International Crisis Group

Apr 24

Analyst Q&A: Obama’s Agenda for Asia Visit | Daniel Schearf
President Obama is in Japan Thursday at the start of a four-country visit in East Asia reassuring U.S. allies of its commitment to security and stability in the region as part of the so-called “Asia pivot” or “re-balance.” The trip was delayed last year because of U.S. political fighting over budget issues. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are expected to dominate talks in Japan and South Korea as there are indications Pyongyang is preparing its fourth nuclear test. China’s increasingly assertive moves on disputed territory are also expected to be discussed as some worry Beijing may follow Russia’s lead in Crimea by using force to take back historic claims. VOA spoke with the Deputy Director for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, Daniel Pinkston, on these issues via Skype.
FULL INTERVIEW (Voice of America)
Photo: U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia/flickr

Analyst Q&A: Obama’s Agenda for Asia Visit | Daniel Schearf

President Obama is in Japan Thursday at the start of a four-country visit in East Asia reassuring U.S. allies of its commitment to security and stability in the region as part of the so-called “Asia pivot” or “re-balance.” The trip was delayed last year because of U.S. political fighting over budget issues. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are expected to dominate talks in Japan and South Korea as there are indications Pyongyang is preparing its fourth nuclear test. China’s increasingly assertive moves on disputed territory are also expected to be discussed as some worry Beijing may follow Russia’s lead in Crimea by using force to take back historic claims. VOA spoke with the Deputy Director for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, Daniel Pinkston, on these issues via Skype.

FULL INTERVIEW (Voice of America)

Photo: U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia/flickr

Analyst Q&A: Obama’s Agenda for Asia Visit | Daniel Schearf
President Obama is in Japan Thursday at the start of a four-country visit in East Asia reassuring U.S. allies of its commitment to security and stability in the region as part of the so-called “Asia pivot” or “re-balance.” The trip was delayed last year because of U.S. political fighting over budget issues. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are expected to dominate talks in Japan and South Korea as there are indications Pyongyang is preparing its fourth nuclear test. China’s increasingly assertive moves on disputed territory are also expected to be discussed as some worry Beijing may follow Russia’s lead in Crimea by using force to take back historic claims. VOA spoke with the Deputy Director for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, Daniel Pinkston, on these issues via Skype.
FULL INTERVIEW (Voice of America)

Analyst Q&A: Obama’s Agenda for Asia Visit | Daniel Schearf

President Obama is in Japan Thursday at the start of a four-country visit in East Asia reassuring U.S. allies of its commitment to security and stability in the region as part of the so-called “Asia pivot” or “re-balance.” The trip was delayed last year because of U.S. political fighting over budget issues. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are expected to dominate talks in Japan and South Korea as there are indications Pyongyang is preparing its fourth nuclear test. China’s increasingly assertive moves on disputed territory are also expected to be discussed as some worry Beijing may follow Russia’s lead in Crimea by using force to take back historic claims. VOA spoke with the Deputy Director for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, Daniel Pinkston, on these issues via Skype.

FULL INTERVIEW (Voice of America)

Apr 23

We’re gearing up for our award dinner in New York, which will honour Hillary Clinton.
Check out the event details. 
Purchase tickets.

We’re gearing up for our award dinner in New York, which will honour Hillary Clinton.

Check out the event details.

Purchase tickets.

Apr 22

South Korea: North Believed to be Preparing for 4th Nuclear Test | Steve Herman
Speculation is growing that North Korea is planning to conduct an underground nuclear test to coincide with President Obama’s visit to the peninsula this week.
South Korea’s foreign minister is warning the North not to carry out a fourth nuclear test. Speaking at an international forum in Seoul, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se remarked: “If North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test as it has publicly warned, it will be a game changer.” 
Daniel Pinkston, the Northeast Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group, said Pyongyang is unlikely to worry about the South’s reaction.
“They’ve demonstrated a long dedication, persistence and resolve to dedicate a lot of resources over a long period of time. They’ve been able to bear the international pressure and sanctions and everything else. So I think it’s a clear indication that the nuclear program is very important to the leadership and so I don’t expect them to stop or reverse course,” said Pinkston.
FULL ARTICLE (Voice of America)
Photo: John Pavelka/flickr

South Korea: North Believed to be Preparing for 4th Nuclear Test | Steve Herman

Speculation is growing that North Korea is planning to conduct an underground nuclear test to coincide with President Obama’s visit to the peninsula this week.

