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  • OSINTSUM: Thursday 4 January 2024

OSINTSUM: Thursday 4 January 2024

Fears grow over Slovakian press freedom, NATO to help allies purchase 1,000 Patriot missiles, and The Hague to hear genocide case against Israel next week

OSINTSUM
Global Situation Update
Thursday 4 January 2024



Headlines

International
Defence: NATO to purchase 1,000 Patriot missiles to help allies protect their territory
Energy: Oil prices rise due to MENA instability

Africa
Chad: Junta appoints pro-democracy figure as prime minister
Libya: Shahara oilfield shutdown by local protesters
Sudan: RSF say they are open to ceasefire talks with army

Asia/Oceania
East China Sea: Chinese activity around disputed Islands reached record levels in 2023
Japan: Operational ban on world's biggest nuclear plant lifted
Myanmar: Junta to release over 9,000 prisoners to mark Independence Day
North Korea: Moves to redefine policy towards South Korean relations
Taiwan: Government to reveal Chinese election interference after vote

Europe
Germany: Co2 levels drop to lowest level in 70 years
Slovakia: Fears grow for press freedom under Fico's rule
UK: British consumers putting "enormous pressure" on world forests

Latin America/Caribbean
Argentina: Milei labour reforms suspended by courts
Ecuador: President looking to hold referendum on national security
El Salvador: Murders fell 70% in 2023 following gang crackdown

Middle East
Iran: Israel and US blamed for Soleimani grave bombing
Israel: The Hague to hear genocide case next week
Lebanon: Western nations urge citizens to leave the country immediately
Red Sea: UN urges protection of supply chains

US/Canada
US: Border security deal close to agreement
US: Trump asks Supreme Court to review Colorado ban from 2024 ballot




International

Defence: NATO to purchase 1,000 Patriot missiles to help allies protect their territory
NATO is to purchace 1,000 Patriot missiles - which are used to defend against cruise and ballistic missiles as well as enemy aircraft - to help its allies protect their territory.

The bloc's Support and Procurement Agency said it will help a group of nations, including Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, and Spain, buying the missiles in a contract which could be worth up to $5.5bn.

The purchase would help the allies free up some of their existing air defence systems for use in Ukraine to help it defend against Russian air strikes, which have been ramping up in recent weeks.

Analyst Comment: NATO only provides non-lethal support to Ukraine, but member countries are routinely sending weapons and ammunition individually which has led to concerns they may be leaving themselves short.

Source: ABC News

  

Energy: Oil prices rise due to MENA instability
Oil prices rose again this morning as a result of concerns over supply from the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region due to protests at a Libyan oil field and attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

Brent crude rose by $0.53, or 7%, to %78.78 a barrel at 0730 GMT, and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures increased by $0.66, or 9%, to $73.36.

Meanwhile, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said it would continue dialogue with the larger OPEC+ group after OPEC member Angola announced it was leaving the bloc in December last year.

Source: Reuters

 

Africa

Chad: Junta appoints pro-democracy figure as prime minister
Chad's military leadership has appointed former opposition leader and pro-democracy figure Success Masra as prime minister in a newly-appointed transitional government.

Masra, who recently returned from exile, has said he will ensure the country holds elections later this year and that it returns to civilian rule.

However, opponents of military leader Mahamat Idriss Deby and civil society groups have raised concerns that most of the majority government appointees are friends and family of Deby and that Masra's appointment will not stop him illegally retaining power.

Analyst Comment: Masra led thousands of civilians in street protests against Deby's rule in which security forces killed 50 people and injured and arrested hundreds more in October 2022. He fled to the US via Cameroon shortly after, but returned to Chad in November last year.

Source: All Africa

  

Libya: Shahara oilfield shutdown by local protesters
The Shahara oilfield in southern Libya's Fezzan region, which is capable of producing around 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), has been forced into a full shutdown by local protesters.

One of the protesters told a reporters the region was "in need of developing projects and services, such as a refinery for fuel supply, paved roads, a clinic, and jobs for young people".

There are fears the protest may spread to the smaller nearby El Feel oilfield, which is capable of producing around 60,000 bpd.

Analyst Comment: Libya currently produces around 1.2 million bpd, and has plans to increase this to around 2 million bpd by 2030 according to the country's oil minister.

Source: Oil Price

  

Sudan: RSF say they are open to ceasefire talks with army
Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have said they are open to immediate, unconditional ceasefire negotiations with the Sudanese army.

The announcement comes as the RSF signed the Addis Ababa declaration in Ethiopia, which includes commitments to return millions of displaced people to their homes and include civilians in peace talks.

The RSF have invited the Sudanese military to do the same, but the army has dismissed the document as a "non-starter" which holds little weight.

Analyst Comment: The two factions have been engaged in a civil war since April last year which has triggered the world's largest displacement crisis and destroyed massive amounts of Sudan's infrastructure.

