Posts In Category

Terrorism and Security

When Boko Haram killed nearly 70 civilians over the Christmas holidays, many observers in the Western media were quick to chalk it up to wanton Islamic extremism. The attacks, it was concluded, reflected global jihadist activity. Emphasis was placed on the group’s links to al Qaeda. This narrative is shortsighted. For one, it ignores Christian retaliation just days later, including the bombing of a madrasa that injured seven. More broadly, it decontextualizes the violence. Nearly 500 Nigerians were killed in the northeast in 2011 due to sectarian conflict. Suicide attacks, car bombings, and assassinations-by-machete have been documented throughout the country, Africa’s most populous and the linchpin of Western engagement with the continent. Such killings are not new to Nigeria: religious strife has been a constant for decades, …

In the wake of the rather premature death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at the age of 69, North Korea is expected to enter a period of violent turmoil and power struggle. Kim’s heir apparent is his youngest son Kim Jung-un, who is perhaps too young in his twenties and too inexperienced in political and military affairs to receive natural respect from his fellow Koreans, particularly in the context of a socialist Confucian culture. In the expected battle royal, he will face a strong rival in his uncle Jang Seong-taek, whose wife is Kim Jong-il’s only sister and who has a strong link to the military leadership through his elder brothers (one of them, Jang Seong-U, was the commander …

Reem Abou-El-Fadl has recently published an article in Al-Akhbar English newspaper entitled ‘From Nasser to Tantawi: The Myth of “Sixty Years of Oppression”‘. The article considers the connections that have been made in Egypt between the July 1952 Revolution, launched by the Free Officers movement, and the January 2011 Revolution, launched by this year’s popular uprising in Egypt. The article acknowledges that military officials first came into government after the July Revolution, but it goes on to explore the deceptive myth of ‘sixty years of oppression’ since, which has been heard often in recent months. ‘Yet today’s generals are protecting an entirely different set of interests from those important to the Free Officers. They have presided over months of delay …

Sir Graeme Lamb is not fond of theorising. However, the former Director of the UK Special Forces can claim to have played an important part in the initiative that pacified large parts of Iraq after 2006. Much of what he argued for is now part of the official US counterinsurgency strategy. But while it is easy for academics and other observers to demand that armed forces should ‘reach out’ to insurgents, there is precious little guidance on the practicalities of initiating a meaningful conversation with the people determined to bomb the foreigners out of their homeland. Lamb shared his insights as part of Emma Sky’s seminar series in Oxford on 25 October, jointly hosted by the Changing Character of War …

The deadlock in conflict resolution in Transnistria – as ‘frozen’ as it was – seems to start ‘melting’. It was about a year ago that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tabled an exchange proposal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Russia would facilitate the resumption of the 5+2 negotiations on Transnistria (Transnistria, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and OSCE, plus US and EU as observers) in exchange for setting up a joint EU-Russia council where Moscow would have a say in some EU decision-making procedures. Both sides stressed that their conditions should be satisfied first and rejected any speculations about preconditions. It is not surprising that after 20 years of Russian support to Transnistria, there is a lot of scepticism about whether Russia’s willingness …

I have recently published an article entitled ‘Trying Mubarak’, discussing what has been called ‘the trial of the century’ in Egypt. I argue that the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which began on 3 August 2011, represents a barometer of the fortunes of the January Revolution as a whole. A common challenge confronts both the achievement of accountability in the trial, and the fulfilment of the Revolution’s demands, namely the role of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). This article discusses the achievement which the holding of this trial represents in the context of the revolution, as well as the practical challenges faced by the legal team of the victims’ families. It then considers the …

The television screens did not lie.  There he was.  An old man in a cage.  The cage was in a Cairo courtroom, and the baying crowd in the gallery were screaming for his conviction, sentence and execution.   Those watching the television broadcasts across the Arab world on 3 August could hardly believe their eyes.  Here was Hosni Mubarak, once the proud, aloof and resolute leader of Egypt, now shackled like a common criminal and placed on trial for charges that might result in a death sentence.  Had the world gone crazy?    The indictment of Hosni Mubarak is an iconic moment in the history of the Arab Spring, indeed in the history of the Arab world.  The revolutions that have swept …

Tel Aviv has known many hot summers in its history. But 2011 will probably be remembered as an exceptionally burning summer, one in which the city was flooded by tents occupied by young middle class residents, protesting against the rise in the cost of living.  As Or Rosenboim argues, these protests were characterised by the claim to “go beyond the political”, to ask for social justice, referring to the colloquial distinction between issues relating to security and defence, and particularly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, regarded as “the political”, and “the social”. I wish to argue that  these protests are closely interlinked to questions of foreign policy even though they put in much time and effort to avoid them. In a video …