Throughout the last few months and even more so in the past few weeks, discussions of a possible Israeli strike on Iran has come to the forefront of the agenda for many politicians, security analysts, and entities with interests in the region. Despite the increased rhetoric on all sides of this issue, which has been enhanced with the coverage of a frenzied media, the reality is that the probability of such an attack against Iran likely remains low for the near term.
The increased chatter regarding an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is a direct result of decisions by both the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The decision to enforce such sanctions by the aforementioned powers likely arose due to three primary factors: the understanding that negotiations with Iran surrounding its nuclear program are futile, persistent pressure from leadership within the United States’ security and political leadership, and the over-implied threats by Israel that the military option is ‘on the table’.
One tribe’s cooperation with various militant groups will continue to challenge stability in some of Africa’s most vital nations
By Jay R.
Since the downfall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya early last year, weapons proliferation throughout the Middle East and North Africa is on the rise and of primary concern. It is now widely known that masses of Libyan weaponry have made their way into the hands of such militant groups as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Libyan weaponry has traveled as far as the Gaza Strip and appeared in hand of militant groups there.
With the recent unrest in Somalia and Nigeria, the above-mentioned groups have been deeply reported on. However, one tribe, heavily active in Africa’s Sahel desert region is operating under the radar in comparison. The Tuareg tribe, composed of 1.2 million people, is historically nomadic. They have long roamed northwest Africa, primarily through the nations of Algeria, Libya, Mali, and Niger. Today, the group has become sedentary, the result of which has seen the Tuaregs actively engage such countries, particularly the Malian government, for stakes in power sharing and wealth benefits from the country’s natural resources.
The ongoing battle for the Tuareg’s perceived rights most recently manifested in the two-year Tuareg Rebellion in Mali and Niger from 2007-2009. This rebellion was ended through a series of peace talks and amnesty allowances; however, the conflict persists to this day as the Malian government regularly takes on the Tuareg militants along the Nigerian border.
Israel-Cyprus relations: Revolutionary alliance or negotiating tactic?
By Dan R.
The discovery of natural gas off the shores of Cyprus and Israel in the eastern Mediterranean has marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Middle East conflict. Reports began to surface last week, claiming that Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, will discuss the stationing of Israeli fighter jets at a Cypriot airbase on his visit to the island nation on February 16. If such reports prove to be accurate, the event has the potential to be a revolutionary strategic alliance. However, the aforementioned discussions may in fact be purely an Israeli negotiating tactic in an effort to bridge the rift between it and its former ally Turkey.
The Middle East is widely known as the staging ground for the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet, there is a lesser known conflict, greatly overshadowed by that between Israel and her Arab neighbors – that which involves Turkey and Cyprus. The conflict between Turkey and Cyprus, like the Arab-Israeli, also has a history of bloody confrontation on religion, ethnicity, territory and recognition. However, the aspect that reaches headlines above all others is the ongoing dispute over natural gas deposits that lay off the Cypriot southern coast. The discovery launched a thus far rhetorical battle over drilling rights between Greek Cyprus and Turkey as the patron of the Greek Republic’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot counterpart.
Israel has developed and maintained several natural gas drilling and pumping platforms in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in its Exclusive Economic Zone. Moreover, Israeli companies, such as Delek, own a significant share of drilling platforms in Cyprus. Israel thus, likely sees the natural gas reserves as a strategic asset that is vital to ensure Israel’s economic and energy independence.
Israel is well known for its determination and dedication with regard to the protection of its interests positioned outside its borders. That said, the stationing of a permanent air force operation base on foreign soil would essentially be a revolution in Israeli military affairs. If the reports are true, this will be the first time that Israel will deploy IDF airmen outside the borders of Israel (not including Palestinian territories), a step that would likely require legislative action.
The collapse of Africa’s most populous nation into civil war may hinge on the stability of one unsuspecting middle belt city
Nigeria’s Middle Belt region is where the country’s Christian south and Muslim north come to a head. This convergence of religion manifests in the capital Abuja, where the equally represented populations are generally tolerant of one another. In the nearby city of Jos whose societal make up is starkly similar to the capital, religious intolerance is brewing tension to a dangerous boiling point.
Over the last twenty years, Jos has been plagued by sectarian violence which has claimed thousands of lives while displacing many others. In 2010, week-long riots resulted in the death of hundreds of locals and the destruction of churches and mosques alike. This steady campaign of attacks against places of worship has made chances of reconciling these populations a seemingly insurmountable feat. The people of Jos may not yet be cognizant of this fact, but the deteriorating security situation in the rest of Nigeria may have a far more tragic impact in a place with a deeply rooted history of intolerance.
Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north has become increasingly engulfed in a violent campaign by fundamentalist violence. On January 20, Nigeria’s second city of Kano was devastated by a wave of bombings by Boko Haram Jihadists against military, police, and government installations, killing upwards of 250 people. Continuous attacks like these, along with a previous Boko Haram warning for all Christians to leave the northern states, have incited nearly 35,000 people to flee southward thus far.
These newly created refugees, who are leaving with such panic and haste that they are not bothering to bring their most valuable of possessions with them, are making way for Jos. Positioned just outside of the Muslim north, Jos provides a convenient safe haven for Christian refugees as they journey towards the friendlier south. As many of those refugees opt to remain in Jos, they threaten to alter the delicate sectarian balance in the city, paving the way for shattering the city’s hard-won peace. Continue reading Jos: The Window into a Nigerian Civil War→
The Kremlin’s Syrian Gambit
By Yagil B. and Danny B.
Russia’s continued support for Syria is no more than a coldly calculated move meant to bolster its position as global super power.
