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  • Author: Alexandra Heffern
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Fletcher Security Review
  • Institution: The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • Abstract: I have worked in development for almost twenty years, but when I declared my focus, I had not originally thought “I definitely want to do conflict-related programming and work in conflict zones.” Given my trajectory though, I organically started to do that. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont, and at that point the only way to study international development was through their Agricultural Economics program. After finishing school, my first real introduction to the field was when I started working with Oxfam in Boston. At first it was a very administrative position, but then I was lucky and had the opportunity to go overseas as the program officer in Cambodia, which is where I would say I began my career. At that point, I really wanted to work with an NGO — I had not even thought about working with USAID or a contractor — but in Cambodia I had the opportunity to work as a local American hire with USAID. After that I went to Clark University for graduate school, and after Clark I had a number of program management roles for USAID, all of which were in conflict zones. For example, I spent time working in Timor-Leste with Tetra Tech ARD, I spent time in Afghanistan, and I served as Chief of Party in Sudan for a conflict transition program. After being overseas I decided to return to the United States and began working with Chemonics, specifically supporting their Libya and Lebanon programs in the Office of Transition Initiatives...
  • Topic: Security, Conflict, Interview, USAID
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Blyth Crawford, Florence Keen, Raffaello Pantucci, Colin P. Clarke, Lorenzo Vidino, Jon Lewis, Andrew Mines, Christopher Anzalone
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Far-right terror is going global, propelled to a significant degree by an online ecosystem of extremists posting in English. Since 2018, attackers have targeted synagogues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the towns of Poway, California, and Halle, Germany; mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand; and a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. In this month’s feature article, Blyth Crawford and Florence Keen examine the February 19, 2020, far-right terrorist attack that targeted shisha bar customers in the German town of Hanau and led to the death of nine victims. They write that the influences on the deceased Hanau attacker Tobias Rathjen were “a combination of traditional far-right, race-based, and anti-immigration narratives, alongside several more obscure conspiracy theories.” They argue that a common denominator between the Hanau attack and the aforementioned attacks in the United States, New Zealand, and Germany “is the perpetrators’ shared adherence to the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy narrative … which perceives the cultural and biological integrity of the white race to be endangered by increased levels of (non-white) immigration and the stagnation of white birth rates.” In our ongoing “A View from the CT Foxhole” series, Raffaello Pantucci interviews Jonathan Evans, who served as the Director General of the U.K. Security Service MI5 between 2007 and 2013. Colin Clarke examines the issues raised by the December 6, 2019, terrorist attack by the Saudi Air Force Officer Mohammed Alshamrani, which killed three U.S. Navy sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. He writes, “In early February 2020, al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attack. It is not clear yet whether the group had a direct role in the attack, but if it did, it would make the shooting the first deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 directed by a foreign terrorist organization.” By analyzing “all related-court cases since 2013,” Lorenzo Vidino, Jon Lewis, and Andrew Mines find that “save for a few exceptions, the vast majority of U.S.-based Islamic State supporters left a remarkably small financial footprint. Most, in fact, simply relied on personal savings to pay the small costs required for their activities.” Christopher Anzalone examines al-Shabaab’s PSYOPS (psychological operations) messaging, which he argues “takes advantage of the lack of transparency in certain instances from its opponents, including some governments, and the demand by the international news media for details from on the ground, with the group framing itself as a reliable source of on-the-ground information.”
