The past year’s uprisings shook countries – Sudan, Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon – that their predecessors had passed by, showing a continuity in roots and purpose. They have in common their anti-establishment sentiment and anger at elites incapable of meeting citizens’ basic needs. But each has its own internal focus and dynamic.
In Algeria, people converged on urban squares when an aging and ailing president announced he would pursue a fifth term in office. In a move to prevent a popular movement from bringing down not just the leader but the entire regime, the military stepped in, replacing the president, targeting some particularly corrupt figures in his entourage, appointing an interim government and organising presidential elections.… Seguir leyendo »
What just happened in talks between the U.S. and the Taliban?
A critical milestone in efforts to end the Afghan conflict was reached on 21 February, when Taliban and U.S. representatives issued statements confirming that they had reached an agreement providing for gradual U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, in exchange for Taliban promises to sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and to enter intra-Afghan negotiations to resolve the world’s deadliest conflict. The statements explained that the U.S. and Taliban would sign the agreement on 29 February in Doha, Qatar – where negotiations have been conducted for over a year – contingent on the successful completion of a seven-day period of “reduction in violence”, which is meant to begin on 22 February.… Seguir leyendo »
How are Cameroon’s elections likely to unfold?
In November 2019, President Paul Biya called elections for Cameroon’s National Assembly and local councils, to be held on 9 February. The elections should have been held in 2018, when these bodies’ five-year terms came to a close, but the government has put them off twice. In 2018, the government argued that it was logistically impossible to hold them at the same time as the presidential polls that year, and in 2019 it cited a tense political and security atmosphere, including in Anglophone areas, as justification for further delay. Now Biya is moving ahead with the vote, however, perhaps in order to keep up appearances after the national dialogue held in September and October 2019 (discussed below) failed to bring an end to the Cameroonian government’s conflict with Anglophone separatists.… Seguir leyendo »
Splits among the five permanent members of the Security Council or P5 (China, France, UK, Russia and the U.S.) on issues from Syria to Venezuela are now a regular and frustrating feature of UN diplomacy. Nevertheless, meeting at a Holocaust commemoration in Israel last month, French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reportedly discussed convening a leader-level meeting of the five at this September’s UN General Assembly session. Does this initiative suggest that relations among the P5 are about to take a turn for the better?
Perhaps marginally, but the outlook for Council relations remains fairly bleak. Looking at the Council’s agenda for the next several months, there are reasons to believe that the P5 face a factious 2020, risking more divisions over crisis situations from Mali to North Korea, and above all the tangle of conflicts in the Middle East.… Seguir leyendo »
The Russian president’s annual address to parliament came early this year, on January 15. Since then, Russia and its watchers have hardly stopped talking. Vladimir Putin, who began his presentation by acknowledging a public thirst for change and the need to better support Russian families, closed by proposing constitutional amendments that could alter how Russia is governed. Less than a week later, Russia’s parliament has received draft text for these amendments. After 20 years at Russia’s helm, is its president laying out a path to stay in power, define his succession, or both? And do the changes promised mean a different path for Russia, at home or abroad?… Seguir leyendo »
What happened in Moscow?
On Monday, Russian government officials hosted Libya’s two rival leaders, whose respective military forces have been at war for nine months, in a bid to usher them toward a ceasefire agreement. One is Faiez Serraj, who heads the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli; the other is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, who leads a coalition called the Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF), previously known as the Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar’s coalition does not recognise the Serraj government, and in April launched an offensive to take control of the Libyan capital. Fighting has killed over 2,000 people, put Tripoli under siege by Haftar’s forces and sucked in several foreign powers.… Seguir leyendo »
Le 13 janvier à Pau, le président Macron et ses homologues du G5-Sahel (Mauritanie, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Tchad) discuteront de la situation dans le Sahel en présence du secrétaire général des Nations unies, du président de la commission de l’Union Africaine et du chef de la diplomatie européenne. Sauf surprise, cette réunion de haut niveau devrait se contenter de réaffirmer l’engagement des différents pays à lutter ensemble contre le terrorisme jihadiste qui gagne tant de terrain au Sahel. Pourtant, face à l’ampleur des insurrections, les opérations militaires menées par la France et les pays sahéliens ne peuvent constituer une réponse suffisante tant qu’elles n’appuient pas une réponse politique claire qui continue de faire défaut.… Seguir leyendo »
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 »
The killing by the U.S. of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, marks a dramatic turning point. Soleimani had been in Washington’s crosshairs for many years, and successive U.S. presidents could likely have ordered his assassination in the past. That they chose not to do so suggests that they worried the costs would outweigh the benefits. With his decision, President Donald Trump is making clear that he abides by a different calculus: that, given the vast power imbalance, Iran has far more to fear from war than does the U.S. The strike that killed the Iranian general along with others – notably Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior commander of the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militia – was, in accordance with this view, meant as a deterrent to further Iranian attacks.… Seguir leyendo »
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 »
What is North Korea doing and what does it mean?
