Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Sitrep - 27 April, 2016

A submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) was detected flying over North Korean waters at the end of last week, prompting the UN, US and Japan to formulate new sanctions on Pyongyang’s evolving missile programme. Footage of the missile shows it is likely powered by solid fuel, rather than liquid, with a new motor similar to the prototype tested a few weeks ago.

Following the missile test, a North Korean negotiator told media Pyongyang was willing to suspend its nuclear programme if the US and South Korea ceased their annual enormous combined arms exercises. The US rejected the offer immediately, but noted that its intelligence suggests North Korea may conduct its fifth nuclear test sometime in the next few weeks.

All this shows that geopolitical stasis regarding the hermit kingdom remains the most preferred outcome for all sides. Provocations aside, the major interests around North Korea – Russia, China, South Korea and the US – will tolerate the existence of the regime so long as it doesn’t cross the line from a potential to a viable nuclear state.

A dangerous collapse of the Iraqi government may be imminent as reports emerge of the ruling political group of the Council of Representatives (CoR) splitting, creating a parallel – and illegal – government structure. Various sit-ins, boycotts and demonstrations have increased both in frequency and intensity this year and may be reaching an inflection point where the government is no longer viable.

The divisions in Iraq reflect not only sectarianism and ethnicity separating the Kurd, Shia and Sunni populations, but also a drive to secure as much physical territory in the shattered country regardless of Baghdad’s claims to sovereignty. Essentially, the only group still fighting for a repair of a contiguous Iraq is the US and its coalition. The Iraqis have clearly moved beyond that goal.

Whether by parliamentary means, protests, or force the possibility of a toppled government is increasing by the day. What emerges from a collapse is unknown, but the Islamic State (IS) will take advantage of the chaos. An unrecognised government would also undermine the international effort against IS, indicating that retaking the northern city of Mosul will not be achieved in 2016.

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