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Media, Islamic State, Violence, Far Right, Al Shabaab
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Paul Cruickshank, Don Rassler, Audrey Alexander, Chelsea Daymon, Meili Criezis, Christopher Hockey, Michael Jones, Mark Dubowitz, Saeed Ghasseminejad, Nikita Malik
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: COVID-19 is arguably the biggest crisis the planet has faced since the Second World War and will likely have significant impacts on international security in ways which can and cannot be anticipated. For this special issue on COVID-19 and counterterrorism, we convened five of the best and brightest thinkers in our field for a virtual roundtable on the challenges ahead. In the words of Magnus Ranstorp, “COVID-19 and extremism are the perfect storm.” According to another of the panelists, Lieutenant General (Ret) Michael Nagata, “the time has come to acknowledge the stark fact that despite enormous expenditures of blood/treasure to ‘kill, capture, arrest’ our way to strategic counterterrorism success, there are more terrorists globally today than on 9/11, and COVID-19 will probably lead to the creation of more.” Audrey Kurth Cronin put it this way: “COVID-19 is a boost to non-status quo actors of every type. Reactions to the pandemic—or more specifically, reactions to governments’ inability to respond to it effectively—are setting off many types of political violence, including riots, hate crimes, intercommunal tensions, and the rise of criminal governance. Terrorism is just one element of the growing political instability as people find themselves suffering economically, unable to recreate their pre-COVID lives.” The roundtable identified bioterrorism as a particular concern moving forward, with Juan Zarate noting that “the severity and extreme disruption of a novel coronavirus will likely spur the imagination of the most creative and dangerous groups and individuals to reconsider bioterrorist attacks.” Ali Soufan warned that “although the barriers to entry for terrorists to get their hands on bio weapons remain high, they are gradually being lowered due to technological advances and the democratization of science.” The special issue also features five articles. Audrey Alexander examines the security threat COVID-19 poses to the northern Syria detention camps holding Islamic State members, drawing on a wide range of source materials, including recent interviews she conducted with General Mazloum Abdi, the top commander of the SDF, and former U.S. CENTCOM Commander Joseph Votel. Chelsea Daymon and Meili Criezis untangle the pandemic narratives spun by Islamic State supporters online. Christopher Hockey and Michael Jones assess al-Shabaab’s response to the spread of COVID-19 in Somalia. Mark Dubowitz and Saeed Ghasseminejad document how the Iranian regime has spread disinformation relating to the pandemic. Finally, Nikita Malik discusses the overlaps between pandemic preparedness and countering terrorism from a U.K. perspective.
  • Topic: Communications, Governance, Counter-terrorism, Media, Islamic State, Crisis Management, Al Shabaab, Pandemic, COVID-19, Disinformation
  • Political Geography: Africa, United Kingdom, Iran, Middle East, Syria, Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Milton, Muhammad Al-'Ubaydi, Michael Brian Jenkins, Mohammed Hafez
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: In the September issue, it is revealed for the first time that the Islamic State’s new leader, publicly identified by the U.S. government as Amir Muhammad Sa’id ‘Abd-al-Rahman al-Mawla, was detained by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2008 and interrogated. The Combating Terrorism Center has made available on its website three of his declassified interrogation reports, and these are analyzed in a feature article by Daniel Milton and Muhammad al-`Ubaydi, who caution that claims made by al-Mawla while in custody are very difficult to verify. Based on their assessment of the three documents and their research, they conclude that “key assumptions about al-Mawla, notably his Turkmen ethnicity and early involvement in the insurgency in Iraq, may not be accurate. Moreover, statements made by al-Mawla, while doubtless trying to minimize his own commitment to ISI [the Islamic State of Iraq], suggest that his commitment may have been borne less of zeal than of serendipity. If true, this would suggest that something certainly changed in al-Mawla, as his later reputation suggests someone who ruthlessly pursued his ideology, even to carrying out genocide against its enemies. The TIRs [tactical interrogation reports] also show that al-Mawla, who, according to the timeline that he himself provided, appears to have quickly risen in the organization’s ranks in part because of his religious training, knew much about ISI and was willing to divulge many of these details during his interrogation, potentially implicating and resulting in the death of at least one high-ranking ISI figure.” The Combating Terrorism Center convened a panel of leading scholars and analysts to further discuss the three documents. Cole Bunzel, Haroro Ingram, Gina Ligon, and Craig Whiteside provided their takeaways, including on whether the revelations may hurt al-Mawla’s standing within the group. In the other cover article, Brian Michael Jenkins considers the future role of the U.S. armed forces in counterterrorism, in a sweeping examination of the changing strategic, budgetary and threat environment. He writes: “Dividing the military into near-peer warfare and counterterrorism camps makes little sense. Future wars will require U.S. commanders to orchestrate capabilities to counter an array of conventional and unconventional modes of conflict, including terrorism.” Finally, as the global civil war between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida intensifies, Mohammed Hafez outlines how a recent ‘documentary’ released by the Islamic State’s Yemeni branch has made clearer than ever before the areas of disagreement between the groups.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Forces, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Populism, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: A. Shchipkov
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: East View Information Services
  • Abstract: THE CRISIS caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. Yesterday, we were living under the slogan, “Live as friends in a society without borders”; today, we are advised “to remain home and avoid con- tacts.” Each country is for itself. The slogan, “Less state and more mar- ket” has been pushed aside: anyone and everyone asks the state for help and protection. Yesterday, medicine was optimized to earn money; today, the sacred principle of profit has tumbled down. In January, hospitals were closed; today, new hospitals are being built. On the other hand, not all consequences of the pandemic are clear; we have not yet reached its end to verify the information collected about immunity, vaccines and virus mutations. We can only guess whether the pandemic happens only once or will regularly repeat itself. Today, the economy lives amid deep-cutting changes imposed by the pandemic. Promptly ended, they will be nothing more than temporary changes; if they continue for many years, they will change the very foundations of the economic, social and political systems. Overlaid on the other symp- toms of a world crisis (including a financial crisis), the pandemic created a synergetic effect. Time has come to assess possible results.
