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- Intel Brief: Guatemala Election-Related Protests
Date: 27/09/2023 Where: Guatemala Who’s involved: President-elect Bernardo Arévalo, Attorney General Porras, Supreme Electoral Tribunal. What happened? Since early September, widespread protests have taken place across Guatemala in defense of presidential election results. Protesters supported the newly elected President Bernardo Arévalo, son of the first President elected in the Guatemalan democracy, and his political party, Movimiento Semilla (Seed Movement). In the presidential elections run-off on August 20, Guatemalan anti-corruption and center-left candidate Arévalo won over front-runner candidate Sandra Torres of the National Unity of Hope party, securing 58% and the majority of votes in 17 of Guatemala's 22 departments. On August 28, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) confirmed the results of the elections, announcing that Arévalo will take office on 14 January 2024, replacing the outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei. However, on the same day, a few hours before the confirmation of the elections, Guatemala’s attorney general, Consuelo Porras, suspended the Semillas party pending investigations. On September 3, Guatemala’s electoral authorities blocked the suspension of Arévalo’s party, temporarily restoring the party’s legal status at least until October 31, the official end of the electoral process. Nevertheless, it is still likely that the party will be suspended again from November 1st. In response, Arévalo called prosecutors’ investigations into his electoral victory violations of the constitution and part of a coup attempt by “judges and prosecutors.” On September 12, Arévalo decided to suspend his participation in the transition process, demanding the removal of Attorney General Porras. The President-elect announced that the process would resume once electoral interference ends and “the necessary institutional and political conditions are restored.” On the same day, the Organization of American States (OAS) claimed that prosecutors’ actions were aimed at preventing Arévalo from taking office. Indeed, this was not the first electoral interference against the Semilla Movement. Following the June 25 first-round elections, which showed surprising support for Arévalo, the party’s legal status was questioned. On July 12, a minor judge, likely at the behest of Rafael Curruchiche, the head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, suspended the party for alleged money laundering and technical irregularities. On July 13, the Constitutional Court (CC) overturned the Seed Movement's disqualification from the August run-off as the suspension violated the electoral law. Analysis: Political and judicial interference in the electoral and presidential transition process in Guatemala is shedding light on the widespread corruption in the country’s political system. Corruption and impunity are embedded in the Guatemalan system. In Guatemala’s political system, all elected officials enjoy complete immunity from prosecution, which can only be revoked by the Supreme Court and Congress. Guatemalan politicians have taken advantage of immunity for decades to avoid corruption convictions. In 2007, the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) was established. In 2019, the UN-backed commission was shut down by then-President Jimmy Morales. In 2015, investigations conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the CICIG unveiled a scheme of corruption, fraud, and alliances with criminal groups involving then-President Otto Pérez Molina. The 2015 corruption scandal sparked a peaceful protest movement that led to Pérez Molina’s forced resignation. He was convicted of corruption in 2022. The Semilla Movement originates from the 2015 anti-corruption protests. Arévalo’s progressive political program is centered on zero tolerance for corruption and reform of the criminal justice system and pledged to save the country from the rising authoritarian threat. The victory of the Semilla Movement indicates widespread frustration with the corrupt establishment and expectations for a more transparent political system. Outgoing President Giammattei denounced “unnecessary international involvement” in the election aftermath. The United States denounced unprecedented attempts to undermine the election results and urged Guatemalan authorities to end their intimidation efforts. The EU stresses that any attempts to prevent the democratic transition will have consequences for Guatemala’s international relations. Brazilian President Lula de Silva addressed the UN General Assembly supporting Arévalo, warning that electoral obstructions put Guatemala at risk of a coup. Being the largest economy and most populated country in Central America, any further deterioration of democracy and the political crisis in Guatemala would lead to economic repercussions and affect foreign investment in the country. Guatemala's main economic partner is still the U.S. The country also plays a strategic role in the transit of migrant flows and international organized crime networks. Conclusion: Arévalo’s victory came as a “surprise” given the deep-rooted corruption networks in Guatemala’s political elite. The election’s results have been interpreted as a symptom of the population’s frustration with systemic corruption in Guatemala, worsened by the economic crisis and the increase in poverty and crime following COVID-19 emergence. In recent decades, Guatemala has experienced among the lowest levels of support for democracy in Latin America. Yet, the 2023 elections recorded a massive popular turnout. Moreover, international observers see the triumph of a center-left political force in Guatemala as a powerful means of halting democratic deterioration and authoritarianism in the region. Given the uncertainty over the outcomes of the presidential transition process, it is likely that the anti-corruption protests in the country's major cities will continue. While not violent, such demonstrations could cause unrest and business and transportation disruption. The political crisis could also be protracted as the Semilla Movement may be suspended again in November at the end of the election period. Considering the substantial political and judicial interference, it is uncertain whether President-elected Arévalo will take office as expected on January 14th, 2024. The international community is observing the transition with concern.
