The growing diplomatic drama surrounding the announcement of the new Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) risks concealing rather than highlighting what the deal reveals about profound changes in the global strategic context. Several elements stand out.
First, Australia’s decision to break off the $66 billion contract it signed with France in 2016 to purchase a new fleet of diesel electric submarines underscores the heightened level of concern in Canberra about China’s growing naval capabilities.
Despite all the industrial, legal, and diplomatic disruption, the Australian government has decided only the stealthy nuclear-powered submarines developed by Britain with US support can provide the genuine naval capability it needs long-term.… Seguir leyendo »
Edmund Burke warned prophetically in 1790 that the French Revolution would – by destroying the working of the country’s constitutional institutions – leave it with no law but the will of a prevailing force, and that a state without adequate means of managing due change would lack the means of preserving itself (1).
The Russian elections, to be concluded on 19 September, fit an established Putin regime pattern which is designed to reduce the independent authority of the country’s institutions to a fiction in favour of authoritarian rule as it moves towards the presidential elections of 2024 – thereby further diminishing Russia’s chances of managed evolutionary change in the future.… Seguir leyendo »
At the end of a summer afflicted by devastating floods, wildfires, and heatwaves, the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) takes place just a few weeks before COP26, one of the most important climate change conferences ever.
Delivering an ambitious COP26 outcome requires governments to raise the ambition of their 2030 emission reduction targets – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – and developed countries to honour their 2009 pledge to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate finance to developing countries.
Making substantial progress on both these issues ahead of COP26 is critical, and the UNGA represents one of the last major high-level stages to make important announcements before Glasgow.… Seguir leyendo »
Technology and cyber threats
Dr Beyza Unal
The announcement mentions developing joint capabilities and information and technology sharing across the UK, US, and Australia and picks up on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum communications.
As part of this defence agreement, the UK, US, and Australia are aiming to protect the undersea fibre optic cables that provide part of the military and civilian communication for the West. Both Russia and China possess cyber and submarine technology. They could tap into these cables, allowing for eavesdropping and collecting data through cyber means. It is a matter of national and of NATO Alliance’s security to protect undersea cables.… Seguir leyendo »
15 September 2021 marks the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords, the agreements that normalized ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. At the time, the accords were portrayed as a barter ending Israeli annexation of the West Bank in exchange for normalization of ties with the UAE.
The Trump administration viewed them as a model for outsourcing regional security that would allow the US to prioritize its interests beyond the Middle East, a tectonic regional shift brokered by the United States. However, only Morocco and Sudan have so far followed suit and signed normalization agreements with Israel.… Seguir leyendo »
US president Richard Nixon shocked the world 50 years ago by suspending the convertibility of the US dollar into gold and threatening trade restrictions unless other countries agreed to adjust their exchange rates to the advantage of US exporters.
A highly radical move born out of frustration with close allies and leading trade partners, it overturned structures the US had established at Bretton Woods in 1944 and was designed to shift the onus of adjustment in the pegged exchange rate system from deficit countries to surplus countries.
In effect, Nixon threatened a return to trade protectionism unless West Germany and Japan, among others, increased the value of their own currencies against the US dollar.… Seguir leyendo »
Morocco’s experience with Islamists sets it apart from its neighbours. While Egypt and Tunisia have resorted to military and constitutional means to remove Islamists from power, Morocco’s moderate Islamist party, the PJD, were removed by the country’s citizens through the ballot box, without any direct intervention by the monarchy. This is the first time since the Arab Spring protests of 2011 that an Islamist party has been removed from power through the electoral process.
A PJD loss was expected, but even the most seasoned observers – and probably the authorities themselves – did not expect such a significant loss for the party.… Seguir leyendo »
It has been 20 years since the September 11 attacks, and ‘Islamist terrorism’ and the goal of countering it have become a useful framework for governments across the globe to justify foreign and domestic policies and serve geopolitical goals, especially in the context of the Middle East.
Governments around the world have found in the notion of Islamist terrorism a convenient way to present themselves as a force of good in the face of the ‘evil terrorists’ – and sometimes to justify pragmatic yet problematic behaviour.
For the West, Islamist terrorism became the greatest evil of them all in the Middle East, and countering it trumped many other foreign policy concerns in the region.… Seguir leyendo »
The creation of a façade of a state in Afghanistan which melted away the moment international support was withdrawn has been interpreted as showing that nation-building is a fool’s errand and, in the case of a country already nicknamed the graveyard of empires, over-ambitious if not downright naïve.
Reconstructing Afghanistan carries with it inherent difficulties, with the most important being geographical. Afghanistan is land-locked and borders Pakistan – the main backer of the Taliban and Iran – whose leaders see an opportunity to embarrass the US as trumping any desire for stability next door.
International attempts to persuade the neighbourhood that stability is preferable to chaos failed because Afghanistan is essentially secondary to other foreign policy priorities, most notably Iranian tension with the US, Pakistani tension with India, and its ongoing fear of a pro-Indian government in Kabul.… Seguir leyendo »
Osama Bin-Laden’s masterminding of the US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998 saw more than 200 people killed – including a friend of mine – in nearly simultaneous truck bomb explosions linked to local supporters of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda.
Living in Nairobi at the time, I had been in the embassy to collect a US visa a couple of days before the attack but my Kenyan friend was not so lucky and was killed. Both US embassies were badly damaged – in Nairobi, a memorial park was constructed on the site with a new embassy built elsewhere while Dar es Salaam got a new highly fortified embassy with a monument to the victims in its grounds.… Seguir leyendo »
On 12 September 2001, Russian president Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to call George W. Bush to express his condolences – and to offer him support.
