Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category


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…



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;


Spain held its second general election in six months on Sunday, after political leaders failed to form a governing coalition in the wake of December’s inconclusive vote. However, results from Sunday’s voting didn’t move the needle much from December, and Spain, once again, faces the prospect of continued political deadlock.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) managed a better showing this time around, winning 33 percent of the vote, up from 29 percent in December. This gives the party 137 seats in the Spanish parliament, but leaves it short of the 176 seats needed for a majority, so Rajoy must now find coalition partners. 

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) came in second with 22.7 percent of the vote and 85 seats, followed by the Unidos Podemos coalition—comprising Podemos and an alliance of far-left and communist parties known as Izquierda Unida—with 21 percent and 71 seats, and the center-right Ciudadanos with 13 percent and 32 seats. In the December vote, the PSOE won 22 percent of the vote, Podemos 21 percent and Ciudadanos 14 percent.

Rajoy is certainly in a better position to form a government than he was in December, but, as Antonio Barroso, a political analyst, told the AP, “It is unlikely that other parties will rapidly give him their support.” Already the PSOE and Ciudadanosrejected Rajoy’s proposal of a “grand coalition” of moderate parties. Read more….

Maria Savel is an associate editor at World Politics Review. Published on Thursday, June 30, 2016



A tragic split

Written on June 24, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, EU Expansion, Europe, Foreign Policy

HOW quickly the unthinkable became the irreversible. A year ago few people imagined that the legions of Britons who love to whinge about the European Union—silly regulations, bloated budgets and pompous bureaucrats—would actually vote to leave the club of countries that buy nearly half of Britain’s exports. Yet, by the early hours of June 24th, it was clear that voters had ignored the warnings of economists, allies and their own government and, after more than four decades in the EU, were about to step boldly into the unknown.

The tumbling of the pound to 30-year lows offered a taste of what is to come. As confidence plunges, Britain may well dip into recession. A permanently less vibrant economy means fewer jobs, lower tax receipts and, eventually, extra austerity. The result will also shake a fragile world economy. Scots, most of whom voted to Remain, may now be keener to break free of the United Kingdom, as they nearly did in 2014. Across the Channel, Eurosceptics such as the French National Front will see Britain’s flounce-out as encouragement. The EU, an institution that has helped keep the peace in Europe for half a century, has suffered a grievous blow.

Published in the Economist on June 24th, 2016


What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)? Female genital mutilation or ablation involves the partial or total removal of the external sexual organs of women. FGM is a custom that is currently practiced in many countries in Africa and Asia. This brutal practice is to control female sexual desire and what is more, to get the total submission of women to the family and the husband (Fundacion Kirira).

FGM’s Prevalence: According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 200 million girls alive today have undergone FGM and there are 3 million girls at risk of undergoing the practice every year, with the majority of girls being cut before 15 years of age (2013).

On May 31, the International Relations Club had the honor of hosting a Female Gentile Mutilation (FGM) seminar at IE. The seminar featured Estrella Gimenez the President of Fundacion Kirira, which is an NGO in Spain that helps fight against FGM. In addition to Estrella’s presentation, we also had a MIR student Lula Tensaew tell her touching story about the daily struggles she faces having undergone this practice. Estrella started by sharing the story of how the foundation came about and in a sad tone Estrella said, “One summer in August, I went on a typical safari trip to Kenya and couldn’t help but realize that something was wrong”. The shocking reality was that August was the month of female mutilations in the Tharaka village and all the young girls were being mutilated. When someone in the village asked her why she had not been mutilated, with astonishment, Estrella realized that there was a deep underlying problem. Many girls were dropping out of school to undergo mutilation as early as 12 years of age to prepare them for marriage. Estrella started her NGO in 2002 and 14 years later, thanks to the Kirira Foundation, FGM has been reduced drastically from 90% to less than 5% of FGM cases in the village of Tharaka. Estrella and her team have truly been successful in saving many girls’ lives and they are true heroes.

MIR student Lula Tensaew, shared that when she was a young girl living in Eritrea she was mutilated at 2 years of age. She wanted to shed light on this horrible practice and also believes that by raising awareness, the lives of many girls could be saved. Throughout her life, she has dealt with many health issues due to FGM and emphasized that, “there are many women like me worldwide living with this pain in silence”. We thank Lula for sharing such a personal and deep story. She is truly worthy of our respect and admiration.


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