Security Forward Risk & Intelligence Forum’s Summer Meeting was held at the City Office of Z/Yen on 28 June 2016. The meeting began with a presentation from our guest speaker, Richard Walton, Director of Counter Terrorism Global Ltd, which assists governments, private companies and NGO’s to design and implement solutions for countering terrorism and extremism. Richard is a former Commander at New Scotland Yard and was head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) between 2011 and 2015. He has spent the majority of his thirty year policing career in counter terrorism.
His presentation was entitled "ISIL, Then, Now, and Tomorrow…". Richard highlighted the extent to which charismatic leaders of ISIL, (aka Daesh) had used social media to influence their followers across the world. Their PR is extremely effective and, like Al Qaeda, they have a global network. Richard led a most informative interactive session as many in the audience have a security services or military background.
ISIL declared their Caliphate exactly two years ago on 29 June and now control considerable territory in Syria and Iraq. However the ‘Anaconda’ strategy of squeezing them out is working and it is likely that Raqqa, their main base in Syria will fall in the near future. However, this could lead to what is being described as ‘The Raqqa Scatter’ which would disperse their fighters to other ‘ungoverned spaces’, such as Sirte in Libya and other hotspots, such as Afghanistan and Yemen. This fragmentation could prove extremely difficult to contain. ISIL are very strategic and continue to target European cities, particularly in France and Belgium, although Turkey is clearly in their sights for destabilisation as well. The UK has been effective so far in disrupting planned attacks over the last few years and after decades of fighting terrorism has established a good anti-terrorism structure. The security services and the police work much more closely together than their European counterparts and it is more difficult to obtain weapons such as AK47’s in the UK than it is across borderless Europe. There is also more engagement with Muslim communities in the UK. It is interesting to note that there are no soldiers on the streets of Britain whereas Paris is full of them.
After our usual ‘round robin’ session to identify key issues in the ‘in tray’, we gave the floor to our ‘Speaker in Residence’ Lt Colonel Crispin Black MBE MPHIL who is an independent expert on terrorism, intelligence and security. His presentation was entitled "The European Union - What Now, What Next?" Coming hot on the result of the EU Referendum, this generated a lot of lively discussion later. Crispin attempted to give some context to the Brexit vote with his analysis suggesting that for the UK the idea that the people's representatives in parliament could somehow be trusted to identify and pursue the national interest, Edmund Burke's concept of democracy had been tested to destruction. Out of 650 MPs only twenty percent supported Brexit. Parliament over the last thirty years had managed to become disconnected from the people. The result could also be seen as part of an intensifying challenge to previously accepted ideas most importantly that international trade, according to most economists and ministers, makes all parties richer.
Crispin lamented the decline of manners among both politicians and the people during the referendum campaign. He finished by predicting that the British political 'elite' and its allies abroad and in the BBC would attempt to nullify or massage away the result through a campaign to delegitimise the referendum result and demonise Brexit supporters. The aim would be a further referendum or some parliamentary device to 'thwart the will of the people'. Interestingly, since the Security Forward meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry has made it clear that he feels another referendum vote would be appropriate, whereas President Putin has challenged British politicians to live up to their democratic principles. As Crispin said, "We live in interesting times".
Following the meeting we dined in the Members' Dining Room in the Guildhall as the guests of Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, the Executive Chairman of Z/Yen. Our dinner speaker was Professor Paul Moxey, who gave a punchy talk entitled "What Makes People Tick - Culture & Behaviour In A Global Environment". This resulted in the desired opening up of the debate and a stimulating conversation followed. As always, the networking opportunities, much exchanging of business cards, and side-arrangements to get together prove that the thinking and networking are adding value to members's Security functions.
Future meetings are scheduled for 28 September and 7 December.