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Ed Webb

Red Cross's Peter Maurer: Geneva Conventions are being violated | Aid | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), says his organisation's budget has doubled in the past few years as it deals with the scale of conflict and displacement in the world today.
  • the Geneva Conventions are violated by a lot of parties in today's conflicts
  • "While the pattern of implementation of the Geneva Conventions in a context like Yemen is of course a big challenge - and we see violations continuing - we also see big efforts from all the belligerents to engage with us and to improve."
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  • Maurer says large-scale violence is also afflicting people in Africa's Sahel and Lake Chad basin regions - but with far less international attention.
  • there is long-standing developmental reasons which contribute to the fragility of this context. There is climate change-induced migration and population displacements which comes on top of a very war-torn and violent situation
  • Europeans only look through the eyes of migrants coming to them, and maybe insufficiently look at the complexity of the origin of fragility and population displacements in the Sahel and the Lake Chad
  • Eight out of 10 places in the world which are top priorities to ICRC to respond to war [are] at the same time the most fragile in terms of climate change
Ed Webb

GERD talks should continue despite deadlock, Egyptian experts say - Politics - Egypt - ... - 0 views

  • Talks between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter's Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) should not stop, despite reaching a deadlock earlier this month, Egyptians experts said at a conference in Cairo on Tuesday
  • an event organised by the Egyptian Center For Strategic Studies (ECSS)
  • On 5 October, Egypt announced that talks with Ethiopia over GERD had reached a dead due to the “intransigency” of the Ethiopian side.
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  • On Friday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed agreed in a phone call to overcome any obstacles facing negotiations on the dam's operation, according to the Egyptian presidency. The pair are set to meet at a summit in Russia next week
  • Egypt fears that the dam will reduce its water supply, which is dependent on the Nile, while Ethiopia maintains the hydroelectric dam will not restrict the river’s flow and hopes the mega-project will turn it into a regional power hub. The dam, which has been under construction since 2011, is being built on the Blue Nile, which accounts for 85 percent of the Nile water that reach Egypt
  • Ethiopians were trying to both finalize the process of ratification for the 2010 Entebbe agreement, which has been signed by six out of the ten Nile Basin Initiative states
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    Egyptian officials aren't used to not getting their way in the Nile Basin
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

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

Egypt-Sudan Spat Muddies Prospects for Deal on Big Nile Dam - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • diplomatic spat between Egypt and Sudan is spilling over into the long-running dispute over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, which Cairo sees as an existential threat
  • Sudan officially warned of threats to its eastern border from massing Egyptian and Eritrean troops, while Egypt has also moved into a disputed triangle of territory claimed by both Cairo and Khartoum. Late last week, Sudan abruptly recalled its ambassador to Egypt, the latest chapter in a fight that started last summer with trade boycotts and that has only intensified in recent weeks
  • Sudan’s support for Ethiopia’s construction of a massive $5 billion dam on the Nile River that could choke off vital supplies of water downstream. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called the dam a matter of “life or death.”
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  • dam is more than 60 percent complete, and Ethiopia could start to fill the reservoir as soon as this summer, leaving little time to find workable solutions
  • The dam, a huge power project at the head of the Blue Nile meant to meet fast-growing Ethiopia’s need for more electricity, will hold a year’s worth of river flow behind its concrete walls. Depending on how quickly Ethiopia fills the dam, downstream flows to Egypt could be restricted — a potentially fatal threat for a country dependent on agriculture that is already facing severe water shortages.
  • The three countries seemed to have sorted things out in 2015 with an agreement on how to manage the project, but since then they have been unable to agree on how to even measure the dam’s impacts.
  • Sudan’s role is crucial, because it is smack in the middle of Egypt and Ethiopia geographically and politically. Egypt and Sudan have long divvied up the Nile’s waters between them, according to the terms of a 1959 treaty that does not include Ethiopia. By using less Nile River water than it was allotted, for years Sudan allowed more to flow downstream to Egypt, which has used more water than it is entitled to. But in recent years, Sudan has sought to increase its own water use, aiming to boost its agriculture sector. Because it hopes to use the dam for irrigation, Sudan has moved closer to Ethiopia and become a supporter of the project. That makes antagonizing Khartoum a dangerous gambit for Egypt
  • the United States — still saddled with plenty of unfilled positions at the State Department — hasn’t been able to mediate the dispute
Ed Webb

