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Ed Webb

The Israel-Hezbollah Channel - 0 views

  • Israel and Lebanon have a long history of tension: officially, they have been at war without interruption since 1948, and they have not agreed on an officially demarcated border—nor, after several wars, have they formally agreed to a cease-fire. Nevertheless, a strange forum for conflict management has grown up between them. Since 2006, when UNIFIL was reauthorized by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, peacekeepers have presided over more than one hundred tripartite meetings, which bring together officers from Israel, Lebanon, and UNIFIL to manage disputes and technical issues along the Blue Line.5 The primary belligerents along the border are Hezbollah and the Israeli military, but the Lebanese military serves as Hezbollah’s interlocutors in what has become known as the Tripartite Process.
  • In a region rife with standing conflicts between belligerents who have little or no direct channels of communication, UNIFIL provides a rare example of conflict management in an extremely unstable and opaque environment. Its track record offers some suggestions of promising approaches to manage and mitigate conflict, while avoiding unwanted escalation. But it also offers stark warnings of the limitations of a narrow and indirect approach in the absence of enduring cease-fires, treaties, or other more robust conflict-resolution mechanisms
  • its newly muscular force with strong international political backing created perhaps the only sustained, regular, and efficacious channel of communications between Middle East belligerents in an active conflict
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  • UNIFIL makes a precarious model for conflict management. Despite its successes, both Israel and Hezbollah routinely attack UNIFIL’s legitimacy in public. The population of southern Lebanon expresses widespread skepticism about the peacekeeping mission’s intentions and loyalties, despite the benefits they reap from UNIFIL, which not only reduces conflict but serves as the area’s largest employer.11 Many residents of southern Lebanon and supporters of Hezbollah believe that UNIFIL serves Israeli and American interests and is unlikely to act to protect civilians during future conflicts
  • The original UNIFIL mission deployed in 1978 with three missions: to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, to restore “international peace and security,” and to restore the authority of the government of Lebanon in the border region. None of these missions were achieved. Israel never fully withdrew, and in 1982 extended its occupation deeper into Lebanese territory. On the Lebanese side, state authority no longer existed, as the nation was riven by the 1975–90 civil war. A quisling militia eventually known as the South Lebanon Army served as an Israeli proxy.13 Hezbollah formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli occupation, and over the following decade grew into the dominant local force fighting Israel. Lebanon’s national army was reconstituted after the Taif Agreement of 1989 paved the way for an end to the country’s civil war. Even as other militias disbanded or had their fighters absorbed into the regular military, Hezbollah alone maintained an autonomous militia. Israel still occupied about one-tenth of Lebanon’s territory, along the southern border, and Hezbollah continued to lead the armed resistance. In 2000, Israel finally withdrew from most of Lebanese territory, but continued to occupy high ground on the mountain of Jabal al-Sheikh, known as Shebaa Farms, as well as the village of Ghajar, which contains critical water sources.14 Later, it also claimed some Lebanese territorial waters in an area where underwater oil and gas exploration is underway.15 Citing Israel’s continuing occupation, as well as the Israeli air force’s daily overflights of Lebanon, Hezbollah spurned calls from some of its Lebanese rivals to disarm or integrate into the national army.16 Tensions regularly flared along the border, and finally boiled over into war in July 2006.
  • Initially, Hezbollah preferred a UN resolution that would leave it sovereign in southern Lebanon. But Lebanon’s government, and significant quarters of Lebanese public opinion, wanted to reassert state sovereignty in the zone of southern Lebanon that hitherto had been solely under Hezbollah’s control. Israel and the United States, by contrast, entered the cease-fire negotiations with unrealistic hopes that they could achieve through peacekeeping what they had failed to do through violence: disarm Hezbollah
  • UNSCR 1701, which led to a cessation of hostilities on August 14, 2006
  • Immediately upon implementing the cease-fire, UNIFIL peacekeepers initiated a process that was not specified in the new mandate but which has become, in the eleven years since the cessation of hostilities until the time of this writing, the most successful element of the mission: the standing, direct negotiations between the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, under UN auspices
  • this somewhat informal mechanism has now met more than one hundred times without a single walkout from either side. It appears to be the only place where Israeli and Lebanese officials formally and directly interact
  • In the context of the Middle East, this forum is especially remarkable. Most of the region’s running conflicts lack even tactical communication between adversaries. Relatively straightforward arrangements such as temporary cease-fires, prisoner exchanges, or safe passage for civilians have been tortuous and at times virtually impossible in regional conflicts. Belligerents often refuse to recognize each other even on a most basic level. If Israel and Lebanon (and, by extension, Hezbollah) have managed to build a rudimentary channel despite their history and the political obstacles to communication, then perhaps—using a similar approach—other belligerents in the region might also inaugurate conflict-­management channels or CBMs.
  • Its approximately 10,500 troops generate economic activity for southern Lebanon; after the Lebanese government, UNIFIL is the largest employer in the area.
  • Hezbollah is a regional military power, operating in tandem with Iran as infantry or trainers in Iraq, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere. In Syria, Hezbollah has played perhaps the most critical military role on the government’s side. Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has moved from being a strong faction to being the strongest, today holding the balance of power domestically, with the ability to dominate the complex political negotiations that determine who holds the presidency. In 2013, the European Union as a whole joined Israel, the United States, and some individual European governments in listing Hezbollah’s “armed wing” as a terrorist group. (Hezbollah itself denies it has any separate armed wing, making such a designation tantamount to naming the entire organization.)
  • UNIFIL’s best direct relationship is with the Lebanese Army. It cannot officially communicate with Hezbollah, and its channels to the Israeli military, while stronger than before 2006, are still limited
  • On one hand, Hezbollah and Israel have both benefited from UNIFIL’s core functions: development projects for poor denizens of the border region; demarcation of the Blue Line; deconfliction, de-escalation, conflict management, and communication between belligerents; intelligence gathering; and a unique forum in which armies from two nations at war routinely meet for direct talks and resolve technical issues even as the political conflict between their governments continues unabated. On the other hand, both belligerents routinely have undermined UNIFIL, attacking its legitimacy and performance in public forums while praising it in private; engaging in prohibited military operations; and refusing to extend any political support to the negotiations that they joined at a military level.
  • “It’s a conflict-management institution, not a conflict-resolution institution,” observed Timur Goksel, a UNIFIL veteran who worked with the mission over the course of two decades and has been based in both Israel and Lebanon. “It offers adversaries a way out. They can use UNIFIL as an excuse. It opens a way out of major conflict. This is what UNIFIL is all about.”
  • The disputed village of Ghajar, which has long been a flashpoint between the two sides, exemplifies the limits of the existing channels of communication and negotiation. The Blue Line passes directly through the village. Its inhabitants are Alawites who previously lived under Syrian rule on territory that today is claimed by Lebanon.36 Israel currently controls the entire village. Israeli presence in the northern half of Ghajar entails a permanent violation of the Blue Line. The situation is further complicated by the lack of pressure from the village’s residents, who appear content to operate as part of Israel. Israel has committed in principle to withdrawing from the northern portion of the village, but the details of how to do that have eluded all parties.37
  • Hezbollah operates in southern Lebanon with full independence. It might defer to the Lebanese Army or UNIFIL in order to avoid embarrassment or minor mishaps, but it can freely circumvent even the most symbolic of checks
  • Hezbollah continues to hold sovereign power of arms and operates without limitation from the government of Lebanon, UNIFIL, or any other force
  • Hezbollah has greatly increased its military capacity since joining the Syrian war as a pivotal combatant in 2012. The Lebanese nonstate actor has emerged as the premier urban combat and infantry force on the side of the Syrian government. It has engaged in wide-scale maneuver warfare, and has engaged in integrated warfare, involving air force support, with professional forces from Iran, Russia, and Syria. Hezbollah has helped form new militias and has led coordinated assaults with militia support involving groups and fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere.45 Reports suggest that Hezbollah has also acquired a new arsenal of long-range missiles and land-to-sea missiles, which greatly increases its deterrent capacity against Israel and could enable it to threaten more Israeli targets than it could in 2006
  • With the Syrian war potentially entering a closing phase, from which Hezbollah and the Syrian government will emerge victorious, several analysts have refocused their attention on the latent Israel-Hezbollah conflict
  • Israel and Lebanon are formally still at war, and no closer to a permanent cease-fire than they were when UNSCR 1701 came into force on August 14, 2006. Whereas the Israeli government and military are unitary actors on one side of the Blue Line, the other side has a bedeviling array of potential belligerents with competing interests. These possible participants include but are not limited to Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, Palestinian factions, the Syrian government, and possibly some Syrian rebel factions, although most Syrian rebels in the Golan have either cooperated with Israel or remained neutral. UNIFIL can call the Lebanese Army to settle a crisis, but then must rely on the Lebanese Army, itself strained by pressures stemming from the war in Syria, to make effective contact with other players
  • Whether technical talks and a bare-bones conflict-management channel can, in fact, shift the political opportunities is precisely the question raised by UNIFIL’s record since 2006. UNIFIL’s example suggests that military-military talks have utility but are unlikely to drive political resolution. The UNIFIL model may be a promising approach for conflicts between belligerents with strained or nonexistent diplomatic relations, but it is a model for managing conflict and avoiding unintended escalations, not for resolving conflict and reversing escalations that are intentional or are based on mistrust and miscalculation
  • “It’s the only mission that speaks to two countries that are still at war,” noted one UNIFIL official. “This works if parties don’t want to go to war. It can’t prevent a war from happening.”
  • Unless a government or nonstate actor has openly and expressly deputized a military channel to negotiate a political resolution, there is no evidence that technical talks will prompt a political dialogue—simply because some participants hope for it to do so—much less a resolution
  • UNIFIL’s record as an arbiter or honest broker does not appear to have changed any policy position on the part of Hezbollah or the government of Israel. A technical channel cannot create a new political climate
  • UNIFIL’s conflict-management paradigm may, paradoxically, increase risks by leaving political problems unresolved. “There is no doubt the UNIFIL mission has acted as shock absorber for local tensions and maintained a negative peace, that is, it has prevented the escalation of minor incidents into large-scale conflict,” the researcher Vanessa Newby concluded after conducting fifty interviews of UNIFIL officials and others who deal with the mission.54 “But its presence appears to be sustaining the conditions of conflict more than it is resolving them.”
  • successfully bolstered the Lebanese military’s function and standing as a state institution
  • If either Hezbollah or Israel shifted its cost-benefit calculus and decided it was more preferable to go to war than maintain the status quo (as Israel had in advance of the summer of 2006), then UNIFIL’s mechanisms would provide almost no peacemaking or conflict-avoidance potential
  • Many of the Middle East’s conflict areas are plagued with similar problems and thus are ripe for UNIFIL-like channels, managed by neutral third parties that can avoid accidental escalations, act as a clearing house for airing grievances and seeking technical solutions to relatively small technical problems, and potentially manage aspects of open conflict if it emerges. Such channels could pave the way for delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen or exchanging prisoners in Syria. The model is for a standing body that is not ad hoc nor of limited duration, and thus can establish trust over multiple iterations of dialogue and conflict management.
  • the UNIFIL case illustrates the broader problem with applying a military (or security, or conflict-management) paradigm to inherently political problems. Such a forum can be an effective long-term intermediary, but only for tactical matters. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is a political one
  • The field of critical security studies has pushed the field of academic political science to incorporate political concerns into its definition of security, but minimized the hard security concerns that make life dangerous in conflict zones.55 The balance of security and politics is not merely a theoretical concern; it drives the persistence of deadly conflict in the Middle East. Both hard security and political grievance must be addressed, even if unfairly, in order to resolve a conflict. A similar dynamic shapes the need to address process as well as policy. A satisfactory forum is required for belligerents to talk at all. Forums like UNIFIL, or the Madrid Peace Conference (where parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict met in 1991), create the space and relationships that are a precondition for any substantial negotiation. Yet process does not suffice if no common policy framework can be reached on the central matters of dispute. No amount of tripartite meetings at the UNIFIL headquarters will compel the political leadership in Israel or Hezbollah to reformulate their core goals
  • The Middle East needs more UNIFILs, but it is crucial to keep in mind the limitations of a conflict-management approach if such forums are to be useful for advancing long-term security. They are no substitute for politics.
Ed Webb

