In mid-July, Mexican authorities captured Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, leader of the Zetas, a major Mexican drug trafficking organization known for its brutality. In an email interview, Brian Phillips, research professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City whose research focuses on subnational political violence, discussed Mexico’s strategy of capturing or killing the leaders of drug organizations. WPR: What is the rationale behind Mexico’s kingpin strategy? Brian Phillips: Mexico focuses on arresting “kingpins,” high-level members of drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs), because it is trying to reduce the power and violence associated with these groups. The […]

Last week, al-Qaida’s Iraqi branch staged major simultaneous raids on two Iraqi prisons, afterward claiming to have freed more than 500 Iraqi detainees in the operation. In an email interview, Myriam Benraad, senior Middle East research fellow and Iraq specialist at Sciences Po Paris, explained Iraq’s detention system and the U.S. role in it. WPR: What is Iraq’s system for handling fighters captured on the battlefield? Myriam Benraad: Following the enforcement of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement in 2009, U.S.-run prison facilities were officially transferred to the Iraqi government. Specific “rehabilitation” and “deradicalization” programs were developed and implemented, intended to thwart […]

The first major development in Mexico’s fight against drug organizations under the Enrique Pena Nieto administration came early yesterday morning when Mexican marines arrested Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, known as Z-40, the head of the ultraviolent Zetas organization. While lauding the arrest, analysts are largely united in the assessment that Z-40’s arrest will result in more violence in the near term, as the struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the arrest unfolds. The arrest also throws into relief the issue of the so-called kingpin strategy of targeting top leaders of Mexico’s drug organizations, which the Pena Nieto administration […]

Maritime crime and disorder have plagued the Gulf of Guinea for decades, as weak and corrupt maritime security regimes emboldened thieves, smugglers and traffickers to exploit the littoral realm. The bountiful vessels serving Nigeria’s oil fields have presented a particular brand of pirates with a lucrative array of targets. With piracy no longer confined to Nigerian waters, however, West and Central African states have now recognized piracy as a regional crisis, as highlighted by a June 24-25 summit in Yaounde, Cameroon, to address the issue. “No country can withstand the growing challenges individually. That is why we agreed to put […]

Last week, the British government announced that it would ban khat, an herbal stimulant popular in the Middle East and Africa. In an email interview, Axel Klein, a lecturer in the anthropology of conflict, criminal justice and policy at the University of Kent’s Center for Health Services Studies, explained the rationale for the ban and its likely effect on khat-consuming communities within the U.K. WPR: What was the British government’s rationale for banning khat? Axel Klein: Interestingly, the arguments for the ban were not laid out clearly. All the home secretary said in her statement was that khat had been […]

With the rapid expansion of China’s regional and global interests, it is inevitable that Beijing will increasingly utilize its armed forces, police and civilian security agencies to protect and advance those interests. This trend is readily apparent in Southeast Asia, China’s strategic backyard. But while China’s cooperative security overtures have been welcomed, the assertive use of its military and paramilitary forces in the maritime domain continues to fuel concern among its nearest neighbors. The use by China of elements of its state security apparatus in Southeast Asia last month provides a good illustration. In mid-June, the Chinese navy’s hospital ship […]