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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

 


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: it largely followed the same 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. In others, it created a “Pandora’s box” which will be extremely challenging to close. The ongoing instability throughout the region demonstrates that the Arab Spring has, in many cases, had more of a destabilising than stabilising effect.

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. While the country’s transition period, particularly under the Ennahda-led coalition government, experienced fluctuations, the situation has now stabilised to an impressive degree, leading to the lifting of the State of Emergency in March 2014 (which had been in place since 2011). 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 is led by Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, has seen several substantial steps pave 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, paving the way 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 neighbouring Libya, the situation is not only much less promising, but actually threatens to undermine the stability of its regional counterparts. While extremist militant groups have established strongholds for themselves across much of the south and east of the country, federalist rebels in the east have staged blockades over eastern oil terminals which have all but ground oil production in the country to a halt. Meanwhile, the political sphere has grown increasingly polarised; in particular, the split between the Islamist and secular – or ‘liberal’ – lawmakers in the General National Congress (GNC) has rendered governance of the country an almost insurmountable challenge – as demonstrated by successive failed governments and prime ministers. In mid-May 2014, tensions in the country came to a head, as a massive, unauthorised offensive against Islamist extremist groups in Benghazi was launched by a former military General, Khalifa Hifter. Hifter’s forces also attempted to depose the GNC, which while unsuccessful, resulted in clashes breaking out across the capital, Tripoli. Meanwhile, political deadlock has descended to previously unseen depths, as two cabinets and two prime ministers are currently claiming to be the legitimate government of Libya. As the political landscape has grown increasingly polarised, Caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni and those lining up behind him have indicated their support for Hifter’s “Operation Dignity”, while Miitig’s (generally Islamist-leaning) supporters have continued to condemn Hifter’s actions. With each camp backed by a range of armed militias, the continued stalemate raises the spectre of a return to full-scale civil conflict.

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 new interim head of state. Following this, regular 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, which was widely expected to be won in a landslide by former military chief Abdel Fatah al Sisi, as he has built extreme levels of popularity among much of the population since the removal of Morsi in July 2013. Sisi won 96.9% of the legal 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”. Whilst 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. 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 have already been a number of demonstrations against the election results, though currently the wider mood in the country is one of cautious optimism. However, the increase in 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 religious divided neighbours: Lebanon has faced weekly bombings targeting neighbourhoods due to their inhabitants’ religious identities whereas in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken control of Fallujah and Ramadi as well as much of the rest of Anbar Governorate, and in June 2014 seized the majority of Mosul. 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).

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