Is war about to break out in the Horn of Africa? Will the West even notice? - Salon.com - 0 views

  • Now an actual conflict over H2O may be boiling, but no one in Washington has put down Michael Wolff’s book long enough to notice. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia may come to blows — with the help of Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project
  • The Nile is so important that, setting aside terrorism and internal stability, Egypt’s most significant security concerns lay largely to the south and are directly related to the unimpeded flow of the river’s waters
  • When GERD is completed, it will reduce Egypt’s share of Nile water by 22 billion cubic meters per year, devastating Egyptian agriculture and hydroelectric production, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources. This is obviously of critical concern to Egypt’s leaders, but they have not been able to reach a diplomatic solution to the problem. The country has been preoccupied with internal developments since the uprising in 2011 that pushed President Hosni Mubarak from power. In addition, the issue of the Ethiopian dam has been managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is not as influential as it once was, especially in comparison to the Ministry of Defense and the General Intelligence Directorate. There was an effort to resolve the problem in 2015, with Sudan acting as a broker between Egypt and Ethiopia, but that failed.
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  • The Sudanese recently welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Khartoum, where he signed a number of security-cooperation agreements, including a provision to allow the Turks to administer Suakin Island, located at a strategic point in the Red Sea between Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. The island used to be home to an Ottoman naval base, and the Egyptians fear the Turks plan to renovate the island and establish a permanent military presence there.
  • Egyptians deployed a helicopter carrier in the Red Sea and sent troops to an Emirati base in Eritrea. This in turn angered the Ethiopians. Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 and the two countries fought a border war in the late 1990s that killed an estimated 80,000 people. In 2016 they briefly clashed again, killing hundreds more. In response to the presence of Egyptian troops in Eritrea, the Ethiopians not only rejected a Cairo proposal to cut Khartoum out of negotiations over GERD, but Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn hosted the Sudanese defense minister and vowed to speed up dam construction. All the while the Sudanese deployed thousands of troops to its border with Eritrea
  • tension between Cairo and Khartoum over the Hala’ib and Shalateen disputed zones, which are located on the border between Egypt and Sudan but administered by the Egyptians
  • Qatar also upgraded its security relations with Sudan
  • It is not hard to imagine how all this escalates into warfare. We are not dealing with the best militaries in the world, which reduces the margin for error and miscalculation. It is also a potential conflict that involves a number of important American allies against each other. Turkey, a NATO ally, and Qatar, which hosts the largest American military base outside the United States, have aligned themselves with Sudan and by extension with Ethiopia, another American ally. On the other side we have Egypt, a longtime partner of the United States in the Middle East, and Eritrea. The United Arab Emirates, a critical player in the Persian Gulf and beyond, would also likely be involved given its ties to Egypt and Eritrea.
Ed Webb

