On 2 December, the UK parliament voted in favour of authorising airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. The RAF has since targeted well heads within the Omar oil field in Syria and undertaken multiple missions around Raqqa. A key issue in the build-up to the vote was the risk posed to innocent civilians in the areas of Iraq and Syria targeted by the RAF. Claims by the government and Ministry of Defence that there is no evidence of civilian casualties from UK military action against Islamic State do not stand up to scrutiny.
Islamic State is the richest terrorist group in the world, with an estimated annual turnover of between $2 billion and $3 billion. The groups control over substantial territory allows it to generate considerable amounts of money from organised crime, including the smuggling of oil and antiquities and taxing those smuggling drugs and people, as well the through levying taxes and fines on the populations of the areas it controls.
This briefing sets out the general risk environment within which personnel from Western NGOs and foundations will be operating in Russia. The operating environment for human rights defenders and civil society activists in Russia has become even more constrained. Many activists have been subject to harassment and violence. Furthermore, the Russian president has repeatedly expressed his fear that Western countries use NGOs to manipulate Russian public opinion in order to stir up popular discontent.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, MPs will shortly vote on whether to extend British military action against Islamic State from Iraq to Syria. After the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, announced he would allow Labour MPs a free vote on military action against Islamic State in Syria, the prime minister, David Cameron, will be confident in winning the vote, and it is likely air strikes will begin soon. However, there are serious concerns over the UK military strategy, which appears to be considered simply the ‘least worst’ option.
To understand the Islamic Republic we need to not look not at its consistencies but at its 'adjustments'. Iran has now placed a premium on maximising both influence and soft power, constantly renegotiating its margins of maneuver and seeking situations of strength where possible. Whatever hard power it still holds, it has repurposed into tools of deterrence in order to hold its enemies hostage against the threat of regime decapitation and war.
Approximately 12 million Syrians have fled their homes as a result of the civil war in their country. Nearly eight million are internally displaced within Syria, and more than four million have sought refuge in nearby countries. Many are making the perilous journey to Europe in search of a better life, and over 500,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in EU countries. Not all who attempt the journey to Europe survive it. There were 4,800 known drownings of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean between October 2013 and April 2015 alone. These tragedies are being facilitated by the organised crime groups that peddle their lucrative trade in smuggling human beings.
Monthly intelligence briefing on transnational organised crime from Open Briefing. This month: the attack on tourists in Port El Kantaoui highlights threat of terrorism and organised crime in Tunisia; organised environmental crime continues to threaten the Amazon region; people smuggling and human trafficking through Bulgaria and Romania is likely to increase; and more.
Russian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have significant advantages over Ukrainian forces in the area of electronic warfare. Russian forces are effectively able to nullify the Ukrainian communications and GPS signals in the regions they are deployed to. The advantages the Russians are enjoying in this area are directly contributing to the losses suffered by the Ukrainian armed forces. Western supporters of Kiev might consider supplying the Ukrainians with defensive capabilities, including electronic countermeasures.