The threat spectrum
1 Dec 2023| and

Planet A

The host nation of COP28, the United Arab Emirates, has been criticised over leaked documents that reveal plans to leverage the climate discussions to promote deals for its national oil and gas companies. The summit is being led by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is both the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and the UAE’s special envoy for climate change, creating the perception that he may be compromised by the conflict of interest inherent in his dual role.

The briefing materials, obtained by the centre for climate reporting, were prepared for Al Jaber’s bilateral meetings with the other 27 governments at COP28. They indicate ADNOC intended to focus on collaborating with nations to extract their oil and gas resources, and contained specific proposals for countries such as China, Colombia, Mozambique, Canada and Australia.

The materials raised concerns among climate summit veterans, who believe they could undermine trust in Al Jaber’s presidency and jeopardise the summit’s success. However, a COP28 spokesperson denies their accuracy and emphasises the confidentiality of private meetings, while ADNOC has remained silent on the matter.

Democracy Watch

In Nepal, police have employed rattan sticks, tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters advocating for the reinstatement of the monarchy, abolished 15 years ago. Organised under the ‘campaign to protect nation, nationalism, religion, culture and citizens’, demonstrators showed their anger at the country’s political class. On the same day, a similar number led by the Communist Party-affiliated Youth Organization Nepal marched to demand the resignation of the current prime minister and an end to corruption.

Since the monarchy’s abolition in 2008 to resolve a Maoist insurgency, successive governments have failed to fulfil commitments to uplift one of the world’s poorest nations. Protesters attempted to breach a police barricade on the outskirts of Kathmandu and march towards the city centre, prompting intervention by riot police to quell the crowd. In the clash, some officers were injured by stones hurled by protesters, while the monarchist campaign coordinator Durga Prasai reported that approximately 10 of the campaign’s protesters were injured, two critically.

Nepal has grappled with political instability since 2008 with frequent changes in government hindering economic progress and leading many to seek employment abroad, especially young people. The current prime minister, former Maoist rebel chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, heads a coalition with the centrist Nepali Congress party, while the last king, Gyanendra, lives as a commoner in Kathmandu.

Information Operations

Pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets have alleged that illegal weapons deliveries are being funnelled through Ukraine to sow division and erode western support amid the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Following the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas, pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign narratives have portrayed Ukraine as a corrupt and unreliable partner. In videos and posts actively distributed on Facebook and Russian Telegram channels, for example, users claimed without evidence that Ukrainian authorities had sold NATO-supplied weapons to Hamas on the black market or negotiated arms deals with Hezbollah fighters.

Other disinformation narratives have claimed that weapons deliveries to Ukraine are linked with increased crime and civil unrest in Europe. This deliberately conflates the isolated issue of small arms being taken out of Ukraine with the notion that irregular migration from the country is driving industrial-scale arms trafficking operations.

Ultimately, Russia and its information manipulation agents will likely continue to distort the truth to push narratives that serve its national interests and strategic objectives, in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Follow the Money

US prosecutors have charged the cryptocurrency exchange Binance with conducting over $1 billion in transactions with sanctioned countries and known criminal actors. The indictment alleges that Binance made $275 million in payments to cryptocurrency ‘mixing’ service BestMixer and received $106 million from the Russian dark web market Hydra.

Separate indictments charge Changpeng Zhao, who has stepped down as CEO, and former chief compliance officer Samuel Lim with allowing the illicit transactions to take place. Zhao will pay a $50 million corporate fine as part of a $4.3 billion settlement to resolve the years-long probe.

The charges and settlement come on the heels of the fraud conviction of Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of FTX who siphoned stolen customer funds from 2019 to November 2022 to fund a lavish lifestyle and cover high-risk investments.

The implications of these transgressions amplify existing concerns about cryptocurrency and highlight the critical need for stringent compliance standards.

Terror Byte

The West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation (TPNPB-OPM), a separatist group that Indonesia classifies as terrorists, has adopted more divisive and extreme tactics in its pursuit of an independent West Papua. This year, amid increasing tensions and sustained violence in Nduga Regency, the TPNPB-OPM threatened to kill Papuans working with Indonesian security forces and shoot down and burn planes carrying government officials, as well as capture their pilots.

And on 28 August, the TPNPB-OPM shot dead a prominent Papuan activist and social worker, Michelle Kurisi Ndoga. A TPNPB-OPM spokesperson emphasised there was strong evidence that Ndoga was an intelligence officer who informed Indonesian authorities of the location of Papuan refugees and TPNPB-OPM camps.

In response to this and other extra-judicial killings, Indonesian security forces have stepped up efforts to find and kill members of the TPNPB-OPM. In October, a joint military and police operation reportedly killed five suspected insurgents, including a local rebel commander, prompting reprisals and further violence against civilians.