By Parisa Hafezi and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

DUBAI/LONDON- Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani rejected the resignation of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday, bolstering a moderate ally long targeted by hardliners in factional struggles over the 2015 nuclear deal with the West.

Zarif - a U.S.-educated veteran diplomat who helped craft the pact that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief - announced his resignation on Monday.

Two days later, he was back with his position strengthened by the president’s endorsement as well as a chorus of support from moderate lawmakers, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander and, implicitly, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“As the Supreme Leader has described you as a ‘trustworthy, brave and religious’ person in the forefront of resistance against widespread U.S. pressures, I consider accepting your resignation against national interests and reject it,” Rouhani said in a letter published on state news agency IRNA.

Zarif’s departure would have deprived Iran of its most skilled diplomat, a patient negotiator able to strike a landmark deal with often hostile Western powers.

His knowledge of the West - gained during years of studying in the United States and then representing Iran at the United Nations - helped him build a rapport with American officials despite decades of animosity between Washington and Tehran.

After U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal in May last year and reimposed U.S. sanctions, Zarif came under fire from opponents who accused him of selling out his country.

It was unclear whether Zarif’s resignation announcement, and the expressions of support which followed, were orchestrated. But allies said the last two days’ events would give him political ammunition against hardliners.

“There is no one to replace Zarif as the foreign minister. And the establishment knows that,” said one of Zarif’s allies, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The establishment needs Zarif and Zarif needs the establishment’s support. And the reactions after his announcement, showed the consensus over the importance of having him as Iran’s foreign minister,” the ally added.


SCHISM


Khamenei, who stays out of day to day politics, has not publicly commented on Zarif’s resignation. But it is almost certain that Rouhani would have needed a green light from the man with ultimate authority in Iran.

Zarif’s move thrust the schism between Iran’s hardliners and moderates into the open, effectively challenging Khamenei to pick a side.

Zarif gave no specific reasons for his resignation. But allies said he had quit after coming under increasing pressure over the nuclear deal and other issues.

“He resigned because he loves his country. Because some extremists inside Iran, could not tolerate Zarif’s achievements in foreign policy and were blocking him in every turn,” said a source close to Zarif and the office of the Supreme Leader.

“No matter how hard Zarif tried, he could not resolve some problems because they needed the approval of parliament, Guardian Council and so on.”

The council vets legislation passed by parliament for compliance with Iran’s constitution.

On Wednesday, Zarif thanked Iranians for their support. “As a modest servant I have never had any concern but elevating the foreign policy and the status of the foreign ministry,” he said in an Instagram post.

After Rouhani’s announcement, Zarif signed two agreements in Tehran with Armenia, television footage showed, continuing his duties as Iran’s top diplomat.

Senior Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani said Zarif was the main person in charge of Iranian foreign policy and he was supported by Khamenei.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, another moderate, on Wednesday denied reports by a hardline lawmaker that he had also resigned, the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported.

 

Main News

Europe

France: Zemmour symbolises rise of extreme right-wing media

By Francis Ghilès, CIDOB, 12 January 2022

The gadfly political commentator Éric Zemmour has come from nowhere last summer to become one of the most popular candidates in next April’s presidential election. He attracts more media attention than the far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the conservative Valérie Pécresse. The fragmentation of left-wing forces has helped, as France continues to drift to the right. But a whole media operation is backing Zemmour’s candidacy.

Éric Zemmour’s rise owes a lot to the increasing clout of CNews, a TV channel backed by the arch-reactionary billionaire Vincent Bolloré. Critics liken CNews to Rupert Murdoch´s Fox News in the US, which championed former president Donald Trump and right-wing causes.

CNews is owned by media group Vivendi, which Bolloré has bought from the Lagardère Group. It has trebled its audience share in four years to reach second place among the country´s four 24-hour news channels, which include LCI, Franceinfo and BFM-TV which leads the pack.

Its business model is built on a low-cost news operation with raucous debates on topics from violent crime to the glorious epoch of Napoleon. CNews is not as influential as Fox in the US nor is Zemmour as popular as Trump, but rival politicians and many ordinary Frenchmen are lamenting how the TV channel is setting the terms of the national debate and deepening rifts in an already divided society.

CNews is rising in a period many growing economic disparities and fear of the Other following radical Islamic terrorist acts have fuelled doubts about what it means to be French and the country’s relative decline in world affairs which it shares with its Western allies. The country’s media are often staid whiles decades-old regulations have failed to keep up with the high-speed news cycle and the pervasive influence of social media. That said, the regulator the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) requires channels to showcase a range of opinions and impartially doles out time to politicians especially during campaigns.

Such broadcast rules do not exist in the US. Other conservative mouthpieces such as the TV channel TF1 and the daily Le Figaro which belong to the Bouygues Group do not share the views of Zemmour as Martin Bouygues interests are not aligned with those of Vincent Bolloré. Through his control of Vivendi, Bolloré has been handed Europe1 radio, Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper, and celebrity magazine Paris Match which increased his capacity to shape French public opinion.

Earlier this autumn, Bolloré was quick to sack the editor of Paris Match and the JDD, Hervé Gattegno, and replace him with two men, Patrick Mahé and Jerome Bellay who share a long history of association with extreme right wing violent groups such as Occident. This prompted former president Francois Hollande to comment that “Trump had moved from tv reality shows to the White House, but he was the Republican Party candidate whereas Zemmour is the candidate of a tv media group”.

The unlikely alliance between a deeply conservative Breton catholic, who has built his fortune up to now in former French West African colonies and a Jew whose family hails from Algeria is unusual to say the least. It is deeply upsetting to many mainstream French people, including many conservatives, who feel insulted when Zemmour argues that Marshal Petain, who led France during the German occupation (1940-1945) “protected” French Jews and slowed their deportation to concentration camps in Germany. Zemmour hates the Fifth Republic established in 1959 by De Gaulle, who saved the honour of France by standing up to Petain. He loathes the European Union, modern feminism and gay rights.

His views are aligned with those of the right-wing writer Charles Maurras and like him they want to revisit an ideal “pure” patriarchal France which never existed. His credo is the fight against Islam. Immigrants in his view are swamping France and Europe. He buys into the ‘great replacement theory’ which suggests that western societies will find their white populations overwhelmed by mass Muslim immigration.

The US historian Robert Paxton, whose book “La France de Vichy” (1973) revealed how deep the collaboration between the French and German states was during the Second World War does not mince his words about Zemmour. The fear of Jews so common in right wing circles in France in the 1930s has been replaced by fear of Muslims.

Both are irrational but that a Jew should ally with a reactionary catholic to promote such views is one of the paradoxes of French politics today. Zemmour likes to pass himself off as an intellectual, a historian his real skill lies in manipulating and falsifying history. French Jews find his outbursts abhorrent.

Others are surprised by the extent to which traditional elites accommodate a man who never ceases to insult De Gaulle who is a towering figure of French modern history. Zemmour was recently asked to address the Club de l’Union Interalliée, the holy of holies of the French establishment. Many of the left as Jacques Julliard defend his “right” to lift taboos.

Across the political spectrum many argue that all views should be aired so when Zemmour states that before being colonised by France in the 1830s, Algeria was a country of “misery and infested with malaria”, nobody stops to ask whether such insults and fake history damage diplomatic relations with a major North African country. The former minister of Nicolas Sarkozy, Rama Yade, whose family hails from Senegal recently reminded us of a book published in 1927, “La Trahison des Clercs”. Its author, the philosopher Julien Benda warned of the danger of so many intellectuals moving to the right and falling to the sirens of nationalism.

Vincent Bolloré does not appear to harbour any political ambitions for himself but seems to be using Éric Zemmour to prepare the ground for Marion Marechal Le Pen, the niece of the Front National leader Marine Le Pen, to run for president in 2027. The chances of Zemmour winning against the outgoing president Emmanuel Macron appear to be a long shot but his words pour endless venom into the public debate. “This country you cherish is in the process of disappearing…/…immigration is not the source of all our problems, but it worsens them all”.

A sad comment of the country which gave the world the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789. If one compares the campaign for the presidential elections in France with the recent general elections in Germany, the latter appears to be a more mature democracy than the country denouncing “Islamo-leftism”.

 

 

 

Even without war, Russia has defeated Europe already

By Jonathan Holslag, first published by the Euobserver, 14 January 2022

BRUSSELS - Whether or not Vladimir Putin moves his troops into Ukraine, he has once again confronted Europe with a most painful reality: while being too weak to defend itself, it can no longer rely on the United States to come to its rescue.

We are facing a reality in which Russia, despite its economy only having the size of Portugal's, can bully and intimidate a continent thanks to its energy reserves and its readiness to project vast military power.

Sure, any Russian invasion of Ukraine would cost Russia a fortune and likely degrade into a grinding war of attrition. Invasion is unlikely to be president Putin's preferred option. Yet, this game of brinkmanship has another part of the equation. If Russia invades Ukraine, the costs for Europe will be equally devastating.

It will force gas-addicted European countries to find expensive alternatives and to severe billions in infrastructure, from pipelines, over pumping stations, to dedicated storages.

Russia also remains a key export destination and a supplier of other resources than oil and gas. Think of titanium. While the Kremlin has long prepared a gradual decoupling from Europe, the opposite remains unthinkable for most Europeans.

While a sizeable part of the Russian population would support an intervention in the eastern part of Ukraine, citizens in many European countries will find it hard to accept soldiers to die for what they consider a strange, peripheral country: Ukraine.

Countless times, I have heard very senior European business leaders sympathise with the leadership of Putin, to the point that one got the impression that they were more attracted to Russian strong leadership than Western liberalism.

 

Cannon fodder

 

Let's also be fair. If, at this stage, European countries would have to stand up to a large Russian land invasion, many soldiers would end up as cannon fodder.

Western European land forces have decayed into a bulky peace corps, their wheeled armoured vehicles hardly suitable for combat in the muddy battlefields in eastern Europe, their fire power no match for Russia's, and their command and communication infrastructure highly-vulnerable to Russia's immense electronic war-fighting capabilities.

Chasing poorly-equipped terrorists is one thing; facing a formidable conventional army, ready for sacrifice yet another.

Many European land forces struggle with a predator complex from the 'Global War on Terror'. They are used to being superior, at least in terms of technology and fire-power, and have huge difficulties imagining that the hunter of the last decade might become the hunted in a large-scale conflict.

The whole strategic mindset in that regard has become skewed towards defense; tactics towards limited surgical offense, often even from a distance.

Stand-off, it is called. Land powers like Russia have also trained in precision and long-range strikes, yet always combined with blunt power: wearing volleys of missiles and artillery and big division-size units moving in.
Sacrifice and attrition

If everything in Europe is about efficiency; armed forces like Russia still factor in sacrifice, redundancy, and attrition. Clean wars do not exist in the Russian strategic lexicon.

Europe has a lack of everything. Even if it tries to steer clear of frontline involvement, supporting from behind will not be much in evidence either. Many countries lack stand-off missiles or their ammunition stockpiles are dangerously low. Advanced fighter jets, capable of penetrating Russia's air defence, are still rare. Special forces that would, a crucial asset, are stuck in Africa and struggle to enlist enough quality recruits.

The US is slowly restocking their arsenals, with new long-range precise ammunitions, but will prefer to send them to the Pacific. It preserves a sizeable conventional deterrence in Europe, including 70,000 troops, hundreds of prepositioned armoured vehicles and dozens of fighter jets.

Yet, this is not sufficient to counter a Russian invasion in a country like Ukraine - and Washington just cannot afford a war with Russia now that China has become so powerful.

We can endlessly reflect on what drives Russia in amassing its vast military presence on Ukraine's border, on how we came to this point, the misgivings and frustrations on both sides.

What is clear, however, is that we enter a new tournament of great power politics and that Europe arrives at the start not as a strong, unified team, but as throng of plump puerile pygmies.


Author


Jonathan Holslag teaches international politics at the Free University Brussels and guest lectures at the Nato Defense College. His latest book is World Politics since 1989 (Polity, September 2021).


Disclaimer


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver or CEMAS.

 

 

 

 

Can Diplomacy Rescue European Security?

By Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Europe, 13 January 2022


Faced with Russia’s military threat against Ukraine and demands for NATO to stop further expansion, the West wants a dialogue with Moscow. Diplomatic efforts that are not underpinned by hard power may not be enough to avert a war.

 

Daniel Baer Acting director of the Europe Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

In considering the prospects for diplomacy today, I think back to arguably the most successful diplomatic bargain on European security in the last fifty years—the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.

Back then, some things were similar to today. Then: the Soviets were concerned about being bested in geopolitics by the United States and saw a risk in their own declining relative power; now: Russian President Vladimir Putin knows his country’s economic and demographic woes are manifold and that energy may not be a permanent point of potential leverage.

Then: the United States wanted to avoid conflict in Europe and was exhausted by years mired in Vietnam; now: U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration never wanted Europe to be on its top three or five crisis hotspots and hoped to focus instead on knitting the United States back together after two decades in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But one thing was importantly different. In 1975, the Soviets wanted to lock in the status quo of the Warsaw Pact. Today, Putin is dissatisfied with the status quo. When a declining power wants a different reality, the incentives to use force can outweigh the attraction of diplomacy.

Even so, we must try.


Piotr Buras Head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations


Diplomacy can hopefully prevent an invasion of Ukraine, but it is not likely to rescue European security as we know it. The European security architecture based on the Helsinki principles and post–Cold War settlements has been destroyed. Most agreements struck by the West and Russia in the 1990s exist only on paper. The recent escalation is an attempt by Moscow to take advantage of the U.S. pivot to Asia, transatlantic fragility, and the EU’s weakness to impose its own concept of a European security framework.

This is not going to succeed as key Russian demands regarding NATO are unacceptable and have been rightly rejected. The West can discourage Moscow from an all-out war against Ukraine if its unity is backed up by deterrence: threatening with concrete far-reaching sanctions and bolstering Ukraine’s defense.

At some point Russian troops may return to their barracks. However, the European security gap will persist as long as the Europeans are not able to adapt to the new geopolitical constellation or Vladimir Putin’s Russia gives up its ambitions to turn back the clock. Neither of these will happen any time soon, providing for a less and less secure Europe.


Raluca Csernatoni Visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe


There has been a lot of diplomatic flurry between the United States and Russia over the latter’s military buildup near the Ukrainian border, with the EU playing a minor role in the negotiations. This has led Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, to state that if European security is being discussed by Washington and Moscow, Europeans should also have a seat at the table.

The EU, however, is yet to emerge as a global power and credible security provider, even on its own continent, with NATO acting as the foundation of Europe’s collective defense and the forum for its implementation. For lack of hard power means, the EU has been at the forefront of proposing soft power, economic, and non-military tools championed under the principles of diplomacy and peace.

When it comes to Russia, since 2014, in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea, the EU has imposed different types of sanctions, including diplomatic and economic measures. It is now considering the imposition of export controls and restrictions on Russian access to critical technology.

The jury is out on whether such measures are effective given the current escalating tensions.

But does the EU have what it takes to become a player on the grand geostrategic chessboard and engage in high-stakes diplomacy? The United States does not seem to think so, as it has been primarily holding talks with individual European states such as France, Germany, Italy, and the UK, as well as Eastern European allies, and using organizations like NATO and the OSCE as discussion forums.

Europe, whichever geographic, state, and institutional configurations this word might entail, needs to be prepared to act on its own and with partners when Russia chooses conflict over cooperation.


François Heisbourg Special adviser at the Foundation for Strategic Research


Only six months ago, this question would have seemed pointless.

For sure, there were difficult situations: unresolved conflicts in Ukraine and the Caucasus, repression in Belarus, Russian revisionism, and Western sanctions. But overall, the post–Cold War security order in Europe didn’t appear to be in imminent peril. NATO was in status quo mode. It had stuck to its three “no’s” of 1997 even when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014: no nukes, no forces above brigade level, and no foreign bases in the countries of the erstwhile Warsaw Pact. Since 2008, there was no realistic prospect of Ukraine joining NATO.

For reasons of its own, Russia decided to threaten Ukraine, while seeking diplomatically to limit the sovereignty of all European states to choose their alliances. By attempting to upset the status quo, Russia has locked itself into a dilemma: will it lose face by accepting a basically unchanged pre-crisis situation or use force to gain territory as a form of success in Ukraine?

The answer to the question is in the Kremlin’s hand. The West can only help defuse tensions, not unmake a crisis it didn’t create.


Ben Hodges Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)


I don’t think so... Certainly not if it’s conducted in the usual way. If the Kremlin looks over and sees just the United States without strong European support in a unified front, then the risk of a new Russian offensive (they’ve already invaded Ukraine) goes up. Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t been stopped since 2008 when he invaded Georgia, so he’s operating at a high risk-tolerance level right now.

If Germany steps up to be a “partner in leadership” for the United States, as former President George H. W. Bush had hoped, then there is a chance.

But the Kremlin must do something it seldom does: be transparent and live up to agreements that already exist. I am not optimistic. According to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission's (SMM) Daily Report from January 10:

“In Donetsk region, between the evenings of 5 and 9 January, the SMM recorded 152 ceasefire violations, including 38 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 85 ceasefire violations in the region. In Luhansk region, between the evenings of 5 and 9 January, the Mission recorded 791 ceasefire violations, including 213 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 58 ceasefire violations in the region. Members of the armed formations denied the Mission’s passage near Stanytsia Luhanska, Luhansk region.”


Ronja Kempis Senior fellow of the EU/Europe research group at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)


If one sees the EU’s Eastern Partnership as an instrument of diplomacy, then diplomacy has made security in Europe uncertain. It seemed inconceivable in 2009 that the €15 billion ($17 billion) that the EU has given to Ukraine would not trigger any serious attempts at reform. It seemed equally implausible that Russia would counter the security order enshrined in the Charter of Paris.

In these January days of 2022, diplomacy is likely to do further damage to European security.

The Geneva talks between the United States and Russia have not averted the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin has achieved what he wanted: Washington has given political weight and legitimacy to Russian concerns.

The epochal break, however, is that U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has excluded the Europeans from the talks. American diplomacy seems to be returning to transatlantic security relations whose structure is reminiscent of that of the East-West conflict.

Should that be the case, Europeans have no time left in either NATO or the EU to execute the conclusions reached at the end of the Trump era: Europe cannot rely on U.S. leadership and must therefore stand up for its security interests more strongly, more comprehensively, and more independently.


John Kornblum Former US ambassador to Germany


I would suggest that the question be restated. European security is a generic category, like gravity. It cannot be “rescued,” but it can be applied for both good and bad ends.

Is there a role for diplomacy? Depends. Mikhail Khodorkovsky argues that even talking adds to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chances for success. To get the right answers, one must ask the right questions.

NATO is not really the problem. The current crisis began with the signature of a relatively minor economic agreement between the EU and Ukraine. Putin is most worried about the threat of democracy in post-Soviet space. We can’t allow him to divert our attention from this fact.

Then, what is to be done? First, stay calm. The more Europeans whine about being left out of things, the more confident Putin becomes.

Most importantly, do not accept Putin’s agenda. Define the crisis as an outbreak of disruption, originating from a failing kleptocratic regime. Overseas assassinations and election meddling are also part of the problem. Focus on firming up respect for the 1975 Helsinki principles.

Unfortunately, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has come dangerously close to asking the wrong questions. They seem to worry more about how their statements sell domestically than giving hope to Ukraine and others. Our leaders need to learn a difficult lesson. An unfamiliar and confusing digital world will require us more than ever to fit new questions to dangerous new threats.


Kristin Raik Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute


Diplomacy is one element in a broader toolbox on both sides. It is most likely to bring at least some results expected on the Western side—preventing military escalation and bringing down the level of tensions—if backed up with credible defense and deterrence by NATO, Ukraine, and other European actors. Such deterrence includes military readiness, the threat of sanctions as well as societal resilience.

