Articles: Federal Network News 20140822
Stories which dominated
i) The continued competition between Islamism and Nationalism in the Middle East and North Africa
ii) Russia’s expansionism
The governments of both Libya and France resigned this week in order to be reformed; France ostensibly due to economic concerns relating to austerity; Libya as a result of a ceasefire agreement with Islamist militants.
Boko Haram declared an Islamic Caliphate in Northern Nigeria.
Islamism and Nationalism in Middle East and North Africa
Libya has seen a loose coalition of militant Islamist fighters (Operation Dawn) capture and destroy the main airport in Tripoli, and through a ceasefire agreement dissolve and take control of the GNC.
Despite speculation about Algeria, Egypt and UAE nations undertook airstrikes in the country with debatable knowledge of the US in order to weaken Islamist forces. If the outcome of that action was to preserve the State it would appear to have failed.
The rise of Islamic State has continued with three important factors notable this past week.
i) Sexual Jihad and far east support:
Support for IS (Islamic State) is spreading to far east countries, notably Malaysia and Indonesia as well as Australia.
The phenomena of sexual jihad, where muslim women travel to the main conflict zones to voluntarily ‘comfort’ jihadi fighters has so far been seen with Tunisian and European women. An article pulled by the Daily Mail indicated Australian women are travelling, but it is confirmed that Malaysian women are travelling also.
Indonesia awarded IS a propaganda victory in its failed case against an ice cream seller who claimed innocence of IS support after being arrested for being in possession of an IS variant of the Shahada flag.
ii) Changing attitude towards IS in the West
IS has been formally acknowledged as being an ‘incredible’ enemy by the US who have noted their use of advanced battlefield strategies. The IS taking of Taqba airbase from the Syrian government and continued gains in Aleppo, Syria in general and Iraq, continue to be ‘impressive’.
That IS in Iraq have senior ex-Iraqi officers in their ranks, evidence that IS have been researching how to use WMD – notably cheap biological such as plague – on recovered laptops, and reports of ‘water-boarding’ being used in an obvious hat tip to CIA methods demonstrate that as a fighting force in many ways they should be considered peer. They are also a credible threat, however, whilst focus remains on securing territory in Arab lands this is not a serious direct problem for Europe, but European interests may soon be at risk.
The story will soon shift to focus on Lebanon, Turkey and Palestine, which are now starting to experience the initial destabilizing effects of IS. They appear to use a strategy which involves covert infiltration ahead of and alongside their more public displays of aggression. IS have been keen to propagandise the Lebanese jihadis have been fighting successfully for them in Iraq.
KSA has issued a stern warning to youths not to engage in this form of jihad, and the execution rate in Saudi Arabia has notably increased over the past few months.
Not published here, but noteworthy for those interested, is that IS released a second ‘Message to America’ film this week with a slightly more graphic beheading and stronger political message. That was very swiftly withdrawn from YouTube.
The targeting of IS on social media platforms has been stepped up. The flip side to this coin is that whilst blocking outlets for their psychological warfare propaganda significant useful open source intelligence is lost. The twitter account for ‘Islamic State News’ in English this week was suspended and replaced 4 times: It should be noted that no ‘extreme’ or ‘graphic’ material was published on those streams.
The stronger rhetoric against IS from Western sources is good for the home audience, but actual action in the field remains broadly non-existent. The returning fighters to European countries is triggering expected knee-jerk responses from governments in politically weak positions to adopt Indonesian style policies of citizenship stripping and presumptions of guilt. Whilst ostensibly well intentioned such measure will have the effect of increasing public support for IS, especially if such draconian measures are implemented, extended to the broad population and their effects become evident.
iii) Libya / Oil / Nutella
IS are reported to have set oil field on fire in Iraq, but despite the chaos in Libya, Libyan production is up. Net effect on global oil price has been mute. This is significant as now Russia has mobilized it requires oil to increase in order to meet the costs of its Ukraine operations.
Nutella is back in the frame with reports of wholesale hazelnut prices having increased due to poor harvest in Turkey. The previous propaganda shots of jihadis posing with Nutella specifically is perhaps clear now.
The invasion of Ukraine unarguably started this week.
NATO released satellite imagery shows Russian tanks, artillery pieces and troops present in East Ukraine. This was preceded by blatant invasion with the so called ‘aid convoy’ being pushed across the border without ICRC accompanying, Ukraine government consent and lurid tales of dead Russian servicemen being brought out as it exited. Indeed Russia produced the clearance documents itself and took over the border post on the Ukrainian side by force.
The issue of dead Russian servicemen has caused tension in Russia leading to controversies such as servicemen being buried in unmarked graves, and charities committed to the support of mothers of servicemen being classified as ‘foreign agents’. Reporters in Russia who have visited cemeteries where those who have died not-officially in Ukraine have been targeted with attacks starting at tire slashing.
The meeting in Minsk between Russia, EU and Ukraine came and went. Peace did not result, the EU appeared to shift closer to Russia and Russia has requested to renegotiate with the EU some of the agreements which were made. Europe is learning slowly that economic sanctions and agreements do not mean much in the Putin’s realpolitik frame .
Poland’s MFA has stated that Russia’s actions in Ukraine constitute ‘aggression’ under UN Resolution 3314, whilst Germany has stated that Russia appears to be engaged in a ‘military intervention’.
As reported by @NatVasilyevaAP:
‘In a very well-done graphics, Russia’s Rossiya 24 shows (with an arrow) that onslaught on Mariupol is coming from Russia.’
The Canadian’s perhaps win top-troll award for a nice graphic explaining what is and is not Russia, however, they apparently ‘forgot’ to include Kaliningrad in Russia.
Elsewhere in Russia, a gulag museum was investigated for ‘extremism’, civil defence checks (for nuclear bomb shelters and such) has completed on schedule, Putin scored a 71% approval rating and sported an informal ‘Alan Partridge’ look at the youth camp meeting in Seliger. The jumper went down well with the crowd, but his reply to a question about government being established in Russia: ‘God Knows’, should rightly raise eyebrows.
Russia’s trade war against the EU and West continued with further targeting of US fast food outlets in Russia, many McDonald’s restaurants being closed down. Food security is a topic of concern now as the Finance Ministry has admitted that the effect of Russia’s counter-sanctions is having an effect on prices and availability in the country.
Russia has observed that the subsidies to farmers in the EU which keep EU production economic it is currently unable to match in the face of demands from Russian farmers who are trying to adjust to increased future productive demands.
The parading of Ukrainian POW’s in east Ukraine has called into question whether international law has been further broken. The symbolic following of paraded troops by street cleaning equipment has dark historical overtones.
Ukraine has reinstated the draft.
Russian rhetoric towards Moldova has hardened with focus on Transdniestra. Whilst welcoming the elections in Abkhazia and Georgia this week, NATO have flatly refused to recognize the results.
The Russian interception of a Japanese whaling ship and further incursions into Finland’s airspace indicate clearly that the country is mobilizing with long term aggressive intent.
Germany sold RWE to a Russian investor. This company provides Ukraine’s gas reflows.
Ukraine has dismissed a $100 discount Russia offered on gas pricing as it does not consider the starting $485 to be a fair price. Europe is insisting the Ukraine clear its debt with Russia for gas supplied.
The Russian economy generally has continued to decline, and food security has underpinned many deals announced this week.