Continuing Conflicts That Create Refugees - January 2018
Deteriorated Situations: Cameroon, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Honduras, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Egypt, Libya
Improved Situations: None / Resolution Opportunities: None
Outlook for January: Conflict Risk Alerts: South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Libya
Global Overview December 2017: Huthi rebels in Yemen killed their erstwhile ally, former President Saleh, and cracked down on his party, while both the Huthis and the Saudi-led coalition looked set to increase hostilities in January. In Syria, the regime and its allies ramped up their campaign to take territory from jihadist and other rebel groups in the north west, and the de facto leader in Libya’s east disavowed the 2015 political deal, which could lead to more fighting in coming weeks. In Egypt, the military intensified operations in North Sinai against jihadists, who in turn launched more attacks. President Trump’s declaration that the U.S. recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital triggered deadly clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli security forces, and in Iran over a dozen were reported killed as tens of thousands protested against the regime. In Africa, Cameroon and Ethiopia experienced heightened instability, new fighting in South Sudan could escalate in January, and a ban on unrestricted grazing in Nigeria’s Taraba state could lead to more violence between herders and farmers. In Central America, the political crisis in Honduras saw deadly clashes between opposition supporters and police.
The Iran-U.S. Trigger List
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran, as well as between Iran and Saudi Arabia, are reaching a critical level, as are risks of a deliberate or accidental confrontation among these parties. Nearly two years after entering into force, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 (permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) is in jeopardy. Simultaneously, regional dynamics across the Middle East are trending in a worrisome direction. Friction between Iran and the U.S. is growing in Iraq and Syria as the strength of their common foe, the Islamic State (ISIS), diminishes. In Lebanon, Yemen and the Persian Gulf, Israel, the U.S. and a more assertive Saudi leadership see an emboldened Iran they are determined to cut down to size.
Escalation on one front could provoke escalation on another: U.S. efforts to undermine the JCPOA could prompt Iran to respond asymmetrically by targeting U.S. forces in Iraq or Syria; Iranian actions in the region could push the U.S. executive or legislative branches to take action jeopardising the nuclear deal; another Huthi missile launch against Saudi Arabia could result in U.S. or Saudi retaliation against Iran; an Israeli strike against a target in Syria could trigger a Hizbollah response, in turn engulfing Lebanon. In short, these intersecting crises significantly increase the possibility of an intentional or inadvertent, direct or indirect confrontation between Tehran and Washington, the consequences of which could be catastrophic. Yet missing from this picture is any hint of diplomacy among principal stakeholders.
Read more: International Crisis Group, http://bit.ly/2CFqz6i
US Drone Strikes in Somalia Double Under Trump
IRIN reported on this topic in early November, but given Wednesday’s 27/12/2017, announcement that a fresh US drone strike has killed 13 al-Shabab militants, it’s worth revisiting. The latest hit, conducted northwest of Kismayo on 24 December, is, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the 34th this year, which compares to 15 for 2016 and 11 for 2015 and includes a strike on a militant training camp last month that killed 100 people. The increased rate of drone strikes is even more marked in Yemen, where US President Donald Trump has overseen a threefold increase from his predecessor, all in the name of the “war on terror”. Ironically, the latest strike in Somalia came as the Somali government officially took back control of its own airspace from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), 27 years after the fall of the central government in 1991. The move marks a symbolic milestone for the administration of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Nine months into his tenure, in mid-October, Farmajo faced the deadliest attack in the country’s history, blamed on al-Shabab, that killed more than 500 people at a busy Mogadishu intersection. The African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, meanwhile, has begun a gradual drawdown that will see the phasing out of the 22,000-strong multinational force by the end of 2020.
