The CSS Blog Network

Balancing Shia and Sunni Radicalisms

Image by Mohd Murtaza Mustafa/Flickr.

Don’t defeat Iran. Shi’ism is not America’s enemy. It is not in the long-term interest of the United States to side with the Sunni Arab states against Iran or vice versa. Doing so produces an imbalance of power in the region as we learned with the collapse of the Iraqi state in the aftermath of the American invasion of 2003. Iran was then able to establish a contiguous sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean — something that was only averted by the Arab Spring reaching Syria.

The two-year-old Syrian crisis has now come to a point where Iran is on the defensive, as its positions in Lebanon and Iraq come under threat. But Washington’s talks with Moscow in an effort to reach a negotiated settlement on the Syria crisis may indicate that the United States is not interested in allowing the pendulum to swing in the other direction this time around. » More

Boko Haram and Nigeria’s Pervasive Violence

Image by Radio Nederland Wereldomroep/Flickr.

International security experts are watching Nigeria’s radical Islamist movement Boko Haram with concern. The militant group has destabilized northern Nigeria and attracted the attention of other jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda affiliates gaining strength in neighboring northern Mali. Boko Haram is highly diffuse. It has an important Islamic revival dimension, but also has political and criminal elements. Little is known about its leader, Abubakar Shekau, including his age, where he was born, or if he can speak English. The movement has issued no formal manifesto. Nevertheless, its various factions do share a common agenda of imposing and rigorously enforcing Islamic law in northern Nigeria; some even want to impose it throughout the country in areas where Christians are the majority. The group is bitterly hostile to the Christian-led secular government in the capital of Abuja, which it accuses of exploiting the poor. Its methods are violent and deadly, ranging from targeted killings to mass deaths resulting from car bombs. » More

Syed Mansoob Murshed: The Economic Modeling of … Huntington?

Say No to Burqas

Man repairing the “Say No to Burqas” graffiti. Picture: Newtown graffiti/flickr

Interdisciplinary research can provide a stimulus for different research agendas, but only on the condition that it remains intelligible for all of the disciplines involved. Unfortunately, the presentation of Syed Mansoob Murshed on the economic modeling of identity in civilizational and sectarian conflicts did not provide the opportunity for such an interaction between disciplines. This is all the more regrettable, as Murshed’s distinguished background in economics is a valuable asset in enriching both conflict and violence research. Despite the mixed quality of the presentation, it is worth taking a moment to understand and to engage with the ideas introduced.

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