The Blog / Opinion

What’s bugging the CEO this week?

This short interview takes a look at what’s on our CEO’s mind this week, and how Le Beck responds to regional developments to support our clients.

As we entered the month-long Ramadan holiday, and as a security professional my thoughts are turned towards securing our clients’ assets during the month-long holiday. Unfortunately, over the past years, several jihadist groups, particularly the Islamic State have used the holiday to try and carry out as many attacks as possible. This year even more than the others we are paying close attention to the group’s activities and taking measures to secure our client’s assets. This stems from our analyst team’s assessment that the group will try to counterbalance the loss of its “Caliphate” through a series of attacks, a trend we have already seen over the past weeks.

We are advising our clients to make sure they understand their response capabilities in the event of an incident and also making sure their call tree is tested for the Crisis Management Team. It is also good practice to keep a closer eye on those travelling during this period and make sure all their contact numbers are up to date.

Securing critical infrastructure: An interview with David Garbutt

1. What is your role in Le Beck and how did you get to the security field?

 I have two separate roles at Le Beck being both the company’s Operations Manager and a Senior Security Advisor.

As Le Beck’s Operations Manager, I coordinate and manage all operational activities from the development of the proposal to the completion of the contract. In addition, I work with client organizations (Corporate) and individuals to provide independent, objective and realistic security and safety advice as identified within the projects Scope of Works.

In general terms I manage, coordinate, support and assist the CEO in business functions and promote, maintain and enforce the company’s core values. I also hold delegated executive decision making powers as provided by the CEO to undertake administrative, marketing and business development functions on his behalf and that of the Company.

As a Senior Security Adviser, I work with client organizations (Corporate) and individuals to provide independent, objective and realistic security and safety advice as identified within the projects Scope of Works.

  • Security Risk and Threat Assessments

  • Security and Safety Reviews, Plans, Audits and Training

  • Security and Safety Plans, Policies and Procedures

  • Crisis Management and Evacuation Planning

  • Security Systems Project Management and Concept Design

  • Security Consultancy and Training

  • Fraud and Internal Crime Investigations

  • IT and Cyber Security Assessments

  • Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery

  • VIP Protection

I left the British Military in 2004 having served for 16 years as a Military Policeman in various theaters around the world. Since leaving I have worked in both the private and public sectors as a “Security Manager,” before moving into consultancy.


2.How do you think protecting critical infrastructure differs from other assets? What are the main challenges? 

Critical infrastructure is exactly that; critical. Therefore, the impact of any would-be damage or destruction would have a direct detrimental effect on the economy of any given country – Oil refineries in KSA being one such example. If there is any interruption to the supply of oil, then clearly that would have a devastating effect on the National economy. However, that is not to say that assets not deemed part of the critical national infrastructure are any less important; damage or destruction of a Bank Head Office for example, would clearly be of detriment to the company, although not necessarily so of the national infrastructure.

The main challenge to protecting national infrastructure stems mainly from the fact that any mitigating factors are defined by a governing body and are usually non-negotiable and not necessarily the most cost-effective way of securing and/or protecting any given asset.

Contingency planning in unstable countries: An interview with Tony Palys

1. What do you think makes a good contingency plan in a country like Libya, i.e. countries with an active conflict ongoing?

What happened in Libya shows the importance of a solid contingency plan that takes into account both the geopolitical landscape of the country where client interests are, as well as the cultural and business requirements of the client. Libya is one of these countries where the security landscape can change very quickly, and this is highlighted again with the recent Tripoli offensive, which saw an airstrike against the main airport and disruptions along the road to the nearest country (by land), namely, Tunisia. It is typical of, but not limited to, a country where active conflict is ongoing – Lebanon, for instance, is a good example of a country that is relatively stable yet, should a conflict with Israel break out, would see potential exit points immediately disabled.

Essentially this shows that a contingency plan must prepare for the worse case scenario.

Understanding the client’s business requirements, priorities, and objectives is key in that sense, along with the plan’s simplicity and flexibility so as to allow for change, especially if there is a requirement to move or evacuate the location or even the country. Communication & Training is also central, so as to allow for staff inclusion from the outset, especially in cases where families may be involved. Similarly, good liaison with embassies, consulates, local law enforcement (it they are reliable), and, of course, a reputable security consultancy.


2. What would you recommend to a client that would find him/herself in such circumstances? What should he or she have done prior to that in terms of contingency planning?