Source: Africa News

 

Asia/Oceania

East China Sea: Chinese activity around disputed Islands reached record levels in 2023
Chinese maritime activity in the contiguous zone of disputed islands known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China in the East China Sea reached record levels last year.

The Japanese coastguard reported Chinese government vessels in the waters of the islands, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China, for 352 out of 365 days - the highest number since records began in 2008 and 16 more than 2022's previous record of 336.

It also reported sighting a total of 1,287 Chinese government ships operating there, another record high, and that vessels maintained an uninterrupted presence in the waters for 134 successive days between 5 August and 16 December last year.

Analyst Comment: Chinese President xi Jinping recently called for efforts to bolster Beijing's claim over the islands, and announced plans to keep a year-round presence in the islands' waters this year.

Source: The Diplomat

  

Japan: Operational ban on world's biggest nuclear plant lifted
Japan's nuclear power regulator has lifted a two-year operational ban on Tokyo Electric Power's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, meaning it can now apply for local permission to resume operations.

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority barred Tepco from running the plant in 2021 due to a number of safety and security breaches, but has now lifted this ban citing improvements in the plant's safety management system.

The 8,212 megawatt-capacity nuclear plant has been offline since the 2012 after the Fukushima disaster the year before led regulators to shutdown all nuclear plants in Japan.

Analyst Comment: Japan's Institute of Energy Economics predicted the country's liquified natural gas imports would decline from 64 million tonnes this year to 58.5 million in anticipation of the restarts of a number of nuclear plants and an increase in renewable energy production.

Source: Reuters

  

Myanmar: Junta to release over 9,000 prisoners to mark Independence Day
Myanmar's military leadership said it will release 9,652 prisoners as part of an annual amnesty to mark the country's 76th Independence Day.

There has been no indication that political prisoners will be among those released, but 114 foreign prisoners are among those be freed and will be deported "on bilateral relations and humanitarian grounds".

Previous year's Independence Days have been marked by a parade and an address from military leader Min Aung Hlaing, but he was absent this year and the address was delivered by a subordinate.

Analyst Comment: It is likely the scaled-down celebrations are due to the ongoing offensive actions by a coalition of ethnic militias in the north of the country which are posing a significant threat to the junta's power.

Source: France 24

  

Europe

Germany: Co2 levels drop to lowest level in 70 years
Germany's carbon dioxide emissions fell to their lowest level since the 1950s last year, but this decline is currently unsustainable unless climate policy changes are implemented according to a study.

The decline was driven by an increase in domestic renewable energy production, which now accounts for over 50% of Germany's energy, and a reduction in energy-intensive manufacturing brought about as a result of higher gas prices.

However, there are concerns that as the manufacturing sector recovers and manufacturing ramps up again there will be a reversal of the decline in emissions unless measures such as a bill introduced last year to encourage more green energy are implemented quickly.

Analyst Comment: Germany is aiming to phase out coal completely by 2038, but economy minister Robert Habeck and west German states are in favour of bringing this forward to 2030. However, this is opposed by states in Germany's eastern brown coal belt.

Source: Reuters

  

Slovakia: Fears grow for press freedom under Fico's rule
Concerns are growing about press freedom in Slovakia after Prime Minister Robert Fico, who came to power in September last year, cut off communications with four media outlets.

His administration said the organisations - Aktuality, Markiza, SME, and Dennik N - were cut off for displaying "openly hostile political attitudes" and failing to inform the public "truthfully, comprehensively, and on time".

Journalists have already begun reporting receiving hostile messages from the public both in person and online, in particular describing them as "enemies of the people".

Analyst Comment: There are fears pro-Russian Fico may be copying the strategies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is known to put political pressure on independent institutions.

Source: The Guardian

  

UK: British consumers putting "enormous pressure" on world forests
UK lawmakers have warned that British consumers are putting "enormous pressure" on the world's forests due to their appetite for commodities such as soy, cocoa, palm oil, beef, and leather.

In a report by the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), they stated that the country's consumption when measured by its footprint per tonne of product consumed was higher than Chinas.

EAC chair Philip Dunne said the report should serve as a "wake-up call to the government", and that the UK's consumption of certain commodities was having an unsustainable impact on the environment.

Analyst Comment: The report came days after it was announced that cattle products other than dairy, cocoa, palm oil, and soy, would need to be certified as "sustainable" before being sold in the UK.

Source: Sky News

 

Latin America/Caribbean

Argentina: Milei labour reforms suspended by courts
Labour reforms announced by new President Javier Milei aimed at reviving Argentina's economy have been suspended by a court after a legal challenge by a major union group.

The General Labor Confederation argued the changes - which included increasing job probation periods from three to eight months and reducing severance pay - would only benefit big business at the expense of workers' rights.

One of the judges ruling on the suspension said Milei's reforms went beyond his administration's authority and needed to be approved by Congress before being implemented. Milei's government said it would appeal the suspension.

Analyst Comment: Miliei has already introduced a range of other controversial reforms aimed at turning around the country's faltering economy since coming to power in December last year, including devaluing the peso by 50% and cutting transport and energy subsidies.

