PSR: January 20, 2017

January 20, 2017
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This week in: Peace & Security Publications |
IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Middle East | South Asia

Featured Report

Implementing the Iran Nuclear Deal: A Status Report

The International Crisis Group released a report one year since its “implementation day” analyzing where the Iran Nuclear Deal’s implementation status currently is. Blocking the creation of Iranian nuclear arms has been successful, though much enmity still lies between Iran and the U.S.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

SUDAN: United States eases sanctions

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order partially lifting the 20-year economic embargo on Sudan. The lift is a response to what Obama says are Sudan’s “positive actions over the past six months” and will unfreeze assets, allow financial transactions to resume, and permit foreign assistance. Sanctions previously imposed on individuals thought to be responsible for human rights violations in Darfur will remain. The easing of sanctions will be effective July 12 providing time for Sudan to uphold its commitment to reforms, and if not, allowing the new U.S. administration to determine if suspended sanctions be re-imposed. Comment: The U.S. first imposed economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997 for the government’s human rights violations and perceived support for terrorist organizations. Additional sanctions were imposed in 2006 for the government’s involvement in violence in Darfur. (Sudan Tribune, AllAfrica, Reuters)

NIGERIA: Accidental airstrike on IDP camp

On Tuesday, a Nigerian military jet mistakenly bombed Rann camp, an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, killing at least 76 and wounding more than 100 IDPs and aid workers. Military commander Lucky Irabor said the cause of the error is still unknown, but that the airstrike’s intended target was a gathering of Boko Haram militants. Doctors Without Borders and International Committee of the Red Cross were operating in the camp when it was hit and are now being supported by teams in Chad and Cameroon. Comment: More than 20,000 people have been killed and approximately two million displaced during the conflict between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram in the past six years. This airstrike was part of an offensive against Boko Haram, which had increased its attacks in the last few weeks including twin suicide bombings at University of Maiduguri on Monday. (The Guardian, Nigerian Tribune, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

MALI: Suicide blast kills more than 35, injures dozens

On Wednesday morning, a suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives inside a military camp in Gao, northern Mali. The camp housed government soldiers and several rival armed groups which were conducting joint patrols of the area. The bomber breached the camp and detonated the explosives just as hundreds of fighters were gathering for a meeting. The explosion killed at least 35 and wounded many more. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, describing it as “punishment for cooperation with France.” Comment: In 2013, France led a military intervention to drive back Islamist militants that had seized northern Mali the year before. Despite the peace deal signed in 2015 between the government and secular armed groups, members of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have orchestrated numerous attacks on Western targets, making it one of the world’s deadliest UN peacekeeping missions. Days prior to the incident, French president Francois Hollande had visited the camp.  (Africanews, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Jessica Himelfarb

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

BRAZIL:  26 dead in prison riot

On Saturday, a prison riot at the State Penitentiary of Alcaçuz, 13 miles from Natal, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, left 26 inmates dead before prison guards could regain control. Local and international sources have confirmed the riot was due to confrontations between rival gang members. In 2016, more than 134 inmates were killed. Comment: The prison of Alcaçuz is designed to hold 620 inmates, but now holds more than 1,100. Overcrowding has been a common problem throughout the country’s penitentiary system. (Folha de São Paulo, BBC NewsInSight Crime, New York Times)

CUBA/UNITED STATES: President Obama ends “wet foot, dry foot” policy

On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced the immediate end of the immigration policy that allowed any Cuban who made it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident. The policy, formally known as the U.S.-Cuba Immigration Accord, was written in 1996 as an amendment to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. The decision to end the policy resulted from an agreement between the governments of Cuba and the United States. President Obama’s argument behind this decision was to prevent preferential treatment to Cuban immigrants compared to immigrants from other countries.  The Cuban government announced its commitment to accept those Cuban nationals with return orders, and allow the return of those detained at sea. Comment: The decision taken by Obama’s administration and the positive response from the Cuban government are signs of an improved relationship between the two countries. The Washington Office for Latin America, an advocacy group for human rights in Latin America released a statement supporting the decision. InSight Crime analysis predicts potential detrimental effects to human smuggling networks in the region. (Associated Press, BBC News, InSight Crime,Washington Post, WOLA)

El SALVADOR: First day without murders in two years

On January 11, El Salvador registered its first day without murders since 2015; however, the pause was brief as two murders were registered on Thursday. According to the InSight Crime 2016 Homicide Rate Report for Latin America and the Caribbean, El Salvador continues to lead the regional ranking despite the significant reduction in violence from 104 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants recorded in 2015 to 81.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. Comment: The high murder rates in El Salvador is mainly due to the competition between the country’s major armed street gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 (B18). Local press reported that the leadership of the MS13 gang proposed a dialog to arrange a new truce with the government, but Justice and Security Minister Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde rejected the proposal, stating that the government will not negotiate with criminals. (Prensa Libre, CNN,InSight Crime, New York Times)

Researched/Written by Silvina Zbikoski 

This week in East Asia & Pacific

MALAYSIA: Search for missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH370 suspended

On Tuesday, the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China suspended the underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft. The search, a comprehensive effort over 120, 000 square kilometers in the southern Indian Ocean, was launched after the Boeing 777 disappeared en route to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew aboard on March 8, 2014. Comment: In July, Malaysia, Australia and China agreed to suspend the 145 million USD search if no new evidence was found once the southern Indian Ocean area had been checked. The only confirmed traces of the plane have been three pieces of debris found washed up on the island country of Mauritius, the French island Reunion, and an island off Tanzania. (Malaysia Kini, Astro Awani, BBC)

PHILIPPINES:  Government begins third round of peace talks with communist rebels

Ahead of peace talks starting in Italy, the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) of the Philippines warned that a peace pact was unlikely before 2019, in a blow to the Philippine government’s hopes of securing a deal this year. The third round of formal talks commenced on Thursday in Rome. During the first round of talks last August in Norway, both sides agreed to a temporary ceasefire. The NDF’s chief negotiator, Fidel Agcaoili, said they would need at least two more years once an agreement on economic and political reforms was reached before beginning “serious discussions” on a final peace pact. Economic and political reforms will be discussed in the current talks. Comment: The government estimates the communist New People’s Army has about 4,000 fighters, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s. According to the military, at least 30,000 people have died in the conflict since the 1960s.  Since the start of the peace process last year, president Duterte installed three communists in his cabinet and released 18 top communist leaders. (The Inquirer, Borneo Bulletin, BBC)

TAIWAN: Military drill amid perceived growing threat from China

On Tuesday, a two-day military drill simulated an attack by the People’s Liberation Army across the 180km Taiwan Strait. Taiwan’s armed forces gathered in central Taiwan for annual drills that tested combat readiness with tanks, attack helicopters, and artillery – mimicking a scenario where Chinese warships crossed over the middle line of the Taiwan Strait. The drills come one week after a Chinese aircraft carrier sailed through the strait accompanied by a fleet of warships, entering an area covered by Taiwan’s air defense zone. Comment: Experts warn that China, Taiwan, and the United States could be dragged into a military conflict if Trump continues to press Beijing on Taiwan. Despite the warning, a former deputy minister of national defense and an expert on cross-strait relations, Lin Chong-pin, said the possibility that China takes Taiwan by force is slim, but if the communist regime did launch an attack, the island country could be taken in less than 72 hours. (Taiwan NewsChina Post, The Guardian)

Researched/Written by Kanstantsin Ivanou

This week in Europe & Central Asia

LITHUANIA: Plans to build wall along Russian border

On Monday, plans were announced to build a 130 km wall. The wall is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year and will be 2.5 meters tall, cost 3.6 million euros, and will be monitored by drones. Lithuania claims the wall is being constructed to combat smuggling between its border and the Russian city of Kaliningrad where hundreds of thousands of Russian troops and military equipment are stationed. Russian interim Governor of the Kaliningrad Region Anton Alikhanov has offered to provide Lithuania with construction materials for the wall. Comment: The Lithuanian National Security and Defense Committee (NGSK) has stated that as a member of the EU, Lithuania needs to strengthen its border. NGSK member Rasa Juknevičienė emphasized that the fence is designed to counter the Russian “threat.” (The Baltic Times, RT, Reuters, AP)

RUSSIA/TURKEY: Joint airstrike against self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria

Russian and Turkish forces engaged in a joint airstrike against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, bombing al-Bab, a suburb of Aleppo. The operation was coordinated alongside the Syrian government. This is the first-time Turkey has coordinated with Russia or Syria through military operations. Comment: Previously, Turkey, a NATO member, has been highly critical of the Syrian government, calling for the removal of Turkish President Bashar Assad. Next week, Turkey and Russia plan to broker a ceasefire with Syrian rebel groups in Kazakhstan without participation of the UN or the U.S. (Hurriyet Daily News, DW, AP)

SERBIA: President Hashim Thaci threatens military action following Kosovo train incident

Last Friday, Kosovo announced it will consider Serbia’s train route between Belgrade in Serbia and ethnically Serbian Mitrovica in northern Kosovo a violation of its sovereignty. On Saturday, the Serbian president stopped the train just shy of the border claiming Kosovo had mined the tracks and planned to arrest the driver and passengers. President Thaci warned, “If Serbs are killed, we’ll send army to Kosovo.” Kosovo denies these allegations, calling Serbia’s words provocations. On Wednesday Kosovo asked Serbia to refrain from threatening language and to resume dialogue and cooperation. Comment: Tensions reignited between Serbia and Kosovo following the arrest of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj in France on charges of war crimes in Serbia. The train in question boasts the words “Kosovo is Serbia” and would have connected Mitrovica to Serbia for the first time since Kosovo was first administered by the UN following the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia. (B92, Reuters, AP 1, 2)

Researched/Written by Kenneth Davis

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

BAHRAIN: City hall set on fire after executions

On Monday, the city hall near the village of Sanabis was set on fire during a protest after the government executed three Shia men for carrying out a 2014 attack that had killed three police officers. Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima, and Ali al-Singace were executed on Sunday. Amnesty International and some activists and Shia citizens believe the men were tortured into confession. The protest continued overnight and resulted in security forces firing birdshots to disperse the population, wounding several. Comment: One of the officers killed was an Emirati citizen sent in as part of the Saudi-led Gulf Force to help Bahraini forces suppress month-long Shia protests. Bahrain accuses Iran of supplying Shia rebels with arms to carry out attacks against security forces. (Middle East Eye, Iran Daily, Al Jazeera 1, 2)

EGYPT: Court rules transfer of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia invalid

On Monday, Egypt’s High Administrative Court upheld a previous ruling against the government’s decision to hand over two contended Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. Comment: Last year, the Egyptian and Saudi government signed an agreement to transfer the Islands to Saudi Arabia in exchange for aid, a decision protested by Egyptian citizens. The two islands have been a point of contention since the establishment of the state of Israel due to concerns over Israel having free maritime passage through the Tiran Strait. Saudi Arabia has pledged free maritime passage to Israel under their claim to the islands. (Middle East Monitor, Jerusalem Post, Al Jazeera)

SYRIA: Opposition groups to attend peace talks in Kazakhstan

On Tuesday, after five days of negotiations in Turkey’s capital Ankara, rebel officials of many opposition groups confirmed their decision to attend peace talks with the Syrian government on January 23 in the capital, Astana. Mohammad Alloush, a frontrunner of Jaish al-Islam, announced on Monday that he will serve as head of the delegation of opposition groups at the meeting. Ahrar al-Sham, one of the main militant groups fighting in Syria, has stated it will not be attending.Comment: Last week, Syrian President Assad stated that his government is willing to negotiate on everything during the talks. Opposition groups stated on Monday that the talks will focus on the ceasefire and humanitarian issues and will not include political solutions to the crisis. The outcome of this round of talks could impact the UN hosted negotiations in Geneva next month. (Daily Sabah, Middle East Monitor, Al Jazeera)

Researched/Written by Raghda Karajah

This week in South Asia

BANGLADESH: International Organization of Migration releases results of study

On Sunday, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) released a report on the nexus between migration and climate change in Bangladesh, Maldives, and Nepal. In addition to poverty, participants in the Bangladeshi study conducted identified cyclones, storm surges, salinity intrusion, and floods as drivers of migration. The IOM reported approximately six million people in the country affected by climate change have been displaced from their homes. The capital of Dhaka – rather than districts nearby a migrant’s home – was reported as the primary destination when relocating. Comment: According to the findings, 92 percent of participants responded that internal migration has increased the vulnerability of women in forcing the men to seek employment outside of their home districts. (The Daily Star, The Dhaka Tribune, The Independent)

INDIA: Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary remind China to respect sovereignty

On Tuesday, when speaking on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Prime Minister Modi called for respect of Indian sovereignty as a necessary condition for regional connectivity. On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Jaishankar echoed those remarks, asserting that the CPEC corridor passes through Indian territory and calling for reflection and reassessment from China. Comment: The corridor connects Kashgar and Gwadar through a series of infrastructure projects currently under construction. Funded by both Pakistan and China, the corridor aims to strengthen economic ties between the two nations. (The Free Press Journal, The Hindu, The Indian Express, Times of India)

SRI LANKA: Government prepares for drought

On Monday, UN officials met with President Sirisena to assure the delivery of drought assistance in cooperation with the established Presidential Task Force. Sri Lanka expects to suffer its worst drought in decades, and the rainfall deficit has already negatively affected rice cultivation and provision of hydropower. Comment: Sri Lanka declared a severe drought in 2014, which resulted in water insecurity, food insecurity, internally displaced persons, disease outbreaks, and protests. The government undertakes its current preparations with the hope of mitigating these consequences. (Colombo Page, Tamil Guardian, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Kaleigh Thomas