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

22
May

Written by Matthew Pelton (MIR 2014-15)

The September 11, 2001 attacks by the radical Al-Qaeda Islamist group shocked the world.  Earlier attacks occurred at U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, but few expected the global jihadists to take new tactics to American soil.  Since fame grew for Al-Qaeda in the radical world, branches of their ideology have blossomed elsewhere (e.g., Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Al-Shabaab in Somalia).  In the past decade, Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” has waged war against Western education and ideology in Nigeria killing thousands of people.  Similarly, Al-Shabaab has carried out attacks in Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and Djibouti since 2006 due to military intervention in Somali affairs through the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and their endorsement of Western ideology.

Read more…

9
Jan

After the attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead and five injured, Twitter comments are pouring in from around the world.

Many take the form of one of the magazine’s specialties, cartoons. Foreign Policy has compiled some of them here.

4
Jan

The last year was a bad one for international peace and security. Sure, there were bright spots in 2014. Colombia’s peace process looks hopeful. The last round of Iran’s nuclear talks was more successful than many think. Tunisia, though not yet out of the woods, showed the power of dialogue over violence. Afghanistan bucked its history and has, notwithstanding many challenges, a government of national unity. President Barack Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba can only be positive.

But for the most part, it has been a dispiriting year. Conflict is again on the rise after a major decrease following the end of the Cold War. Today’s wars kill and displace more people, and are harder to end than in years past.

The Arab world’s turmoil deepened: The Islamic State captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria, much of Gaza was destroyed again, Egypt turned toward authoritarianism and repression, and Libya and Yemen drifted toward civil war. In Africa, the world watched South Sudan’s leaders drive their new country into the ground. The optimism of 2013 faded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ebola ravaged parts of West Africa, and Boko Haram insurgents stepped up terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria. The international legal order was challenged with the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and war is back in Europe as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine.

So what do the last 12 months tell us is going wrong?

On a global level, increasing geopolitical competition appears, for the moment at least, to be leading to a less controlled, less predictable world. This is most obvious, of course, with regard to the relationship between Russia and the West. It’s not yet zero-sum: The two nations still work together on the Iran nuclear file, the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, and, for the most part, on African peacekeeping. But Russia’s policy in its neighborhood presents a real challenge, and its relationship with the United States and Europe has grown antagonistic.

China’s relations with its neighbors also remain tense and could lead to a crisis in the East or South China Seas. The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia shapes the contours of violence between Sunnis and Shiites across the Middle East. Major Sunni powers are themselves divided: The contest between the Saudis, Emiratis, and Egypt on the one hand, and Qatar and Turkey on the other, plays out across North Africa. Elsewhere on the African continent, powers jostle in Somalia and in South Sudan’s increasingly regionalized war; and the DRC has long been a venue for its neighbors’ competition over influence and resources.

Rivalry between major and regional powers is nothing new, of course. But hostility between big powers has stymied the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine and Syria — and leaves its most powerful members less time and political capital to invest on other crises. As power gets more diffuse, antagonism between regional powers matters more. Competition between powerful states increasingly lends a regional or international color to civil wars, rendering their resolution more complex. Read more…

By Jean-Marie Guéhenno: Jean-Marie Guéhenno is president and CEO of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Published on January 2, 2015 in http://foreignpolicy.com

 

18
Nov

Written by Nadim Abillama, MIR Alum (2011) , Senior Program Assistant, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE (NDI) – LEBANON COUNTRY OFFICE

 

Current context

The military expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant organization (ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) enabled it to seize power over significant portions of land in Iraq and Syria, triggering a military response from a US-led coalition. There are 16 countries involved in the coalition, including Arab countries. The air strikes on ISIS started in August and contributed to contain ISIS’s expansion without making any decisive breakthrough for the moment.

