ISIS-Linked Regional Activity (Institute for the Study of War)

Regional activity of ISIS in July 2015 (click for detailed view). Image: Institute for the Study of War

This report was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 7 August, 2015.

Reports that the U.S. is considering establishing forward bases to counter ISIS’s affiliates in Libya and Afghanistan reflect the increasing regional capability and momentum of the group in the Near Abroad. ISIS will likely gain new support in Afghanistan and possibly globally due to the death of the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Omar. ISIS is also expanding operations in Yemen, Libya and Egypt, which may provoke direct conflict between ISIS and al Qaeda. ISIS will likely intensify regional operations, possibly within Turkey, as it faces pressure within Syria and Iraq from Turkey and other anti-ISIS forces. ISIS will also likely attempt to open other border crossings between ISIS’s interior and Near Abroad positions. » More

Veiled Ambitions: Understanding Iran’s Nuclear Posture

Propaganda poster of Ayatollah Khomeini in Teheran. Image: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

Anchored between the unelected Guardianship Council, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Iran’s foreign policy reflects a complex mix of political, military and ideological interests. The recently-brokered deal between the P5+1 and Tehran is a case in point. While Iran’s elected President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif successfully negotiated the end of sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, neither wield significant decision-making power within the Islamic Republic’s theocratic structure. At best, the presidency is the office of choice for international communications because it retains the trappings of a republic—an executive body with (apparently) executive authority. Consequently, Rouhani cannot pursue foreign policy goals without the consent of the Ayatollah, the Council and Guards. » More

The Privatization of Space: When Things Go Wrong

SpaceX-rocket taking off. Image: SpaceX-Imagery/pixabay

A few weeks ago, Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying an unmanned Dragon capsule destined for the International Space Station (ISS) exploded. The explosion was likely caused by a failed strut. In October of last year, Orbital Sciences had a rocket destined for the ISS explode for unrelated reasons, just after they were awarded a $1.9 billion contract with NASA. In the wake of these incidents, it may be time to assess the implications of private sector involvement in state-sponsored space programs. » More

The Breakdown of the Kachin Ceasefire and its Implications for Peace in Myanmar

Kachin rebels

Kachin rebels in front of a gaming shop that closed after fighting broke out again. Source: David Brenner.

Hopes were once high that Myanmar’s transition to semi-civilian government in 2011 would be accompanied by the settlement of its decades-old conflicts with its ethnic minorities. However, many of the country’s insurgencies have escalated since then, plunging the north back into renewed civil conflict. As things currently stand, government forces are battling various ethnic armed groups – including Kachin, Kokang, and Palaung movements – resulting in heavy losses on both sides and the displacement of up to 200,000 civilians in Shan and Kachin States. » More

Russia and the Crisis in Ukraine: Implications for European Security

Bullets between Ukraine and Europe. Image: Torange.de.com

To some observers, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine symbolizes the gradual erosion of Europe’s security architecture, as established by the Paris Charter, and the emergence of a new Cold War between Russia and the West. But are these pessimistic assumptions about the current state of East-West relations and Europe’s security actually justified? And if they are, then how can the West improve its ties with an increasingly bellicose Russia? These and other questions were the focus of the Center for Security Studies’ (CSS) latest Evening Talk. The guest speakers were Hanns Maull, who is a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), and Andreas Wenger, who is the Director of the CSS. During their presentations and follow-on Q&A period, the two scholars elaborated on the broader security implications of the Ukraine conflict, the origins of Russia’s support for pro-Moscow rebels in the east of the country, and what adjustments the West (particularly Europe) should make to its Russia policies. » More

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