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THE INKERMAN GROUP IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Click here to read the latest on the situation in the MENA region from The Inkerman Group

 


 

Did you know that The Inkerman Group produces The Libya Daily, a daily report monitoring the political, security, and economic developments in the country as well as The Libya Monthly report, providing a longer-term analysis of developments within Libya, including geographical and trend analysis. To subscribe to either of these publications, please email alice.boyes@inkerman.com

 


Since the beginning of the turmoil in the MENA region, The Inkerman Group has continued to provide a wide spectrum of services to its clients – working with them to minimise the risk to the safety of both their staff and assets, and reduce the disruption caused to their business operations.

The Inkerman Group has multiple operational teams in the region and is providing a wide range of services:

Discreet Security Protection Personnel
(use of ex-UK police and military personnel, complete with communications support, GPS tracking and medical trauma equipment for first line support to clients).

Security and Contingency Planning:

Intelligence monitoring and reporting throughout the region:

Kidnap & Ransom:

In-country operations supported by:

Crisis Management Training and support

Security Awareness Training to workers and families (delivered in multiple languages and including elements of basic self-defence, medical awareness training as well as basic security driver awareness training)

Security Training to locally employed / retained security guards to include development of operating protocols in line with clients’ operating stance.

For further details of these services, please contact operations@inkerman.com

MENA Examiner - a weekly publication which is a predictive move aimed at mapping out the threats and risks facing clients across the region. It includes weekly trend reports detailing the situation to date and the way ahead for each country in the eighteen member region, from Morocco in the West to Iran in the East. The document provides an assessment of developments taking place across the region, providing travellers and businesses operating in these countries with a comprehensive overview of the risk level alongside predictive analysis of the potential outcomes.


LATEST UPDATE ON THE MENA REGION FROM THE INKERMAN GROUP

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remains in flux following the region-wide unrest which began in January 2011, and continues into a fourth year. The so-called “Arab Spring” manifested itself in different ways in the various countries it affected, but at its outset largely followed a similar pattern of calls for reform, transparency and greater representation through mass protests, strikes and even armed insurrection. In some cases, this led to the downfall of authoritarian regimes which had dominated the political landscape of the region for decades, but in many it has also led to the opening of a “Pandora’s box” which will be extremely challenging to close.

Tunisia, often seen as the “birthplace of the Arab Spring”, has arguably taken the most substantial steps towards implementing the reforms demanded by the 2011 protesters. Nevertheless, in recent months even Tunisia has come to face heightened security threats, as militant attacks against security forces have accelerated due to instability in the region. More than 3,000 Tunisian nationals are believed to have travelled to Syria to fight in the ongoing civil war, oftentimes with extremist Islamist groups including the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham). Many are believed to remain in Syria, or to have travelled to neighbouring Iraq, but a number have reportedly returned to their home country, where it is feared they will seek to utilise their new-found skills to launch attacks in Tunisia. Politically, however, the emerging story is one of success. While the country’s transition period experienced fluctuations, the situation has now substantially, leading to the lifting of the State of Emergency (which had been in place since 2011) in March 2014. Following the assassinations of two senior opposition leaders in February and July 2013, respectively, mass protests were held throughout the country, calling for the dissolution of the Ennahda-led government. Breaking with the traditional response to such calls seen elsewhere in the region, the government agreed to hand over power to a non-partisan, technocratic government in January 2014. The current government, led by Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, has overseen developments which have paved the way towards fresh general elections, which are expected to be held later in 2014. Illustrating the progress being made in Tunisia’s political transition, a long-awaited election law was passed on 01 May 2014, setting the stage for elections to be held in November 2014. The law, passed by a huge majority, excludes the controversial ban on the involvement of officials from the former regime from standing for office, demonstrating the efforts being made by various political factions to take a more conciliatory approach to law-making. 

In Libya, the situation is not only much less promising, but actually threatens to undermine the stability of its regional counterparts. Civil conflict is threatening to engulf the country as clashes in its two biggest cities have rapidly intensified since mid-June 2014. While the conflicts in the two cities appear separate, they are actually closely related, as both are culminations of an ongoing power struggle between Islamists and anti-Islamists in Libya, which has worsened drastically over the past few months. Following the massive offensive launched against Islamist extremist groups in Benghazi by Major General Khalifa Hifter, an eventual confrontation between Islamist and anti-Islamist militias in Tripoli seemed almost inevitable, but the final spark to clashes in Tripoli appears to have been the release of results from the 25 June 2014 elections, which showed substantial losses among Islamist parties and individuals. The brutal conflict currently has thus far been mostly contained in Benghazi and Tripoli, but certainly has the potential to spread – as has been illustrated by skirmishes in Sirte, Gharyan, Zawiya and elsewhere. The Tripoli violence and the growing potential for a more widespread war have led to a rapid exodus of foreign companies and governments, along with an accelerating evacuation of Libyan citizens. 

