Crisis Group

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An Iraqi refugee carries her child as she walks around in a camp in al-Hol, Syria, 13 March 2017. AFP/DELIL SOULEIMAN

When someone dies at al-Hol, a detention camp in north-eastern Syria that holds mostly women and children related to ISIS militants, the blame turns rapidly to COVID-19. Fears are mounting about the illness, even though there are no confirmed cases, and even though untimely death is already common, due to harsh living conditions and other infectious diseases that kill dozens of people on average each month.

Scary rumours started spreading in al-Hol early in March, when a three-year-old child and a seventy-five-year old woman, both Russian citizens, died. It was definitely COVID-19, some women maintained. Others said the child had died of tuberculosis and the woman of a heart attack.…  Seguir leyendo »

An article entitled “The Crusaders’ Worst Nightmare” in the ISIS newsletter al-Naba. Crisis Group downloaded the newsletter from the website Jihadology. The newsletter was originally distributed by ISIS’s messaging network.

As the COVID-19 pandemic swiftly reorders the priorities of policymakers and the public worldwide, conflicts that only recently occupied centre stage in the global policy and media debate are receding into the background. The fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere is no exception.

But while UN Secretary-General António Guterres has argued that mankind faces a common enemy in COVID-19, and thus appealed for a “global ceasefire”, ISIS has made clear that it sees things differently. In a new editorial in its weekly newsletter, ISIS has told its membership that their globe-spanning war is to go on, even as the virus spreads.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Turkish army convoy drives through the Syrian village of Ram Hamdan, north of the city of Idlib, on 25 February, 2020. Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP

What happened?

An airstrike killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers in Idlib, in the north west of Syria, on 27 February, according to Turkish state media. The strike exacted the highest death toll upon the Turkish military in any single day’s action for more than two decades. Ankara mainly blamed the Syrian regime for the attack on what it called a two-story command headquarters, but hinted as well at Russian responsibility. Russia disclaimed direct involvement but appeared to excuse the attack, saying the Turkish soldiers were in the company of “terrorists”, implying that they were with Syrian rebels.

Whether the strike was deliberate or inadvertent, it is part of a series of increasingly bloody clashes among Turkey, the Syrian regime and Russia over Idlib.…  Seguir leyendo »

Opposition lawmakers enter the building of Venezuela's National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

On 5 January, Nicolás Maduro’s government made a bold attempt to end its year-long standoff with opposition leader and chair of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó, whom dozens of countries – including the U.S. – recognise as Venezuela’s legitimate president. The government ordered the National Guard to obstruct opposition deputies’ access to parliament, allowing government supporters to prevail in a sham vote to impose a new Assembly chair. The move stymied Guaidó’s expected ratification in that post but it did not resolve the struggle over the presidency. Moreover, it came at the cost of further sapping the government’s international legitimacy and deepening the country’s protracted crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of Iraq's pro-Iranian al-Hashd al-Shaabi group and protesters set ablaze a sentry box outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on 31 December 2019. AHmad al-Rubaye/Agence France Presse

For the past three months, a popular uprising has swept Baghdad and the southern governorates of Iraq. Its call for profound institutional reform, chiefly an end to corruption, has galvanised repeated spasms of protest in the past. This time, however, the movement is larger, more widespread and of longer duration. Authorities have met the demonstrations with severe violence, killing more than 450 and injuring thousands. The main perpetrators of the violence are Iran-backed paramilitary groups, part of a larger assembly of “popular mobilisation” forces (al-Hashd al-Shaabi) that legally are integrated into the state apparatus but in reality answer to their own separate command structures.…  Seguir leyendo »

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Third Update.

A year and a half since the eruption of mass anti-government protests that paralysed the country, Nicaragua is edging toward protracted, low-intensity conflict. Sparked by controversial social security reforms in April 2018, last year’s demonstrations were met with a ferocious crackdown by police and para-police forces, resulting in more than 300 dead, chiefly on the protesters’ side, while hundreds more were detained. The government and protesters, gathered under the umbrella opposition group Civic Alliance, have twice tried negotiating a peaceful way out of the crisis. In March they struck two agreements on releasing political prisoners and upholding citizens’ rights, although the government has only partly complied.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Huthi suspension of hostilities in Yemen and an apparently positive Saudi Arabian response offer a chance to avoid regional conflagration. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 – Third Update for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage inclusive dialogue between the warring factions, which can lead to intra-Yemeni negotiations.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Third Update.

