Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Sitrep - Nov 25, 2015

Gunmen linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) killed 22 people in a Mali hotel in central Bamako, before being overrun by security forces. The assailants showed impressive preoperational surveillance using vehicles with diplomatic licence plates to bypass security. This should be a lesson for all that hotels are an attractive target for militants and terrorists of all stripes.

In the security community, hotels are often referred to as “embassies of the future, given how many Western business people, spies, diplomats and officials now use these venues. Yet in places such as Mali, where jihadists are dissipated across the country, hotels are vulnerable. In more developed countries hotels possess higher security, but travellers should take care wherever they are staying.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to establish an EU-style common market by the end of the year. The agreement, made at this week’s 2015 summit, will remove many tariffs from traded goods, however sensitive industries such as agriculture and automobiles weren’t changed. Non-tariff and cultural barriers will be difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

ASEAN is attracting serious investment attention from all corners of the globe. It is one of the fastest growing regions boasting almost 700 million citizens. China and the US wish to build or retain influence over the bloc, and ASEAN is playing the two against each other for maximum benefit. The bloc’s common market should now make it less reliant for trade on either the US or China.

In Israel, a series of seemingly spontaneous stabbings and serious assaults by Palestinians continues. The attacks began two months ago and show no sign of being under control. Jerusalem has countered by banning the Islamic Movement, although it is unclear whether the attacks are coordinated by any single group and whether the banning will unite moderate Palestinian groups with radical groups.

Security services in Israel are at a loss for what to do. However, the decentralised nature of the stabbings suggests Palestinian groups are experiencing internal dissolution. Hamas and Fatah cannot agree on many policies, and elements of the Islamic State are challenging Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Whether this is a new intifada will depend on these groups’ ability to cohere, an unlikely prospect.

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