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  • Author: James M Dorsey, Raffaello Pantucci, Bilveer Singh, Noor Huda Ismail
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The high-profile assassination of General Qassim Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force (QF), on January 3 in Baghdad marked the lowest point in US-Iran relations in recent times. It triggered a new spell of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East with far-reaching consequences for South and Southeast Asia. Soleimani’s killing has also coincided with the potential rejuvenation of the Islamic State (IS), and ongoing anti-government protests in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. Soleimani’s killing was bound to have reverberations beyond the Middle East. Muslim-majority states in South and Southeast Asia, where both Saudi Arabia and Iran have engaged in sectarian proxy wars by funding and influencing the Sunni and Shia segments of the population. While states in both regions have condemned Soleimani’s killing, they have stayed largely neutral to avoid getting sucked into rising geopolitical tensions. Against this backdrop, the March issue of the Counter Terrorists Trends and Analyses (CTTA) features three articles that explore different dimensions of Soleimani’s death and their geopolitical implications. In the first article, James M. Dorsey argues that as US-Iran tensions have eased in recent months, Iranian hardliners, emboldened by a sweeping mandate earned in recent domestic elections, remain committed to a well-honed strategy of escalating asymmetric warfare. According to the author, this raises the prospects for a full-scale war, with the United States also still pursuing a maximum pressure campaign on Iran that has to date, yet to produce tangible results. In the second article, Raffaello Pantucci reasons that despite a general consensus that the US-Iran rupture will ease pressure on transnational jihadist groups in the Middle East theatre, it remains unclear how Soleimani’s killing will shape their future behaviour. On the one hand, Iran-backed Shia militias are likely to step up their operations, which will exacerbate sectarian fault-lines in the region and feed into IS’ self-portrayal as the saviours of Sunnis. Conversely, pragmatism continues to define interactions between Tehran and Sunni jihadist groups such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, who appear happy to cooperate to ensure broader strategic goals. Next, Bilveer Singh examines the implications of Soleimani’s assassination for South and Southeast Asia. regions where both Iran and Saudi Arabia enjoy ideological influence among the Muslim-majority states. Sunni Malaysia and Indonesia have reservations about Tehran, but domestic political pressures are likely to endear Iran to them more than the US. The impact in South Asia could be more varied, mostly affecting Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran through its Shia militant proxies can undermine US interests in Afghanistan. The QF has also recruited significant Shia militias in Afghanistan and Pakistan respectively for operations in Syria. Moreover, Pakistan has to walk a tight rope given Iran has an inside track to its significant Shia population. Besides cross and intra-regional assessments of Soleimani’s assassination within the broader US-Iran fissures, the threat landscapes in Indonesia and West Africa, both long-time hotbeds for terrorist activity in their respective regions, are also examined in this issue. Firstly, Noor Huda Ismail takes a closer look at pro-IS terrorist networks in Indonesia, a country that is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. By examining the background, tactics and modus operandi of local terrorist groups, both online and offline, and comparing their legacy with those of previous militant Islamist movements, the author believes important learning lessons can be drawn to help mitigate future security threats. Finally, Atta Barkindo analyses the jihadist threat in the Sahel region, where a landscape conducive to terrorist activities provides the fertile ground for IS and Al-Qaeda to grow by linking up with local militant networks. The tactical sophistication exhibited in terrorist attacks by Sahelian jihadist groups, particularly in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, testifies to a growing footprint of global jihadism. Sahel provides an arterial life-line through the region, by facilitating the movement of goods and people between the Mediterranean and West Africa, which has been enormously beneficial to terrorist groups involved in organised criminal enterprises. Moreover, desertification and environmental degradation have also created a conducive environment for criminal activities and terrorism.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Bilateral Relations, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Lebanon, Southeast Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Ong Keng Yong, Noorita Mohd Noor, Iftekharul Bashar, Muhammad Saiful Alam Shah Bin Sudiman, Nodirbek Soliev, Remy Mahzam, Amalina Abdul Nasir
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The January issue provides an overview of terrorist and violent extremist threats in key countries and conflict zones in the Asia-Pacific throughout 2019. Regional specific threats and responses covering Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Middle East are assessed. In addition, themes such as the online narratives propagated by global threat groups and counter-ideological dimensions of terrorism and violent extremism are analysed. Globally, despite suffering severe territorial, leadership and organisational losses in 2019, Islamist terror groups Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda (AQ) continued to pose the most potent terrorist threat. Early in the year, IS’ territorial reign was ended by American-backed coalition forces, following which its networks became scattered and, in a bid to overcome its physical decimation, more decentralised across the globe. The death of IS’ “Caliph”, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in October 2019, raised further questions about the group’s continued resiliency. Yet, IS has proved persistent and adaptive. The group’s violent ideology continues to bind its myriad followers across regions. In the aftermath of its territorial and leadership losses, IS’ terror attacks and online offensives have been sustained. The global security landscape was further complicated by the emergence of Right Wing Extremist groups as violent actors on the world stage in 2019. Mass political protests around the world further underscored growing dissatisfaction with the present status quo, amid perceptions that some states are unable to articulate masses’ aspirations and meet their demands. The threat of Islamist terrorism will persist into 2020, especially with escalating geo-political tensions in the Middle East. Overcoming the physical and ideological threat by global militant groups, including far-right extremist groups, will remain very much a work in progress in the year ahead.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Protests, Violence
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Natasha Banks, M. Anis Salem
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Cairo Review of Global Affairs
  • Institution: School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo
  • Abstract: A roadmap for a sustainable future without wasteful subsidies and mismanagement.