  • Topic: Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: A. Krutskikh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: East View Information Services
  • Abstract: Interview woth Andrei Krutskikh, Special Representative of the Russian President on International Cooperation in the Field of Information Security, Director of the Department of International Information Security at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
  • Topic: Cybersecurity, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: East View Information Services
  • Abstract: Interview with Yur Shafranik, Chairman of the Board of Directors, International Group of Companies SoyuzNefteGaz
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Natural Resources, Supply Chains
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Raffaello Pantucci, Abdul Basit, Kyler Ong, Nur Aziemah Azman, V. Arianti, Muh Taufiqurrohman
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has redefined almost all spheres of modern life. While states around the world are redeploying their financial resources, energies and military capabilities to cope with the challenge of the coronavirus, terrorist groups across the ideological spectrum have positioned themselves to exploit the gaps created by these policy re-adjustments. Terrorist groups are milking people’s fears amid confusion and uncertainty to promote their extremist propagandas. The rearrangement of global imperatives will push counter-terrorism and extremism down the priority list of the international community. Anticipating these policy changes, existing counter-terrorism frameworks and alliances should be revisited to devise cost-effective and innovative strategies to ensure continuity of the fight against terrorist groups. With these considerations in mind, this special issue of the Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses (CTTA) features four articles that identify and assess important security risks around COVID-19, given its far-reaching social, economic and geopolitical impact. In the first article, Raffaello Pantucci reasons that COVID-19 will have a deep-seated and prolonged impact across government activity, both in terms of the categorisation of risks, as well as the resources available to tackle other issues. Perceptions of risk around terrorist threats may shift, with states grappling with stark economic, social and political challenges. At the same time, security threats continue to evolve, and may even worsen. According to the author, some of the tools developed to deal with the pandemic can potentially be useful in tracking terrorist threats. However, resource constraints will require states, on a global scale, to think far more dynamically about how to adequately buffer much-needed security blankets both within and beyond their borders. In the second article, Abdul Basit outlines the opportunities and potential implications that COVID-19 has created for terrorist groups across the ideological divide. According to the author, terrorist groups have exploited the virus outbreak to spread racial hatred, doomsday and end-of-times narratives. Among jihadist groups, IS has taken a more totalitarian view of the coronavirus pandemic, while Al-Qaeda (AQ) and the Taliban have used it as a PR exercise to gain political legitimacy. Far-right groups in the West have spun it to promote native nationalism, border restoration and anti-immigration policies. Terrorist groups have increased their social media propaganda to radicalise and recruit vulnerable individuals. At the same time, these groups have urged their supporters to carry out lone-wolf attacks and use the coronavirus as a bioweapon. In the post-COVID-19 world, revisiting existing counter-terrorism frameworks to devise more adaptable and cost-effective strategies would be needed to continue the fight against terrorism. In the next article, V. Arianti and Muh Taufiqurrohman observe that the COVID-19 outbreak has had a varied impact on Indonesia’s security landscape. On the one hand, it has emboldened IS-affiliated Indonesian militant groups to step up calls for attacks, with the government seen as weakened amidst a worsening domestic health crisis. On the other, ongoing indoctrination and recruitment activities of militant groups have also faced disruptions. According to the authors, counter-terrorism strategies will need to be reoriented as circumstances evolve, particularly in dealing with the arrest of militants and the subsequent processes of their prosecution and incarceration. Finally, Kyler Ong and Nur Aziemah Azman examine the calls to action by far-right extremists and the Islamic State (IS), which reveals varying degrees of organisational coherence in the respective movements. According to the authors, such variations influence these two groups’ preferred techniques, tactics and procedures adopted in seeking to exploit the health crisis. For its part, IS has a more organised hierarchical structure, even if it has increasingly granted autonomy to its affiliates to plan and execute attacks. In comparison, the absence of a central authority, or command structure in the far-right, can lead to a fragmentation of interests. These factors invariably create uncertainties in how, when and where extremists of both ilk may seek to operationalise an attack.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Health, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Michelle Nicholasen
