Graffiti displaying the word “Hamas”. Photo: Soman/Wikimedia Commons.
Editor’s Note: This article is included in our ‘Conflict Hotspots 2014’ dossier which can be accessed here .
Born of a common struggle against Israel and nourished by common benefactors in Syria and Iran, Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah have long been natural allies despite their sectarian differences. Ever since the early 1990s, when Israel exiled Hamas’ leadership to Lebanon, the two groups have cultivated an alliance that has shaped the Middle East’s balance of power for decades.
But the crisis in Syria has ruptured the old “axis of resistance,” with regional forces giving the two organizations opposing stakes in the conflict and bringing unprecedented tension to their relationship. While Hezbollah fighters have fought and died for Bashar al-Assad in some of the civil war’s fiercest battles, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the rebels and retreated deeper into the embrace of Sunni Islamist powers in the region. » More
Photo: United States Navy/Wikimedia Commons.
A recent ISN blog by Owen Frazer highlighted the implications of the post-9/11 ‘Financial War on Terror’ for civil society groups as they grapple with the vulnerability global authorities believe they represent in the struggle against terrorism. But there is a third, critical party in this field that is not often contemplated from a security perspective, namely the Financial Services Industry (‘FSI’).
Following 9/11, the first step of the Bush administration’s ‘War on Terror’ was to sign Executive Order 13224, which aimed to launch ‘a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network’ in order to ‘starve the terrorists of funding.’ This assault was led by the Financial Action Task Force (‘FATF’), a body originally set up in 1989 to co-ordinate a global response to the laundering of drug money through the banking system. Adding counter-terrorist financing (CTF) to the mandate of the FATF seemed logical at the time, and the Task Force expanded its original 40 Recommendations to include 9 Special Recommendations focused on CTF. These additional recommendations were recently revised and amalgamated to create a new set of 40 Special Recommendations. In effect, this regime has led global authorities to delegate the frontline implementation of CTF policies to the FSI. » More
General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan. Photo: FSCEM45212/Wikimedia Commons
LAHORE – Pakistani institutions are evolving rapidly. With executive authority increasingly in the hands of elected representatives, rather than dispersed among various competing institutions, the political establishment has been revitalized – and it has taken three important steps toward strengthening democracy and the rule of law. Is Pakistan, a country long prone to military coups, finally developing a well-functioning political system?
On November 27, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain – acting on the prime minister’s advice, as the constitution dictates – announced that General Raheel Sharif would succeed General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as Chief of Army Staff, even though Sharif was not among the military establishment’s favored candidates. Unlike Kayani – who has directed the Directorate-General of Military Operations and the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan’s spy agency) – Sharif has not served in any of the positions that typically prepare someone to lead Pakistan’s best-funded and most influential institution. » More
North Caucasus regions map. Photo: Peter Fitzgerald/Wikimedia Commons.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Schaefer, U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) and Eurasian Foreign Area Officer, offers a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the situation in the North Caucasus in his book The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad. Though this book was published three years ago, the recent Boston Marathon Bombing in the U.S. by Chechen extremists makes a review of the book, and its subject matter, timely. In reviewing the book, I gained useful insight into the politics, and sources of instability, in the North Caucasus region, and was able to clarify the role of Islam in Chechnya. Schaefer tackles the definition of insurgency, differentiating it from terrorism, gives a comprehensive history of the region, focusing on the past 300 years, and brings the reader up to date by covering the Chechen-Russian wars in the 1990s, and the aftermath, in detail. In so doing, the reader receives a rare glimpse into the region’s political tensions, as well as a forecast for the future. » More
Chechnya. Photo: LOreBoNoSi/flickr.
An interesting foreign policy aspect of the situation in Xinjiang is the region’s place within the wider global war on terrorism. When compared to the conflict in Chechnya, one can find a number of interesting similarities in the central governments’ narrative of the issue. However, in order to find them, it is first worth engaging in a short discussion of both conflicts.
According to Remi Castets, starting in the 1980’s, the region saw an increase in religiosity amongst its mostly Islamic population. This in turn led to the formation of student groups and to the beginning of protests. Following the student activism of the eighties, the nineties saw an increase in radicalism within the population, which led to both arson and sabotage. These actions then culminated in bombings and assassinations. » More