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Category archive for: Conflict & Security

A year after Charlie Hebdo, France is still searching for answers

Written by Emile Chabal.

France has had a tumultuous time in the year since two brothers opened fire in the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 11, before going on to murder another five people in Paris. Just ten months later, the November 13 attacks showed that the threat of terrorism had not receded.

And just weeks after the second major attack, the far-right’s onward march in regional elections suggested that a significant proportion of the electorate had sought refuge in a language of fear and revenge after everything they had seen in 2015.

These growing anxieties were reflected at the highest level of the political system. Continue reading A year after Charlie Hebdo, France is still searching for answers

Real or not, North Korea’s ‘h-bomb’ is part of a well-planned agenda

Written by Robert Winstanley-Chesters.

North Korea’s announcement that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb was met with shock and surprise around the world – but there have been months of indications that something in just this vein was on the way.

Kim Jong-Un’s visit to Phyongchon Revolutionary Site near Pyongyang in December 2015 would have passed with little comment were it not for the young leader’s passing mention that his state was ready to detonate a hydrogen bomb. North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, what it calls its “treasured swords”, has only briefly and tenuously been demonstrated, and when Kim made this unexpected announcement, the outside world was sceptical that Pyongyang had really mastered this complicated and demanding technology. Continue reading Real or not, North Korea’s ‘h-bomb’ is part of a well-planned agenda

After years of proxy war, Saudi Arabia and Iran are finally squaring up in the open

Written by Simon Mabon.

Ever since Saudi Arabia executed Shia Cleric Nimr al-Nimr for terrorist offences, tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been escalating by the day. After the execution, the Saudi embassy was stormed by protesters in Tehran. Riyadh has now severed diplomatic relations with Tehran – and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, staunch Saudi allies, have followed suit, spurred on by Iran’s portentous prediction of “divine vengeance” for the execution.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, condemned those who stormed the embassy, but was also critical of the Saudis’ behaviour, suggesting that “the Saudi government has damaged its image, more than before, among the countries in the world, in particular [among] Islamic countries, by this un-Islamic act”.

The concerns that led to Sheikh Nimr’s execution – that he was an agent of “foreign meddling” in the kingdom – are not new. A Shia cleric who spent time in Iran and Syria, Nimr was an outspoken critic of the house of Saud and played a prominent role in the 2011 uprisings in the Shia-dominated Eastern Province. Continue reading After years of proxy war, Saudi Arabia and Iran are finally squaring up in the open

Obama shows the flaws in America’s efforts to combat ISIS

Written by Simon Reich.

Winston Churchill famously suggested that:

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.

Speaking with his characteristic mix of the compassionate and cerebral, the articulate and analytic, President Obama reminded Americans of the need for “strategic patience” in battling ISIS on Sunday night. He largely rejected Churchillian grand rhetoric. The nearest he got was when he said that “freedom is more powerful than fear.”

What he did was to lay out America’s policy approach. It is one that mixes the domestic and the foreign: a greater emphasis on the regulation of the visa program, community outreach and gun control at home; intensified support for the multilateral forces and the use of intelligence abroad. Continue reading Obama shows the flaws in America’s efforts to combat ISIS

Why the world can’t stand by as Burundi becomes a failed state

Written by Patrick Muthengi Maluki.

The unfolding human tragedy in Burundi needs urgent intervention from the international community before it is too late. The seemingly hands-off attitude by the East African Community, African Union and even the United Nations raises many questions.

The crisis has been characterised by sporadic violence, assassinations, intimidation, and the grouping of militias along ethnic lines. The situation is eerily reminiscent of the start of the 1993-2006 civil war in which an estimated 300,000 people died. The underlying issues of ethnic balance of power, corruption and poor governance linked to that conflict appear to be re-emerging.

The current crisis began in April with multi-ethnic protests by the opposition and civil society against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to vie for a third term. Continue reading Why the world can’t stand by as Burundi becomes a failed state

Full marks for oratory, but Hilary Benn gets a C in history for Syria speech

Written by Andrew Mumford.

Now Mr Speaker, I hope the house will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House.

So began the final moments of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn’s speech to the British parliament as it debated whether to enter the fight against Islamic State in Syria.

This was a speech delivered by the quiet man of the Labour frontbenches with steely determination and emotive appeal. But perhaps most importantly it was a plea to certain historical traditions designed to sway Labour colleagues to vote for the airstrikes. Continue reading Full marks for oratory, but Hilary Benn gets a C in history for Syria speech

UK parliament votes to bomb Islamic State in Syria – so, what will that mean internationally?

Written by Scott Lucas.

The British parliament has approved a government plan to join the international alliance bombing Islamic State targets in Syria. After more than 10 hours debating, the motion in favour of action passed with 397 votes for and 223 votes against the government.

Ahead of the vote, British newspaper columns had been filled with discussion of a new “war”, while those opposed to the airstrikes drew parallels with the catastrophe of the intervention in Iraq in 2003.

Both of these are exaggerations. Britain’s bombing will not be significant and it certainly will not be part of a coherent strategy against the Islamic State, let alone a reasonable approach to Syria’s 56-month conflict. Continue reading UK parliament votes to bomb Islamic State in Syria – so, what will that mean internationally?

Returning to the Shadows: Intelligence and the vote on air strikes in Syria

Written by Rory Cormac.

We have been here before. As MPs file through the lobby to vote on air strikes against ISIS in Syria, they could be forgiven a sense of déjà vu.

Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and on the principle of military intervention in Syria – against Assad this time – MPs were asked for approval.

In both cases secret intelligence played a key role. Claims about Saddam Hussein’s apparent Weapons of Mass Destruction are notorious and cast a heavy shadow. Intelligence was also vital in the 2013 Syria debate – in assessing whether or not Assad had launched a brutal chemical attack and breached one of President Obama’s “red lines”. David Cameron was desperate to learn the lessons from Tony Blair’s mistakes a decade earlier. Continue reading Returning to the Shadows: Intelligence and the vote on air strikes in Syria

Anonymous can’t defeat Islamic State, but here’s what it could achieve

Written by Andres Guadamuz. 

The announcement that hacktivist collective Anonymous has declared war on the Islamic State has been received positively by the public. After the Paris attack some may think governments are not doing enough to protect civilians, so at least it seems someone is doing something about the terrorist threat.

So far the group claims its #OpParis has taken down more than 5,500 IS-related Twitter accounts – an impressive claim the press has gleefully and unquestioningly repeated. Anonymous certainly can shut down social media accounts, having done so following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, during what it called #OpIsis. In the aftermath, similar claims were made then, yet less than a year later, there still exist thousands of Twitter accounts to be taken down. Continue reading Anonymous can’t defeat Islamic State, but here’s what it could achieve

Could downing of Russian jet over Turkey lead to a wider war?

Written by David J Galbreath.

The dangerous skies over Syria have now earned their reputation. On November 24 2015, the Turkish foreign ministry confirmed that its forces had shot down a fighter aircraft on the Turkish border with Syria. The Russian foreign ministry confirmed soon afterwards that it has lost an SU-24 over Syria.

The situation remains tense: two pilots were filmed ejecting from the stricken aircraft; one is reported to be in the hands of pro-Turkish Turkmen rebels along the border but the fate of the other is unknown – early reports from Reuters said it had video of the second pilot seemingly dead on the ground. Continue reading Could downing of Russian jet over Turkey lead to a wider war?