- Intel Brief on GPS spoofing and jamming in Aviation
Route most commonly known for GPS Spoofing Date: 26/09/2023 Where: Worldwide, current hotspot in ORBB/Baghdad FIR Who’s involved: Aviation worldwide, local governments, local non-state actors. What is happening? Where with GPS jamming, the GPS signal is interrupted to a degree that it is unusable, with GPS spoofing, a false GPS signal is broadcasted, causing GPS systems to produce false positioning without a warning shown to the pilots. With GPS spoofing, a falsified GPS signal is received by the aircraft, which is of sufficient strength and integrity to fool aircraft systems, and will render an aircraft's IRS unusable in minutes, and has often resulted in the complete loss of navigational capability of the aircraft (OPSGROUP). Navigation systems are unlikely to produce warnings for spoofing compared to jamming, as the systems do not detect spoofing. GPS spoofing in ORBB/Baghdad FIR has resulted in up to 80 nm deviation from the flight path. To OPSGROUP alone, twelve separate reports have come in quick succession from a range of aircraft platforms, from 777s to 8Xs, all affected by spoofing. The reports mentioned the crews noticing other aircraft in their vicinity also affected by the spoofing (OPSGROUP). Aircraft affected by the spoofing in ORBB had to rely on radar vectors from ATC (OPSGROUP). GPS jamming happens above the Baltic Sea, Eastern Finland, the Black Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean, affecting major Europe to Middle-East and Asia routes. Spoofing does not always have to happen from the ground. Airborne spoofing originating from ‘normal’ aircraft as well as UAVs are both feasible. GPS spoofing development is further discussed at the bottom of the article. Analysis & recommended mitigating practices: In most modern aircraft, GPS is integrated in their navigational systems and lacks stand-alone, self-contained INS and IRS systems. Make sure to check your AFM to check where your aircraft navigational capability is based on. If your company hasn’t designed a contingency procedure yet on how to deal with this situation, here are a few steps you could undertake to be aware of the problem and mitigate it. Mitigation actions before and during the flight: Check enroute FIR NOTAMs for any reported GPS spoofing and (https://gpsjam.org/) Cockpit Preparation: Perform full IRS alignment if entering a known area with GPS spoofing risk Be aware of typical sensor hierarchy for FMS position: GPS, then IRS, DME/DME, VOR/DME, and DR. Consider de-selecting GPS sensor input if option is available. Perform a time check and set the correct time on a personal device or watch. When flying through known areas of GPS spoofing, make a habit of logging your position at regular intervals and cross-check using dead reckoning. Inform ATC when navigational accuracy is degraded significantly or this is suspected. Recognition of being spoofed. Loss of GPS integrity FMS position error Map shift on your PFD / MFD Large increase in your Estimated position uncertainty (EPU). Incorrect UTC time displayed on your FMS or cockpit clock Other aircraft reporting position errors on 121.5 Do not solely rely on ATC to provide vectors in case of navigational issues during a jamming or spoofing occurrence. Make sure that you know how to apply dead reckoning as an alternate means, it is hardly taught and practiced in the current initial pilot training era. Example of aircraft relying solely on GPS input for positioning. The Embraer Phenom 300, like the Cessna Citation CJ3+/M2 is equipped with a Garmin 3000 and relies solely on GPS input for positioning. If both GPS signals are lost, the aircraft does not have a conventional backup for the FMS to have positional information. The VOR and DME can be used for conventional navigation but cannot be linked to the Garmin FMS. The AHRS takes a signal feed from the GPS, Magnetometer, and Air Data, and if any of these are interrupted, an AHRS FAULT CAS is seen by the crew, which means the AHRS is working in a degraded mode of operation. Some or all of the following annunciations or CAS messages will be seen on the Garmin 3000 in the event of a loss of GPS signal. GPS LOI (PFD) BOTH ON GPS 1/2 (PFD) TAWS N/A (SVS NOT AVAILABLE) (PFD) AHRS 1/2 FAULT (CAS) WSHEAR NOT AVAIL (CAS) ADS-B NOT AVAIL (CAS) NO FMS POSITION (MFD) GPS NAV LOST (GTC) AHRS 1/2 GPS (GTC) DR (HSI) Note: Dead Reckoning Mode (DR) only functions in enroute (ENR) or Oceanic (OCN) phase of flight. In DR Mode, the system uses its last-known position combined with continuously updated airspeed and heading data (when available) to calculate and display the aircraft’s current estimated position. In all other phases, an invalid GPS solution produces a ‘NO FMS POSITION’ annunciation on the map, and the system stops using GPS. If any of the above messages are presented, and GPS integrity is suspected, the following QRH checklists should be followed: GPS NAV SYSTEM FAILURE - NAP1-18 AHRS 1/2 FAULT This checklist must be followed to slow the aircraft down to prevent a possible AHRS mis-compare limit from being exceeded, which could lead to an AHRS FAIL situation. Note: Ventral rudder availability has been improved to depend on AHRS yaw rate values only. Previously, it also required the use of roll parameters. In practical terms, later oscillations will not occur when AHRS are operating in alternate mode. Additional Actions Check the GPS Status Page (Utilities / GPS Status) on the GTC and the detailed information shown on the PFD when this page is selected on the GTC. Identify the failed sensor, cross-check aircraft position using VOR / DME. Monitor aircraft position and navigation performance. Inform ATC when navigational accuracy is degraded significantly or this is suspected. GPS spoofing (Garmin 3000) is an attempt to deceive a GPS receiver by broadcasting incorrect GPS signals. These signals may cause a complete failure of GPS, similar to GPS jamming, or cause the GPS position to shift from the actual position. As GPS is the primary position sensor, the FMS position will shift with the GPS position. Depending on the rate of change of GPS position, this shift may not be detected automatically. The following are potential indicators of GPS spoofing: GPS LOI NO FMS POSITION LOSS OF GPS NAVIGATION (GTC) Map shift on PFD / MFD Excessive deviation between FMS position and conventional navigation sources. Inform ATC when navigational accuracy is degraded significantly or this is suspected. GPS Spoofing Development The surge in GPS jamming and spoofing incidents within the Iraqi FIR, along with their widespread occurrences, strongly indicates the involvement of an airborne platform (UAV). In the past, Iran has successfully intercepted a drone by GPS spoofing. Spoofing provides an attack vector that enables control over the target UAV (aircraft) without compromising the flight control software or the command-and-control radio link. Furthermore, a GPS spoofing attack can be carried out by an attacker who is equipped with an RF transmitter that can be ground or airborne-based. Peace of mind Dyami offers a comprehensive One-Stop Aviation Security Solution to assist aviation security officers and dispatchers in enhancing their capabilities and capacity, streamlining operations, and bolstering security measures. Our solution aims to provide an affordable holistic approach to security risk management that results in more secure and efficient airline or charter operations. Visit dyami aviation for more information.