Russia sent a strong message to the West earlier this month when its aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kutznetsov, docked in the Syrian port of Tartus amidst much bravado. Since that time, the Kremlin has unabatedly remained steadfast in its diplomatic support for the embattled regime by threatening to block any punishing UN Security Council resolutions, drawing the ire of the Sunni Arab world. on January 27, Moscow said a UN draft that condemned Bashar al-Assad and called for his ouster, failed to address Russia’s interests. Like Iran, Russia continues to demonstrate its loyalty to the embattled Alawite-led Assad regime, even as it becomes ever more isolated within the Arab League and the international community. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Syrian Gambit→
Bahrain’s Community Policing Challenge
By Daniel N.
Reforming much-hated security forces are the first step in resolving the Island nation’s sectarian conflict before it deteriorates further.
As Bahrain braces for the year anniversary of the outbreak of its protest movement, worrying trends are beginning to emerge in the activity of its Shia-led activist groups. Since February 14 2011, the opposition’s modus operandi consisted of mostly civil disobedience acts aimed at drawing the world’s attention to the inequality facing the Shia majority. In past months however, activists have stepped up acts of violence, mainly aimed at security forces, whose alleged brutality has come to symbolize their oppression at the hands of the Sunni monarchy.
On January 24, opposition groups launched a campaign dubbed “the Rebel’s grip” aimed at expelling the regime’s security forces from Shia villages in the central and northern parts of the Island. The campaign comes days after a prominent Shia cleric issued a particularly scathing sermon, calling for supporters to assault any security personnel suspected of attacking female protesters. The opposition’s rage towards security forces comes after a year of high profile incidents involving protesters’ deaths as a result of police brutality. Many of these incidents were caught on video, spread through social media and ingrained in the minds of activists.
Despite the media’s love affair with the anti-SCAF activist movement, the Egyptian revolution has already been secretly decided.
After the tense buildup to the anniversary of the revolution, Egypt’s new ruling elite can breathe a sigh of relief. While tens of thousands of liberal activists swarmed Tahrir Square agains
t the military leadership, they failed to rehash the nationwide anger which led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak on January 25 of last year. It seems clear that after a year of political unrest, sectarian violence, civil strikes, and economic turmoil, the majority of Egyptians have opted to ensure their security, even if it means forgoing the original goals of the revolution. This security has been achieved by the emergence of a new balance of power, carefully negotiated against the backdrop of parliamentary elections between the Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling military council.
This shadowy agreement first became evident in November 2011, when liberal activists engulfed Downtown Cairo in rioting, threatening stability before the onset of parliamentary elections. While the media flocked to Mohammed Mahmoud Street to capture romantic images of stone-throwing youth, Muslim Brotherhood leaders secretly met with SCAF officials to decipher a way to end the violence in a mutually beneficial manner.
The status quo in Cyprus does not provide the needed atmosphere for reuniting the island.
After decades of partition, Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are set to meet once again at Greentree Estate in Long Island, New York, under United Nations auspices. So, one must ask, after decades-long negotiations, why should we expect a different outcome after the two-day talks beginning on January 23? The answer, we probably should not.
As many experts on conflict resolution will say, the most appropriate atmosphere for resolution is that both sides are a party to a mutually hurting stalemate (MHS) – a condition in which neither side feels that it can gain from the current situation. Looking at the disparity that exists between Greek and Turkish Cyprus, it is clear that the status quo is more viable for Greek Cypriots over their Turkish counterparts. Continue reading Is Cyprus Ready for Reunification?→
In Libya, The Militias Have The Upper Hand
By Daniel N.
In the absence of collective nationalism, the transitional government must buy the loyalty of renegade militias with resources it may not have.
Libya is currently undergoing a critical phase of its transition process, as the recognized government (NTC) attempts to assert its power over the country. The focal point of these efforts lies at the reformation of the Libyan national military. In post Gaddafi-Libya, this feat requires garnering the trust of powerful tribal militias, many of whom are reluctant to relinquish their hard-fought positions acquired during the civil war.
Efforts to establish a national military reached a crucial phase in January, when the NTC named Yussef Al-Mangush as chief of staff. The appointment has since been rejected by two powerful coalitions of tribal militias; the Thwars coalition, which includes the Misrata and Zintan factions; and the Cyrenaica Military Council (CMC), composed of militias in eastern Libya. Continue reading In Libya, The Militias Have The Upper Hand→
Pentagon Budget Cuts: A Cause For Concern?
By Jay R.
What does a ‘leaner’ American military mean for the Middle East? In a word: Proxies.
On January 5, President Barak Obama announced from the Pentagon that the American defense budget was going to see significant cuts – approximately 500 billion dollars over the next ten years. The announcement sounded alarms both at home and abroad, with many concerned that the United States would surely lose its military superiority and squander its influence in the Middle East. However, such concerns are baseless and unfounded as the United States will continue to maintain a military budget that is greater than the next top ten military spenders combined.
Over the last decade, the United States has been involved in two counterinsurgency wars – Iraq and Afghanistan – totaling a cost of nearly 1.3 trillion dollars. Participation in the Iraq conflict has ended and the US is slowly drawing down its forces in Afghanistan in anticipation of a 2014 exit. The ending of these two wars will significantly absorb the budgetary cuts that the Obama administration is planning. Furthermore, the United States government and citizenry alike have lost all appetite for any military commitment that would result in the deployment of its troops to the Middle East again, therefore diminishing the likelihood for their reappearance anytime soon. Continue reading Pentagon Budget Cuts: A Cause For Concern?→