Archive for December, 2016

Shia men in Saudi Arabia sentenced to death for “spying for Iran”

Iranian protesters hold a banner during a demonstration against Saudi Arabia outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran on 27 September 2015

Fifteen men have been sentenced to death and another seventeen have received various prison sentences after a Saudi court found them guilty of spying for Iran. There is much controversy over this court case and sources such as “Amnesty International said the trial of the 32 men was “grossly unfair”. This will only sour relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which will further destabilize the region. There have been consistent claims for many years by the Shia population in Saudi Arabia of rampant discrimination by the government. This is worth keeping note as it may spark more religious violence and terrorism in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding areas.


Strains in Iraqi-Kurdish relationship threaten anti-ISIL coalition

As the Battle for Mosul slowly continues issues between the Kurdish Pershmerga and the Iraqi military are increasing. Kurdish permissions given to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to launch the operation from inside Kurdish territory was seen as a victory for the groups relations, but cooperation between the Kurds and ISF is waning. Brett McGurk, the special envoy to President Obama’s coalition against ISIL has tried to smooth over issues by telling Kurdish officials that “without the cooperation of the Peshmerga and the Iraqi military…Daesh (ISIL) would be in Mosul forever.” Complicating this issue is the unknown policies of President-Elect Donald Trump. While some in Iraq see Trump as more decisive that Obama, uncertainty will reign as the majority of Trump’s cabinet members are unknown.

While the ISF-Kurdish relationship is showing strain, it is unlikely to fall apart. Mosul and ISIL in general present too much of a mutual interest between both groups for the coalition to disintegrate. Regardless, McGurk is now in a more important position than before, as he tries to ensure cooperation between the two groups.


Afghanistan says Taliban “wouldn’t last a month” without Pakistani support


Sunday was not a stellar day in terms of regional relations. At an international conference held in Northern India, Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani urged Afghanistan’s neighbor to take a harsher stance on terrorism within its own borders, saying that there was an “undeclared war” against Afghanistan taking place. Pakistan rejoined that one should take a broader view instead of blaming a particular country.

This doesn’t appear to be a good omen for continued good relations. Ghani tried to improve relations with Pakistan after he took office; is he giving up on that in exchange for a stronger image? It doesn’t help that India indirectly criticized Pakistan as well at the same conference. With India and Pakistan continually at each other’s throats, the last thing Pakistan wants is another enemy in the region. What will Pakistan do if it starts to feel cornered? That particular area of the world is already pretty unstable; infighting among those in power won’t help, regardless of whether Ghani is right or not.




Dakota Access pipeline route denied


Yesterday, President Obama and the US Army Corps of Engineers denied the proposed route for the Dakota Access pipeline which would have run through the Missouri River and land considered sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. This decision, a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, will require halting constuciton of the pipeline to conduct an environmental-impact study to draft alternative routes. The pipeline, although controversial from a socio-political perspective, is a legitimate source of energy for US citizens and will greatly contribute to energy source stability. The pipeline will transport nearly 500,000 barrels of shale oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois; also, it will almost certainly be constucted with the support of President-elect Donald Trump. Trump’s limited financial disclosures reveal that the president-elect currently has investments in the primary builder of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners.


IS Clashed with Somali Security Forces

For the first time, Somalia security forces have directly clashed with pro-IS militants. This clash has resulted in the death of 7 pro-IS militants. The fighting emerged when Somali security forces were confronted with landmines. They were in the middle of dismantling the landmines when IS militants attacked. The Somali security forces were trying to regain a town that had previously been taken by pro-IS militants in October. This direct conflict goes to show the increase influence that IS has in the region of Somalia. In order to prevent further attacks and to prevent to expansion of IS, Somalia security forces have to stand firm and not show weakness. The Somali security forces have to strategize in order to effectively keep IS out.


UN Expresses Concern About Recent Spike in Assassinations in Colombia


According to the UN, between January 1 and November 30, 2016, no less than 92 assassinations were attempted on Colombian leaders. At least 57 of those attempts were successful. The UN claims that the killings spiked after the FARC leaders made peace with the government back in September of this year. Many people blame the rise in violence against human rights activists on the power vacuum left by FARC. The peace deal has been largely celebrated as an historic movement to end the violence in Colombia but it seems like the opposite effect may be taking place. Not only has the Colombian Congress led by President Santos granted a large degree of amnesty to violent FARC veterans but they have alienated normal law abiding citizens who have good reason to hate the FARC fighters. I’m starting to wonder if most of the support for the peace deal and President Santos is coming from privileged Colombians living in major urban environments and outsiders such as the EU and the UN. I’m starting to notice just how much of a disconnect there is between rural Colombians and their city-dwelling countrymen. Only time will tell if the violence will subside in the coming weeks but the highly praised “Peace Deal” is starting to look a lot like a bandaid on gunshot wound.

-Zainab Imbabi

Cyber Security within NATO

Last Friday on the second of December 2016 the largest NATO Cyber Security exercise ended with more than 700 cyber and legal experts being apart of it.  Hosted in Estonia the exercise focused on cyber defense against any threat. This was most likely an exercise to gain insight into a possible counter to any attack by Russia or another aggressor into any NATO countries sovereignty. This also shows Russia that NATO is ready to counter any attempts of sabotage or destabilization. The world is changing incredibly quickly and with the threat of cyber being a way to cripple defences of NATO and other ally countries we must be ready.


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