International Crisis Group

Oct 14

Bringing Back the Palestinian Refugee Question
Jerusalem/Ramallah/Gaza/Brussels  |   9 Oct 2014
With Palestinians increasingly doubtful that the refugee question can be resolved within a two-state framework, the Palestinian leadership should seek to reinvigorate refugee communities as well as to reclaim its representation of them. When diplomacy emerges from its hiatus, the leadership will be able to negotiate and implement a peace agreement only if it wins refugees’ support or at least acquiescence.
In its latest report, Bringing Back the Palestinian Refugee Question, the International Crisis Group examines what could be done on the Palestinian side, without compromising core Israeli interests, to mitigate the risk that the Palestinian refugee question would derail a future agreement. For most of the 66 years since the Arab inhabitants of historic Palestine were displaced with the establishment of Israel in what Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe), the refugee question was at the forefront of the Palestinian national agenda. It no longer is. Refugees feel alienated from the Palestinian Authority (PA), doubt the intentions of Palestinian negotiators, and resent the class structure that the PA and its economic policies have produced.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Calcified refugee camp leadership committees ought to be renewed by election or selection. While their predicament is largely a reflection of the dysfunction of the overall political system, the relative isolation of the camps could facilitate a more representative local leadership. Given the limited resources of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), credible local leadership is needed.
Palestinian elites, particularly in the West Bank, should combat the notion that refugee political claims can be advanced only by isolating camps from the broader social fabric. Refugees increasingly have come to believe that socio-economic deprivation is not the only way to maintain identity; reinvigorating political structures to better represent them would be more effective and humane.
Donors should continue to fund UNRWA. Its support cannot solve the refugee problem, but the precipitous decline of services could exacerbate it and provoke regional instability. Palestinian political elites should undertake measures to improve daily life for refugees and ensure that economic reforms benefit rather than further marginalise them.
“Only a Palestinian leadership perceived as legitimate, inclusive and representative by all Palestinians will be considered authorised to negotiate a compromise with Israel” says Nathan Thrall, Senior Middle East Analyst. “The lull in talks gives the national movement a chance to reconstruct itself so Palestinians of all sorts, particularly refugees, can influence negotiating positions”.
“The Palestinian leadership, the Israeli government and the international community need to understand that their current approach to the refugee question is a recipe not only for failure and strife, but for further undermining the two-state solution”, says Robert Blecher, Middle East and North Africa Acting Program Director.
FULL REPORT

Bringing Back the Palestinian Refugee Question

Jerusalem/Ramallah/Gaza/Brussels  |   9 Oct 2014

With Palestinians increasingly doubtful that the refugee question can be resolved within a two-state framework, the Palestinian leadership should seek to reinvigorate refugee communities as well as to reclaim its representation of them. When diplomacy emerges from its hiatus, the leadership will be able to negotiate and implement a peace agreement only if it wins refugees’ support or at least acquiescence.

In its latest report, Bringing Back the Palestinian Refugee Question, the International Crisis Group examines what could be done on the Palestinian side, without compromising core Israeli interests, to mitigate the risk that the Palestinian refugee question would derail a future agreement. For most of the 66 years since the Arab inhabitants of historic Palestine were displaced with the establishment of Israel in what Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe), the refugee question was at the forefront of the Palestinian national agenda. It no longer is. Refugees feel alienated from the Palestinian Authority (PA), doubt the intentions of Palestinian negotiators, and resent the class structure that the PA and its economic policies have produced.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

“Only a Palestinian leadership perceived as legitimate, inclusive and representative by all Palestinians will be considered authorised to negotiate a compromise with Israel” says Nathan Thrall, Senior Middle East Analyst. “The lull in talks gives the national movement a chance to reconstruct itself so Palestinians of all sorts, particularly refugees, can influence negotiating positions”.

“The Palestinian leadership, the Israeli government and the international community need to understand that their current approach to the refugee question is a recipe not only for failure and strife, but for further undermining the two-state solution”, says Robert Blecher, Middle East and North Africa Acting Program Director.

