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  • OSINTSUM: Friday 12 January 2024

OSINTSUM: Friday 12 January 2024

Russian infrastructure collapsing in sub-zero temperatures, Malaysian and Indonesian firms identified as facilitating Iranian drone production, and search continues for survivors of UN helicopter crash in Somalia

OSINTSUM
Global Situation Update
Friday 12 January 2024



Headlines

International
Energy: Global renewable energy capacity increased by 50% in 2023
Travel: France, Germany among most powerful passports, Afghanistan bottom

Africa
Libya: Protestors threaten to shut down two oil and gas facilities
Somalia: Search for passengers of downed UN helicopter continues

Asia/Oceania
Japan: Intelligence-gathering satellite launched to monitor North Korean activity
Myanmar: Rebel alliance agrees ceasefire with junta

China
China: Deflation continues for third straight month
Taiwan: Defence ministry reports more Chinese balloons ahead of election

Europe
Black Sea: Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey agree to clear floating mines
Germany: Alternative für Deutschland considering mass deportations
Russia: Production of dumb bombs ramped up to target Ukrainian infrastructure
Russia: Tens of thousands suffering lack of water and energy

Latin America/Caribbean
Argentina: Inflation reached 211.4% in December
Bonaire: Netherlands sued over climate change inaction
Guatemala: Arevalo to become president despite judicial obstruction
Guyana: Attorney general says no plans for US military base

Middle East
Iran: Malaysian and Indonesian firms intermediaries for drone procurement
Saudi Arabia: Assad regime given control of Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage processes
The Netherlands: Israel giving defence against South African genocide accusations
Yemen: US and UK launch strikes on Houthi militants




International

Energy: Global renewable energy capacity increased by 50% in 2023
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported the world increased its renewable energy production capacity by 50% in 2023, but warned more needs to be done to combat climate change.

It marked the most significant annual growth in the past two decades, and the 22nd year in a row that increases to renewable energy capacity set a new record.

However, the IEA warned the world was still not on track to meet the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 that was set by almost 200 countries at last months COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

Analyst Comment: The rise was driven by a massive investment by China, which commissioned the production of as many solar photovoltaics in 2023 as the entire world did in 2022, and increased its wind power facilities by 66% year on year.

Source: RFI

  

Travel: France, Germany among most powerful passports, Afghanistan bottom
The Henley Passport Index has ranked France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Singapore's passports as the joint most powerful in the world, based on the number of countries holders can visit visa-free.

The six passports each allow holders to visit 194 out of 227 countries without the need for a visa. The vast majority of countries in the top 30 are European, with South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the US the only other countries from outside the continent included.

The countries at the bottom of the list are mainly made up of those suffering protracted political insecurity, with Afghanistan's passport - which offers visa-free travel to only 28 countries - at the bottom of the list, marginally beaten by Syria (29), Iraq (31), Pakistan (34), and Yemen (35).

Source: Henley Global

  

Africa

Libya: Protestors threaten to shut down two oil and gas facilities
Protesters near Tripoli have threatened to shut down two oil and gas facilities, with a 72-hour ultimatum issued by one group campaigning against corruption due to expire today.

The group, called the Corruption Eradication Movement, warned it would "stop the pumping of gas from the Mellitah complex" in a video statement released online, as well as the Zawiya refinery west of Tripoli.

Any shutdown of the complex, which is jointly operated by Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Italy's Eni, would disrupt the supply of gas through the Greenstream pipeline between the two countries.

Analyst Comment: Protesters have already forced the shutdown of Libya's largest oilfield, Shahara oilfield, which is capable of producing 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), causing the price of crude to rise and leading the NOC to declare a force majeure on Sunday (7 January).

The Mellitah complex is capable of processing 165,000 bpd and the Zawiya refinery 120,000, so it is likely the shutdown of both facilities would have a similar impact on oil supply and price.

Source: Reuters

  

Somalia: Search for passengers of downed UN helicopter continues
Somali forces are continuing to search for eight survivors of a UN helicopter which was seized by al-Shabaab after it crashed when its main rotor blade was struck by an object in Galmagud region.