Donald Trump Is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene - The Atlantic - 1 views

  • Jürgen Scheffran, a professor of geography at the University of Hamburg, has been investigating whether climate change makes armed conflict more likely for more than a decade. In 2012, he worked on a team that analyzed all 27 empirical studies investigating the link between war and climate change.“Sixteen found a significant link between climate and conflict, six did not find a link, and five found an ambiguous relationship,” he told me. He described these numbers as inconclusive. Trying to prove that climate change is linked to war, he said, would be like trying to prove that smoking causes cancer with only one available case study.
  • there is only one world, and not a million worlds, in which the temperature is rising, and you cannot associate a single event—like a single hurricane or a single conflict—to climate change. It’s a statistical problem, and we don’t have enough data yet
  • the U.S. Department of Defense already considers global warming a “threat multiplier” for national security. It expects hotter temperatures and acidified oceans to destabilize governments and worsen infectious pandemics
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  • Martin O’Malley was mocked for suggesting that a climate-change-intensified drought in the Levant—the worst drought in 900 years—helped incite the Syrian Civil War, thus kickstarting the Islamic State. The evidence tentatively supports him. Since the outbreak of the conflict, some scholars have recognized that this drought pushed once-prosperous farmers into Syria’s cities. Many became unemployed and destitute, aggravating internal divisions in the run-up to the war
  • Scheffran underlined these climate connections but declined to emphasize them. “The Syrian War has so many complex interrelated issues—and most of them are political and economic—that the drought is just one contributing factor to the instability in the region,”
  • it’s all about the exogenous shock. We were all interested in, to what extent does a big event like a flooding or a drought undermine society, or trigger a conflict outbreak?
  • Heatwaves, droughts, and other climate-related exogenous shocks do correlate to conflict outbreak—but only in countries primed for conflict by ethnic division. In the 30-year period, nearly a quarter of all ethnic-fueled armed conflict coincided with a climate-related calamity. By contrast, in the set of all countries, war only correlated to climatic disaster about 9 percent of the time
  • climate disaster will not cause a war, but it can influence whether one begins
  • Models predict that northern Africa and the Levant, both already drought-prone, will dry out significantly over the course of the century. On the phone, Schleussner also cited southern Africa and south-central Asia as regions to watch. (It’s no coincidence that some of the largest, longest wars this century have occurred in those places.)
  • a drought-and-flood-fueled armed conflict near the Mediterranean Basin could send people toward Western Europe in the hundreds of millions
  • “I wouldn’t say that there would be a mass migration to Europe, but I would expect to see a large number of people being displaced within Africa,”
  • There is literally, in legal parlance, no such thing as an environmental refugee,” says Edward Carr. “To meet the international standard for refugee, a changing environment is not a forcing. It doesn’t count.”
  • When would you attribute the decision to move to changes in the climate? Does a place have to be dry for five years? For 10 years? Does someone have to have three children die, and then they decide to move?
  • Climate change could push Western politics toward demagoguery and authoritarianism in two ways, then. First, it could devastate agricultural yields and raise food prices; destroy coastal real estate and wash away family wealth; transform old commodities into luxury goods. Second, it could create a wave of migration—likely from conflict, but possibly from environmental ruination—that stresses international reception systems and risks fomenting regional resource disputes.
  • it could erode people’s sense of security, pushing them toward authoritarianism
  • Like the CEO in the 1950s who predicted that America would see flying cars and three-day workweeks by the year 1999, I’ve assumed that every ongoing trend line can be extrapolated out indefinitely. They can’t. The actual future will be far stranger.
  • climate change must be mitigated with all deliberate speed. But he also suggests certain cultural mechanisms. Some Americans may favor more restrictive immigration policies, but—in order to withstand against future waves of mass migration (and humanely deal with the victims of climate change)—racist fears must be unhooked from immigration restrictionism. In other words, as a matter of survival against future authoritarians, white supremacy must be rejected and defeated.
  • Improving the United States’s immune response to authoritarian leadership—a response that could be repeatedly tested in the century to come—can follow from weaving its civic fabric ever tighter. I don’t know what this will look like, exactly, for every person. But here are some places to start: Volunteer. Run for local or state office. Give to charity (whether due to religion or effective altruism). Organize at work. Join a church or a community choir or the local library staff. Make your hometown a better place for refugees to settle. Raise a child well.
  • climate realists have always split their work between mitigation—that is, trying to keep the climate from getting worse—and adaptation—trying to protect what we already have
Ed Webb

PRESS RELEASE: While overall violence has declined in 2018, conflict is spreading | Acl... - 0 views

  • Despite a decrease in total fatalities this year, the majority of countries experienced more conflict, expanding the scope of political violence across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)’s 2018 data show that both the number of new locations experiencing violence and the number of armed actors engaging in violence have risen since 2017. ACLED data also confirm that conflict hotspots like Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria still have the highest rates of organized violence and highest death tolls, with a combined total of nearly 100,000 reported fatalities this year.
  • While political violence decreased overall in volume, it also expanded. In 2018, more locations saw violence, more conflict actors emerged, more actors targeted civilians than before, and more countries saw disorder increase than decrease within their borders
  • Despite the growing prevalence of non-state actors, state actors remain the most violent actors worldwide: State actors in Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan were active in the highest number of conflict events in 2018
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  • Conventional warfare dominates: The most violent countries in the ACLED dataset in 2018 are those with large conventional conflicts: Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Together, these four countries make up nearly 70% of all organized violence events recorded by ACLED in 2018
  • The war in Afghanistan is the most lethal conflict in the world: Afghanistan was by far the deadliest country covered by ACLED in 2018, with nearly as many fatalities as Syria and Yemen combined, and 30% of all fatalities reported by ACLED during the year at more than 41,000*
  • Syria and Yemen remain flashpoints: The conflicts in these two countries had the highest number of organized political violence events in 2018 and were also the most dangerous places for civilians. Syria alone made up nearly 40% of the total number of violence events recorded for 2018, while this was the deadliest year for Yemen since ACLED began monitoring the war in 2016, with over 28,100 fatalities
  • Syria is the deadliest place for civilians: In 2018, nearly as many civilians were killed in Syria (over 7,100) as were in Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and the Philippines combined (over 7,600 total)
  • The Philippines is a war zone in disguise: Over 1,000 civilians were killed in the Philippines in 2018 – more than in Iraq, Somalia, or the DRC – highlighting the lethality of Duterte’s state terror campaign dubbed the ‘War on Drugs’
Ed Webb