FULL REPORT

The Implications of Turkey’s Turn Towards Fighting ISIS | Katarina Montgomery
In a significant expansion of its role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), Turkey agreed to let the U.S.-led coalition use its territory to launch attacks and train moderate Syrian rebels.
The move comes after weeks of complaints that Turkey hasn’t done enough to combat ISIS, as it swept across Syria and Iraq and seized nearly half of the strategic border town of Kobani.
Didem Akyel Collinsworth, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, explained why Turkey has stepped up its cooperation with the international community in the fight against ISIS.
Syria Deeply :Turkey will now allow the U.S. and its allies to use its bases against ISIS. Why this move and why now?
Collinsworth: The agreement to train moderate Syrian rebels on its soil, the latest motion at parliament to allow cross-border military operations into Iraq and Syria, and to allow foreign troop deployment on Turkish soil, were all important steps recently taken.
From a public perspective, the moves show that Turkey is taking proactive steps towards its safety, so in that sense it was a defensive move.
Recent developments have tarnished Turkey’s image in Western Media and called in to question Turkey’s NATO membership. These steps shows its Western allies that Turkey is not just standing on the sidelines and that it is still a valuable NATO ally.
Many of the reasons why Turkey is shying away from direct military intervention and involvement in northern Syria are understandable. Opening up the bases is one way Turkey can contribute, but even before that, Turkey took steps that didn’t jeopardize its safety. Turkey allowed the use of its air space, opened up humanitarian corridors to Syrian refugees, and allowed information sharing.
FULL INTERVIEW (Syria Deeply)
Photo: EC/ECHO/flickr

The Implications of Turkey’s Turn Towards Fighting ISIS | Katarina Montgomery

In a significant expansion of its role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), Turkey agreed to let the U.S.-led coalition use its territory to launch attacks and train moderate Syrian rebels.

The move comes after weeks of complaints that Turkey hasn’t done enough to combat ISIS, as it swept across Syria and Iraq and seized nearly half of the strategic border town of Kobani.

Didem Akyel Collinsworth, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, explained why Turkey has stepped up its cooperation with the international community in the fight against ISIS.

Syria Deeply :Turkey will now allow the U.S. and its allies to use its bases against ISIS. Why this move and why now?

Collinsworth: The agreement to train moderate Syrian rebels on its soil, the latest motion at parliament to allow cross-border military operations into Iraq and Syria, and to allow foreign troop deployment on Turkish soil, were all important steps recently taken.

From a public perspective, the moves show that Turkey is taking proactive steps towards its safety, so in that sense it was a defensive move.

Recent developments have tarnished Turkey’s image in Western Media and called in to question Turkey’s NATO membership. These steps shows its Western allies that Turkey is not just standing on the sidelines and that it is still a valuable NATO ally.

Many of the reasons why Turkey is shying away from direct military intervention and involvement in northern Syria are understandable. Opening up the bases is one way Turkey can contribute, but even before that, Turkey took steps that didn’t jeopardize its safety. Turkey allowed the use of its air space, opened up humanitarian corridors to Syrian refugees, and allowed information sharing.

FULL INTERVIEW (Syria Deeply)

Photo: EC/ECHO/flickr

Oct 09

Central African Republic: A Transition at Risk | Crisis Group
On 26 September 2014, the United Nations Secretary-General convened a high-level meeting on the Central African Republic. The meeting aimed to identify the next steps for the restoration of peace and stability in the country, following the signing of the Brazzaville Cessation of Hostilities agreement on 23 July, the appointment of a new transitional government on 24 August and the transfer of authority from the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on 15 September. The meeting was attended by CAR’s President Catherine Samba-Panza and representatives of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, regional states, regional organisations and international financial institutions. The International Crisis Group sent the following letter to the participants ahead of the meeting.
Letter to the Participants of the High-Level Meeting on the Central African Republic | 26 September 2014
Excellencies,
The Central African Republic’s seven-month-old transition is at risk. The country’s leaders and partners meeting in the special high-level event at the UN General Assembly on 26 September 2014 should redouble efforts to put it back on track.
The July Brazzaville summit, which aimed to end CAR’s de-facto partition, has not stopped the fighting. The main armed groups are in disarray, lack clear leadership, seek to expand their areas of control and pursue banditry as much as politics. They should be contained to allow space for the political process. Political elites in Bangui are divided. The government has become weaker, faces growing popular discontent and has been accused of favouritism, with the choice of a new Prime Minister criticised. Despite a display of unanimity, CAR’s neighbours pursue competing and often ambiguous strategies in the country.
FULL LETTER (In Pursuit of Peace - Crisis Group Blog)
Photo: UN Photo/Cia Pak

Central African Republic: A Transition at Risk | Crisis Group

On 26 September 2014, the United Nations Secretary-General convened a high-level meeting on the Central African Republic. The meeting aimed to identify the next steps for the restoration of peace and stability in the country, following the signing of the Brazzaville Cessation of Hostilities agreement on 23 July, the appointment of a new transitional government on 24 August and the transfer of authority from the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on 15 September. The meeting was attended by CAR’s President Catherine Samba-Panza and representatives of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, regional states, regional organisations and international financial institutions. The International Crisis Group sent the following letter to the participants ahead of the meeting.