The current diplomatic efforts should not even aim at reaching an agreement on a new security order, as there is no sufficient common ground for that. Deep disagreements between Russia and the West over the European security order are likely to persist as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin is in power and possibly beyond.

Unfortunately, the Russian side has learned over the past years that military escalation usually yields some results that strengthen Russia’s position with regard to the West. Western powers have responded to new incursions—be it in Crimea, Donbas, or Belarus—by seeking to stop Russia from moving further, but not even seriously trying to push it back.


Witold Rodkiewicz Senior fellow at the Russian Department of the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW)


Diplomacy alone cannot rescue anyone’s security when the threat is being posed by a power that is willing to use military force and acts according to the logic of power politics. That is, unless we accept the definition of security that Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov outlined on January 11 in his briefing after the talks in Geneva and which is implicit in proposals Russia unveiled in December: European security equals Russian military preponderance over Eastern and Central Europe. In dealing with powers like Russia, diplomacy is useless unless it is used in conjunction with military force to deter and, if need be, repel, its military aggression.

With powers like Vladimir Putin’s Russia, signalling resolve and willingness to use force is the precondition of effective diplomacy. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demonstrated this very well. When challenged by Russian military forces he shot down a Russian fighter plane and was not afraid to fight against Russian proxy forces both in Idlib, Syria, and in Libya. As a result, he was able to engage in effective diplomacy with Putin and reach compromise deals with him.


James Sherr Senior fellow at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute


European security will not be rescued until we stop asking Russia’s permission to preserve it. Once that is understood, diplomacy can perform its classical role: to clarify, to warn, to find common ground if it exists, or establish that there is none.

For the first time since the Berlin crisis of 1958–1961, the West has been presented with a Russian ultimatum. It is no longer possible to pretend that Russia seeks anything less than a wholesale rewriting of European security arrangements, underpinned by new “guarantees” that would supersede those we depend upon.

As the ill-crafted choreography of December’s meetings between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin recedes, the reality and brazenness of Russian demands are concentrating minds. Far from treating Russia to a cabaret of disarray, this month’s talks are likely to present Russia with a united Western front.

But what then? “We spoke our lines well” is neither a deterrent nor a defense. Warnings of more of the same are unlikely to make the Kremlin’s blood run cold. To deter Russia, we need to confront it with what it fears: the creation tomorrow of the very threats we are accused of posing today. Are we capable of that? If so, the scope for diplomacy will grow. If not, the risks of war will probably increase.


Ben Tonra Professor of International Relations at University College Dublin


No. Not alone.

While much ink has been spilt on the precise relationship between diplomacy and power, neither—in isolation—will deliver. Put another way, diplomacy is a necessary, not a sufficient, condition of security. We know that for Europeans—in whatever multilateral format (EU, NATO, OSCE)—diplomacy is only effective with clear objectives, evident political will, and the power, hard and soft, that can change the strategic calculus of other actors.

It appears that we are at a critical juncture with respect to European security. Neither NATO nor the EU are presenting themselves as well-directed actors—not least with EU and NATO heads of government expressing solidarity with European and Eurasian dictators.

Old paradigms of European security being determined by the diplomacy and the power of others are also re-emerging. If adversaries judge correctly—that Europeans have nothing but diplomacy at their disposal—European security will suffer accordingly.


Pierre Vimont Senior fellow at Carnegie Europe


Amid a threatening escalation where Russia is maintaining its military buildup along the Ukrainian border, diplomacy may sound irrelevant. Indeed, calls are heard in many Western quarters for an enhanced military posture against Moscow’s current stance.

Yet diplomacy may be precisely what has been missing lately on both sides. As tensions gradually spiralled out of control after the 1997 NATO-Russia agreement, the need to rethink the European security order has become all the more urgent. But no genuine effort materialised in that direction. Even more concerning is that there has been no genuine effort to stop the abandonment of most of the arms control agreements tailored to promote stability in Europe.

Today the debate around who is to be blamed for that failure should not prevent diplomats from moving out of the prolonged passivity that has characterised strategic talks in Europe for the past fifteen years.

The diplomatic meetings currently taking place testify to the urgency of starting a dialogue that faces at last the confrontational reality in Europe and looks for solutions in line with the Paris Charter principles. NATO allies may understandably resent being forced into that direction by Russian military coercion, but their interest—and that of the EU—is to have, in the end, reason prevail over force.


Anna Wieslander Director for Northern Europe at the Atlantic Council


The diplomatic door has always been open to Russia. The problem is that Russia has not been willing to use it until now, having mobilized some 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, repeatedly testing its new hypersonic Zircon missiles, holding back gas supplies to Europe, and putting a couple of absurd draft treaties for security guarantees on the table. There is something utterly disturbing about a situation where the perpetrator demands security guarantees and those under threat are willing to discuss them: an Alice-In-Wonderland-Upside-Down kind of feeling.

Russia perceives itself as negotiating from a position of strength. By flexing its muscles and playing spoiler, Russia has advanced its negotiating position on a new European security order, aiming to legitimize and expand its sphere of influence.

The West is still reluctant to define the world in terms of confrontation. It wants dialogue and is less inclined to indulge in a show of force. But there can be no successful diplomacy unless it is coupled with firm deterrence and defence.

For starters, no real negotiations should take place until Russia has withdrawn its troops from the Ukrainian border. In order for diplomacy to succeed, the West must first and foremost stand its ground.

 

Carnegie and CEMAS do not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.

 

 

 

Never-ending divorce: The role of UK-EU security cooperation after Brexit

By Isabella Antinozzi, European Council on Foreign Relations, 11 January 2022


The EU and the UK should begin to revitalise their relationship in policy areas that have avoided heated political debates: defence and security.


For something that is supposed to be finished, Brexit still creates a lot of headlines. London and Brussels continue to clash over issues ranging from diplomatic representation to coronavirus vaccine exports – and, above all, new arrangements for Northern Ireland. For the United Kingdom, this is not a good long-term strategy. “Living next to you”, then Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau once told his American neighbours, “is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant.

No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” The European Union is the same kind of large beast, albeit one without the even temper. To sleep soundly next to that grumpy elephant, Britain will need to cooperate with it. The only way for the UK to truly complete Brexit is to establish a more institutionalised relationship with the EU. The alternative is a never-ending process of negotiation, confrontation, and escalation.

Liz Truss, as the UK’s new Brexit negotiator and likely a future candidate for prime minister, has a strong incentive to make a fresh start on the relationship with the EU. In this effort, she should understand that security and defence are promising areas in which to find closure in the painful EU-UK divorce. But, at the moment, neither side seems interested in developing their defence and security relationship.

As has been widely noted, the UK’s 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy barely mentions the EU. References to EU-UK relations are equally cursory in the early drafts of the EU’s Strategic Compass. Yet there is an opportunity in the fact that the sides have not politicised security and defence cooperation.

Indeed, at the EU level, such cooperation is highly technical, focusing on bureaucratic links between ministries of defence. These dynamics are evident in the relationship between Switzerland and the European Defence Agency (EDA). Despite major political turmoil in the EU-Swiss relationship, cooperation between the EDA and Switzerland has continued.

As one EDA official explained, the long timelines that defence firms operate on can ensure that capability projects survive such discord.[1] Several Swiss officials have expressed enthusiasm about this, because it has allowed Switzerland to maintain at least one functional and effective channel of collaboration with the EU.[2]

In these highly technical cooperation formats, third-country status – something the UK has been particularly eager to avoid – does not have to mean second-class treatment. The only way for the UK to preserve its “recaptured sovereignty” in EU security and defence initiatives is to accept this status, as it would allow for forms of cooperation more politically acceptable to British citizens. Indeed, as shown by a recent ECFR survey, the British public would support a foreign policy that worked cooperatively with the bloc, so long as it could be reconciled with their core desire for independence and self-control.

For something that is supposed to be finished, Brexit still creates a lot of headlines. London and Brussels continue to clash over issues ranging from diplomatic representation to coronavirus vaccine exports – and, above all, new arrangements for Northern Ireland. For the United Kingdom, this is not a good long-term strategy. “Living next to you”, then Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau once told his American neighbours, “is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant.

No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” The European Union is the same kind of large beast, albeit one without the even temper. To sleep soundly next to that grumpy elephant, Britain will need to cooperate with it. The only way for the UK to truly complete Brexit is to establish a more institutionalised relationship with the EU. The alternative is a never-ending process of negotiation, confrontation, and escalation.

Liz Truss, as the UK’s new Brexit negotiator and likely a future candidate for prime minister, has a strong incentive to make a fresh start on the relationship with the EU. In this effort, she should understand that security and defence are promising areas in which to find closure in the painful EU-UK divorce. But, at the moment, neither side seems interested in developing their defence and security relationship.

As has been widely noted, the UK’s 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy barely mentions the EU. References to EU-UK relations are equally cursory in the early drafts of the EU’s Strategic Compass. Yet there is an opportunity in the fact that the sides have not politicised security and defence cooperation.

Indeed, at the EU level, such cooperation is highly technical, focusing on bureaucratic links between ministries of defence. These dynamics are evident in the relationship between Switzerland and the European Defence Agency (EDA). Despite major political turmoil in the EU-Swiss relationship, cooperation between the EDA and Switzerland has continued.

As one EDA official explained, the long timelines that defence firms operate on can ensure that capability projects survive such discord.[1] Several Swiss officials have expressed enthusiasm about this, because it has allowed Switzerland to maintain at least one functional and effective channel of collaboration with the EU.[2]

In these highly technical cooperation formats, third-country status – something the UK has been particularly eager to avoid – does not have to mean second-class treatment. The only way for the UK to preserve its “recaptured sovereignty” in EU security and defence initiatives is to accept this status, as it would allow for forms of cooperation more politically acceptable to British citizens.

Indeed, as shown by a recent ECFR survey, the British public would support a foreign policy that worked cooperatively with the bloc, so long as it could be reconciled with their core desire for independence and self-control.


Third-country status – something the UK has been particularly eager to avoid – does not have to mean second-class treatment


Furthermore, the EU’s approach to third countries is evolving. For instance, the EDA recently started negotiations on an Administrative Arrangement with the United States. Following the announcement of these talks, the EDA’s Ministerial Steering Board approved a document that updates the organisation’s principles for cooperation with third parties. Although these revisions have not been made publicly available, the fact that the EDA is making them signals a rapid evolution in its approach to such cooperation.

The aspects of the EU’s Strategic Compass that deal with partnerships will probably revisit its ‘one size fits all’ approach to third countries’ participation in EU defence integration. The union’s compartmentalisation of, and differentiation between, partners could create arrangements that better fit with the UK’s desire for special treatment.

The EU sees most of its burgeoning security and defence sharing initiatives as involving partnerships with third countries. This creates a series of economic, innovation, and science diplomacy opportunities for the UK – especially given the country’s exclusion from the union’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Again, Switzerland provides an instructive example for the UK. The collapse of the EU-Swiss Institutional Framework Agreement resulted in Switzerland’s suspension from Horizon 2020. This, in turn, prompted the Swiss to gain an interest in EU defence initiatives as a backchannel into member states’ research and know-how. Unlike Horizon 2020, most EU defence initiatives are in the competence of not the European Commission but technical agencies or individual member states.

This makes it easier for countries that have a complicated relationship with the Commission to access these initiatives. Given that science in the UK is already suffering from the consequences of Brexit, London should not turn up its nose at a chance to gain access to rapidly expanding innovation and research programmes.

Ad hoc security and defence cooperation can also provide a flexible and scalable framework of cooperation with the EU. Given that participation in intergovernmental forums has become especially important for the UK since it left the EU, the country could significantly benefit from the clauses on enhanced Common Foreign and Security Policy cooperation in the Brexit Political Declaration.

The foreign policy section of the declaration states that the “High Representative may, where appropriate, invite the United Kingdom to informal Ministerial meetings of the Member States of the Union”. Therefore, the UK could take part in informal meetings of EU foreign ministers. Similarly, the “intensified exchange of information” discussed in the declaration could provide the UK with an important avenue through which to shape EU sanctions.

The EU has identified sanctions as an important form of support for its international posture and its pursuit of strategic autonomy. Yet, the union’s eagerness to formalise advanced security cooperation with the UK notwithstanding, much will depend on London’s willingness to commit to such activity in the first place.

In all, the political tension between the EU and the UK places the most serious constraints on their efforts to cooperate with each other. This is why they should begin to revitalise their relationship in policy areas that have avoided heated political debates: defence and security. This is their best chance to move the relationship beyond quarrels over issues such as Channel Islands shellfish.

Technical cooperation can help rebuild trust between London and Brussels, providing a foundation for a better political relationship. Both sides of the Channel should look at defence and security as the steady opening stages of the post-Brexit marathon – not the final sprint to the finish line.


Author


Isabella Antinozzi is a pan-european fellow at the ecfr.


References


[1] Author’s interview with an EDA official, London, December 2021.

[2] Author’s interview with a Swiss official, London, October 2021.

 

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR and CEMAS publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

 

 

 

Mediterranean

Assad’s normalization and the politics of erasure in Syria

By Steven Heydemann, Brookings, January 13, 2022


Editor's Note:

As Syria's conflict nears its 11th year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recently achieved significant diplomatic victories, with several Arab governments normalizing their relations with the Syrian regime, Steven Heydemann writes. This trend, should it continue, will produce the erasure of the Assad regime's accountability for the destruction of Syria. This piece originally appeared in Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN)’s Democracy in Exile, where an Arabic version is also available.

 

This March, Syria’s conflict will enter its 11th year, with no end in sight. As this bleak anniversary approaches, Syria’s economy has collapsed; narcotics trafficking has become a leading source of regime revenue. More than 12 million Syrians are food insecure. Domestic security is precarious. Low-level insurgencies have flared up in areas previously retaken by regime forces. The Islamic State group’s cells are active across swaths of eastern Syria. Despite a nominal cease-fire in the northeast, regime and Russian attacks targeting civilians are a near-daily occurrence.

Yet even in the face of this grim assessment, President Bashar al-Assad has notched significant diplomatic wins over the past year. Beginning with overtures from Jordan’s King Abdullah II last July, the normalization of Assad and his regime has quickly gathered steam throughout the region. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have reopened their embassies in Damascus.

Senior officials in several Arab states are pressing to reinstate Syria’s membership in the Arab League, including Algeria, which will host an upcoming League summit in March. Syria has already been designated to host a 2024 Arab energy conference. The United States has extended sanctions relief to permit an Egyptian pipeline to deliver natural gas to Lebanon via Syria, though the project has hit snags.

This trend is only likely to accelerate in the coming year. Although the Biden administration insists it opposes normalizing ties with Assad and will keep economic sanctions in place, it has not pushed back forcefully on U.S. regional allies that have reached out to Damascus, even as they undermine the stated objectives of American policy.

Described as a shift from punitive isolation to “step-for-step” diplomacy, Arab regimes have advanced any number of justifications for Assad’s normalization. It is presented as giving Syria an Arab counterweight to Iran; a way to relieve the economic hardship of Syrian civilians; a step toward the return of Syrian refugees; and insurance against a further outpouring of refugees that might threaten the stability of neighbouring states.

The most frequent refrain, however, is that engagement will create incentives for the Assad regime to accept the reforms necessary to pry open the taps of reconstruction funding from the European Union and move Syria toward the political transition called for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.

If sanctions have failed to change the Assad regime’s behavior, this reasoning goes, perhaps it is time to show the regime what it might gain from cooperation. This possibility is what led the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, to endorse normalization under the banner of engagement. “With each passing month,” he
commented in December, “I have sensed a wider realization than before that political and economic steps are needed — and that these can really only happen together — step-by-step, step-for-step.”

As a rationale for concessions to Damascus, however, this approach, which rehabilitates Assad diplomatically, is little short of delusional. The idea that the Assad regime will respond to normalization with concessions of its own flies in the face of everything we know about how the Assads have ruled Syria for more than 50 years. Not only has this “step-for-step” engagement already failed to produce even the slightest hint of a shift in regime behavior, it is having the opposite effect.

Seen as evidence that recalcitrance works, “step-for-step” is legitimating and empowering the Assad regime, reinforcing its determination to reject compromises, and pushing a political settlement of Syria’s conflict even further out of reach. Nor are Syrians likely to see the purported economic gains of normalization. Predation and corruption have defined the regime’s management of humanitarian assistance throughout the civil war.

Economic openings have invariably been captured by the Assads and their cronies, who monopolize their benefits with utter disregard for the well-being of ordinary citizens. There is no reason to imagine that normalization will produce any other result.

No less troubling, the advocates of normalization are indifferent to its failure. They have shown no interest in making further “steps” contingent on a positive response to earlier overtures. In effect, “step-for-step” has become a framework for unilateral diplomatic disarmament.

Normalization will also have deeply corrosive effects on sanctions, despite U.S. claims to the contrary. The Biden administration has shown less willingness than its predecessor to make use of existing sanctions under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. For other states, including regional actors, “step-for-step” is a convenient excuse to disregard sanctions and deepen economic ties to the regime.

Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are already in discussions with Damascus about how to revitalize trade and investment. Russia’s special envoy for Syria has predicted further easing of sanctions in the coming year.

Critics of sanctions might welcome this possibility, arguing that they have failed to achieve their purpose and cause harm to Syrian civilians, while imposing little hardship on regime elites. In making such claims, however, critics often disregard the many other factors that collectively contribute far more than sanctions to the suffering of the Syrian people.

These include the regime’s massive destruction of Syria’s infrastructure over the past decade; mass population displacement; the collapse of the Lebanese economy; the impact of the regime’s corruption and predation on Syria’s economic recovery; and the refusal of its major international patrons, including China and Russia, to provide meaningful support for either humanitarian aid or economic reconstruction.

Consider Syria’s bread crisis, which sanctions have nothing to do with. It is the largely result of Russia’s refusal to sell wheat to Syria as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, of arson fires that destroyed large areas of cropland in the summer of 2020 — many of which seem to have been caused by regime forces — and of subsequent drought across Syria’s eastern provinces.

Moreover, critiques of sanctions ignore the damage that their easing, even implicitly, will do — not only to the victims of regime violence and a source of leverage that critics often underestimate, but to international law and the global norms that represent the most viable mechanisms for holding the Assad regime accountable for its crimes and abuses. This is a regime that has overseen mass murder, the systematic use of chemical weapons against civilians, torture, arbitrary and illegal detentions, and the forced displacement of millions of Syrian civilians.

Simply put, the efficacy of sanctions cannot be measured solely by whether they coerce the regime into changing its behavior. Equally if not more important is their value in signaling the repudiation of, and the denial of legitimacy to, a regime that is responsible for crimes against humanity and egregious violations of international law. In recent years, this aspect of sanctions has become increasingly important as legal proceedings against Assad regime officials implicated in torture have moved forward in a number of countries, including Germany, France, Spain, and the Netherlands.

If “step-for-step” diplomacy becomes accepted as a framework for normalizing the Assad regime, the eventual outcome will be the erasure of its responsibility for the destruction of Syria and all that has accompanied it. Russia, alongside the regime, is hard at work to ensure precisely this outcome. The U.S. and its European allies should not be complicit, directly or indirectly, in such efforts.

The U.S. should do more than affirm its commitment to keeping sanctions on Assad’s brutal regime. It needs to put them to use, stating publicly that it will take steps to enforce sanctions against any party that violates them and following through promptly when violations occur.

It must also make clear that there is only one pathway for sanctions relief: demonstrable, irreversible progress toward the meaningful political transition in Syria that is called for in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254. To do otherwise sends a terrible signal about American indifference to the crimes of the Assad regime, and further weakens the possibilities for preventing other dictators from following in his footsteps.

