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July- August 2020 Media Roundup

This is a roundup of news articles, reports, and other materials focusing on (in)security issues and reflects a wide variety of opinions. The entries and the brief summaries provided do not reflect the views of Security in Context. The goal is to shed light on security related items that are of public interest from different perspectives. Entries may include academic journal articles, think tank reports, non-governmental organizations releases, official documents or government commissioned research, and regular news items. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each roundup to admin@securityincontext.com

Climate Change and Security

How Britain’s profiteering spymasters ignored the country’s biggest threats like coronavirus—and endangered the public

(May 7, 2020)

There is money and power in identifying Russia and cyber attacks as the key security threats facing Britain — but not in addressing the more important issues of pandemics and climate change. Former UK intelligence chiefs are personally profiting from the ‘revolving door’ between government and business, and the public is paying the price.

Redirect military budgets to tackle climate change and pandemics

(August 20, 2020)

Global military expenditure reached a record $1.9 trillion in 2019, much of which will be for wars that are never fought. Countries should instead focus their spending on stimulus packages for decarbonization, health, education and the environment.

Climate Change: A Threat to International Peace & Security?

(August 29, 2020)

Is the climate-security century upon us?  If so, what are the implications for international legal governance and institutions?  In his recent Opinio Juris essay, based on his provocative and meticulously researched article, Atmospheric Intervention, Professor Martin argues that the climate change crisis may well exert pressure for change on the governing jus ad bellum regime.  

Security and International Relations

MI5 and MI6 are training senior spies from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt

(July 27, 2020)

Senior officials from Britain’s domestic security service, MI5, and its external spy agency, MI6, have provided training to intelligence officials from a host of repressive regimes over the last two years.


It's Time for the US to Get Out of Syria

(July 27, 2020)

More than 16 months after the defeat of ISIS, US forces remain deployed in North East Syria. The original objective of defeating ISIS has been replaced by a policy geared towards containing Iran’s power in the country, and if followed will surely lead to another case of America’s involvement in endless war. 


Caesar Act sanctions are crippling Syria's beleaguered health sector

(July 28, 2020)

Despite Washington’s claims that the Caesar Act will not impact on the import of medical equipment and medications to Syria, the realities on the ground show that these sanctions are decimating Syria’s health care and people’s access to it. 


The Pointless Cruelty of Trump’s New Syria Sanctions

(August 17, 2020)

US sanctions are increasing suffering for Syrian people and protracting instability, while Assad remains indifferent.

Israel-UAE: 25 Years of Secret Deals, With One Man at the Center

(August 18, 2020)

Despite the formalization of diplomatic ties between Israel and the UAE being portrayed as historic and momentous, the two countries have had a long, but covert, history going back decades.  

Anti-ISIS Coalition Begins Losing Tribal Support in Syria

(August 20, 2020)

Major tribal leaders in eastern Syria may break away from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which would severely jeopardize the anti-ISIS mission by fracturing the US partner force in Syria.  Leaders of the largest Arab tribal confederation in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zour Province have demanded that the SDF yield administrative control of that province to local tribal leadership before September 11, 2020. Tribal animosity toward the SDF has been building since mid-2019 due to the combined pressures of overlapping ISIS and pro-regime insurgencies as well as the SDF’s weak and under-resourced governance. The continued presence of SDF and coalition forces in Deir ez-Zour could become untenable if the SDF fails to find a compromise with increasingly fractured tribal elements.


UAE to send F-16s to Crete for training with Greek military amid tensions with Turkey

(August 24, 2020)

The United Arab Emirates is sending four F-16 fighter aircraft for joint training with the Greek military on Crete amid heightened tensions with Turkey, which has deployed naval vessels to escort a hydrocarbon exploration ship to waters claimed by Greece.


Pompeo floats ending Sudan's terror designation amid push for Israel ties

(August 26, 2020)

As he lobbied Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also discussed dropping Sudan from a list of states that sponsor terrorism during his high-profile visit to Khartoum. The US reportedly asked Sudan to pay $335 million in compensation to the victims of the bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 in exchange for its removal from the terror list. 

Migration and Displacement

Good Practices Paper – Action 6: Establishing Statelessness Determination Procedures to Protect Stateless Persons

(July 2020)

Action 6 of the Global Action Plan calls on States to grant protection status to stateless

migrants through the establishment of statelessness determination procedures (SDPs),

and facilitate their naturalization. A statelessness determination procedure serves to

identify stateless persons to ensure that they enjoy the rights to which they are entitled

until they acquire a nationality


EU effort to stem African migration leaves some ex-smugglers empty handed

(August 5, 2020)

The European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa was created to address the root causes of instability, forced displacement and irregular migration and to contribute to better migration management. However, many applicants of the program have not received assistance, leaving the main objectives of the programme unaddressed. 


