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

30
Sep

 

When Barack Obama meets this week with Xi Jinping during the Chinese president’s first state visit to America, one item probably won’t be on their agenda: the possibility that the United States and China could find themselves at war in the next decade. In policy circles, this appears as unlikely as it would be unwise.

And yet 100 years on, World War I offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for folly. When we say that war is “inconceivable,” is this a statement about what is possible in the world—or only about what our limited minds can conceive? In 1914, few could imagine slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: world war. When war ended four years later, Europe lay in ruins: the kaiser gone, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the Russian tsar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of its youth and treasure. A millennium in which Europe had been the political center of the world came to a crashing halt.

The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago. Most such contests have ended badly, often for both nations, a team of mine at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has concluded after analyzing the historical record. In 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, the result was war. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part not just of the challenger but also the challenged. Read more…

By Graham Allison; Published on 24 Sept. 2015 in theatlantic.com

Graham Allison is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe and the co-author of Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World.

25
Sep

Russian Power Projection

Written on September 25, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, News, Security

Putin Doesn’t Care if Assad Wins. It’s About Russian Power Projection.

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin wants Syria to know it still has a friend in Russia. Last week, more than a dozen military flights from Russia to Syria reportedly delivered six T-90 tanks, 15 howitzers, 35 armored personnel carriers, 200 marines, and housing for as many as 2,000 military personnel. Moscow has also reportedly delivered surveillance drones, attack helicopters, armored carriers, over two dozen fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles (including an SA-22 air defense system), and four Su-30 aircraft. Russia also established a new base south of Latakia, Syria’s northern port city, and is continuing the expansion of its naval base in Tartus, about 50 miles south of Latakia.

Despite this serious uptick in military assistance to Damascus, Russian government officials and analysts in Moscow noted in conversations over the past few days that the Kremlin is not planning a major military offensive in Syria, belying recent press reports. Nor does Moscow plan to send ground forces to Damascus to shore up Assad’s flank. Rather, with Assad’s forces continuing to lose ground, Moscow wants to ensure it has a voice in any effort to reach a political solution to the conflict. Its military presence is designed to force Assad’s foes — the United States included — to respect its interests in Syria, while strengthening its hand as a regional power broker.

Moscow has provided significant diplomatic and military support to the Syrian regime since the 1970s. This support has included training and equipping the Syrian military, as well as intelligence cooperation. In exchange, Moscow has enjoyed access to the Tartus naval base (currently, its only military facility outside the former Soviet Union), while Syria has long supported Soviet and Russian efforts to limit the influence of the United States and its mostly Sunni allies in the Gulf. In the current conflict, Moscow has portrayed Assad as the most effective bulwark against the type of radicalism that animates the Islamic State, arguing that Washington’s insistence on Assad leaving power is dangerously naïve, given the lack of viable alternatives. Earlier in the conflict, the Kremlin did invite members of the Syrian opposition to Moscow; but Russian officials were reportedly disappointed with the outcome of their conversations. Read more…

 

15
Sep

It took a temporary partition to end the war that tore apart Bosnia in the 1990s. Why not do the same for Syria?

In one sense, a partitioned Syria is already visible, its contours drawn by the front lines of the civil war. President Bashar al-Assad has retreated from territory that was too difficult for his overextended forces to hold, giving up the attempt to reimpose nationwide control. (That doesn’t mean he’s on the run. Iran and Russia have made it clear they won’t let that happen.)

Kurds hold the area near the Turkish border, having driven out Islamic State.

The competing factions in areas held by Sunni Arab rebels make for a more complicated picture, but a map of how the front lines looked this summer shows the outlines of a potential partition of Syria into three parts. The red designates regime control. The yellow is Kurdish. The green and black are Sunni Arab, including the area now controlled by Islamic State. (The white is sparsely populated desert.)


Fabrice Balanche, a researcher at the Group for Research and Studies on the Mediterranean and Middle East in Lyons, France, has been mapping Syria’s ethnic and religious communities since long before the war. He was pilloried in 2011 for saying that Western confidence in the inevitability of Assad’s demise was misplaced, and that civil war and Syria’s disintegration would result. He is, if anything, less sanguine today:

We have a de facto partition, but nobody wants to recognize this partition. In Damascus, there are posters everywhere about a unified Syria. The opposition say no we don’t need a partition. But we will have one.

Read more…

Posted on Sept. 14 in http://www.bloombergview.com/; written by Marc Champion

2
Sep

By Madeleine Albright

I teach my students that foreign policy is persuading other countries to do what you want. The tools available to accomplish this include everything from kind words to cruise missiles. Mixing them properly and with sufficient patience is the art of diplomacy, a task that for the United States has proved challenging even with our closest allies, and altogether necessary with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The United States and Iran have been locked in an adversarial relationship since the 1979 hostage crisis. Having worked for President Jimmy Carter, I viewed the country through the prism of that experience when I served in the Clinton administration. Nevertheless, as secretary of state I felt it important to explore the possibility of developing a less chilly relationship with Iran.
During my time in office, we offered to engage in dialogue, but the Iranians were not ready. In the end, although we improved the relationship on the margins, we failed to make much of a dent in the thick wall of mistrust separating our two countries.

These experiences lead me to be wary of the Iranian regime and realistic about the prospects for an overnight change in U.S.-Iranian relations. But it is dangerous not to pursue dialogue, and experience convinces me that the nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran is a wise diplomatic initiative.

After careful review of its provisions, I have given the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action my strong endorsement.

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran has rightfully earned a place at the top of the long list of threats to global stability. No diplomatic agreement or military action could guarantee that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon, but even most opponents agree this accord puts that goal firmly out of Iran’s reach for a decade or more. From any vantage point, that is a positive development, but at a time of great turmoil in the Middle East it is especially welcome. Read more…

 

Published in cnn.com on Aug. 31st; Madeleine Albright served as U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. She is chair of the Albright‎ Stonebridge Group, a global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm, and professor of diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

24
Aug

What ISIS Really Wants

Written on August 24, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, Middle East

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing. Read more…

By Graeme Wood ; Published in the March 2015 issue of the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/

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