Letter to the Participants of the High-Level Meeting on the Central African Republic | 26 September 2014

Excellencies,

The Central African Republic’s seven-month-old transition is at risk. The country’s leaders and partners meeting in the special high-level event at the UN General Assembly on 26 September 2014 should redouble efforts to put it back on track.

The July Brazzaville summit, which aimed to end CAR’s de-facto partition, has not stopped the fighting. The main armed groups are in disarray, lack clear leadership, seek to expand their areas of control and pursue banditry as much as politics. They should be contained to allow space for the political process. Political elites in Bangui are divided. The government has become weaker, faces growing popular discontent and has been accused of favouritism, with the choice of a new Prime Minister criticised. Despite a display of unanimity, CAR’s neighbours pursue competing and often ambiguous strategies in the country.

FULL LETTER (In Pursuit of Peace - Crisis Group Blog)

Photo: UN Photo/Cia Pak

Oct 08

Countering terrorism must go beyond international law enforcement | COMFORT ERO
The UN Security Council’s resolution on combating foreign terrorist fighters devotes just 31 of its 330 lines to addressing the roots of the problem. The rest is law enforcement. But a narrowly military and police focus alone cannot work. We also must face up to the difficult work of balancing international and regional diplomatic rivalries, thereby reducing the conflicts and tensions that lead to radicalization. Terrorism is usually a symptom of social breakdown rather than its cause, and states that have taken a narrowly military rather than more comprehensive approach often have little to show for it.
In Nigeria, for instance, the government has never addressed the governance, underdevelopment and rampant corruption driving radicalization, choosing instead to “do something” through military surges that drive more people into the hands of jihadi extremists. Yet, just as the expensively built new Iraqi army was pushed out of Mosul by a few thousand fighters, Nigeria’s military is now threatened in Borno state.
FULL ARTICLE (Today’s Zaman)
Photo: UN Photo/Stuart Price/flickr

Countering terrorism must go beyond international law enforcement | COMFORT ERO

The UN Security Council’s resolution on combating foreign terrorist fighters devotes just 31 of its 330 lines to addressing the roots of the problem. The rest is law enforcement. But a narrowly military and police focus alone cannot work. We also must face up to the difficult work of balancing international and regional diplomatic rivalries, thereby reducing the conflicts and tensions that lead to radicalization. Terrorism is usually a symptom of social breakdown rather than its cause, and states that have taken a narrowly military rather than more comprehensive approach often have little to show for it.

In Nigeria, for instance, the government has never addressed the governance, underdevelopment and rampant corruption driving radicalization, choosing instead to “do something” through military surges that drive more people into the hands of jihadi extremists. Yet, just as the expensively built new Iraqi army was pushed out of Mosul by a few thousand fighters, Nigeria’s military is now threatened in Borno state.

FULL ARTICLE (Today’s Zaman)

Photo: UN Photo/Stuart Price/flickr

Profile: Who are Yemen’s Houthis? | Manuel Almeida
Watched by Yemeni soldiers scattered around Sanaa’s Tahrir Square, a large crowd of Houthi rebels gathered on Sept. 23 to listen to Abdul Malik al-Houthi’s televised speech. “These great efforts created this great success – victory for all the people, forcing a response to popular demands,” the Houthi leader said, two days after the rebels tightened their control over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
Until very recently, this would have been unthinkable: a rebel group once mostly confined to the Saada and Amran governorates now calling the shots in the capital and taking over key state institutions.
On Tuesday Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi appointed Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak (his office director) as the country’s new prime minister. Three weeks ago the Yemeni government and the Houthis signed a deal on the formation of a new national unity government. But the Houthis promptly rejected the Mubarak’s appointment. Amid this, more and more in Yemen and the region are asking about what the Houthis believe in and what their true objective is.
FULL ARTICLE (Al Arabiya News)
Picture: Rod Waddington/flickr

Profile: Who are Yemen’s Houthis? | Manuel Almeida

Watched by Yemeni soldiers scattered around Sanaa’s Tahrir Square, a large crowd of Houthi rebels gathered on Sept. 23 to listen to Abdul Malik al-Houthi’s televised speech. “These great efforts created this great success – victory for all the people, forcing a response to popular demands,” the Houthi leader said, two days after the rebels tightened their control over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

Until very recently, this would have been unthinkable: a rebel group once mostly confined to the Saada and Amran governorates now calling the shots in the capital and taking over key state institutions.