- Intel Brief: Rise in Kosovo - Serbia Tensions
Date: 25/09/2023 Where: North Kosovo Who’s involved: Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Kosovar police What happened? On 24/09/2023 two patrolling Kosovar police officers were ambushed near Banjska, on the Kosovo-Serbian border. “The police unit was attacked from different positions by 30 gunmen armed with heavy weapons, including grenades”. After the attackers murdered one police officer and injured the other, they fled to a nearby Orthodox Christian monastery. They barricaded themselves in and they fought gun battles for hours. At least three assailants were shot dead and one attacker was arrested during the battle. Another four civilian suspects were arrested because they had radio equipment and weapons. On 25/09/2023, Kosovar police units moved in armed vehicles to the village Banjska hoping to arrest the gunmen. The siege at the monastery has ended, but whether all gunmen were caught is unclear. Both Serbia and Kosovo have blamed each other for the violence. Albin Kurti, prime minister of Kosovo, called it a terrorist attack and accused the Serbian state of sponsoring the gunmen. He sees the attack as criminal and terrorism. The President of Serbia, Vucic, called this action a rebellion against Prime Minister Albin Kurti, as Kurti refused to form an association of Serb municipalities in north Kosovo. Vucic stated “Serbia will never recognize independent Kosovo, you can kill us all.” The attack took place more than a week after the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo had talks on improving their relations. They failed to come to an agreement during EU-mediated negotiations in Brussels. Analysis: The terrorist attacks in the north of Kosovo mark a serious increase in tensions between Serbia and Kosovo. Both countries have blamed the other for the violence and the rhetoric has heightened. This comes as EU-led negotiations to normalize political relations between the countries have stalled. The relations between Serbia and Kosovo are highly complex and strained. The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo launched a rebellion in 1998 to throw off Serbian rule. The violence of the conflict led to a NATO intervention and peacekeeping in 1999. The majority of Kosovo is ethnic Albanian, though 5 percent of Kosovo’s 1.8 million people are ethnic Serbs and concentrated in the north of the country. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s independence after succeeding from Serbia in 2008. Today, it is recognized as an independent state by the U.S. and EU, and more than 100 countries. Russia and China, as well as five European states, do not recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty and/or are stalling Kosovo’s EU membership. Unrest in the region intensified after elections in April 2023, when ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the Serb-majority northern part of Kosovo, resulting in violent clashes between Serb protesters and NATO peacekeepers. The Serb majority had boycotted local elections as a form of protest to claim their autonomy. The mayoral election had a low turnout, with only 3.5% voting in the elections. Diplomatic efforts to normalize political relations have failed to produce a lasting settlement between Serbia and Kosovo. The EU and U.S. are pressing both governments to sign a compromise proposal to end Belgrade’s lobbying against international recognition of Kosovo in return for Kosovo’s concession to form an association of 10 Serb-majority municipalities. The association’s establishment was originally a part of the 2013 Pristina-Belgrade agreement but failed as it was declared unconstitutional by Kosovo’s Constitutional Court. The 4,500 NATO peacekeepers stationed in the country are on alert and have increased their presence on the Kosovo-Serbian border. Serbia is unlikely to start a full-scale military mobilization against Kosovo because of the presence of NATO troops and because of Russia’s current lack of support for its allies. Conclusion The attack on police officers in north Kosovo marks an acute heightening in tension in the country. First, it raises questions over the origins of the military equipment used. Second, it presents a serious threat to the political normalization of ties between Serbia and Kosovo, with both sides accusing each other of inciting the violence. Both Pristina and Belgrade need to normalize ties to gain access to the EU but without a breakthrough in talks, there will be further instability and the potential for violent clashes. Despite a spike in tensions, a Serbian military mobilization against Kosovo is unlikely without significant support from Russia. The presence of NATO peacekeepers also mitigates the threat of military escalation between the two countries.
- Intel Brief: Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and Turkish involvement
Date: 25/09/2023 Where: Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan Who’s involved: Turkish Government, Azeri Government. Events: On 25/09/2023, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is visiting Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan exclave. Here he will meet with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, to discuss bilateral relations, international and regional politics, and the current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. During the talks, Erdoğan and Aliyev will most likely discuss the ‘Zangezur Corridor’, a project by Azerbaijan and Turkey to connect the Nakhchivan exclave over land through Armenia’s southern region of Zangezur. Azerbaijan has stated that they are willing to use force if Armenia refuses to cooperate with the establishment of the corridor. Currently, Turkish media has been reporting suspected militarization of the Zangezur region by Armenia, and referring to the Erdoğan-Aliyev meeting as ‘the corridor meeting.’ Iran stated that it “will not allow any change of borders in the region” warning against the possibility of Azerbaijan and Turkey using force to establish the Zangezur corridor. For Iran, the connection with Armenia is what allows them to conduct land route trade with Russia. It is reported that Iran has bolstered its military presence at the border. Analysis: The establishment of a ‘Zangezur corridor’ will be highly beneficial to Turkey, as Azerbaijan will then be able to export oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey. With Armenia weakened by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and lacking Russian support, Azerbaijan may feel encouraged to escalate its pressure campaign over the Zangezur corridor. Although Turkish media reports of Armenian militarization of the Zangezur region, the reports may not be accurate, especially as Turkish media is mostly state-controlled. The Turkish media reports may indicate that the Turkish government is starting to push a narrative about safeguarding Turkish international interests. With this narrative, it will be easier for Turkey to domestically legitimize military involvement, if Azerbaijan chooses to engage militarily in the Zangezur region. The narrative regarding the ‘Zangezur corridor,’ that emerged from the meeting between Erdoğan and Aliyev, will be key to determining future moves of Turkey and Azerbaijan in the region. Iran’s red line on borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia could either prevent military operations from happening or it will involve Iran in the conflict. Conclusion Turkey’s interest in the development of the gas pipeline connection through the ‘Zangezur corridor’ suggests that it could use the current Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict to its advantage. An escalation of the conflict is likely if rhetoric continues from both Turkey and Azerbaijan that the establishment of the ‘Zangezur corridor’ is necessary and that Armenia is continuing to refuse cooperation while militarizing the region. In this scenario, it is likely that Azerbaijan will militarily engage in the Zangezur region together with Turkish support. If this conflict escalates, it will be relatively soon as Azerbaijan will likely want to use the military momentum gained from the Nagorno-Karabakh engagement.
