Posts In Category

Terrorism and Security

After Uruguay courageously legalised the use of cannabis under a new drug policy, could Iran be the next country to make it legal? From the outside, the image of Iran as retrograde and inherently conservative hardly fits with the reality of a more dynamic domestic political debate within. But drug policy is one of the areas of debate in which the Islamic Republic has produced some interesting, yet paradoxical, policies. Iran has a conspicuous drug addiction problem – which officially accounts for more than 2m addicts (though unofficial figures put this as high as 5-6m). Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty. Yet Iran also has very progressive policies towards drug addiction, which include distribution of clean …

As I am sitting here writing this contribution at 8:50 in the morning, I can already hear signs of the relentless fighting that has been going on for over ten days around Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem: Soldiers shooting tear gas canisters, military jets are flying over the area, ambulances rushing to the scene and hundreds of impatient drivers waiting to cross the area honking without let-up. Riots had kicked off in the area in response to the current dispute between Israeli Jews and Arabs about the administration of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Muslim religious site is administered by Jordan and Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray there. Increased Jewish visits in recent times have raised …

International intervention in war-affected regions is the subject of much academic attention. Scholars and policymakers alike have been keen to understand the impacts, positive and negative, that international actors have when striving for peace in foreign countries. More often than not, the continuation of violence in areas that have been subject to heavy intervention, from Sudan to DRC, has generated staunch critique of the potential of such programmes to achieve their stated aim of ‘peace’. Africanist scholars in particular have identified efforts geared towards the increasingly linked aims of development and security as not merely ineffective, but exacerbating dysfunctional politics, insecurity and poverty across the continent. Following the wider critique of the liberal peace, interveners from UN peacekeepers to human …

I recently wrote an article on the BBC website about the current situation in Yemen. As the recent experience of several Middle Eastern countries has shown, when governments break down, terrorist groups flourish. Yemen is the latest casualty. The unraveling of Yemen’s government and subsequent civil war has only increased the operational reach of al-Qaeda. A Saudi-led coalition, backed by the US and UK, is currently conducting air strikes against Yemen’s Houthi-led rebels. The latter swept into Yemen’s capital last September and consolidated their grip on power earlier this year assisted by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who maintained control of much of Yemen’s military apparatus. Ironically, this international military campaign is playing into al-Qaeda’s hands in several ways: by targeting al-Qaeda’s own domestic enemies; by employing sectarian rhetoric that plays up Sunni-Shi’ite fault lines previously insignificant in Yemen; by destroying Yemen’s military hardware that had been used against al-Qaeda; and by enabling al-Qaeda to exploit the lawless war-torn environment to expand its influence and build alliances among southern and eastern tribes to combat the mutual Houthi foe.

More than rights, a set of guiding principles is needed to counterpose to the reigning ideals of ‘security’, ‘growth’ and ‘innovation’. Alternative ideals, perhaps, such as democracy, health and environmental sustainability?  See part one.  The net has the potential to revolutionize democracy with an informed citizenry empowered to deliberate and decide on key issues. Yet current trends strengthen anti-democratic forces. In addition to concerns over privacy, there is an urgent need to address how the public realm is being hollowed out by corporate interests and advertisers. The ideal of democracy presupposes a shared public sphere in which citizens can construct, debate and decide on collective projects. This requires access to quality information and while the net has certainly increased the …

Under the rubric of state security on the one hand and commercial openness on the other, we are being lulled into an online world of fear and control where our every move is monitored in order to more efficiently manage us. This article launches a new section of the Great Charter Convention dedicated to debate and analysis of democracy, politics and freedom in the digital age. It is clear that we are at a crucial historical juncture. The issues around state power and surveillance raised by Edward Snowden’s revelations should be an important theme in the upcoming general election, while the symbolic double anniversary of Magna Carta (aged 800) and the web (aged 25) offers an opportunity for critical reflection on how …

Israel’s international image has suffered tremendously in the past few years. Repeated wars in the Gaza Strip, the continued construction of housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s provocative rhetoric during his most recent bid to win re-election have poisoned the relationship between Israel and the international community. 2014 proved to be the year of Palestinian statehood recognition votes in Europe. Parliaments from Portugal to Ireland, all the way to the European Parliament in Brussels have considered recognition. Though cautiously worded, the motions indicate a change in the international mood surrounding the Middle East conflict. Netanyahu’s most recent declarations of support for the two-state solution reflect the deep concern that has spread in Israel regarding what is for the first time serious international pressure on the country. But does this necessarily translate into a bright future for the Peace Process? Netanyahu’s interest in a two-state as opposed to a one-state solution should not take us by surprise. The latter would mean an Arab majority in the would-be Jewish state. At this time, about six million Jews and six million Arabs inhabit the territories of Israel and the future Palestinian state. With a higher Arab fertility rate, Jews would soon be a minority in such a state. Moreover, Palestinians seek the right of return of their over five million refugees as part of the state-creating deal, and it is to be expected that the state would attract a greater number of Palestinian refugees than of Jews eligible to return to Israel. It follows that a one-state solution spells the unthinkable for Israel.

What is it that turns peace-loving Muslims into militant Islamists? There are many answers to this complex question. One angle that might not naturally spring to mind is poetry. Yet this is what Dr Elisabeth Kendall argues in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s “The World This Weekend” with Mark Mardell.