On Tuesday Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi appointed Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak (his office director) as the country’s new prime minister. Three weeks ago the Yemeni government and the Houthis signed a deal on the formation of a new national unity government. But the Houthis promptly rejected the Mubarak’s appointment. Amid this, more and more in Yemen and the region are asking about what the Houthis believe in and what their true objective is.

FULL ARTICLE (Al Arabiya News)

Picture: Rod Waddington/flickr

Oct 07

Islamic State: Why Turkey is hesitating to prevent fall of Kobane | Alexander Christie-Miller
BURSA, TURKEY — The future of the Syrian town of Kobane hung in the balance Tuesday as the Islamic State’s three-week assault on the Kurdish-held enclave appeared to enter its endgame.
Its last hope likely hinges on Ankara, whose armed forces remain poised on the border only hundreds of yards from the battle, resisting mounting pressure from Turkey’s own Kurdish minority to assist Kobane’s defenders.
Despite a range of strategic and ideological factors inclining Ankara against direct intervention, increasingly angry protests both in Turkey and abroad are creating mounting pressure for it to act.
“Kobane is about to fall,” acknowledged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an interview with Turkish television as he toured a refugee camp in southern Turkey early Tuesday.
FULL ARTICLE (The Christian Science Monitor)
Picture: Fraktion DIE LINKE. im Bundestag/Heike Hänsel/flickr

Islamic State: Why Turkey is hesitating to prevent fall of Kobane | Alexander Christie-Miller

BURSA, TURKEY — The future of the Syrian town of Kobane hung in the balance Tuesday as the Islamic State’s three-week assault on the Kurdish-held enclave appeared to enter its endgame.

Its last hope likely hinges on Ankara, whose armed forces remain poised on the border only hundreds of yards from the battle, resisting mounting pressure from Turkey’s own Kurdish minority to assist Kobane’s defenders.

Despite a range of strategic and ideological factors inclining Ankara against direct intervention, increasingly angry protests both in Turkey and abroad are creating mounting pressure for it to act.

“Kobane is about to fall,” acknowledged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an interview with Turkish television as he toured a refugee camp in southern Turkey early Tuesday.

FULL ARTICLE (The Christian Science Monitor)

Picture: Fraktion DIE LINKE. im Bundestag/Heike Hänsel/flickr

Oct 06

Afghan women’s daily battle against abuse | Bethany Matta
Taloqan, Afghanistan - The women affairs office in Taloqan, the capital of the northern Afghan province of Takhar, remains busy as distressed women and family members line up for help.
One such woman is Sadia whose husband, a militiaman, recently cut off her genitals. She left her husband’s home after the horrific incident.
"The women affairs office here has guided this case every step of the way," Razmara Hawash, who is in charge of the office in Takhar told Al Jazeera, referring to Sadia’s case.
"If we had not, then they would have used either money or power to get her back. Her husband and his family are powerful people."
FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera)
Photo: Kenneth Taylor Jr/flickr

Afghan women’s daily battle against abuse | Bethany Matta

Taloqan, Afghanistan - The women affairs office in Taloqan, the capital of the northern Afghan province of Takhar, remains busy as distressed women and family members line up for help.

One such woman is Sadia whose husband, a militiaman, recently cut off her genitals. She left her husband’s home after the horrific incident.

"The women affairs office here has guided this case every step of the way," Razmara Hawash, who is in charge of the office in Takhar told Al Jazeera, referring to Sadia’s case.

"If we had not, then they would have used either money or power to get her back. Her husband and his family are powerful people."

FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera)

Photo: Kenneth Taylor Jr/flickr

Feeling Good about Feeling Bad | Nathan Thrall
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit is a Haaretz columnist admired by liberal Zionists in America, where his book has been the focus of much attention. In April 1897 his great-grandfather Herbert Bentwich sailed for Jaffa, leading a delegation of 21 Zionists who were investigating whether Palestine would make a suitable site for a Jewish national home. Theodor Herzl, whose pamphlet The Jewish State had been published the year before, had never been to Palestine and hoped Bentwich’s group would produce a comprehensive report of its visit for the First Zionist Congress which was to be held in Basel in August that year. Bentwich was well-to-do, Western European and religious. Herzl and most early Zionists were chiefly interested in helping the impoverished and persecuted Jews of Eastern Europe, but Bentwich was more worried about the number of secular and emancipated Jews in Western Europe who were becoming assimilated. A solution to the problems of both groups, he believed, could be found by resurrecting the Land of Israel in Palestine.
FULL BOOK REVIEW (London Review of Books)
Photo: Cycling man/flickr