Why Do People Flee During War? The Answer Is More Complicated Than You Think. - 0 views

  • When armed forces uproot people, the act tends to be characterized by journalists, politicians, and policymakers as ethnic cleansing. This suggests that the primary purpose is to expel or eliminate the targeted population. Strategic displacement takes different forms and can serve multiple purposes, from interdicting enemy supply lines to facilitating territorial annexation. What my research suggests, however, is that combatants, particularly state forces, often displace civilians to sort the targeted population—not to get rid of it.
  • This strategy mimics the use of strategic hamlets, regroupment centers, and so-called protected villages during civil wars in Burundi, Indonesia, the Philippines, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda, and Vietnam, where government forces ordered people living in conflict areas to relocate to particular locations. In addition to denying rebels access to the population, these methods were used to help counterinsurgents distinguish friend from foe while fighting shadowy guerrillas who hid among civilians. Areas outside relocation sites were transformed into free-fire zones where those remaining were assumed to be rebel fighters or supporters. The sites themselves served as instruments of identification. Occupants were screened and catalogued—making the population more “legible” to the state—and their movements were used as continuous indicators of their political loyalties.
  • “The good people were in the camps” and so “anyone found out of the camp was seen as a rebel or collaborator automatically.”
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  • A similar dynamic can be seen in Syria. Throughout the conflict, the government of Bashar al-Assad and its allies have engaged in a ferocious campaign to expel civilians from cities and towns controlled by Syrian rebels. These displacement tactics have undermined rebels’ ability to govern and deprived them of civilian support. But they have also been used to weed out those considered disloyal to the Assad regime. The government has sought to lure the displaced to its territories and employed civil registration, property claims, and other administrative procedures to screen returning refugees and IDPs. As part of evacuation and reconciliation agreements in areas retaken from opposition groups, the Assad regime has given residents a choice of moving to government areas or to other rebel-held parts of Syria. Electing the latter is seen as signaling allegiance to the opposition. Many of those who moved are now being relentlessly targeted by regime forces in Idlib province, the only remaining opposition stronghold. When I spoke to a defector from the Syrian army, he conveyed the logic through a chilling metaphor: “Think of a dumpster where you gather garbage to finally burn it.”
  • Viewing displacement as a sorting mechanism is essential to understanding the drivers and consequences of wartime migrations, and for improving efforts to manage them. The United Nations and international NGOs typically set up and manage displacement camps; provide food, shelter, health care, education, and other services; advocate on behalf of the displaced; and help governments adopt domestic policies on displacement-related issues. While this assistance has done much good, it has also raised the specter of moral hazard. It is one thing for the international community to assist those who flee to another country in order to ease the strain on refugee-hosting governments. It is quite another for it to shoulder the burden of displacement within a country on behalf of a government or nonstate actor that is directly responsible for the displacement in the first place. In Syria, for instance, the Assad regime has steered massive amounts of humanitarian assistance to areas it controls, which has helped the government lure IDPs and address some of their needs.
  • If humanitarian agencies show they are willing to offset the costs of uprooting civilians, they could perversely incentivize armed groups to engage in these practices. This is not hypothetical. There are multiple instances where international aid, while providing crucial life-saving assistance to people in conflict zones, has also enabled combatants to implement, sustain, or expand policies of forced displacement.
  • The widespread use of sorting displaced people demonstrates that fleeing in wartime can be perceived as a political act. But the presumption of guilt by location is often embraced by combatants and civilians alike, and not just in cases where displacement is used as a weapon of war. As Stephanie Schwartz argued in a previous article in Foreign Policy, post-conflict societies commonly experience hostility between people who fled during a conflict and those who stayed.
  • Conflict resolution and reconciliation efforts need to treat displacement and return as a political phenomenon, not just a humanitarian one
  • if combatants purposely compelled people to flee during the conflict, then victims will need greater security assurances to return, along with accountability mechanisms that recognize these violations and provide restitution and justice. Rarely are state or nonstate actors held responsible for displacement.
  • an international refugee system that is increasingly seen as feckless and disconnected from the realities of modern migration. That’s because in civil wars, civilians are valuable assets for armed groups. If people are given the ability to escape conflict-affected countries, then they are not compelled to “pick a side” through their movements. Armed groups are deprived of vulnerable recruits and propaganda pawns. Leaving the country may still be perceived as treachery, but at least crossing the border puts civilians beyond the reach of all warring parties and makes them eligible for international protection. Limiting the possibility of exit only stands to embolden combatants while forcing people to decide between bad options.
  • strategic value in enacting more generous asylum policies as a tool of conflict management
  • hostility toward immigrants and surges of nationalist sentiment have been accompanied by political leaders recognizing the advantages of welcoming refugees from other countries. A prominent example is the Cold War. For the United States, accepting emigres from the Soviet Union and allied countries was a foreign-policy priority meant to signal the discontents of communist rule and the relative merits of American values and institutions. Today, the refugee system is in desperate need of reform, which could gain some momentum if more emphasis is placed on articulating and promoting the strategic benefits of asylum and refugee resettlement.
Ed Webb

Can Russia Succeed Where America Failed in the Middle East? - LobeLog - 0 views

  • Specific criticisms included the claim by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that while Russia and Iran were working together to combat terrorism in Syria, U.S. policy was actually supporting it there. Sergey Karaganov, one of Moscow’s most important exponents of the Kremlin’s foreign-policy thinking, described American power as declining and hence ineffective while that of Russia, China, and India as rising in the Middle East. And several Russian speakers described Moscow as better placed to resolve the various conflicts in the Middle East since Russia has good relations with virtually everyone there (except, of course, the jihadists) while the U.S. has poor relations not just with its traditional adversaries in the region, but also with its traditional allies including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  • In the panel on Yemen, Ali Nasser Mohammad (former president of South Yemen) recalled how in the latter stages of the North Yemeni civil war in the 1960s, the opposing Yemeni sides failed to reach agreement through bilateral negotiations. It was only when their main external patrons, Egyptian President Nasser and Saudi King Faisal, reached an agreement on ending the conflict that progress was made in the inter-Yemeni dialogue. He suggested that similar agreements between external actors in the Middle East’s ongoing conflicts would be needed to facilitate conflict resolution between internal antagonists as well.
  • Russia is clearly in no position to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians so long as Israel continues to receive strong support from the U.S. Nor does there appear to be any other case in which all the main local participants in a Middle Eastern conflict prefer to work exclusively with Russia and not with the U.S.
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  • Russian-American cooperation in the Middle East will be difficult to achieve when their relations are hostile in other areas, including Europe. And even if they could come to any such agreement, it is doubtful that they could impose the terms on the region’s many strong-willed actors. The leaders of Iran and Turkey in particular seem willing and able to defy both Washington and Moscow if they choose to do so.
  • Moscow may not actually want to resolve them since it is the continuation of these conflicts that allows Moscow entrée into the region by stimulating demand from local antagonists for Russian support
Ed Webb

From SEALs to All-Out War: Why Rushing Into Yemen Is a Dangerous Idea | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • As is often the case with Trump’s comments on policy, they quickly become the focus of media attention, rather than what the administration is actually doing — or what the facts are on the ground.
  • two separate but overlapping conflicts
  • a counterterrorism fight waged by Yemeni government, with U.S. support, against AQAP, al Qaeda’s most virulent franchise
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  • The second, and more damaging conflict, is a civil war between the government of Yemen and the Houthi minority, which was expected to last a matter of weeks, and maybe months, but is now well into its third year. It began when Houthi militia fighters descended on the capital Sanaa in late 2014 and soon evicted the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close partner of the United States.
  • if new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to make an early diplomatic contribution, then there is a confounding but vital mission with his name on it: de-escalating a Yemen civil war that is damaging U.S. interests and should have stopped a long time ago
  • The civil war escalated dramatically in March 2015, with the intervention of a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which understandably felt threatened by the turmoil on its border and by ties between the Houthis and Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran. The United States, which had long been urging Saudi Arabia to take greater responsibility for security challenges in its region, offered a range of support, including with intelligence, weapons sales, aerial refueling for Saudi planes, and various measures to help secure the Saudi border
  • According to the United Nations, 16,200 people have been killed in Yemen since the intervention, including 10,000 civilians. The humanitarian situation in what was already one of the world’s poorest countries, is now, after Syria, the most dire on the planet, with one in five Yemenis severely food insecure
  • The war has preoccupied key partners with an enemy that does not directly threaten the United States. Indiscriminate air strikes, conducted with American weapons and in the context of American assistance, have killed scores of non-combatants (such incidents eventually compelled the Obama administration to review and adjust our assistance to the coalition). And while Iran and the Houthis have historically maintained an arms-length relationship, the long conflict has brought them closer and led to the introduction of more advanced weapons, such as missiles capable of striking deep into Saudi territory or of threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a critical channel for maritime traffic.
  • Saudi officials and their Emirati coalition partners have been signaling for months that they are eager to end the conflict, which they did not expect to last nearly this long
  • after years of U.N.-led negotiations that sought to sell a relatively one-sided peace to the Houthis (despite what was, at best, a stalemate on the ground), the Obama administration developed and bequeathed to its successors a more balanced roadmap to which all key parties (the Saudis, the Houthis, and the Yemeni government — as well as the United States, U.N., and U.K.) grudgingly agreed
  • the Houthis are infamously difficult to work with. When Secretary of State John Kerry met for several hours with their representatives in Oman last November, he was forced to endure a lengthy airing of historical grievances before embarking on the topic at hand. They also have a long history of violating dozens of agreements, which every Saudi diplomat can recount, chapter and verse. Negotiating peace will also inevitably involve straining relationships with our key partners, who will need to be pushed in the right direction
  • Hadi, who all relevant players acknowledge cannot govern a reconciled Yemeni state, has consistently scuttled deals that would require him leave office. His Saudi patrons have proven either unwilling, or unable, to compel better behavior and are themselves too are quick to revert to unreasonable demands — a tendency that would be reinforced if the Trump administration signals it unconditionally has Riyadh’s back
  • the Emiratis, who maintain a heavy troop presence in southern Yemen but have, wisely, been more focused on AQAP (the first war) than the Houthis (second), have for many months been threatening to attack the Houthi-held port of Hudeidah, a provocative step that would almost certain set back any peacemaking efforts indefinitely
  • an expanded presence of U.S. forces — while Yemeni and Saudi governments are still at war with the Houthis — could bring U.S. troops into close quarters with Iran and its proxies, with all of the escalatory potential that entails
  • While the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship late last year, they have not repeated that mistake since the Obama administration retaliated by destroying radars located along the coast. If President Trump chooses to put U.S. forces into the middle of a civil war, it should explain a purpose and objective more concretely than simply “pushing back” on Iran. Moreover, it must do so with its eyes open to the risks those forces would be assuming and the reality that a limited special forces mission is unlikely to turn the tide on the ground
  • the longer the conflict with the Houthis continues, the more AQAP will continue to benefit from our, and our partners’, divided focus, as it strengthens its hold on ungoverned territory
Ed Webb

