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Category: Conflict & Security

Mohammad Bin Salman’s Ambitious Moves: Order or Disorder in Saudi Arabia?

Written by Khurram Shahzad Siddiqui.

A headstrong 32 years old Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman known colloquially as MBS caught the attention of international media in April 2015 when King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud made him the defence minister and Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN) as a crown prince, making him first in line to the throne of Saudi Arabia. The first step MBS took as a defence minister was to make a pan-GCC coalition with other Arab states and launch air strikes on Yemen in March 2015 after Saudi backed President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced into exile by the Houthi rebel movement. This was the first move by MBS to show his authority to the other powerful princes of the House of Saud, like Prince Muqrin, Director General of Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah (Saudi Intelligence Agency) and Mohammad bin Nayef (MBN) crown prince, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior of Saudi Arabia and chairman of the Council for Political and Security Affairs. By this move MBS flexed his muscles to the Arab World in order to make Saudi Arabia a key regional player and conveying a direct message to Iran of his power.

With Syria missile strikes, Trump turns from non-intervention to waging war

Written by Ben Rich.

The United States’ unilateral missile strikes against a Syrian airforce base are a dramatic escalation of its participation in that country’s civil war. The US government has attacked a Syrian government asset for the first time.

The attack also marks Donald Trump’s first major foreign policy test as US president. It represents a 180-degree shift from his previous position of opposing intervention in Syria. And the sudden about-face sends a worrying signal for how his administration may handle future crises in international relations.

Where did the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ come from?

Written by Malcolm M Craig.

The heavily freighted idea of an “Islamic bomb” has been around for some decades now. The notion behind it is that a nuclear weapon developed by an “Islamic” nation would automatically become the Islamic world’s shared property – and more than that, a “nuclear sword” with which to wage jihad. But as with many terms applied to the “Islamic world”, it says more about Western attitudes than about why and how nuclear technology has spread.

The concept as we know it emerged from anxieties about proliferation, globalisation, resurgent Islam, and conspiracies real and imagined, a fearful idea that could be applied to the atomic ambitions of any Muslim nation or non-state group. It looked at Pakistan’s nuclear programme and extrapolated it to encompass everything between the mountains of South Asia and the deserts of North Africa. And ever since it appeared it has retained its power to shock, eliding terrorism, jihadism, the perceived ambitions of “Islamic” states, and state-private proliferation networks into one fearsome term.

Donald Trump’s presidency may lead to a reassessment of the “American Empire”

Written by Andrew Mumford.

In what was seen as one of the starkest inaugural addresses ever delivered by a new president, Donald Trump’s focus was predominantly a domestic one, promising to end what he labelled the ‘American carnage’ of job losses, welfare dependency, and gang violence. Yet there were a few intimations as to how he intended to conduct America’s foreign policy for the duration of his four year term. He stated that: ‘We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.’ This implied a distinct turn in American engagement with the world, hinting at a retreat from the interventionist stance of administrations for the past few decades. The wider question that Trump’s foreign policy platform creates is what this does to depictions of American power at home and abroad.

Trident missile failure: just how safe is the UK’s nuclear deterrent?

Written by Robert J Downes.

The Sunday Times has caused a furore by reporting that a 2016 test of the UK’s submarine-borne strategic nuclear deterrent ended in failure. After the submarine HMS Vengeance returned to sea following a £350M refit, it tested a Trident-II D-5 missile off the coast of Florida. Immediately after launch, the unarmed missile reportedly veered off course and flew towards the US mainland rather than following its planned trajectory towards a sea target near West Africa.

Details of the technical aspects of the failure have not been released for reasons of national security, and aren’t likely to be. But the political fallout has already begun.

Yemen: a calamity at the end of the Arabian peninsula

Written by Vincent Durac.

At the tip of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen’s disastrous war has been raging for nearly two years. Somewhat overshadowed by the devastating crisis in Syria, it is nonetheless a major calamity: according to the UN, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives, while more than 20m (of a total population of some 27m) are in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 3m people are internally displaced, while hundreds of thousands have fled the country altogether. There are reports of looming famine as the conflict destroys food production in the country.

So how did Yemen get here – and what are the prospects for turning things around?

Erdoğan could be losing his grip on a dangerous, divided Turkey

Written by Alpaslan Ozerdem and Bahar Baser.

Turkey’s New Year was marred by a terrorist attack, claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS), that killed 39 people and injured many more at a famous nightclub in Istanbul. After nearly two years of deadly incidents and alarming political instability, Turks were once again left counting the dead – and wondering how much more their country can take.

In the last 18 months, Turkey has seen 33 bomb attacks that have claimed 446 lives, 363 of them civilians. Some commentators even claim that low-level terror is now almost the norm in Turkey.

“Mosaic” versus “Melting Pot”: Passing the Mantle of “A Nation of Immigrants”

Written by Francesca Speed.

On November 8th, the United States elected Donald Trump as its forty-fifth president. Just six days earlier, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, ending a record-setting 108-year drought. The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Israel Zangwill’s The Melting Pot had just made its theatre debut, and with the election of Trump, one must ask whether the era of using “the melting pot” as a metaphor for the multiculturalism of American society has come to an unceremonious end.

Obama’s legacy will be forever tarnished by his inaction in Syria

Written by Scott Lucas.

As his administration winds down, Barack Obama has plenty to be proud of. He can point to international breakthroughs that seemed unthinkable when he took office, from the nuclear agreement with Iran to the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba after almost 60 years. He can cite the concerted international action to stave off economic catastrophe, a more constructive US approach to Latin America, and a solid if cautious relationship with China.

But as far as Obama’s legacy goes, few of these noble achievements will stick to the wall after he gives his farewell speech in January 2017. Instead, he will always be associated with the fate of one country: Syria.

Russia in the Balkans: Pan-Slavism revived?

Written by Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac.

Serve for the faith, for humanity, for our brothers … Mother Moscow blesses you for a great deed.

At the end of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the tormented Count Vronsky joins volunteers going to the Balkans to defend the Serbs and Montenegrins against the Ottoman Empire.

The slaughter of the co-religionists and brother Slavs awakened sympathy for the sufferers and indignation against the oppressors. And the heroism of the Serbs and Montenegrins, fighting for a great cause, generated in the whole nation a desire to help their brothers, not in word now but in deed.

This November, a trilateral military exercise named Slavic Brotherhood 2016 is taking place between Russia, Serbia and Belarus. Are we seeing a resurgent Pan-Slavism today in the Balkans and a Russian foreign policy developing closer relations between the Russians and Serbs, Montenegrins and other nations? This question arises against talk of a new Cold War, and a battle for hearts and minds internationally.