National security wrap

The beat

Thwarting child abuse

Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang revealed that Queensland Police secretly took over a major child abuse site called Childs Play and administered it for almost a year. The Argos Taskforce monitored the site and ‘altered code to unmask its users’, which ‘led to children being rescued and abusers being locked up’. Meanwhile, a desperate call by Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) to the public for assistance in a child abuse case resulted in an arrest. In an unusual step, the BKA published photos of the 4-year-old victim as it was feared she was still being abused.

Fighting corruption and crime in Latin America

A month after Mexico City’s devastating earthquake, the painful process of rebuilding has sparked debates about whether ‘endemic corruption’ played a role in the immense destruction—and whether deaths ‘could have been avoided without it’.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Michael Keenan opened a new AFP liaison office in Mexico City, reaffirming Australia’s commitment to fighting organised crime and disrupting the drug trade from Mexico. Further south, in Argentina, former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s political comeback attempt is overshadowed by renewed corruption claims.

Stopping whistleblower persecution in Namibia

Namibia’s president Hage Geingob signed the Whistleblower Protection Act and the Witness Protection Act into law as part of a larger anti-corruption scheme. People can now safely report financial crimes, mismanagement issues, and other improper conduct that potentially threatens ‘health and safety of an individual or a community’.

CT scan

The US, terrorism and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

Expectations that President Trump will designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation have provoked a backlash from Tehran. To proscribe the IRGC—whose overseas arm, Quds Force, is already marked as an organisation that supports terrorist groups—would be a significant move. In response, Iran has threatened to brand American troops terrorists, which could put US forces captured by Iran outside the protection of the Geneva conventions.

The battle for Raqqa

US-backed forces are preparing for their last push into ISIS-held Raqqa as the offensive nears its ‘final week’. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), composed mostly of Kurdish People’s Protection Units, control 90% of the city, with ISIS pinned down to the area surrounding the National Hospital and sports stadium. The SDF hold commanding positions around the ISIS-held parts of the city and will advance ‘at night on foot’ into the areas around the north of the stadium. ISIS has fortified the hospital and the number of civilians being held captive in the stadium remains unknown.


Cameroon troops line border with Nigeria

The Republic of Cameroon has sent troops to line the border in an attempt to stop foreign fighters from entering the country through Nigeria and joining secessionist movements.  Disputed reports have emerged from witnesses at recent rallies, who claim that army helicopters in Cameroon opened fire on protesters advocating for independence. This article by the Council on Foreign Relations discusses some of the grievances that have contributed to the secessionist movements in Nigeria and Cameroon.

Australian film reaches international audience

A documentary detailing the lives of refugees detained on Manus Island, which was filmed entirely on a smartphone, has debuted at the BFI London Film Festival (trailer). The film was shot by Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee who has been detained on the Papua New Guinean island for four years. Boochani sent the footage via WhatsApp to director Arash Kamali Sarvestani, who hopes that the film will encourage other countries to ‘put pressure on Australia’. Boochani asked for permission to attend the launch, but ultimately wasn’t allowed to leave Manus.

Lessons from Scandinavia

In an article for Politico, a member of Sweden’s border force has offered some guidance to Britain in the wake of Brexit negotiations, saying, ‘My advice to the UK when they leave the EU is: Don’t build the border station too small, you will need plenty of space.’ The article compares the ‘close ties’ between Norway and Sweden—despite the fact that Sweden is in the EU and Norway isn’t—with the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the wake of Brexit.

First responder

Repairing Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was already in $74 billion of debt when Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, causing extensive infrastructure damage and public health crises. President Trump has been criticized for not renewing The Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico, which enforces high shipping cost tariffs on the island. The reinstated law will make delivering aid to the island much more expensive. Axios asked five experts, including professors, policy directors, and urban planners, to express their opinions on how to best repair the island.

Wildfires in California

At least 21 people have died and nearly 70,000 hectares have been burned in the wildfires that are sweeping through Northern California. More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and hundreds have been reported missing.

UN warning

On Tuesday, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific released its flagship Asia–Pacific Disaster Report 2017. The report details how increasingly intense and frequent disasters in the Asia–Pacific are outstripping resilience in the region; between 2000 and 2015, low- and lower middle-income countries in the Asia–Pacific experienced almost 15 times more disaster-related deaths than high-income countries. The report’s findings demonstrate the clear connection between economic development and resilience.