15 Sep

Robert Siegel speaks with Noah Bonsey, senior Syria analyst for the International Crisis Group, about the state of the Free Syrian Army.

FULL TRANSCRIPT (NPR)

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Dozens killed in Tripoli suburb under siege | Tom Stevenson
On the outskirts of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, the residents of an area known as Warshefana are surrounded on all sides by armed militias who, in addition to attacking built-up areas, have imposed what amounts to a siege, blocking the entry of food and medicine.
The fighters form part of a militia coalition that took effective control of Tripoli two weeks ago. They have been heavily shelling Warshefana from their surrounding positions for the last week and have so far killed more than 70 residents, including at least 12 children. An additional 140 are believed to be injured.
The Warshefana are a tribe often seen as having been loyalists to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. They once supported militias from Zintan, including Othman Mlekta’s al-Qaqaa, in their long battle in Tripoli against allies of their attackers. The militias now besieging the tribe see its members as traitors to Libya’s revolution, which they claim to be upholding.
FULL ARTICLE (Al-Monitor)
Photo: European Commission DG ECHO/flickr

Dozens killed in Tripoli suburb under siege | Tom Stevenson

On the outskirts of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, the residents of an area known as Warshefana are surrounded on all sides by armed militias who, in addition to attacking built-up areas, have imposed what amounts to a siege, blocking the entry of food and medicine.

The fighters form part of a militia coalition that took effective control of Tripoli two weeks ago. They have been heavily shelling Warshefana from their surrounding positions for the last week and have so far killed more than 70 residents, including at least 12 children. An additional 140 are believed to be injured.

The Warshefana are a tribe often seen as having been loyalists to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. They once supported militias from Zintan, including Othman Mlekta’s al-Qaqaa, in their long battle in Tripoli against allies of their attackers. The militias now besieging the tribe see its members as traitors to Libya’s revolution, which they claim to be upholding.

FULL ARTICLE (Al-Monitor)

Photo: European Commission DG ECHO/flickr

To Stop ISIS in Syria, Support Aleppo | JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO and NOAH BONSEY
President Obama’s speech last week signaled a likely expansion into Syria of American airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, yet offered little indication of an immediate strategy to halt ISIS’ gains there. The administration’s first focus thus remains on Iraq, while familiar pledges to work with regional allies and increase support to moderate rebels in Syria — if Congress approves sufficient funding — appear divorced from the urgency of the situation on the ground.
Though Western attention is drawn to Iraq, it is Syria that has witnessed the most significant ISIS gains since June. It is Aleppo, Syria’s largest metropolitan area, that presents ISIS’ best opportunity for expanding its claimed caliphate. An effective strategy for halting, and eventually reversing, ISIS’ expansion should begin there, and soon.
FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)
Photo: Basma/Foreign & Commonwealth Office/flickr

To Stop ISIS in Syria, Support Aleppo | JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO and NOAH BONSEY

President Obama’s speech last week signaled a likely expansion into Syria of American airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, yet offered little indication of an immediate strategy to halt ISIS’ gains there. The administration’s first focus thus remains on Iraq, while familiar pledges to work with regional allies and increase support to moderate rebels in Syria — if Congress approves sufficient funding — appear divorced from the urgency of the situation on the ground.

Though Western attention is drawn to Iraq, it is Syria that has witnessed the most significant ISIS gains since June. It is Aleppo, Syria’s largest metropolitan area, that presents ISIS’ best opportunity for expanding its claimed caliphate. An effective strategy for halting, and eventually reversing, ISIS’ expansion should begin there, and soon.

FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)

Photo: Basma/Foreign & Commonwealth Office/flickr

12 Sep

Crisis Group President Jean-Marie Guéhenno discusses Syria and the UN on the BBC.

Central Asia’s intensifying water dispute | Gabriel Domínguez
A new report finds political rivalries, economic competition and nationalism are hampering efforts to solve Central Asia’s growing water and energy needs; a situation that may lead to conflict says analyst Deirdre Tynan.
Water management in Central Asia has long been a controversial issue. It is a region where major rivers cross international borders and water and energy production are closely intertwined. In 2012, a dispute over water resources risked provoking military conflict among the former Soviet republics, due to plans by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to dam rivers for hydropower projects. Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country, depends on the rivers that rise in these neighboring countries to irrigate farmland and it has long been opposed to plans to revive Soviet-era projects to build dams upstream.
In a recently released report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) says that political rivalries, nationalism and mistrust have also been increasing tensions. The paper titled Water Pressures in Central Asia, examines the impact of water issues on shared border areas in the volatile Ferghana Valley; water shortages in urban areas; and competing water and energy needs among the three riparian states.
FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)
Photo: Matluba Mukhamedova/World Bank/flickr

Central Asia’s intensifying water dispute | Gabriel Domínguez

A new report finds political rivalries, economic competition and nationalism are hampering efforts to solve Central Asia’s growing water and energy needs; a situation that may lead to conflict says analyst Deirdre Tynan.

