Why Libya Matters

June 1, 2015  Zachary Fillingham

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Libya is quietly slipping into chaos while the more established debacles of Iraq and Syria dominate in Western headlines and corridors of power. The more grave and consequential the Libyan civil war becomes, the less attention is paid to it. It’s almost as if the country has already been relegated to an embarrassing footnote in the history books, another ‘oops’ on the growing list of flawed Western interventions.

But it can and will get worse if Europe and its international partners choose to stand idle, because there can be no long-lasting stability in North Africa unless Libya is brought under control.

A Security Crisis

It’s a worst-case scenario that has been unfolding with stunning regularity throughout the MENA region: Islamic State (ISIS) moves into a vacuum and quickly becomes entrenched, bolstering its revenue, recruits, and standing with jihadis worldwide. Many thought that Libya would not provide fertile ground for ISIS expansion due to the country’s tight-knit tribal structure and aversion to outsiders. ISIS appears to be proving them wrong by going the franchise route and aligning its ‘brand’ with pre-existing Libyan Islamist outfits. Now the black flag is flying over Sirte and Derna, providing ISIS with a base to make further gains amidst the fighting between Tubruq and Tripoli. There are also more established, al-Qaeda aligned jihadist groups operating in Libya such as Ansar al-Sharia, which is currently proving a tactical headache for General Haftar’s forces in Benghazi. Continue reading

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Terrorism And the Pragmatics Of Transnational Intervention

ANALYTIC GROUNDING: The Boko Haram terrorist (BHT) group was founded in 2002 by a Sunni Islamic preacher Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri, Borno state in Nigeria’s north – east. Yusuf exploited the seemingly conservative nature of Northern Nigeria as reflected in the region’s opposition to or backwardness in western education. Consequently, Yusuf built a mosque and Islamiyah School in Maiduguri (madrassa). At the madrassa that thousands of people, mostly uneducated and poor Muslims and converts from across Nigeria and the neighboring countries of Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger were dogmatically radicalised into Boko Haram ideology. Similarly, the endemic poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in the north – east was also exploited by Yusuf, thereby succeeded in creating a cult like followership. Continue reading

Who Are Yemen’s Houthis?

Interviewee: April Longley Alley, Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group
Interviewer: Zachary Laub, Online Writer/Editor
February 25, 2015

The seizure of power in Yemen by an armed Shia Muslim movement known as the Houthis has thrown the country into disarray and provoked concerns about further Middle East instability. “The Houthis are victims of their own success,” says April Longley Alley, a Dubai-based researcher at the International Crisis Group. After rapid advances beyond their northern base, the Houthis now face blowback as the rival al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has allied with some tribes to repulse their advances. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has perceived the ascent of the Iran-aligned Houthis on its southern border as a new front in its contest with Iran for regional dominance. These developments, Alley says, threaten to add a sectarian dimension to a political crisis that has mounted since Yemenis overthrew long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh during the Arab uprisings in 2011.

Houthi fighters ride a patrol vehicle outside a hotel hosting UN-sponsored negotiations on a political settlement for Yemen's crisis in Sanaa, February 19, 2015.Houthi fighters in Sana’a ride a patrol vehicle outside a hotel hosting UN-sponsored negotiations on a political settlement for Yemen’s crisis. (Photo: Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters) Continue reading

Breaking the Nordic Defense Deadlock

Authored by Dr. Stefan Forss, Colonel (Ret.) Pekka Holopainen.

Breaking the Nordic Defense De... Cover Image

Brief Synopsis

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Russian actions in Ukraine in 2014 have prompted an urgent reassessment of the defense posture of many European nations. The Nordic states in particular are grappling with a 2-decade legacy of defense drawdowns and repositioning for expeditionary warfare. The challenge for these nations is how to resurrect a credible military deterrent in the face of continuing Russian assertiveness. One attractive option is closer defense cooperation between the Nordic states, but moves in this direction are slow and faltering. Continue reading

Strategic Insights: Would a Post-2011 Residual U.S. Force in Iraq Have Changed Anything?

English: Major ethno-religious groups in Iraq ...

English: Major ethno-religious groups in Iraq Shiite Arabs Sunni Arabs Kurds Assyrians Yazidis Turkmen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February 9, 2015 | Dr. W. Andrew Terrill

Currently, U.S. policy analysts and governmental leaders are examining the rise of the Islamic State (IS) organization, particularly its seizure of vast expanses of Iraqi territory in the summer of 2014. People legitimately ask what could have been done and would a residual U.S. force in Iraq have prevented the spread of IS from Syria to Iraq or at least its seizure of northern Iraq? Opponents of the decision to withdraw all U.S. forces often contend that a U.S. residual force could have prevented or mitigated the IS offensive in northern Iraq. Supporters of the decision to withdraw usually point out that the Iraqi government would not agree to a Status of Forces agreement (SOFA) that allowed U.S. forces to remain in that country without being subordinate to Iraqi domestic law. The second argument seems to accept the views of the critics, while suggesting that the withdrawal was required as part of an effort to respect Iraqi sovereignty. Both sides seem to agree that a residual force in Iraq was a good idea. They disagree on why it did not occur. Continue reading

Europe Cracks Down

 

 

Europe Cracks Down

They can take our lives, but can they also take our freedom? The Charlie Hebdo assault in Paris last week is only the latest chapter in a months-long series of attacks, which built in turn on a yearlong escalation of concerns about the extraordinary number of Europeans traveling to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State, al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, and a host of other jihadi groups. Since the Charlie Hebdo attack, European governments have moved swiftly to roll up terrorist operatives who were already on their radar, with more than a dozen arrests since Thursday, Jan. 15.

 

In response to this escalating threat, Western countries are looking at an array of new laws and government powers to deal with the problem. In Europe and Australia, proposals to enhance counterterrorism powers are in full bloom. In the United States, similar ideas of lesser scope are quietly circulating behind the scenes, likely to emerge into public view soon enough. Continue reading

This Is Not Your Father’s Hezbollah

This Is Not Your Father’s Hezbollah

BEIRUT — Around a kitchen table in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a midlevel Hezbollah commander moved empty coffee cups and a plastic water bottle around a cell phone, demonstrating how his men repelled an assault by what he said were Islamic State fighters along Lebanon’s border with Syria.

“They tried to come down through this valley, but we control the hills on either side,” he said, gesturing to the cell phone lying between the coffee cups and moving the water bottle to indicate the territory the militants still hold. “Right now we don’t have orders to attack; we are just defending.” Continue reading