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- The Future of Turkey-Transatlantic Relations: What to Expect from another Term under Erdogan
Written by Alper Cezmi Ozdemir Turkish general elections concluded on May 28th, with incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defeating his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu by securing 52.2% of the vote. President Erdogan's People’s Alliance also secured a comfortable lead in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, despite consensus among pollsters and many analysts that his 20-year rule could come to an end. Indeed, the elections took place in the shadow of unprecedented inflationary pressures plaguing the country’s economy and a disastrous response to the February 6th earthquakes that decimated the country’s southern and central Anatolian region. President Erdogan securing another five-year term will help cement his legacy in Turkish politics. His electoral victory will also serve as a reaffirmation of Turkey’s foreign policy transformation, which is largely defined by a turn towards strategic autonomy, the adoption of transactional relationships with Western partners, and a more assertive and military-focused regional posturing in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. While observers should expect the continuation of these themes, the extent of Turkey’s balancing act may be limited. Turkey's Quest for Strategic Autonomy Turkey’s foreign policy under President Erdogan’s 20-year rule can be defined as a pursuit of strategic autonomy through the balancing of partners and diversifying dependencies. Analyses that depict Turkey “divorcing” from the Western alliance in favor of the rivals of the Western-led order are misguided. Rather, it is the case that Turkey is leveraging emerging rivalries and great power competition to carve out its sphere of influence and advance its interests abroad. Turkey’s unilateral military intervention in Syria, the expansion of Turkish military presence in Iraq, and the balancing between Russia and the West during Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine are all manifestations of this rebalancing. Turkey deepened its relations with Russia at the expense of its long-standing strategic alliance with the United States. In 2017, Turkey purchased the S-400 missile defense system from Russia which led to its expulsion from the F-35 program. However, Turkey also remains outside the sanctions regime implemented by its Western allies to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Instead, its trade volume with Russia has grown since February 2022, according to a report by the Atlantic Council. The same report also outlines how Turkey helped Russia evade Western sanctions by exporting Western-made critical dual-use technology, such as integrated circuits and semiconductors. Meanwhile, Turkey deepened its defense cooperation with Ukraine even before Russia invaded the country. This cooperation extends well beyond the immediate humanitarian, financial, and defense aid Turkey started to provide following the invasion. The two countries inked a joint production agreement for Turkish Bayraktar drones days before Russia’s full-scale invasion began. Turkey’s drones provided much-needed aerial capabilities to the Ukrainian defense effort during the initial phase of Russia’s offensive in February 2022. Furthermore, Turkey has supported Ukrainian territorial integrity since 2014 and is a vocal supporter of Ukraine’s NATO accession. Most recently, Turkey repatriated the captured leaders of the Azov battalion following Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s visit to Ankara, despite Russia’s objections. In addition, Turkey remains deeply reliant on its Western allies for aerial capabilities and critical technologies to advance its own defense industrial base. Turkey’s economic integration in European markets, and the fact that the European Union is Turkey’s largest trade partner make a total divorce unlikely. For its part, Turkey is essential for advancing transatlantic security. It is a serious security provider to the Alliance as well as being among the largest contributors to NATO’s collective defense from a manpower perspective. Turkey has the second-largest standing army among NATO Allies and boasts the fifth-largest military ship inventory within the Alliance, including the TCG Anadolu, the country’s first-ever helicopter carrier and amphibious assault platform, which was unveiled by the Turkish Navy in April 2023. Turkey is also an essential pillar of NATO’s defense of its eastern and southern flank, especially considering the rising geopolitical importance of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Moreover, Turkey hosts the Maritime Security Centre of Excellence which acts as a hub to advance NATO’s efforts in maritime security and is a main contributor to NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian where it led multiple rounds of operations, exercises, and capacity-building activities. The NATO Response Force, located in Istanbul, is a key pillar in ensuring NATO’s rapid response capacity on the eastern flank in the event of an attack against the Alliance. Transactional Relations under Erdogan Turkey’s relationship with its transatlantic partners under President Erdogan’s rule has devolved into a transactional relationship. Turkey often leverages international crises such as the migrant crisis in Europe in 2015 or Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in 2022 to advance its own interests. A key part of this changing relationship is Turkey’s use of international platforms such as NATO as bargaining tools to extract concessions from its alliance partners. The transactional nature of relations became most evident surrounding Sweden’s accession to NATO. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden along with Finland applied for NATO membership. Whilst initially blocking the accession proceedings for both countries, Turkey eventually approved Finland’s NATO accession in March 2023 but continued its opposition to Sweden’s membership. In doing so, President Erdogan repeatedly cited Sweden’s alleged support for the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) – an armed insurgent group recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union. Erdogan called on Sweden to reform its counterterrorism policy in exchange for Turkey’s support for accession. However, Sweden’s approach to the PKK was only an ancillary concern behind Turkey’s opposition. Up until the lead-up to the NATO summit in Vilnius in July 2023, Turkey used its veto power to extract concessions from the United States regarding the purchase of F-16s. Turkey wanted these fighter jets to compensate for being kicked out of the F-35 program. However, the US Congress has been blocking major arms sales – worth upwards of $20 billion – to Turkey citing Turkey’s unilateral intervention in Syria and its brinkmanship in the Eastern Mediterranean. Access to these defensive capabilities mattered much more to President Erdogan than any concession Sweden could make in its counterterrorism policy. US President, Joe Biden, explicitly linked these two matters and voiced support for Turkey’s purchasing of F-16s. However, he alone cannot force a vote in favor of the sales in Congress where opposition to Turkey remains strong. Despite Turkey’s last-second approval of Sweden’s NATO bid in Vilnius, Bob Menendez, the Chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, continues to oppose the sale of the fighter jets to Turkey. And President Erdogan does not want to surrender Turkey’s biggest leverage, its veto power, without assurances that the sales will indeed materialize. Despite Erdogan’s public endorsement, the Turkish president has the power to delay Sweden’s accession through the Turkish parliament if it allows him to extract concessions from Western Allies. The Future of Turkish Strategic Autonomy For President Erdogan, the results of the May 2023 elections are evidence that his foreign policy vision is popular among the Turkish electorate. Thus, he now believes he has the mandate to further build on the policy of strategic autonomy and chart an independent path for Turkey’s future. Key appointments in his cabinet also signal continuation rather than a drastic change. Hakan Fidan, the former intelligence chief who is the architect behind Turkey’s intelligence-supported drone warfare in Syria and Iraq, became the country’s new foreign minister. Ibrahim Kalin, who replaced Fidan as the head of the Turkish intelligence services, served as the presidential spokesperson for Erdogan for nearly a decade before his new role. Appointments like Fidan and Kalin, among others who were responsible for overseeing efforts to transform Turkish foreign policy, signal President Erdogan’s intention to stay the course. However, Turkey’s bid for strategic autonomy is bound to be limited. The purchase of S-400s from Russia failed to produce the independence President Erdogan envisioned: whilst it created new dependencies for the Turkish defense industry, it did cost Turkey access to advanced F-35 fighter jet systems. Russia’s reckless invasion of Ukraine also demonstrated that Russia’s regional ambitions may one day pose a threat to Turkey. Security assurances provided by NATO are, therefore, more valuable now than since the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, due to economic mismanagement, the Turkish lira has depreciated drastically and the country’s foreign reserves have cratered, which makes Turkey’s access to US-led financial markets and mechanisms essential for its economic survival. In short, Turkey remains an important element of the transatlantic alliance, even if it plays an outsider role within it. About the author: Alper Cezmi Ozdemir Alper is a researcher of international affairs and security. He was a researcher with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly where he worked on transatlantic relations, climate security, and the civil dimension of security. Prior, he held other research assignments in the United States and Turkey on Middle East studies and security studies. Alper has a number of publications on Middle East politics, Turkish foreign policy, and transatlantic relations. He holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago in the United States, and is also a Fulbright alumnus.
- Intel Brief: Armenia Azerbaijan Aviation Security
Date: 20/09/2023 Where: Armenia and Azerbaijan Who’s involved: Armenian government, Azeri government, Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian government, Turkish government. What happened? On 20/09/2023, peace talks between the ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijan will take place on 21/09/2023 in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh. On 20/09/2023, An official ceasefire agreement was reached by the Azerbaijan authorities and ethnic Armenians with the help of Russian peacekeepers. On 19/09/2023, The Azerbaijan authorities officially launched their military offensive in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Close to 100 people have been said to be killed and the Russian peacekeepers are evacuating around 2000 civilians out of the region. Azerbaijan has conducted military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh region after peace talks have failed. Additionally, for the past couple of months, Azeri state media has repeatedly depicted Armenia as ‘western Azerbaijan.’ Analysis: Even though a cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region is now officially in place as of 20/09/2023 0900 GMT, the situation is still very volatile and it is therefore still recommended to keep avoiding the airspace above the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Routing via Georgia and Waypoint ADEKI is preferable instead. The chance of a full-scale conflict between the two nations is still probable. Yesterday’s operation could have been an attempt by Azerbaijan to drag Armenia into a conflict. Now that Armenia has refrained from engaging so far, Azerbaijan could seek other ways to achieve this goal. This would give Azerbaijan a chance to connect to their Exclave Nakchivan. If a full-scale conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan breaks out in the region, air travel will be severely affected, as it would be unsafe to travel anywhere near the territories of Armenia or Azerbaijan. This would close yet another option for commercial aviation between Europe and Asia.