South Korea’s foreign minister is warning the North not to carry out a fourth nuclear test. Speaking at an international forum in Seoul, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se remarked: “If North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test as it has publicly warned, it will be a game changer.” 

Daniel Pinkston, the Northeast Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group, said Pyongyang is unlikely to worry about the South’s reaction.

“They’ve demonstrated a long dedication, persistence and resolve to dedicate a lot of resources over a long period of time. They’ve been able to bear the international pressure and sanctions and everything else. So I think it’s a clear indication that the nuclear program is very important to the leadership and so I don’t expect them to stop or reverse course,” said Pinkston.

FULL ARTICLE (Voice of America)

Photo: John Pavelka/flickr

Myanmar’s Military: Back to the Barracks?
Yangon/Brussels  |   22 Apr 2014
It was Myanmar’s military that initiated the end of its own dictatorship; to advance stable reform, it needs to continue withdrawing from civilian life.
In its latest briefing, Myanmar’s Military: Back to the Barracks?, the International Crisis Group examines the military’s key role in political and economic reforms. The military has preserved its essential interests, including through the constitution, while reducing its share of power. But the armed forces are still far from having dealt with the legacy of dictatorship.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
It is sometimes wrongly assumed that the military is the main brake on reform, or its potential spoiler. Myanmar’s political transition has been top-down; the military initiated the shift away from dictatorship.
The military has generally been supportive of political and economic reforms, even when these have impacted negatively on its interests, including through loss of power, greater scrutiny and loss of economic rents.
The military began this process as it saw a significant strategic threat from the country’s increasing dependence (both political and economic) on China and because economically Myanmar was falling dangerously behind even its poorest neighbours. The military believed the only viable responses were to counterbalance China’s influence and open up the economy, for both of which improved relations with the West were indispensable.
For Myanmar’s full democratic transition to take place, the military needs to accept that its political role, as enshrined in the current constitution, must be reduced and civilian control of the armed forces increased.
The military must end ongoing rights abuses and change how it interacts with civilians, particularly in the ethnic borderlands, in order to restore its damaged reputation and transform itself into a professional institution that is reflective of – and serves to defend – Myanmar’s ethnic and religious diversity.
“While the military proved more integral to Myanmar’s reform than perhaps many anticipated, its role in the country is still problematic” says Acting Asia Program Director, Jonathan Prentice. “It needs to transcend decades of dictatorship and internal armed conflict and move from being seen as the oppressor, or enemy, to being a respected national institution. If the military hangs on to its constitutional prerogatives for too long, it will be detrimental to the democratisation and future prospects of the country”.
FULL BRIEFING

Myanmar’s Military: Back to the Barracks?

Yangon/Brussels  |   22 Apr 2014

It was Myanmar’s military that initiated the end of its own dictatorship; to advance stable reform, it needs to continue withdrawing from civilian life.

In its latest briefing, Myanmar’s Military: Back to the Barracks?, the International Crisis Group examines the military’s key role in political and economic reforms. The military has preserved its essential interests, including through the constitution, while reducing its share of power. But the armed forces are still far from having dealt with the legacy of dictatorship.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:

It is sometimes wrongly assumed that the military is the main brake on reform, or its potential spoiler. Myanmar’s political transition has been top-down; the military initiated the shift away from dictatorship.

The military has generally been supportive of political and economic reforms, even when these have impacted negatively on its interests, including through loss of power, greater scrutiny and loss of economic rents.

