September 13, 2013
The Diplomat takes a look at the long and complex background to some of the region’s most intractable disputes.
Next month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will deliver its verdict in the case of Cambodia and Thailand’s territorial dispute over the Preah Vihear temple. For several months, the court has been poring over a judgment it made on the same issue fifty years earlier. That judgment was partly based on interpretations of old treaties, old maps and other fragments pertaining to the temple’s 900-year history. The whole exercise, in other words, has been as much an historical investigation as it has been a legal process.
Since neither the Thais nor the Cambodians seem inclined to accept an unfavorable verdict, the ICJ’s decision will probably go down as just another moment in the temple’s long and contested history, rather than as the end of the story so far as the dispute goes. Even so, the matter may be nearer closure than some of Asia’s other most tortuous territorial arguments.
September 12, 2013 | 0403
Editor’s note: Periodically, Stratfor publishes guidance produced for its analysis team and shares it with readers. This guidance sets the parameters used in our own ongoing examination and assessment of events surrounding Syria‘s use of chemical weapons as the crisis evolves into a confrontation between the United States and Russia. Given the importance we ascribe to this fast-evolving standoff, we believe it important that readers have access to this additional insight.
In the wake of President Barack Obama’s change of tack from a strike on Syria, the threat of war has not dissolved. It has, however, been pushed off beyond this round of negotiations.
The president’s minimalist claims are in place, but they are under serious debate. There is no chance of an attack on chemical weapons stockpiles. Therefore, the attack, if any, will be on command and control and political targets. Obama has options on the table and there will be force in place for any contingency he selects. Nothing is locked in despite public statements and rhetoric in Washington, London, Paris or Moscow.
By Mong Palatino
September 11, 2013
Since last month, Cambodians and Filipinos have been staging massive outdoor rallies in their respective capitals but curiously they are denying that these are protests.
After accusing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of manipulating the July 28 election results, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) organized an assembly on August 6, presumably to protest the election fraud. But party leaders clarified that the aim of the gathering at the Phnom Penh Freedom Park was simply to thank supporters and voters. Another outdoor “meeting” was called on August 26 to inform the people about their demand for the establishment of an independent committee to probe the recent elections.
Thousands of Cambodians attended these assemblies which somehow reflected the rising public dissatisfaction against the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen who has been in power for the past three decades.
MAHMUDIYA Residents gathered at the site of one of several car bomb attacks.
By YASIR GHAZI and ROD NORDLAND Published: July 23,
BAGHDAD — Al Qaeda in Iraq carried out one of the most coordinated and baldly sectarian series of attacks in years on Monday, aiming for Shiite targets with car bombs, checkpoint ambushes, and assaults on a military base and police officers in their homes in an offensive that its leadership appeared to equate with the Sunni-led uprising in neighboring Syria.
The offensive by Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group, left at least 100 people dead, in what the Iraqi authorities described as an ambitiously staged sequence of 40 attacks that covered a broad area of the country. The attacks reinforced fears that the civil conflict in Syria, which has become increasingly sectarian in nature, now threatened to spill over the border.
The attacks followed a declaration by Al Qaeda in Iraq’s leader, Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi, drawing parallels between its hostility to the Shiite-led government in Iraq and the predominantly Sunni revolt against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whose Alawite sect is closely aligned to the Shiites.
Mr. Baghdadi, in a 33-minute speech posted Sunday on a Web site often used for messages by Al Qaeda, promised that a new offensive, which he called Breaking Down Walls, would begin soon. He described the impending campaign as part of a battle by Sunnis against Iraq’s Shiite leaders and people.
Map of the districts of Cyprus, with English annotations, and showing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, United Kingdom Sovereign Base Areas, and United Nations buffer zone. The TRNC section illustrates the current de facto district boundaries following this map as a guide. The northern districts are labelled in Turkish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
June 9, 2012: Turkey announced that it will give the Tunisian government $100 million. The money is for economic and social development projects but will probably be spent very quickly since Tunisia is experiencing a severe economic crunch. Turkey will also loan Tunisia $400 million at a low interest rate. Tunisia’s Ennadha Party is a moderate Islamist party which models its political program on Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Several Tunisian politicians are warning that the country could face another political explosion unless it can revive the stalled economy and put people back to work. The AKP has told the Tunisian government that it strongly favors a secular democracy and that Turkey will try to help the Tunisian people manage the transition from dictatorship to democracy. At the moment that means providing economic aid.
June 8, 2012: Maps stir passions in the Balkans. Bulgaria’s foreign minister and Turkey’s Bulgarian ambassador met to discuss a map that appeared with educational materials published for schools in Istanbul three years ago. The map showed a Greater Turkey of a sort, with parts of Bulgaria (including Sofia) and Greece’s Thessalonica (Salonika) included as Turkish territory. All of Armenia, part of northern Iraq, and part of Georgia were also labeled as Turkish territory. Cyprus was also included as Turkish territory. The government of Turkey has assured Bulgaria that it does not have any territorial claims on any neighboring nations. Turkey has disavowed the map and said the maps, which appeared on a compact disk, were withdrawn from the schools when they were discovered and publicized.