There are several steps that should have been taken prior to any such development. They include:

  • Identifying a core group of business continuity decision makers to make sure the decision-making process (including whether assets should be evacuated or not) be made in swiftly.

  • Carrying out an internal risk assessment of the business requirement and the acceptable loss of business/financial loss.

  • Is there a requirement for a Business Continuity Site and, if so, where is it located, can it be supported and has it been tested?

  • Drafting an all staff communications plan with a backup that is tested.

  • Know where your staff are located, especially families, and keep the database up-to-date, including those travelling, schools, and even hospitals.

  • There may be a need to have a “safe location”, such as a hotel, to locate staff and their families if the need arises. Good ties with such locations can go a long way in ensuring support to one’s plan with the minimum of “fuss”.

  • Knowledge of where the emergency services are located and what to do if help is required.

  • Training for all staff throughout the company to include out of city/country locations so that all are prepared and know what to do when the need arises

  • Keep a contingency cash fund available for those unforeseen expenses and keep the company cars fully maintained and fueled.

Bouteflika’s half concessions unlikely to quell protests

This section is a sample of Le Beck’s On-the-Spot Analysis released on March 12, and which provides paid subscribers more timely, in-depth analysis on transformative events in the MENA region.

Following an unprecedented wave of protests that began on February 22, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he will not – after all – seek a fifth mandate. In a letter, the ailing Algerian leader further announced the postponement of the upcoming April elections, the drafting of a new constitution, a cabinet change, and the creation of a National Consensus Conference (NCC).

The NCC would, according to Bouteflika’s letter, represent all segments of the Algerian people and parties, and will draft reforms alongside a new constitution that will have to be approved by parliament. Several reports suggest that Lakhdar Brahmi, a former UN diplomat, could serve as its head. The conference would have until the end of 2019 to draft reforms and a new constitution. While the president didn’t mention a specific date to which the elections will be postponed, he stated that they will only take place once a new constitution has been drafted.

In addition, in the wake of the announcement, PM Ahmed Ouyahia resigned and was replaced by Interior Minister Nourredine Bedoui. the position of Vice PM was also created and given to Ramtane Lamamra, a former foreign minister who was also appointed as the country’s new FM.

However, despite these announcements, mass protests have been called for Friday, March 15, while a student demonstration already began in front of the Grande Poste in Algiers today. Night protests were also seen in various areas of the country last night, with slogans denouncing the “4+” mandate, namely, the extended fourth mandate.

While Bouteflika’s announcement is a clear victory for protesters, the Algerian regime still appears to be trying to “buy time” and manage a possible transition out of the “Bouteflika era”. As initially assessed, this underscores the fact that the main goal of the “Presidential faction”, which stands behind the largely incapacitated president, is to be given enough time to manage that transition and find a replacement for Bouteflika that all the stakeholders in the Algerian “deep state” can agree upon. Indeed, the announcement does de facto implement a previous promise made by Bouteflika to organise early elections a year into his fifth mandate, in which he would not be a candidate, and which would be preceded by a similar conference. By postponing the elections, Bouteflika does exactly that, without the need for actual elections in April and in a manner that is largely unconstitutional.

In doing so, and offering half-measures that could easily be mistaken for a victory by protesters, the regime likely seeks to quell demonstrations and possibly move the debate out of the street and into the soon-to-be-created NCC. The conference will, indeed, be critical for “buying time” and testing the resolve of the protesters for several reasons. Firstly, demonstrators have yet to formally organise themselves and doing so may reveal deep divisions. Those claiming to speak in their name, including media-savvy figures such as Rachid Nekkaz, are not representative of the movement despite often being portrayed as such by foreign media. The conference will likely give ample space to existing opposition parties that also are unlikely to actually represent protesters, as most of them have worked with the regime in the past. Although some may be tempted to participate in the conference, several opposition leaders will also understand the risks of doing so and simply reject the idea of a conference without prior elections. This was highlighted by several statements from Ali Benflis, Bouteflika’s main challenger during the previous election.

The division within the opposition also means that the conference will likely take an extended amount of time rather that coming to a swift conclusion, further fueling division within the opposition. Finally, the drafted constitution would have to go through parliament, which is currently controlled by the ruling coalition and, thus, would give the regime some room to manoeuvre and either delay the election or change the new constitution.