Feeling Good about Feeling Bad | Nathan Thrall

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit

Ari Shavit is a Haaretz columnist admired by liberal Zionists in America, where his book has been the focus of much attention. In April 1897 his great-grandfather Herbert Bentwich sailed for Jaffa, leading a delegation of 21 Zionists who were investigating whether Palestine would make a suitable site for a Jewish national home. Theodor Herzl, whose pamphlet The Jewish State had been published the year before, had never been to Palestine and hoped Bentwich’s group would produce a comprehensive report of its visit for the First Zionist Congress which was to be held in Basel in August that year. Bentwich was well-to-do, Western European and religious. Herzl and most early Zionists were chiefly interested in helping the impoverished and persecuted Jews of Eastern Europe, but Bentwich was more worried about the number of secular and emancipated Jews in Western Europe who were becoming assimilated. A solution to the problems of both groups, he believed, could be found by resurrecting the Land of Israel in Palestine.

FULL BOOK REVIEW (London Review of Books)

Photo: Cycling man/flickr

Oct 02

North Korea completes upgrade at space center for larger rockets, says report | Tim Hume and KJ Kwon
Seoul (CNN) — New images of North Korea’s main satellite launch site show that an upgrade allowing for larger rockets has been completed, raising the possibility of a fresh launch within the year, a new report says.
Based on satellite images of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, located on North Korea’s west coast close to the Chinese border, the report was posted on the 38 North website, run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
"North Korea is now ready to move forward with another rocket launch," concluded the report by retired imagery technology expert Nick Hansen, adding that if the political decision were made to proceed, "a rocket could be launched by the end of 2014."
FULL ARTICLE (CNN)
Photo: felibrilu/flickr

North Korea completes upgrade at space center for larger rockets, says report | Tim Hume and KJ Kwon

Seoul (CNN) — New images of North Korea’s main satellite launch site show that an upgrade allowing for larger rockets has been completed, raising the possibility of a fresh launch within the year, a new report says.

Based on satellite images of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, located on North Korea’s west coast close to the Chinese border, the report was posted on the 38 North website, run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

"North Korea is now ready to move forward with another rocket launch," concluded the report by retired imagery technology expert Nick Hansen, adding that if the political decision were made to proceed, "a rocket could be launched by the end of 2014."

FULL ARTICLE (CNN)

Photo: felibrilu/flickr

QUICK FIX IN KABUL | SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN
THE GHANI-ABDULLAH DEAL KEEPS THE PEACE, FOR NOW.
At a high school in Kabul on Sept. 22, Ashraf Ghani, dressed in crisp white shalwar kameez and black jacket, was almost shouting. “We are not just responsible for protecting the vote of the people,” he said, “but also to protect people’s lives!” This, Ghani’s first speech as Afghanistan’s president-elect, was ostensible explanation for why the Afghan people had had to wait more than three months since the last ballots were cast to find out just who would succeed Hamid Karzai as the war-torn country’s next leader.
Between the end of the vote and the power-sharing agreement finally being reached between Ghani and his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, it had appeared likely that the controversial presidential election might push Afghanistan back into civil war. Talks between Ghani and Abdullah had repeatedly broken down. More than once, it got so bad between them that their campaign workers participating in the U.N.-monitored vote audit got into fistfights. Fearing loss of influence as a result of the political crisis, the country’s warlords threatened to create their own government. It took U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a number of personal visits and some 27 phone calls to Ghani and Abdullah to even get the two candidates in the same room.
FULL ARTICLE (Newsweek)
Photo: State Department/US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/flickr

QUICK FIX IN KABUL | SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN

THE GHANI-ABDULLAH DEAL KEEPS THE PEACE, FOR NOW.

At a high school in Kabul on Sept. 22, Ashraf Ghani, dressed in crisp white shalwar kameez and black jacket, was almost shouting. “We are not just responsible for protecting the vote of the people,” he said, “but also to protect people’s lives!” This, Ghani’s first speech as Afghanistan’s president-elect, was ostensible explanation for why the Afghan people had had to wait more than three months since the last ballots were cast to find out just who would succeed Hamid Karzai as the war-torn country’s next leader.

Between the end of the vote and the power-sharing agreement finally being reached between Ghani and his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, it had appeared likely that the controversial presidential election might push Afghanistan back into civil war. Talks between Ghani and Abdullah had repeatedly broken down. More than once, it got so bad between them that their campaign workers participating in the U.N.-monitored vote audit got into fistfights. Fearing loss of influence as a result of the political crisis, the country’s warlords threatened to create their own government. It took U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a number of personal visits and some 27 phone calls to Ghani and Abdullah to even get the two candidates in the same room.

FULL ARTICLE (Newsweek)

Photo: State Department/US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/flickr