The CSS Blog Network

The Roles of Navies in the Yemeni Conflict

The Saudi Naval Jack. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) on 31 March 2015.

Although the Saudi-led Operation RESOLUTE STORM (alternately translated as DECISIVE STORM) began with air strikes into Yemen on March 26 and continue as of this writing, the heightened level of regional activity also includes maritime operations. These national and multi-national operations highlight the importance of naval platforms and presence. Yemen is strategically located with the heavily-trafficked Red Sea to its west and the Gulf of Aden along its southern coast. Some twenty thousand ships transit the Gulf of Aden annually. Yemen’s ports have been largely closed to commercial traffic. » More

Chinese Government Caught Flat-footed by Separatist Attack

Uyghur woman and Chinese military personnel.

In the aftermath of the 2009 Han–Uyghur riots in Urumqi, the Chinese government made a number of changes to its policies in Xinjiang, including transferring out the region’s unpopular party chief. Since the arrival of President Xi Jinping, monitoring of Uyghurs in Xinjiang has intensified too.

But while a number of violent incidents were reported in Xinjiang in 2013, it is almost impossible to tell whether Uyghur-related violence is increasing in China. It is unclear whether the reporting of more incidents than in the past is due to actual increases in violence or simply new government media directives. The reports themselves are often uninformative. However, recent events, including the knife attack at Kunming, suggest that the Chinese government’s policies to counter Uyghur unrest are having unforeseen consequences well outside of Xinjiang. And the government is likely increasingly concerned that its post-2009 measures have been unsuccessful, given reported changes in policy toward Xinjiang. » More

Saudi Arabia, Syria and Bin Laden’s Ghost

Rebels from the Justice Brigade

This article was originally published by the Middle East Institute on 14 February 2014.

Osama bin Laden may be dead, but his ghost was in Riyadh the other day, hovering over Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah as he issued a decree making it a crime for any Saudi citizen to take part in a war outside the kingdom.

The obvious motivator was the civil war in Syria, where hundreds of young Saudis have been spotted in the ranks of the most radical jihadi groups battling both the government and other less extreme rebels. But the roots of the king’s action, and the problem it was designed to address, can be traced to the 1980s war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. » More

The Last of the Sudeiri Seven

King Abdullah

King Abdullah. Photo: Zamanalsamt/flickr.

LONDON – Ever since the Al Saud clan established in 1932 the Kingdom to which they gave their name, the exercise of power in Saudi Arabia has been shaped by the intrigues and intricacies of royal politics. But never before has this internal struggle had such far-reaching ramifications for the region and beyond as it does now.

With some 22,000 members, competition is rife within the world’s largest ruling family – a dynamic set in motion by the Kingdom’s founder, Abdul Aziz Al Saud, as he sought to secure the role of his 43 sons as future rulers, and sustained by King Abdullah’s succession strategy today. » More

Winners and Losers in the Syrian Civil War

Syrian Flag

Photo: Freedom House/flickr.

The Syrian civil war, which has seen a stalemate for nearly three years, shows no signs of a negotiated political solution. The Geneva II peace talks, that opened on 22 January, are highly unlikely to result in a breakthrough, absent a miracle. There is irreconcilable tension between the oppositional Syrian National Coalitions’s (SNC) demand for a future Syria without President Bashar Al-Assad and Al-Assad government’s policy priority to secure international support to fight what it calls rebellious terrorists. That may well leave a military victory, either by the government or the opposition rebels, as the final option to break out of the deadlock.

If this were to happen, three recent developments seem to favor a possible win by Bashar Al-Assad. First, in recent weeks, government troops have recorded some notable military successes by reversing rebel territorial gains in the south and eastern parts of Syria and by stamping them out from areas adjacent to Damascus. Secondly, the continued infightings between rebel groups, particularly between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other moderate Islamist groups are damagingly reducing their fighting capacities against government troops. Thirdly, international support for the rebels is gradually drying out. The SNC agreed to join Geneva II peace negotiations after the US and Britain had threatened to withdraw support for them.[1] A win by President Bashar Al-Assad would, however, inevitably affect the interests and strategic matrices of the regional powers deeply involved in the Syrian civil war – Iran, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This point is explained below by highlighting what drove each of the parties to take sides in the civil war and what they stand to win or lose in Syria if Bashar Al-Assad stays in power. » More

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