The military began this process as it saw a significant strategic threat from the country’s increasing dependence (both political and economic) on China and because economically Myanmar was falling dangerously behind even its poorest neighbours. The military believed the only viable responses were to counterbalance China’s influence and open up the economy, for both of which improved relations with the West were indispensable.

For Myanmar’s full democratic transition to take place, the military needs to accept that its political role, as enshrined in the current constitution, must be reduced and civilian control of the armed forces increased.

The military must end ongoing rights abuses and change how it interacts with civilians, particularly in the ethnic borderlands, in order to restore its damaged reputation and transform itself into a professional institution that is reflective of – and serves to defend – Myanmar’s ethnic and religious diversity.

“While the military proved more integral to Myanmar’s reform than perhaps many anticipated, its role in the country is still problematic” says Acting Asia Program Director, Jonathan Prentice. “It needs to transcend decades of dictatorship and internal armed conflict and move from being seen as the oppressor, or enemy, to being a respected national institution. If the military hangs on to its constitutional prerogatives for too long, it will be detrimental to the democratisation and future prospects of the country”.

FULL BRIEFING

South Korea: North Believed to be Preparing for 4th Nuclear Test | Steve Herman
Speculation is growing that North Korea is planning to conduct an underground nuclear test to coincide with President Obama’s visit to the peninsula this week.
South Korea’s foreign minister is warning the North not to carry out a fourth nuclear test. Speaking at an international forum in Seoul, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se remarked: “If North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test as it has publicly warned, it will be a game changer.”
 FULL ARTICLE (Voice of America)
 Photo: Emmanuel Dyan/Flickr

South Korea: North Believed to be Preparing for 4th Nuclear Test | Steve Herman

Speculation is growing that North Korea is planning to conduct an underground nuclear test to coincide with President Obama’s visit to the peninsula this week.

South Korea’s foreign minister is warning the North not to carry out a fourth nuclear test. Speaking at an international forum in Seoul, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se remarked: “If North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test as it has publicly warned, it will be a game changer.”

 FULL ARTICLE (Voice of America)

 Photo: Emmanuel Dyan/Flickr

Apr 17

The Syrian “guests” of Istanbul | Tanya Talaga
They beg on the street corners with their Syrian passports open so passersby don’t confuse them with Roma.
Others crowd the congested, winding streets of Istanbul in their luxury cars with Syrian license plates.
Outside of the 220,000 refugees from Syria living in temporary camps lining the southern border, no one knows exactly how many displaced Syrians are living inside Turkey’s major cities, but estimates place the number at between 500,000 and 1 million people.
Syrian refugee family in Turkey ‘trying to leave this miserable life’
They can be found all over Istanbul, a sprawling metropolis of more than 14 million.
FULL ARTICLE (The Toronto Star)
Photo: ultimcodex/flickr

The Syrian “guests” of Istanbul | Tanya Talaga

They beg on the street corners with their Syrian passports open so passersby don’t confuse them with Roma.

Others crowd the congested, winding streets of Istanbul in their luxury cars with Syrian license plates.

Outside of the 220,000 refugees from Syria living in temporary camps lining the southern border, no one knows exactly how many displaced Syrians are living inside Turkey’s major cities, but estimates place the number at between 500,000 and 1 million people.

Syrian refugee family in Turkey ‘trying to leave this miserable life’

They can be found all over Istanbul, a sprawling metropolis of more than 14 million.

FULL ARTICLE (The Toronto Star)

Photo: ultimcodex/flickr

Apr 16


The security sweep – at one point 6,000 police descended on Eastleigh and neighbouring Majengo and Pangani – and mass arrests are particularly poignant for Kenyans of Somali heritage, a significant minority population whose districts were for long years under a state of emergency.

—Cedric Barnes, “Losing Hearts and Minds in Kenya”

The security sweep – at one point 6,000 police descended on Eastleigh and neighbouring Majengo and Pangani – and mass arrests are particularly poignant for Kenyans of Somali heritage, a significant minority population whose districts were for long years under a state of emergency.

