpoint

By Charles Forrester 14 September 2020
The long-standing military confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has been a cause of conflict between the two countries since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and has become one of the former Soviet Union’s longest-running ‘frozen conflicts’. A major escalation between the two sides took place in April 2016 in Nagorno-Karabakh, and resulted in the deaths of between 100 and 200 combatants. Known as the Four-Day War, the battle ended in a stalemate. Clashes in 2018 between Armenia and Azerb...

Five Eyes allies employ electronic intelligence notations for unique emissions

By Jon Lake 14 September 2020
Five Eyes nations’ electronic intelligence (ELINT) operators use a previously little-known system, called ELINT notations (ELNOTs), to identify the unique emissions from radar and other non-communications systems, according to a series of recent pu...

Social media-amplified QAnon conspiracy rises as US election nears

By Malcolm Beith 11 September 2020
The United States web-based conspiracy theory network QAnon has come to the forefront of the US national conversation. At least 15 Republican Congressional candidates have embraced QAnon theories, according to US media watchdog Media Matters for America, and by 20 August President Donald Trump had amplified at least 216 tweets from accounts linked to QAnon, although he has not publicly declared his support for the group. Preliminary results from a Facebook investigation in early August showed that there were thousands of QAnon-linked groups a...
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