 

 

 

 

Middle East: Man in the Middle

By Michael Young, Carnegie Middle East Center, 11 January 2022


In an interview, Timothy J. Paris discusses his biography of Gilbert Clayton, a key British official in the Middle East.


Timothy J. Paris is a historian, lawyer, and author of two books on the Middle East, most recently In Defense of Britain’s Middle Eastern Empire: A Life of Sir Gilbert Clayton, published in 2015. Paris received his Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University, and his first book was titled Britain, the Hashemites and Arab Rule, 1920-1925: The Sherifian Solution, published in 2003. His fascinating and rich biography of Clayton sheds light on a key figure in the formulation of British policy in the Middle East both during and after World War I, even as it describes someone largely unknown to a general public. It is to discuss the biography that Diwan interviewed Paris in early January.


Michael Young: It took you six years to research and write your biography of Gilbert Clayton. Why choose him as a topic?


Timothy J. Paris: So much has been written about the Great War and its aftermath in the Middle East that I was surprised no one had published a biography of Clayton, who was involved, in varying degrees, in nearly all the big issues of the period. A Clayton biography thus presented an opportunity to fill a gap in the historiography. On a personal level, I thought it would be fun to write a biography and, since Clayton worked in such a variety of regions and contexts, to learn more about some areas with which I had less familiarity, such as Egypt and the Sudan. Also, I wanted to write a book that would be accessible to an audience wider than the academic community. So, this work contains a substantial amount of background material that would be neither necessary nor appropriate for the specialist.


MY: You touch on a central debate in modern Middle Eastern historiography, namely who fooled whom during World War I? Did Britain fool the Arabs by promising them an independent state in exchange for turning against the Ottomans, while agreeing with France to divide the Middle East between themselves? Or did the Arabs fool the British into thinking that they might favor the Ottomans and Germany in order to secure what they wanted, when this was always unlikely?


TJP: Certainly, there was a fair amount of duplicity all around. The British, French, Arabs, and Zionists were all guilty of misrepresentations made to suit their own ends. The Arabs, through Mohammed Sharif al-Farouqi, an Arab officer in the Ottoman army who had defected and persuaded British officials that the Arabs might side with Germany if Britain did not support an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, unquestionably misled the British. This led the officials—including Clayton—to wrongly conclude that an Arab-German alliance was imminent in 1915. But, for Clayton, the Farouqi interviews affected timing only; he was already convinced that an Anglo-Arab alliance was critically important to the British position in the Middle East.

The pledge made in 1915 by the British high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, to the sherif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, that Britain would support an independent Arab state or states in Arab territories, which was prompted by those interviews, while intentionally ambiguous and open-ended, may not have been calculated to deceive. However, it became deceptive in light of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Balfour Declaration, and the various British pronouncements of 1918, none of which can be squared with the 1915 pledge.


MY: You suggest that the Arab Revolt, long regarded popularly as a thing of legend due to the participation of T. E. Lawrence, was actually something with which the British authorities in Cairo, civilian and military, initially did not want to be identified. Why?


TJP: Most of the opposition to British sponsorship of the Arab Revolt came from the Government of India and the India Office. In the region itself, there was some doubt early on whether the expenditure of British money, equipment, and maybe men would be worth the candle and no one, least of all Clayton, believed that a revolt would be militarily significant. There was also concern that early Hashemite plans, in 1915, to promote a revolt in Syria would antagonize France, which sought influence in postwar Syria. Finally, there was uneasiness that British involvement in an Arab revolt would be construed in the Islamic world as interference in the Muslim Holy Places.

However, by late 1915, all the leading British authorities in the region—McMahon, General Sir John Maxwell, commander of the British army in Egypt, Sir Ronald Storrs, the oriental secretary at the British Agency in Cairo, Sir Reginald Wingate, at the time governor-general of the Sudan, and Clayton—were fully persuaded of the merits of British support for a revolt. Opposition continued from India and, in Egypt, from General Sir Archibald Murray, who replaced Maxwell as commander in chief, Middle East, in March 1916, and thought that the revolt was a wasteful frolic and detour.


MY: You appear to be trying to thread the needle over Clayton’s views of the Balfour Declaration. On the one hand, you argue that he was committed to implementing the declaration, as this was official British policy. However, you also write that he seemed to admit that it was unworkable. Where precisely did he stand?


TJP: I may be guilty of needle-threading in describing Clayton’s views of the Balfour Declaration and Zionism (and perhaps some needle-threading was required at that time). But it is more a recognition of the fact that Clayton’s views changed over the years. Initially, he, like many others, was baffled by the phrase “national home for the Jewish people.” And he wasn’t helped by the laughable Foreign Office instruction that he develop the policy “on right lines.” Whatever the declaration meant, though, Clayton was convinced that Britain must proceed slowly with the national home policy.

And he became even more convinced that gradualism was required when he learned from the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in March 1918 that a Jewish state in Palestine was the Zionist objective. Yet, Clayton supported the declaration: first, because as a British officer and civil servant that was his job; and second, because he really did believe that, if slowly and carefully applied, the Zionist program had a chance of success.

I have given many examples in the book of Clayton’s adherence to the British policy of support when he acted as administrator of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration and chief political officer in Palestine (1918), and later as chief secretary (1923–1925) in the Mandate government. But, by late 1923, Clayton was convinced that the British government was not fairly applying the policies laid down in the June 1922 White Paper, which affirmed that the Balfour Declaration did not mean that Palestine as a whole would become a Jewish state. In the face of many frustrations, he came to appreciate the depth of Arab opposition to Zionist policy. Despite his best efforts, he realized he could do nothing to reconcile Arab and Jew.


MY: As a political officer in Egypt, Clayton was instrumental in pushing for a gradual handing over of governance duties to the Egyptians themselves, a pattern he would repeat in Iraq when he was high commissioner there in 1929. What was his rationale, and how did the British authorities respond to his recommendations?


TJP: Clayton’s thinking was simple enough. He believed that both Egypt and Iraq were capable of running their own governments and that it was neither necessary nor desirable to impose British methods in either country. And he didn’t much care if those governments were run efficiently, by British standards. A passage in a July 1929 letter to colonial secretary Lord Passfield summarized his attitude: “Iraq has reached a stage at which further progress in self-government and self-reliance can only be achieved as a result of a system of trial and error. She will only realize and learn to surmount her difficulties by being able to face them herself.”

What Clayton considered important for Britain was reflected in the so-called “reserved issues clause” of the Allenby Declaration of February 1922 and in the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of June 1930. There was, of course, pushback from London, particularly with regard to Egypt in 1922, as prime minister David Lloyd George, secretary of state for the colonies Winston Churchill, and, to a lesser extent, foreign secretary George Nathaniel Curzon, all opposed dissolution of the protectorate in Egypt, a designation Clayton thought offensive to Egypt and meaningless to Britain. It took the powerful personality of General Edmund Allenby, then the high commissioner in Egypt, to push through the 1922 Declaration. As for Iraq, there was opposition so long as the Conservative government and colonial secretary Leo Amery held sway. But when Labor prevailed in the May 1929 general election, “conciliation” became the byword in imperial policy and Clayton’s policy won out.


MY: How would you describe Clayton personally? He comes across in your book as something of a cipher—an agile and competent bureaucrat who sometimes seemed to dance between the raindrops, but otherwise left few visible fingerprints. In your research how did he come across to you, professionally and personally?


TJP: Clayton was a very good diplomat and negotiator and his imprint on Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, and Arabia was clear, if not indelible. In a historical context, he might best be characterized as one of those transitional figures in moving Britain from a formal to an informal empire, though his ideas on devolution were neither novel nor unique. As an intelligence director in Egypt his political work was good and his tactical intelligence efforts adequate, but not outstanding, during a period when the intelligence trade (apart from human intelligence) was in a nascent stage.

Personally, Clayton was indeed something of a cipher. His views on a wide variety of issues come through in his correspondence and in official papers, but there is little in the way of self-revelation. He kept his own counsel and self-aggrandizement formed no part of his personality. Insightful, but not entirely accurate, assessments of him were made by two colleagues who knew him well—T. E. Lawrence and Ronald Storrs—and both their opinions are worth reviewing.


MY: You close your book by affirming that Clayton was regarded as a friend of the Arabs. You also underline that his primary focus was to defend the interests of the British Empire. Are these two compatible?


TJP: First, I must say I considered that my job as a biographer was to amass all the evidence I could find concerning Clayton, and then to accurately and fairly assess the man in the context of his time. It was no part of my job to consider him in the context of 21st century standards and mores, when the mere mention of the word “imperialism” drives some people to apoplexy. That being said, there were certainly some Arabs at the time who regarded anything less than istiqlal tamm—complete independence—as anathema and were intent on removing any vestige of Western influence in the Middle East, except for diplomatic representation. For these people, Clayton was no friend.

However, I concluded that the bulk of informed Arab opinion at the time did regard Clayton as a friend, and that this belief was accurate. His views on dissolution of the protectorate and internal autonomy in Egypt and on admission of Iraq into the League of Nations (symbolic of its independence) were no secret and were applauded by most Arabs. And Emir Abdullah in Transjordan and Abd al-Aziz Al Saud in Arabia had good reason to express their dismay over Clayton’s death in 1929. It is quite true that Clayton sought to protect what he regarded as vital British interests in these countries, but many Arabs at the time understood that the transition to complete independence could not be achieved overnight and that Clayton, in contrast to many of his compatriots, was advocating a reduction in British influence and was thus making progress in the direction they desired.

 

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.

 

 

 

DAMASCUS - The Syrian Civil Defence, better known as the White Helmets, have documented 225 deaths - half of whom are women and children - as a result of attacks launched by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally in northern Syria this year.

The rescue team recorded 38 women and 65 children dead and 618 injured - including 151 children - as a result of the Russian and Syrian regime attacks, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister publication Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

The attacks violate the ceasefire agreed between Russia, which provides military support to the Assad regime, and Turkey, which backs the Syrian opposition, in March 2020.

The White Helmets say they have responded to over 1,300 Syrian and Russian attacks, where over 7,000 ammunition types have been used.

"Despite the ceasefire agreement... the escalation... rose with systematic attacks on hospitals, vital facilities and Syrian civil defence centres," Munir Al-Mustafa, Deputy Director of the Civil Defense for Humanitarian Affairs, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

"Our teams responded to attacks targeting 169 different cities and towns in northwestern Syria," Al-Mustafa continued.

The majority of attacks the team responded to were in the southern and eastern areas of the Idlib countryside, where clashes between the opposition and regime have broken out.

"These attacks generally targeted civilian homes and agricultural fields, [and] the targeting of schools, hospitals, and vital facilities did not stop either," the deputy director said.

The White Helmets have responded to over 490 attacks on civilian homes, 620 attacks on farmers' fields, four attacks on schools and educational facilities, eight attacks on markets, and four attacks on medical facilities.

Russia has used high-precision weapons, including laser-guided artillery shells named Krasnopol, in most civilian and vital facility artillery attacks, which "confirms bombing is systematic with the aim of inflicting the largest possible number of casualties", Al-Mustafa said.

The Syrian war, which saw President Bashar Al-Assad's regime violently crack down on pro-democracy protestors, resulted in over 500,000 deaths and led to over 6 million Syrian civilians becoming internally displaced.

Russia has backed Assad since the war broke out in 2011 and intervened with military power in September 2015, leading to thousands of civilian deaths.

 

 

 

By Rami G. Khouri, The New Arab, 24 December 2021

If you are marking the New Year with the traditional review of what has changed and what is in store ahead for the Arab region, you are missing the greatest threats to the region's people and their states.

Climate change, ideological conflicts, and active wars will continue to cause havoc in most states, but older and more corrosive dangers today endanger the wellbeing of families and the integrity of entire states, as a batch of new international reports last week reminds us: a big majority of Arab families – over two-thirds in some critical sectors like poverty and education – can no longer meet their basic needs, and slowly, quietly, they slip into destitution, desperation, or worse.

The flurry of new reports shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the already alarming Arab condition in essential realms for a decent life: education attainment and its associated human capabilities, access to sufficient food, inequality among citizens and states, and the pan-Arab failure – after half a century of trying – to create sufficient decent jobs for citizens.

The most frightening new findings – in a report by UNICEF, the World Bank, and UNESCO on the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on educational progress in Arab states – start with the bad news that nearly two-thirds of 5 to 14-year-old children in the region were unable to read with proficiency even before COVID-19. The new calamity is that this could soon rise to nearly 70% of all children due to their missing out on normal schooling in the past two years, and the proportion of 15-year-olds who perform badly in international standardised education test scores could rise from 60.1% to 71.6%.

This guarantees that several cohorts of undereducated Arab youth will not be able to contribute to their national economies beyond menial and manual labour in the informal economy. They will suffer lifetimes of poverty, vulnerability, and marginalization, with problems of mental health, socialization, and low wellbeing and self-satisfaction.

Many will likely become directionless and alienated young men and women who typically are prime candidates for radical and violent movements that ultimately shake the integrity of countries and social systems. Once strong, centralised states could polarise and fragment, with some ultimately shattering (usually with the involvement of foreign military action, as we have seen in recent years in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon, Libya and others).

The minority of young Arabs who do get a good education will either dominate the private and government sectors or emigrate to find a better life abroad. This has been happening for the past four decades at least, as governments are unable or unwilling to fix the distortions in their policies and economies. This will further aggravate the existing inequalities gaps within and among Arab countries.

The World Inequalities Report 2022 issued last week confirms that the Arab-dominated Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the most unequal region in the world. In our lands, the top ten per cent richest people control 58% of income (vs. 36% in Europe). It seems hard to get any more unequal, given UN studies in recent years that repeatedly show that poor and vulnerable Arabs account for over two-thirds of the total population – and the COVID-19 crisis has worsened this, too.

Arab poverty, vulnerability, and inequality continue to spread in part because young people are not trained to assume better jobs, and in part – a new paper from the respected Economic Research Forum says – because Arab private sectors do not create sufficient decent new work opportunities.

A majority of educated young Arabs end up taking low-paying informal jobs, because of state policies and private sector practices since the 1990s economic reforms—policies that have not generated sufficient decent formal sector jobs, but rather favoured informal work, low-productivity sectors, and corporate profits, which resulted in low labour force participation.

So it is no surprise that youth unemployment in many Arab countries reaches 40-50 %, and seems stuck there. These structural issues are the result of deeper and chronic dynamics like political instability, poor regulatory frameworks and labour market institutions, fiscal constraints, corruption, and lack of economic diversity.

The last two years of COVID-19 pressures have only tightened the screws of citizen helplessness and erratic state social protection responses. Even in Arab countries that offered some emergency assistance to needy families, another ESCWA expert working group heard in a September meeting, their cash contributions were inadequate in most cases, averaging less than 20% of average national income or spending.

These experts came in like a chorus in a cathedral hymn, noting the harsh realities for Arab families are due to poverty and associated economic and social problems and longstanding structural barriers to wealth redistribution and equitable economic-political participation.

A UN Food and Agriculture Organization report issued last week revealed that the percentage of undernourished Arabs increased by 15.8% since 2014, and, more alarmingly, by 91% over the past two decades. COVID-19 has added another 4.8 million undernourished people, for a total of some 69 million. Moderate or severe food insecurity also has expanded in recent years, to reach 141 million.

The deterioration in access to food has impacted all sectors of society, including the shrinking middle class. The FAO report notes: "An estimated 32.3%, or nearly one-third of the region’s population, did not have regular access to sufficient and nutritious food in 2020."

And, no surprise, that same old bell rings in our ears yet again, as the FAO says that hunger and food insecurity result from, "pre-existing vulnerabilities and exposure to multiple shocks and stresses such as poverty, inequality, conflict, climate change and many others."

In other words, all these new reports tell us in slightly different ways that during the last 40 years or so most Arab societies and economies have been managed inefficiently, inequitably, and often incompetently.

These trends paint a stark picture of the hard years ahead, as more and more people lack the jobs, income, or health, water, food, and education services needed for a life of dignity. All Arab citizens also lack any credible power of political accountability to force their governments to stop this disastrous descent to national collapse, on an ever-widening base of human misery.

The long-term consequences of all this are all the more frightening because poor families today find it almost impossible to escape poverty and enter the middle class. Governments that lack the funds, expertise, or will to reduce poverty and improve overall citizen wellbeing these days react to their people's distress predominantly militarily, and by clamping down on freedom of expression and other basic rights. Not surprisingly, angry, hungry, degraded, and increasingly desperate citizens across the region have erupted in uprisings against their ruling elites since 2010.

A few more reports like last week's, reconfirming the worsening condition of most Arab citizens in the face of their uncaring states, suggest that more difficult days are ahead for both of them.


Rami G. Khouri is Director of Global Engagement and senior public policy fellow at the American University of Beirut, and a non-resident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Middle East Initiative.

 

 

North Africa

Tunisia’s lengthy road map back to democracy


By Anthony Dworkin, European Council on Foreign Relations, 11 January 2022

Tunisia’s international partners have responded too leniently to its president’s announced programme of constitutional reform. They risk allowing him to remain over-powerful for years to come.

 

Since July last year, when Tunisian president Kais Saied suspended parliament and dissolved the government, many people in Tunisia and abroad have called on him to produce a road map to return the country to democratic accountability. In December, Saied appeared to bow to those demands as he announced a schedule leading to parliamentary elections at the end of this year.

The plan has already been welcomed by the United States and, more cautiously, by Italy; but it should not be mistaken for a return to democratic standards. Instead, it leaves Saied with absolute power for a full year, as well as total control of the process through which the ground rules of Tunisian politics will be rewritten.

Saied justified his power grab last summer as a measure to rescue Tunisia from a deep economic and public health crisis caused by the ineffectiveness of the country’s post-revolutionary political system. Since the overthrow of the former authoritarian leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia has stood as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. But it has also seen persistent economic stagnation and high unemployment, as successive governments struggled to tackle Tunisia’s problems.

More recently, the country experienced a much higher death toll from covid-19 than its neighbours, with the government seemingly unable to mount an effective response to the pandemic. For these reasons, there was widespread public support for Saied’s move against the parliament, even if it was difficult to square with Tunisia’s 2014 constitution.

Despite being presented as an emergency measure, Saied’s seizure of power soon came to look like a new order that might be extended for an indefinite period. In September, Saied gave himself the power to rule by decree and formally set aside those parts of the constitution that conflicted with the measures he had taken. Since Tunisia’s political class had irresponsibly failed to set up a constitutional court (as the constitution required), this meant that all power was effectively concentrated in Saied’s hands.

While the European Union and the US called for a clear timetable for restoring parliamentary rule, and Saied himself repeatedly promised further details of his plans, he has also been scornful of requests for a road map, saying those who wanted one should “look in their geography books”.

Against this background, Saied’s announcement on Monday 13 December of a timetable for Tunisia’s political future might appear to be a step forward. He said that there would be an online public consultation on a revision of Tunisia’s constitution starting in January; that a committee would be appointed to draw up the suggested amendments before a referendum in July; and that legislative elections under a revised electoral law would be held in December.

The timetable is loaded with political symbolism, as the date for the July referendum marks the anniversary of his suspension of parliament, while the elections are to be held on the same date as the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi in 2010, which sparked the Tunisian revolution. The implicit linking of these two actions gives a measure of Saied’s sense of his own importance.

If the announced end to Saied’s irregular and unchecked stewardship of the country is welcome, it is nevertheless very delayed; Saied’s map charts a very long road. On top of this, his timetable means that the process of revising the constitution and drawing up the electoral law for legislative elections will unfold while he retains a monopoly of power in Tunisia.

