3
Dec

WITH the world’s attention focused on the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, there was a flurry of debate about how much more media coverage France had received than Beirut, where, a day earlier, suicide bombers sent by the Islamic State killed 43 people. In Nigeria, we expect most terrorist attacks to go unnoticed by the world.

Considering the global attention paid to the Islamic State, you would not guess that Boko Haram is actually the world’s deadliest terrorist organization, according to the Global Terrorism Index. While the Islamic State operates in an oil-rich region and directly threatens the West, Boko Haram’s brutality remains largely confined to remote, sparsely populated parts of Nigeria. The group has reinforced this isolation by attacking telecommunications towers.

At the turn of the year, the group occupied territory estimated to be the size of Belgium. In March, its leader, Abubakar Shekau, released an audio message, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. But he has not appeared in public since then, fueling speculation that he is dead or incapacitated. And Boko Haram has been pushed on the defensive, pummeled by a coalition of troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, briefly supported by mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union.

In August, I visited Yola — home to at least three camps for internally displaced persons, as Boko Haram’s refugees are known. The Yola I encountered was actually a less beleaguered place than it had been a year earlier, when Boko Haram fighters were virtually knocking on its doors, having overrun a string of nearby towns.

In Maiduguri, about 250 miles away, where Boko Haram first burst onto the national scene in a bloody uprising six years ago, the airport reopened to commercial flights in July, after being closed for about 18 months. The city’s public secondary schools, shuttered since early 2014, started reopening in October.

While Boko Haram may have been weakened, it has yet to lose its capacity to sow terror. The suicide bomb attacks — some carried out by young girls, not even teenagers — now blur with surreal intensity into one another. Many attacks go unclaimed; everyone assumes it’s Boko Haram, as usual. Read more…

Published in the New York Times on Dec. 2nd, 2015

Tolu Ogunlesi is the West Africa editor for The Africa Report and the author, most recently, of the novella “Conquest and Conviviality.”

2
Dec

Putin Seeks Entente Cordiale With the West

Written on December 2, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Europe, Foreign Policy, Op Ed

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not the type of leader who wastes a geopolitical opportunity. This is his way of making foreign policy. As Center for Strategic and International Studies scholar Olga Oliker points out, “Russia does not have a strategy. While it has strategic goals, it pursues them primarily by seeking opportunities, rather than developing clear plans.”

Faced with the need to shore up militarily Bashar Assad’s faltering regime in Syria in the summer of 2015, Putin saw in this a broader opportunity to bring Russia back in from the cold, after months of Western isolation and pressure for Moscow’s shenanigans in Ukraine, by casting its intervention in Syria as a valiant contribution to the war on terror.

Putin’s “Syrian Gambit” aimed at transforming the relationship with the West on Russia’s terms to regain Russia’s rightful place as a global power. The Kremlin realized that it was getting stuck in Ukraine, where it could not re-establish Russia’s geopolitical parity with the United States. For Washington to take Moscow seriously, Russia needed to reassert its role on a stage where vital U.S. interests were at stake and where Moscow’s limited capability could make a global splash. Syria was a perfect fit.

The immediate rationale for Russia’s plunge into Syria’s bloody civil war was to save a friendly regime in deep trouble, forestall a Western military intervention, contain instability and the threat of Islamist terrorism away from Russia’s borders, while teaching the West a lesson that regime change through democracy promotion in countries of interest to Russia would no longer be tolerated and even reversed by force if necessary. Read more…

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government relations and PR company.

Published Nov. 24 in the Moscow Times

27
Nov

tweet

 

One tweet from One Direction member Louis Tomlinson during the Paris attacks summarily proves the true impact of celebrity and the existence of the global connectivity so often espoused by the likes of Barack Obama, Bono and Mark Zuckerberg.

A new study by Western University’s CulturePlex Lab, led by Juan Luis Suárez, charted approximately 4.3 million tweets in the wake of the Paris attacks on November 13 and found that one tweeted by Tomlinson at 6:47 a.m. on November 14 was the most active and widely shared Twitter message related to the event with more than 173,000 retweets and 208,000 likes.