Lebanon has witnessed a series of tensions since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. The military involvement of Hezbollah alongside with the Syrian regime prompted a reaction from radical Lebanese Sunni groups, which are hostile to the Assad regime. These groups mainly operate around the northern city of Tripoli and the Eastern town of Arsal, close to the Syrian border. Clashes also occurred between the Lebanese armed forces and a Jihadist group in the southern Sunni city of Saida, in June 2013. Since then, a series of attacks claimed by al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria) and ISIS took place throughout Lebanon until June 2014.

Read more…

30
Sep

Gobal debate in recent weeks has centered on President Barack Obama’s initiative to prevent the advance of ISIS. But another force has emerged as an unlikely rampart against the barbaric and delusional leaders of the self-proclaimed caliphate: Lebanese pluralism. Indeed, despite the shortcomings of its political system, Lebanon can provide a template for managing cultural diversity and rejecting radicalism in an unstable and fragmented setting.

Last month, the Lebanese Army showed considerable fortitude as it fought ISIS militants in the Bekaa town of Arsal, near the border with Syria. Though the Army has sustained heavy losses – including two soldiers who were beheaded – it has managed to compel the militants, who were operating inside a Syrian refugee camp, largely to withdraw. And it continues to fight when the need arises. International aid is now flowing toward the Army, with Saudi Arabia alone pledging more than $3 billion.

But the international community should move beyond military aid to support Lebanon’s real strengths: its moderate, pluralist and vibrant society. After all, that is what has enabled the country, against all odds, to avoid all-out conflict, making it a beacon – however faint – of hope in a crisis-ravaged region.

Lebanon’s resilience has confounded expectations, given its lack of a shared national identity – a result of deep social divisions that resemble, to some extent, those besetting Iraq – and notoriously weak state institutions. In fact, Lebanon’s political system has been paralyzed by disagreements over Syria’s civil war, the consequences of which have been pouring over the Lebanese border. The country has not had a president since May; the Parliament is not functioning; and the Cabinet is practically powerless.

When ISIS arrived at the border, however, most of Lebanon’s political parties, media and civil society rallied together. Billboards were erected appealing to Sunnis to preserve moderation. Media outlets informally agreed not to provide a platform to radical militants. And performing-arts festivals featuring international figures went ahead – signaling the Lebanese people’s refusal to give in to radicalism and violence.

Moreover, the Army received an outpouring of public support, which is understandable, given the lack of any other unifying institution. Even the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which has caused deep fissures in Lebanon by helping to shore up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, supported the Army’s campaign (though the party’s desire to allow others to die fighting Assad’s opponents was undoubtedly a key motivation).

Ironically, the weakness of the Lebanese state may be contributing to the strength of its civil society. In Lebanon, unlike in other Arab countries, no single religious group enjoys a majority. Shiites and Sunnis compete to ally themselves with the Christian community, recognizing its vital social and political role in the country.

Lebanon’s acceptance of cultural diversity and pluralism has enabled the country to emerge whole from 15 years of civil war, to withstand decades of Syrian and Israeli occupation, and finally to stand up to ISIS. It may have taken years of violence, but Christians, Sunnis and Shias seem to have internalized the lesson that they cannot impose their will on one another.

Today, Lebanon is bustling with the cosmopolitan spirit and energy that once characterized the entire region. And the impact of its people’s creative activities is increasingly visible worldwide, with, for example, the fashion designer Elie Saab dressing Hollywood stars and Lamia Joreige’s art being exhibited in the permanent collection of London’s Tate Modern. Furthermore, both pluralism and moderation remain the dominant forces in the country; tellingly, ISIS could not find a single Lebanese to volunteer to act as its emir over Lebanon.

But this inspiring model is under threat, as Lebanon struggles to cope with a massive public debt and the spread of abject poverty in rural areas, especially among Sunnis. Making matters worse, more than a million Syrian refugees have poured into Lebanon since the start of the war in Syria in 2011 This is the equivalent, in proportional terms, of 80 million Mexicans suddenly arriving in the United States.


Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2014/Sep-30/272421-against-barbarism-an-imperfect-lebanon-deploys-pluralism.ashx#ixzz3EnttDMhH

Published by Marwan Muasher on Sept. 30th.

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