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June 18, 2019

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Frank Gardner OBE, IFSEC Keynote Theatre: A Global Political and Security Outlook

In his packed keynote speech at IFSEC International, Security expert Frank Gardner OBE ranged over a number of the key threats to national and international security as he saw them.

He started with Iran, aptly given the recent developments with the attack on the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. “No one in the region wants war”, he said. “There would be a huge impact on energy prices and the prospect of desalination plants being blown up in the Middle East if it escalated.”​

After that sobering start, Gardner went on to detail the precarious situation with nuclear weapons development in North Korea, acknowledging the summits that have taken place – and the relative rapprochement between Pyonyang and Seoul – but warning that ultimately no deal has been reached.

“North Korea had got further along their weapons programme than anyone had realised.” Frank Gardner OBE

There is the probability of a third round of talks, he said, but the risk of nuclear proliferation, including adoption of nukes from ‘non-state actors’, remained. “North Korea had got further along their weapons programme than anyone had realised,” reminded Gardner. During questions later, he added that this meant that “no one want to take a chance.” Crucially diplomatic efforts with Kim Jong-Un’s regime rely on him being convinced that North Korea is not a target for invasion.

New Cold War arms race

Quoting David Cameron’s past words that ISIS presented an existential threat, Gardner said that a new Cold War arms race was, in fact, the biggest existential threat. This has arisen out of the withdrawal of the US from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the war of words between the US and Russia over this. Meanwhi not governed by the treaty at all.

China and her ambitions in the South China Sea were next under scrutiny. China has built a series of artificial reefs with landing strips built on them.The US, Australia and the Royal Navy insist on a right of passage in the area, as protected by international treaty, however the augmented tension in the area was what caused President Obama to shift his focus of concern from the Middle East to the South Pacific. The overall sitaution has gone in one direction, with the current US-China trade war a case in point.

The whistlestop tour of the world’s hot spots briefly rested on a now-defunct physical threat – the IS Caliphate. Now defeated, Gardner still warned that the conditions for ISIS activities to continue remained – marginalisation and bad governance being two key ones. In questions later, Garner emphasised that a number of mistakes had been made in the lead up to the creation of ISIS including the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which he described as a “blueprint of how not to invade a country.”

The rise of far right extremism was an issue that Gardner admitted that he might not have included a year ago in any discussion, but he echoed the warning of the British government and the security services that the it is “the fastest-growing threat to UK security” and that efforts to combat it had a lot in common with finding jihadists.

Perhaps inevitably, give the UK’s own volative political situation, Gardner was asked with the UK’s standing in the security community was at risk.

“When it comes to security and intelligence” began Gardner, “the UK is ring-fenced from the vicissitudes of Brexit.” This, he explained, arose party out of The Five Eyes (FIVEY), the anglophone intelligence alliance between the UK, Australia, the US, new Zealand and Canada. It also owed a great deal to the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), set up after the Bali bombings in 2003 and housed in the MI5 building in Thames House, London – though separate from it – and involving “hundreds of professionals pooling resources to assess the terrorism threat to UK and abroad.”

‘Secure by Default’ in the Age of Converged Security: Insights from IFSEC 2019

From data security to the risks and opportunities of artificial intelligence, the conversations at IFSEC International shape future security strategies and best practices. This eBook brings you exclusive insights from these conversations, covering:

  • A Global Political and Security Outlook from Frank Gardner OBE
  • Surveillance Camera Day: Tony Porter launches ‘Secure by Default’ requirements for video surveillance systems
  • Using Drones to Secure the Future
  • Autonomous Cars and AI: Relocating human incompetence from drivers to security engineers?
  • The Ethical and Geopolitical Implications of AI and Machine Learning
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