- Intel Brief on China-Venezuela Bilateral Agreements
Date: 20/09/2023 Where: Beijing Who’s involved: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro What happened? On 13/09/2023 Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro Moros signed bilateral cooperation agreements in the joint efforts on the Belt Road Initiatives (BRI), economy, trade, energy, tourism, and technology. The bilateral agreements provide for cooperation in civil aviation, with increased flight connections between the countries, and aerospace. In July 2023, Venezuela expressed interest in cooperating with Russia and China in the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Venezuela was the first country to openly support the Sino-Russian spatial initiative, a response to the 2020 US-led Artemis Accords. The two announced that President Maduro's seven-day visit to China, the first in five years that also coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the countries, launched a new era of diplomatic ties between China and Venezuela, unveiling an "all-weather" partnership. During the meeting, Xi Jinping emphasized that China and Venezuela are “good friends who trust each other” as long-term strategic partners for joint and mutual development. In the meanwhile, Maduro praised this partnership as an outstanding example of international cooperation in the Global South and expressed gratitude to the Chinese leader for the support provided to Venezuela to overcome the difficulties imposed by unilateral sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting also stressed Venezuela's willingness to cooperate with China and join the BRICS and related economic and financial cooperation initiatives such as the New Development Bank, the Global Development Initiative, and the Global Security Initiative. In a statement, Caracas expressed confidence that as the world's largest oil supplier and fourth largest natural gas reserve, Venezuela will greatly contribute to the BRICS. Analysis: By signing new bilateral cooperation agreements with Venezuela, China is sending a message internationally, especially to the United States. The strengthening of the bilateral relationship with Venezuela comes just days after the sealing of a strategic partnership between Washington and Vietnam. Being the largest world importer of crude oil, China is a key player in the Venezuelan oil and gas sector. Since 2007, under the Chavez administration, the development of the oil industry in Venezuela has been financed by Chinese banks under loan-for-oil deals. China is currently Venezuela’s main creditor; it is estimated that Venezuela currently owes over $10 billion to China. Despite the economic crisis that has hit Venezuela since 2014, sanctions imposed by the United States in 2019, and difficulties related to COVID-19, in 2020 China has granted Venezuela a grace period for loan repayment. Despite U.S. sanctions, China is estimated to have imported about 430 thousand barrels per day (bdp) of Venezuelan crude from January to August 2023, although officially, it has not been supplied with Venezuelan oil since 2019. China has bypassed U.S. sanctions by receiving crude from Venezuela through third-party traders counterfeiting its origin. The Biden administration is reportedly negotiating with Venezuela for sanctions relief in exchange for free and fair elections. Such a softened stance could come as a reaction to Venezuela's strengthening alignment with China and Russia. China is continuing to expand its sphere of influence globally, especially in the countries of the Global South, challenging the hegemony and unilateralism promoted by the United States. In a joint statement, Maduro and Xi Jinping expressed their desire to "consolidate a multi-center, multi-polar world and work together to build a community with a shared future." Through its “South-South” cooperation agreements, China has become a major investor and trade partner for the majority of countries in Latin America. The major areas of bilateral cooperation are energy development, technology, and infrastructure. Besides Venezuela, Beijing has also strengthened space cooperation with other Latin American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. China also established military ties and cooperation with Latin America on issues such as defense and security. In the region, Venezuela is the top purchaser of military equipment from China. Between 2006 and 2022, Beijing exported roughly $630 million worth of weapons to Latin America. China is also a supplier of military aircraft, vehicles, and air defense radars. China could make use of the renewed relationship with Venezuela to expand intelligence cooperation and espionage activities. This could concern the United States, already alarmed by intelligence cooperation established between China and Cuba. According to the U.S., although Cuban authorities deny the allegations, China since 2019 established espionage facilities on the island. Conclusion: The elevated China-Venezuela partnership suggests Beijing's growing interest in expanding its economic and political influence in the Latin American region. Twenty-one Latin American and Caribbean countries have already joined the BRI. Chinese engagement in the region is evolving. Under Xi Jinping, China's interests in the area have shifted from the need to access South America's natural resources into a broad international cooperation agenda that includes Infrastructure, security, technology, and even spaceflight initiatives. China overtook the U.S. role as South America's major trading partner and investor. Moreover, beyond economic and financial relations, Beijing demonstrated geopolitical and strategic interests in Latin America by strengthening its influence and diplomatic and military presence throughout the region. Also, China supported Latin America during the COVID-19 emergency, providing loans, medical equipment, and hundreds of millions of vaccine doses. The signing of bilateral agreements between Xi Jinping and Maduro could be a further step in China's strategy to extend its influence and keep eroding U.S. leverage in Latin America.
