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Middle East/North Africa Security

Symbioses of power in Iraq and the Popular Mobilisation Units

In my first article I discussed the risk of perpetual violence in Iraq and Syria fuelled by both numerous non-state actors there and the increasingly cronyistic authoritarian system in which they operate. This was followed by a more detailed look into the illicit economic activities of militias across Iraq and Syria. Leading on from this, today’s commentary will shift from an economic to a more political focus, exploring the symbioses of power in Iraq and the role of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU).

Europe Security

The political implications of Switzerland’s F-35 acquisition

Switzerland has finally selected Lockheed Martin’s F-35A for its Air Force 2030 program. The deal, with 36 aircraft, is expected to be worth $6.5 billion. Critics have argued that the F-35, with its sophisticated stealth and networking capabilities, is too much for a small country like Switzerland that requires only an air-policing aircraft. The decision to select the F-35 exemplifies how much politics are involved in purchasing military hardware worth billions of dollars.

Middle East/North Africa Security

Chaos in Lebanon: How much longer can the military maintain law and order?

Last month, June 2021, I recorded a total of 97 Security Incidents happening across Lebanon. The vast majority of these were roadblocks set up by angry protesters over the rapidly deteriorating socio-economic conditions. There were, however, 15 occasions of violence, in security operations, militancy, crime and personal disputes. Towards the end of the month, this figure was quickly rising and has continued to increase into July. This begs the question: For how long can the un-paid and deeply suffering Lebanese military remain deployed to maintain law and order?

Middle East/North Africa Security

Iraq and Syria: The Local and Regional Impact of Illicit Economies

In my previous article, I discussed the risk of Iraq and Syria entering a state of perpetual violence brought about by militias, to sustain their presence and maintain their profits. High rates of unemployment and increasing militarisation of governance and the economy, have meant that forming, joining and sustaining militias has become one of the few profitable rent-seeking methods. This article examines their illicit economic activities in greater detail showing the impact on a local to regional scale and the wider reverberating consequences.

Africa Security

Can the US’s New Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Set a New Policy Direction?

The US’s Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, returned from his first visit to the region last week. The newly created post which brought Feltman, a veteran of the UN and the State Department, out of semi-retirement, shows the strategic importance of the region to Biden’s foreign policy priorities and his desire to mark a clear break with the Trump era. What is less clear is whether Biden represents a policy shift from longer term American approaches to conflict and security in Africa.

Asia Pacific Security

Japan: Is A Boost to National Defence On The Way?

In late May, a panel on national security and defence held by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) issued a draft proposal calling for a significant increase in Japan’s defence budget, among other defence related recommendations. This proposal, alongside recent comments made by Japan’s Minister of Defence, suggests a shift towards higher levels of spending and a more proactive defence policy.

Security South and Central Asia

Kyrgyz-Tajik Relations in the Fergana Valley: Trapped in a Soviet-era Labyrinth

Recent border clashes between Kyrgyz and Tajik troops, which have thus far claimed the lives of over 50 civilians and military personnel, are the latest skirmishes in what seems to be an eternal pattern of sovereignty-related disputes between the two Central Asian nations. There is a case to be made that the problems in the region, driven predominantly by each states’ respective claims to land and water resources, can be attributed to the legacy of both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s historical position within the Soviet Union.

Middle East/North Africa Security

Syria’s Decade of War and Russia’s Encouragement of the Ongoing Conflict

As of March 2021, Syria has now been embroiled in civil war for ten years, as both the Syrian interim government and various other rebel factions continue to fight back against Bashar al-Assad and the human rights abuses that have occurred under his presidency. Yet, after an entire decade of war, there still does not appear to be any clear indication of peace in sight. This raises the question as to what has caused the conflict in Syria to last so long, and which state actors or nations might be responsible. 

Middle East/North Africa Security

Religious Riots in Jerusalem: Reignited Tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Months of quiet intermission in the rivalry between Israel and Palestine ends as new tensions emerge between the feuding states, ranging from riots in Jerusalem caused by religious extremists to exchanges of missiles over the Gaza Strip. These latest clashes in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict represent the frailty in their relationship, serving as a reminder that even when tensions appear to be low for a time, hostilities can be triggered and reignited at any time. Further underlined by the particularly long period of time that these states have been rivals, it is left unanswered when, and even if, the conflict will ever be firmly resolved.  

International Security

The Risks of Criminal Activity in Times of COVID-19 Vaccine Nationalism

The slow and unequal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has not only hampered the global economic recovery from the pandemic. In lower and middle-income countries, the scarcity of vaccine supply has opened up opportunities for organized criminal groups to orchestrate lucrative activities thus endangering the health of vulnerable populations and undermining public trust in state institutions. As the tendency of slow vaccine rollouts is set to continue, the security situation in developing countries is likely to deteriorate.