Continuity and Change in Saudi Arabia’s Leadership Transition

Post by Rachel Hoffman,  Research Intern at the International Centre for Security Analysis.

Just before the New Year, King Abdullah was admitted to a hospital with breathing difficulties later attributed to pneumonia. In the weeks that followed, officials half-heartedly attempted to reassure the world of Abdullah’s improvement, but on January 23 came the news that many suspected as imminent – King Abdullah had passed away and his half-brother, Crown Prince Salman, had become king.

International scrutiny of Salman began immediately, with comparisons between him and Abdullah and predictions regarding his policy priorities flooding the Internet. From the abundance of reports emerged the certainty that, above all, continuity will be a central theme of his rule. The new monarch quickly pledged to continue King Abdullah’s main domestic and foreign policies. The nearly unchanged composition of the cabinet of ministers supported the idea of continuity with fears that sharp policy changes could cause instability in Saudi Arabia which currently faces severe economic and political risks. Continue reading

A New Form of Warfare? Implications of the Cyber Attack on Sony

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‘I fear I’ve let you all down. Not my intention. I apologize,’ lamented George Clooney in an email released to the public as part of a massive cyber-attack on Sony. ‘I’ve just lost touch. Who knew?’

While the attack caused a stir in the entertainment industry, it also has significant implications for the cyber-security landscape. Groups such as Anonymous have long been hacking government agencies, media companies and other targets of their choosing, but the Sony attack is notable for having reportedly been carried out by a state. This poses questions about the capacities of various states to launch attacks over cyberspace, as well as regarding issues of retaliation, proportionality and the absence of rules of engagement. Continue reading

Intelligence Post-Mortems: Predictions for Charlie Hebdo

The attacks on the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, and related incidents in the Ȋle de France region, have produced the same reactions that usually occur in the aftermath of major terrorist attacks. Powerful historical analogies (‘France’s September 11’) were evoked, national leaders made defiant statements and levels of security were heightened, counter-terrorism reforms discussed and the international community stood together in a remarkable show of solidarity. This was captured most vividly by the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie and a Unity March composed of huge crowds and attended by many world leaders. Continue reading