The only gesture towards involving other actors in the process is the online public consultation, which has now opened. There is no suggestion that other political groups will have any role in devising the country’s new political settlement. Saied has already made clear that he regards Tunisia’s political parties as illegitimate and corrupt, and his rule over the last six months has displayed an absolute disdain for any notion of inclusive or pluralistic governance.

Moreover, Saied has followed the launch of his road map with an intensified campaign against his political opponents, spearheaded by the minister of the interior, Taoufik Charfeddine. In late December, Interior Ministry agents seized a leading member of the Ennahda party and a former government security adviser; the two are being held under house arrest for alleged involvement in terrorism, but without any judicial proceedings.

Former president Moncef Marzouki was recently sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in absentia (he is now living in Paris) on charges of undermining the country’s security from abroad after he attacked Saied’s seizure of power.

It is unclear what constitutional changes Saied’s committee will propose, but he has long argued against the very idea of a directly elected national parliament, preferring some model of direct democracy whereby elected local assemblies nominate representatives to a weak national body. Comparative constitutionalists suggest that his favoured model might bear some similarity to the system that existed in Libya under the leadership of Muammar Qaddafi, which is hardly an auspicious precedent. In any case, there is little doubt that the president will emerge with greatly enhanced powers.

The international reaction to Saied’s road map has been muted but largely positive. The US State Department said that it welcomed the announcement of a timeline for political reforms and legislative elections and that it looked forward “to a reform process that is transparent and inclusive of diverse political and civil society voices.” This may be an attempt to exert influence by expressing positive expectations but it nevertheless comes across as naive.

A stronger statement would have said that the credibility of the process depends on the involvement of a broad range of political and civil society groups. It would not have appeared to endorse the delay of a year in restoring political representation.

A public statement by G7 ambassadors to Tunisia that was released only a few days before Saied’s announcement called for a “swift return to functioning democratic institutions”, and it is hard to see that Saied’s plan meets this standard. Italian foreign minister Luigi di Maio requested a return to “full democratic normality with the complete respect of fundamental rights and the promotion of stability” but was more focused on migration during a recent visit to Tunisia.

Within Tunisia, in any case, the president’s apparent fixation on reforming the constitution risks seeming eccentric when set against the population’s overwhelming concern with the economy and the standard of living. The parlous state of Tunisia’s public finances has led it to approach the International Monetary Fund about a further assistance package, and public spending will need to be cut.

Saied has not given any indication of a programme to improve the economic outlook and many Tunisians expect a resurgence of public demonstrations in the coming months. Along with expressing concern about the absence of political representation and the unchecked power of the president, Tunisia’s partners should also make clear that the repression of public protest or freedom of speech would not be compatible with the democratic values that Tunisia’s leader claims to espouse.


The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR and CEMAS publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

 

 

 

Algeria’s regime is facing an unprecedented crisis

Menas Associates, London, 12 January 2022


These developments described in Algeria Politics & Security – 11.01.22 were less than 24-hour old and were still developing as went to press.

It is not yet a coup d’état but the start of what could become a serious division within the army — largely between the country’s East and West — which will destabilise the regime for a long time to come.

The perpetrator of this move against the Army Chief of Staff, General Saïd Chengriha, is the late General Ahmed Gaïd Salah’s private secretary, Chief Warrant Officer Guermit Bounouira. He fled Algeria in February 2020 with many of Gaïd Salah’s secret files, which held incriminating evidence against Chengriha and many other senior army personnel. Bounouira was extradited back from Turkey in July 2020 and has since been in Blida’s’ military prison where he faces a likely death sentence.

From his high security prison cell, however, Bounouira has been able to make and then release onto the Internet and the social networks a series of 20 damning video recordings against Chengriha. These are now in the hands of the regime’s main opponent, the Rachad movement, and its prime analyst, Mohamed Larbi Zitout.

Bounouira accuses Chengriha of having accumulated a colossal fortune through drug trafficking and arms smuggling and of having ensured the protection of the smuggling routes on the Algerian-Moroccan border. He also revealed details on Chengriha’s alleged arms trafficking with Libya and fuel trafficking in the Tamanrasset region. He claims that these criminal activities by Chengriha, who was then head of the Army Land Forces, were about to lead to a military indictment which would almost certainly have ended his career. Instead, however, Gaïd Salah suddenly died in December 2019 which has led to renewed speculation as to whether he was poisoned.

Much more information is yet to be published on social media. We believe it will include: a full list of all the generals involved in this criminality and details of the army’s control of this business including the use of Algeria’s ports to smuggle cocaine from South America to Europe.

The two big questions are: who enabled Bounouira to make these extraordinary revelations and, what will be their implication for Chengriha, the Presidency and the regime as a whole?

Bounouira was being held in the country’s most secure prison block. Commonly known as The Pavilion of Traitors or Pavilion No.5 this high-security block is, amongst others, known to contain:

- General Bouazza Ouassini – former head of the Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure, DGSI) internal security;

- Major-General Mohamed Bouzit (a.k.a. Youcef) – the former head of the foreign intelligence service;

- Major General Abdelhamid Ghriss – the former secretary-general of the Ministry of National Defence; and

- General Othmane Belmiloud (a.k.a. Kamel Kanich), the former head of the Direction Centrale de la Sécurité de l’Armée (DCSA);

The obvious question is who is trying to oust Chengriha, along with many of his senior staff, and for what purpose? The immediate and most obvious answer might be ‘the deep state’ which is a euphemism for the clan headed by: former defence minister Khaled Nezzar; former DRS head Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediène, and former DCSA head M’henna Djebbar. At this stage, however, that might seem a little too obvious and simplistic.

As we go to press, we heard from a 100% reliable source — who has been closely involved with these documents and disclosures since Bounouira was in Turkey between February-July 2020 — that the people behind this move are not the Nezzar-Mediène clan. Instead it is the supporters of the late General Gaïd Salah and, in particular, Bounouira himself and Bouazza Ouassini who is also in prison with him. We will explain more on their motives in next week’s issue.

They want revenge against Chengriha, partly to rectify their own imprisonment, but also because they are accusing him of ‘kidnapping’ for the East. In the list of names which Bounouira is publishing — which we have now seen and will explain more about in next week’s issue as well as about the East-West division — the majority are about 60 generals from eastern Algeria and mostly of Chaouia identity.

Currently, the immediate implications are that Chengriha has lost all authority and will almost certainly be replaced. The great danger is that this division within the army could turn into something akin to civil war although this is unlikely because other forces are likely to step in.

In short — although we understand that the Nezzar-Mediène clan had nothing to do with Bounouira’s motives — they will be the ultimate beneficiaries. This is because they have the knowledge and intelligence access to all that has been going on. Many of their supporters — who were mostly colonels in the 1990s but more latterly generals — fled to Spain after Gaïd Salah’s putsch against Mediène in 2015. They are likely to return and take back many of the top positions in the military and security services.

The possible timing in this scenario is, however, very uncertain. We understand that as we go to press, Blida — and especially the military court, prison and surrounding complex — is under siege by forces from the gendarmerie. Key sources close to the situation are describing the situation as an ‘earthquake’, which will destabilise the regime for a long time to come, with the distinct possibility of the army becoming divided, more or less along its East-West axis.

 

 

 

Libya: Flames on the Horizon?


By Frederic Wehrey and Emadeddin Badi, Carnegie Middle East Center, 07 January 2022


Libya may be heading toward new rounds of conflict in the aftermath of its recently aborted elections.

 

Nearly ten years ago, in the summer of 2012, the citizens of Libya went to the polls for the first time in four decades to vote for a national legislature. It was a watershed moment in the country’s path after the overthrow and death of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi at the hands of NATO-backed rebels in late 2011. It was the first time that most Libyans had ever had a say in their government.

Both of us—a Libyan citizen and a foreign observer—were there at the time and remember well the euphoric mood. City streets were festooned with campaign banners, candidates held rallies in sprawling tents, and lively political debates lasted all through the night in cafes. Many Libyans hoped the elected body would be a starting point to heal the deep wounds left by Qaddafi’s autocratic rule and resolve problems such as the unequal distribution of oil revenues and the unchecked power of the country’s militias.

That optimism was misplaced. The legislature quickly fell victim to bitter personal and ideological rivalries and exclusionary politics. Corruption soared. The militias became stronger, bolstered by their ties to elected politicians. By 2014, Libya was in a state of nationwide civil war whose flames were fanned by regional powers.

In hindsight, many wondered if the push to elections so soon after the revolution had been premature and rushed, especially given the absence of preconditions such as security and a robust civil society.

This past year, as part of a United Nations-brokered road map to end the latest round of civil war, Libyans and their international supporters pushed for presidential elections on December 24 as a salve for the country’s ills. Again, the entire process sharpened Libya’s divisions, rather than bridged them. This time, though, the legal basis of the elections was deeply contested. So too was their scope and sequencing—whether they were to be presidential or parliamentary or both, and in what order. So, it was unsurprising that on December 21, Libya’s election commission dissolved polling committees across the country, indefinitely postponing the vote.

Libya is now entering a dangerous new phase, one in which the potential for factional armed conflict is high as the prospects for a real democratic transition fade.

Visiting Tripoli, the capital, this past month, one of us noticed that the darkening horizon was plainly evident in the population’s mood. Over 2.5 million Libyans had registered to vote, but the lively discussions in 2012 over candidates’ reform platforms were replaced by cynical conversations about the flawed runup to elections.

Few Libyans ever believed that elections would curb the influence of militias. And now, with their postponement, militias are already flexing their muscles. In recent days, convoys of armed groups in trucks have screeched through Tripoli’s roundabouts with heavy artillery to intimidate their military opponents, with some besieging the headquarters of the weak caretaker government in the process. This mobilization is partly to jockey for leverage over the Tripoli-based government and the country’s sovereign institutions, now that the planned suffrage appears indefinitely deferred.

With elections postponed, leading political figures who command armed groups are already trying to outmaneuver each other by forming personal alliances to divide up power. This could take shape through bargaining, but also, worrisomely, brazen displays of force.

Among the most polarizing and consequential of these figures is the man responsible for launching an invasion of Tripoli in 2019, to unseat the internationally recognized government and seize power. He is also one of the most prominent presidential candidates. Khalifa Haftar, the septuagenarian warlord based in eastern Libya, has long derided democracy in Libya, positioning himself as a military savior.

Qaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, once heralded as a reformer but now facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, is another figure to watch. He enjoys support among the divided sympathizers of the former regime known as the “Greens.” Like Haftar, he is exploiting citizens’ nostalgia for authoritarian stability, and chose to make his comeback on Libya’s political scene by making a surprise bid for the presidency.

The current prime minister of the caretaker government in Tripoli, Abdul-Hamid Dbaiba, has grown increasingly influential during his tenure. He is now likely to try and remain in power, sparking dissent and possibly violence among his opponents as he maneuvers to militarily entrench himself in the capital. Dbaiba ran for president after promising not to do so, and has garnered popular support through a classic populist tactic of dispensing cash.

The former interior minister Fathi Bashaga is another force to be reckoned with. Hailing from the powerful western coastal city of Misrata, he has been lauded as the more pragmatic of the presidential candidates by Western interlocutors. In recent weeks, he has struck up an entente with his former archival Haftar. Yet, this alliance is already being challenged by several armed groups and constituencies in western Libya—a divide that will likely erupt into violence.

Moving forward, prospects for enduring stability and unity are further complicated by the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and mercenaries sponsored by Turkey and Russia, who militarily intervened in the 2019–2020 war. By doing so, Ankara and Moscow established themselves as power brokers on the ground, along with the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent Egypt. This foreign influence, and a burgeoning detente among former rivals in the Middle East, could act as a check on the eruption of nationwide conflict in 2022. Yet, without a clear road map that redefines how Libya will regain popular legitimacy, this momentary regional rapprochement will not guarantee long-term stability.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the election postponement, armed groups and their political patrons appear to be crafting road maps of their own. They are capitalizing on the current limbo by engaging in multiple tracks of dialogue, both in Libya and in foreign capitals. While talking is certainly better than fighting, these personalized encounters should in no way be construed as setting the foundations for a durable institutionally-based settlement. At their core, they are simply attempts to divide the spoils of appointments in the security sector and other state organs.

The vote’s deferral has also prompted factions across the country to support a return to a constitutional drafting process to reset the legal framework for elections and ensure their legitimacy. This too would appear to be a positive development, at first glance. But the constitutional track has been wholly coopted by elites in two widely despised bodies, the High State Council in the west and the House of Representatives in the east. These elites have used an array of clever procedural and legal tactics to delay the constitution and obstruct progress toward elections—because such steps threaten their privileged positions. As these games continue, Libyan citizens will be left to suffer. And it is probably only a matter of time before an armed faction tires of them as well, and calculates that its interests are better served through displays of force or violence.

To manage these risks, Western powers, especially the United States, need to quickly adapt to realities on the ground. Most crucially, Washington also needs to heed the lessons it learned from Libya after Qaddafi’s fall. These include eschewing sweeping assumptions about what national elections alone can achieve, but also accepting the importance of prioritizing robust engagement in supporting Libyan citizens, not just elites, in crafting a path forward.

While the Biden administration supported preparations for polling last year, it now needs to engage much more firmly on setting the foundations for a truly unified, democratic civil state. This includes bolstering civil society, ensuring the rule of law and accountability, and developing a more viable strategy for reining in the militias. Most importantly, it needs to help Libyans develop a firm, universally-agreed-upon legal basis for future elections—either through a constitution or some similar compact—that enshrines the principles of inclusion and genuine representation, rather than continues the timeworn game of elite bargaining and a sharing of the spoils.

While this process needs to be Libyan-owned, this should not be an excuse for handing the steering wheel of Libya’s transition back to the same venal political factions that exacerbated and protracted the country’s crises.


Coauthor Emadeddin Badi is a senior analyst at the Global Initiative and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.


Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.

 

 

 

TUNIS - With opposition voices silenced and an economy on the brink, experts say Tunisia is "wallowing in uncertainty" as President Kais Saied readies to ask the public for their thoughts on a new constitution.

The former law professor, who on 25 July sacked the government, suspended parliament and seized wide-ranging powers, has long called for an overhaul of the country's dysfunctional post-revolution political system. His moves have been decried as a "coup" by his opponents.

On 13 December, Saied laid out a roadmap for drafting a new constitution, which is set to grant more powers to the executive branch at the expense of the legislature in the small North African nation.

The public has been asked to send in suggestions via electronic platforms from 1 January to 20 March ahead of a referendum on the resulting constitution on 25 July 2022.

Critics have said the move underlines the "populist" approach of the president, who won elections in 2019 with a landslide 73 percent of votes.

But Saied's one-man crusade to rebuild Tunisia's broken political structures has sparked accusations that he is establishing a new autocracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Rights groups have pointed to military trials of opposition figures on charges such as "insulting the president".

The accusations come not just from his nemesis, the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party that dominated the suspended assembly, but also from the powerful UGTT trade union.

"The country is wallowing in political uncertainty, even after Saied announced his roadmap, which doesn't seem to have reassured partners either domestically or internationally," said analyst Hamza Meddeb.

"There are many questions marks over the reliability of this process," Meddeb said.

"We have never tried this kind of referendum in Tunisia and we don't know how the president is aiming to organise these consultations."


'Repression in disguise'


Meddeb said the consultations will begin "amid socio-economic unrest, with questions regarding freedoms" and what he described as "repression in disguise".

Saied's July power-grab came with Tunisia engulfed in a political and economic crisis exacerbated by mounting coronavirus cases.

His move was initially backed by some Tunisians who were tired of a political elite viewed as corrupt and incapable of resolving the country's problems.

On Tuesday, the debt-ridden country unveiled a 2022 budget that will see it borrow almost $7 billion, as it seeks to stimulate an economy stricken by 18 percent unemployment.

Authorities are also hoping to reach a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund.

But as the administration grapples with deep economic woes, it has also clamped down on rights.

On 24 December, activist and former MP Bochra Belhaj Hmida was sentenced to six months in prison - a verdict that sparked questions as it came days after she criticised the president.

"Since July 25, there is a single institution and a single person deciding the future of this country," she told AFP. "There is nothing to suggest that there will be hope."


'Slippery slope'


Hmida is not the only Saied critic to have been prosecuted after publicly criticising the president.

Perhaps the most prominent is exiled former president Moncef Marzouki, who was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison on 22 December for "undermining the security of the state from abroad" after launching blistering public criticism against Saied.

"All these hasty trials against critical voices clearly show that the judiciary is unfortunately in the hands of the executive," Meddeb said.

Rights groups have repeatedly warned of the threat to freedom of speech in Tunisia since 25 July.

Human Rights Watch said in December that Tunisian authorities are using "repressive" dictatorship-era laws to snuff out criticism of Saied.

The journalists' union also has warned of an "imminent danger to freedom of the press, media and expression" since Saied's power-grab.

On 23 December, a group of prominent anti-Saied figures under the banner "Citizens against the Coup" launched a hunger strike against what they call "a complete abolition of freedoms".

The group called for a boycott of the public consultation pushed by Saied, accusing him of seeking to "conceal his coup".

"Tunisia is on a slippery slope and we can expect high tensions," Meddeb said.

 

 

 

 

Research Papers & Reports

By Bridge Initiative Team, Washington DC, January 2022


WASHINGTON - Overall, 2021 demonstrated that Islamophobia remains a constant and growing threat around the globe. Anti-Muslim racism in 2021 remained ever present as hate crimes and individual attacks targeting Muslims persisted.

Across the globe, the key players of anti-Muslim racism were again states themselves, as this year witnessed increasing discriminatory legislation and policies.

China continued to deny the growing body of evidence pointing to genocide being committed against Uyghur Muslims and an international tribunal was held in the U.K. with testimony from survivors of Xinjiang’s concentration camps.

In Canada, a man killed a Muslim family of four in a horrific calculated hit-and-run, leading to Canadian Muslims demanding the government take concrete measures to tackle Islamophobic violence.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s government took a page from China’s book by implementing legislation aimed at constructing a state-approved Islam, resulting in widespread discrimination targeting Muslim civil society and curtailing the rights of French Muslims, especially women.

Similarly, the Austrian government took measures to intimidate and silence Austrian Muslim activists and organizations, even going so far as to publish a map detailing the locations of hundreds of mosques and associations. In the United Kingdom, the ruling Conservative party persisted in evading calls to address institutional Islamophobia within its ranks.

State hostility and prejudice towards Muslims was present across the European continent, with rulings aimed at restricting Muslim identity such as halal meat and hijab bans. In India, the country’s growing Hindu nationalist forces retained last year’s theme of conspiracy theories, claiming Indian Muslims were engaging in “love jihad,” “economic jihad,” and even “narcotics jihad.”

Additionally, there were large episodes of anti-Muslim violence in various parts of the country such as Tripura, Gurgaon, and Assam, all of which were supported by the rising Hindu nationalist voices. The year was also spent uncovering the role of social media platforms in larger campaigns of violence targeting Muslims as seen in India and Myanmar.

In the United States, the country marked twenty years since the deadly September 11th attacks and reckoned with the impacts and consequences of two decades of the War on Terror at home and abroad.

2021 demonstrated that Islamophobia remains a constant and growing threat around the globe. Anti-Muslim racism in 2021 remained ever present as hate crimes and individual attacks targeting Muslims persisted. Across the globe, the key players of anti-Muslim racism were again states themselves, as this year witnessed increasing discriminatory legislation and policies.


ARTICLES:


United States: With the inauguration of Joe Biden as the country’s 46th president, American Muslims welcomed the new administration and celebrated as Biden reversed Trump’s Muslim Ban. While applauding the measure, many noted that a reversal would not bring back the time and lives lost as a result of the previous discriminatory measure, and called on Biden to use this moment to tackle the presence of anti-Muslim racism in society, calling for accountability and justice.

