The Great War’s End in Syria

A poster of Assad in Syria.

As the West begins to gear up for the centenary of the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Middle East is being convulsed as never before by the legacy of the Ottoman Empire’s breakup. Look no farther than Syria, where one part of that legacy – the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided the Levant into British and French spheres of influence even while the Great War still raged – is coming to a brutally violent end.

Likewise, the current turmoil in Turkey is, at least in part, a consequence of “neo-Ottoman” overreach by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government. In seeking to establish the type of regional influence that Turks have not had since Kemal Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey, Erdoğan has fallen prey to some of the Ottoman regime’s hubris.

The Levant has, of course, been the scene of countless conflicts through the centuries. Sir Archibald Wavell, one of Britain’s greatest World War II generals and the penultimate Viceroy of India, wrote in his biography of the WWI Field-Marshal Edmund Allenby, who led the Allies in the Levant: “The greatest exploit in the history of horsed cavalry, and possibly their last success on a large scale, had ended within a short distance of the battlefield of Issus, where Alexander the Great first showed how battles could be won.”


The Shangpu Revolution

Image by g_yulong/Flickr.

On early Sunday, a reported 3,000 police and security troops surrounded the Chinese village of Shangpu. They fired tear gas, severed communications, shut off the electricity, and removed wrecked vehicles. They cleared off roadblocks that residents had erected. Some 30 to 40 villagers were hurt in fierce fighting. “It’s an extremely serious situation,” one resident told AFP. “They injured many people.”

The incident began in February when villagers fought pitched battles with dozens of thugs sent by Li Baoyu to break up a protest against a seizure of 33 hectares of farmland. Li, the Communist Party chief of the village, had arranged for the land to be transferred to Wanfeng Investment, controlled by businessman Wu Guicun. Wu had planned to build factories making electrical cables.

Humanitarian Issues

Intervention in Mali: Does R2P Apply?

Mali refugees in Niger
Mali refugees in an inofficial refugee camp in Niger. Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection/flickr

Six months ago, a coup d’état toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure (“ATT”), the democratically elected leader of Mali, and soon thereafter ATT went into exile; armed groups in the north, inspired by a strict and austere interpretation of Islam and the desire to impose Sharia law on the entire country, have engaged in jihadism, terrorism and arms trafficking; and many of Mali’s cultural treasures and riches have been destroyed by the same armed groups who consider much of modern civilization – i.e., the West – to be decadent and depraved and thus in need of purification.

Lamentably, most of these developments – marauding and irredentist Islamists linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the destruction of cultural relics and objet d’art, threats to World Heritage sites – have been overlooked or ignored. To be sure, some outlets – notably The New York Times and the BBC – have done their part to sound the alarm, and Alain Juppé, the former foreign minister of France, was told in March that if these groups gained control of the north, Mali would be turned into another Afghanistan.

After the Storm: ISN Resources on Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, peaceful after popular unrest toppled the government of President Bakiev, photo: Michael Reuter/flickr

“The chaos provides a unique opportunity for the superpower trio to cooperate” writes Dr John CK Daly in a commentary for ISN Security Watch, referring to China, Russia and the US, which all have their stakes in Kyrgyzstan. Domestically, the self-proclaimed interim government lead by Roza Otunbayeva and its successors are likely to face a revolution in 2015 again, unless they meet the people’s demands for justice and fiscal relief, predicts Dr Daly.

With the Institute for Public Policy (IPP) and the Social Research Center (SRC), the ISN has two partner organizations based in Bishkek that focus their research on Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. Further ISN partners covering the region include Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and EurasiaNet.

The ISN also supports the Russian and Eurasian Security Network (RES), a global initiative by leading academic institutes, think tanks, NGOs and media organizations. RES provides the framework for studies of security-related developments in Russia and the states of the Eurasian region, including Kyrgyzstan.

Finally, our Digital Library offers hundreds of publications, news articles, weblinks and primary resources on the country. Now it’s up to you to get informed.