IS back in business | Peter Harling
The so-called Islamic State (IS) — the jihadist movement also known as ISIL or ISIS and by the derogatory acronym Da’ish in Arabic — now controls much of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq (1). In a region beset with so much confusion, it appears uniquely determined and self-assured. Despite its name, it is in no sense a new state, since it rejects the concept of borders and largely does without institutions. Yet IS tells us much about the Middle East — and especially about its genuine states — as well as about western foreign policy.
IS is an aggressive movement with a surprisingly clear identity, given its origins and the fact that it is made up of volunteers from many different places. It began in Iraq where, following the 2003 US invasion, a handful of former mujahideen from the Afghan war established a local Al-Qaida franchise. Very quickly their ideology parted company from that of Al-Qaida central: they focused on enemies close at hand rather than less accessible ones, such as the United States or Israel. Increasingly ignoring the US occupier, they instigated a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia, and then descended into fratricidal conflict, using extreme violence against supposed traitors and apostates in their own Sunni camp. The ensuing self-destruction, between 2007 and 2008, reduced the movement to a few diehards entrenched in the Iraqi desert.
FULL ARTICLE (Le Monde Diplomatique - English Edition)
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vanessa Valentine/Flickr
CrisisWatch | A monthly bulletin on current and potential conflicts
August 2014 - Trends
Deteriorated Situations: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen
Conflict Risk Alerts: Libya, Pakistan, Yemen
INTERACTIVE CONFLICT MAP
Political vacuum in Afghanistan | All media content | DW.DE | 02.09.2014 -
Political vacuum in Afghanistan | Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi
DW’s Reporter reports on insecurity as the political uncertainty in post-election Afghanistan continues.
COMPLETE VIDEO (Deutsche Welle)
Female teacher killed in Thai Muslim south | Anadolu Agency
BANGKOK - Thailand’s south awoke to fresh violence Thursday morning, as the military government continues to plan peace talks with insurgents, which have been suspended for nine months.
Police lieutenant Pramote Chuichuey told the Anadolu Agency that a bomb exploded as a group of officers escorted teachers to a school in the Kokpo district of Pattani, killing a 28-year-old female and injuring another and a policeman.
"The bomb, contained in a gas tank, was buried on the side of the road," he said, adding that insurgents had detonated it remotely as the motorbike convoy passed.
Teachers are the frequent targets of insurgents in the south - whose population is majority ethnic Malay Muslim - as they are considered symbols of the Thai central State, against whom insurgents are fighting.
FULL ARTICLE (Anadolu Agency)
Iran should accept more quantitative constraints on the number of its centrifuges and postpone plans for industrial-scale enrichment. In return, the P5+1 should accept the continuation of qualitative growth of Tehran’s enrichment capacity through research and development. — From Crisis Group’s latest briefing: Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”
Reports propose compromise for Iran nuclear deal | Laura Rozen
As negotiators from Iran and six world powers prepare to resume talks next month, two new papers by prominent arms-control experts close to the negotiations offer prescriptions for how to overcome key obstacles to reach a nuclear deal.
The new papers, by former US nuclear negotiator Robert Einhorn, the International Crisis Group (ICG) and the Arms Control Association (ACA), propose a compromise that would have Iran agree to reduce the size of its enrichment program in the near term while allowing it to conduct research on more efficient centrifuges. That would enable Iran to expand its enrichment capacity for energy purposes after the deal expires, if Iran still desires to. The new reports seem to reflect a convergence of expert opinion on possible compromise solutions for a deal.
FULL ARTICLE (Al Monitor)
Photo: Bundesministerium fur Europa, Integration und Ausseres/flickr
EXPERT VIEWS: Is Islamic State a flash in the pan? | Alex Whiting
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Is Islamic State a flash in the pan, or is it here for the long term? What impact is its expansion in Iraq having on the war in Syria, and the region as a whole?
Thomson Reuters Foundation asked three experts for their views: Nigel Inkster is director of transnational threats and political risk at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, chair of the World Economic Forum’s committee on terrorism, and former director for operations and intelligence at MI6; Noah Bonsey is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst on Syria, based in Lebanon; and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and a student at Oxford University.
Islamic State (IS) was formerly called ISIS. It took control of key Iraqi cities like Mosul and Fallujah as part of a broad coalition of groups earlier this year, but it went it alone when it expanded into Kurdistan.
FULL ARTICLE (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”
Istanbul/Tehran/Washington/Brussels | 27 Aug 2014
November’s deadline could be the last chance to avoid a breakdown in the Iran and the P5+1 nuclear talks. Compromise on Iran’s enrichment capacity is key to ending the impasse, requiring both sides to walk back from maximalist positions and focus on realistic solutions.
Despite significant headway in negotiations over the past six months, Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., UK, Russia, China, France and Germany) remain far apart on fundamental issues. In its latest briefing, Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”, the International Crisis Group argues that both sides have forgotten the lessons that brought them this far. They have wrongly assumed that desperation for a deal would soften their rival’s bottom line and compel it to ignore its domestic political constraints. The result is a dangerous game of brinkmanship that, if continued, will yield only failure. Though there is little room for error and no time to waste, a workable compromise is still possible. Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”, Crisis Group’s latest briefing, building on the 40-point plan for a nuclear accord it detailed in May, explores a half year of talks, investigates the new realities facing negotiators and offers an innovative way out of the impasse.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
“Neither side’s arguments bear scrutiny in the debate over the number of centrifuges, because the roots of their differences are fundamentally political”, says Ali Vaez, Iran Senior Analyst. “Negotiators are both driven and constrained by their respective domestic politics, especially the U.S. and Iran, where powerful constituencies remain skeptical of the negotiations and have the leverage to derail them”.
“The moment of truth for Iran and the P5+1 has arrived. Should it be lost, it is unlikely to soon reappear”, says Robert Blecher, Acting Middle East Program Director. “The parties could allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good and watch the best opportunity to resolve this crisis devolve into a mutually harmful spiral of escalation. Or they could choose wisely”.
Libya’s Crisis: A Shattered Airport, Two Parliaments, Many Factions | Leila Fadel
As Libya has descended into chaos, it has split into two broad camps. On one side is Libya Dawn, an Islamist-backed umbrella group; on the other is a renegade general, Khalifa Hifter, who is based in the eastern part of the country along with his allies.
As this power struggle has escalated, it is no longer just an internal Libyan conflict. It is now being fought regionally, with parallels to other battles playing out in North Africa and the Middle East.
U.S. officials say Egypt and the United Arab Emirates carried out secret airstrikes in recent days directed against the Islamist factions, which was first reported in The New York Times. This direct involvement in the Libyan fighting came as a surprise, though both of these countries have staked out positions opposing Islamist groups in their own countries and abroad.
"We see in the battle that is being fought out in Libya between these two broad coalitions is a battle that is already being fought out regionally," says Claudia Gazzini, a Libya researcher at the International Crisis Group.
FULL ARTICLE (NPR)
Photo: Nasser Nouri/flickr
Negotiators first should address the crucial issue of defining Iran’s enrichment capacity. Removing that obstacle would constitute real progress and, in so doing, increase the costs of ultimate failure; further, it could give the negotiators an incentive to compromise on other issues of more recent vintage, such as concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program. — From Crisis Group’s latest briefing: Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”