Greece acknowledged that it now faces an energy crisis because it cannot pay its electricity, gas, and oil bills. The government and Greek energy corporations are looking for up to $400 million in emergency bridge loans in order to avoid power cuts during the summer tourist season. Though overall demand for energy has been declining, due to the economic crisis, Greece imports most of its power, including electrical power. Tourism is a major industry in Greece and despite numerous travel and tourist bargains, tourists have been reluctant to visit Greece because of the riots and other social turmoil accompanying the economic crisis.
Addis Ababa by SPOT Satellite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
June 1, 2012 05:20 PM
Ten Somalis and one Kenyan are currently under trial in Addis Ababa for their alleged involvement in an al-Qaeda bombing plot after weapons and training manuals were seized in the Bale region of southeastern Ethiopia last December. The Kenyan, Hassan Jarsoo, has admitted his role in the alleged plot, but the others, who allegedly include several members of the army of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, have denied their involvement. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia (Walta Info Online [Addis Ababa], May 20; Africa Review [Nairobi], May 22; AFP, May 18).
Ethiopia is one of the earliest homes of both Christianity and Islam, with its 85 million people being roughly 60 percent Christian and 30 percent Muslim. These communities have traditionally lived in harmony, but in recent years Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians and Sufi-based Muslims have come under destabilizing pressure from external sources, primarily from American backed Christian evangelists and Saudi/Kuwaiti backed Salafists. Both of these trends have caused dissension in the religious communities by describing traditional Ethiopian forms of worship as deviations if not outright heresy and insisting that their adherents must convert to these new, more fundamentalist forms of worship. Ill-considered intervention by the central government has only inflamed the situation, and the result has been a growing wave of religious violence in a nation that has prided itself on religious tolerance.
Islam arrived in Ethiopia even before it had firmly established itself in Arabia, as the Prophet Muhammad urged his persecuted followers to flee Mecca in 615 and take refuge in northern Ethiopia, where he promised they would find protection from its just king and his Christian followers. While many returned when Mecca became safe for Muslims, there is some evidence that others stayed in Ethiopia, founding the first Muslim community in Africa. The first muezzin (prayer-caller) in Islam was the ethnic Ethiopian Bilal ibn Rabah (a.k.a. Bilal al-Habashi), one of the Prophet’s closest companions. The Ethiopian city of Harar is regarded in some traditions as the “fourth-holiest city in Islam,” with mosques dating back to the 10th century and over 100 shrines.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament in April that the government was “observing tell-tale signs of [Islamic] extremism. We should nip this scourge in the bud” (Reuters, May 10). In response to fears of an incipient Salafist movement to establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia, the government is attempting to make a little-known and non-threatening Islamic sect known as al-Ahbash the dominant form of Islam in the country, a solution that has inflamed Sufis and Salafists alike. The Ahbash movement was founded by Abdullah al-Harari (a.k.a. Abdullah al-Habashi, 1910-2008), a Harari scholar of Islam whose views were regarded locally as divisive, resulting in his being forced to leave for Lebanon in 1950. Al-Harari founded al-Ahbash, also known as the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, in the 1980s. Ethiopian Salafists have complained the government is importing Ahbash imams from Lebanon to teach local Muslims that Salafism is a non-Muslim movement (OnIslam.com, April 29).
Map of Kosovo UNMIK Mission (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Posted on May 22nd, 2012
The May 17 arrest of a young Serb employee of UNMIK’s north Mitrovica office suggests that the Kosovo Albanians have no intention of accepting a negotiated outcome for the region north of the Ibar River.
By Gerard M. Gallucci
The May 17 arrest of a young Serb employee of UNMIK’s north Mitrovica office removes any good reason for resisting the judgement that the Kosovo Albanians have no intention of accepting a negotiated outcome for the region north of the Ibar River. They do not want negotiations on the north, they just want the north. So, to head off any possibility of having to accept compromise, they will provoke the Serbs there into refusing to deal with them.
The young man arrested frequently travelled to visit family in the mixed north Mitrovica village of Suvi Do. To get there, he’d have to pass through an Albanian area. At that point, he would also have to pass by a unit of the so-called “regional” Kosovo police that EULEX allows free reign in this sensitive area. His routines were known. He could have been stopped at any time, as any of the Serbs living there can be. The decision to arrest him at this point on “suspicion” that he was involved in a demonstration in April to prevent the Kosovo Albanian police from setting up another provocative checkpoint – where there had just been a deadly explosion – was clearly political. (EULEX has still not managed to release any information on who might have been responsible for the explosion.) Many, many Serbs turned out for this. The targeting of a local UNMIK employee also allowed Pristina to take another shot at the UN office in north Mitrovica.
A cynic might say that the arrest was Pristina’s way of “recruiting” Serbs to take part in its “dialogue” over the north that it plans to unilaterally launch in September. The truth, however, is more basic than that. The Kosovo Albanians do not want to negotiate over the north, they want to have their “rule of law” imposed there so that they can use it to enforce more “returns” and eventually push the Serbs out entirely. They expected the internationals to do this for them; first UNMIK, then the ICO and EULEX. Having failed in that, they have mounted steady provocations since July 2011. Now they see the internationals pushing them to talk with the northern Serbs. So they provoke the Serbs, either to set off violence that they can use to justify new repression or to simply strengthen the hands of those Serbs opposed to talks.