Liberal peace transitions: a rethink is urgent | openDemocracy - 1 views

  • It is widely accepted among those working in, or on, international organisations, from the UN to the EU, UNDP, NATO or the World Bank, that statebuilding offers a way out of contemporary conflicts around the world: local, civil, regional and international conflicts, as well as complex emergencies, and for developmental issues. Most policymakers, officials, scholars and commentators involved think that they are applying proven knowledge unbiased by cultural or historical proclivities to the conflicts of others. This is not the case.
  • The broader idea has been that liberal democratic and market reform will provide for regional stability, leading to state stability and individual prosperity. Underlying all of this is the idea that individuals should be enabled to develop a social contract with their state and with international peacebuilders. Instead - in an effort to make local elites reform quickly, particularly in the process of marketisation and economic structural adjustment - those very international peacebuilders have often ended up removing or postponing the democratic and human rights that citizens so desired, and which legitimated international intervention in the first place. A peace dividend has only emerged for political and economic elites: the vast bulk of populations in these many countries have failed to see much benefit from trickle-down economics, or indeed from democracy so far.
  • this liberal peace is itself in crisis now
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  • What began as a humanitarian project has turned into an insidious form of conversion and riot control which has had many casualties. It has been profoundly anti-democratic in many cases, including in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. From the ground, for many of its recipients, the various iterations of this liberal peace project have taken on a colonial appearance. It has become illiberal
  • local actors are reframing what they require from a viable, just, and durable peace, often quietly and in the margins, drawing on the liberal peace as well as their own customs and interests.
  • Talk of ‘human security’, ‘responsibility to protect’, ‘do no harm doctrines’ and ‘local ownership’ seems very empty from the perspective of most of the peoples these concepts have been visited upon. This in turn has often elicited from subject communities a 'post-colonial response', criticising peace interventions as self-interested, imperialistic, orientalist, and focusing on the interveners' interests rather than local interests. A local (transnational and transversal) attempt is under way to reclaim political agency and autonomy from the new post-Cold War 'civilising mission', which has over the last twenty years, shown itself unable to provide for basic needs, rights, security (state or human) at levels local actors expect, or to respect or understand local differences and non-liberal, and even non-state patterns of politics. Non-liberal and non-western forms of politics, economics, society, and custom, are clamouring for discursive and material space in many post-conflict zones, with mixed implications for sustainability and for the purpose of achieving a normatively (to liberals at least) and contextually acceptable, locally sustainable peace.
  • In some cases, as in Kosovo and Timor Leste this has led to a modified form of state emerging, heavily influenced by both liberal norms and local customs, practices, identities, and national agendas. Very difficult issues arise here for 'international planners' of peace and world order, not least in how they respond to such confrontations between very different political systems, customs, and agendas. But, it is also the case that synergies may arise, where these are sensitively handled and properly understood.
  • peace requires well-being via human needs stemming from rights defined by their contexts, (where context may mean local, customary, state, market, regional or international, not merely the 'local' it is often taken to mean). These contexts are of course connected to the ambit of liberal state and international institutions, but they are not defined by them. As a result, millions of people around the world do not have adequate rights or needs provision, nor proper access to representation, despite the best intentions of liberal peacebuilders.
  • To achieve this the ethically and methodologically dubious privatisation of security and peacebuilding and its connection to neoliberal marketisation strategies in the context of a classically sovereign state should be abandoned. The privatisation of peacebuilding means that no accountability is possible until after a specific development project has failed, and only then by refusing funding often to those who need it most. Such strategies have attracted to this sector a dangerous fringe of arrogant bureaucrats, 'ambulance chasers' and 'cowboys' rather than imbuing peacebuilding with the dynamics of grounded reconciliation.
  • democracy is rarely resisted other than by the most extreme of actors, but it is often criticized for being distant in outcome to local communities.
  • At the moment the impulse appears to be to illiberalise, to postpone democracy, to open markets further, and to depoliticise because a lack of local agency is seen to be the cause of these failures, rather than faulty international analytic and policy approaches and mistaken idealism.
Ed Webb

A New 'Quartet' for Israeli-Palestinian Peace | United States Institute of Peace - 1 views

  • On July 7, Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan joined to oppose Israel’s declared intent to annex territory that it has occupied since 1967. Vital actors, including Arab states and the European Union, have been unable to stop the march toward annexation and the attendant risks of renewed violence. Yet a partnership of key Arab and European states—the latest in a string of diplomatic “quartets” on the conflict—offers a foothold on which to build.
  • the attributes of this new quartet lend it the potential for some real impact over the issue. Critically, the group combines influence in both Europe and the Arab world, and good relations with Israel and the U.S. administration.
  • The “Middle East Quartet”—combining the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations—has been less active of late than at its inception in 2002. After years in which mediation had been largely a U.S. venture, this quartet aimed to broaden the set of diplomatic brokers, and to balance American positions through inclusion of the other parties. The quartet’s most noted effort was its endorsement of the U.S.-led “roadmap to peace” in 2003—an initiative that at first spurred some optimism, but that fell apart in the mid-2000s.
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  • The second quartet—Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—was established by the Arab League in 2007 to revive peace efforts. This “Arab Quartet” also was active at first, only to become dormant amid a range of developments. These included Arab and regional instability; Saudi-Emirati preoccupation with Iran, Yemen and other regional conflicts; Egypt’s preoccupation with the Nile River negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan, the conflict in Libya, and a number of pressing internal challenges; and a general feeling that there is very little hope to advance a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Israelis generally accord high importance to the relationship with King Abdullah of Jordan and are enthusiastic about steps toward warmer relations with the Arab World
  • The EU has said that annexation “could not pass unchallenged.” But in considering specific actions, the bloc faces difficulties in achieving the required unanimity among its 27 member states.
  • Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel, have significant influence in the Arab quartet and on the Arab position pertaining to this conflict. Similarly, France and Germany play a central role in Europe, and on EU positions within the Middle East Quartet
Ed Webb