India: Throughout 2021, Indian Muslims found themselves on the receiving end of countless mob attacks and state violence as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government continued to embolden the country’s right-wing Hindu nationalist forces. Further, conspiracy theories constructing Indian Muslims as a threat to the Hindu majoritarian population gained credibility thanks to the rhetoric and actions of politicians and the government.

The right-ward shift in the subcontinent also led many commentators and experts in the region to fear that Modi’s rule was leading to a decay in the world’s largest democracy as journalists critical of the government were targeted and imprisoned and counter-terror legislation was used to silence critics. In a testament to increasing state hostility, even elite actors and actresses of India’s Bollywood were not immune to the Hindu nationalist government’s assault on free speech.


China: In 2021, the world heard more personal testimonies from Uyghurs who had survived China’s network of concentration camps as a growing international movement called on countries to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. This year also involved Chinese authorities restructuring their targeting of Uyghurs, moving many prisoners to forced labor camps and institutionalizing discriminatory practices, such as removing domes from mosques, aimed at erasing Uyghur culture and identity.

Growing calls from activists and rights organizations for action from the international community also contributed to an unofficial tribunal held in the UK, which found that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is committing genocide, a conclusion made by a number of countries this year including the Canadian parliament, MPs in the UK, Dutch parliament, and the Lithuanian parliament.

China’s campaign targeting Uyghurs goes back decades and must be understood in the settler-colonial context of the region. However, following 9/11 and the introduction of the war on terror discourse, Chinese authorities adopted this rhetoric framing Uyghur Muslims as a security threat to the state and began slowly criminalizing various aspect of Uyghur culture and identity, all under the banner of tackling the “three evil forces” of separatism, extremism, and terrorism. The establishment of concentration camps, dubbed “re-education” centers by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in 2017 and the projected growth of these fortresses of torture and psychological manipulation is just one aspect of China’s wider campaign in the occupied Uyghur homeland (which Chinese authorities refer to as Xinjiang).

In 2021, the world heard more harrowing stories from survivors of China’s crackdown in the region: a project involving torture, rape, detention, indoctrination, and psychological abuse.


Europe: In 2021, Islamophobia in Europe was further institutionalized within policies and programs that effectively criminalized Muslim civil society on the continent. In France, President Emmanuel Macron introduced the anti-Separatism law restricting the rights of French Muslim citizens and essentially forcing Muslims religious leader to take an oath of loyalty. Meanwhile in Switzerland, the government approved a ban on the burqa, adding to the growing number of countries that have restricted Muslim women’s right to religious freedom.

The trend on the continent has been to construct Europe’s Muslims as both a security and cultural threat, using arguments framed under counterterrorism and secularism to justify discriminatory and harmful rhetoric and practices that have severely curtailed the basic rights of Muslims.

In a review of 2021, Austrian academic and Bridge Senior Researcher Farid Hafez described the Europe’s right-ward shift as the continent entering an age of “McCarthyism against Islam,” with government policies framing Muslim citizenry as potential threats, suspicious, and ultimately untrustworthy. With the current status quo, it appears that “guilty until proven innocent increasingly becomes authorities’ approach to Muslims,” and Hafez demonstrated this by highlighting France, Austria, and Denmark’s collective approach to fighting “political Islam.”

In neighboring France, President Emmanuel Macron solidified his presidency as one marked by state-led Islamophobia, where under his leadership the government instituted measures that stigmatized and collectively punished France’s nearly 6 million Muslims. Much like Austria, Macron’s government hinged on the “political Islam” boogeyman to justify measures that not only severely curtailed the rights of Muslims but many argued also was an attack on French secularism. In late 2020, under the guise of fighting “political Islam,” Macron gave Muslim religious leaders an ultimatum, essentially forcing Imams to sign a charter or otherwise be considered a threat and enemy to the state. In March 2021, a coalition of civil society organizations urged the European Commission to investigate France at the European Court of Justice over the charter, saying that it “violates Muslims’ right to free speech and religious freedoms.”

In 2020, Macron also introduced the anti-separtism bill, which was approved by Members of Parliament in February 2021 and adopted by the National Assembly on July 23, 2021.

French legal scholar Rim-Sarah Alouane described the bill as an “attack” on civil liberties, stating, “I see a blatant attack on freedom of association. This bill has no safeguards of potential abuse from public authorities,” and further noted that “French Muslims are paying the price of the failure of the state to prevent terrorist attacks from happening.” Further the bill also included measures aimed at increasing restrictions on Muslim women’s ability to wear the hijab, with the argument of religious neutrality used to extend the hijab ban to private companies under contract with the state.


In January 2021, a coalition of thirty-six organizations from thirteen countries submitted a twenty-eight-page document to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), calling on the international body to “open formal infringement procedures against France’s government for entrenching Islamophobia and structural discrimination against Muslims.” The organizations alleged that under Macron’s governance, France’s recent “actions and policies in relation to Muslim communities violated international and European laws.”

Many critics noted that these actions were being taken by the government to play on the ongoing culture wars, and to silence any group or individual who called out the government’s Islamophobia, by linking anyone on the left with “‘Islamism,’ the eternal bogeyman in French society.”

The measures aimed at dismantling French Muslim civil society remained in force as a French court confirmed the dissolution of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), a leading anti-discrimination group that tracked Islamophobia in the country. Adding to this, in 2021 the government shut down a Muslim publishing house. In October 2021, Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin announced the government would close 7 more mosques and associations in the country by the end of the year, and stated that since Macron had taken office, “some 13 associations have been closed along with 92 of the 2,500 mosques in the country.” Under the pretense of tackling “radicalization” and “political Islam,” the French government has taken measures to dismantle Muslim civil society and strike fear in the French Muslim community.

Experts, commentators, and writers all noted how the current political climate in France involved a surge in the far-right and an overall massive shift right-ward in the country. Given the upcoming 2022 presidential elections, it appears that candidates in the running to lead the country are attempting to outdo each other when it comes to blatant anti-Muslim bigotry.

In 2021, Europe continued on a right-ward path as anti-Muslim racism became the norm in media, politics, and society. While some political leaders dragged their feet in addressing the issue of Islamophobia, many others openly incorporated dangerous and discriminatory anti-Muslim rhetoric into their agenda.


Canada: In July of 2021, Mustafa Farooq of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) made a chilling observation: “The reality is that Canada has suffered more mass killings motivated by Islamophobia in the last five years than any other country in the G7. This cannot be allowed to continue.” Farooq’s comments came a little over a month after a deadly targeted hit-and-run in London, Ontario that killed four members of a Canadian Muslim family, with the sole survivor being a 9-year-old boy. The incident sent shockwaves across the country, and Canadian Muslims called on the government to take greater action against rising anti-Muslim hatred in the country beginning with tackling bigoted rhetoric and support for discriminatory policies amongst those in power.

 

 

Turkey-Armenia Talks Hold Promise of Opening Long-Shut Border

International Crisis Group, 13 January 2022

Turkish and Armenian special envoys will meet in Moscow on 14 January to discuss normalising relations between these long-estranged neighbours. Crisis Group experts Olesya Vartanyan, Nigar Göksel and Zaur Shiriyev unpack how the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020 opened the way for talks.

 

What is the significance of the envoys’ 14 January meeting in Moscow?


The launch of direct talks between Turkey and Armenia holds perhaps the greatest promise yet of establishing diplomatic relations between two countries that have never enjoyed them. This process could lead to an opening of the countries’ shared border and bring greater trade and security to the region.

Both the announcement of the talks and the appointment of special envoys signal that the two sides are serious about the possibility of normalised relations. Turkey’s negotiator is Serdar Kılıç, a 64-year-old senior diplomat last posted in Washington. His counterpart from Armenia is Ruben Rubinyan, who at 31 is the youngest member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s inner circle.


Why don’t Turkey and Armenia have diplomatic ties?


The Turkish and Armenian states have never had formal relations. Their relationship has been clouded by the 1915 killing and forced displacement of around 1.5 million Armenians then living in the Ottoman Empire.

Armenia considers the massacre a genocide. Turkey contests both Yerevan’s figures and its characterisation of the killings as a genocide. When Armenia was under Soviet rule, it conducted its diplomatic engagement with Turkey through Moscow as an intermediary. But the two countries were not entirely shut off from each other; through the end of the Cold War, at least two border-crossing points were open between the two neighbours.

Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the two countries made two stabs at normalisation. First, Turkey and Armenia came close to establishing neighbourly ties in the early 1990s. Talks began in 1992 and continued for some time even after fighting erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh months later. Turkey has long been a key regional ally of Azerbaijan and Baku has sought its support in the conflict.

Although many differences remained, the two sides were in the final stages of drafting an accord when, in early April 1993, Turkey withdrew over the capture by Armenian forces of land populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis near Nagorno-Karabakh. Ankara closed the few crossing points that enabled traffic with Armenia and has kept the border between the two countries shut over what it saw as Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions. Azerbaijan has also kept its border closed, leaving landlocked Armenia in effect walled off from both east and west for the past three decades.

A second, Swiss-led effort to normalise relations that began in the summer of 2007 gained backing from Washington and European capitals as part of a wider peace effort in the region following Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia. The Swiss mediation culminated in October 2009 with the signing of agreements to open the border and establish diplomatic relations. The initiative foundered and the parties never ratified or implemented the agreements in large part because Azerbaijan pressed its ally Turkey to halt talks. Baku feared that an open border would cause it to lose leverage over Armenia in deadlocked Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks.


What is behind Ankara and Yerevan restarting talks now?


The 14 January meeting comes over a year after a Russian-brokered ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia to end the six-week war that took over 7,000 lives between 27 September and 9 November 2020. Armenia’s defeat in that conflict shifted calculations in Ankara, Baku and Yerevan.

As concerns Turkey and Azerbaijan, the key development for both of them was that, as a result of the 2020 conflict, Azerbaijan regained control of all seven territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh that it had lost to Armenian forces in the early 1990s. As noted above, Armenian control over these territories had been the source of Azerbaijan’s, and hence Turkey’s, key objection to normalising ties with Yerevan. With that issue off the table, Turkey began to signal its readiness for new talks with Armenia soon after the war.

For its part, Armenia, still reeling from its losses in the 2020 war, is desperate for the economic relief it could reap from ending the 30-year closure of its western and eastern borders by Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia’s isolation has excluded it from the major energy and transportation projects in the South Caucasus, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline carrying Caspian Sea oil to the Mediterranean, the South Caucasus Gas Pipeline bearing gas headed for Europe and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars rail network.

Because of the closed Turkish and Azerbaijani borders, Armenia has been forced to use lengthier and costlier mountainous trade routes via Georgia and Iran. An open border with Turkey would offer a direct path for Armenia to trade through Turkish Black Sea ports, relieving the need to rely on more circuitous routes.

Indeed, there are solid economic reasons for both Turkey and Armenia to want freer bilateral trade. An open border would permit Turkish goods, such as construction materials, to compete with often more expensive Russian imports in Armenia, while also allowing for the sale of Armenian produce and agricultural goods in Turkey. Opening up trade would likely also be a boon to business in eastern Turkey.


Have the key players given reason to hope that talks will be successful this time?


To some extent, yes. Having long posed the greatest impediment to a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, Baku’s public and private tone has changed dramatically in the wake of its victory. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said on 27 December that Azerbaijan “fully supports” Armenia and Turkey’s renewed attempt to settle relations. Some senior bureaucrats in Baku privately suggest that Turkish-Armenian normalisation might even help smooth their own post-war relations with Armenia by showing the benefits of shifting from a war footing to an everyone-wins focus on trade.

It remains to be seen, however, how much Azerbaijan’s own foreign policy goals will bleed into Turkish-Armenian negotiations. Baku is seeking to secure a new transit route that would connect Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan through Armenian territory. It is also pursuing a final peace deal, the outlines of which are bitterly disputed with Yerevan, and says new transport and trade links in the region must flow from that.

Some in Baku are critical of the West’s response in the wake of the 2020 conflict, wanting greater financial and technical support to rebuild. While it would be a largely symbolic gesture, Baku is hoping that, in return for a constructive position on talks, it may be able to persuade the United States to repeal a law that bans direct U.S. aid to Azerbaijan, which it says is no longer relevant (although this ban can be waived if the U.S. president decides it is in the national interest, which successive presidents have done every year since 2001).

As for Armenia’s internal dynamics, while the leadership in Yerevan will no doubt face reproach from nationalists and the political opposition for pursuing talks with Turkey, criticism will perhaps be less strident than in the past. Prime Minister Pashinyan’s party won June 2021 snap elections, handing him a fresh mandate despite the blow of the country’s losses during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian diaspora may also be less of an obstacle than it has been in the past.

Previously, Armenians in the diaspora vocally opposed normalisation, fearing that rapprochement with Ankara could weaken their long campaign to persuade governments to recognise the 1915 atrocities as a genocide. But recognition statements by U.S. President Joe Biden in 2021 and French President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 – on top of prior recognition by Russia and others – were big wins for that movement and may have helped ease its concerns.

For its part, Turkey is seeking to increase its regional influence through greater transport and trade links that will benefit its economy, which is already by far the largest in the region. It also hopes that expanding these links will, in the words of a senior Turkish diplomat, “minimise potential for tension in the Caucasus”. As such, Ankara sees normalisation with Armenia not as an end in itself, but rather as an element of a larger regional transformation it hopes to facilitate and play a dominant role in.


How are other actors in and outside the region responding?


There is quite a bit of support for normalisation among outside powers, including Russia and the U.S., that have traditionally competed alongside Turkey for influence in the strategic region. Many of these actors would benefit economically from an end to Armenia’s isolation, which has stifled potential infrastructure projects in the South Caucasus – a region that lies at the crossroads of key trade and oil and gas transit routes from Central Asia and Russia to Turkey and Europe. Diplomats from Washington to Moscow to European capitals also believe an increase in trade and transport links will lead to more mutual dependencies and greater stability.

In October, President Biden reportedly urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a meeting in Rome to normalise ties with Armenia. While France and other European Union (EU) members are not as involved as they were in talks leading to the abortive 2009 agreements – with EU diplomats saying they have less leverage now in light of their own strained relations with Ankara – they also have made clear that, if talks move forward, they could provide technical support for rebuilding trade and transport links.

Russia, which offered to mediate the talks, strongly backs a reopening of transport and trade links in the region. Indeed, it pushed to include the promise that “all economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked” in the ceasefire deal that it mediated between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Moscow, which has deployed peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the 2020 ceasefire deal, is also looking for ways to lighten the burden it shoulders as a mediator and security provider in the South Caucasus, and believes that easing tensions between Armenia and Turkey will mean fewer regional headaches for it to manage.

There is little concern in Moscow that agreement might also empower Turkey in a way that would displace its own influence in the region. To the contrary, by hosting the first meeting between the special envoys in its own capital, Russia is both projecting confidence in its regional position and demonstrating its influence: it is inviting the guests and deciding what seats they can take.

A handful of other key regional players are more tepid in their views about what the talks could yield. Georgia and Iran, in particular, are wary of geopolitical shifts in the region that could affect the economic and strategic benefits they reap from the status quo. With east- and westbound trade foreclosed to Armenia, the northern route through Georgia has been the main transit corridor connecting Azerbaijan with Turkey, Armenia and Russia.

Meanwhile, Iran provides vital routes for Turkish goods to reach Azerbaijan and Central Asia as well as the only land bridge between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan, which is sandwiched between Armenia’s western border and Iran. While neither Tehran nor Tbilisi has strong objections to talks, both fear losing out in the longer term and want a voice in any plans to develop new regional economic and transport links.


How can the parties help keep talks on track?


That Ankara and Yerevan will begin direct talks in Moscow is a feat in and of itself after decades of trying to scry each other’s intentions from political statements, often made for domestic consumption. But a concerted effort will be needed to keep new talks from being cut short by older and deeper rivalries.

One important way to insulate this effort would be for the negotiators to refrain, as much as possible, from raising contentious issues related to Nagorno-Karabakh as part of their dialogue on normalising ties. Just as that conflict derailed talks in the early 1990s and 2009, it could do so again.


In this connection, both parties and outside actors with influence in Yerevan and Baku should work especially hard at keeping a lid on tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan for the duration of the talks, as any escalation will inevitably be felt in Turkey-Armenia negotiations. The peace that followed the 2020 war is fragile, and the front lines that separate the parties zigzag through civilian settlements, with some people living in the line of fire.

At least 96 soldiers and civilians have died since the 2020 ceasefire, both in tensions along the front lines and from mine explosions. The deadliest area has been the state border between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar and Armenia’s Gegharkunik regions, as shown in Crisis Group’s visual explainer of the conflict. Plans by Yerevan and Baku in November to restore a direct communication channel between their defence ministries to prevent escalations like two that took place in 2021 (in July and in November) are essential to keep violence in check, as are their attempts to resume peace negotiations, including within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group, which oversaw their talks before the war.

The parties and their outside partners should also bear in mind that the longer negotiations drag out without positive developments to point to, the greater the risk that the momentum of recent months will dissipate or be overtaken by outside agendas. The 14 January meeting in Moscow is expected to focus on setting a roadmap for future discussions.

Armenia’s decision in December to lift an embargo on Turkish imports and the governments’ joint decision to allow for the resumption of charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan are important signals. More such stepping stones will be needed to help rebuild low trust between the sides. A disruption of this effort to establish neighbourly ties – only the third effort in as many decades and an important opportunity for Turkey, Armenia and the whole region – could only make that mistrust sink lower.

 

 

 

 

2022: The road to recovery (again)

By Mark Leonard and Jeremy Shapiro, European Council on Foreign Relations, 07 January 2022

Mark Leonard and Jeremy Shapiro predict ten bright and bold policy projections for the year 2022

 

2021 was supposed to be the year of recovery: recovery from the coronavirus, recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, and – most of all – recovery of our normal lives. It didn’t entirely work out that way: all these recoveries have been fitful at best, with new variants of covid-19 putting up obstacles to normality.

But, in one critical area, we have indeed recovered. Yes, that’s right – our predictions for 2021 trends proved to be more or less spot on. After sweeping aside demands from our more academically minded colleagues for an impartial assessment of our performance, we have awarded ourselves an unprecedented 8 out of 10 points for last year’s predictions. This self-proclaimed triumph verges on clairvoyance and has encouraged all manner of hubris in this year’s predictions.

So, as pride goeth before a fall, here are our best ten best predictions for the key foreign policy trends in 2022.

 

1. The Democrats lose at least one house of the US Congress in the November mid-term elections


Consistent with the historical pattern, the incumbent US party will take a drubbing in the mid-term elections. The Democrats will lose at least one house of Congress, probably both. This development will bring President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda to a screeching halt. But it will not spell the end of his presidency (even though many pundits will predict this in the immediate aftermath). Like many presidents before him, Biden will turn to areas he can control, particularly foreign policy, while he rails against an obstructionist Congress.


2. The US opens talks with Russia on the European security order, but there is no large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine


Russia will not follow through on its strong hints that it will invade Ukraine again in early 2022, while the United States and Russia will open a broad negotiation on the future of the European security order. But the Russian troop concentrations on Ukraine’s border and the military threat to the country will persist, looming over the negotiations like a Slavic sword of Damocles. Neither the talks nor the threat will come to an end in 2022.


3. The developed world learns to live with covid-19


Vaccines and improved treatment options mean that covid-19 will cease to be very life-threatening in the developed world, even as the virus remains present and even common. Yet, in the many countries in the developing world that lack sufficient access to vaccines and anti-viral drugs, covid-19 will continue to pose a substantial economic and health challenge.