—Cedric Barnes, “Losing Hearts and Minds in Kenya

Losing Hearts and Minds in Kenya | Cedric Barnes (@CedricHOA)
The round-up and mass detention of Somalis in Nairobi, which began in earnest on 31 March, deliberately conflated immigration issues with counter-terrorism and has widened dangerous communal divides. Al-Shabaab and its extremist allies in Kenya will be very satisfied. What the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall last September failed to do – sow division among Kenyans – might well be achieved by these detentions and deportations. This month’s events brought out the worst in Kenya, from the prejudice shown, especially in social media, by ordinary citizens, to petty point scoring by the political class, to police extortion of bribes from lawfully resident Somalis, to the extrajudicial execution of the controversial Muslim preacher known as Makaburi (“graveyard”).
The terrorist threat is real enough. In March, security forces seized a pick-up truck packed with explosives, reportedly part of a planned multi-pronged attack in Mombasa. (Authorities believed the truck was one of several devices.) Soon thereafter, armed gunmen killed six worshipers at a Christian Church in the Likoni area of Mombasa. There was also a spate of grenade attacks targeting Christians, and claiming another six lives, in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh, where people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds live side by side.
The Westgate mall attack killed indiscriminately and brought a unified response: private Kenyan citizens, including of Somali origin, were applauded for their individual heroism and community support, and the nation, led by President Kenyatta, stood as one. By contrast, the recent attacks were targeted and the government’s security operations in response quickly exposed divides between majority and minority communities, even between MPs within the ruling Jubilee coalition. The operations also drew a belated but firm response from the opposition Orange Democratic Coalition.
FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group’s Blog: The African Peace-building Agenda)
Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Losing Hearts and Minds in Kenya | Cedric Barnes (@CedricHOA)

The round-up and mass detention of Somalis in Nairobi, which began in earnest on 31 March, deliberately conflated immigration issues with counter-terrorism and has widened dangerous communal divides. Al-Shabaab and its extremist allies in Kenya will be very satisfied. What the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall last September failed to do – sow division among Kenyans – might well be achieved by these detentions and deportations. This month’s events brought out the worst in Kenya, from the prejudice shown, especially in social media, by ordinary citizens, to petty point scoring by the political class, to police extortion of bribes from lawfully resident Somalis, to the extrajudicial execution of the controversial Muslim preacher known as Makaburi (“graveyard”).

The terrorist threat is real enough. In March, security forces seized a pick-up truck packed with explosives, reportedly part of a planned multi-pronged attack in Mombasa. (Authorities believed the truck was one of several devices.) Soon thereafter, armed gunmen killed six worshipers at a Christian Church in the Likoni area of Mombasa. There was also a spate of grenade attacks targeting Christians, and claiming another six lives, in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh, where people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds live side by side.

The Westgate mall attack killed indiscriminately and brought a unified response: private Kenyan citizens, including of Somali origin, were applauded for their individual heroism and community support, and the nation, led by President Kenyatta, stood as one. By contrast, the recent attacks were targeted and the government’s security operations in response quickly exposed divides between majority and minority communities, even between MPs within the ruling Jubilee coalition. The operations also drew a belated but firm response from the opposition Orange Democratic Coalition.

FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group’s Blog: The African Peace-building Agenda)

Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Bombing and mass kidnapping in Nigeria | WBEZ-Chicago -

Reportedly, hundreds of girls in northeast Nigeria were kidnapped from school by the Islamist group Boko Haram. The kidnapping follows a promise from Boko Haram’s leader that he would attack schools and take girls. Among its demands, the group wants a stricter form of Sharia law and the Nigerian government’s downfall. Last month, because of these attacks, Nigeria’s Borno state closed its schools and sent tens of thousands of children home. Boko Haram is blamed for other deadly attacks on schools in the area and numerous bombings, including one in the capital of Abuja earlier this week that killed at least 70 people. Crisis Group’s Africa Director, Comfort Ero, provided WBEZ-Chicago with some context behind the attacks.