The Psychology of the Intractable Israel-Palestine Conflict - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • reinforcing the entrenched identities, hardened by trauma, which have contributed to the intractability of this conflict. Many researchers have been pointing out for years that societies are becoming more polarized, meaning that more people are reaching a point of complete identification with a single group, leading to demonization and, in extreme cases, dehumanization of those outside their group, and a corresponding inability to communicate with those outside of their community. Polarization essentially describes a situation where a middle ground, vital for dialogue, has been lost.
  • Emotions drive behavior, and extreme psychological states drive extreme behavior, including violence. The question becomes what to do with these insights, when violent responses to violence produce ever stronger emotional states stemming from fear and rage. The long history of this particular conflict ensures that there are now generations of traumatic memories to reinforce large-group identities based on shared feelings of vulnerability and victimization, creating an intractable cycle.
  • most of us gain our sense of belonging through a variety of groups we interact with on a daily or weekly basis — our families, friends, colleagues, sports teams or groups based around other hobbies and interests. But in addition to these groups that we experience in person through shared activities, we all have larger-group affiliations, which can vary in strength from one person to another. These can include our country of birth or residence, a political party, a wider religious group that includes people from other countries and cultures, an ethnicity, a language group or an identity based on shared passions, such as being a music or sports fan. There are many parts to a typical identity, but sometimes, if rarely, one comes to dominate above all others, leading to specific psychological states and associated behaviors, including violence.
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  • Whitehouse and Swann describe the fully fused state, when commitment to one group dominates over all others, as a “form of alignment with groups that entails a visceral feeling of oneness with the group. This feeling is associated with unusually porous, highly permeable borders between the personal and social self.” In other words, an insult, a compliment or an injury to the group or another member of the group is perceived as an insult, a compliment or an injury to the self, as most people can recognize when someone from outside the family insults a family member.
  • In Jordan, no one I interviewed ever put their nationality in the top three, but rather chose family, tribe or region, religion or “Arabness.” (There was one exception, and it turned out he was working for the security services.)
  • they have come to feel that no one is coming to their rescue, a feeling reinforced by the example of Syria: Not only did the world not act to prevent Syrian deaths, but the world — including Arabs — also ignored President Bashar al-Assad’s brutality against his own Palestinian population.
  • once an individual is fully fused to an identity, all positive and negative experiences serve to reinforce that single identity, with ever more rigid policing of the boundaries of “us” and “them,” and ever-shrinking spaces for communicating with the “other.”
  • “The Holocaust for Israelis and the Nakba for Palestinians condense into two words a multitude of horrific experiences suffered by millions of people,” he wrote, describing a trauma not only for those who experienced them directly but also for their descendants; both are just within living memory. “When members of the victimized group are unable to bear the humiliation, reverse their helplessness, or mourn their losses, they pass on to their children powerful, emotionally charged images of their injured selves.”
  • Israel’s occupation causes daily, ongoing fear and humiliation among the Palestinian population, as well as challenges to everyday existence that dampen the energy to act. But, as Fromm writes, “Young people may succumb to apathy temporarily but a return to rage is always a possibility, in part as a vitalizing alternative to helplessness or despair.” That is, the violence we have witnessed from Palestinians is a natural response to Israel’s occupations when framed in terms of psychology; as an Israeli colleague of mine put it back in 2019, “There is no chance for peace without first ending the occupation.”
  • Extreme states of belonging to a single group have enabled the most extreme violence seen throughout history and around the world, from suicide bombings to kamikaze attacks during times of war.
  • For these people, Hamas’ actions symbolized a reassertion of dignity and pride in an Arab identity against an unjust oppressor. This single massacre, which included whole families shot in their beds, has prompted more demonstrations of support for the Palestinian cause than any other occasion in the past few decades. In Jordan, pro-Palestinian protesters only dispersed from the Israeli border after the Jordanian army used tear gas.
  • “apocalyptic mindset,”
  • classic asymmetric warfare, laid out in an al Qaeda manual taken up by the Islamic State, “The Management of Savagery,” which advocates baiting the enemy’s military into wars they cannot afford and depleting them — as was achieved by 9/11 at a financial cost of mere hundreds of thousands of dollars, compared to the trillions spent on the subsequent 20-year “war on terror.”
  • In times of low stress, even a hardened identity does not fear the other and can exhibit curiosity, or at least a lack of animosity, toward an out-group. But this retreat isn’t available to groups whose security is at risk. Fully fused large-group identities, with psychological boundaries hardened by both inherited trauma and daily fear, have another damaging implication for the prospects of peace. This is the perceived threat of reaching across the divide, including gestures of reconciliation. It is felt as betrayal to build bridges with the other and is experienced as a psychological wound.
  • We are now seeing mass hardening of psychological barriers in the region and globally, with many unable to see faults on their side or, conversely, laudable elements on the other. And it is not just rhetoric
  • there is a shrinking space for empathy and dialogue
  • Conflict resolution in such a situation seems meaningless: Neither side wants nor can even conceive of a relationship with the other, so what is the possible basis for negotiation, let alone peaceful coexistence?
  • all around the world people have told me a version of “No one has suffered as we have suffered.” Victimhood limits our ability to see others also as victims, to everyone’s detriment, for violence is then justifiable, and this is what fuels ongoing wars. It is unclear who can address the intergenerational wounds of the past, but without that work, nothing can improve.
Ed Webb

God and the Ivory Tower- By Scott Atran | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • On a global scale, Protestant evangelical churches (together with Pentacostalists) continue to proliferate, especially in Latin America, but also keep pace with the expansion of fundamentalist Islam in southern Africa and eastern and southern Asia. In Russia, a clear majority of the population remains religious despite decades of forcibly imposed atheism. Even in China, where the government's commission on atheism has the Sisyphean job of making that country religion-free, religious agitation is on the rise. And in the United States, a majority says it wants less religion in politics, but an equal majority still will not vote for an atheist as president.
  • for nearly a century after Harvard University psychologist William James's 1902 masterwork, The Varieties of Religious Experience, there was little serious investigation of the psychological structure or neurological and biological underpinnings of religious belief that determine how religion actually causes behavior
  • recent research echoes the findings of 14th-century historian Ibn Khaldun, who argued that long-term differences among North African Muslim dynasties with comparable military might "have their origin in religion … [and] group feeling [wherein] mutual cooperation and support flourish." The more religious societies, he argued, endured the longest
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  • the greater the investment in outlandishness, the better. This is because adherence to apparently absurd beliefs means incurring costs -- surviving without electricity, for example, if you are Amish -- which help identify members who are committed to the survival of a group and cannot be lured away. The ease of identifying true believers, in turn, builds trust and galvanizes group solidarity for common defense
  • Religious issues motivate only a small minority of recorded wars. The Encyclopedia of Wars surveyed 1,763 violent conflicts across history; only 123 (7 percent) were religious. A BBC-sponsored "God and War" audit, which evaluated major conflicts over 3,500 years and rated them on a 0-to-5 scale for religious motivation (Punic Wars = 0, Crusades = 5), found that more than 60 percent had no religious motivation. Less than 7 percent earned a rating greater than 3. There was little religious motivation for the internecine Russian and Chinese conflicts or the world wars responsible for history's most lethal century of international bloodshed.
  • Although this sacralization of initially secular issues confounds standard "business-like" negotiation tactics, my work with political scientist Robert Axelrod interviewing political leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere indicates that strong symbolic gestures (sincere apologies, demonstrating respect for the other's values) generate surprising flexibility, even among militants, and may enable subsequent material negotiations. Thus, we find that Palestinian leaders and their supporting populations are generally willing to accept Israeli offers of economic improvement only after issues of recognition are addressed. Even purely symbolic statements accompanied by no material action, such as "we recognize your suffering" or "we respect your rights in Jerusalem," diminish support for violence, including suicide terrorism. This is particularly promising because symbolic gestures tied to religious notions that are open to interpretation might potentially be reframed without compromising their absolute "truth."
  • seemingly contrary evidence rarely undermines religious belief, especially among groups welded by ritualized sacrifice in the face of outside threats
  • the same logic that makes religious and sacred beliefs more likely to endure can make them impervious to compromise. Based on interviews, experiments, and surveys with Palestinians, Israelis, Indonesians, Indians, Afghans, and Iranians, my research with psychologists Jeremy Ginges, Douglas Medin, and others demonstrates that offering people material incentives (large amounts of money, guarantees for a life free of political violence) to compromise sacred values can backfire, increasing stated willingness to use violence. Such backfire effects occur both for convictions with clear religious investment (Jerusalem, sharia law) and for those that are at least initially nonreligious (Iran's right to a nuclear capability, Palestinian refugees' right of return).
  • studies by behavioral economist Joseph Henrich and colleagues on contemporary foragers, farmers, and herders show that professing a world religion is correlated with greater fairness toward passing strangers. This research helps explain what's going on in sub-Saharan Africa, where Islam is spreading rapidly. In Rwanda, for example, people began converting to Islam in droves after Muslims systematically risked their lives to protect Christians and animists from genocide when few others cared.
  • When competing interests are framed in terms of religious and sacred values, conflict may persist for decades, even centuries. Disputes over otherwise mundane phenomena then become existential struggles, as when land becomes "Holy Land." Secular issues become sacralized and nonnegotiable, regardless of material rewards or punishments. In a multiyear study, our research group found that Palestinian adolescents who perceived strong threats to their communities and were highly involved in religious ritual were most likely to see political issues, like the right of refugees to return to homes in Israel, as absolute moral imperatives. These individuals were thus opposed to compromise, regardless of the costs. It turns out there may be a neurological component to such behavior: Our work with Gregory Berns and his neuroeconomics team suggests that such values are processed in the brain as duties rather than utilitarian calculations; neuroimaging reveals that violations of sacred values trigger emotional responses consistent with sentiments of moral outrage.
  • research in India, Mexico, Britain, Russia, and Indonesia indicates that greater participation in religious ritual in large-scale societies is associated with greater parochial altruism -- that is, willingness to sacrifice for one's own group, such as Muslims or Christians, but not for outsiders -- and, in relevant contexts, support for suicide attacks. This dynamic is behind the paradoxical reality that the world finds itself in today: Modern global multiculturalism is increasingly challenged by fundamentalist movements aimed at reviving group loyalty through greater ritual commitments to ideological purity
Ed Webb

Agriculture in Europe to decline as Asian output grows: UN, OECD - 0 views

  • Agricultural production in Western Europe is set to decline over the coming decade, with output in Africa and Asia expected to increase, the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said
  • Middle East meanwhile faces a rising threat of food insecurity, the report said, as conflict, climate change and poor policy all have the effect of keeping the region overly reliant on imports
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, crop production is set to expand by 30 percent, with meat and dairy both set to grow by 25 percent
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  • the region's food security is set to remain dependent on global markets, because "domestic production capacity will remain insufficient to meet the region's growing consumption needs"
  • The Middle East, which is mired in conflict and political unrest, has a "high and growing dependence" on imports for key food products, the report said, leaving the region in a state of increasing food insecurity.Arable land and water are growing more scarce in the region, both because of climate change pushing temperatures up, and as a result of poor agricultural policy from governments."It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the water issue in the Middle East and North Africa region," the report said."Along with conflict, it is the most profound man-made threat to the region's future,"
Ed Webb