  • Topic: Health, Food, Food Security, Sustainability, Human Security
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, North Africa, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Thomas L. Crisman
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Cairo Review of Global Affairs
  • Institution: School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo
  • Abstract: How is the water-energy-food nexus impacting ecological, social, and political systems in the Middle East and North Africa?
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Water, Food, Food Security, Global Security, Human Security
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, North Africa, Jordan, Oman
  • Author: Omer Karasapan
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Cairo Review of Global Affairs
  • Institution: School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo
  • Abstract: The focus for MENA countries should not be to achieve self-sufficiency, but rather food security.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Water, Food, Food Security, Global Security, Human Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Sarah Townsend
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Cairo Review of Global Affairs
  • Institution: School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo
  • Abstract: When Gulf nations face food, security, and water scarcity issues, one response is to seek lucrative agricultural investments in fertile African lands. Yet, while such deals can bring benefits to the countries involved, there are also sizeable risks.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Water, Food, Food Security, Business
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Laila Parsons
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: The Peel Commission (1936–37) was the first British commission of inquiry to recommend the partition of Palestine into two states. The commissioners made their recommendation after listening to several weeks of testimony, delivered in both public and secret sessions. The transcripts of the public testimony were published soon afterward, but the secret testimony transcripts were only released by the United Kingdom’s National Archives in March 2017. Divided into two parts, this article closely examines the secret testimony. Part I discusses how the secret testimony deepens our understanding of key themes in Mandate history, including: the structural exclusion of the Palestinians from the Mandate state, the place of development projects in that structural exclusion, the different roles played by British anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism, and the importance of the procedural aspects of committee work for understanding the mechanics of British governance. Part II extends this analysis by focusing on what the secret testimony reveals about how the Peel Commission came to recommend partition.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Developments, Zionism, Colonialism, Empire, Anti-Semitism
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Aisha Ahmad
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In recent years, jihadists across the world have transformed their gendered violence, shocking the world by breaking from prior taboos and even celebrating abuses that they had previously prohibited. This behavior is surprising because jihadists represent a class of insurgents that are deeply bound by rules and norms. For jihadists, deviating from established Islamist doctrines is no easy feat. What then explains these sudden transformations in the rules and norms governing jihadist violence? An inductive investigation of contemporary jihadist violence in Pakistan and Nigeria reveals a new theory of jihadist normative evolution. Data from these cases show that dramatic changes in jihadist violence occur when an external trigger creates an expanded political space for jihadist entrepreneurs to do away with normative constraints on socially prohibited types of violence. As these jihadist leaders capitalize on the triggers, they are able to encourage a re-socialization process within their ranks, resulting in the erosion of previously held taboos, the adoption of proscribed behaviors, and the emergence of toxic new norms.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Gender Issues, Islam, Terrorism, Women, Gender Based Violence
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle East, West Asia
  • Author: Kelsey Wise, Amin Awad
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The series of refugee crises in the Middle East and North Africa has created urgent need for coordinated international responses and advocacy. To learn more about the complexities of meeting the needs of diverse refugee populations across the region, and addressing their root causes, JMEPP Levant Regional Editor Kelsey Wise sat down with Amin Awad in advance of his appearance at the Harvard Arab Conference. Mr. Awad currently serves as the Director for the Middle East and North Africa with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and has extensive experience working on refugee issues and in humanitarian relief in the MENA region. He is also the Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syria and Iraq.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Refugee Crisis, Displacement, Syrian War, Resettlement, Child Marriage
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Yemen, United Nations, North Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: Josh Dean
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: A little over a month ago, I wrote of an atmosphere of resignation in Israel among Netanyahu’s political opponents leading up to the Israeli parliamentary elections on April 9th. The smattering of center-left parties seeking to rival Netanyahu’s Likud at the ballot box were divided across a range of tickets, unable to put their egos aside and form a joint bloc capable of presenting a veritable challenge to the incumbent prime minister. The long-reigning Israeli leader’s tenure looked, therefore, set to extend even further. The question was not who will be the next prime minister, but rather “Who will be the next Bibi [Netanyahu]?” as Israeli comedian Tom Aharon quipped. But a lot can change in a day of Israeli politics, never mind a month. As political alliances shift rapidly, the announcement of Netanyahu’s indictment on fraud and corruption charges has further destabilized the already-turbulent atmosphere leading up to the April elections.
  • Topic: Corruption, Politics, Law, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine