Nearly two years ago, the leaders of Lebanon’s March 14 coalition assembled at a rally on the Beirut waterfront to commemorate the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and give their beleaguered political movement the shot in the arm it desperately needed. With its festival atmosphere, the rally was the moment many March 14 supporters had been waiting for. The coalition had formed in the wake of Hariri’s assassination as the first major unified movement against Syria, which had long kept troops in Lebanon and controlled its political life. An unprecedented groundswell of public support after Hariri’s killing thrust […]

After two weeks of slaughter in South Sudan, UNMISS, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country, faces three possible scenarios: fragile success, prolonged agony and decisive failure. In the first and best scenario, the mission will manage to hold together militarily long enough for more-or-less sincere political talks to end the violence. In the second, it might muddle through in the face of half-hearted negotiations and spasmodic but serious violence, trying to save as many lives as possible. The third, worst-case scenario would involve the fragmentation and rout of UNMISS after repeated attacks on its bases, personnel and convoys. […]

Last Sunday night, a Lebanese soldier opened fire, killing a 31-year-old Israeli sergeant who was driving along the Israeli side of the border that separates the two countries. The initial reports of an exchange of fire in that area immediately brought to mind the events of 2006, which started with a cross-border raid and turned into an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah. That conflict started after Hezbollah’s Lebanese Shiite militias cut through the border fence, killing three Israelis and taking two others as hostages into Lebanon. The incident this week, as it quickly became apparent, was not a Hezbollah […]

Early this month, Colombia’s inspector general said that if the Colombian government grants impunity to FARC guerillas as part of a peace deal, the International Criminal Court (ICC) should intervene. In an email interview, Alejandro Chehtman, an assistant professor at the Law School of the Torcuato Di Tella University specializing in international criminal law and international humanitarian law, explained the ICC’s involvement in Colombia. WPR: What is the extent of the International Criminal Court’s involvement in Colombia at present? Alejandro Chehtman: The relevance of the ICC in Colombia has slightly decreased since it first announced that Colombia was a situation […]

Last week’s execution of Jang Song Thaek, who was widely seen as offering a modicum of adult supervision to North Korea’s impetuous young ruler, Kim Jong Un, was an ominous turn in a dangerous place. Kim Jong Un, already “the most dangerous man in the most precarious nuclear state in the world,” as Patrick Cronin put it, just became even more menacing. While purges are nothing new in North Korea, executions of someone as senior and well-connected as Jang are unusual. Married to Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Jang was often seen as the state’s second most powerful official. North Korea’s […]

United Nations peacekeepers have repeatedly been in the headlines through 2013, grappling with crises across Africa. But the year’s single greatest challenge to the U.N.’s strategic credibility—the Syrian military’s large-scale use of chemical weapons in Ghouta in August—took place with no peacekeepers in sight. The best the organization could do in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity was to dispatch chemical weapons inspectors to the scene, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pleaded for time for them to investigate. Yet at the beginning of this year, it appeared quite possible that international peacekeepers would deploy to Syria in the course of […]

Last week the United States government announced that it would suspend nonlethal aid to Syrian rebel groups fighting in the north. This came after the Islamic Front, a collection of Islamist Syrian rebel groups, took over facilities controlled by the Free Syrian Army, the Western-backed rebel alliance. The attack, which resulted in the seizure of nonlethal equipment supplied by the United States, reportedly forced Gen. Salim Idris, commander of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army and one of the main U.S. partners in Syria, to flee. The United States later stated that Idris had been in […]

Over the past few decades, the shifting dynamics of the nature of war, combined with a maturing field of peace process support, have led to parallel shifts in the nature of mediation in peace processes. There has been a significant increase in the number of ongoing civil wars, as opposed to interstate wars, and the field of conflict transformation has changed accordingly. Under the leadership of Kofi Annan, the United Nations began the process of mainstreaming the inclusion of civil society and other actors into the fields of peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Now, more actors, using more-advanced support mechanisms, are […]

Crisis management and long-term strategy: French president Francois Hollande must juggle both priorities right now as he seeks to develop a sustainable approach to engagement south of the Sahara even as 1,600 French troops are deployed on an emergency intervention in the Central African Republic. The French public and political world are mostly supportive of the mission in the CAR, which seeks to halt a spiral of conflict between Christians and Muslims. Yet Hollande still has to overcome the skepticism of critics who see this latest military intervention as redolent of the post-colonial era, when Paris would send in its […]