4. Emmanuel Macron wins the French presidential election and uses his new mandate to ‘relaunch’ Europe


Macron’s victory in the French presidential elections will, according to most commentators, result largely from the flaws of his opponents. But French presidents are rarely known for their humility. Macron will follow in this grand tradition, claim a mandate for change, and – in cooperation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi – declare his intent to ‘relaunch’ the European Union. Observers will wonder what this means.


5. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban loses the Hungarian election, but claims he won


Orban’s Fidesz party will lose the Hungarian election to a newly unified opposition – or so outside election observers will assert. But, despite that, Orban will follow former US president Donald Trump’s playbook by claiming that he won. And he will improve upon Trump’s performance by actually remaining in power. This will create large street protests in Hungary and a crisis between Hungary and the EU.


6. Nuclear talks with Iran founder, while the country’s nuclear programme progresses


Talks with Iran to restore the Iranian nuclear deal will go nowhere in 2022. To keep the pressure on, Iran will continue its steady progress towards a nuclear weapon, causing increased Israeli threats, various efforts at sabotage, and renewed fears of an Israeli or American strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.


7. A faction of the Afghan Taliban overthrows the government


With Afghanistan in the throes of a massive economic and humanitarian crisis, a relatively liberal faction of the Afghan Taliban will overthrow the central government. The leaders of this faction will declare a break from the previous government and propose a more conciliatory policy on the international community. International donors will respond with vastly increased aid.


8. China’s carbon emissions continue to grow rapidly


The Chinese government will persist with its rhetoric about meeting the challenge of climate change, but will fail to appreciably slow the growth of carbon emissions in China. Beijing will seek to obscure the methods for measuring emissions with promises to do better. As the US, Germany, and many other countries will miss their Conference of the Parties carbon reduction goals for 2022, they will not complain too loudly about China.


9. Protests against high energy prices and the European Green Deal break out across the EU


A lack of progress on reducing carbon emissions will not stop protests against high energy prices and the associated European Green Deal from erupting across much of the EU and the United Kingdom. Member states will respond by blaming the EU and by lobbying Brussels for various exemptions from the Fit for 55 programme and, especially, the Emissions Trading Scheme’s expansion to the transport and housing sectors.


10. The EU anti-coercion instrument comes into being, but Chinese economic coercion
continues


The EU will enact its proposed anti-coercion instrument. But this will not deter China from using economic coercion against EU member states that cross Chinese red lines on issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. By the end of the year, the EU and its member states will be hotly debating whether and how to apply the anti-coercion instrument to various Chinese practices.


Bonus: Private space flight suffers its first fatal accident


A company in the US will suffer the world’s first fatal private space accident. Although the private space industry’s safety record remains good overall, the very public loss of a former member of the ‘Star Trek’ cast will spur calls for regulation and even the renationalisation of the space industry.


The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.


Authors


Mark Leonard: Director.

Jeremy Shapiro: Research Director

 

 

 

Will Biden deliver on his commitment to Africa in 2022?

By Witney Schneidman, Brookings, January 10, 2022

When he was running to win the White House, President Joe Biden’s campaign committed to implement a “bold strategy” toward Africa, and one that would be based on a “mutually respectful engagement” and a reinvigorated diplomacy, if elected. Indeed, the campaign was the first ever to outline how it would promote the interests of the African diaspora in the United States. On his 16th day in office, President Biden sent a video message to African leaders attending the 34th African Union Summit that promised American partnership and solidarity on a range of critical issues. The message was a welcome departure from former President Donald Trump’s disparaging characterization of the continent.

Given this promising start, few would have predicted that almost one year later the Biden Administration would have imposed an omicron-inspired travel ban on eight countries in southern Africa. The ban, which was criticized by regional leaders as “unfair, discriminatory and unnecessary,” coincided with the withdrawal of benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) from three other African countries. As surprisingly, members of the African diaspora—especially those from Ethiopia—were
vocal in supporting the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia because of what some claimed to be the “pain of neglect,” as it concerned the administration’s handling of the conflict in Ethiopia. In fact, ending the conflict and the devastating humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region consumed much of the administration’s attention to Africa last year.

Despite these discouraging developments, it would be premature to write off Biden’s Africa policy.

The November visit by Secretary of State Tony Blinken to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal advanced an important set of priorities for Biden’s Africa policy: COVID-19 recovery, combating climate change, support for democracy, and greater trade and investment.

Blinken’s announcement of an African leaders’ summit in late 2022 will help to galvanize progress on implementing the Biden Africa agenda.


Investing in Africa’s public health institutions


Central to Blinken’s trip to Dakar was his visit to the well-respected Pasteur Institute, where the U.S. Development Finance Corporation has invested $3.5 million to bolster the production of vaccines on a continent that imports 99 percent of its vaccines. More investments like this are needed.

It is encouraging that the Biden administration is looking to support Africa’s health security in other ways: In October 2021, the National Institutes of Health invested $75 million in seven research hubs in South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, and Cameroon to advance data science and catalyze research and innovation across Africa. This collaboration between the NIH and African research institutions needs to be accelerated as quickly as possible.

The African genome is the oldest human genome, and there is more genetic diversity in Africa than on any other continent. Despite this, fewer than three percent of analyzed genomes come from Africans, making it an inherently rich source of new genetic information for health and diagnostic research and development. Africa has the potential not only to help detect and defend against future pandemics but to provide African solutions for global problems. It is for this reason that South Africa should have been applauded—not punished—for discovering the omicron variant of the coronavirus and promptly alerting the world.


The trade and investment scorecard


Also in Senegal, the Secretary of State signed construction deals worth $1 billion that will include an 111-mile highway linking Dakar to Saint-Louis. Drawing a sharp contrast with China, Blinken noted that the U.S. would not saddle African countries with unmanageable debt. The secretary also said that the infrastructure projects would “build on the values we share as democracies,” namely, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. These themes would be central to the Summit for Democracy that the Biden administration hosted several weeks later in which 17 African nations participated.

A challenge for the Biden administration will be the rollout of other infrastructure investments in Africa in the coming year. The trend line is not positive. U.S. direct investment into the region has declined from a peak of $69 billion in 2014 to $46 billion in 2020. In the decade prior to 2020, bilateral trade between the U.S. and Africa fell from $113 billion to $44 billion.

The implementation of the administration’s Build Back Better World initiative, launched by President Biden at the G-7 Summit in June, could help to reverse this trend. So can the U.S.-Africa leaders’ summit. The African leaders’ summit in 2014 generated $37 billion in new investment commitments from U.S. companies. The $8.5 billion financing package to help South Africa transition from coal to renewable energy that the U.S. and its European partners agreed to at COP26 could also be a model for more American investment in the region while mitigating climate change. The promise of a Digital Africa initiative in support of connectivity, upskilling, and expanded e-commerce could further enhance the U.S. commercial position on the continent.

Nevertheless, robust commercial diplomacy will be essential to reversing the erosion of the U.S. commercial position in Africa. The last commerce secretary to visit the continent was Wilbur Ross, who spent just one day in Africa, in Ghana, during the course of his four years in office. Hopefully, Secretary Gina Raimondo and a revitalized Presidential Advisory Committee for Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) will spark renewed investor interest in the region.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who met with Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, and Zambia’s president, Hakainde Hichilema, at the White House in September, can also be helpful. Her ongoing involvement in African issues would give a welcome boost to the continent on the Biden foreign policy agenda.

Important trade and investment issues remain to be addressed. Negotiations on the U.S.-Kenya free trade agreement, started under the Trump administration, should be resumed given the significance of Kenya to the United States as a commercial and strategic partner. This issue went unaddressed when presidents Biden and Kenyatta met in the Oval Office in October, and during Blinken’s November visit to Kenya.

The recent hearings in the Senate and the House (where I was a witness) on the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) suggest that Congress is giving attention to the U.S. position in the African market well before the legislation is set to expire in 2025. This attention is welcome given that AGOA remains the cornerstone of the U.S.-Africa commercial relationship. Nevertheless, key elements of AGOA need to be modernized. In December, Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Karen Bass urged President Biden to reconsider the administration’s decision to terminate Ethiopia’s AGOA benefits, noting the decision “will hurt the nation’s most vulnerable and reverse hard-won economic gains without reducing hostilities in the ongoing civil war.”


Preparing for 2022


Late last year, the experienced former intelligence official Judd Devermont joined the Biden administration to help craft a new Africa strategy. Several key issues, such as U.S. support for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and follow-up to COP26 in Glasgow, presumably will be central to the new strategy.

At the same time, President Biden would send a positive signal if he were to start 2022 as he did 2021: with a targeted video message for African leaders. This time, however, the administration would need to follow up quickly with convincing actions that Africa is indeed a priority for the United States. Announcing visits by Vice President Harris and Commerce Secretary Raimondo early in the new year would be a good place to start.

 

 

Africa

What's driving Turkey's commercial & military relations with Africa?

By Loza Seleshi, The Africa Report, 17 January 2022

 

We hear much on the race of influence between China and the US across Africa.

 

But what about Turkey?

Ankara’s trade has grown considerably with Africa. As Loza Seleshi reports, “from $5.4bn (2003) to $25.3bn (2020) along with its diplomatic network growing from 12 embassies in 2009 to 49 today. And let’s not forget its African Union observer status since 2005″.

From military, to commercial, to diplomatic projects, Turkey has a foothold in just
about everything. So what’s it trying to get?

 

What is driving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s headlong charge into commercial and military relations with Africa?


Two key developments look set to define the Ankara government’s Africa policy this year: its decisive provision of armed drones to the federal side in Ethiopia’s civil war and to the G5 Sahel, and how Turkey’s deepening economic woes might constrain its diplomatic ambitions.

Turkey's trade has grown considerably with Africa: from $5.4bn (2003) to $25.3bn (2020) along with its diplomatic network growing from 12 embassies in 2009 to 49 today, not to mention its African Union observer status since 2005.

Ties to the continent also include increased cooperation along with humanitarian projects, as seen during the widely-attended Turkey-Africa Summit (2021), complete with a pledge of 15 million Covid-19 vaccines for the continent.

Geostrategic interests are also at play given its involvement in conflict zones (Libya, Sahel, Somalia), 37 military offices across Africa and a military base in Somalia.

 

Booming industry and drone diplomacy


Boasting around 1500 companies, the defence and aerospace industry is booming in Turkey. It is also an important source of foreign currency, with export revenues amounting to $10.8bn in 2020 (up from $1bn in 2002).

According to the Turkish Exporters Assembly, Africa is Turkey’s fifth-largest importer with a significant 700% increase in volume ($41m to $328 m) within the first 11 months of 2021.
African countries are mostly interested in armoured vehicles (OTOKAR 4x4, NUROL Ejder), battle and sniper rifles (MKE PMT-76, MKE KNT 76), as well as drones/UAV (ANKA-S, BAYRAKTAR TB2).

“Many African governments facing armed groups and instability are highly interested in Turkish drones which have shown to be effective in other conflicts (such as Libya). All armed forces in West Africa are clients, but this also extends to Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria” Emmanuel Dupuy, president of the Prospective and Security Institute in Europe (IPSE), tells The Africa Report.

The widely reported use of the Turkey’s armed drones by Ethiopia’s National Defence Force against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) forces late last year sent a strong message to other governments facing insurgencies in the region: call Ankara.

 

From humanitarian to military presence


Turkish presence on the continent is not limited to arms deals. “Turkey’s strategy involves several dimensions. Initially, it was about humanitarian aid [Libya and Somalia], diplomacy and trade [with an anti-colonial stance]. It is now turning into military activism” Suleyman Ozeren, a Senior Fellow at Washington DC based Orion Policy Institute and Adjunct Faculty at George Mason University, tells The Africa Report.

Turkey’s strategy has consisted of three phases “starting in Somalia where a military base was established, serving as a gateway to East Africa” he adds. Indeed, Camp TURKSOM, established in 2017 is the country’s largest overseas military base. As of 2020, it trained a third of the Somali military.

The Horn’s strategic trade and energy corridor location is also an important advantage, as well as a source for tension. Indeed, TURKSOM is among four foreign military bases in Somalia (UK, US, UAE). Competing foreign military interests are also highly present in the wider region (China, US, UK, France, Japan, Germany, Spain, Israel, Russia, India, UAE, Saudi Arabia).

As in the case of Somalia, Turkish presence is increasingly favoured following the withdrawal of previous actors, such as the African Union’s Mission In Somalia (AMISOM). The UN, which jointly funds AMISOM, has agreed to extend its mandate until March 2022.

 

Libya and the 'Blue Homeland'


Similarly, the US leaving Libya in 2019 offered a chance for “Turkey’s aggressive entry into the Libyan civil war […] on the side of the United Nations-backed Tripoli government” writes Peter Fabricius for the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

Although “there has been a ceasefire for more than a year with conditions - including the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries - Turkey continues to insist its presence is legitimate,” Sabina Henneberg, Senior Analyst at Libya Analysis, tells The Africa Report.

Fabricius adds that the intervention “was motivated by a mixture of economics – to secure off-shore gas concessions [in the eastern Mediterranean] – and [to counter the influence of its Middle East nemeses, the UAE and Egypt]”. It’s in keeping with Turkey’s expansionist maritime strategy to dominate the Mediterranean called “Mavi Vatan” or “Blue Homeland”.

 

Sahel and proxy warfare


The Sahel is another prime example as “France is closing three of its six military bases in the region and concentrating troops to the Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger border because of the shift in location and strategy of armed terrorist groups” says Dupuy.

Political discontent and anti-French sentiment have also been an advantage for Turkey which presents itself as not being a former colonial power.

While Ankara funded $5m of the regional Sahel G5 force in 2020, it also signed a defence pact with Niger raising suspicions in France and the UAE of an upcoming military base. Turkey also has other tools in its pocket, including its international defence consultancy firm SADAT which is involved in training mercenaries and its National Intelligence Organization.

 

Ideology and anti-Gülenism


Ideology is another important aspect as President Erdogan’s AKP advances. “Pan-islamist Neo-Ottomanism, which is its own form of jihadism. The ideology is a mix of ultra-nationalism and political Islamist views with opportunity-driven jihadist activism” says Ozeren.

“Unfortunately, Turkey’s foreign policy has been too focused on proxy warfare [similar to the Iranian model in the Middle East] by taking advantage of the existing social, local, geopolitical tensions and training different groups. These proxies are then used in the country and/or exported further” he adds.

Turkey’s internal rivalries also play out on the continent.

After Erdogan’s former ally Fethullah Gülen was accused of a coup attempt in 2016, his Hizmet organization (also referred to as Fetullah Terrorist Organization by the government) which operates schools across Africa, were dismantled.

In May 2021, Gülen’s nephew Selahaddin was kidnapped by security forces in Nairobi and taken back to Turkey. The move indicated how close Ankara’s cooperation with African states has afforded Erdogan’s regime significant leverage.


Bottom line

 

Turkey’s economic crisis could put a brake on some of these ambitions. “Inflation is high and rising, economic growth is stalling, foreign exchange reserves have plummeted, many goods are in short supply or simply unavailable.

With per capita GDP having fallen from $12,600 in 2013 to $8,500 in 2020, Turkey’s 85 million people have faced dimming prospects for the better part of a decade,” wrote Anne Krueger, a former chief economist at the World Bank, for Project Syndicate.

“The lasting effects of the current economic crisis might shift Turkey’s narrative [not necessarily actions] in Africa”, says Ozeren.

As the country needs foreign investment “it could go towards a conciliatory sentiment with regional rivals such as the UAE and Egypt though it is unlikely the AKP will be willing to lose any gains made thus far” he adds.

Turkey’s foreign policy strength has also been dichotomous: looking for consensus within regional institutions such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the EastMed gas Forum, while holding on to its assets, including military bases.

 

 

 

Sahel violence threatens West African coastal states


By Mucahid Durmaz, AlJazeera, 12 January 2022

 

Concerns grow that violence that has long crippled countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger will spill over further south.

Benin, a small coastal country in West Africa, has been relatively unscathed from a security crisis that has wreaked havoc in its northern neighbours across the Sahel region for much of the past decade.

However, fears are growing over a spillover of violence within its borders as armed groups operating in the landlocked Sahel countries push for expansion into coastal states.

Last month, President Patrice Talon pledged his government will be “more determined and more vigilant” in the face of growing threats. It came after Beninise military officials said two soldiers were killed and several others wounded when fighters attacked a military post in the northern Atacora region, near the border with Burkina Faso.

The al-Qaeda-linked Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) armed group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a message shared across social platforms it killed four soldiers. Two other attacks have been reported in recent months in the same border area where JNIM has been active, although these have not been confirmed.

Michael Matongbada, a Beninese researcher at Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said the rare hit-and-run on Atacora was the first attack to be claimed by an armed group in the country.

“The expansion of groups beyond their initial areas of operation and influence in the Sahel region is a reality to be acknowledged,” Matongbada told Al Jazeera.
Benin, a small coastal country in West Africa, has been relatively unscathed from a security crisis that has wreaked havoc in its northern neighbours across the Sahel region for much of the past decade.

However, fears are growing over a spillover of violence within its borders as armed groups operating in the landlocked Sahel countries push for expansion into coastal states.

Last month, President Patrice Talon pledged his government will be “more determined and more vigilant” in the face of growing threats. It came after Beninise military officials said two soldiers were killed and several others wounded when fighters attacked a military post in the northern Atacora region, near the border with Burkina Faso.

The al-Qaeda-linked Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) armed group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a message shared across social platforms it killed four soldiers. Two other attacks have been reported in recent months in the same border area where JNIM has been active, although these have not been confirmed.

Michael Matongbada, a Beninese researcher at Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said the rare hit-and-run on Atacora was the first attack to be claimed by an armed group in the country.

“The expansion of groups beyond their initial areas of operation and influence in the Sahel region is a reality to be acknowledged,” Matongbada told Al Jazeera.

Such an expansion, however, has not affected only Benin. A number of other West African coastal states have faced a growing number of border attacks, raising fears over the expansion of armed groups affiliated with ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda in the region.

In a rare public appearance last year, the head of France’s foreign intelligence service Bernard Emie said al-Qaeda-linked fighters were working on plans to extend their attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly in Benin and Ivory Coast.

Seven members of Ivory Coast’s security forces died in five separate attacks in the north of the country last year. And the year before that, the country was hit by a cross-border assault that killed 14 security personnel in the same region. Although there have been no claims of responsibility, the assault was a shocking reminder for Ivory Coast that it is still a prime target, although it has imposed additional security measures following an al-Qaeda-claimed beach resort attack in 2016 that killed 19 people.

Neighbouring Togo has also been on a high alert against the possible incursion of armed groups. Security forces in Togo said they repulsed an attack last November by unidentified armed men who had crossed its northern border with Burkina Faso. It was the first-ever face-off Togo had with fighters since it deployed in 2018 hundreds of soldiers all over its northern borders with Burkina Faso and Benin.

Experts say infiltrating coastal countries offers vital advantages for the armed groups in Burkina Faso and Mali, such as creating new supply lines for food and equipment and unlocking new sources of income from banditry.

“West African coastal countries serve as supply or transit zones, particularly for motorcycles, spare parts and fertiliser. They are also sources of finance such as the sale of stolen livestock for consumption,” researcher Matongbada said.

Kars de Bruijne, a senior research fellow at Clingendael Institute, said gaining the upper hand in the Sahel battlefields might be another reason for the armed groups’ expansion of operations further south.

“The militant groups seek to prevent the concentration of military force of West African states and their Western partners. This is best viewed as a semi-guerilla strategy that spreads the forces of your opponent thin. Hence, attacks everywhere warrant protection everywhere and prevent large-scale military operations,” de Bruijne told Al Jazeera.

