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I had the pleasure of participating in France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, last Friday. The other panelists were the IHT’s Anne Bagamery, AFP’s Dave Clark and RTL 4’s Stefan de Vries. Topics included the EU debt crisis agreement, Tunisia’s elections and the emergence of democratic Islamism in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and the end of NATO’s mission in Libya. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here. It was a fun and informative discussion. I was especially surprised to learn from Stefan, who was in Brussels covering the EU summit, […]

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Tuareg fighters who fought for former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi were reported earlier this month to have returned to Mali to start a new rebel group. In an email interview, Baz Lecocq, professor of history at Ghent University, discussed Tuareg rebel groups. WPR: What are the main Tuareg rebel groups, and what are their main objectives? Baz Lecocq: Beginning with the start of decolonization in the 1950s, groups of Tuareg have protested, violently or otherwise, about their inclusion in Africa’s newly independent states, especially in Mali and Niger. In the 1990s, Tuareg in Mali and Niger engaged in protracted guerrilla […]

With President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year, most Americans breathed a sigh of relief. Lost in those headlines was the collective shudder of national security experts and practitioners who know Washington’s dirty little secret: More than 10 years after the war against violent extremism began, the United States still lacks true deployable civilian power. The handover in Iraq from the Defense Department to the State Department at the end of this year will showcase this Achilles’ heel, one that will haunt U.S. foreign policy until […]

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While no fewer than 80 political parties participated, Hizb Ennahda, a once-banned Islamist party, has emerged as the major winner in Tunisia’s first election since the ouster early this year of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ennahda’s dominance — winning roughly 43 percent of the seats in Tunisia’s new Constituent Assembly — can best be explained by what Christopher Alexander, a leading Tunisia scholar and political scientist at Davidson College in North Carolina, calls the “cultural authenticity vote.” Alexander told Trend Lines on Wednesday that “there are Tunisians who frankly are not that religious, but supported Ennahda because they […]

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The new Libya is considering how it will live by Islamic Sharia law, which includes some traditional practices which some countries consider inhumane. Libyan National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil has offered mixed remarks on the topic in recent days. While he has asserted that for Libyans “Sharia as the basic source of the law,” Jalil has also attempted to assure the international cummunity Libya is a nation of “moderate Muslims.”

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The Yemeni government and a dissident general signed a ceasefire on Tuesday, amid continued violent unrest in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Security forces opened fire and sprayed water cannons on a protest march in the capital prior to the ceasefire and witnesses said five civilians including a child were killed in crossfire between state troops and opposition fighters in the city of Taiz.

The battle to define the lessons of the Western intervention in Libya began almost as soon as the first Tomahawk missiles started hitting that country’s air defense network back in March. Many of the arguments have focused on the viability of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine of international humanitarian intervention and how it might apply to such countries as Bahrain or Syria. However, defense analysts also subjected the military character of the campaign to scrutiny, with some now suggesting the fight in Libya indicates that airpower has finally fulfilled its decisive promise, having matured to the extent that it can […]

Turkey’s ongoing military operation on both sides of its border with Iraq highlights the recurring problem confronting the Turkish government and military in their fight against Kurdish terrorists: The insurgents’ area of operations, like the Kurdish population itself, straddles Turkey’s borders with Iraq, Iran and Syria. The governments of all four countries share an interest in suppressing Kurdish separatism and violence, but each has at times also found Kurdish terrorism to be a useful tool to pressure the others. This transnational component to the problem means that the current Turkish military operation, which followed coordinated attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ […]

As part of a “big think” forecast project commissioned by an intelligence community sponsor, I’ve begun to think about the future geography of global security. As often with this kind of project, I find myself falling into list-making mode as I contemplate slides for the brief. So here are nine big structural issues that I think any such presentation must include – Regional integration in East Asia depends on an American security presence. Virtually every country in East Asia is realistically planning for eventual absorption into a regional economic scheme structured around behemoth China, while quietly scheming to balance that […]

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An unfortunate legacy of America’s “sole superpower” status is the tendency to over-emphasize Washington’s agency in shaping the global environment and downplay the role of others. For instance, the Obama administration deserves a great deal of credit in changing the tone of the U.S.-Russia relationship. But also critical to the reset’s success were Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election, which took that country off the European geopolitical chessboard, and the ongoing instability in Pakistan, which made the Northern Distribution Network more vital to supplying the military mission in Afghanistan. It may sound like a truism, but it is one that U.S. policymakers […]

Last year, the European Investment Bank, the European Union’s major development arm, invested a record $3.6 billion in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and other southern Mediterranean countries to demonstrate support for sustainable growth and job creation in the region. But despite these economic initiatives, the EU lacks a political strategy for dealing with the Arab Spring. Nowhere is this clearer than in the continuing debate over whether Brussels should establish official relations with the Muslim Brotherhood. What has prevented an objective appraisal of this question, in addition to a long-standing fear of Islamists, is that the Arab Spring has led many […]

When Israeli officials confirmed they had reached a deal with Hamas that would result in the freeing of the captured soldier Gilad Shalit, the reaction in the country was one of joy mixed with a heavy dose of apprehension. Israel had no good choices left when it agreed to make the lop-sided trade, which involved the release of more than a 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, many of them serving sentences for involvement in horrific terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. And yet, the widely held view is that the deal, while compelling on humanitarian grounds, will not only bring […]

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The return of Gilad Shalit to Israel in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners this week signaled a cooperation not seen between Israel and Hamas for nearly a decade. According to Daniel Levy, who co-directs the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force in Washington, the deal may well discredit ongoing narratives that it is simply not possible to deal with Hamas. However, says Levy, outside observers should take care not to read too deeply into the swap in the context of the wider conflict between Israel and Palestine. “I think it says almost nothing — and almost certainly […]

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In Turkey, security sources say Kurdish guerrillas from the PKK separatist group have attacked military posts in the Cukurca district in the south east of the country. Latest figures indicate 26 soldiers have been killed and 22 injured.

Over the past few years, the Turkish defense industry has focused its research and development efforts on a range of new weapons systems, driven by the goal of an overall technological modernization of Turkey’s armed forces. In the process, defense exports have doubled, demonstrating that Turkish defense firms also have the potential to impose themselves on the global market. Turkish defense companies, backed by Turkish diplomats, have signed a number of high-profile export deals in 2011. Earlier this year, Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s official visit to Indonesia — which, with a majority Muslim population of 246 million, is likely to […]

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Turkey’s energy minister announced earlier this month that the state-owned gas company BOTAS would not renew a gas deal with Gazprom when it expires in December due to a pricing dispute. In an email interview, Hasan Selim Ozertem, a researcher at Turkey’s International Strategic Research Organization, discussed Turkey-Russia energy relations. WPR: What is the nature of Turkey and Russia’s energy relationship, including gas and nuclear energy? Hasan Selim Ozertem: Russia is Turkey’s main energy supplier, with their energy relationship dating back to the Cold War period. In the post-Soviet era, relations have been positive, particularly in the area of natural […]

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