Water management in Central Asia has long been a controversial issue. It is a region where major rivers cross international borders and water and energy production are closely intertwined. In 2012, a dispute over water resources risked provoking military conflict among the former Soviet republics, due to plans by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to dam rivers for hydropower projects. Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country, depends on the rivers that rise in these neighboring countries to irrigate farmland and it has long been opposed to plans to revive Soviet-era projects to build dams upstream.

In a recently released report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) says that political rivalries, nationalism and mistrust have also been increasing tensions. The paper titled Water Pressures in Central Asia, examines the impact of water issues on shared border areas in the volatile Ferghana Valley; water shortages in urban areas; and competing water and energy needs among the three riparian states.

FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)

Photo: Matluba Mukhamedova/World Bank/flickr

How not to demilitarize Hamas  | Ofer Zalzberg 
In a few weeks, indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas are to take place in Cairo with the aim of consolidating a durable ceasefire. The problem is that the two sides have two quite different agendas – while Hamas chiefly seeks the removal of the siege over Gaza, the Israeli government is primarily interested in demilitarizing Gaza.
But is pushing for demilitarization of Hamas in Gaza alone really in Israel’s interests?
FULL ARTICLE (CNN)
Photo: Dale Spencer/flickr

How not to demilitarize Hamas  | Ofer Zalzberg 

In a few weeks, indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas are to take place in Cairo with the aim of consolidating a durable ceasefire. The problem is that the two sides have two quite different agendas – while Hamas chiefly seeks the removal of the siege over Gaza, the Israeli government is primarily interested in demilitarizing Gaza.

But is pushing for demilitarization of Hamas in Gaza alone really in Israel’s interests?

FULL ARTICLE (CNN)

Photo: Dale Spencer/flickr

U.S. Pins Hope on Syrian Rebels With Loyalties All Over the Map | BEN HUBBARD, ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI
BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Obama’s determination to train Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leaves the United States dependent on a diverse group riven by infighting, with no shared leadership and with hard-line Islamists as its most effective fighters.
After more than three years of civil war, there are hundreds of militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad — and one another. Among them, even the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside extremists like the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”
FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)
Photo: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli/The National Guard/flickr

U.S. Pins Hope on Syrian Rebels With Loyalties All Over the Map | BEN HUBBARD, ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Obama’s determination to train Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leaves the United States dependent on a diverse group riven by infighting, with no shared leadership and with hard-line Islamists as its most effective fighters.

After more than three years of civil war, there are hundreds of militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad — and one another. Among them, even the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside extremists like the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”

FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)

Photo: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli/The National Guard/flickr

11 Sep
"As Aleppo goes, so goes Syria’s rebellion. The city is crucial to the mainstream opposition’s military viability as well as its morale, thus to halting the advance of the Islamic State (IS). After an alliance of armed rebel factions seized its eastern half in July 2012, Aleppo for a time symbolised the opposition’s optimism and momentum; in the following months, it exposed the rebels’ limits, as their progress slowed, and they struggled to win over the local population. Today, locked in a two-front war against the regime and IS, their position is more precarious than at any time since the fighting began."

—From Crisis Group’s report Rigged Cars and Barrel Bombs: Aleppo and the State of the Syrian War

Water Pressures in Central Asia
Bishkek/Brussels  |   11 Sep 2014
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
Political rivalries, economic competition, heightened nationalism and mistrust hamper the search for a solution to the region’s growing water and energy needs. In its latest report, Water Pressures in Central Asia, the International Crisis Group examines the impact of water issues on shared border areas in the volatile Ferghana Valley; water shortages in urban areas; and competing water and energy needs among the three riparian states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The report also analyses the international community’s potential to contribute to national and regional stability in Central Asia.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Kyrgyzstan is looking at a bleak winter of energy shortages because of low water levels at the Toktogul reservoir and hydropower plant. Energy insecurity and resentment are growing and have proved to be major catalysts in the downfall of successive Kyrgyz administrations. Only mass labour migration and authoritarian tactics have prevented similar upheavals in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Attempts at comprehensive regional solutions have foundered on mistrust. The three countries (and international backers) should act in the Ferghana Valley border areas to end annual competition and conflict over water by seeking step-by-step solutions rather than an all-inclusive resource settlement. If Uzbekistan will not join, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan should work bilaterally.
Uzbekistan’s irrigation system desperately needs modernisation. Researchers suggest that 50 to 80 per cent of water used for agricultural irrigation is lost.
The failure in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to provide basic services greatly increases the perception that their governments are weak and corrupt and provides a rallying point for opposition movements that seek to oust them.
The donor community, including China, the EU and Russia, should support the region in modernising its water infrastructure, building in effective anti-corruption measures and focusing on direct impact at community levels.
“Corruption, hidden interests and inflexible positions in all three states hinder a mutually acceptable solution. A common development strategy focusing on reform of agricultural and energy sectors would be in their interest”, says Deirdre Tynan, Central Asia Project Director, “but such an initiative requires a radical shift in the way regional leaders think”.
“The failure of Bishkek, Dushanbe and Tashkent to resolve cross-border water problems shows a worrying disregard for stability in their common area. Strained ethnic relations and competition over water and land could be a deadly mix. Conflict in this volatile part of Central Asia risks rapid, possibly irreversible regional destabilisation”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.
FULL REPORT

