Beyond the Barricades

2019 a look at the year ahead

With the Christmas and New Year break over inevitably the news will soon be full of Brexit yet again, the prospect of a no deal and barricades at Dover manned by the Border Force. Last year the word Brexit was apparently used on Radio 4’s Today Programme five and a half million times. The danger for those of us who need to take a wider international view of global security is that Brexit threatens to drown out all other news and thus skew our interpretation of world events.

A broader look at international reporting over the month of December paints an interesting picture at the strategic and tactical level. The US withdrawal of troops from Syria threatens to push the Kurds into an awkward alliance with President Assad in order to avoid destruction by Turkish forces and in so doing increase the regime’s leverage. Assad loyalists, Iran and Russia will inevitably gain while the West may lose a valuable ally in Syria and Iraq and thus change the balance of power in the Middle East.

On 30 December elections took place in the DRC with the results due to be announced in mid-January, despite claims of vote rigging, President Kabila’s proxy Shadary, looks likely to lose which brings with it the threat of further conflict in this already brittle country ravaged by civil war at the heart of Africa.

At the tactical level on 11 December Strasbourg experienced a shooting attack by a lone actor near a Christmas market leaving five dead and twelve people wounded. Then on 17 December two Scandinavian female travellers were executed by Islamic extremists in Morocco with suspected afflictions of Islamic state.  Ten days later on 27 December an IED was detonated outside a church in Athens and the following day, 28 December a man attempted to enter the Basilica in Barcelona with a suitcase full of ammunition and two Vietnamese nationals were killed and twelve other people injured in an IED attack on a tourist coach in Egypt.

Then closer to home a lone actor struck on New Year’s Eve in Manchester stabbing three people including a British Transport Police Officer. Detained under the Mental Health Act he declared his motivation as support for the Islamic State.

So, what can we draw from these recent events? Well the world remains an unpredictable and dangerous place for the uninformed and ill prepared. At the strategic level the wider security picture in the Middle East and Africa looks unlikely to improve.

At the tactical level the nature, locations and victims of terrorist attacks remains diverse, involving guns, knives, IEDs and vehicles with victims from a range of countries, Vietnam, Denmark, Norway and Britain, the only common denominator being the fact that they found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, we need to keep informed and be well prepared at the individual and organisational level to identify and respond to the range of global threats that we face and look beyond the talk of barricades at Dover and the threat of a hard Brexit.

David Curran MA FCIPD MSyl