Hezbollah, Baalbek, Lebanon. Photo: yeowatzup/flickr.
Hezbollah’s narrative is shifting now that it has entered into Syria’s civil war and taken the side of one Arab party against another, said Thanassis Cambanis, author of A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel. “Here is the Lebanese Party of God, whose raison d’être is to fight Israel, suddenly turning its firepower on a group of Islamist Sunni Arabs,” he said. Last week saw a worrying example of the sectarian tensions worsening in Lebanon, when 40 people were killed in clashes between the Lebanese army—apparently aided by Hezbollah—and Sunni militants in Sidon.
“Essentially, [Hezbollah’s] Sunni counterparts—their brethren—are being put in the same enemy box as the Jewish state,” Cambanis said. » More
Anti-FARC demonstration in Bogotá, Colombia, 2008. Photo: Patton/flickr.
On Sunday, May 26th the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government led by President Juan Manuel Santos reached an agreement on agrarian reform as part of an ongoing peace process. This agreement was reached after six months of negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC, a leftist guerrilla organization of approximately 8,000 soldiers that has been waging a war against the Colombian state since 1964, the longest lasting conflict in Latin America. This peace process is the fourth time in 30 years that the Colombian government and the FARC have tried to negotiate an end to this conflict. The fact that these talks are being held at all is an accomplishment for supporters of a negotiated solution. The last peace process ended in failure in 2002, with both the government and the FARC ratcheting up their military capabilities during the process with both parties further from a resolution to the conflict than before the talks began. In fact, the Colombian public became so discouraged of a negotiated solution that they embraced the hard-line approach offered by Álvaro Uribe in the 2002 presidential elections who continued the expansion and modernization of the Colombian armed forces in pursuit of a military solution. The Colombian government’s military successes since 2002, unlike previous military campaigns, have successfully weakened the FARC and contributed to their willingness to negotiate with the current Santos administration. In addition, the ability of the FARC to survive eight years of an intensive and costly military offensive while retaining the capability to ambush police and military forces or disable segments of the country’s infrastructure has also contributed to the government’s interest in a negotiated solution. The FARC-Government’s recent accord on agrarian reform represents a positive step in the current process, one that illustrates a shared agenda on the changes needed to protect the livelihoods of small peasants in Colombia’s countryside. However, important obstacles face the implementation of these specific reforms, reforms which threaten the autonomy and impunity that landed elites have enjoyed for generations. » More
Protestors against Boko Haram and the Nigerian government’s policies to fight the group. Photo: Michael Fleshman/flickr.
More than 700 Nigerians have died so far this year in over 80 attacks associated with Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group that a recent United States report ranked as the second most deadly in the world after the Taliban in Afghanistan. Most of the deaths occurred in March and April (208 and 335 respectively), confirming the alarming dimension of Boko Haram’s atrocities in Nigeria.
In one attack in Baga, on 19 April 2013, Boko Haram militants confronted Nigerian security forces in a gun battle that left 260 people dead and nearly a thousand injured. This was the deadliest Boko Haram attack since 2009, when the group catapulted onto the global stage following violent riots that resulted in the death of over 800 people in northern Nigeria. Since then it is estimated that Boko Haram has killed nearly 4 000 people and injured several thousands more. » More
A man in Jakarta shows his inked finger at a polling station to proof he voted in the 2009 presidential election, the second since the fall of the Suharto regime. Photo: Isabel Esterman.
Once widely considered a desirable endpoint for all nations, democracy’s seeming benefits are now openly questioned by many. The poor results of democratization in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with the rise of economically successful non-democracies such as China, have caused democracy promotion to lose some of its luster. So, given these recent trends, what are democracy’s prospects for the future?
This question was the primary focus of a recent panel discussion hosted by the Forum Aussenpolitik (foraus) and NCCR Democracy at the University of Zurich. Entitled “Democracy Promotion: Lessons from Different Regions of the World,” the discussion featured three experts who analyzed the ways and means of democracy promotion; its feasibility; how and whether it should be encouraged, and its successes and failures.
UNDOF Forces. Photo: MATEUS_27:24&25/flickr.
On the 6th of June, after only two hours of reflection, the Austrian government ordered the withdrawal of its peacekeepers from the Golan Heights, thus ending its 39-year engagement in the area. In an official statement, the 380 UN peacekeepers were pulled out because of the “continuing deterioration of the situation in the area.”
In the months leading up to the withdrawal, UN troops had witnessed increasing spill-over from the conflict in Syria, with mortars hitting the Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights. When Syrian rebels seized control of the strategically important Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israeli-controlled territory – albeit only for a short period of time – the possibility of the IDF crossing over into Syrian territory to secure Israel’s border became plausible. This is reportedly what led Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann to call for the withdrawal of Austrian troops. » More