Archive for the ‘International Conflict, Terrorism & Security’ Category

8
Jul

Fighters from forces aligned with Libya's new unity government fire anti-aircraft guns from their vehicles at Islamic State positions in Algharbiyat area, Sirte, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Although there has been some progress in forming a national unity government in Libya, “unity” is a rather inapplicable word for the country. In reality, friction between various political actors remains high. Ultimately, perhaps a form of disunity—confederation, rather than centralization—is the best model for Libya.

Libyan politics: A primer

During the summer of 2014, the Libyan leadership, after an initial hint of cooperation, split into two governments:

  • One, headquartered in Tobruk and based on a secular matrix, was recognized internationally. It received support from the House of Representatives and was abetted by General Khalifa Haftar and his so-called National Libyan Army. Externally, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia have supported this government because of its anti-Islamist ideology. In May 2014, Haftar launched “Operation Dignity” against the Islamist militias, supported by the Zintan brigades (consisting of the Civic, al-Sawaiq, and al-Qaaqa brigades), and the militias coming from the ethnic minorities of Tebu and Fezzan.
  • The other, headquartered in Tripoli, was Islamic in nature. It was supported by the new General National Congress (GNC) and was part of the Libya Dawn group of pro-Islamist militias (which included groups from Misrata, Amazigh, and Tuareg). Qatar, Sudan, and Turkey have supported this government for different reasons, including to earn a more prominent place on the global stage or to support the Muslim Brotherhood.

But it gets more complicated, since it wasn’t just the Tobruk- and Tripoli-based governments that competed to fill the power vacuum post-Gadhafi. The constellation of militias and brigades has changed continuously. There are Salafist groups such as:

  • Ansar al-Sharia Libya (or ASL, located between Benghazi and Derna);
  • Muhammad Jamal Network (between Benghazi and Derna);
  • Al-Murabitun (in the southeast, around Ghat, Ubari, Tasawah, and Murzuq);
  • Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (or AQIM, in the southwest and northeast of Libya); and
  • Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia (or AST, located between Derna and Ajdabiya). Read more…

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5
Jul

RICHARD SOKOLSKY is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s policy planning staff.

In a pre-retirement interview[1] on May 1, NATO’s top military officer, General Philip Breedlove, warned that the Russian military might not be ten feet tall but was “certainly close to seven.” NATO’s war planners are right to worry about the Russian military threat to its eastern flank. Fortunately, the alliance may be in a stronger position than it thinks—and although its leaders may not realize it, what is important is that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals almost certainly do.

NATO’s efforts to build a stronger deterrent and defense posture in the east are necessary and long overdue. But they may not be enough to de-escalate the alliance’s confrontation with Russia and reduce the risk of a direct conflict. Two years after NATO launched plans to beef up defenses on its eastern front, a midcourse correction is needed to reduce the risk of a collision with Russia.

NATO’s perception of the Russian threat has changed dramatically since Moscow gobbled up Crimea. Once thought to be outmanned and outgunned[2] by NATO, Russia is now seen by many observers as a superior military force, poised to overrun an alliance that is “outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned[3]” on its eastern flank. From the West’s perspective, Russia is a revisionist, neoimperialist, and expansionist power determined to overturn the post–Cold War European security order, destroy NATO’s cohesion, and restore its sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet Union. As a military alliance with a collective security commitment at its core, NATO should be reinforcing its exposed eastern flank with a more persistent presence of heavier forces to reassure these countries of NATO’s resolve and capacity to make good on its Article 5 commitment. Military organizations are prone to plan conservatively, and NATO is basing its plans on a worst-case scenario.

From where Putin sits, however, “the correlation of forces,” to use an old Soviet phrase, probably looks quite different. From the Kremlin’s perspective, in its decision to spread east, NATO has muscled in on Russia’s traditional turf. Meanwhile, Moscow believes the United States seeks to subvert the Putin regime by promoting democracy in and around the country. Russia’s estimates of the military balance with NATO are permeated by a deep sense of inferiority in terms of conventional Prompt Global Strike capabilities, nuclear weapons, missile defenses, cyberweapons, and even the much-hyped hybrid forms of warfare. The Russian general staff, like NATO’s military planners, are basing their plans on worst-case thinking as well. Read more…

June 29, 2016; www.foreignaffairs.com

29
Apr

If, in 2011, the West’s view of the Arab world was grounded in optimism and exhilaration, it’s an entirely different story in 2016. Five years ago, there was still the sense that something was afoot, that the region could change into something better. There was the promise of a region based more on respect for fundamental rights, better governance and freedom – rather than one where these elements were constantly sacrificed to nepotism, autocracy and the cynical exploitation of concerns around security.

Five years on, the situation looks very different.

Now it is far more about security than ever before. It used to be that different Arab leaders would privately and publicly argue that they were better than the alternative of Islamism and that would be enough to get any concerns around fundamental rights of the table for discussion. Today, the equation is the same but different: many simply argue that the alternative to their rule is chaos. And, of course, no one wants chaos – and so the cycle continues.

But the region is not simply a place where one makes short-term exchanges between security concerns and everything else. It is a catastrophic mistake to look at the region in those terms alone.

The region is in a state of flux and the outside world needs to be more, not less, engaged with it, as it goes through an incredibly critical part of its modern history. Read more…

 

Published on April 28, 2016  in the national.ae

27
Apr

The world’s two greatest powers are competing for military dominance of the western Pacific Ocean and the contest is about to intensify. The US and China are each jockeying for advantage as they anticipate a quickening in a struggle that “has the potential to escalate into one of the deadliest conflicts of our time, if not history”, according to Malaysia’s Defence Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein.

An important ruling from the International Court of Justice in the Hague is expected in the weeks ahead. It will rule on a claim by a US ally, the Philippines, to sovereignty over reefs that are also claimed by China. Most experts expect the ruling, due by the end of June, will favour the Philippines. Beijing has warned it will not recognise the court’s jurisdiction.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that, if the court ruled against it, Beijing would accelerate plans to build an artificial island around one of the reefs at the heart of the dispute, Scarborough Shoal. The shoal is 230kilometres from the Philippines coast and 1020kilometres from China’s.

25
Apr

Burundian time-bomb

Written on April 25, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Africa, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security

 

WHEN a Hutu politician says it is time to “pulverise and exterminate” rebels who are “good only for dying”, outsiders should sit up. When he talks of spraying “cockroaches” or urges people to “start work”, it is hard to miss the old codewords for massacring Tutsis. When the politician is not some obscure backbencher but the president of the Burundian Senate, the world should be alarmed.

History does not always repeat itself in central Africa, but it rhymes cacophonously. Rwanda and Burundi, two small countries with Hutu majorities and Tutsi minorities, have seen large-scale ethnic massacres in 1959, 1963, 1972, 1988, 1993 and 1994. These were not, as some outsiders imagine, spontaneous outbursts of tribal hatred. They happened because those in power deliberately inflamed ethnic divisions. The Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which perhaps half a million Tutsis were hacked to death, was meticulously planned by Hutu army officers and politicians. They did it to avoid sharing power with Tutsi rebels after a peace accord to end a civil war. They raised a militia, cranked up the genocidal propaganda and imported hundreds of thousands of machetes in advance. The outside world barely noticed until it was too late. The genocide ended only when a Tutsi army swept in to stop it, led by Rwanda’s current president, Paul Kagame. Read more…

 

Published on April 23rd in the economist.com

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