In large swaths of the Sahel region, the armed groups have exploited local dissatisfactions, lack of governance and security deficits in order to grab territory, impose their rule and control economic activities. Analysts say similar vulnerabilities are also present in parts of the coastal nations, thus posing a greater risk for increased violence.

“Throughout the northern provinces in Benin, there are serious farmer-herder tensions that are not sufficiently addressed,” de Bruijne said. “There are also problems around land ownership with overlapping land systems that lead to competition between local authorities and results in winners and losers, as well as tensions over the management of the natural parks.”

In Ivory Coast, a regional powerhouse that still binds up its wounds from a brutal civil war a decade ago, there are grievances that the fighters could tap into, observers warned.

“We need to take seriously dissatisfaction from certain ex-combatants from the Ivorian civil war who have not been able to get the expected benefits from the integration process,” Marc-Andre Boisvert, a researcher on Sahelian security at FrancoPaix Research Centre, told Al Jazeera.

“Also, northern Ivory Coast witnesses sporadic conflicts between farming and herder communities”, which increases frustration about governance and creates “a growing sense of marginalisation”, he said.

In 2017, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo launched the Accra Initiative, agreeing to strengthen regional security cooperation in a bid to prevent spillover violence and cross-border attacks.

Burkina Faso said in November last year that its army had conducted a joint five-day military operation with Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo which resulted in the arrest of more than 300 suspects and the seizure of weapons, ammunition, vehicles and drugs.

Nonetheless, Boisvert believes, the coastal states remain vulnerable as long as they continue to see armed groups only as a security problem, and not address longstanding governance or political issues.

“The focus is on ‘hard security’, while few efforts have been done to prevent or to find political solutions to what is now a regional problem,” he said. “Countries that see the attacks only as an ‘external problem’ makes it easier to simply focus on security, and ignore these issues that can be exploited by militants.”

 

 

 

France presses EU to agree to sanctions against Mali, in line with ECOWAS

France24 14 January 2022

France is to press the European Union to agree to sanctions against Mali after its military-dominated leadership shelved a timetable for elections, the French foreign minister said on Wednesday.


Jean-Yves Le Drian told AFP in an interview that Mali risked being "suffocated" unless the military junta of the West African country lived up to its responsibilities and stopped seeking to "fool" the country's partners.

Le Drian, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said that the EU measures would be in line with the unprecedented sanctions agreed with West African economic bloc ECOWAS which Paris has strongly supported.

"We are going to propose to apply these sanctions at a European level, both those against Malian leaders but also the economic and financial measures," Le Drian said.

He added that the issue would be discussed by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in the French city of Brest from Thursday, adding that Mali was now a "European issue".

France is moving to draw down forces deployed in Mali and the region to fight a jihadist insurgency in favour of a multinational force called Takuba including troops from EU states.


'Fool partners'


As well as closing borders and imposing a trade embargo, Mali's regional neighbours also cut off financial aid and froze the country's assets at the Central Bank of West African States.

The move followed a proposal by Mali's interim government last month to stay in power for up to five years before staging elections, despite international demands that it respect a promise to hold elections in February.

"The junta is trying to fool all of its partners," said Le Drian, noting how Bamako had called for help from Russian Wagner mercenaries as well as the "unacceptable" slipping of the election schedule.

"It is now up to the junta to take responsibility. Otherwise it runs the risk of seeing this country being suffocated."

With France already seeking to tighten the vice on the military rulers, flag-carrier Air France said Wednesday that in line with official decisions it was suspending flights to and from Mali until further notice.

Mali's relations with its neighbours and partners have steadily deteriorated since a coup led by Colonel Assimi Goita in August 2020 against the country's elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Under threat of sanctions, Goita had promised to hold presidential and legislative elections and to restore civilian rule by February 2022.

But he staged a de-facto second coup in May 2021, forcing out an interim civilian government and disrupting the timetable to restore democracy, while declaring himself interim president.

President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday the "unprecedented sanctions" by ECOWAS were a sign of "deep condemnation of the behaviour of the military junta" in Mali and its "absolute failure" to respect its commitments.

 

 

 

 

Islamic State Province’s Media in Africa: Comparing Trends in West and Central Africa

By Daniele Garofalo, Terrorism Monitor, Volume 19, Issue 24, 16 December 2021

 

In analyzing the media of the Islamic State (IS), it is possible to observe numerous trends and compare “provinces” by observing photographs and videos, including choice of clothing, equipment, or weapons. A region of IS media expansion in recent years is Africa, with several officially recognized and active provinces producing different types of propaganda, including both formal and informal material of varying quality. In this article, the media of the two most active African provinces will be analyzed: Islamic State in West Africa Province’s (ISWAP) Nigerian (often wrongly called “Boko Haram”) and Sahelian (“Islamic State in Greater Sahara”) branches, and Islamic State in Central African Province’s (ISCAP) Congolese and Mozambican branches. [1]


Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS)’s Mostly Unofficial Media Productions


Since spring 2019, ISGS has been an official part of IS, including its centralized media apparatus. However, ISGS remains operationally independent primarily throughout the Sahelian region of Liptako-Gourma between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. ISGS has also continued to rely on its rudimentary media infrastructure, often releasing unofficial photographs and videos. These self-produced media materials are released in colloquial languages to local audiences, very often with low quality images and audio disseminated via closed WhatsApp and Telegram groups (GNET, October 27, 2020).

Formal incorporation into IS nevertheless strengthened ISGS media in quantity and quality, but did not end unofficial productions. In May 2020, the first official ISGS video (under the name “ISWAP”) was released in high quality and titled “Then It Will Be for Them A [Source Of] Regret” (Jihadology, January 10, 2020). In the following period, numerous official media materials, mainly photographs, followed, especially between January and June 2021, and focused on major operations or Eid festivities.

ISGS militants could be seen using, among others, AKM(S) Type 56, AK-103, GPMG model PK/Type 80 rifles (some customized with sights or an AN/PEQ-15 IR laser weapon aiming system), and RPG-7/T69. Even in the unofficial photographs and videos, the same weapons mentioned above can be found. Most of the weapons are recovered from assaults on or seizures of Malian, Niger and Burkinabè security forces. The images reveal how ISGS militants are well supplied and prepared for the use of these weapons.

As far as clothing is concerned, in almost all photographs and videos, ISGS militants wore headgear (tagelmust), sunglasses, and long cotton shirts of different colors , while some also used camouflage waistcoats or jackets (most of them brown or green) with military fatigues or trekking boots. There was also a large presence of militants in unofficial videos wearing typical local sandals made of leather and reinforced with rubber derived from tires. Again, military clothing is seized and recovered from attacks on security forces, although, unlike ISWAP, ISGS militants tend to wear more “local” and less military clothing.


Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP)’s Media and Militant Professionalization


ISWAP’s media is mainly about local operations, particularly against the Nigerian army and, in recent months, against ISWAP’s rivals in Boko Haram. ISWAP is among the most active provinces in IS media, with the release of official material, photographs, and claims almost daily. It also has the most frequent releases of videos, including both short claim and long, high-quality propaganda videos, with three long videos released in 2021. [2]

In ISWAP’s photographs and videos, different types of weapons can be seen, which were mostly stolen from the Nigerian and Chadian armies, including AKM/AKMS rifles (often customized and Type 56), AK-74 rifles, IWI Tavor TAR-21 and Daewoo K2 assault rifles, RPG-7 and Bulgarian RHEAT-7MA2 rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), M60 and HK21 machine guns, 60 mm mortars with PG-7V projectiles, Zastava M21 rifles, Norinco grenade launchers, Dshk and W85 heavy machine guns mounted on trucks or pickups, 23 double-barreled anti-aircraft guns, and 122 mm 9M22U rockets.

Attacks on security forces, meanwhile, are conducted by ISWAP fighters on foot, on motorcycles, in reinforced and armed pickup trucks, and even in armoured vehicles for vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) and suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIED). Recent videos and photographs from ISWAP, therefore, reveal an increasingly well-equipped force, demonstrating that ISWAP is not a group of thugs, peasants or militants with no experience in weapons and warfare, but instead an organization with skilled and battle-hardened militants who are not easy to defeat.

As far as the clothing worn by ISWAP fighters is concerned, compared to ISGS, there is a greater uniformity and propensity for purely military clothing. The majority of ISWAP fighters wear military uniforms, or at least trousers and camouflage shirts (brown, sand-coloured, or green), military fatigues (even though there are some photographs of militants wearing sandals), tactical military waistcoats, military bullet-proof vests, multi-purpose military camouflage balaclavas, ballistic goggles or military ventilated masks, and in some cases, the seemingly highest-ranking commanders wear helmets with hearing protection.


Islamic State Central Africa (ISCAP) Branches’ Similar Media Profiles


The operations of the Mozambican branch of ISCAP is concentrated in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, and recently in the province of Niassa, while the Congolese branch mostly operates in Ituri, North Kivu, and most recently, in Kampala, Uganda (Terrorism Monitor, October 21). Most of the propaganda of the two ISCAP branches consists of written claims of attacks and photographs, but no lengthy official videos. IS released a 1:13-minute low-quality, raw footage on March 29, 2020 via its Amaq News agency of an attack in Palma, Mozambique, stating “Islamic State militants take control of the city of Palma in Cabo Delgado following a major raid carried out last Wednesday [March 24, 2020]” (BBC Monitoring, March 30, 2020). This was followed by two more short videos in the following months.

In all the photographs and short videos from both branches of ISCAP, the militants appear with various weapons and equipment, including Zastava M84 rifles, AKM (S) Type 56, RPG-7, 60 mm mortars, 40 mm grenades, AK-S 47 type 80, and many motorcycles. In terms of clothing, like ISGS, there is little presence of military clothing. Rather, there is civilian clothing, including trousers, t-shirts, long shirts, sweatshirts, and hats often with the addition of camouflage waistcoats that are green in color. In the previously mentioned video, many militants also wore red headbands, which may denote elite units during key battles (bbc.com, March 31).

In numerous photographs, militants wear black camouflage balaclavas and, in particular for ISCAP, a large number of militants wear black, including civilian clothes such as trousers and shirts, and black and grey camouflage. Another interesting detail is the presence of backpacks (in place of tactical waistcoats), especially in all the photographs of the Congolese branch, unlike the Mozambique branch’s fighters who mainly wear military camouflage. Also notable is the presence of rubber boots of various colours (yellow, green, blue, etc.). These are practical for use in wet valleys and slippery slopes frequently found in areas where ISCAP’s Congolese branch operations.


Conclusion


For IS, the use of the media is inseparable from operational and military strategy. It is useful for building sympathy or instilling fear and dread in IS enemies, yet it can only reflect part of IS provinces’ strength. They often show their best weapons and attire, but it is still propaganda. Nevertheless, it is necessary to analyze these videos and photographs to understand that IS provinces in Africa are not poorly armed or unprepared, but groups that are trained and able to move and strike in the territories in which they operate.

 

Notes


1- The analysis was conducted directly by the author on photographs and videos through monitoring. For details related to the weapons used, the author was supported by a fellow analyst and expert in the field: War Noir (https://twitter.com/war_noir?s=20 ).

2- The latest video in 2021 was the fifth in the series “Makers of Epic Battles.” Two other videos had already been published this year (MilitantWire, November 15). They are also at jihadology and unmaskingbokoharam.com: https://jihadology.net/category/the-islamic-state/wilayat-gharb-ifriqiyyah/ and https://unmaskingbokoharam.com/archived-sources-2/.

 

 

Francais

Un déluge de répression numérique menace la sécurité africaine

Par Nathaniel Allen et Catherine Lena Kelly, Centre d”etudes Strategiques de l’Afrique, 13 janvier 2022


Les gouvernements africains restreignent les communications numériques et les droits des citoyens sous prétexte de sécurité. Ce faisant, ils contribuent malencontreusement à des pertes économiques et à une plus grande instabilité.

 

La répression numérique est en plein essor dans de nombreuses régions d’Afrique. Plus d’une douzaine de pays africains ont récemment subi des coupures d’Internet motivées par des raisons politiques. Des pays d’un nombre équivalent ont été désignés comme opérateurs de logiciels espions de niveau militaire (tels que Pegasus, RCS et FinFisher), utilisés pour traquer les opposants et militants politiques nationaux avec la même vigueur que les criminels et les terroristes. Des gouvernements utilisent des outils automatisés soumettant les plateformes des médias sociaux à une étroite surveillance. De plus en plus, les dirigeants profitent d’imprécisions des lois récemment adoptées sur la cybercriminalité pour étendre les pouvoirs exécutifs afin de procéder à des arrestations de militants et d’affaiblir la liberté de la presse.

Les dirigeants africains présentent fréquemment les tactiques de répression numérique comme nécessaires pour lutter contre les menaces du terrorisme, du crime organisé et de la violence sécessionniste. En fait, leur principale conséquence est de saper les libertés fondamentales qui permettent aux gouvernements d’être transparents, légitimes et responsables envers les citoyens.

La loi tanzanienne de 2015 sur la cybercriminalité en est un exemple. La loi a été prétendument adoptée pour lutter contre la criminalité numérique croissante. Dans la pratique, elle interdit les discours « insultants », autorise les services de répression à réagir aux infractions sans contrôle judiciaire, et permet aux autorités de réprimer les lanceurs d’alerte qui utilisent les données gouvernementales pour signaler des actes répréhensibles.

La loi sur la cybercriminalité a été suivie par la réglementation de 2018 sur les communications électroniques et postales, qui oblige les blogueurs à s’inscrire auprès du gouvernement et les cybercafés à conserver les vidéos de surveillance des personnes utilisant leurs services.

Ces règlements ont eu un effet négatif sur la sécurité des citoyens en Tanzanie. Des définitions trop étendues des infractions, ainsi que des sanctions disproportionnées, ont étouffé le débat politique en permettant la détention, l’arrestation et l’intimidation injustifiées de personnalités de l’opposition, de journalistes indépendants et de militants. Outre les coupures des médias sociaux et la suspension des services de messagerie SMS, les lois tanzaniennes sur la cybersécurité ont été les principaux outils de répression numérique du gouvernement à l’approche des élections frauduleuses d’octobre 2020.

Paradoxalement, bien que souvent présentée comme nécessaire pour renforcer la sécurité, l’adoption de la répression numérique n’a pas réussi à améliorer la sécurité en Afrique. Au lieu de cela, les tactiques, technologies et politiques de répression numérique s’avèrent préjudiciables à la sécurité nationale et aux citoyens.


La montée de la répression numérique


Alors que de plus en plus d’Africains s’informent sur Internet, certains gouvernements ont adopté des formes de répression numériqus visant à exercer davantage de contrôle sur l’environnement de l’information. La répression numérique englobe une variété de tactiques et d’outils qui sont de plus en plus présents, impliquant toujours l’utilisation ou la manipulation de la technologie numérique pour censurer ou restreindre les communications, envahir la vie privée, limiter la liberté d’expression, étouffer l’opposition politique et saper les freins et contrepoids démocratiques.

Le type de répression numérique le plus visible en Afrique est la limitation de l’utilisation et de l’accès à Internet et aux télécommunications. Au cours de la dernière décennie, le continent africain a subi des coupures et des restrictions d’Internet à répétition. En 2021, au moins 10 pays africains ont connu une coupure majeure d’Internet, plus que dans toutes les autres régions du monde. Internet a été coupé à l’approche ou au lendemain d’élections contestées en Ouganda, en République du Congo et en Guinée.

Des tactiques similaires ont été appliquées aux citoyens qui manifestaient en faveur de la démocratie et de la gouvernance civile au Togo, en Eswatini et au Soudan. Parfois, des coupures ont même eu lieu dans des pays plus libres. Les dirigeants ont coupé Internet lors d’élections à enjeux élevés au Niger et lors de manifestations populaires au Sénégal et au Burkina Faso. Ces interventions mettent à rude épreuve l’équilibre entre les libertés et la sécurité, qui est un principe fondamental d’une gouvernance ouverte et démocratique.

Parmi les autres tactiques de répression numérique, on trouve l’utilisation de logiciels malveillants ou de médias sociaux afin de surveiller les opposants politiques, les journalistes et les militants. Les informations recueillies lors de la surveillance sont ensuite utilisées à des fins de chantage, de harcèlement ou d’arrestations et de détentions ciblées. Par exemple, les autorités ougandaises ont travaillé en étroite collaboration avec des responsables de la société de télécommunications chinoise Huawei pour pirater les comptes WhatsApp et Skype du chef de l’opposition et candidat à la présidentielle Bobi Wine, lors d’un rassemblement auquel il a participé en 2018.

Cela a conduit à sa détention pendant laquelle il a été torturé, et a coûté la vie à son chauffeur. Plus généralement, les logiciels malveillants à la fois bon marché et sophistiqués, facilement disponibles auprès de nombreuses entreprises du secteur privé et vendus pour permettre aux autorités de surveiller les terroristes, ont créé un marché de la surveillance en plein essor à travers l’Afrique.

Enfin, les dirigeants autoritaires d’Afrique appliquent de nouvelles lois sur la cybersécurité, la liberté d’expression en ligne et le partage de données, de manière à étendre les pouvoirs exécutifs qui leur permettent de réprimer la liberté d’expression et les tentatives de lancement d’alerte. Le Code numérique du Bénin de 2018, qui criminalise les délits de presse en ligne, y compris la publication de fausses informations, a été utilisé pour arrêter les journalistes qui couvraient les déclarations publiques faites par des fonctionnaires et qui étaient embarrassantes pour le gouvernement.

La loi zambienne sur la cybercriminalité a été adoptée sous l’ancien président Edgar Lungu, à une époque de fermeture de l’espace civique. Les imprécisions de la loi permettaient de l’appliquer d’une façon politiquement sélective, ce qui a conduit l’actuel président Hakainde Hichilema à faire campagne pour l’abroger. Dans d’autres cas, les gouvernements utilisent les lois existantes sur la parole et la liberté d’expression pour réprimer les opinions des opposants et des militants dans la sphère numérique. Les autorités ivoiriennes ont utilisé les lois anti-diffamation du pays pour condamner au pénal les journalistes qui publient en ligne des articles dénonçant des conditions de détention inadéquates et d’éventuels cas de corruption.

Les dirigeants politiques justifient couramment l’utilisation de tactiques de répression numérique au nom de la cybersécurité. Dans pratiquement tous les exemples cités ci-dessus, une loi autorisant la répression numérique a été adoptée dans le cadre d’actions de plus grande ampleur visant à donner aux gouvernements les outils juridiques nécessaires pour lutter contre la cybercriminalité – comme la fraude, le vol, le piratage, l’espionnage, la désinformation et les discours haineux. Souvent, cependant, des tactiques de répression numérique sont utilisées de manière opportuniste par des élites politiques intéressées, conformément aux tendances autoritaires de leurs dirigeants et partis au pouvoir.

Ces tendances creusent un fossé fondamental entre les dirigeants, qui ont souvent adopté la répression numérique, et les citoyens, qui ont généralement une forte attente envers la démocratie et soutiennent une bonne gouvernance, l’État de droit et la liberté des médias numériques – même s’ils souhaitent également un certain degré de réglementation de la part du gouvernement concernant les fausses nouvelles et les discours de haine.


Cyberdimensions de la sécurité africaine


Bien que justifiée par certains dirigeants africains pour des raisons de sécurité, la répression numérique s’est avérée inefficace, voire carrément nuisible, pour relever les défis de sécurité du continent.

En premier lieu, la répression numérique s’est avérée être un moyen coûteux de réponse aux menaces de cybersécurité pour les dirigeants. Les coupures d’Internet ont causé des milliards de dollars de pertes économiques ces dernières années. La coupure d’Internet au Soudan en 2019 aurait coûté 1,9 milliard de dollars à son économie, soit environ 1,2 million de dollars pour chacune des 1 560 heures qu’elle a duré.

