Cuba: Not a Terrorist Threat

Revolutionary propaganda of Camilo Cienfuegos. Image: 819043/Pixabay

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 11 March 2015.

This blog is the first in several leading up to the World Policy Institute Board trip to Cuba in May. The trip seeks to re-open a once highly effective dialogue with Cuban leaders. WPI plans to examine the achievements of 55 years of revolutionary society and explore ways to highlight what the U.S. and Cuba can learn from each other.

As the Obama administration and Cuban negotiators examine the 54-year-old unilateral embargo (or “blockade” as the Cubans refer to it), one obstacle—particularly painful for Cubans and extremely important to American interests—must be addressed: Cuba’s continued presence on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

President Obama directed the State Department to review this designation in December 2014, since Cuba’s removal from that list is entirely justified and long overdue. As a result, when the State Department issues its annual Country Reports on Terrorism on April 30, it is likely to be the first time in 33 years that Cuba is not designated a sponsor. » More

Bad Theatre

French soldier guarding the Eiffel Tower. Image: DerekKey/Flickr

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 26 February, 2015. Republished with permission.

Pairs of Belgian soldiers have been standing guard at the entrance of NATO headquarters and other sensitive locations in Brussels since the Belgian security services successfully raided a terrorist cell in the Belgian city of Verviers on 15 January, just days after the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. One rather hopes that NATO especially was already somewhat protected before; two foot soldiers will hardly make much difference in any case.

Indeed, why deploy the army in the streets of Brussels at all? What one seems to forget is that no terrorist attack took place. Unlike in May of last year, when a returned French ‘foreign fighter’ murdered four people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, this time an attack was prevented, thanks to excellent police and intelligence work – and yet now the army was deployed whereas last year it was not. That does not mean that there is no more remaining threat, quite the contrary, but it does more than nuance the causal link between troops in the street and security at home. Khaki in the streets is mostly bad theatre, a feeble attempt to signal resolve in the face of a threat that can never be entirely prevented (although in this particular instance it actually was). » More

Drones: From Technology to Policy, Security to Ethics

«Drones: From Technology to Policy, Security to Ethics». Poster for the conference organized by the ISN and ETH Global. Image: ISN

Rapid technological advances are making drones cheaper, more accessible and highly adaptable. Once the exclusive preserve of the world’s most advanced armed forces, unmanned platforms are now being used by civilian actors for a wide range of applications. Yet, while members of the technical community have tended to emphasize the opportunities that this technology offers, their counterparts in international relations and other fields have increasingly raised questions about the legal, ethical, humanitarian and security implications of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Against this backdrop, ETH Global and the ISN recently hosted a one-day conference that brought together over 160 experts from the fields of robotics, environmental science, law and ethics, and international relations and security. Since ETH Zurich is considered one of the world’s leading ‘competence centers’ in the field of robotics systems and control, its activities offer a glimpse into emerging UAS technologies and their potential social impact in the future.

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Charlie Hebdo: The Balkan Connection

A demonstrator in Strasbourg holding up a ‘Je suis Charlie’ sign. Image: Jwh/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by World Affairs on 4 February, 2015.

Officials in both the Paris State Prosecutor’s office and Bosnia’s Ministry of Defense have now confirmed that the ammunition used in the Charlie Hebdo attacks was produced in Bosnia, and officials now believe that the weapons used in the attacks may have come from Bosnia as well.

Although it is still too early to say with any certainty how these arms and munitions made it to Paris, all of this is hauntingly reminiscent of similar such incidents in the past, such as the murder of Dutch film producer Theo van Gogh, in which, according to veteran Washington Post reporter Douglas Farah, the murder weapon had also been traced to Bosnia (other sources claim the weapon was produced in Croatia). There are other Balkan connections to the recent Paris tragedy as well. The “mentor” of Amedy Coulibaly (who killed a police officer and four other people in the attack on the Parisian kosher grocery store) and Chérif Kouachi (one of the brothers who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices) was Djamel Beghal, a man who had been originally recruited by Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants and a man with both Bosnian citizenship and a Bosnian passport. Beghal himself was an associate of another Bosnian jihad veteran, the imam of London’s Finsbury Park mosque, Abu Hamza al-Masri, recently sentenced to life imprisonment in US federal court. » More

Chad: Taking the Lead in the War on Boko Haram

The President of Chad, Idriss Déby. Image: Rama/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Strife on 6 February 2015.

The ground offensive in Gamboru, in which over 200 Boko Haram fighters were reportedly killed, followed several days of air raids against the militants and is the latest in a string of successful strikes by Chad against the Islamist group. As Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks in recent weeks, so Chad has stepped up its military presence in neighbouring countries: Chadian troops now operate in Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria. On 29 January, Chadian forces drove the Islamists out of the Nigerian town of Malum Fatori after attacking their positions from across the border in Niger. In mid-January, Chad deployed its military to Cameroon to assist its neighbour in fending off Boko Haram’s incursion into its territory and recapture Baga, the Nigerian border town ravaged in a massacre earlier that month. » More

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