'End Of Asylum': Using The Pandemic To Turn Away Migrants, Children Seeking Refuge

(August 6, 2020)

While the country's attention has been focused on the coronavirus, the Trump administration has also proposed sweeping new regulations that would permanently limit asylum protections for migrants arriving at the southern border.

The erasure of Yarmouk: How the Assad regime is dismantling Syria's hub of Palestinian life

(August 14, 2020)

Since its incorporation into the Damascus Governorate, Yarmouk’s status as a Palestinian refugee camp is no longer formally recognised. In June 2020, the Governorate issued a reconstruction plan, further throwing the status of its residents into question. Under the plan, residents from just 40 percent of the camp can return, while the remaining 60 percent will undergo re-development with contracts likely awarded to those closely affiliated to the regime.


A Private Security Company Is Detaining Migrant Children at Hotels

(August 16, 2020)

Under emergency coronavirus orders, the Trump administration is using hotels across the country to hold migrant children and families before expelling them.


Residents of this Egyptian village forced to leave their homes

(August 17, 2020)

Egyptian security forces attempt to forcibly remove residents of Sayadeen village in Alexandria governorate. Residents of prospect areas for urban renewal and development projects are increasingly asked to give up their land in return for uncompensated tenancy in government new-builds. Those who refuse are often arrested. 


Gulf citizens powerless in face of megaprojects

Thousands of citizens face forced relocation for planned megaprojects across Saudi Arabia. Local communities often have no say in the strategic infrastructure projects and long-term economic reforms that directly impact them.


Covid-19, Capitalism & Economy

China strikes debt deals with poor nations under G20 scheme

Beijing is negotiating under a G20-led debt standstill scheme for low-income countries launched in April, in a move designed to help them focus on tackling the health and economic crises triggered by the pandemic. The scheme, known as the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, allows eligible countries to freeze bilateral loan repayments until the end of the year.


Preventing the COVID-19 Crisis From Becoming a Food Crisis

(June 16, 2020)

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic affects the activities of the food system (food production, processing, distribution, marketing and consumption) and its outcomes — particularly food security and social well-being. This report offers policy recommendations for sustaining demand and administering the food trade during the emergency and preventing a regional food crisis should it continue.


Chile picks Japan's trans-Pacific cable route in snub to China

(July 29, 2020)

Under US pressure, Chile has chosen a route for the first fiber-optic cable to directly connect South America & Asia-Pacific region, 13km across Pacific to Australia, NZ. Linking to new cable from Japan to Australia with no link to China. 


The Pandemic, Southern Urbanisms and Collective Life

(August 3, 2020)

This essay commits to a different reading of the pandemic that stops the rush of planning and forecasting, projecting and forecasting. It offers collective life as an analytic that keeps the focus on the ways in which the urban majority is trying to survive and cope within structures of inequality that now bear both the new imprint of COVID-19 while equally holding the continuities of older forms of distancing and exclusion.


COVID-19: Without Help, Low-Income Developing Countries Risk a Lost Decade

(August 27, 2020)

While the COVID-19 crisis is sending shockwaves around the globe, low-income developing countries (LIDCs) are in a particularly difficult position to respond. LIDCs have both been hit hard by external shocks and are suffering severe domestic contractions from the spread of the virus and the lockdown measures to contain it. At the same time, limited resources and weak institutions constrain the capacity of many LIDC governments to support their economies.

The Empty Space Where Normal Once Lived

(August 28, 2020)

In the heat of COVID-19 and climate change, it’s too easy to forget what flourishing feels like.


Technologies of surveillance/Data Analytics/AI

Tech-enabled 'terror capitalism' is spreading worldwide. The surveillance regimes must be stopped

(July 24, 2020)

‘Terror capitalism’ uses tools such as facial recognition to extract profits from marginalized people. Big tech and governments are collaborating.


Countries around the world are using border surveillance systems against their own citizens

(August 17, 2020)

Despite claims that border security technologies such as biometrics are more objective, neutral, and non-discriminatory, individuals and groups who share the same ethnic or national background as targeted migrants may find themselves the unwitting victims of data-driven border enforcement.