Unverified reporting indicates one of the nine passengers on board was shot dead by militants after it crashed, two more escaped, and the other six were taken hostage.

The helicopter was taking medical supplies to the front lines of a government offensive against the militant group when it was shot down, and was due to collect injured soldiers on its return.

Analyst Comment: The Somali government has stepped up its campaign against al-Shabaab recently. A joint operation on 17 December saw Somali and US forces kill Maalim Ayman, a senior leader of the al Qaeda-linked group, who is believed to have been responsible for the January 2020 attack on US and Kenyan personnel at Kenya's Manda Bay Airfield.

Source: CNN

 

Asia/Oceania

Japan: Intelligence-gathering satellite launched to monitor North Korean activity
Japan has launched an intelligence-gathering satellite to monitor North Korean military sites for evidence of missile activity as well as improve responses to natural disasters.

The satellite was carried into orbit by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' H2A rocket and took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in the country's southwest. It is capable of capturing images even in severe weather conditions.

The launch of the reconnaissance capability is part of Tokyo's efforts to rapidly expand its military capacity under a strategy adopted in 2022 by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and driven in part by North Korean and Chinese aggression in the Asia-Pacific region.

Analyst Comment: Kishida's government is pushing to deploy long-range cruise missiles including the US-made Tomahawk as early as next year as part of the security strategy. This build-up of strike capacity is a significant departure from the country's long-standing post-war self-defence only principle.

Source: AP News

  

Myanmar: Rebel alliance agrees ceasefire with junta
A rebel alliance which has been conducting offensives against government forces in the north of Myanmar for months has agreed to a ceasefire following Chinese-mediated negotiations.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance (TBA)- which is backed by a pro-democracy, civilian-led government - has posed the biggest threat to the military government's rule since it seized power in the 2021 coup, and caused concern in China about the potential for an influx of migration and disruptions to border trade.

A leader of one of the groups which comprise the TBA said the two parties had agreed to a "ceasefire without advancing further", adding that they would refrain from attacking government positions provided the government stops conducting air strikes or using heavy weapons.

Analyst Comment: China reported it had brokered a temporary ceasefire last month, but fighting continued in the northern Shah state and other regions, leading to the rebel alliance capturing the key commercial town of Laukkai on the Chinese border last week.

Over 300,000 people have been displaced as a result of the recent offensives, meaning 2 million people in total have now been displaced across Myanmar since the 2021 coup.

Source: Reuters

  

China

China: Deflation continues for third straight month
December saw Chinese consumer prices remain in deflationary territory for the third month in a row, with the country's consumer price index falling 0.3% year on year.

Producer prices also fell by 2.7%, although both drops were slightly less than predicted and were a slight improvement on November's figures which saw consumer prices decline by 0.5% and producer prices by 3%.

The drops occurred in spite of a series of stimulus measures implemented by Beijing, including increasing access to credit for key sectors, including the property sector, and loosening lending rates.

Analyst Comment: China's economy first fell into deflation in July, and prices in the country have remained either stable or fallen every month since then apart from August.

A lack of consumer confidence, a slowdown in the country's vital property sector, and weakened trade have all been identified as drivers behind China's deflation.

Source: Financial Times

  

Taiwan: Defence ministry reports more Chinese balloons ahead of election
Taiwan's defence ministry reported it had detected another five Chinese balloons flying across the Taiwan Strait over the previous 24 hours, one of which crossed the island.

Multiple reports of Chinese balloons have been issued over the past month, with the Taiwanese government accusing China of threatening aviation safety by operating them in its airspace.

It is thought China is using the balloons in an attempt to intimidate Taiwanese voters and prevent them from voting the incumbent pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) back into power.

Analyst Comment: China has significantly increased its military presence around Taiwan in the eight years the DPP has been in power as part of its greyzone warfare against the island.