Deterrence, Mass Atrocity, and Samantha Power's "The Education of an Idealist" - 0 views

  • In Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell, American force is one of many foreign policy tools that can and should be bent toward civilian protection and atrocity prevention globally; for many of her critics from the left, American force is to be dismantled; for many of her critics from the right, American force should serve core national security interests and nothing more.
  • In A Problem from Hell, Power argues that US policymakers did not act to stop genocide because they did not want to; in her memoir, she relates how a room full of civil servants whose thinking had been shaped by her first book found themselves in a years-long limbo over complex human disasters in Syria and Libya. Together, these cases constitute a real-time test of the “toolbox” of interventions Power first proposed at the end of A Problem from Hell; together, they reveal both the problem at the heart of her theory of foreign policy, and the still all-too-slender slate of effective policy alternatives to force across the political spectrum.
  • Libya and Syria serve as parallel cases through which questions about the US’s role in the world are refracted. The standard narrative is as follows: the US intervened in Libya under the guise of preventing mass atrocities, this intervention ended first in regime change and then in a failed state, and Libyans now live in enduring danger; the US did not intervene to protect civilians during the Syrian Civil War, war snarled the full region into conflict, and today Syrian civilians continue to die in unspeakable ways and uncounted numbers. At each stage, the narrative is in fact more complicated, particularly if we begin by asking whether the US did in fact prevent mass atrocity in Libya and end by noting the U.S. did in fact intervene in Syria in multiple ways, but the broad lines are still instructive for understanding public debate. Would Libyans have been better off in the absence of an American-led intervention, or would they have been worse off? Would Syrians have been better off for U.S. intervention, or would they have been worse off for it?
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  • the implicit promise of force underlies each alternative set of policies Power proposes. Actors who are willing to abandon mass atrocity campaigns voluntarily may be easily deterred — but actors committed to a mass atrocity campaign could find themselves diplomatically isolated, operating under economic sanction, or threatened by prosecution, and still continue to wage campaigns of death. “Stop this or else” undergirds threats when a powerful actor makes them. The toolbox’s logic is ultimately escalatory as a result: force is a tool of last resort, but no other tool works without the latent presence of American military force.
  • confronting ongoing or imminent atrocities can require quickly shifting perpetrators’ incentives. In the immediate aftermath of the Libyan protests, for instance, Power argues rapid, joint Security Council and American action “was probably the best example in history of governments hastily using a vast array of “tools in the toolbox” to try to deter atrocities.” But this proved insufficient: “The pressures that the United States and other countries were imposing on Qaddafi’s regime would take months to reach their full effect, and we had run out of further nonmilitary steps to take to try to affect the Libyan leader’s near-term calculus.”
  • “While administration officials could say they had imposed consequences on Assad’s regime for crossing the red line, they could not specific the nature of these consequences in any detail,” she writes. “Since even Assad didn’t know the particulars of the cost he would be bearing, he seemed unlikely to be deterred from carrying out further attacks.”
  • American military force underwrites other dimensions of statecraft, and mobilizes when other deterrent measures have failed. But the problem, then, is not simply, as her critics allege, that Samantha Power is a hawk, or that she doesn’t understand which conflicts constitute core American interests — the problem is that all deterrent models of atrocity prevention rest on the threat of force.
  • UN peacekeepers are the largest deployed force in conflict zones today; UN peacekeeping constitutes an enormous part of the Security Council’s agenda; the UN peacekeeping budget is separate from and larger than the UN’s operational budget; and a heated debate on the use of force by UN peacekeepers has now been running over twenty years. Peacekeeping is an effective tool that works best when it is all carrots and few sticks — but peacekeepers today are usually charged with protecting civilians under threat of imminent violence, as well. They rarely use force, and while they seem to protect civilians from rebels well, they struggle more to protect civilians from government forces.
  • Historically, when deterrence fails, the UN Security Council has outsourced this work — instead of sending in the Marines, for example, the UN instead turns to the French, as they did in the Central African Republic, or British Special forces, as they did in Sierra Leone, or — yes — NATO, as they did in the former Yugoslavia and then Libya.
  • discussions about US restraint are nearly entirely divorced from these extremely active debates about the use of force in UN peacekeeping — and considering the two together is instructive
  • a military with stunningly excess capability demands we continually interrogate its purpose; people who live under imminent threat of violence are not marginal to US foreign policy interests unless we define them that way; and the US outsources most conflict management to the UN system, which then relies on the military might of its member states to wield force in the places most dangerous for civilians
  • If unwilling actors cannot be swayed save by the use of force, and we are reluctant to use force for practical or ethical reasons, then we are left with two options: we can address the root causes of conflict, and we can help those refugees and internally displaced people who manage to escape violence. The first set of options requires reimagining the fundamental structures of foreign policy; the second set of options is currently so politically unpopular that it is remaking domestic politics across refugee-receiving countries
Ed Webb

The Eastern Mediterranean in 2023: Escalation or Resolution? | Majalla - 0 views

  • The Eastern Mediterranean has been stuck in an infinite loop of unilateral sovereign decisions on maritime demarcations by the countries on three of its coastlines since the early discoveries of the massive hydrocarbon wealth in the seabed about two decades ago. The domestic political troubles in most Eastern Mediterranean countries, the uneven geo-political intricacies of the region, and the long-term conflicts between the neighboring countries have added extra layers of complications to the growing tensions over maritime rights.
  • geo-economic threats posed by these conflicts have generated unexpected collaborations between the southern countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. Prominent examples include the recent Israel-Lebanon maritime border deal and the five years of cooperation between Egypt and Israel on extracting, liquifying, and exporting natural gas to Europe
  • unresolved long-term conflicts between Turkey and Greece are still setting the region on fire
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  • The Greek Island Kastellorizo, where most of the Greek military buildup has been happening since early 2022, is 600 kilometers away from Greece’s mainland, while it is only 1950 meters away from Turkey.
  • two new bilateral agreements. One agreement allows Libya’s interim Government of National Unity (GNU) to receive advanced weapons, including drones, from Turkey. The other memorandum admits Turkey to the Libyan waters in the Mediterranean for hydrocarbon exploration purposes. In a provocative response to Greece’s and Egypt’s objection to these memoranda, the Libyan and the Turkish officials plainly said they “do not care for what third parties think about our bilateral agreements.”
  • Greece’s decision has obviously angered Turkey and Libya, which will be directly affected. Yet, Greece’s unilateral move has also been frowned upon by Egypt, which has been a strong ally to Greece against Turkey
  • repeated threats by Turkish officials have not prevented Greece from announcing in late December its intention to unilaterally extend its maritime zone to a point twelve nautical miles southwest of Crete
  • it is not expected that Egypt and Greece would clash over these uncoordinated demarcations. However, such moves may overturn or completely invalidate their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement, which they signed in August 2020 to rescind the maritime agreement signed between Turkey and the former Libyan interim Government of National Accord (GNA) in December 2019. In other words, this is not serving Greece’s goal to curb Turkey’s advances to use the Libyan maritime zone to conduct seismic research for hydrocarbon resources. That is particularly true in light of the improvement of Turkey-Egypt relations following a historic handshake between the Egyptian and Turkish presidents in Doha in early December. It does not seem that Egypt is planning to end its EEZ agreement with Greece, but it reserves the right to sign similar agreements with Turkey in the future.
  • Turkey called for open negotiations with all involved parties in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the past year, Ankara led a successful campaign to mend broken ties with all its neighbors in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt, Israel, and Syria. Turkey’s renewed relations with neighboring countries, in addition to Turkey’s mediator role in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, have dramatically improved Turkey’s situation in the Eastern Mediterranean
  • Libya is just another victim of an unfair agreement signed over a century ago in the fog of world wars. Rather than bringing peace, the Lausanne Agreement (1922) has left the Eastern Mediterranean with a chronic conflict over a messy geographic ordeal that the successive regional leaders have failed to resolve. The agreement preserved Turkish sovereignty over Turkey’s mainland but inelegantly stripped Turkey of its rights in the seabed resources of the Mediterranean, despite being the country with the longest border (1870 km) in the hydrocarbon-rich sea.
  • According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) may be claimed by coastal countries. If the distance between the shores of two neighboring countries is less than this space, the maritime demarcation between them should be drawn exactly at the half-line distance. However, this is not the case for Turkey, which is literally cuffed to its own shores, either in the southern area towards Cyprus or the southwest zone towards Greece, because Lausanne Agreement gave all the small islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean to Greece.
  • In the summer of 2020, the quiet basin of the Eastern Mediterranean witnessed an unprecedented number of military encounters disguised as joint aero-naval military exercises, wherein advanced fighter jets and navy arsenals from outside the region intervened. In 2023, these conflicts have a high potential to be re-ignited if they are not preceded by pragmatic negotiations wherein all the concerned parties on the three shores of the Eastern Mediterranean are involved.
Ed Webb

Leaking Ghost Tankers: Pollution in the Port of Aden - Peace Organization PAX - 0 views