“There is a direct correlation represented here in regards to how people react to celebrity and how much impact celebrities truly have,” explains Suárez, a Digital Humanities professor in Western’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and the Director of the CulturePlex Lab. “This study shows how powerful you are if you are a super-connector. Companies are using super-connectors for marketing, political parties are using them for campaigns and we show here that pop culture and celebrity are an immediate gateway to these types of events worldwide.”

Suárez says that super-connectors like Tomlinson, who has 20.7 million Twitter followers (and counting), have an unbelievable amount of power to persuade when you consider that they generate immediate reaction from thousands if not millions of people. Read more…

 

Published on Nov. 25 in http://mediarelations.uwo.ca/2015/11/25/history-may-remember-paris-attacks-by-one-tweet-from-one-direction/

26
Nov

 

china us

The U.S. is transfixed by its multibillion-dollar electoral circus. The European Union is paralyzed by austerity, fear of refugees, and now all-out jihad in the streets of Paris. So the West might be excused if it’s barely caught the echoes of a Chinese version of Roy Orbison’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” And that new Chinese dream even comes with a road map.

The crooner is President Xi Jinping and that road map is the ambitious, recently unveiled13th Five-Year-Plan, or in the pop-video version, the Shisanwu. After years of explosive economic expansion, it sanctifies the country’s lower “new normal” gross domestic product growth rate of 6.5% a year through at least2020.

It also sanctifies an updated economic formula for the country: out with a model based on low-wage manufacturing of export goods and in with the shock of the new, namely, a Chinese version of the third industrial revolution. And while China’s leadership is focused on creating a middle-class future powered by a consumer economy, its president is telling whoever is willing to listen that, despite the fears of the Obama administration and of some of the country’s neighbors, there’s no reason for war ever to be on the agenda for the U.S. and China.

Given the alarm in Washington about what is touted as a Beijing quietly pursuing expansionism in the South China Sea, Xi has been remarkably blunt on the subject of late. Neither Beijing nor Washington, he insists, should be caught in the Thucydides trap, the belief that a rising power and the ruling imperial power of the planet are condemned to go to war with each other sooner or later.

It was only two months ago in Seattle that Xi told a group of digital economy heavyweights, “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

A case can be made — and Xi’s ready to make it — that Washington, which, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya to Syria, has gained something of a reputation for “strategic miscalculation” in the twenty-first century, might be doing it again. After all, U.S. military strategy documents and top Pentagon figures have quite publicly started to label China (like Russia) as an official “threat.”

To grasp why Washington is starting to think of China that way, however, you need to take your eyes off the South China Sea for a moment, turn off Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and the rest of the posse, and consider the real game-changer — or “threat” — that’s rattling Beltway nerves in Washington when it comes to the new Great Game in Eurasia. Read more…

 

By Pepe Escobar; Nov. 23

Published in http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176072/

25
Nov

Pragmatism in Climate Policy

Written on November 25, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Energy & Environment, Op Ed

BERLIN – The diplomatic effort to forge an international agreement to mitigate climate change is undergoing a fundamental shift. The top-down approach that has guided the effort since 1992 is slowly being replaced by a bottom-up model. Rather than attempting to craft an accord based on legally binding restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions, the new approach relies on voluntary commitments by individual countries to rein in their contributions to climate change.

This is, in one sense, an admission of failure; such an approach is unlikely to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2° Celsius, the target set by the United Nations in 2010. But given the slow pace of progress so far, small pragmatic steps by individual countries may be far more productive than attempts to strike a grand bargain that remains forever out of reach.

International negotiators have made significant progress over the last five years, but they are still far away from an agreement that would meet the 2°C target. As a result, diplomats, fearing that another failed attempt to reach a global accord could discredit the entire negotiating process, have rescaled their ambitions.

In particular, efforts to set strict limits on emissions are quietly being dropped. The focus is no longer on what is environmentally desirable or on the measures needed to keep climate change in check; rather, it is on what is politically feasible – the possibilities and constraints of the negotiating process, especially with a view to securing broad participation. Given the slow pace of progress since the first UN climate-change summit in 1995, any agreement that involves all members of the Framework Convention on Climate Change will be hailed as a historic success.


Read more at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/paris-climate-change-pragmatic-approach-by-oliver-geden-2015-11#qmyccVSGWWwqvypt.99

Nov. 23rd; Oliver Geden
Oliver Geden is head of the European Union research division at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

 

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