Here’s a conversation to which, in one form or another, I have been party more than once in the past week or so. Perhaps you have done the same.
In discussing the latest twists of the Covid-19 pandemic, person one says something to the tune of ‘I can’t remember. Is the Delta variant the Indian one, then?’, and person two, if they do not reproach the other for their lack of politesse, says something resembling, ‘er, I don’t know. I’ll just check’.
For the owners and operators of the Colonial Pipeline, the resumption of normal operations following an attack of ransomware probably brought little pleasure. Not least because, according to an official, they had paid up to $5 million to the attackers in ransom in the process. But to have one’s business entirely paralysed in this way is not so much a wake up call, as it has been fashionable to call it, as a time to get serious.
The children of Ashkelon in southern Israel will be thankful that an order from the Israel Defense Force closed their school on Monday. Otherwise, a number of them might now be dead. Their school is as of this morning a smoking ruin, hit by a missile fired by Hamas from Gaza. But in Ashkelon at least, no children were harmed.
To read Richard Ratcliffe’s long investigative article about the purported reasons behind his wife’s situation, one can sense the burning sense of injustice and betrayal he feels.
Not only has his wife been arbitrarily and unlawfully kept as prisoner, for years, by one of the world’s most capricious systems of hostage-taking – by a nominally legitimate state – he has also suffered the dual humiliation of being strung along by two governments: Iran’s, and ours.
British troops have begun operations in Mali as part of a United Nations mission to counter jihadist groups in the country. UK forces began arriving in February and have, with BBC cameras in tow, started their long-range patrols of the country’s sparse regions. The way the cameras captured it, those involved in these initial patrols seem confident, but also a little uneasy.
If outsourcing has become inevitable in commerce, we cannot be surprised that it has found its place in government. In matters of national security especially, it can be of use to rely less on soldiers than on mercenaries. Russia makes extensive use of the Wagner Group, mercenaries who operate with the state’s approval in Middle Eastern and African battlefields, doing dirty work in a deniable fashion.
Connoisseurs of a certain kind of bare-faced espionage have certainly enjoyed the last couple of days. They like it when faces or institutions, associated with other stories, reappear. In this case, the Czech Republic has expelled 18 Russian diplomats in retaliation for bombings in 2014 which targeted munitions factories in the country and killed two civilians. You may have seen the faces of the alleged culprits before.
When, on Tuesday, the American secretary of defence Lloyd Austin announced that 500 more American troops would be sent to Germany, a tacit intention of his speech was to convince observers that a terrible thing had been averted in the nick of time.