Conflict settlement is a process rather than a singular act. At its most basic, a peace process comprises three phases: the negotiation, implementation and operation of an agreement meant to enable the conflict parties to resolve their disputes by nonviolent, political means. Yet the successful conclusion of a peace process is by no means a foregone conclusion—they can, and do, fail. Sometimes negotiations break down and no agreements are concluded, leading conflict parties back to violence. In other cases, disagreements about the meaning of particular provisions arise after an agreement has been reached. In the absence of effective dispute resolution […]

Does Ban Ki-moon fall prey to the sin of envy when he thinks of Pope Francis? The two men are arguably the leaders of the two most significant global institutions, and idealists have dubbed the secretary-general of the United Nations a “secular pope.” Ban does not subscribe to this grandiloquent self-description. But he may wish he could communicate moral themes as effectively as the new pontiff. Francis impressed even nonbelievers last month with a deeply felt attack on the rising “economy of exclusion and inequality.” Ban, who hopes to forge a new international deal to end extreme poverty by 2030, […]

The sacrifices of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan have been widely reported, but the U.S. war effort has relied heavily on private firms to provide a variety of services, including armed security for convoys and installations. As NATO draws down in Afghanistan and struggles with budget constraints, the United States and others will almost certainly continue rely on these firms, which have attracted scrutiny and criticism over the years. “After the United States leaves Afghanistan, the private security industry will grow,” explains Sean McFate of the Atlantic Council in an email interview, given that “the United States and others […]

During his recent visit to South Asia, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel focused on securing a formal agreement to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and an informal accord to continue drone strikes in Pakistan. These are both important topics, but U.S. policymakers need to devote more attention to other issues that could have an even greater impact on U.S. interests in the South Asian region in coming years. While in Kabul, Hagel did not even try to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been adding new conditions for a renewal of the Afghan-U.S. status of forces agreement […]

Is there a lonelier or more poorly understood warrior than Francois Hollande? Last week, as French troops prepared to intervene in the Central African Republic (CAR) to stem pervasive disorder, there was praise from abroad for the domestically unpopular French president. The Economist characterized Hollande as a “strident neocon” and “decisive war leader” whose willingness to send soldiers to Mali and the CAR this year has been in contrast to his “shaky” performance at home. Noting that France’s recent interventions have enjoyed widespread African support, the Guardian announced the emergence of a “Hollande doctrine” involving a “benign form of armed […]

This week, the Nigerian insurgent group Boko Haram carried out a large-scale attack on a military air base in the northeastern city of Maiduguri in which 24 attackers were killed, two air force personnel wounded and several military aircraft damaged. In an email interview, Jennifer Giroux, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich who specializes in conflict in energy-producing and transit regions, explained Nigeria’s counterterrorism approach and Boko Haram’s resilience. WPR: Does Boko Haram’s attack on the Maiduguri air base indicate an evolution in the group’s military capabilities? Jennifer Giroux: This attack is not so […]

Strategic Horizons: For U.S. in Afghanistan, Zero Option Not So Bad After All

Hamid Karzai is playing a dangerous game with the security of both Afghanistan and the United States. With NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ending soon, the Afghan president negotiated a bilateral security agreement with Washington to leave a small U.S. counterterrorism and advisory force in his country. But after convening a national assembly of elders known as the Loya Jirga and gaining their endorsement, Karzai announced that he would not sign the agreement, leaving that to the winner of April’s presidential election. When U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice explained to Karzai that the United States needs the agreement in […]

This year has been one of fluctuating fortunes for South Africa as it seeks to shape Africa’s emerging security architecture and to cement its position as the leading player in continental peace operations. In March, South African troops were withdrawn from the Central African Republic (CAR) after rebel forces overran the capital and ousted the regime of Francois Bozize, which South Africa was defending. The spectacle of South Africa’s humiliating withdrawal, and the deaths of 13 South African troops, jarred with the rather self-congratulatory notions of South African leadership and of South African exceptionalism that had previously informed debates on […]

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