IRIN | What can save Mali? - 1 views

  • Koufa fought in northern Mali with Ansar Dine and allied jihadist groups in 2012, rapidly overrunning the region’s main towns. He then led his men south. That advance, threatening Bamako, triggered a French and African Union intervention that scattered his forces. Koufa re-emerged in 2015 as the head of the newly-founded Macina Liberation Front (FLM), a movement that seeks the revival of the 19th century Macina Empire, a Fulani-led Islamic state based in the central Mopti and Segou regions of present-day Mali.
  • community tensions, especially between Fulani pastoralists and Bambara farmers over land and access to pasture. The Bambara have turned to government-backed Dozo self-defence militia
  • Central Mali has taken over from the north as the country’s most lethal region.
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  • Abuses fuel FLM recruitment. It has adopted AQIM’s playbook of taking advantage of a weak state by embedding within the local community, listening to their problems, and fashioning its message accordingly. "Hamadoun Koufa came [to Mopti] preaching about the government. He said he would help, not the government," explained Amadou Thiam, a Fulani opposition politician. “In many villages, the jihadists appear to be replacing the state actors responsible for addressing banditry; for responding to common crime, marital and family disputes; and for ensuring community reconciliation,” said Corinne Dufka, HRW’s West Africa director.
  • successive southern-based Malian governments have failed to stamp their authority in the north, where the population is relatively small and conditions extremely harsh.
  • the only visitors to Timbuktu these days are UN soldiers and a smattering of aid workers and government officials. In the vast northern desert beyond the city, jihadist groups hold sway
  • The West’s concern is the transnational threat of jihadism. Some Malian groups have links with Boko Haram in Nigeria, and AQIM last year launched attacks on Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. Neighbouring Senegal is concerned it could be next.
  • The north is now splintered as competing groups emerge – some narrowly ethnic, others backing the jihadists. The government has fallen back on an old model of corrupt payoffs and the use of local proxies to manage the conflict
  • Timbuktu was held by the Tuareg-dominated Ansar Dine for several months in 2012. They imposed a stringent, alien version of Islamic law in what is a traditionally moderate country. Centuries-old Sufi shrines and Islamic manuscripts, cultural treasures on which Timbuktu’s fame is based, were destroyed
  • Northern Mali has been a stronghold for jihadists since 2003, when Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, fleeing a government clampdown, escaped across the border. Key to the militants’ survival was a tacit agreement with the Malian military and state officials that largely left them alone. In 2012 they made common cause with the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. The rebellion relaunched longstanding separatist demands for the secession of the neglected north. But soon after the independence of “Azawad” was proclaimed, the MNLA was under attack by Ansar Dine and a coalition of jihadist fighters, determined to impose an extreme version of shariah law in the north.
  • The scruffy Malian soldiers tasked with jointly securing the city with the UN peacekeeping force, MINUSMA, seem marooned, vulnerable and disconnected from any notion of nation-building. They don’t always show up for the nightly joint patrols they are supposed to undertake.
  • is a 13,817-strong, $933 million operation. Among its contributors are European countries that have brought a level of sophistication – including drones, special forces, and intelligence cells – few other UN missions possess. But it is also the UN’s most dangerous mission, with 118 peacekeepers killed since 2013.
  • the West’s strategic interests clearly go beyond countering extremism to include policing the migration routes from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean
  • corruption has eroded popular support for successive administrations, and added to the resilience of Mali’s overlapping conflicts
  • In March, the extremists created their own coalition, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa al-Muslimin (the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, or JNIM). It fuses AQIM, Ansar Dine, and FLM, and is led by Ag Ghali. It excludes a small faction that has sided with the so-called Islamic State.
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

Arab countries' foreign policy ambitions could start hurting their economies - Business... - 1 views