  • Decaying oil tankers at the coasts of Yemen pose serious risks to the environment and the people depending on it, reminding us starkly how conflicts can bring serious pollution risks. New open source research by PAX reveals multiple oil spills from rusty ships that have been polluting the coastal areas around the Port of Aden. If no action is taken by the authorities to remove these ships, it is only a matter of time before a new disaster will unfold.
  • Current international attention is mainly focused on finding a solution for the decaying oil tanker FSO SAFER loaded with 1.1 million barrels of oil. The tanker is at risk of sinking or exploding, which would create a regional environmental catastrophe. Yet over the course of the last years, smaller incidents around oil tankers in Yemen’s ports, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have been mounting as well. Ranging from direct attacks on oil tankers to abandoned ships sinking and fires at port refineries, the conflict continues to create serious local pollution problems.
  • The war itself already poses serious environmental challenges that impact both Yemen’s population and its precious ecosystems. This ranges from structural leaking oil incidents documented by the Yemen environmentalist group Holmakhdar and the Sanaa Center, to broader environmental problems, and conflict-linked cutting and dying of millions of date palms, demonstrated by the open-source investigative group Bellingcat. The current weak state of governance and oversight around the many environmental challenges Yemen is facing continues to result in ongoing incidents that worsen the state of environment and affect the people depending on it.  Not only does this currently already lead to mounting environmental health risks and degraded ecosystems, these impacts will also worsen climate resilience for the conflict-affected country due to more extreme weather events, water shortages and rising temperatures
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  • According to the experts, over 40 tons of oil was leaked from the leaking tanker, though this has not been confirmed by the local authorities
  • PAX has observed leaks from two ships, including a large spill on July 5,2022 from the PEARL OF ATHENA that continued for 18 days until July 23. Oil slicks have washed ashore, polluting the coastal environment, and could pose a long-term risk to the marine environment in and around the bay of Aden, which could pose particular threats to the livelihoods of fishing communities. Hydrocarbons from crude oil and refined products contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, zinc, cadmium and mercury that can accumulate around coastal soils and sediments, be ingested by marine organisms such as fish, affect marine birds and mammals and impact marine ecosystems.
  • Large spills such as this one are also likely to hold up the arrival of ships that need to offload humanitarian goods in the container terminal. This is because ships are not able to go into the port until such slicks are removed to prevent further dispersal of the oil by the movement of incoming ships.  
  • The ongoing war in Yemen continues to stress local authorities’ capacities to address both the issues with dilapidated oil tankers and set up a proper environmental monitoring and enforcement mechanism for ships arriving in the Port of Aden
  • A damage assessment conducted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in 2021 found that at over 20 million USD was needed for reparations at the container terminal alone. The report, also stated that:  “Health, safety, and environmental awareness in the Port is currently unacceptable. The Port contains large areas of conflict-damaged debris, damaged and unusable equipment, and equipment and materials being stored for future use.”  
  • The arrival of ballast water on ships trading to ports in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (..) has the potential to do more harm to the marine environment than a major oil pollution incident. (..) Dumping of hazardous materials at sea in waters close to the Gulf of Aden has the potential to carry serious pollution hazards into the region.”   
  • the international community has failed to pick up the bill to effectively prevent a major environmental disaster with the FSO SAFER, despite the UN starting a public campaign to raise $20 million dollar to prevent a serious disaster posed by the tanker. Meanwhile, western countries continue to allow for billions in weapons sales to the countries bombing Yemen.  
  • The remaining tankers in the Port of Aden continue to pose a risk of sinking, which would likely lead to further environmental pollution with effects on coastal areas. This would particularly impact fishing communities and surrounding ecosystems
Ed Webb

Blood Law - By David Rieff | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross is the legally recognized custodian of the laws of war and thus, among its other prerogatives, the arbiter of the semantics of both interstate and internal conflict.
  • At least in theory, an ICRC finding has important legal implications for both sides in the fighting, whereas the declarations of other actors are more expressions of opinion than fact.
  • all sides are clear that their conflict is one for control of the Syrian state, which is about as good a definition of civil war as it is possible to come by.
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  • The debate over when and under what conditions it is legitimate for outside actors to intervene militarily in the internal affairs of countries deemed to be abusing their own populations -- a global argument that, for better or worse, culminated in the adoption of the doctrine of the so-called Responsibility to Protect (R2P) --- has revolved around legally binding definitions as much, if not more, than about moral sentiments
  • the designation of the conflict as a civil war broadens the categories under which both sides can be prosecuted for war crimes under international humanitarian law, since while prosecutions for crimes against humanity can take place whatever the nature of the conflict, the broader category of war crimes can be applied only when a state of war has been found to exist.
  • technically the ICRC's judgment applies to regime and insurgency alike, but in practice its weight is likely to fall most heavily on the government side, not least because the opposition has a "friend in court" in the United States, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
  • As the Libyan case shows, the International Criminal Court is far more likely to prosecute those its powerful members oppose (or, indeed, have overthrown) than those they have supported diplomatically, economically, and militarily. And anyone who does not think the law is as much shaped by political pressure as statute -- whether it is the U.S. Supreme Court judgment on the Affordable Care Act, the German Constitutional Court's current consideration of the legality of Germany's participation in various European financial bailout mechanisms, or the decisions at The Hague of whom to indict and to whom to give a pass -- has probably not been paying attention. With the exception of Russia and Iran, the major world powers as well as important elements of the U.N. Secretariat have either explicitly or implicitly come out for the rebels, and designating what is now taking place (whether or not the ICRC intended to do so) as "civil war" establishes a moral and institutional equivalence between the government and the insurgents that serves to partly legitimize the rebellion and delegitimize the Assad regime.
  • history is not a morality play
Ed Webb

The Gulf's Charities - By William McCants | The Middle East Channel - 0 views

  • Pundits in the West are quick to blame the Gulf countries for fueling the sectarian conflict but the governments of Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have shied away from backing the Salafi militias in Syria -- the most sectarian factions in the conflict. Instead, they have either focused on humanitarian relief or backed their own non-Salafi proxies like the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood or more secular factions like those linked to Saad Hariri in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the Gulf monarchies have not been able or willing to stem the tide of private money their citizens are sending to the Salafi charities and popular committees. Kuwait in particular has done little to stop it because it lacks an effective terror financing law and because it cannot afford politically to infuriate its already angry Salafi members of parliament. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have tried to crackdown on fundraising for the Salafi militias but their citizens just send their money to Kuwait.
  • Salafi militias like Ahrar use the money to buy weapons and the humanitarian aid to build popular support.
  • The State Department and responsible religiously-oriented aid organizations have an uphill battle in Syria but it is worth the fight. Failing to do so leaves governance to the militants, especially those who have the best financing like the Salafi groups. Indeed, Salafi militias have set up Islamic courts in captured territory where they dispense their conservative brand of justice as well as public goods. Entrenching themselves in this manner will ensure the country's sectarian divide endures long after the end of hostilities.
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  • organizations also advance a sectarian agenda at home. For Sunni-led countries like Bahrain and Kuwait that have large Shiite populations seeking greater political rights, domestic anti-Shiite activism threatens to spark a conflict that would quickly rage out of control
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    Non-state actors are crucial players in shaping the Syrian conflict.
Ed Webb

Petro-aggression: How Russia's oil makes war more likely - 0 views

  • A Russian natural gas embargo is a trick that can probably only be pulled once (not unlike the 1973 oil embargo).  So in a sense, European dependence on Russian energy does not imply short-term vulnerability – except that European policymakers’ perceptions of vulnerability can become its own reality.
  • Russia’s resource curse.  Russia’s energy revenues (from both oil and gas) have ensconced Vladimir Putin as an autocrat and given him a free hand in foreign policy.  Russia is so heavily dependent on its energy revenues that it is a classic petrostate, making it more susceptible to corruption, autocracy and violent conflict.
  • Russia’s incursion into Crimea can be seen as a close cousin of petro-aggression.  A state is more likely to instigate international conflict when it has a combination of (a) oil income and (b) a leader with aggressive preferences.  A lot more likely: 250 percent more military conflict than a typical non-petrostate, on average.  Oil income means more military spending, increasing the state’s scope for potential conflicts.  Even more importantly, it distorts the domestic politics of the state, reducing the leader’s domestic political risk from military adventurism and aggressive foreign policy.
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  • Here lies the real risk of Europe’s energy situation: So long as it continues to buy Russian oil and gas, it is sending massive amounts of cash to a neighboring dictator.  By keeping the taps on, Putin consolidates his power as Russian dictator.
  • Diversifying away from fossil fuels would bring security benefits (in addition to some obvious environmental ones), in part by reducing the money sent to petrostates like Russia.
Ed Webb

Qantara.de - "The Dialogue between the Cultures Is My Life's Work" - 0 views

  • It never occurred to me that we would once again find ourselves discussing theories that consider a clash of civilisations and a conflict of the religions as a given. For example, my own culture as an Arab Moroccan of the Jewish faith is not a culture of confrontation or of rejection of others. On the contrary, I consider it a culture of openness and intellectual encounter.
  • The tragedy in Palestine is real, but not because it is a conflict between Islam and Judaism. It is much more true to say that political problems are at the root of this conflict, and political solutions should be used to resolve it. Those who use the rhetoric of conflict and the clash of civilisations and religions to distract us from the real causes are ultimately the ones who bear responsibility for the current situation.
  • one must not forget that it is not much more than 60 years since the world suffered under the barbarity of National Socialism. At that time, Morocco was the only country among its neighbours to send out a message of respect, human dignity and solidarity.I have not forgotten history; it is still very alive in me. When Muslims and Jews suffered under the Spanish inquisition 500 years ago, they stood side by side, resisting these atrocities. This shows that Judaism and Islam are indeed capable of fruitful cooperation.
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  • I would like to point out that I was elected president of the Anna Lindh Foundation as the candidate of the Arab League. It was the first time in the history of the Arab League that an Arab Jew was selected to represent the league in an international institution.
Ed Webb