Despite the Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered agreement which saw a peaceful handover of power from Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his deputy being hailed as a remarkable and surprising success, the new administration is arguably little changed from Saleh’s regime – with Saleh himself still, to a large extent, holding the reigns of the transition period. The traditional oligopoly of powerbrokers has retained its influence, and the informal systems of governance constructed by Saleh have persisted. Furthermore, the increased instability gave momentum to the southern secessionist (Hirak) movement, while the security vacuum facilitated the spread of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and has renewed conflict between al Houthi rebels and various Sunni tribes in the northern governorates.

More than three years after the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt finds itself still in the grip of political and economic turmoil. Although Egypt had high hopes for the potential of progressive electoral politics, the country’s first freely elected government of President Mohammad Morsi failed to live up to expectations and to achieve a satisfying political consensus with all of Egypt’s political interests. As a result, millions of people took to the streets of Egypt’s major cites between 28 June – 02 July 2013 to protest President Morsi, and to demand his resignation. Egypt’s military intervened on 03 July 2013 by ousting President Morsi, suspending the constitution and appointing the Chief Justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, as interim head of state. Following this, violent clashes erupted between Morsi supporters and opponents, resulting in an intense crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its supporters, with the government banning the group, and formally listing it as a terrorist organisation in December 2013. Over the past year, there has been a large increase in the number and sophistication of terrorist attacks, which generally target the security forces, as well a significant increase in the presence of well-organised Sinai-based militants in the populated cities in the Nile Delta. In a move largely considered a means to have the army’s removal of President Morsi seen as legitimate, a referendum was called in January 2014 to replace the constitution introduced by Morsi which was backed by more than 98% of those that voted. Egypt then held a presidential election between 26 – 28 May 2014, which from the outset was widely expected to be won in a landslide by former military chief Abdel Fatah al Sisi, as he built extreme levels of popularity among much of the population after the removal of Morsi in July 2013. Sisi won 96.9% of the valid votes cast in the election, promising to restore stability and the economy after years of turmoil. Despite his massive win, the turnout was lower than expected, at 47%, even though Sisi had called on all Egyptians to come out and vote in order to achieve “freedom and social justice”. Much of the country has celebrated the victory, believing that the ‘strongman’ leader will be able to quickly to turn around the many challenges that the country faces. However, not everyone was pleased with the result, with an opposition leader stating that the announced figures are an “insult to the intelligence of the Egyptians”. Indeed, there numerous demonstrations against the election results, though currently the wider mood in the country is one of cautious optimism. However, the level of violence seen in Egypt in recent months, the marginalisation of the MB and the rise in the operational capabilities of Islamist groups based in the Sinai, strongly indicate that the crisis in Egypt is far from over.

Elsewhere, the region continues to be beset by the ongoing Syrian Civil War, which has not only gravely affected the Syrian population, but also enflamed tensions in Lebanon and Iraq, and has strained relations between regional powerbrokers supporting opposing belligerents in the conflict. As the war has become increasingly sectarian, so too has violence in its equally ethnically and religiously divided neighbours: Lebanon has faced weekly bombings targeting neighbourhoods due to their inhabitants’ religious identities, and fierce fighting recently broke out on 02 August 2014, with Islamist fighters streaming across the frontier from Syria to attack the Lebanese border town of Arsal. Daily protests continue to call for greater political reforms and inclusion of the Shia majority in Bahrain, whilst slightly more muted calls for reform persist in Morocco as well as across the majority of the Gulf States (Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia).

The situation in Iraq has deteriorated rapidly, with forces from the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS) taking control of much of the centre and the north of the country. The advances of the IS between June – August 2014 have been rapid, particularly after the seizure of Mosul and the resulting collapse of the Iraqi security forces in much of Iraq’s north. As the Iraqi military recovered, and was bolstered by the resurgence of numerous anti-IS Shi’ite militias, the militants push southwards was halted, and a violent stalemate emerged in many areas. In the north of Iraq, however, the IS and its allies continues to seize territory, making significant advances against outgunned peshmerga forces. The situation has prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to order the country’s air force for the first time to back the Kurdish forces fighting in the north, a not insignificant gesture considering the mutual antipathy currently being experienced between Maliki and the KRG. The United States has also authorised targeted airstrikes against IS forces, as well as humanitarian air-drops to relieve citizens pushed out of their homes by fighting. Meanwhile, the spotlight has once again been placed onto sectarian divisions, after a growing number of serious incidents have raised fears of a return to the wholesale sectarian bloodshed witnessed during the dark period between 2006 and 2008. In Baghdad itself, the increases in the size of and the number of actions undertaken by Shi’ite militias operating in the city has also served to raise tensions. Members of these militias, and those opposing them, have engaged in an ongoing cycle of abductions and brutal killings, with bodies often “unceremoniously dumped” in ditches, alleys, fields and roadsides. In addition to the operation of militias, the political situation is continuing to fuel the current conflict. The Shi’ite-led government has continued to be accused of marginalising Sunni political leaders, and the lack of a clear way forward in the current political deadlock has undermined efforts to bridge the growing divide between communities in the country.

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