The era of foreign intervention in Syria is coming to an end – at least that’s what Russian President Vladimir Putin said when Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, visited Sochi last week. Granted, Putin’s statement was ambiguous – “in connection with the significant victories … of the Syrian army … foreign armed forces will be withdrawn from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic” – but Russia’s Syria envoy clarified the next day that Putin was, in fact, calling on all militaries to vacate the country.
It is not easy to follow what has been happening in Syria. After six years of war and between 300,000 and 400,000 people killed — with half the population displaced and a dizzying array of factions, foreign armies and extremist groups fighting — it is hard to know who shares what interest with whom or how the killing stops.
Over the last few weeks, the fight for Raqqa, the Islamic State’s Syrian capital, and the battle for Deir Ezzor, the gateway to Iraq and the location of oil fields, have heated up, but the intensity of fighting in some other parts of the country has diminished. This is because Syrian government forces and their allies — Hezbollah, Shia militias from Iraq, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Russian bombers — have taken and held territory. The Russians have also taken the lead in establishing “de-escalation zones” in parts of seven provinces and in eastern Ghouta near Damascus.
Long before the debacles of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Somalia was the quagmire that Western militaries would have loved to strike from their records.
In the now-famous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993, overconfident U.S. forces blundered into an ambush in Mogadishu. Eighteen American soldiers and two troops from the supporting U.N. force died.
The West retreated from Somalia. To fill the security vacuum, the African Union deployed a peacekeeping force from 2006 onward.
The AMISOM peacekeeping force relies to a great degree on material and financial support from the United States and European allies, whose interest in the Somalia conflict increased again when Islamist groups gained influence in the country.
But the memory of the 1993 battle complicated direct intervention by Western militaries.
Gradually and quietly, this has begun to change.
Burundi’s political crisis continues, but it has entered a new phase with the conclusion of the 26th African Union summit on January 31st in Addis Ababa. In a December 2015 Global Observatory article, I analyzed the AU’s novel use of coercive diplomacy in Burundi. This approach came under scrutiny at the January summit, to the point that many consider it a failure. The truth is more complicated.
Before the AU summit, the last decision on Burundi taken by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) was set out in its communiqué of December 17th last year. Among other things, this seven-page document authorized the deployment of a 5,000-strong African Protection and Prevention Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU). It gave President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government 96-hours to consent to MAPROBU’s deployment, called for the relaunch of the inter-Burundi dialogue between the government and opposition, and for the complete deployment of the 100 human rights and military observers that the AU had authorized in May 2015. The principal goals of the PSC in taking this decision had been to facilitate a political settlement to Burundi’s ongoing crisis and reduce the threat of armed conflict and violence against civilians.
When Soldiers Say No: Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military. Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson and David Whetham (eds.) Ashgate. January 2014.
When Soldiers Say No brings together arguments for and against selective conscientious objection, as well as case studies examining how different countries deal with those who claim the status of selective conscientious objectors Gary Wilson writes that this collection adds considerably to the literature by bringing together a range of perspectives on the merits of selective conscientious objection, as well as consideration of its application (or lack thereof) in a number of states.