Just the previous year, Putin had said Russia joining NATO was a possibility and it suited Russia to draw parallels between the terrorist attacks on the US and its own ‘anti-terrorist’ campaign in Chechnya at the time.
Even though much of the Russian commentary about 9/11 professed empathy rather than sympathy, in their eyes the US was both a victim – as Russia likes to see itself – and ‘had it coming’ while Russia was blameless.… Seguir leyendo »
In the weeks following the 9/11 attacks, analysts said everything was going to change and they were proved right. Just as the decades following the two world wars were heavily influenced by their outcomes and atrocities, the ‘war on terror’ has been the backdrop and set the tone for most international interactions for the past 20 years.
And yet just weeks before the attacks, two international arms control measures were coming to a head at the United Nations (UN) which – without the impact of 9/11 – could have changed the future history of arms control for the better. But as the world changed course, both measures ended up creating major repercussions still being played out now.… Seguir leyendo »
The 9/11 attacks prompted the international community to adopt a wide range of counterterrorism measures. Debate continues over their compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law, and their effectiveness.
What has become clear is that some of these measures have made it difficult for humanitarian assistance to be provided to the millions of people living in areas under the control of armed groups designated as terrorist, or where such groups have a significant presence.
These include Al-Qaeda in Yemen’s Arabian peninsula, ISIL affiliates in Syria, Al Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Hamas in Gaza, and various Al-Qaeda affiliates in the Sahel.… Seguir leyendo »
Afghanistan goals were laudable but open-ended
Sir Simon Fraser
The outcome in Afghanistan should not have been a surprise, even if the way it happened was a shock. For foreign policy in general, and foreign military interventions in particular, it is essential to be clear about goals and the capacity to deliver. In Afghanistan, the US and its allies have fallen short on both these counts.
This is a serious reversal for the US and its closest allies, but not a strategic disaster. The threat from Islamist terror will increase, but its significance is sometimes exaggerated and, to some extent, can be addressed by other means.… Seguir leyendo »
While some of Afghanistan’s neighbours – China and Iran particularly, along with Russia – may enjoy the West’s discomfort, the Taliban’s takeover is unlikely to fill them with optimism for the longer-term.
All the neighbouring states have specific concerns regarding the threat of cross-border militancy, and each of them is known to have reached out to the Taliban as the US withdrawal approached, in the hope of strengthening their leverage.
Both China and India worry about Muslim minorities, in Xinjiang and Kashmir respectively, Russia worries about the threat to stability in Central Asia, Pakistan – despite nurturing the Taliban – fears blowback from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and Iran questions the extent to which the Taliban has toned down its hostility towards Shias.… Seguir leyendo »
The Biden administration has already given indications it is willing to look away from Gulf Arab states reviving relations with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad rather than actively prevent them from doing so. This marks a slight but significant shift in US policy, as represented by the 2019 Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act.
With Washington showing a diminished appetite for enforcing Syria’s isolation – including through military means – some Arab countries are starting to bring Syria in from its diplomatic isolation.
In recent months, Gulf Arab states – notably, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia – have deepened their engagement with the Syrian government, though to varying degrees and in pursuit of different goals.… Seguir leyendo »
A new civil-military health collaboration framework by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests better pandemic preparedness in the future can be achieved by establishing and maintaining collaboration across these two major sectors.
The publication of this guidance document is an acknowledgement that militaries should be incorporated into national preparedness and planning for managing major infectious disease outbreaks where appropriate, and is a marked transition from using the military reactively to seeing them as a core part of a system to prevent or limit the extent of an outbreak.
But this transition will require a significant investment by both the military and health communities in an understanding of each other’s capabilities and limitations, as well as a wider acceptance by the civilian population and civil society that this is an appropriate role for the military.… Seguir leyendo »
Unlike the West, the Central Asian states have been preparing for the return of the Taliban to neighbouring Afghanistan for several years, building up their diplomatic relationships and enhancing domestic security, but the takeover leaves them facing enormous challenges.
The uncertainty of the situation in Afghanistan and whether the Taliban can keep its security guarantees to Moscow of preventing the export of extremism is a worry, but Russia is also using the momentum and the ignominy of the US withdrawal to deepen its security involvement in the region, whether the region wants it or not.
Central Asia governments have to tread carefully with their actions and messaging towards both actors as despite Russia – and even the US – exaggerating the security risks over the last 20 years, the risks for Central Asia are certainly real.… Seguir leyendo »
The international community was ill-prepared for the rapid collapse of the Afghan government, but now international donor governments need to rapidly determine how to respond to the profound economic crisis unfolding in the country.
As 38 million people living in Afghanistan prepare for a long hard winter with massive population displacements within and outside the country, the international community must come together behind the United Nations (UN) to engage with the new administration in Kabul.
The priority tasks to focus on are releasing frozen assets, mobilizing humanitarian assistance, refocusing the UN presence in the country, and setting ground rules for future collaboration in all sectors of the economy.… Seguir leyendo »
Mounting pressures for democratic reform in eSwatini have led to the arrest of two pro-democracy MPs on suppression of terrorism charges and a brutal crackdown by security forces which have left dozens dead. Hopes for an ‘emaSwati spring’ are unlikely to be realized as the country now faces a protracted stalemate between its young urban population and an entrenched absolute monarchy.
Protests began in May following the death of 25-year-old law student Thabani Nkomanye, allegedly at hands of the police. The violence further intensified after the then acting prime minister, Themba Masuku, banned citizens from submitting petitions to MPs calling for reform.… Seguir leyendo »