- Sipho Hlongwane
Some stories are just too much fun to ignore. In a week of disasters that has included the capture of a World Heritage Site like Palmyra in Syria by the nihilist fighters of ISIS, US intelligence sources have made public the catalogue of books that were available for reading in Osama bin Laden’s hidey hole in Abbottabad, Pakistan – until he was killed by US Navy Seals four years earlier. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look at the reading list.
Sri Lanka appeared to turn a new leaf with the election in January 2015 of President Maithripala Sirisena. This put an end to rule of this country of 21 million people by Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is closely associated with a brutal 2009 victory over the Tamil Tiger insurgency and authoritarian government. ALAN KEENAN discusses with the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP how much President Sirisena, previously a minor figure in Rajapaksa’s government, has changed politics on the South Asian island.
Despite a (sort of) peace for the last 15 years and oodles of international advice, training and finance to patch up its government and ethnically integrate its armed forces after decades of pogroms, not only has Burundi failed to make progress at the pace its citizens hoped for, but very quickly (and violently) has demonstrated just how fragile its stability has been. And Burundi is sadly not unique as to the limits of external assistance. By DICKIE DAVIS & GREG MILLS.
A risky game of chicken is building up between China and the US in the South China Sea. In the most recent development, it was reported that the Pentagon was considering a proposal to dispatch its navy for a close-up view of the man-made islands China is building there. By YANMEI XIE for the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
If media reports are accurate, the nuclear option is now being put on the table by Saudi Arabia, in light of that country’s increasingly troubled relationship with Iran and the struggle for regional hegemony between the two nations and Iran’s apparent efforts to develop a nuclear capability. J. BROOKS SPECTOR goes deep for the history for such issues.
The Obama administration’s TransPacific Trade Pact hits an unanticipated speed bump in the form of Senate Democrats. This is more than just part of the normal business in the Senate because it has real implications for the 2016 presidential race already heating up. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look at how it all fits together.
Who won World War Two and what was that epic struggle about? Why should this be so important to us today? Seventy years ago such questions were not thought relevant. Of course the Allies, essentially America, Britain and the Soviet Union, had vanquished Nazi Germany and its axis with Japan and Italy. All sides of the anti-fascist alliance fought bravely at tremendous cost, but none doubted that the fiercest and most prolonged fighting was on Germany’s Eastern Front. By RONNIE KASRILS.
The South China Sea is the cockpit of geopolitics in East Asia. Five countries – Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – plus Taiwan, have substantial and competing territorial and maritime claims in a body of water that is both an important source of hydrocarbons and fisheries and a vital trade corridor. The recent history has been scarred by cycles of confrontation. The INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP reports.
The work of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) played a crucial role in Guatemala’s recent successes against corruption. In this Q&A, the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP’s Guatemala Analyst ARTURO MATUTE explains what this UN-backed body’s investigations have revealed, and how it should fulfil its mission to promote accountability and strengthen rule of law in one of the world’s most violent countries.
Myanmar is preparing to hold national elections in early November 2015, five years after the last full set of polls brought the semi-civilian reformist government to power. The elections, which are constitutionally required within this timeframe, will be a major political inflection point, likely replacing a legislature dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party, established by the former regime, with one more reflective of popular sentiment. The opposition National League for Democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi is well placed to take the largest bloc of seats. By the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
On its current trajectory, and with no military or diplomatic breakthrough on the horizon, the Syrian war will worsen. Four years into a popular uprising that gradually degenerated into civil strife and regional proxy war, the conflict’s Syrian protagonists – the regime and its loyalist militias versus the broad spectrum of armed rebel factions and the external political opposition – are too fractious, fragile and heavily invested in their current courses to break with the status quo. By the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
Almost everybody agrees the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has had a substantial, positive impact on the South African economy – and a significant impact on a number of other African states as well. Now, however, a game of chicken between poultry producers in the US and SA threatens progress on a new version of AGOA. However, problems in the US Congress over South Africa’s continued participation in a new AGOA may just be part of a larger downward spiral for South Africa’s international reputation. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a long look.
For all its brutality and barbarism, Isis continues to attract new recruits from all over the world – including several from South Africa. Its most potent propaganda tool is its sophisticated use of social media, and its unparalleled ability to persuade sympathisers – particularly the young and vulnerable – to leave home for the war zones of Syria and Iraq. JASMINE OPPERMAN explains how it’s done.
As far as secrets go, this one was a virtually foregone certainty, but on Sunday, 12 April, Hillary Clinton let slip via social media that she would be a candidate, yet again, to win the US presidency. The election doesn’t happen until November 2016, few if any Democrats will oppose her in the primaries, and, as a consequence, Republicans are already pinning a bulls-eye target on her, history and her political record. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a first, now official, look.
April 9th was the 150th anniversary of the collapse of the Confederate cause and the end of the American Civil War. Thousands of people, historical re-enactors and tourists alike, gathered at the site where the war ended to mark this event. J. BROOKS SPECTOR contemplates that surrender by General Robert E Lee to General Ulysses S Grant, and the effect this event has had on the course of American history.
Official Candidate Number Two – Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – has announced his intention to seek the Republican Party’s nomination to be that party’s presidential candidate for the 2016 election. Paul stands out as a surprisingly idiosyncratic possibility for his party, and J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look at Paul’s announcement, as well as a quick look at some of the senator’s positions on issues he will be challenged on in this effort.
The crisis in Ukraine presents one of the gravest threats to global order in the past quarter century. Military action by Russia against Ukraine is a breach of international law and a violation of the terms of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. It pits Moscow directly against Western powers at a time of deep instability in other parts of the world, including Europe’s southern neighbourhood and at the borders of several post-Soviet states. The strategic order of Europe is being dangerously undermined, and with it the stability of the continent. PIERS PIGOU suggests a ten-point strategy for Western powers, for the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
“One of the asymmetries of history,” wrote Henry Kissinger of Lee Kuan Yew, “is the lack of correspondence between the abilities of some leaders and the power of their countries.” Kissinger’s one-time boss, Richard Nixon, was even more flattering. He speculated that, had Lee lived in another time and another place, he might have “attained the world stature of a Churchill, a Disraeli, or a Gladstone”. By GREG MILLS.