North Korea has taken a series of escalatory steps by conducting 13 missile tests (short-range and submarine-launched ballistic missiles) since May and lodging threats including an unwelcome “Christmas gift” it will present if the U.S. fails to propose a new deal by the end of the year. Pyongyang upped the ante again on 8 December, by claiming to have conducted a “very important” test at the Sohae satellite launching ground – likely of a rocket engine; five days later, it carried out another such test at the same facility to strengthen its “strategic nuclear deterrent”, another way of describing capabilities relevant for a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).… Seguir leyendo »
Local conflicts serve as mirrors for global trends. The ways they ignite, unfold, persist, and are resolved reflect shifts in great powers’ relations, the intensity of their competition, and the breadth of regional actors’ ambitions. They highlight issues with which the international system is obsessed and those toward which it is indifferent. Today these wars tell the story of a global system caught in the early swell of sweeping change, of regional leaders both emboldened and frightened by the opportunities such a transition presents.
Only time will tell how much of the U.S.’s transactional unilateralism, contempt for traditional allies, and dalliance with traditional rivals will endure – and how much will vanish with Donald Trump’s presidency.… Seguir leyendo »
Why is Myanmar before the International Court of Justice?
The Gambia has lodged a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal UN judicial body based in The Hague, alleging violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (usually known as the Genocide Convention) in Myanmar’s treatment of ethnic Rohingya Muslims. The charges stem from atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine State, which have forced over 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017. The Gambia, relying on the Convention’s provision that the ICJ can adjudicate disputes over such charges, brought this case on behalf of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.… Seguir leyendo »
What happened in Niger?
On 10 December, assailants struck a Nigerien military camp close to the settlement of Inates on the border with Mali, killing more than 70 soldiers in the deadliest attack on security forces in the country’s history. The Islamic State’s affiliate in Mali and Niger claimed responsibility for the attack. Its fighters reportedly used mortars and kamikaze vehicles to storm the base. In its statement, the Islamic State said it had captured weapons, ammunition, vehicles and even “a number of tanks”. This claim could not be independently confirmed.
The attack by the Islamic State affiliate, which has escalated its campaign in the area around Inates since April, is part of an emerging trend of large-scale jihadist operations against military outposts in the central Sahel.… Seguir leyendo »
Just under one year ago, on Dec. 10, China arrested our colleague Michael Kovrig in Beijing. Since that time, Michael — who is the International Crisis Group’s North East Asia adviser — has remained in detention without being allowed to see a lawyer or family member.
Although China has never spelled out the reasons for Michael’s imprisonment, it is clear that he is merely a pawn in a larger geopolitical game. A Canadian citizen and former diplomat, he was detained — along with another Canadian, Michael Spavor — nine days after Ottawa, acting upon a U.S. request under an extradition treaty, arrested Meng Wangzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant.… Seguir leyendo »
On 16 November, Gotabaya Rajapaksa – who served as defence secretary during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war – won a decisive victory in Sri Lanka’s presidential election.
Although Rajapaksa’s victory was not a surprise, the margin of his win exceeded expectations among many analysts. The candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya (who, like Mahinda, is widely known by his first name) captured 52.25 per cent of the vote. His main rival, Sajith Premadasa, candidate of the ruling United National Party (UNP), came in second with 42 per cent.… Seguir leyendo »
As Sri Lankans head to the polls to elect a new president on 16 November, Gotabaya Rajapaksa stands as the widely acknowledged front runner. As defence secretary during his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decade-long presidency ending in 2015, he was a leading figure in a government that many minority Tamils and Muslims, as well as opposition politicians, blame for terrible political violence and repression. During that period, dozens of journalists were killed or forced into exile, prominent Tamil politicians were murdered, and thousands of Sri Lankans were forcibly disappeared; no one has since been held accountable for those crimes. Gotabaya is expected to name his brother prime minister, as Mahinda is constitutionally term-limited from seeking the presidency.… Seguir leyendo »
Security Council diplomats have a chance to engage in some self-criticism this week. On Thursday and Friday, representatives of the Council’s current members will attend a workshop with their counterparts from the five elected members joining it in 2020 (Estonia, Niger, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). This event, convened by Finland, is one of two annual opportunities for Council insiders to discuss their collective efforts – the other, a retreat with the Secretary-General, took place in May – and their talks can be quite frank.
According to a detailed summary of last year’s workshop, “a participant lamented that there was a prevailing image of the Security Council as an organ that was becoming less effective and less influential over time”.… Seguir leyendo »
Iran announced on 5 November that it is moving ahead with incremental breaches of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). According to President Hassan Rouhani, as of 6 November, Tehran will start “injecting [uranium hexafluoride] gas into the centrifuges in Fordow”, a bunkered enrichment facility that under the deal is meant to be converted “into a nuclear, physics and technology centre”.
This move is the latest in a series of staggered steps toward downgrading Tehran’s adherence to the nuclear agreement. The process began in May 2019, when the Rouhani administration set a 60-day rolling ultimatum for the agreement’s remaining parties (France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China) to deliver the deal’s expected economic dividends in the face of unilateral U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
The Riyadh Agreement, signed on 5 November, has averted a war within Yemen’s civil war, at least for the time being. The deal prevents a collapse of the fragile alliance of Yemeni forces that Saudi Arabia has supported since intervening in Yemen in March 2015 to prevent Huthi rebels from taking over the country. The question now is whether the agreement can act as a bridge to a nationwide political settlement or if it simply marks a pause before another round of violence.
By signing, the two parties to the agreement – the internationally recognised government of Yemen, led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) – have ended a three-month standoff that threatened to split the anti-Huthi bloc.… Seguir leyendo »