Are 'Water Wars' imminent in Central Asia? - Al Jazeera English - 1 views

  • The overpopulated, Israel-sized Ferghana Valley has attracted the armies of Alexander the Great, Arabs, Mongols and Russian tsars. It has also spawned some of the bloodiest conflicts in the former Soviet Union, including ethnic clashes, incursions of armed Islamists and the Uzbek government's merciless crackdown on a 2005 popular revolt.   The glaciers and snows of the Tian Shan mountains around the valley give birth to the Syr Darya, one of Central Asia's two major rivers, and turn the valley into a giant hothouse with nearly perfect conditions for farming. Border areas in nearby Xinjiang, China's troubled Muslim region, also depend on Tian Shan's glaciers for water. But between 1961 and 2012, the sky-scraping range whose name means "Heavenly Mountains" in Chinese, has lost 27 percent of its ice mass, the German Research Centre for Geosciences said last year. The annual loss amounts to up to 5.4 cubic kilometres of water a year, it said.
  • farmers here are "ready to kill each other for water," a local mirob, or community official responsible for distribution of piped water from a communal canal, told Al Jazeera. The official, who could not give his name because of his job's sensitivity, described how over the past decade farmers have increasingly resorted to quarrels and fistfights and used their connections to officials to influence the timing and duration of water allocation to their land lots. This year, there's next to nothing to irrigate the fields with. "There's been no winter this year, so we're begging God for water," farmer Rasul Azamatov told Al Jazeera
  • The Ferghana valley is a bit bigger than Israel, but lacks its proficiency in water conservation - and does not have many alternatives to farming. Cheap Chinese exports have killed local plants and factories, and the valley has become a major source of labour migration - mostly to Russia.
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  • "The root of the problem is the disintegration of the resource-sharing system the Soviet Union imposed on the region until its collapse in 1991," the International Crisis Group, a conflict studies think-tank, said in a 2014 report entitled Water Pressures in Central Asia.
  • The Ferghana Valley's problems are replicated throughout Central Asia, a landlocked region of more than 60 million people where conditions for farming are far less favourable, but tens of millions still live off land. Their problems are exacerbated by desertification, old and decrepit infrastructure and poor water management.
  • Unsurprisingly, the word "war" resurfaced when Moscow threw its weight and money to revive Soviet-era designs to build five more dams and hydropower stations in Kyrgyzstan. The Kremlin pledged to finance the $3.2bn project on the Naryn River, Syr Darya's tributary, as part of its political effort to restore its foothold in Central Asia. Uzbek President Islam Karimov wasn't very subtle with his warning. "Control over water resources in the republics of Central Asia may lead to a full-scale war," he said in October.
  • These days, Kyrgyzstan is withholding water in massive upstream reservoirs releasing it according to electricity generation needs -  that is in winter - and not the interests of now-foreign farmers next door.
  • Aral is now reduced to two smaller lakes, while most of its former seabed has turned into a desert that releases tens of thousands of tons of toxic salt-dust annually.  
  • In southeastern Kazakhstan, another major body of water faces Aral's fate. The shallow, boomerang-shaped Balkhash is the world's 15th largest freshwater lake mostly fed by the Ili River that flows from China. The lake that supplies three Kazakh regions with is shrinking as China amasses Ili's waters in a dozen reservoirs.   Given the Gordian knot of regional problems, some experts think that in the coming decades, an armed conflict in the region over water seems inevitable.
Ed Webb

Implications of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's New Leadership - Newlines Institute - 1 views

  • While al Qaeda does not recognize national borders or flags, AQIM recently has increasingly involved itself in local Algerian and Malian dynamics, with leaders appearing in front of national flags and publicly endorsing local causes
  • Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the group that united several jihadist factions under the banner of AQIM to operate in Mali and the Sahel in 2017.
  • the recruitment reach of jihadist groups in the Sahel, which now goes beyond the ethnic Arab, Tuareg, and Fulani communities that mostly make up JNIM
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  • The sole survivor of the French raid is the driver, Boubacar Diallo (aka Abu Bakr al-Fulani), whose name was on the handwritten list of the prisoners whom JNIM demanded be released in return for the liberation of hostages Soumaïla Cissé and Sophie Pétronin. The list indicates that Diallo was in Malian intelligence services’ custody. (The author has confirmed that he was released.) That Diallo was driving the AQIM leader and JNIM’s media boss in the same car, and that he was on JNIM’s prisoner swap list, emphasizes the tight organizational and subordination links between JNIM and AQIM.
  • the group’s strategy of entrenching itself in local Malian politics appears to have borne fruit, exemplified by the ascension of Ag Ghali to head JNIM in 2017. Before becoming a jihadist, Ag Ghali was a respected political figure and Tuareg independence advocate in northern Mali. He has inspired respect among locals who see him as one of them, and his presence has helped JNIM (and thus AQIM) entrench itself in local Malian dynamics and gain the upper hand in its ongoing conflict against Islamic State militants in the region
  • the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) splintering off from the GIA in 1998. Less than a decade later, this group would vow allegiance to al Qaeda and rebrand itself as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The man who made that 2007 announcement was al-Annabi. Three years later, in 2010, al-Annabi was heading the Council of Notables, the most senior assembly that answers to and advises AQIM leadership. And three years after that, he was calling for jihad against France after French military involvement in northern Mali.
  • In early 2019, the author sent al-Annabi 12 questions, which he answered in a 52-minute-long audio compilation. It is a rare occasion for a senior al Qaeda representative to answer questions from Western media, indicating that al-Annabi is portraying himself as more of a political figure than an operational commander.
  • The first two questions were about the Algerian protest movement that began in February 2019, and al-Annabi dedicated more than half of the time answering them. He said the protests are “a natural continuation of the military struggle of AQIM,” which is in accordance with al Qaeda’s support for popular uprisings in the Arab world, such as Egypt and Tunisia. AQIM itself has halted operations in Algeria since the protests began, “to avoid undermining the uprising.”
  • Al-Annabi, whose birth name is Yazid M’barek, was born in 1969 in Annaba, a coastal town in eastern Algeria, according to his Interpol file. Though he has been designated as a terrorist by U.S. and European authorities since 2015, AQIM says he “joined jihad” in 1992 or 1993.It is improbable that he participated in the Afghan jihad or visited Afghanistan or Pakistan in those early years. Instead, he likely joined one of the many small, local groups active in his native region that orbited around the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), which claimed responsibility for several attacks, including hijacking an Air France commercial flight in 1994 and bombing the Saint Michel train station in Paris in 1995.
  • “JNIM is a non-dissociable part of AQIM, which in its turn is an non-dissociable part of al-Qaeda central. … Regarding the geographical reality and the military pressure on its leaders and commanders, al Qaeda had to adapt with flexible command and control, therefore giving general and strategic guidelines, and then tactically it is up to each branch to reach toward achieving those guidelines depending on their realities. … AQIM follows the same process of leadership regarding its activity in different African countries.”
  • “Our objectives are clear, fighting intruders and occupiers are legitimate in heavenly and earthly laws, so those who stay neutral will be spared.”
  • Mauritania, which kept open channels with AQIM and in return has not been attacked by AQIM since February 2011 despite being part of the G5 Sahel
  • The French campaign has weakened JNIM’s grip on Mali’s border region with Burkina Faso and Niger and prompted an Islamic State “comeback” offensive that resulted in the death of a JNIM field commander and led to a bloody confrontation between the militant groups in December. JNIM prevailed for the second time in that conflict, but a combination of pressure from Islamic State and French forces have left its manpower depleted.
  • Locals caught in the middle of the conflict between the Islamic State and JNIM are increasingly being forced to choose a side between local actors, all of which are committing human rights abuses. The Islamic State lacks significant local acceptance or political experience, while JNIM’s continued presence and the balance of fear it has imposed with government forces,  militias, and now the Islamic State in central Mali has made it a more palatable choice. The French strategy of seeking out high-value targets has contributed to disruptions in negotiations between the Islamic State and JNIM, contributing to the inflammation of the war between militant groups in the Sahel.
  • The growing influence of JNIM and AQIM in Mali has been the cause of France’s renewed efforts, but the French strategy could put its forces more at odds with locals in northern Mali who prefer JNIM to the Islamic State.
  • The French military and officials have maintained that France will not negotiate with terrorists, but they recently indicated they would not obstruct negotiations when led by local parties. 
  • in Niger, where some border-area communities are seeking the Islamic State’s help with local problems, including some within the same community, leading to bloody “conflict resolution.”
  • Today, a majority of Malians approve of talks with JNIM.
  • AQIM’s willingness to overlook personal and ethnic grievances to coalesce several distinct local groups under the JNIM banner has given it flexibility and resistance to military pressure, and the strategy has garnered praise from al Qaeda central – the same leadership that criticized Droukdel a decade earlier for being too compromising. We are witnessing a shift away from never-ending battles toward foreseeable political objectives in order to avoid repeating failed governing experiences in Somalia, Yemen, or even Syria. As the group shifted its focus from Algeria in order to survive, it also began to expand and can now be seen as a player in Western Africa. This shift happened under Droukdel with al-Annabi’s influence; it likely will continue now that al-Annabi is AQIM’s leader.
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