Source: AP News

  

Ecuador: President looking to hold referendum on national security
Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa is looking to hold a referendum over bringing in stricter security policies to crack down on rising violence and crime in the country.

The referendum will ask citizens whether they are in favour of policies such as handing down longer sentences for serious crimes such as arms trafficking and homicide and deploying the military to combat international organised crime groups.

Noboa, who came to power in November last year on the back of pledges to reduce the country's crime rate, has submitted the draft questions for the referendum in a letter to Ecuador's Constitutional Court, which now has 20 days to respond.

Analyst Comment: Ecuador's recent surge in violent crime has been put down to an increase in drug-trafficking gangs, economic troubles stemming from Covid-19, and high levels of migration.

Source: Reuters

  

El Salvador: Murders fell 70% in 2023 following gang crackdown
El Salvador's government said homicides in the country had fallen by 70% in 2023 as a result of a controversial crackdown on gang activity which has seen almost 75,000 people detained.

Justice and Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro said 154 people were murdered last year, down from 495 the previous year and over 1,000 in 2022 and 2021.

If accurate, this means El Salvador has a homicide rate of 2.4 per 100,000 people, the lowest in the whole of the Americas aside from Canada.

Analyst Comment: President Nayib Bukele's security reforms have been broadly popular with Salvadorians tired of years of rising gang violence, but rights groups have said they have led to an increase in abuse such as torture, deaths in custody, and arbitrary detentions. So far, only 7,000 of the 75,000 people arrested have been released.

Source: Reuters

 

Middle East

Iran: Israel and US blamed for Soleimani grave bombing
Iran has blamed Israel and the US for the twin bomb attack which killed at least 84 people who were visiting the grave of Revolutionary Guards General Qassem Soleimani in the south of the country.

The US has denied any suggestion it or Israel was involved in the bombing, which took place on 3 January (the fourth anniversary of his assassination), while Israel has declined to comment.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there would "undoubtedly be a harsh response" to the bombing.

Analyst Comment: The Sunni Islamic State group - which welcomed the death of Soleimani at the time - has carried out a number of bomb attacks on shrines and security forces in Iran in recent years.

Source: France 24

  

Israel: The Hague to hear genocide case next week
The first hearing in a case brought by South Africa to obtain an interim measure by the international court of justice (ICJ) to prevent Israel committing acts of potential genocide will be heard next week.

The hearing will take place on 11 and 12 January, and based on previous cases it is likely the ICJ will deliver a provisional ruling within weeks.

Israel has said it will defend itself in court in a reversal of a decades-long policy of boycotting the UN's top court and its 15 elected judges.

Analyst Comment: The ICJ has indicated provisional measures with increasing frequency in recent years, delivering 11 such measures in the last decade, compared with 10 between 1945 (when it was established) and 1995.

Any such measure is intended to be binding, but they have only been complied with in by state parties around 50% of the time. In recent high-profile cases such as Ukraine v Russia, Gambia v Myanmar, and US v Iran, the losing party ignored them.

Source: The Guardian

  

Lebanon: Western nations urge citizens to leave the country immediately
Western nations have advised citizens to leave Lebanon immediately following the recent drone strike which killed Hamas leader Saleh al-Aruri.

The German foreign ministry told its citizens to refister on the ELEFAND crisis preparedness list and leave the country as soon as possible, citing the possibility of a further expansion of the conflict.

Other countries including Canada, the US, and Sweden have voiced similar concerns, with the Canadian government stating they believe al-Aruri's assassination could lead to an escalation of hostilities in the country.

Analyst Comment: Israel has not officially claimed responsibility for the strike, but Hamas, Lebanon, and Hezbollah have attributed it to the Israeli military, with the latter vowing retribution.

Source: Times of India

  

US/Canada

US: Border security deal close to agreement
US Senator Kyrsten Sinema said Senators were close to agreeing a bipartisan border security deal, which Congress could couple with a new tranche of emergency aid for Ukraine and Israel.

Negotiations over securing the Mexican border have been ongoing for several weeks, with Republicans insisting on tougher controls in return for releasing new aid to Ukraine.

If the Senate does agree on the deal, it will then need to be approved by the House for it to be passed.

Analyst Comment: The House passed a sweeping immigration and border security bill last year which is yet to be put to a vote in the Senate. Republican House Representatives are demanding the Senate pass it in return for approving any further aid for Ukraine.

Source: Reuters

  

US: Trump asks Supreme Court to review Colorado ban from 2024 ballot
Former-US President Donald Trump has asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling banning him from appearing on the Colorado ballot for this year's presidential election.

Trump has been barred from the Colorado and Maine ballots due to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which bars anyone who has "engaged in insurrection" from running for president.

Any decision by the Supreme Court would be binding on all states, meaning it will essentially determine whether or not Trump can run in the election.

Analyst Comment: Six of the Supreme Court's nine justices are Republican appointments, and three of them were appointed by Trump himself.

Source: AP News


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