  • There is a certain irony in the Arab Gulf states’ rising power across the Middle East and North Africa. International prestige, the ability to intervene militarily in regional conflict, and holding the same leverage as international financial institutions in aid and investment are what these states have long coveted. But now that they have the power – both economic and military – Gulf states like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are faced with the dilemma of demonstrating their dominance without destroying the neighbourhood.
  • Gulf states’ foreign policies are increasingly at odds with their economic interests
  • The economies of the Gulf states have changed dramatically since the beginning of the second oil boom, between 2003 and 2014. Joined together in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) trade bloc, they are more integrated into the regional and wider international economy in trade and investment flows
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  • The GCC’s outward investments in equity markets, especially towards Europe and the US, means it is also more integrated globally. And it has large amounts of foreign direct investment in infrastructure, agriculture and real estate across the MENA region.
  • The strength of their economic influence in the region lies in huge flows of capital – often a mixture of remittances, foreign aid, and foreign direct investment under the auspices of state-related bodies. This has enabled the Gulf states to usurp international institutions in shaping economic reform across the MENA region, especially in Egypt and other oil importers.
  • Politically, however, the GCC is engaged in numerous interventions across the region that have caused significant disorder and pose a threat to their mutual economic prosperity. The Gulf states were successful in crushing the Arab Spring within their own countries and cementing their development agenda. By contrast, their interventions in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Egypt have stoked the chaos there, putting the stability of the region at risk.
  • In each of these interventions, there is an incumbent economic cost to the GCC states. The war in Yemen is probably the best example of a mounting military expenditure that will only be dwarfed by the cost of re-building Yemen, which surely the UAE and Saudi Arabia will have to help foot. The Gulf States would therefore be wise to start dovetailing their foreign policies with their economic interests by fostering stability instead of conflict.
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Can ISIS overcome the insurgency resource curse? - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • IS  is also gaining momentum in the struggle to control two natural resources that have defined the history of the Middle East – oil and water.
  • If control of oil has driven economic development in the modern Middle East, control of water has been a fundamental component of civilization itself. For decades, both the Syrian and Iraqi governments focused on hydrology in their bids for socioeconomic development, building a bevy of dams, canals and other infrastructure to control floods, improve agricultural irrigation and generate electricity for their populations. Denying or diverting water, though, was also tantamount to war. During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) Saddam Hussein fretted that Iran would destroy dikes and dams on the upper Tigris River in order to cause flooding in Baghdad. In the early 1990s Syria and Iraq nearly went to war with Turkey over plans to divert part of the Euphrates River, and in 1992 Iraq famously cut off the water to the marshes of southern Mesopotamia in order to destroy the terrain where Shiite insurgents were hiding out. Punishing drought conditions in rural Syria may even have caused social unrest that helped precipitate the beginning of the March 2011 uprising.
  • In February 2013, IS took control of the Tabqa Hydroelectric Dam (Syria), once a showcase in Hafez al-Assad’s development plan and a major electricity source for Aleppo. Earlier this spring, IS opened up dikes around Fallujah to impede the Iraqi army as it tried to besiege the stronghold, causing flooding as far away as Najaf and Baghdad. With its recent advances, IS now controls the hydroelectric dam at Mosul, Iraq’s largest, and IS  is poised to take the dam at Haditha, the country’s second largest. With the tables turned, the Iraqi government finds itself considering a preemptive opening of the Haditha floodgates to block IS’s path.
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  • According to New York Times reporter Thanassis Cambanis, IS  left the staff at the Tabqa Dam unharmed and in place, allowing the facility to continue operations and even selling electricity back to the Syrian government. Similarly, oil fields under IS  control continue to pump. Indeed, IS  has shrewdly managed these resources to help ensure a steady and sustainable stream of revenue. As one IS fighter told the New York Times, while Assad’s loyalists chant “Assad or burn the country,” IS retorts “We will burn Assad and keep the country.” Beside revenue from oil and water, IS  collects a variety of commercial taxes, including on trucks and cellphone towers.
  • Whereas resources like diamonds or drugs motivate rebel forces to take as much as they can as quickly as they can, the need to manage capital and technology-intensive natural resources has actually increased the interdependence between IS and civilians. Already in effective control of significant amounts of oil and water, the Islamic State is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Ed Webb

Twenty more 'Niles' needed to feed growing population: Study - Economy - Business - Ahr... - 1 views

  • "It will lead to some conflicts," Chretien told reporters on a telephone conference call, highlighting tensions such as in the Middle East over the Jordan River.   In May, experts in Egypt said the country would need nearly 50 per cent more Nile water by 2050 to cater for an estimated population of 150 million people.
  • The increase was "equal to the annual flow of 20 Niles or 100 Colorado Rivers", according to the report
  • greatest growth in demand for water would be in China, the United States and India due to population growth, increasing irrigation and economic growth.
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  • examples of water-related conflicts, for instance between Israelis and Palestinians over aquifers, between Egypt and other nations sharing the Nile, or between Iran and Afghanistan over the Hirmand River
  • Nations such as Israel have limited water use, for instance by shifting to less water-intensive crops or recycling. Olives or dates need less water, for instance, than oranges
  • annual spending on improving water supplies and sanitation in developing nations should be raised by about $11 billion a year. Every dollar spent would yield an economic return of $3 to $4, it estimated.
  • About 4,500 children die of water-related diseases every day - the equivalent of 10 jumbo jets falling out of the sky with no survivors
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