- Intel Brief on Vietnam - U.S. Diplomatic Ties
Date: 19/09/2023 Who’s involved: U.S. President Joe Biden, Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. What happened? On 10/09/2023, the U.S. and Vietnam officially upgraded diplomatic ties to the level of ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’. This is the highest level of diplomatic engagement for Vietnam, and matches the relationship it shares with China, Russia, South Korea, and India. The CSP with the U.S. is a profoundly important development, as Hanoi had previously been cautious to upgrade bilateral ties fearing a backlash from China. The US-Vietnam agreement also presents economic opportunities for Vietnam. For R&D development upgrades economic ties with Vietnam in semiconductor manufacturing, where Intel and other U.S. firms have a significant presence. The agreement also helps with the transition of green technology and help develop Vietnam’s domestic R&D sector. The Biden administration said maintaining stronger ties with Vietnam was not an attempt to start a ‘cold war’ with China. On 06/09/2023, a high-ranking official from the Chinese Communist Party and Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong met five days before the U.S.-Vietnam meeting. They discussed developing further bilateral ties in cooperation and development and reinforced their relationship. On 29/08/2023, Vietnam media released rare footage of a Vietnamese fishing boat being harassed and attacked by a Chinese Coast Guard patrol in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. On 10/08/2023, the President of the Philippines, a close security ally of the U.S., met with Vietnam Ambassador Hoang Huy Chung to discuss maritime cooperation against China’s aggressive actions in their respective exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea. Analysis: China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea have pushed Vietnam to upgrade ties with the U.S.. China’s push for the illegal nine-dash line, which asserts Chinese sovereignty over 80% of the South China Sea, threatens Vietnam’s sovereignty. China regularly harasses fishermen, illegally develops oil rigs in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, and has built military bases on constructed islands in the South China Sea. The dependence of Cambodia and Laos, Vietnam’s sphere of influence, on China’s economy has made Vietnam worried for its immediate interests. The agreement will likely reduce Vietnam’s dependence on trade with China. The U.S. market provides trade diversification for Vietnam and the country can leverage further technology ties with Intel and other U.S.-based companies to improve digital skills. The country can also leverage the U.S. intelligence capabilities and security ties to build defense capabilities and counterbalance China’s aggressive actions in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. For U.S. strategy, China’s actions toward the Philippines and Vietnam has led to an alignment of interests. However, the aim of the diplomatic upgrade to ‘strategic comprehensive partnership’ with the U.S. is to prevent Vietnam from becoming a battleground between great powers. Vietnam shares the same diplomatic relationship with South Korea, Russia, China, and India. The diversification of relationships reflects how other countries in Southeast Asia are attempting to balance security reassurance from the U.S. without attracting aggression from their dependence on Beijing with a leadership bent on achieving regional dominance. Conclusion The upgrade of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Vietnam marks a profound shift in the maritime security of the South China Sea. For Vietnam, it presents an opportunity to improve its economy, build defensive capabilities to counter China’s assertiveness, and become a more prominent player in the region. For the U.S, Vietnam could become more of a partner in the South China Sea against China’s push for influence in Southeast Asia. 48 years after the end of the war between the two countries, these are major steps toward reconciliation and strategic realignment in Southeast Asia.
- Intel Brief on the North Korea - Russia meeting
Date: 15/09/2023 Where: Russia, Vostochny Cosmodrome Who’s involved: North Korean leader Kim Jong un, Russian President Vladimir Putin What happened? On 10/09/2023 Kim Jong Un left Pyongyang in his private train to Russia accompanied by top arms industry and military officials. Two days later, Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia where President Putin was waiting for him. The US White House reported last week already that it was likely that Kim Jong Un was going to visit Russia. The Presidents met at the Vostochny space center, which had symbolic importance. In fact, Putin stated that he was interested in helping Pyongyang build satellites. Kim Jong Un appears to have a large interest in missile technology. According to the US, Putin and Kim Jong Un will discuss arms deliveries, as Russia is urgently looking for ammunition for its war in Ukraine. In turn, North Korea would like to get access to Russian defense technology; this can include satellites and nuclear submarines. On 11/09/2023, Washington urged Pyongyang to honor its promise not to sell weapons to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, saying this would violate the Security Council resolutions banning all arms deals with North Korea. Putin declared that he and Kim Jong Un will “talk about all issues” when he was asked if military-technical cooperation would be on the agenda, but did not specify the topics. A Kremlin spokesperson said the countries are cooperating on “sensitive issues” and the information can not be shared publicly. Kim Jong Un stated during the meeting to Putin that “Russia has entered into a sacred struggle to protect its sovereignty and security from hegemonic forces and we will always support the decisions of President Putin and the Russian leadership and fight together against imperialism”. On 12/09/2023, the meeting between Kim Jong Un and Putin came to an end, it is still unclear if the meeting has led to agreements on military cooperation. Kim Jong un has however made clear during the meeting that he wants to cooperate with Russia and that the ties with the neighboring country are of “highest priority.” Analysis: Kim Jong Un does not travel abroad frequently, seven trips away from his country with two of them being across the inter-Korean border in his twelve years of being North’s Korean leader. Four of those trips were to China, North Korea’s only treaty ally and main economic partner. His trip to Russia was his first trip abroad after the corona pandemic and even in the last four years. Washington and its allies have expressed concerns about the meeting between Kim Jong Un and Putin because it shows signs of closer military cooperation between Russia and North Korea. The impact of Kim Jong Un delivering artillery rounds from the stockpile of North Korea to Russia, can change Russia’s capacity in the short term in the Ukraine war. US officials warned Kim Jong Un that North Korea would pay a price if they would supply Russia with weapons. Both Putin and Kim Jong Un are denying US’s claim that the meeting’s aim is the acquisition of North Korean weapons to use in the war against Ukraine. Discussion between Kim Jong Un and Putin could also include humanitarian aid to North Korea and discussions about the U.N. Security Council resolutions imposed against Pyongyang, according to Russian officials. North Korea is one of the few countries that have openly supported Russia since the beginning of the war with Ukraine openly. Russia and China, however, both voted for Security Council resolutions in 2017 to punish Pyongyang for launching nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. Pyongyang's relations with Moscow are in the spotlight as Kim Jong Un, after four years of traveling abroad, chose to visit Russia instead of China, giving rise to the idea that Kim wants to pit the two superpowers, Russia and China, against each other. So far, China stated it has no problems with Russia and North Korea having a meeting and that “at present, China-North Korea relations are developing well.” Beyond the potential weapons acquisition, the meeting in itself could have implications for the war in Ukraine, tensions with South Korea and Japan, and the rivalry between China and the US. Conclusion: So far it is not known what Putin and Kim Jong Un discussed. There is still a possibility that North Korea will supply Russia with weapons for the war in Ukraine, but the US has warned Kim Jong Un that this would be in violation of Security Council resolutions. If North Korea does supply weapons, Russia's position in the war in Ukraine could change quickly. So far, China has not shown any interest in the visit between Russia and North Korea. For more in-depth Sitreps, analyses, or bespoke advice on the aviation security and safety concerns regarding this region, or other areas across the globe, please contact Dyami at +31 30 207 2120 or through our webpage.