In this context, while some protesters may feel that they have had at least some of their concerns tackled, most won’t. This is underlined by today’s protests, as well as calls for continued mobilisation on Friday with a mass protest. As assessed in our previous Weekly Security Brief, although the regime is buying time, they also continue to be largely out of options: a crackdown on demonstrations would likely reveal further cracks within the security apparatus, while protests are unlikely to vanish on their own without – at the least – Bouteflika’s immediate departure.

Le Beck analyses the Yemen peace talks in The Geopolitics

Regional Security Analyst (RSA) Kierat Ranautta-Sambhi wrote about the continued obstacles to achieving lasting peace in Yemen for The Geopolitics.

“While the resumption of peace talks in Sweden illuminated a ray of hope for a diplomatic/political route to ending the conflict in Yemen, there’s still a long way to go to achieving peace in the country.

It’s crucial to remember that the Sweden talks were only “consultations”, intended to establish “confidence-building measures” ahead of any actual peace negotiations. The warring parties’ ability to make some progress doesn’t necessarily bode well for any future peace talks on issues of substance.”

Read the full analysis here

Le Beck analysts write in The Cairo Review about the conflict in Yemen

Regional Security Analyst (RSA) Team Lead Miriam Eps and RSA Intern Kierat Ranautta-Sambhi wrote about Yemen in the aftermath of former President Saleh’s death for The Cairo Review of Global Affairs.

“It is not clear, however, whether his death was a turning point. This still largely depends on Saleh’s former allies—the Houthis—and how they perceive their strategic and tactical position. On the one hand,  the collapse of the alliance impacted Houthi military capabilities and their upperhand position while Saleh’s assassination created an additional enemy from many of his supporters who are adhering to the alliance’s break. On the other hand, the Houthis are not without friends and they continue to receive external backing from Iran.

With Russia, one of the last diplomatic holdouts in Sanaa, recently moving its embassy to Riyadh due to the “deteriorating security situation” and Saleh’s son promising to destroy the Houthis, the needle seems to point more toward continued conflict than finding a political solution. However, because conflicts are tricky—and Yemen’s is particularly so—it is not impossible that Saleh’s death will, in fact, be a turning point that will help lead to a resolution rather than represent just another reason for the fighting to continue. So what happens next?

The worst case scenario will be to continue pursuing the military option. This will likely result in increased violence and an intensified campaign against the Houthis instead of a politically navigated path forward.”

Read the full oped here  

Le Beck writes in Newsweek about the Saudi corruption crackdown

Very rarely are major moves, or any event on the international stage for that matter, mono-causal, particularly ones that are—and I do not use this term loosely—unprecedented. But they do not answer some key questions: Why now and why so many individuals who are not members of the royal family?

What if their main goal really is to address white collar, financial crimes?


Saudi Arabia’s citizenry will increasingly be confronted with a centuries-old situation many before them have faced: Taxation without representation. The government realises this is problematic and a serious crackdown on corruption also sends a very clear message to the country’s population, of which two-thirds are under 30 and very aware of the world around them: We may be asking you to give us more money, but we’ll make damn sure that every riyal is spent on improving this country and your quality of life.

Read the full oped here  

Le Beck writes in IB Times UK about the impact of a Trump presidency

I won’t pretend to have predicted a Trump presidency. In fact, I expected quite the opposite, going so far as to pen a similar piece on a Hillary Clinton presidency that was to be published following the results of November 8.

But regardless of my personal opinions on the suitability of Donald J Trump, now is the time to redirect my attention toward the future. It is important to begin sorting through the information available (the platform, various campaign promises, post-election comments, etc) in order to assess, to the best of my ability, how a Trump presidency will stand up against the reality check of existing circumstances and policies in key areas of the Middle East.

During the campaign, Syria and Iraq (and the so-called Islamic State) received the bulk of the attention. But as a Gulf analyst, I direct your attention to the GCC, Iran, and Yemen.

Read the full article here  

Le Beck writes about Lebanon’s new president in The Jerusalem Post

Aoun’s election is good for Lebanon. Not necessarily because of who he is (there is no doubt he is a controversial figure), but because the presidential vacuum was deadlocking the political system.

Political parties would protest the inability to elect a president by boycotting Parliament sessions, thereby preventing a quorum from being reached and rendering Parliament nearly impotent. In fact, it was the first time in about two years that Parliament saw all 127 members in attendance (there are usually 128, but one resigned and there have been no new elections). With a president now in power, the boycotts should largely cease, paving the way for much needed legislation and reform related to salaries, refugees, corruption, the garbage crisis and more.

Read the full article  

International experience. Local knowledge.