As 2020 approaches, Yemen confronts two acute security challenges: avoiding further entanglement in the wider regional conflict between the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Iran, and preventing a war within a war among anti-Huthi forces. On 14 September, the Huthis claimed responsibility for an attack on Saudi oil facilities that temporarily cut off nearly 50 per cent of the country’s oil production capacity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban collapsed in September, but there have been signs that they could soon resume, paving the way for crucial intra-Afghan talks. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 – Third Update for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage the resumption of these talks and to establish a regular channel to the Taliban.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Third Update.

The war in Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest in 2018, and it has stayed that way. Battle deaths thus far in 2019 nearly outnumber the combined toll in Syria and Yemen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Following the ouster of Sudan’s strongman Omar al-Bashir, sustained pressure yielded a power-sharing agreement between the military and opposition alliance. But the settlement is fragile and the economy is in deep distress. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 – Third Update for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to support the civilian cabinet during the country’s delicate transition.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Third Update.

Against long odds, a protest movement triggered the ouster of Sudanese strongman Omar al-Bashir, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders. He was finally deposed by military coup on 11 April 2019.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sudanese protesters take part in a rally in the capital Khartoum to mourn dozens of demonstrators killed last month in a brutal raid on a Khartoum sit-in, on July 13, 2019. AFP/ASHRAF SHAZLY

Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The third update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sudan and Yemen.

Afghanistan: Cause for Anxiety and Optimism

The war in Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest in 2018, and it has stayed that way. Battle deaths thus far in 2019 nearly outnumber the combined toll in Syria and Yemen. The number of civilian casualties is poised to reach, or even surpass, the country’s previous records since 2001.…  Seguir leyendo »

The alarming escalation between the U.S. and Iran risks unravelling the nuclear deal, prompting direct military engagement and destabilising the Arabian Peninsula. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to de-escalate tensions and maximise efforts to preserve the nuclear deal.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have grown at an alarming pace in recent months. The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, has inflicted significant harm on Iran’s economy – an estimated 80 per cent of which is now under unilateral sanctions.…  Seguir leyendo »

The continued violence between the two local forces competing for power, and their inability to cooperate has locked the conflict in a stalemate that sees no immediate end. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to work towards an internationally-monitored ceasefire.

Since the outbreak of violence in Tripoli last April, the prospect of a negotiated settlement to end the competition for power in Libya has only grown more remote. The military offensive launched by the Libyan National Army (LNA), which is headed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and based in the east, against forces allied with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has thwarted UN-led efforts.…  Seguir leyendo »

High-profile assassinations, intercommunal violence and the question of Sidama statehood have endangered Ethiopia’s transition to a multi-party democracy. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to support a parliamentary vote and assist with economic reforms.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Second Update.

Ethiopia is being buffeted by deadly unrest as it attempts a rapid transition to multi-party democracy under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. His government has chalked up significant achievements during the last eighteen months of political and economic liberalisation. But the challenges it faces were laid bare on 22 June when the president of one of the country’s regional states, Amhara, and the Ethiopian military’s chief of staff were assassinated in concurrent events in separate cities.…  Seguir leyendo »

Colombia’s fragile peace is threatened by rural violence and the humanitarian burden of hosting Venezuelan refugees. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to sustain strong support for the implementation of the 2016 peace accords.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Second Update.

Almost a year into President Iván Duque’s administration, a polarised Colombia faces many obstacles in consolidating a fragile peace. Hardline elements of Duque’s administration and his Democratic Centre Party continue to take aim at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace – a rehabilitation-oriented tribunal at the core of the transitional justice arrangement reached under the November 2016 peace deal – which they argue is too lenient toward members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).…  Seguir leyendo »

Fighters loyal to Libya's U.N.-backed government (GNA) fire guns during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya 25 May 2019. REUTERS / Goran Tomasevic

Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The second update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Colombia, Ethiopia, Iran and Libya.

