National security wrap

The beat

Open letter against domestic abuse

The Lochaber and Skye Police in Scotland has received praise for a series of tweets it published to express its support for women trapped in situations of domestic abuse. The initial tweet was directed to a particular woman, known to the police, urging her to come forward and seek help. The later messages highlighted that anyone could face domestic abuse, and encouraged those affected to contact either police or NGOs such as Women’s Aid, which ‘runs a 24/7 national helpline’.

Remembering, Russian-style

Sunday 19 November was UN World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Russia has one of the world’s highest traffic-related death tolls with more than 20,000 victims a year. In western Russia, ‘200 state traffic police and parishioners of Krasnodar churches’ marked the day by participating in a remembrance procession on a notoriously dangerous road.

Let it grow!

Western Australian police officers will be allowed to have beards beginning 1 March, after a loosening of the strict beard ban. However, interested officers will need to grow their beards when they’re on leave, and there are strict facial hair terms and conditions. Beards must be full face with a moustache and the hair can’t be longer than 20 millimetres. Oh, and no goatees.

CT scan

White House brands North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism

Donald Trump has put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in a move that will impose new sanctions on the regime. Lawyers for the administration claim that the assassination of Kim Jong-nam constituted an act of terrorism. Trump specifically mentioned the torture and death of American tourist Otto Warmbier in announcing the move.

US troop build-up in Somalia

The number of US troops in Somalia has reached its highest point since 1993. More than 500 US troops are assisting the Somali military in their fight against al-Shabaab and ISIS-affiliated militants emerging in the northern Puntland region. The increase in US forces comes as the African Union mission winds down and reflects concerns about Somalia’s capacity to combat the groups on its own.

Assad goes to Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin surprisingly hosted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Sochi ahead of the Russia–Iran–Turkey summit and further peace talks in Geneva. While Putin denied that the fight against global terrorism is over, he did announce the end of Russia’s military mission to confront terrorists in Syria.

Terrorism’s economic impact

Forbes has published a graphic displaying the economic losses due to terrorism since 2000; 2014’s US$104 billion was the peak. The Institute for Economics and Peace released its annual Global Terrorism Index analysing international trends in terrorism in 2017.


Iraq prepares for border takeover

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sent a strong message to Kurdish authorities in a press conference last week, saying that he’s prepared to forcibly retake control of the Kurdish borders with Turkey and Iran if the Kurds don’t relinquish control. An Iraqi court decided on Monday that September’s Kurdish independence referendum, which produced a majority yes vote, was unconstitutional. Abadi says he doesn’t anticipate violence with the changeover, but warns that his patience is running out.

Zambia and Mozambique begin border treaty talks

Representatives from Zambia and Mozambique met on Monday to discuss the drafting of a border treaty. The agreement is part of a larger initiative, the African Union Border Programme, which aims to strengthen the continent by promoting ‘peace security and stability through the structural prevention of conflicts’. The meeting is the first step in re-evaluating vague borders drawn by colonial powers.

US Border Patrol agent allegedly beaten to death

An incident along the US–Mexico border on Monday has left one Border Patrol agent dead and another badly injured. Initial reports suggested the men may have fallen into a ravine, but new information suggests the agents were attacked and beaten with rocks. President Trump used the occasion to promote his border wall, for which prototypes are being constructed.

First responder

Disaster resilience: threats and action

The Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience & Safer Communities released the Building resilience to natural disasters in our states and territories report this week. The report found that the total cost of natural disasters in Australia is set to double to an annual cost of $39 billion by 2050. Topically, local governments in New South Wales are embarking on a new project that aims to increase disaster resilience in local communities. Other states should follow their lead.

South Dakota oil spill

The Keystone pipeline in South Dakota spilled 210,000 gallons of oil last Thursday, the largest leak in Keystone’s history. Despite the leak and activist opposition, Nebraska’s independent Public Service Commission approved the similar Keystone XL pipeline project on Monday. Environmentalists fear that the new pipeline could endanger animals and their habitats, and several native American tribes have been vocal opponents of the project.

Blue state blues

US President Donald Trump has announced his plan for California disaster aid following the recent wildfires in the state that killed 43 people and destroyed 9,000 structures. The White House requested disaster aid totalling $0 from Congress for California. That falls well short of the $7.4 billion requested by Californian Democrats.