Archive for October, 2019

A Possible DRC Russia Tie?

People walk along the railroads near Kinshasa

In a break from my usual writings about the Ebola crisis in the DRC, I found this interesting article about a deal between the DRC and a Russian State-Owned Enterprise, Russian Railways. Both sides are in cooperation. For Russia, it expands their influence. for the DRC, it is an opportunity to fix key infrastructure problems, given that many of their rails are in disrepair.

It will be interesting to see how else Russia will engage the DRC and other countries in the region in the future. A possible Russian sphere of influence in Africa would be interesting, given that it is a part of the world that receives little attention. It would also be interesting to see how the U.S. responds to expanding Russian influence, whether it takes the form of increased tensions or economic investment in either the DRC or neighboring countries.

Global powers helping developing countries in ways like investment, aid, and business deals are often very beneficial to the recipient, though it also puts the developing country in a tough spot of allying to someone they might not particularly like to be aligned with, especially if the developing country becomes overly dependent or is forced to involve itself in an unwanted conflict.


Americans Not For Iran Obtaining Nukes

84% of the American electorate does not, in any capacity, support Iran obtaining Nuclear Weapons. Tensions between the United States and Iran have escalated since this summer. This ratcheting up of tensions started with a confirmed report by the United States Military where Iran shot down a Navy drone within there airspace. The United States in addition, has also accused the Iranian government for being behind the destruction of 2 oil tankers that prompted an additional 1,000 troops to the region. Iran responded by surpassing the limited amount uranium that they agree too in the JCPOA which was created under the Obama administration. The security implications pose a profound risk toward the United States in which a nuclear Iran will be a threat in the future once again.

Theo S.

Program Which Discovers New Viruses Shut Down

Predict is a government program run by the United States Agency for International Development. For the last ten years, Predict has collected 140,000 biological samples from animals around the world and identified over 1,000 new viruses. The program has also trained 5,000 people in other countries to assist in sample collection and improving medical research. Many viruses begin in animals, for example AIDS, Ebola, and SARS. The goal of Predict is to identify new viruses which may jump from animals to humans before they mutate and become a pandemic. The financial cost of Predict is a little over $200 million, the cost of fighting a pandemic is billions of dollars, and that’s not counting the potential loss of life.

The United States should continue funding Predict. The program has spent ten years building an infrastructure of trained staff who were able to gather samples and test for known and unknown viruses, it’s a waste to throw away that work which will be difficult to maintain without U.S. backing. Scientific research is the best way to discover and prevent the spread of new viruses. This program can also track outbreaks, identify specific strains of known viruses, and how best to handle them. In a world of global markets and travel, no country can claim safety from a possible pandemic. The United States has shown that it is committed to providing assistance to fight global disease outbreaks, it should be just as committed to preventing them from happening when possible.


China, India and Russia, Oh My!

Just last week India and the Philippines signed four agreements that are working to bolster bilateral cooperation between the countries. China and the Philippines have been bolstering their relationship as well and now Russia is throwing their hat into the ring. Vladimir Putin has agreed to make his first visit to the Philippines which provides Duterte a boost in his efforts to diversify diplomatic ties. Russia has been keen to offer their nuclear energy and defense to the Philippines. If this happens there could be a chance for Russia to gain access to the South China Sea. The Philippines wants to build long term strategic cooperation according to  Khovaev that will last for many years.

The Philippines is looking to gain more alliances outside of the United States which are not looking good especially if they are making deals with countries that the United States is not in particularly good standing with. I’m wondering if the Philippines does not see the United States as being able to protect them. However, at the same time, the US has been critical of Duterte’s “War on Drugs”. The Philippines look to be getting into bed with the devil. If China and Russia both have influence in the Philippines and by extension the SCS, the US could and can be pushed out which could be dangerous for the region.


A Woman’s Place Is… In the Government

Going a little further North, Sudan is in a period of transition as well. Former leader Omar al-Bashir has been out of power since late April of this year, due in large part to waves of outraged female protesters. His regime consisted of highly oppressive practices directed towards women, aimed toward satisfying the ultra-conservative forces that propped up his regime. Since his removal, civil society groups and the national military began debating what should be done, and women were left out of the picture. There is only one woman participating in the process, reflecting a potential continuation of female invisibility in the eyes of the nation.

How important is gender balance in pursuing peace? Would more equal representation lead to a greater stability? Whose job is it to ensure that more voices get heard? These are all questions that are bound to come up when looking into the situation in Sudan. Women have long been persecuted and treated with extreme disrespect and violence in the area, yet they have still managed to produce the loudest cries of dissent. It is arguable that without their active rebellion against the current structure, al-Bashir would not be in prison, and mass atrocities would still be occurring by his hand. If this is true, doesn’t it make sense that women should be allowed a spot at the table? If the local government isn’t allowing or prioritizing this, shouldn’t some other actor intervene? This is a delicate balance between intervention and state sovereignty, but if action would result in more widespread peace, it seems obvious that it would be worthwhile. Dual gender involvement would not be promoting equality “for equality’s sake”, but rather affecting quality of the transition and success of the entire revolution.

-Julia G.

Phones in SCIF

Recently House Republicans pulled off a public stunt in which they brought their phones to a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) where the House Intel Committee was having a hearing with the DOD employee, Laura Cooper. SCIF are secure rooms which in which highly classified national secrets can be discussed. This stunt was widely condemned by numerous national security experts who were concerned that phones could be used to exfiltrate and decode intel lying around in SCIF.

This development is highly irregular and members of Congress should not repeat this stunt as it is dangerous for the US national interests. Members of Congress should put the interests of the US before politics.

Kuljeet S.

UN offensive

Amid political uncertainty in Israel that politicians on both sides of the isle say is hindering Israeli security the U.N. to discuss the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Syria used the opportunity to condemn Israel for it’s seizure of the Golan Heights, however the focus remained on Israel. The forum occurs after a close election in Israel where Benjamin Netanyahu called for the annexation of area C in the west bank, a majority Jewish area. The U.N. opposed any such ideas and instead stated that the “Multi-generational tragedy in Israel and Palestine demands political will for two-state solution”.

From the perspective of both the U.S. and Israel this would be the worst decision that could be made. Not only would it weaken our ally but it would also create a hostile state that risks falling to Hamas. This would not produce lasting peace but rather produce the destruction and genocide of the Israeli people and the fall of the Levant to terrorism.


John F.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead

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He’s dead.

Is there a better time to be a student of Security and Conflict studies? It’s been confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State, has died. His death has been confirmed by biometric facial recognition tests and by DNA testing according to sources. According to US officials, Baghdadi had killed himself using an explosive vest upon the US forces arrival at his compound. President Trump gave more details in his press conference this morning. Trump says that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was chased by US Special Operations and sniffer dogs into a dead-end tunnel where he then detonated his suicide bomb killing himself and 3 of his children. Baghdadi’s two wives were also wearing suicide vests but did not detonate when they were killed. Some of the ISIS fighters were captured alive along with 11 children.

I’ve been glued to my Twitter feed for hours reading the latest information on this situation. Great job by the U.S. military! Also, thanks to the Kurds for providing the intelligence that helped kill Baghdadi. But we must recognize that this is an ideology that can’t be silenced or killed by killing one leader. Jihad has been going on for 1400 years since the prophet Muhammad with no signs of slowing down. Is this a blow to ISIS? Yes. Baghdadi was their chief leader and spiritual leader. But jihadists don’t run to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State because they’re following a charismatic leader. They run to jihad because they believe that in doing so, they are pleasing Allah and winning a place in Paradise. These are people who look down the barrel of a gun and see paradise. These are people who look at a suicide belt/vest and see paradise. The Islamic State will soldier on without Baghdadi. The magnitude of the jihad threat is still extremely high. I’m eager to see who the next successor is to Baghdadi.

The aftermath of Baghdadi’s compound after the US demolished it

Christopher T.

****Update**** Trump says that U.S. troops have killed the number one replacement for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

****Update 2**** Reports are saying that ISIS has named their new caliph. New Islamic State caliph is Ex-Saddam officer and Sharia judge, “The Destroyer” Abdullah Qardash

Nuclear War Games

In a supposed war games exercise that was overseen by Russian president Vladimir Putin last Thursday, Russia ran drills and practiced launches of several intercontinental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and warships. This exercise involved five submarines, 12,000 troops, 213 missile launchers, 105 aircraft and 15 surface warships. Putin remained at the Defense Ministry, directing maneuvers from there. According to Sergei Shoigu, the defense minister, this was war game exercise had the intention “to check the military’s capability to fulfill tasks in an armed conflict and a nuclear war.”

…come again? Why is Russia preparing for nuclear war? The timing of this all seems very calculated considering 1) the complete dissolution of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and 2) the United States complete abandonment of Kurdish allies, knowing that Russia backs the Assad regime. Realistically, this timely exercise has the potential to cause a security dilemma of epic proportions.


Eva W.

North Korea’s Power Hungry vs. Just Hungry

A UN investigator has found that nearly half of North Korea’s population are undernourished, with 140,00 children suffering. Like in many places, only those with significant wealth are able to obtain the resources needed for proper nutrition and other necessities for life. It’s no secret that Kim Jong Un has only his own self-interest in mind, neglecting even his own people. This raises several human rights concerns around countries that think they should be upheld, while Kim Jong Un seems to lack the term “human rights” from his vocabulary. 

Kim Jong Un is not against sanctions because it negatively impacts the health of his people, but rather that it negatively impacts his own self-serving interests, which include more testing of nuclear weapons. The government controls how the farmland is used, and the trade from products produced, therefore people cannot grow nor obtain what they need under his regulations. The people in North Korea are afraid to speak out against Kim Jong Un’s actions as they are afraid they will be sent to prison, tortured, or even killed. 

This is a difficult situation for the U.S. as we cannot properly negotiate with someone who doesn’t care about the well-being of his country. Our sanctions are impacting the people more so than the individual ruler, whereas in a place like North Korea, it should be the other way around. It is imperative that we work with the UN to uphold the human rights of people in North Korea, while also taking action to weaken the individual ruler, Kim Jong Un, because if he is not at risk himself, he sees no problem, and things will only get worse in North Korea.


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