Read more: IRIN, http://bit.ly/2BY4rHn
IRIN: E-Book on Climate Change and Food Security
It’s not often we offer up an item of more than 100 pages compiled by IRIN itself. However, 2017 has seen Project Editor Anthony Morland edit an impressive body of work on one of the world’s most urgent issues, namely climate change adaptation – exploring what people are doing to reduce their vulnerability. The project provides a platform for policy discussion, and for the voices of those men and women on the front lines of climate change to be heard. The project covers four countries – Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe – with the goal of sharing lessons so that small-scale farmers everywhere can find support to alter methods of food production to suit climatic variation.
Read more: IRIN, http://bit.ly/2CeFjMY
A Diphtheria Dilemma?
A global shortage of the antitoxin used to treat highly contagious diphtheria could trigger an ethical dilemma for health providers in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps. There were more than 2,400 suspected cases of diphtheria in Bangladesh as of 25 December — but only 5,000 vials of antitoxin available anywhere in the world, according to Médecins Sans Frontières. “There is not enough of the medication to treat all of the people in front of you who need it and we are forced to make extremely difficult decisions,” Crystal van Leeuwen, MSF’s emergency medical coordinator in Bangladesh, said on the aid group’s website. “It becomes an ethical and equity question.” Early cases of diphtheria were spotted in November but there were no available antitoxins in southern Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, where nearly one million Rohingya refugees are now clustered together in haphazard camps and settlements. World Health Organization officials had to hand-carry the first available doses from Delhi in December. There are now about 1,300 vials of the diphtheria antitoxin available in Cox’s Bazar, according to the WHO. Fuelled by low vaccination rates, extreme overcrowding and poor sanitation, the sudden re-emergence of diphtheria in Bangladesh followed years of decline: there were only two reported cases in 2016.
Read more: IRIN, http://bit.ly/2lvUQwy
10 Conflicts to Watch in 2018
" Over a decade of intensive Western military operations has contributed to a more permissive environment for the use of force. "
It’s not all about Donald Trump. - That’s a statement more easily written than believed, given the U.S. president’s erratic comportment on the world stage — his tweets and taunts, his cavalier disregard of international accords, his readiness to undercut his own diplomats, his odd choice of foes, and his even odder choice of friends. And yet, a more inward-looking United States and a greater international diffusion of power, increasingly militarized foreign policy, and shrinking space for multilateralism and diplomacy are features of the international order that predate the current occupant of the White House and look set to outlast him.
The First Trend — U.S. retrenchment — has been in the making for years, hastened by the 2003 Iraq War that, intended to showcase American power, did more to demonstrate its limitations. Overreach abroad, fatigue at home, and a natural rebalancing after the relatively brief period of largely uncontested U.S. supremacy in the 1990s mean the decline was likely inevitable. Trump’s signature “America First” slogan harbors a toxic nativist, exclusionary, and intolerant worldview. His failure to appreciate the value of alliances to U.S. interests and his occasional disparagement of traditional partners is particularly self-defeating. His lamentations about the cost of U.S. overseas intervention lack any introspection regarding the price paid by peoples subjected to that intervention, focusing solely on that paid by those perpetrating it. But one ought not forget that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the same election season, and Barack Obama, as a candidate in the preceding ones, both rejected foreign entanglements and belittled nation building. Trump wasn’t shaping the public mood. He was reflecting it. The retrenchment is a matter of degree, of course, given the approximately 200,000 active-duty U.S. troops deployed worldwide. But in terms of ability to manipulate or mold events around the globe, U.S. influence has been waning as power spreads to the east and south, creating a more multipolar world in which armed nonstate actors are playing a much larger role.