It has issued multiple veiled threats in the run up to tomorrow's election suggesting that it is a choice between war (if the DPP remain in power) and peace (if a pro-Beijing party wins).

Source: Reuters

 

Europe

Black Sea: Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey agree to clear floating mines
Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey have agreed on a plan to clear floating mines in the Black Sea - which were deployed as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine - after months of negotiations.

The NATO allies signed a memorandum of understanding in Istanbul to cement the trilateral initiative, which will see the formation of a Black Sea mine counter-measures task force.

Three minehunting ships from each country and a command control ship will be assigned to the task force, which will be led by a committee of naval commanders from each country.

Analyst Comment: Mines in the Black Sea have threatened Ukrainian export routes since Russia invaded in February 2022, with several commercial ships being hit by them - including a bulk carrier en route to the River Danube to load grain in December.

Turkey is also working with the United Nations, Ukraine, and Russia to revive the Black Sea Grain deal, which Moscow left last year, but there has been no public indication of any progression in this regard.

Source: Reuters

  

Germany: Alternative für Deutschland considering mass deportations
It has emerged that members of Germany's Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party discussed a "masterplan" for conducting mass deportations with far-right activists last November.

Chancellor Olaf Sholz urged democrats to stand together against the plans by who he described as "fanatics with assimilation fantasies" after investigative media outlet Correctiv reported the concept of "re-migration" was being discussed by a group including AfD members, the head of the Identarian Movement, and neo-Nazi activists.

The discussions included plans to forcefully deport up to two million people - even those with German citizenship - to their countries of origin and areas in northern Africa if AfD come to power.

Analyst Comment: AfD is polling in first place in all five of Germany's eastern states - three of which are due to hold elections this year - buoyed by growing discontent over immigration.

Two of Germany's other major parties, the conservative Christian Democratic Union and the liberal Free Democratic party have ruled out entering any coalitions with AfD.

Source: The Guardian

  

Russia: Production of dumb bombs ramped up to target Ukrainian infrastructure
Russia is ramping up its production of unguided missiles and gliding bombs which are difficult to intercept despite a lack of sophistication as part of its strategy for attacking Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

Almost every day since 29 December Russia has been launching airstrikes on Ukraine consisting of large volumes of missiles and drones in an apparent attempt to exhaust its air-defence capabilities.

The majority of the time, Ukraine has managed to shoot down most of the projectiles, but on Monday (8 January) it only managed to eliminate 18 of 51 missiles fired by Russia. Four civilians were killed as a result of the attack.

Analyst Comment: Russia's recent increasing air strike success has been put down to the use of Iskander and Kinzhal ballistic missiles, which use dead reckoning to navigate rather than GPS systems which are vulnerable to jamming, as well as an increased understanding of vulnerabilities in Ukrainian air defence gained through previous large-scale attacks.

Source: Al Jazeera

  

Latin America/Caribbean

Argentina: Inflation reached 211.4% in December
Argentina's economic crisis reached a new high in December after inflation reached 211.4%, the highest level since 1991 when the country was exiting a period of hyper inflation.

Month-on-month prices rose by 25.5%, compared with an increase of 12.8% in November, which has been blamed on the policy of quantitative easing to finance spending employed by President Javier Milei's predecessors as well as moves by Milei to devalue the peso and allow certain price-fixing agreements to lapse.

Economists have predicted December's rate is likely to be close to the peak of Argentina's inflation crisis, as a growing recession is likely to slow further increases. The IMF predicts the country's economy will shrink by 2.5% this year.

Analyst Comment: Financial consultancy FMyA said if Milei's economic reforms are successful, Argentina's economy will begin to see a rebound in fortunes around March.

Source: Financial Times

  

Bonaire: Netherlands sued over climate change inaction
Eight people from the Caribbean island of Bonaire have filed a formal legal challenge against the Dutch government to force it to do act more quickly to reduce the impact of climate change.

The action was taken in conjunction with Greenpeace Netherlands, and seeks to get a court order for the Dutch government to cut greenhouse emissions more quickly and do more to help Dutch territories such as Bonaire to adapt to the effects of climate change.

It was driven in part by a report in October last year by the Dutch meteorological institute, which found temperatures in the Caribbean Netherlands had risen by around 0.2C per decade since the 1980s and that rainfall was declining there, affecting agriculture.

Analyst Comment: Low-lying islands such as Bonaire are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and extreme weather.

Research by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam shows parts of Bonaire will be permanently submerged by 2050 due to sea-level rises exacerbated by the loss of coral reefs which act as a natural buffer to ocean warming and acidifying.

Source: The Guardian

  

Guatemala: Arevalo to become president despite judicial obstruction
Bernardo Arevalo will be sworn in as President of Guatemala on Sunday (14 January) despite the incumbent government attempting to prevent him coming to power with months of judicial obstacles.

Since winning last August's presidential elections by a landslide, Guatemala's political and economic ruling class has made repeated attempts to stop the president-elect coming to office, including banning his political party from parliament and arresting his associates on trumped-up charges.

He is backed by the UN, EU, the Organisation of American States, and multiple western nations, and will take over from incumbent Alejandro Giammattei, who is accused of propping up attorney general Consuelo Porras - the main perpetrator of the attacks on Arevalo.

Analyst Comment: Arevalo has acknowledged that he will have difficulty in the short-term in routing out corruption in the government and some institutions, as his opponents are still entrenched in some branches of state.

Source: RFI

  

Middle East

Iran: Malaysian and Indonesian firms intermediaries for drone procurement
US officials have named a group of Southeast Asian companies as intermediaries in the procurement network relied on by Iran to source technology and materials for its drone production.

Four firms engaged in the import of electronics components in Malaysia and one in Indonesia, have been sanctioned by the US after analysis of drones downed over Ukraine determined they were involved in the supply of their components.

The firms are all linked to Hossein Hatefi Ardakani, an entrepreneur and foreign defence procurement agent who has ties with manufacturers of Iranian drones and is known to use "front companies" to purchase electronic components.

Analyst Comment: Russia deployed a version of Iran's Shahed drones in Ukraine in 2022, and is believed to be using them to target civilian infrastructure.

More recently, the Yemeni-based militant Houthi group has begun using Iranian-supplied drones to target western commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea

Source: The Diplomat

  

Saudi Arabia: Assad regime given control of Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage processes
Saudi Arabia has handed control of Syria's Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage processes for 2024 to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad's regime, removing it from the Syrian opposition after ten years.

The decision was taken after Syrias minister for religious endowments met with the Saudi minister of Hajj and Umrah in Jeddah, where they agreed this year's pilgrimages would be conducted in coordination with the Syrian regime.

The Syrian opposition's Supreme Hajj Committee was handed control of the pilgrimages in May 2013 after Assad's government conducted a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests and the outbreak of the Syrian civil war forced closure of the Saudi embassy in Damascus and the withdrawal of Saudi diplomats from the country.

Analyst Comment: The transfer of control is an indication of improving ties between Riyadh and Damascus, and of wider normalisation of the Assad regime by the Kingdom of other Arab nations.

Source: Middle East Monitor

  

The Netherlands: Israel giving defence against South African genocide accusations
Israel has begun offering its defence against accusations of genocide put to it by South Africa in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Yesterday, South Africa argued Israel's actions against Gaza's population in its war against Hamas amount to genocide, and is asking the court to order it to cease military activity.

Israeli lawyer Tal Becker has told the court that South Africa's claims as "a sweeping counter-factual description" of the Israel-Palestine conflict, adding that while civilian deaths were "tragic", Hamas was seeking to "maximise civilian harm to both Israelis and Palestinians, even as Israel seeks to minimise it."

Analyst Comment: The ICJ is the highest court in the United Nations, but while its rulings are legally binding on parties to the ICJ (which includes Israel and South Africa) in theory, they are not enforceable. In recent high-profile cases such as Ukraine v Russia, Gambia v Myanmar, and US v Iran, the losing party ignored them.

Source: BBC News

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