With Israel's Encouragement, NSO Sold Spyware to UAE and Other Gulf States

(August 23, 2020)

The Israeli spyware firm has signed contracts with Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Despite its claims, NSO exercises little control over use of its software, which dictatorships can use to monitor dissidents.


Community Defense: Sarah T. Hamid on Abolishing Carceral Technologies

(August 31, 2020)

Sarah T. Hamid of The Carceral Tech Resistance Network (CTRN) makes the case for abolishing carceral technologies. The focus on “surveillance” can depoliticize the organization against the expansion of global carcel regimes. To get to the heart of racialized surveillance, expanding digital surveillance, and legally sanctioned violence that accompanies it, we must organize against the carceral state and its institutions, actors and systems. 


Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Sexuality

Arabs Across Syria Join the Kurdish-Led Syrian Democratic Forces

(July 28, 2020)

This article looks at the Arab men and women from across Syria who support the political project in North East Syria and who have joined the Syrian Democratic Forces, despite this history being ignored by mainstream analyses. This phenomena does not fit the sectarian and geopolitical narratives that have come to characterise the Syrian conflict and its actors today. Understanding the dynamics that undermine processes of sectarianism is therefore “a crucial analytical task and political challenge”.


Systematic Inequality and Economic Opportunity

(August 7, 2020)

This report examines how government-sanctioned occupational segregation, exploitation, and neglect exacerbated racial inequality in the United States. Eliminating current disparities among Americans will require intentional public policy efforts to dismantle systematic inequality, combat discrimination in the workplace, and expand access to opportunity for all Americans.



Arms, Weapons, and Military Industrial Complex

Defund America's Endless Wars

(July 29, 2020)

The US President’s comparison of American cities such as Chicago and Portland to Afghanistan unwittingly links the racialized US security state that characterizes spaces, movements and peoples as lawless and plagued by violence as a discursive tool to legitimize the use of state violence. Connecting the imperatives of state violence abroad to state violence at home, defunding the police must also call for defunding America's endless wars.


Australian pilots drafted to help fly UK drones over Syria and Iraq

(August 19, 2020)

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) is contracting Australian pilots to fly UK drones in the Middle East so that they can gain operational experience in preparation for Australia’s future deployment of the unmanned craft. The move raises concerns over legality and accountability as the UK expands its drone fleet.


AMLO Pushes Ahead on Militarized Megaprojects

(August 21, 2020)

Mexico has prioritized controversial megaprojects and military spending, while struggling to contain the coronavirus.


Explosive Weapons Use in Syria, Report 3 (August 2020)

 This study aims to analyze and visualize The Carter Center Syria conflict mapping data to show the distribution and type of explosive weapons used in northwest Syria (Aleppo, Idleb, and Latakia governorates) between July 2013 and May 2019.

Human Security

Investigation: African migrants 'left to die' in Saudi Arabia’s hellish Covid detention centres 

(August 30, 2020)

Report reveals horrific treatment and conditions for African migrants in Saudia Arabian detention centres. Tens of migrants are crammed into single rooms without adequate food, water, or sanitary facilities and no possibility of contact outside. 


Prison of Sednayah During the Syrian Revolution (Testimonies) 2019

This book contains testimonies of former prisoners imprisoned in the prison of Sednayah during the Syrian revolution.


To fix Arab societies, just listen to Arab citizens

(July 30, 2020)

International actors like the UN who want to help should listen more earnestly to what Arab men, women, and desperate youth have been saying for decades.


Belarus crackdown protests

(August 17, 2020)

Rising police brutality against pro-democracy demonstrations alongside increasing solidarity in the largest challenge to the Belarusian dictatorship.


Gaza Extends Lockdown, India Reports Record Daily Numbers as Global Covid-19 Cases Top 25 Million


Beirut Explosion

Beirut explosion: the disaster was exceptional but events leading up to it were not

(August 5, 2020)

While the disaster itself was exceptional, the events leading up to it were not. Hazardous material is shipped across the world’s oceans on a daily basis. It is often mishandled or illegally traded. Abandoned containers of hazardous goods are found regularly in ports.


How Beirut’s port explosion exacerbates Lebanon’s economic crisis

(August 6, 2020)

Since the October 2019 economic crisis, Lebanon’s currency has lost more than 80% of its value. The collapse of Lebanon’s financial system is symptomatic of a wider failure of governance which goes back to the policies adopted after the end of the country’s civil war in 1990. The explosion erodes what little trust citizens may still have had in their political class and long-term solutions require nothing short of fundamental political change.