The Second Trend, the growing militarization of foreign policy, also represents continuity as much as departure. Trump exhibits a taste for generals and disdain for diplomats; his secretary of state has an even more curious penchant to dismember the institution from which he derives his power. But they are magnifying a wider and older pattern. The space for diplomacy was shrinking long before Trump’s administration took an ax to the State Department. Throughout conflict zones, leaders increasingly appear prone to fight more than to talk — and to fight by violating international norms rather than respecting them. This owes much to how the rhetoric of counterterrorism has come to dominate foreign policy in theory and in practice. It has given license to governments to first label their armed opponents as terrorists and then treat them as such. Over a decade of intensive Western military operations has contributed to a more permissive environment for the use of force. Many recent conflicts have involved valuable geopolitical real estate, escalating regional and major power rivalries, more outside involvement in conflicts, and the fragmentation and proliferation of armed groups. There is more to play for, more players in the game, and less overlap among their core interests. All of these developments present obstacles to negotiated settlements.
The Third Trend is the erosion of multilateralism. Whereas former President Obama sought (with mixed success) to manage and cushion America’s relative decline by bolstering international agreements — such as trade deals, the Paris climate accord, and the Iran nuclear negotiations — President Trump recoils from all that. Where Obama opted for burden-sharing, Trump’s instinct is for burden-shedding. Even this dynamic, however, has deeper roots. On matters of international peace and security in particular, multilateralism has been manhandled for years. Animosity between Russia and Western powers has rendered the United Nations Security Council impotent on major conflicts since at least the 2011 Libya intervention; that animosity now infects debates on most crises on the council’s agenda. Trump is not the only leader emphasizing bilateral arrangements and ad hoc alliances above multilateral diplomacy and intergovernmental institutions.
Then again, much of it is about Trump, inescapably. - The most ominous threats in 2018 — nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and a spiraling confrontation pitting the United States and its allies against Iran — could both be aggravated by Trump’s actions, inactions, and idiosyncrasies. U.S. demands (in the North Korean case, denuclearization; in Iran’s, unilateral renegotiation of the nuclear deal or Tehran’s regional retreat) are unrealistic without serious diplomatic engagement or reciprocal concessions. In the former, Washington could face the prospect of provoking a nuclear war in order to avoid one, and in the latter, there is the possibility of jeopardizing a nuclear deal that is succeeding for the sake of a confrontation with Iran that almost certainly will not.
(A third potential flashpoint that didn’t make it into our top 10 — because it came so late and was so unexpected and gratuitous — is the Jerusalem powder keg. At the time of writing, it has not yet exploded, perhaps because when one is as hopeless as the Palestinians there is little hope left to be dashed. Still, the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for purely domestic political reasons, with no conceivable foreign-policy gain and a risk of explosion, must rank as a prime example of diplomatic malpractice.)
As with all trends, there are countervailing ones often propelled by discomfort that the dominant trends provoke. Europeans are defending the Iranian nuclear deal and may end up deepening their own common security and strategic independence, President Emmanuel Macron is testing the reach of French diplomacy, and international consensus on action against climate change has held. Perhaps African states, already leading efforts to manage crises on the continent, will step up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or another of the continent’s major conflicts. Perhaps they or another assortment of actors could make the case for more engagement and dialogue and for defusing crises rather than exacerbating them. These may seem slender reeds on which to rest our hopes. But, as the following list of the International Crisis Group’s top 10 conflicts to watch in 2018 unhappily illustrates, and for now at least, they may well be the only reeds we have.
Read a lot more: International Crisis Group, http://bit.ly/2lICjgJ
UK Business Complains About Fall in EU Immigration
Whilst the UK government has been actively engaged in negotiating the best Brexit deal for the country, a considerable number of UK businesses have already been reporting a lack of workers as their EU employees leave jobs and return back to their native countries or seek employment in other Member States.
A recent survey of over 1,600 UK companies reported their common concern over the potential loss of EU workers. Apparently, vacant positions are not being filled from the national labour pool and companies, especially retail and hospitality firms, fear they may have no other option but to stop trading. Meanwhile, manufacturing companies are threatening to move their business abroad and employ locals rather than trying to hunt for suitable candidates in the UK or satisfy stringent immigration requirements for employing workers from non-EU countries.
Read more: Gherson Immigration, http://bit.ly/2AaEtdS