Water Pressures in Central Asia

Bishkek/Brussels  |   11 Sep 2014

Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.

Political rivalries, economic competition, heightened nationalism and mistrust hamper the search for a solution to the region’s growing water and energy needs. In its latest report, Water Pressures in Central Asia, the International Crisis Group examines the impact of water issues on shared border areas in the volatile Ferghana Valley; water shortages in urban areas; and competing water and energy needs among the three riparian states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The report also analyses the international community’s potential to contribute to national and regional stability in Central Asia.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • Kyrgyzstan is looking at a bleak winter of energy shortages because of low water levels at the Toktogul reservoir and hydropower plant. Energy insecurity and resentment are growing and have proved to be major catalysts in the downfall of successive Kyrgyz administrations. Only mass labour migration and authoritarian tactics have prevented similar upheavals in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
  • Attempts at comprehensive regional solutions have foundered on mistrust. The three countries (and international backers) should act in the Ferghana Valley border areas to end annual competition and conflict over water by seeking step-by-step solutions rather than an all-inclusive resource settlement. If Uzbekistan will not join, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan should work bilaterally.
  • Uzbekistan’s irrigation system desperately needs modernisation. Researchers suggest that 50 to 80 per cent of water used for agricultural irrigation is lost.
  • The failure in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to provide basic services greatly increases the perception that their governments are weak and corrupt and provides a rallying point for opposition movements that seek to oust them.
  • The donor community, including China, the EU and Russia, should support the region in modernising its water infrastructure, building in effective anti-corruption measures and focusing on direct impact at community levels.

“Corruption, hidden interests and inflexible positions in all three states hinder a mutually acceptable solution. A common development strategy focusing on reform of agricultural and energy sectors would be in their interest”, says Deirdre Tynan, Central Asia Project Director, “but such an initiative requires a radical shift in the way regional leaders think”.

“The failure of Bishkek, Dushanbe and Tashkent to resolve cross-border water problems shows a worrying disregard for stability in their common area. Strained ethnic relations and competition over water and land could be a deadly mix. Conflict in this volatile part of Central Asia risks rapid, possibly irreversible regional destabilisation”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

FULL REPORT

Obama promises a long and limited war on Islamic State | Tony Karon
President Barack Obama used the broadest of brushstrokes on Wednesday night to describe his “comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State insurgency, providing few details and skirting discussion of key dilemmas facing any such plan.
The United States will lead a “broad coalition,” Obama said, but its war plan “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” Instead, the campaign would rely on U.S. air power and support for “partner forces on the ground” to put the Islamic State (IS) to flight. The U.S. would supply intelligence, weapons and logistics and training. But it would be up to those forces to drive out the IS.
It was telling that the example he cited as the model for confronting the IS was the approach “we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” That comparison underscores the message that “ultimately” is the operative word in Obama’s promise to “ultimately destroy” the IS. In both Yemen and Somalia, America’s enemy remains very much intact and active, and the U.S. approach has thus far succeeded in managing and containing the threat, but not in destroying it.
FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera America)
Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA via NASA HQ Photo/flickr

Obama promises a long and limited war on Islamic State | Tony Karon

President Barack Obama used the broadest of brushstrokes on Wednesday night to describe his “comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State insurgency, providing few details and skirting discussion of key dilemmas facing any such plan.

The United States will lead a “broad coalition,” Obama said, but its war plan “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” Instead, the campaign would rely on U.S. air power and support for “partner forces on the ground” to put the Islamic State (IS) to flight. The U.S. would supply intelligence, weapons and logistics and training. But it would be up to those forces to drive out the IS.

It was telling that the example he cited as the model for confronting the IS was the approach “we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” That comparison underscores the message that “ultimately” is the operative word in Obama’s promise to “ultimately destroy” the IS. In both Yemen and Somalia, America’s enemy remains very much intact and active, and the U.S. approach has thus far succeeded in managing and containing the threat, but not in destroying it.

FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera America)

Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA via NASA HQ Photo/flickr