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Oman’s Unique Approach to Mediation: A Solution for Sunni-Shia Conflicts?

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 Sultanate of Oman is a peaceful country on the southeastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula. The 2016 Global Terrorism Index gives the country a score of “0”, which means there is “no impact of terrorism” within its borders. It’s noteworthy that Oman is the only country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with such a score, which makes it one of the safest countries in the world.

There are several factors that explain Oman’s internal security. It is a relatively wealthy nation, its ruler – Sultan Qaboos – believes in progressive governance, and Omanis share a meticulous approach to mediation, which is shaped in part by Ibadi Islamic law. (Ibadism is the form of Islam practiced by the majority of the population in Oman. It’s an ancient and ascetic branch of Islam that dates to the first century A.H. and is respected by both Sunni and Shia jurists for its rigorous and scholastic approach to jurisprudence, among other features.) Given these helpful influences and the stature of Ibadism, it is justifiable to argue that Oman’s unique method of mediation may provide one of the keys to resolving conflicts that have both intra-extra-Islamic dimensions.

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Fish Wars: How Fishing Can Start – and Stop – Conflict

Courtesy of Annelieke B/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This article was published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 17 March 2017.

On February 18, the US sent naval ships to the South China Seas, an area of armed tension over rich but dwindling fishing grounds (among other things). The following day, a newspaper headline proclaimed the risk of “global fish wars” sparked by climate change and rising nationalism.

Is the world on the brink of interstate fish wars? Probably not: a large-scale military dispute is not likely to erupt over tuna, and conflict over fish affected by climate change could occur over a long time horizon. But as fish become more difficult to find, understanding the links between fisheries and violent armed conflict is increasingly important.

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Spiritual Ardor and Military Might: The Story of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

Courtesy of Neil Hester/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 23 March 2017.

Afshon Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Oxford University Press, 2016)

This past September in an audience hall in Tehran, a prominent vocalist named Sadegh Ahangaran took to a microphone to justify an Iranian military adventure. Ahangaran had earned the nickname “the nightingale of the Imam” for his melodies of martyrdom decades earlier during the Iran-Iraq War, his defiant voice often the last thing Iranian combatants heard before death. In his more recent performance, Ahangaran drew on these talents to serenade a similar crowd, but about a different war.

“I must break their windpipes in Aleppo, so that their feet do not touch Kermanshah,” sang Ahangaran, clad in the uniform of a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Reaching a crescendo, he thundered, “Since we have said no to the arrogance, we have disturbed the dream of the enemy … We are behind the Mullah until martyrdom.” Enraptured by the recital and seated on the floor before him were soldiers and commanders, past and present, of the IRGC. On a stage directly in front of them was their Mullah – Iran’s supreme leader and commander-in-chief – Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

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A Wary Farewell to Arms for the FARC

Courtesy of bixentro/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on 9 March 2017.

When Colombians streamed to the polls four months ago to vote in a plebiscite to accept or reject a peace agreement with the country’s leading guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), opinion polls predicted a resounding victory for the accord. Many citizens and internationals expected that the world’s second longest continuous armed conflict and one of its oldest Marxist insurgencies would soon become an historical relic.

In Havana, the FARC leadership and its negotiating team sat with journalists to watch the votes come in. Once the result was announced – the accord was rejected by less than one-half of 1 per cent – the guerrilla group retired to a private meeting at which its leaders decided the loss was only a temporary setback. “The FARC-EP maintains its will to find peace”, declared FARC leader Timochenko that same day, “and reiterates its willingness to use words as the only weapon to build a [new] future”.

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Burma is still on the Rocky Road to Democracy

Courtesy of brentolson/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 17 March 2017.

When the iconic democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi won her historic, landslide election in Burma (Myanmar), she was met by soaring expectations, as well as by the formidable challenges of violent conflicts, a stuttering economy and the significant constraints of sharing authority with a still-powerful military.

Not surprisingly, she has fallen short.

Since taking office just over a year ago, she has been navigating a thorny and complex landscape with great caution. Many say too cautiously, but getting that balance right will be critical for a successful and peaceful transition.

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