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Centerpiece
  • Institution: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: From civil strife in Syria to the war in Yemen to US-Iran tensions, Shi'a groups are emerging as major players on the geopolitical landscape. The 200 million Shi'as around the world comprise 15–20 percent of all Muslims, yet little is understood about their culture, historical legacy, and political dynamics. Shi’as are the majority sect in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, and comprise substantial minority groups in Africa, South and Central Asia, and countries throughout the Middle East. Last fall, the Weatherhead Center launched the Project on Shi’ism and Global Affairs to support advanced research on the diverse manifestations of Shi’ism, and to encourage rigorous scholarship on the political dynamics of its role in the Middle East. The project supports scholarship that increases understanding of the intersection between religion and politics in Islam by engaging political scientists, historians, policy makers, religious leaders, and other specializations at the WCFIA. It was a busy first year, replete with talks on important events in Islamic history, the geopolitics of Iraq, the US-Iran confrontation, and more. The project launched the online platform Visions, which offers advanced commentary on all aspects of Shi’a thought, politics, and society. Additionally, project members have travelled to Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq for field work and academic conferences, as well as to the United Kingdom to present research and conduct outreach. Team members have also travelled to various cities across the United States to give presentations and interactive workshops—including to Muslim-American communities in Dearborn, Michigan (home to the largest Arab-American population in North America) and Orlando, Florida—on the topic of religious pluralism, youth activism, Islamic thought, and civil society. Directed by Payam Mohseni, lecturer at Harvard University, the project is funded in part by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. We asked Payam Mohseni and project chairs Melani Cammett and Ali Asani about the motivations behind the Project on Shi’ism and Global Affairs.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Civil War, Religion, Military Strategy, Political Activism, Domestic politics, Pluralism
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Sushant Naidu, Mahmood Monshipouri, Jodie G. Roure, David T. Johnson, Randolph B. Persaud, Jackson Yoder, Debra L. DeLaet, Nicholas McMurry, Kathleen Mahoney, Morten Koch Andersen
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University
  • Abstract: For centuries, protests have been used to mobilize citizenry in efforts to bring about sweeping change in different parts of the world. Protestors have protested to convey their discontent, to demand a moral response, and to speak truth to power. In 2010, antigovernment protests in Egypt inspired similar uprisings in other Arab countries, which became known as the Arab Spring. This year, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have led people in the US and across the world to march against racism and police brutality. Despite a global pandemic, thousands have taken to the streets to demand justice for Black lives, demonstrating that the principle of equality, a common moral good, is worth risking both health and life. “Human Rights: An Uprising,” the second issue of our twenty-first volume, sheds light not only on the right to protest itself, but the human rights that have inspired them. Mahmood Monshipouri explores the variations and similarities in contemporary protest while discussing the Black Lives Matter movement. Joudie Roure addresses gender-based violence and LGBTQI rights in Puerto Rico, especially the murder of trans women. Debra DeLaet explains the importance of soft law approaches in making progress toward the realization of gender-based human rights and LGBTQI rights. Randolph Persaud and Jackson Yoder apply the concept of homo sacer to examine differential rights within two key areas: migrants/refugees/asylum seekers in Europe and the effects of COVID-19 on African Americans in the US. Nicholas McMurry argues that the right to be heard is developing in human rights law as expounded in the practice of the UN treaty bodies. Kathleen Mahoney discusses Indigenous rights in Canada. Morten Andersen argues that an investigation of the relationship between corruption and human rights is best viewed as a framework of socially constructed norms, political power, and the complex interrelation of political, legal, economic, and social systems. Finally, David Johnson writes about the origins, causes, and contemporary implications of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. This issue sheds light on the strata of protests and human rights. It further affirms the growing political salience of human rights and the power of social movements to overcome the tyranny of exclusion, greed, and special interests which have always undermined them.
  • Topic: Corruption, Gender Issues, Human Rights, Migration, Natural Disasters, Women, Protests, Violence, LGBT+, Crisis Management, Indigenous, COVID-19, Biopolitics
  • Political Geography: Philippines, Asia-Pacific, Global Focus