Crucial Reforms Languish as Colombia Seeks to Consolidate Peace

Almost a year into President Iván Duque’s administration, a polarised Colombia faces many obstacles in consolidating a fragile peace. Hardline elements of Duque’s administration and his Democratic Centre Party continue to take aim at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace – a rehabilitation-oriented tribunal at the core of the transitional justice arrangement reached under the November 2016 peace deal – which they argue is too lenient toward members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).…  Seguir leyendo »

Michael Anker Lollesgaard, Head of the United Nations Mission in support of the Hodeida Agreement (UNMHA), speaks during a press conference to welcome the handover of the port of Hodeida on 14 May 2019, in the Yemeni port city. AFP

This is International Crisis Group’s eleventh regular update on the war in Yemen. This week, we focus on the first step towards force redeployments in Hodeida and the response of the UN Security Council.

Trendline: Unilateral Redeployment

Five months after the UN brokered an agreement to demilitarise the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, there has finally been movement on the ground. Yet not everyone is happy.

Briefing the UN Security Council on 15 May, Special Envoy Martin Griffiths announced that military forces loyal to the Huthi (Ansar Allah) movement had withdrawn from the three main ports on Yemen’s Red Sea coast – Hodeida, Ras Issa and Saleef – in a first step towards implementing the Stockholm Agreement he brokered in December 2018.…  Seguir leyendo »

Crisis Group Yemen Update #10

This is Crisis Group’s tenth update on recent developments in Yemen, focusing on al-Dhale in the south. A ceasefire in Hodeida notwithstanding, violence is on the rise on other key front lines and could undermine prospects for a future peace process.

Fighting between Huthi (Ansar Allah) and United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces is intensifying in the southern governorate of al-Dhale. Battles have cut off key transit routes connecting the southern port city of Aden, the Huthi-held capital of Sanaa in the north, and the central governorate of Taiz, which houses important food processing, packaging and distribution facilities. If allowed to continue, the fighting could significantly deepen the country’s economic woes and further complicate efforts to revive a national peace process.…  Seguir leyendo »

A failed summit in Hanoi between the U.S. and North Korea has resulted in a diplomatic stalemate. In this excerpt from the first update of our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to utilise its neutral position to re-energise the ailing peace process and adopt measures to ease the plight of North Koreans.

The tensions between Washington and Pyongyang that flared dangerously in 2017 have significantly abated, but for the moment so have hopes for a breakthrough that would end decades of conflict. North Korea and the U.S. pivoted from escalation to dialogue in 2018, resulting in the first leader-level summit between the two states and agreement on a broad set of shared principles.…  Seguir leyendo »

A tense standoff in Jerusalem and simmering tensions between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have heightened the risk of violence and unrest. In this excerpt from the first update of our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group outlines steps for the EU to help alleviate Gaza’s economic crisis and support the status quo in Jerusalem.

In the wake of Israel’s legislative elections, which appeared to hand another victory to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing partners (coalition negotiations are ongoing), the mood in the occupied Palestinian territories is tense. In Gaza, as in 2014, Hamas and Israel appear close to a conflagration that neither party desires.…  Seguir leyendo »

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths makes a speech during the UN Security Council meeting on Yemen at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on 14 December 2018. Atilgan Ozdil / Anadolu Agency

This is the ninth briefing note in Crisis Group’s Yemen Campaign. Notes are published fortnightly. This week, we return to the UN’s efforts to make the Hodeida agreement stick.

Trendline: Holdup in Hodeida

It is almost a year since an anticipated battle for the Red Sea port of Hodeida became the centre of gravity in Yemen’s civil war, as well as international efforts to end it.

In June 2018, Crisis Group described the conflict as having reached an inflection point. Along with other observers, we feared that a bloody battle between Huthi fighters in Hodeida and UAE-backed forces outside it would push the war into a new, more perilous phase and likely trigger a devastating famine.…  Seguir leyendo »