The first in a new series of weekly briefings covering political and security risk updates from around the world. This week: the US Senate has voted down four separate gun control measures in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people; the United Kingdom will shortly vote on its membership of the European Union against the backdrop of an increasingly antagonistic campaign and the shocking far-right murder of a pro-EU MP; Russia has announced it plans to maintain its military presence in the Artic region; and more from Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Polar regions. Read more
As Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave campaign turn their attention to the alleged security dangers of EU membership, Open Briefing has released an assessment of the security and defence advantages the United Kingdom gains from being part of the European Union. Intelligence analysts from the non-partisan think tank and consultancy also examined whether Britain’s security would be better met by its membership of NATO rather than the European Union as some Eurosceptics have claimed. Read more
In the build up to the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, some advocates for leaving the EU have argued that Britain’s security is better met by its membership of NATO rather than the European Union. In reality, the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU gives it diplomatic leverage and law enforcement mechanisms that it would not have on it own as well as military cooperation beyond that possible within NATO. While NATO remains somewhat of a ‘solution looking for a problem’, the EU takes a broad political, economic and military approach to security that is in keeping with our own approach and is well-suited to the interconnected security threats of the 21st century. Read more
The glossy British magazine Manor has published a wide-ranging interview with our executive director, Chris Abbott. In the interview with Manor’s features editor, Fiona McGowan, Chris discusses his background and outlines his plans for the future of Open Briefing. Read more
As announced last week, Open Briefing is expanding the range of services it offers beyond intelligence to also include security, training and equipment. The full range of services we are offering has now been published. New services include: GPS personnel tracking with 24/7/365 monitoring, SOS functionality and international emergency response; Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) and civilian Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Extraction (SERE) courses; first aid kits and training; up to 30% off clothing, tents, rucksacks, boots, climbing equipment, etc. from the best European and US outdoor brands; field rations, emergency food aid packs and water purifiers; sat phones for rental or purchase; and many more. Read more
Open Briefing has today published an in-depth assessment of the UK and wider US-led coalition’s campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Read more
Overall, the US-led coalition has had some considerable successes in containing and rolling back Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; however, much more should have been achieved given the combined military might and other resources of the 66 members of the global coalition to counter Islamic State. Those gains that have been made have come at the expense of civilian casualties. Furthermore, there are no signs that the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom from Islamic State is reducing despite nearly two years of UK airstrikes and other efforts to target the group.
There are thousands of ordinary people risking their lives every day to protect people and the planet. We want to help those working in overseas aid, search and rescue, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, human rights, research expeditions and the media operate safely and effectively on the ground in complex, hostile or remote areas, such as war zones, disaster areas or under repressive regimes. We are in the process of launching three new units to do just this.
Open Briefing is delighted to announce two recent fundraising successes. The Oak Foundation’s international human rights programme has awarded us a three-year grant worth £155,000 and the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation has awarded us a two-year grant worth £25,000. Together, these grants mean we can implement our plans to expand beyond the provision of intelligence to also provide security, training and equipment to help those striving to make the world a better place. Read more
Monthly briefing from the Open Briefing intelligence unit on developments in remote-control warfare. This month: shadowy Russian private military company fighting alongside Spetsnaz special forces in Syria; US officials explore scenarios for Islamic State ‘dirty bomb’ attacks using drones; studies find mass surveillance having negative impact on democracy and informed debate; and more. Read more
This briefing provides an update on recent developments in the conflict against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It also includes an overview of UK air, ground and sea forces in the region and an analysis of Ministry of Defence data on airstrikes. It concludes that the deliberate opacity surrounding UK special forces deployments allows the British government to authorise ground operations while at the same time claiming that there are no UK combat troops involved in the conflict, thereby sidestepping public and parliamentary debate. Read more
Monthly briefing from the Open Briefing intelligence unit on developments in remote-control warfare. This month: mercenaries are increasingly being used in Yemen conflict; the covert activities of French and Italian special forces in Libya are revealed; the US Department of Defence is developing its robotics and autonomous systems strategy; and more. Read more
Recent changes in personnel levels, coupled with equipment modernisation and operational experience, has made Russia’s elite airborne force (the VDV) an even more formidable force. As Russia shifts its gaze from perceived threats along its southern borders to those along its western ones, together with a fundamental shift to a military doctrine that once more sees NATO as the primary threat, the temptation to use the VDV as a military solution to political problems will likely only grow. Read more
This briefing provides an update on recent developments in the conflict against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It includes the MoD response to an Open Briefing Freedom of Information request and an overview of UK military actions in the two countries, including ground operations – an often overlooked element of the UK campaign. It also discusses the substantial cache of IS documents recently handed to Sky News. Read more
Islamic State has used aerial drones for reconnaissance and battlefield intelligence in Iraq and Syria and has attempted to use aerial and ground drones with explosive payloads to attack Kurdish troops. Should we therefore be concerned about the possibility of Islamic State or another terrorist group using drones to attack Western cities? If so, what should we do to address the threat? Read more
Monthly briefing from the Open Briefing intelligence unit on developments in remote-control warfare. This month: The dangers of fully-autonomous weapons discussed at World Economic Forum for first time; UK government’s draft surveillance legislation threatened by European Court of Human Rights ruling and parliamentary committee criticism; UAE and Saudi Arabia pledge special forces to confront Islamic State and support Syrian armed opposition; and more.
Open Briefing is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indigogo to raise £5,000 towards the cost of launching new security and training units to help protect those striving the make the world a better place. Read more
Open Briefing is a non-profit social enterprise. Unlike many organisations, we do not take any money from governments or corporations. We rely on the support of volunteers and are funded by charitable grants and public donations. Our new security and training units are groundbreaking, and we want to launch them with the backing of crowdfunding so that they are a truly public enterprise. So please help by supporting our crowdfunding campaign and encouraging your friends, family and colleagues to join you. Read more
UK forces continue to be very active in Iraq, but have also increased offensive operations in Syria. However, the majority of UK airstrikes continue to be opportunist rather than intelligence-led, with targets being both identified and attacked by combat air patrols. The first major UK combat injuries have been reported, raising questions over the true nature and extent of UK ground operations against Islamic State. Read more
Following the widespread media coverage of our recent report on the hostile use of civilian drones by non-state actors, our findings are beginning to spur political debate. On 13 January, Paul Flynn MP wrote to the Department of Energy and Climate Change to ask it to review security at nuclear power stations in light of our report. Then on the 19 January, the House of Lords debated the issues raised in our report. The debate was reported on by The Sun, and our report continues to be covered widely by the tech and defence industry press in particular. Read more