Also: Iran's outsourcing war production to Tajikistan. โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ โ€Œ

Friday, 20 May  |  Read online

Hi Intriguer. On this day in 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis were granted a patent for using copper rivets to strengthen certain high-stress areas in garments. The result was a lil thing called blue jeans. But are you even a fan of Levi's if you don't have a copy of the patent for "improvement in fastening pocket-openings" hanging on your wall at home?

Today's briefing is a ~4.4 min read:

  • ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ Somalia's fight against terrorism: the US goes back in to help out.
  • โž• Plus: Indonesia has big battery plans, more political tension in Libya, and Iran opens a drone factory in Tajikistan.

*If you'd like to support us, why not buy an annual subscription and become a Friend of Intrigue!


El Peruano (Lima)

"President Castillo reaffirmed his full respect for freedom of expression.  "The doors of the Government Palace and the official activities that we carry out are always open to the work of the press", he argued."

Haaretz (Tel Aviv)

"'Thereโ€™s No Way Back': Israeli Lawmaker Turns Back on Bennett Govโ€™t. Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from the left-wing Meretz party delivered her long-awaited response to her shock resignation that could potentially send Israel into a fifth election in three years."

Politis (Nicosia)

"New inflation shocks are coming: IMF chief warns heads of state. 'I think what we need to start getting used to is that this may not be the last shock,' she said."

All Africa (Maputo)
"First Polio Outbreak in 30 Years Declared in Mozambique. Health authorities declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus on Wednesday after confirming that a child in the country's north-eastern Tete province had contracted the disease."

Vn Express (Hanoi)
"US contributes to easing congestion at Vietnam's busiest container port. "USAID has released an action plan for reducing congestion at Tan Cang-Cat Lai Terminal in Ho Chi Minh City."


Somalia gets help to fight terrorists

In two sentences: The US will redeploy ~450 troops to Somalia, reversing a decision made by the previous administration. The mission is to help Somali government forces in their fight against terrorism, but a decisive victory remains unlikely. 

Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Once more unto the breach...

US President Joe Biden's decision to redeploy hundreds of US troops to Somalia suggests that the radical Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab is gaining strength. Former President Donald Trump had recalled all US forces from Somalia in 2020.

  • According to analyst Charlie Savage, โ€œBiden's decision revives an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war through three admins.โ€

What is Al-Shabaab?

It's an Islamist group that developed into a radicalised militant organisation following the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia (which many Western governments supported).

Today, the group controls vast swathes of the Somali countryside, with a strong assist from the central governmentโ€™s inability to project power outside of its strongholds.

And why is the US getting involved (again)?

The US military commitment to Somalia first began in 2007 as part of Washingtonโ€™s "War on Terror". That same year, the US established Africa Command (AFRICOM) to oversee all US military activities on the African continent.

๐Ÿ’ช Al-Shabaab is growing stronger: Over the last three months, the group has carried out a series of brazen attacks against both civilian and military targets:

  • The Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute reports that Al-Shabaabโ€™s โ€œcapability in tax collection has improved, and complaints about the groupโ€™s reach have been growingโ€.

Perhaps the US senses that Al-Shabaab was on the front foot: better to re-enter the fight in a limited capacity now, than have to fight a full-blown, cross-border militant movement in the future.

What's next for Somalia?

Somalia has endured a year of protests and political turmoil after the government postponed the 2021 elections.

  • Thankfully, the country elected a new President last Sunday, and the return to a more stable political arrangement should allow the government to focus more on counter-terrorism.

Even so, the Somali government can't do it alone. It relies heavily on international support to buttress its security efforts. The question is, how long will the international community be willing to support Somalia given its astronomical commitment to Ukraine?

  • Talking to the Financial Times, a senior US official said โ€œwe donโ€™t plan on being there foreverโ€ (though one wonders if any army anywhere has ever planned to be on a mission 'forever').

๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ Finding the middle ground: Ultimately, though armies must talk of quick victories, the US recommitment to fight in Somalia feels more like trying to keep the lid on a very dangerous box, rather than an attempt to decisively crush that box for good.

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Africa & the Middle East

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท Iran

Iran's been busy: it recently inaugurated a new drone factory in Tajikistan as ties between the two countries deepen.

  • Tehran has cultivated good relations with its Central Asian neighbours in recent years - in February, Tajikistan and Iran pledged to raise bilateral annual trade to over $500 million.

  • According to Iranian military Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri, Iran is ready to export its drone equipment to allied and friendly countries.

๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡พ Libya

Fathi Bashagha, one of Libya's rival prime ministers has failed to win back leadership from Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh (the head of an interim government appointed last year).

  • The unity government that emerged from the 2020 ceasefire has failed to bring together the two rival factions by refusing to organise timely elections.

  • The attempted takeover has also resulted in a months-long political crisis and a blockade of some of Libya's most important oil fields.

๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Mali

The ruling junta has withdrawn Mali from the "G5 force", a multinational military force in the Sahel set up in 2017 to combat military insurgents.

  • The force has been undermined by insufficient funding and has had little success - Maliโ€™s departure could now spell its end.

  • Just days after its withdrawal announcement, the Malian junta claimed it had foiled a coup attempt by a number of โ€œanti-progressive Malian officers supported by a Western stateโ€.

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Namibia
Namibia has launched its sovereign wealth fund after two substantial oil discoveries were made off its coast.

  • The fund will be financed with the proceeds from mineral sales, mining royalties, fishing quotas, and other tax revenue.

  • The government hopes the new fund will help stabilise the economy and help develop long-term economic growth.

๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช The UAE
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also known as MBZ, has been appointed as the President of the UAE after his predecessor, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died last Friday.

  • MBZ - not to be confused with Saudi Arabiaโ€™s de facto leader MBS - has been the de facto ruler of the Gulf state for the past eight years after a stroke debilitated Sheikh Khalifa.

  • MBZ is widely seen as strongman leader. Under his rule, the UAE has developed a more assertive and interventionist foreign policy, joining Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war, taking a hard line against Iran, and befriending Israel.


via Giphy

Indonesia woos Musk

The news: Indonesian President Joko Widodo met Tesla CEO Elon Musk during the former's recent visit to the US.

  • Indonesia has been courting investment from Muskโ€™s electric vehicle company for years, and has also hinted at being open to recieving SpaceX cash.

Nickel dreams: Indonesia holds the worldโ€™s biggest nickel reserves and has advanced a series of policies as part of the countryโ€™s โ€œcommodity-led development strategyโ€.

  • In 2021, it banned the export of raw nickel to spur the development of a high-value nickel supply chain. 

Why Tesla? Nickel is a crucial component of lithium-ion battery cells which are used in electric vehicles and energy storage systems. A high-profile Tesla investment could establish Indonesia as *the* place to build EVs in Southeast Asia.

  • As part of its strategy, Jakarta has already signed deals with LG and CATL, two leading battery manufacturers.

Indonesia isnโ€™t the only country courting Tesla... manufacturing hubs in India and Malaysia are also jockeying to win the rights to build the future of the automotive industry. 

One small hiccup: Last year, Tesla announced that it was switching its short-range vehicles over to lithium-iron-phosphate battery cells which do not contain nickel.

  • The nickel-based batteries will continue to be produced, but the switch could hinder Indonesiaโ€™s dreams of becoming an EV powerhouse.


Geography riddles 

If you struggled with geography in school, or you hate smart-assed riddles, then you're going to hate this...

  1. What is the laziest mountain in the world?

  2. What's the largest pencil in the United States?

  3. What was the largest island in the world before Australia was discovered?

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