The CSS Blog Network

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After many years as a stand-alone project, the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) has been absorbed into its parent organization’s website, the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich. The impact of this adjustment to our blog page is negligible, aside from its new name. As for the rest of the former ISN site, it now makes up the Resources Section of the CSS website. Please use the menu in the left column to access its pages.

The Maple Leaf Mujahideen: The Rise of the Canadian Jihadi Movement

Image courtesy of Urban Seed Education/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) on 1 September 2017.

Though seldom mentioned in the same breath as prolific Western jihadi producers such as France, Germany, and Belgium, Canada has a long and often overlooked history of producing jihadists. From the “Millennium Bomber” and the “Toronto 18” to the “Ottawa 3” and the “Calgary cluster,” jihadis have organized on Canadian soil to carry out attacks, both in-country and around the world. While Canadians have fought on jihadi battlefields as far flung as Afghanistan and Syria, their government has failed to implement comprehensive counterterrorism and deradicalization measures. Lagging far behind its Western allies, Canada implemented its first counterterrorism strategy in 2012 and has yet to create a desperately needed nationwide deradicalization program. The rise of ISIS and lone wolf attacks has increased the need for these reforms.

Though the United States has a Muslim population over triple the size of that of its northern neighbor, the two countries have seen an approximately equal number of their citizens join the Islamic State (see Graph 1 below). Canada is more similar to Italy and Switzerland—European countries far closer to the Islamic State—in terms of fighters sent in relation to its Muslim/overall population than to the equidistant United States (see Graphs 2 and 3 below). The defeat of the territorially based Islamic State will surely herald an influx of Canadian jihadists to their home country. However, the provisions introduced in the Combating Terrorism Act of 2012 and strengthened in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015, which prescribe lengthy prison sentences for any citizen “knowingly participating in or contributing to any activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of any terrorist group to commit a terrorist activity,” will do a great deal to mitigate the risks from this group. The greater threat to Canada lies in the radicals who never travelled to the Islamic State, thereby making themselves known to Canadian intelligence services, but instead remain embedded amongst the Canadian population. While there are a number of potential policies that Canada could implement to help combat homegrown jihadism, this analysis posits that a more comprehensive and reformed implementation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (CMA) and the creation of a national deradicalization program offer the two most pragmatic solutions to mitigate the threat posed by Canadian jihadis to Canada.

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Mediation Perspectives: Peace, Conflict and Mediation in Islam

Image courtesy of Afshad/Pixabay.

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.

The fourth instalment of the CSS Mediation Perspectives Blog Mini-Series on the use of religious resources in peace mediation (Part one: Criteria, Part two: Christianity, Part three: Buddhism) comes from a Muslim perspective and looks at how peace, conflict and mediation are part of Islam.

Religions promote peace and provide moral guidance and legal injunctions to restrict and moderate the use of violence. Followers of a religion can comply with these guidelines or transgress against them as such followers are neither angels nor devils. Instead, they are human beings with all the complex aspirations to peace and temptations to violence that the human condition entails. In that respect, Islam is no exception.

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Group Cohesion and Peace Processes

Image courtesy of Cristian Santinon/Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 12 September 2017.

Summary

  • Weak cohesion within nonstate armed groups can—and has often threatened to—under­mine negotiated transitions away from conflict.
  • Cohesion is measured along two axes: vertical (degree of command and control over cadres) and horizontal (degree of unity among leaders).
  • Challenges are typically related to negotiating partners who have little credibility, nego­tiating positions that are either unclear or incoherent, factions within groups that oppose the peace process, and splintering within groups.

Introduction

Weak cohesion within nonstate armed groups (NSAGs) has often threatened to undermine negoti­ated transitions from conflict.[1] This can have an impact at any time—when parties are deciding on whether to join a process, during negotiation of peace agreements, and into implementation.

Cohesion can generally be measured along two axes: vertical (command and control over cadres) and horizontal (unity among leaders). Vertical cohesion is weak when leaders cannot control their fighters, and strong when they can. Horizontal cohesion is weak when leadership includes competing and disjointed factions, and strong when leaders have consensus over goals and are coordinated in action. Weak cohesion manifests in various combinations along these axes and is often a blend of the two.[2]

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Targeting Terrorists or Promoting Development? The United States’ Approach to Foreign Aid in Sub-Saharan Africa

Image courtesy of nessaja99/Pixabay.

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 24 August 2017.

In a recent Politico op-ed urging Congress to consider the importance of United States foreign aid programs, Admiral Mike Mullen (Ret.) and General James Jones (Ret.) insisted that “[s]trategic development assistance is not charity; it is an essential, modern tool of U.S. national security.”  The authors focus particularly on the importance of this tool in countering violent extremism in distant regions.

With the advent of the “Global War on Terror” directed at al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the United States has developed a pattern of increasing aid funds to countries that experience any terrorist activity that poses a clear threat to its security. This has led to increasing concern among activists that the United States has taken a turn away from targeting development related goals to focus more on using foreign aid to strengthen the military capabilities of recipient governments. Such a shift presents a potential problem as aid aimed at activating an immediate counterterrorism response is often allocated directly to the recipient government with low accountability for how those funds are used.

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The Venezuelan Crisis and Fragmented Multilateralism in the Americas

Image courtesy of Nicole Resseguie-Snyder/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 23 August 2017.

In 2013, Venezuela was a defective democracy experiencing serious breaches of civil and political rights, but with more or less functioning electoral institutions, and accountability between the branches of the state. Today, the country is an authoritarian regime. President Nicolás Maduro’s government crossed into that territory on March 29 this year, when the Supreme Court, following instructions from the executive, stripped the country’s National Assembly of its competences, triggering the wave of demonstrations that continues today (42 a day on average) and that has cost the life of 126 Venezuelans. Another definitive step occurred on July 16, with the election, through massive electoral fraud, of a Constituent Assembly with total powers over the National Assembly and aimed at rewriting the national constitution.

There are two main victims of the Venezuelan crisis. The first are the Venezuelan people, who have not only witnessed a dramatic deterioration of their living conditions, but have also lost the ability to live together in harmony, for an undetermined amount of time. The second victim, on which I focus here, is multilateralism—the ability of states to bring collective solutions to conflicts and crises through institutions and other forms of cooperation.

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