- Updated Early Warning Brief: Armenia Azerbaijan
Date: 14/09/2023 Where: Armenia and Azerbaijan Who’s involved: Armenian government, Azeri government, Russian government, Turkish government. What happened? Azerbaijan has been mobilizing a significant military force since 06/09/2023 to the border with Armenia. This all comes after progression during peace talks between the countries have ground to a halt. Additionally, Azeri state media repeatedly has depicted Armenia as ‘western-Azerbaijan’. Azerbaijan is almost step-for-step copying Russia’s behavior before their full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Analysis: As a preventative measure, all aviation should avoid the airspace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Routing via Georgia and Waypoints DISKA and ADEKI should be done instead. Even though BARAD is not located on the Armenian-Azeri border, it should be avoided. The chance of full-scale conflict between the two nations is highly likely. The goal of Azerbaijan for such a conflict is likely to connect Azerbaijan to its exclave Nakchivan. This would provide Azerbaijan with a direct land connection to its closest ally, Turkey. This would mean that Azerbaijan’s goal for the potential conflict would be to annex the south of Armenia. There is a small chance that the current troop buildup is used as a political move, to try and force certain results in the ‘peace’ talks between the two countries. If a full-scale conflict breaks out in the region, air travel will be severely affected, as it would be unsafe to travel anywhere near the territories of Armenia or Azerbaijan. This would close yet another option for commercial aviation between Europe and Asia.
- Intel brief on Sudan
Date: Situation as of 12/09/2023 Location: Khartoum, Sudan Who's involved: Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Security situation developments: Throughout August, the conflict spread around the country, with the RSF and SAF controlling various regions. In South Kordofan, clashes between the SAF and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a militant organization active in South Kordofan and Blue Nile siding with the RSF, caused the displacement of over 50,000 people. On 04/08/2023, the RSF claimed it obtained control of Central Darfur. Thousands of people were displaced between 11/08/2023 and 17/08/2023 due to renewed clashes between SAF and RSF in South Darfur capital Nyala Town. Meanwhile, the Governor of Darfur announced the deployment of the Joint Forces of the Armed Struggle Movement (ASM) to protect civilians in the area. In Geneina, West Darfur, the governor confirmed a ceasefire between the warring parties. Despite this, Khartoum remains the epicenter of violence. During the first week of September, several clashes between SAF and RSF and airstrikes have been reported. Also on 04/08/2023, the UN denounced that the ongoing violence in Darfur, perpetrated by the RSF, is increasingly based on ethnicity and sexual/gender-based violence and is drastically increasing as the conflict continues. On 29/08/2023, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, leader of the SAF, flew to Egypt to attend talks with Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to discuss efforts to end the conflict in Sudan. On 29/08/2023, the Ministry of Interior announced the resumption of passport issuance in the country, apart from North Darfur and North Kordofan. Citizens seem dissatisfied with the high cost of passports, it restricts people’s right to free movement. On 30/08/2023, the governor of the Blue Nile province proclaimed the state of emergency in place would be extended for another month. On 04/09/2023, the UNHCR, supported by 64 humanitarian and national civil society organizations, announced they need $1 billion to provide essential aid and protection to more than 1.8 million people fleeing the ongoing conflict in Sudan. Sudan’s airspace has been partially reopened. The first commercial flight between Cairo and Port Sudan took place on 05/09/2023. There are unconfirmed reports on Chad partially reopening the border with Sudan. Analysis The situation in Sudan is still volatile. Fighting between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) is spreading around the country. The conflict heavily affects the population. Several humanitarian organizations have expressed their concern for the civilians. If the crisis and the displacement continue it is very likely to expect a high level of food and water insecurity. Humanitarian and medical assistance is limited due to frequent attacks against medical personnel. According to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), the conflict significantly facilitates the outbreak of diseases. The few hospitals still open in Khartoum are in danger of being closed after some Doctors Without Borders (DWB) employees were beaten and whipped by armed forces. Both SAF and RSF are gaining local support. Tensions are arising between groups in Darfur, with Arab militias supporting the RSF and allegedly targeting non-Arab groups and African tribes. There will likely be a rise in interethnic violence in Darfur. To date, over 3 million individuals have been internally displaced (mostly from 8 states). On the regional level, there is widespread concern about the continuation of the conflict in Sudan. The conflict is exacerbating regional insecurity and humanitarian crises. Specifically, the displacement crisis is concerning for neighboring countries, like Egypt, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Libya. The United States and Saudi Arabia sponsored negotiations in May 2023 but they collapsed quickly due to violations of the ceasefire and the SAF leaving negotiations in June 2023. The United States remains Sudan’s leading aid supplier, while implementing sanctions and visa restrictions on SAF and RSF members. The African Union is seeking to facilitate mediation between the parties and restart the democratization process in Sudan. However, the AU's willingness to interact with both sides is causing discontent on the part of the Sudanese authorities. Egypt is siding with SAF. Besides geopolitical and stability interests, Egypt is directly affected by the neighboring state's conflict because of the massive flow of refugees pouring into the country. Strong evidence suggests that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has armed and financed the RSF and is likely to benefit from its mining profits. Conclusion The conflict between the SAF and RSF will continue in the near future. The involvement of various regional and international actors and their multiple interests make a short-term solution to the conflict unlikely. The protracted conflict will exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis. It is likely to lead to an escalation of the flow of displaced persons to neighboring countries and a consequent increase in migration flows to Europe. The conflict is also likely to result in a deepening of divisions between the different groups, characterized by ethnic cleansing practices and increased violence against civilians.