Behind the Beirut explosion lies the lawless world of international shipping

(August 8, 2020)

While attention and anger has rightly focused on the incompetence and dysfunction of the Lebanese government and authorities, the roots of the catastrophe run far deeper and wider – to a network of maritime capital and legal chicanery that is designed to protect businesses at any cost.


How Beirut firefighters were sent into disaster

(August 8, 2020)

Sahar Fares, Najib and Charbel Hitti, Ralph Mallahi, Charbel Karam, Joe Noun, Rami Kaaki, Joe Bou Saab, Elia Khzami, and Mathal Hawa - first responders to the fire that preceded the explosion. 


Why Beirut’s ammonium nitrate blast was so devastating

(August 10, 2020)

The limited capacity of health services, food insecurity, economic freefall and unemployment, all of which exacerbated by the explosion, will have far more devastating consequences on livelihoods than the casualties caused by the blast itself. 


Panel Video: Ziad Abu-Rish & Maya Mikdashi on the Beirut Explosion, Its Context, and Developments

(August 17, 2020)

Panelists Ziad Abu-Rish and Maya Mikdashi discuss what is known about the explosion, its aftermath, and its broader contexts and the question of meaningful change in Lebanon and what that would look like.


Quick Thoughts: Mona Harb on the Aftermath of the Beirut Explosion

In this article Mona Harb discusses some of the social forces that have mobilised in the aftermath of the explosion. From private-real estate investors speculating on historic damaged neighbourhoods, to fast moving social solidarity networks, to the refortification of the ruling political class.

(August 20, 2020) 


'We lost everything': Syrian refugees caught up in Beirut blast

(August 23, 2020)

Syrian’s suffer an added layer of vulnerability in the aftermath of the explosion. This is the story of Dima Steif, a Syrian refugee living in the Karantina neighbourhood of Beirut, who lost half her family in the explosion. 


After the Beirut Explosion, Disaster Capitalism Has Lebanon in Its Sights

(August 24, 2020)

The explosion that devastated Beirut was an indictment of the parties that have misruled Lebanon for decades. Now, however, those parties are using the disaster as a pretext to deepen neoliberal policies, with French leader Emmanuel Macron and the IMF egging them on.


In a Shattered Beirut, Property Predators Circle Storied Neighborhoods

(August 24, 2020)

As Beirut reels from the blast that damaged thousands of homes, some buyers and real-estate brokers are seeking to exploit the devastation with cut-rate offers to buy property—deals that could ultimately reshape historic neighborhoods


Rebuilding Beirut: How to Curtail Neoliberal Urbanisation w/Mona Harb

(August 25, 2020)

Alternative Frequencies podcast is joined by Professor of Urban Studies and Director of Research at the Beirut Urban Lab, Dr. Mona Fawaz, to discuss the scale of damages in residential areas impacted by the Beirut explosion, the dangers of neoliberal urban policies, their impact on urban heritage and housing rights, and practical ways to curtail gentrification and protect residents.


‘Did the explosion discriminate? Did it ask people if they were Lebanese or Syrian before it killed them?’

(August 29, 2020)

The story of Ghassan ‘Abu Ahmad’ Barakat, a Syrian resident of Beirut, highlights the discrimination non-Lebanese communities have faced both before and after the explosion in the public domain, whether through aid distribution or media representation.


Interview: Beirut blast exposed a global system

(August 30, 2020)

Rima Majed discusses the blast that devastated Beirut, putting it into context of 30 years of political and economic crisis from neoliberalisation, political and financial corruption, economic free fall and the pandemic. Majed also details the aftermath and ways to move forward to overcome the internationally supported political stagnation and repression. 

Maps and Charts

IRAQ SITUATION REPORT: AUGUST 12-18, 2020

Iran and its proxy network in Iraq escalated a kinetic campaign to build political pressure and attempt to force Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to limit his support for the US force presence ahead of the next stage of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. Likely Iranian proxy militants conducted five rocket attacks and five confirmed IED attacks on US facilities and supporting personnel in Iraq between August 12 and August 18. 


WEEKLY CONFLICT SUMMARY | 17 August - 23 August 2020

The joint Russian-Turkish armed forces patrol confronted another attack in Idlib Governorate. Government of Syria (GoS) appointed new intelligence leaders in the northwest. The first COVID-19 death was recorded in Idlib Governorate. GoS armed forces and Kurdish armed groups clashed with armed opposition groups.


5 things the latest data says about COVID-19 and the economy

This month’s COVID-19 case and economic recovery data reveals how cases have grown in different parts of the country, the number of children who have contracted coronavirus, and economic indicators like consumer spending and employment.


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