Responding to Skripal: the benefits of a public inquiry

By Dr Robert Downes

In March this year, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was attacked with a Soviet-era chemical weapon agent in Salisbury, a bucolic town in the west of England. The official investigation is seeking to identify the perpetrators. Prime Minister Theresa May has been clear: based on the available evidence, either the attack was a ‘direct action by the Russia state…or the Russian government lost control [of a] catastrophically damaging nerve agent.’ Continue reading

Brexit, the arms trade and Yemen: A window of opportunity for the UK government to review its relationship with Saudi Arabia

By Armida van Rij

The Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is in London today meeting Theresa May. On the agenda are the reforms MBS has been passing in his Kingdom under his agenda known as Vision 2030. May and MBS will also be discussing the ongoing war in Yemen that Saudi Arabia has been pursuing since March 2015, which the UK supports directly and indirectly though intelligence, advisors and arms sales. Continue reading

Saudi Arabia gets little bang for its buck for investing in its armed forces – but that may be about to change

By Armida van Rij

Nearly 50% of all UK-manufactured arms are exported to Saudi Arabia. Some of these weapons are being used to wage war in Yemen, a war which, by conservative UN estimate, has caused 5,295 civilian deaths between March 2015 and November 2017. Now Saudi Arabia is looking to increase its military strength further. Continue reading

Achieving a post-landmine world: The decades-old threat that just won’t go away

Hand-holding-landmine

Photo credit: Rodney Evans/AusAID, via Wikimedia Commons

What is currently being reused and deployed by so-called Islamic State and also threatens anyone playing the game Pokémon Go on their smartphones in Bosnia, Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam? The answer: landmines.

Antipersonnel landmines were first used in the Second World War, and continued to be deployed in conflicts ranging from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War. They are now used in only a handful of conflicts, meaning that the vast majority of mines contaminating land today were laid before the turn of the current century. Continue reading

Defending the private sector against cyber attack

google-76522_640In 2009, Google was the victim of a cyber attack, later dubbed Operation Aurora, that left attackers with access to confidential information related to active investigations by the FBI and other US law enforcement agencies.  An article published in Vanity Fair magazine in 2011 said of the attack: ‘Google called the National Security Agency (NSA) and said, “You were supposed to protect us from this!” The NSA guys just fell out of their chairs. They could not believe how naive the `Google guys had been.’

But should the NSA have protected Google? How far should government security agencies go to help strengthen the defence of private companies against cyber attacks?  In this blog post, Ashley Sweetman draws on his PhD research and the writings of Gordon Corera in his new book, Intercept, launched by the Strand Group in July 2015, to consider these questions.               Continue reading