On estime que les coupures d’Internet en Algérie et au Tchad cette même année ont coûté à chacun de ces pays plus de 100 millions de dollars. Même dans des systèmes politiques plus ouverts comme le Nigeria, l’arrêt de Twitter en 2021 a coûté environ 367 millions de dollars en seulement 2 mois. Une tension économique accrue dans des environnements déjà difficiles est un facteur d’instabilité supplémentaire.

La répression numérique n’a pas non plus d’avantages durables pour la sécurité nationale. Il existe peu de preuves, voire aucune, que les mesures punitives qui criminalisent diverses formes d’expression sont efficaces pour contenir les menaces violentes. À Nairobi, la technologie de surveillance numérique installée dans le cadre d’un projet « ville sûre » parrainé par Huawei semble avoir eu peu d’effet mesurable sur la criminalité.

La répression numérique peut non seulement saper la démocratie, mais aussi alimenter l’instabilité politique. Les trois quarts des 16 pays africains confrontés à des conflits armés sont autoritaires ou semi-autoritaires, ce qui souligne le caractère central de l’exclusion politique au sein des conflits internes de l’Afrique. La répression numérique amplifie plutôt qu’atténue ces tensions.

L’usage intensif de techniques de répression numérique par les gouvernements du Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe), du Soudan (Omar el-Bechir) et de l’Algérie (Abdelaziz Bouteflika) n’a pas empêché leur destitution face aux manifestations généralisées et aux troubles populaires. L’Éthiopie possède l’un des systèmes de surveillance numérique les plus draconiens et les plus sophistiqués d’Afrique. Pourtant, ce système n’a pas réussi à empêcher le régime du Front démocratique révolutionnaire du peuple éthiopien (FDRPE) de perdre le pouvoir en 2018.

Contrairement à des mesures plus punitives, il existe des preuves que la déstructuration par les entreprises de médias sociaux et la vérification des faits par des organes de presse indépendants peut réduire le soutien et le recrutement dans les groupes extrémistes. Le secteur privé joue un rôle plus important dans la lutte contre l’extrémisme violent en ligne que ne l’imaginent souvent les acteurs de la sécurité nationale.

Une approche potentiellement prometteuse consiste à réguler ou à peaufiner les algorithmes afin de garantir que le contenu violent ou extrémiste ne devienne pas viral. Une telle approche nécessiterait moins d’implication directe du gouvernement et éviterait la criminalisation punitive de certains types de contenus. Cela garantirait la « liberté d’expression », qui est une composante essentielle de la démocratie constitutionnelle, en limitant la « liberté de portée », qui ne l’est pas.

Bien qu’elles contribuent à limiter la portée des contenus extrémistes, ces mesures ne sauraient se substituer à des garde-fous adéquats susceptibles d’empêcher les autorités d’utiliser les lois sur l’information et les contenus comme instruments de répression. Et ce sont ces freins et contrepoids qui distinguent la manière dont les démocraties abordent la bonne cybergouvernance tout en renforçant la sécurité.


Approches africaines de la cybergouvernance centrée sur les citoyens


L’évolution rapide des technologies pose des défis juridiques et politiques, même aux pays qui ont une gouvernance démocratique de longue date en Afrique et dans le monde. La solution, cependant, réside dans l’adaptation plutôt que dans un tout nouveau modèle. Malgré des tendances globales moroses, des initiatives prometteuses émergent à travers le continent et démontrent le fait que la sécurité numérique ne doit pas se faire au détriment de la sécurité des citoyens.

Au niveau continental, de multiples initiatives voient le jour dans l’objectif de donner aux gouvernements des outils pour lutter contre la cybercriminalité et protéger la liberté numérique. La Commission africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples s’est concentrée sur les droits numériques lors de sa 68e session en 2021, en s’appuyant sur Déclaration de principes sur la liberté d’expression et l’accès à l’information en Afrique qui a été adoptée en 2019.

L’Union internationale des télécommunications des Nations Unies, en partenariat avec l’équipe d’intervention en cas d’urgence informatique de Maurice, a récemment créé un Centre d’excellence en cybersécurité en Afrique. Compte tenu du statut de Maurice en tant que leader aussi bien de la gouvernance démocratique que de la politique des technologies de l’information, le Centre d’excellence pourrait être un lieu d’échange prometteur sur la façon d’appliquer les lois sur la cybercriminalité de manière à permettre une surveillance indépendante, la transparence et la responsabilité.

Au niveau national, certains gouvernements africains font des efforts louables visant à adopter des politiques de cybersécurité centrées sur les citoyens. Par exemple, après des années de va-et-vient entre les acteurs de la société civile et les autorités, la récente législation sud-africaine sur la cybercriminalité et la protection des données personnelles tente résolument de définir clairement la cybercriminalité et d’établir des normes respectueuses des droits pour la combattre.

Au Sénégal, le Centre national d’études stratégiques du gouvernement, le Centre des Hautes Études en Défense et de Sécurité (CHEDS), a organisé une série de dialogues avec des professionnels des médias et la société civile, afin de jeter des ponts entre ces acteurs et le secteur de la sécurité. Un de ces échanges a porté sur les dimensions de cybersécurité de la couverture médiatique et de la diffusion de l’information, y compris à travers les médias sociaux et la blogosphère.

Au niveau local, la société civile, les médias et les acteurs du secteur privé à travers le continent poussent les gouvernements africains à s’assurer que les efforts visant à sécuriser le cyberespace ne portent pas atteinte aux droits des citoyens. L’un de ces modèles est le Kenya ICT Action Network (Réseau d’action pour les TIC au Kenya), un réseau d’experts et de militants de la société civile qui organise des dialogues avec des représentants du gouvernement et du secteur de la sécurité, mène des recherches et milite autour des questions politiques relatives aux technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC). Ces efforts ont contribué à instaurer la confiance entre le gouvernement et ses citoyens, et ont influencé les principales lois et politiques du Kenya en matière de cybersécurité.

De même, AfricTivistes est un réseau de blogueurs, d’influenceurs numériques, de journalistes, de programmeurs, d’experts en données ouvertes et de militants qui cherchent à promouvoir les droits démocratiques à l’ère numérique. Récemment, AfricTivistes s’est associé au cabinet de conseil sud-africain ENDCODE afin d’analyser le contenu des lois nationales sur la cybercriminalité et la protection des données. Ces analyses ont permis d’identifier les domaines du droit qui demandent une plus grande spécificité, et ont conduit à des propositions concrètes visant à réformer et appliquer les lois sur la cybersécurité afin qu’elles préservent les libertés fondamentales.

Des vérificateurs de données et des chercheurs indépendants apparaissent dans tout le continent pour surveiller, vérifier et limiter la viralité de la désinformation. En s’associant à ces organisations, les gouvernements et les entreprises de médias sociaux peuvent gagner en crédibilité et garantir un discours politique civil sans bafouer les libertés politiques.


Points clés à retenir


S’ils souhaitent gouverner de manière durable et efficace, les gouvernements africains doivent placer la sécurité des citoyens au cœur des efforts visant à faire face aux défis de la cybersécurité. Il existe des arguments clairs et convaincants pour que les dirigeants s’abstiennent de toute répression numérique au service de réformes de cybersécurité plus durables, visant à promouvoir une économie numérique dynamique et à renforcer le soutien des peuples.

Cela comprend le renforcement de la responsabilité des mécanismes de contrôle exécutif, l’élaboration de lois sur la cybersécurité plus précises et ciblées, et la réduction de l’utilisation de méthodes brutales telles que les coupures et les restrictions qui bloquent Internet ou dissuadent la parole et les communications en ligne pour de nombreuses personnes.

Dans certains cas, les dirigeants peuvent être tentés d’imposer des restrictions pour servir des intérêts politiques à court terme. Cependant, cela se fait au détriment de la stabilité politique à long terme et de la confiance des investisseurs. Dans ces cas, les gouvernements devront être poussés vers des réformes par la société civile, ainsi que par les acteurs régionaux et internationaux. C’est particulièrement le cas lorsqu’il s’agit d’accroître le contrôle indépendant de l’exécutif par d’autres branches du gouvernement, par les médias et par la société civile.

La démocratie et la cybersécurité sont non seulement compatibles mais peuvent être synergiques. Les dirigeants africains doivent veiller à ce que les stratégies et les lois en matière de cybersécurité soient élaborées de manière inclusive, mises en œuvre de manière proportionnelle et appliquées de manière apolitique. En adoptant des politiques de cybersécurité centrées sur les citoyens, les gouvernements africains ont la possibilité de sauvegarder la démocratie, de promouvoir la paix et de rétablir la confiance en un contrat social qui est souvent de plus en plus ébranlé.


Ressources complémentaires


- Nathaniel Allen et Matthew La Lime, « How Digital Espionage Tools Exacerbate Authoritarianism Across Africa » (Comment les outils d’espionnage numérique exacerbent l’autoritarisme en Afrique), Brookings Techstream, 19 novembre 2021.

- Catherine Lena Kelly, « La justice et l’État de droit, pierres angulaires de la sécurité en Afrique », Éclairages, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 8 juin 2021.

- Bulelani Jili, « La diffusion de la technologie de surveillance en Afrique suscite des préoccupations en matière de sécurité », Éclairages, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 23 décembre 2020.

- Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz et Joseph Koné, « Promise and peril: In changing media landscape, Africans are concerned about social media but opposed to restricting access » (Promesse et péril : dans un paysage médiatique en mutation, les Africains sont préoccupés par les médias sociaux mais s’opposent à la restriction de l’accès), Dispatches n° 410, Afrobaromètre, 2020.
- Karen Allen, « Is Africa cybercrime savvy? » (L’Afrique est-elle avertie en matière de cybercriminalité ?), Institute for Security Studies, 26 juin 2019.

 

 

 

 

Les dirigeants de la Cédéao placent le Mali sous embargo pour sanctionner le maintien de la junte au pouvoir

Le Monde avec AFP,10 Javier 2022

Les chefs d’Etat et de gouvernements de l’Afrique de l’Ouest ont décidé de fermer les frontières avec le Mali. Seuls les produits de première nécessité pourront continuer à circuler.


Les dirigeants ouest-africains réunis à Accra ont décidé, dimanche 9 janvier, de fermer les frontières avec le Mali et de mettre le pays sous embargo, sanctionnant lourdement l’intention de la junte de prendre le pays « en otage » en se maintenant au pouvoir sans élection pendant des années.

Les chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement de la Communauté économique des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Cédéao), siégeant à huis clos dans la capitale ghanéenne, ont réagi vigoureusement au projet de la junte, arrivée au pouvoir en août 2020, de continuer à diriger le pays jusqu’à cinq années supplémentaires, et au manquement de la part des colonels à l’engagement d’organiser, le 27 février, l’élection présidentielle et les législatives qui auraient ramené des civils à la tête du pays.

La Cédéao a décidé de fermer les frontières avec le Mali au sein de l’espace sous-régional et de suspendre les échanges commerciaux autres que les produits de première nécessité, annonce un communiqué lu à l’issue du sommet. Elle a aussi décidé de couper ses aides financières et de geler les avoirs du Mali à la Banque centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO). Les pays membres vont rappeler leurs ambassadeurs au Mali, théâtre de deux coups d’Etat militaires depuis 2020 et en proie à une profonde crise sécuritaire.


Un pays pauvre en proie aux violences


Ces sanctions prennent effet immédiatement, ont-ils précisé. Elles ne seront levées progressivement que lorsque les autorités maliennes présenteront un calendrier « acceptable » et que des progrès satisfaisants seront observés dans sa mise en œuvre. La proposition de la junte malienne d’organiser la présidentielle en décembre 2026 est « totalement inacceptable », estime la Cédéao. Elle « signifie simplement qu’un gouvernement militaire de transition illégitime prendra le peuple malien en otage au cours des cinq prochaines années ».

Ces sanctions sont plus rigoureuses encore que celles adoptées après le premier putsch d’août 2020. En pleine pandémie, elles avaient été durement ressenties dans un pays enclavé parmi les plus pauvres du monde. Elles passent pour avoir forcé à l’époque la junte à accepter de s’engager à rendre le pouvoir aux civils sous dix-huit mois après des élections.

La junte dit aujourd’hui ne pas être capable d’organiser des élections présidentielle et législatives comme prévu à la fin de février, invoquant l’insécurité persistante dans le pays, en proie aux violences de toutes sortes : djihadistes, communautaires, crapuleuses… Elle souligne la nécessité de réformes préalables pour que les élections ne souffrent pas de contestations, à l’instar des précédentes.


« C’est de la rigolade »


Depuis le premier putsch d’août 2020, conforté par celui de mai 2021 intronisant le colonel Assimi Goïta comme président de « transition », la Cédéao pousse au retour des civils dans les meilleurs délais. Pressentant le courroux ouest-africain, la junte avait dépêché samedi à Accra deux ministres de son gouvernement chargés de soumettre un calendrier révisé. La nouvelle offre a été présentée dans le souci de « maintenir le dialogue et une bonne coopération avec la Cédéao », a dit samedi à la télévision nationale l’un des deux émissaires, le ministre des affaires étrangères, Abdoulaye Diop, sans en préciser le contenu.
Lire aussi Au Mali, la junte propose un nouveau calendrier pour rendre le pouvoir aux civils

« La contre-proposition malienne est une transition de quatre ans. C’est de la rigolade ! », a réagi un haut responsable ghanéen ayant requis l’anonymat, dont le pays assure actuellement la présidence de la Cédéao. Pour l’organisation dont la crédibilité est en jeu, il s’agit de défendre ses principes fondamentaux de gouvernance, de stopper la contagion du fait accompli et de contenir l’instabilité régionale.

La Cédéao avait déjà suspendu le Mali de ses organes de décision et imposé un gel de leurs avoirs financiers et une interdiction de voyager à 150 personnalités, coupables, selon elle, de faire obstruction aux élections. Ces sanctions restent en vigueur. Lors d’un sommet le 12 décembre, l’instance avait brandi la menace de sanctions « économiques et financières » supplémentaires. Mais la situation appelait de sa part des décisions délicates, l’exposant au risque de braquer les Maliens contre elle, disent les analystes.
Lire aussi Au Mali, la junte tentée par un duo avec les mercenaires du Groupe Wagner

 

 

Tendances migratoires à surveiller en Afrique en 2022

Par le Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 22 décembre 2021

Les facteurs incitatifs et dissuasifs de la migration en Afrique continuent à s’intensifier, présageant pour 2022 une augmentation des flux migratoires à la à l’intérieur du continent et à son départ.


Les tendances migratoires en Afrique continuent d’augmenter


- Le nombre de migrants en situation régulière, à la fois à l’intérieur et au départ de l’Afrique, a presque doublé depuis 2010, reflétant une tendance à la hausse depuis 20 ans.


- Dans chaque pays, des facteurs incitatifs et dissuasifs alimentent la migration africaine. Les conflits, la gouvernance répressive et le manque de débouchés économiques en sont les principaux facteurs incitatifs. Sur les 15 pays africains dont sont originaires le plus de migrants, neuf sont en conflit.

- La majorité des migrants africains vers l’Europe viennent d’Afrique du Nord. Les trois pays les plus importants—le Maroc, l’Algérie et la Tunisie—représentent 5 des 11 millions de migrants africains en Europe. Ceci met en relief l’importance de la proximité, de diasporas établies, et d’opportunités économiques comme facteurs incitatifs clés dans les prises de décisions sur la migration.

- Les sondages de migrants africains en Europe ou cherchant à y parvenir révèlent que la majorité d’entre eux étaient soit étudiants ou travaillaient au moment de leur départ. Cependant, ils n’avaient aucun espoir quant à leurs débouchés économiques. Les Tunisiens, par exemple, qui disaient fuir les pressions économiques, constituaient presque un quart des migrants en situation irrégulière détenus en Italie en 2021 après avoir traversé la Méditerranée.

- Les migrants ont tendance à avoir accès à des ressources, que ce soit un emploi ou un réseau de soutien familial, surtout quand des membres de leurs familles se trouvent déjà à l’étranger.


La plupart de la migration en Afrique demeure intrarégionale


- La majorité des migrants africains restent sur le continent, reflétant un schéma de longue date. Environ 21 millions d’africains vivent dans un autre pays d’Afrique, un chiffre qui devrait probablement être revu à la hausse puisque de nombreux pays ne le décomptent pas systématiquement. Les métropoles du Nigeria, de l’Afrique du Sud et de l’Égypte sont les destinations principales de ces flux migratoires intra-africains, le reflet du dynamisme économique relatifs de ces agglomérations.

- Parmi les migrants africains ayant quitté le continent, 11 millions vivent en Europe, presque 5 millions au Moyen-Orient et plus de 3 millions en Amérique du Nord.


Les catastrophes climatiques continueront à augmenter la vulnérabilité, entrainant potentiellement plus de migration


- L’Afrique fait face à un taux plus rapide de catastrophes naturelles que le reste de la planète. Les sècheresses, les ouragans et les pandémies sont d’autant plus de facteurs naturels de l’instabilité.

- La Banque mondiale prévoit qu’il y aura 86 millions de migrants liés au changement climatique en Afrique d’ici 2050. Une partie des 18 millions de travailleurs migrants saisonniers en Afrique pourraient voir leurs emplois dans les secteurs agricole, minier et de la pêche disparaitre, augmentant la possibilité que leur migration devienne permanente dans la quête d’un nouvel emploi. L’environnement et son effet sur les conditions économiques est un facteur important pour 30% des personnes en Éthiopie et en Afrique de l’Ouest et centrale.


La vulnérabilité peut induire au trafic


- Des dizaines de milliers de migrants se sont retrouvés bloqués partout en Afrique suite aux fermetures des frontières dues à la pandémie de COVID-19. Nombre d’entre eux ont perdu leur travail et certains leurs maisons. Même après la réouverture des frontières, les restrictions sanitaires et de voyage ont affecté la mobilité des migrants, qu’ils soient en situation régulière ou pas. En Afrique du Nord, alors même que la traversée entre la Libye et l’Europe est devenue plus difficile, la migration en situation irrégulière vers l’Europe s’est déplacée plus à l’Ouest vers le Maroc et les Iles Canaries. Ceux qui tentent de quitter la Libye continent de faire face à des abus de leurs droits humains et à des détentions involontaires.

- Des dizaines de migrants Éthiopiens dans les pays du Golfe ont été détenus dans des centres surpeuplés et insalubres avant d’être expulsés. Parmi ceux qui sont restés, nombre d’entre eux se sont vus voler leurs salaires ou ont été forcés d’accepter des contrats plus abusifs, avec moins de protections, du fait de leur incapacité a partir.

- Environ 32 000 migrants africains restent bloqués au Yémen après avoir tenté d’atteindre les pays du Golfe. Certains sont devenus des victimes de trafic humain ou d’enlèvement contre rançon et se sont retrouvés obligés à travailler dans des fermes afin de payer leurs dettes. Dans un acte qui reflète leur désespoir, 18 200 migrants ont, selon l’OIM, embauché des passeurs pour les ramener du Yémen à la Corne de l’Afrique.

- Si les migrants ne représentent pas eux-mêmes une menace sécuritaire, les détenir et leur refuser toute aide ou la capacité soit de rentrer chez eux, soit de continuer leur voyage, offre à des acteurs sans scrupules des opportunités de les exploiter. Les groupes extrémistes violents et les réseaux criminels continuent aussi de bénéficier financièrement en contrôlant les routes de trafics et de traite des migrants.


Ressources complémentaires


- Chris Horwood et Bram Frouws (eds.), « Mixed Migration Review 2021 », Mixed Migration Centre, 2021.

- International Organization of Migration, « World Migration Report 2022 », 2021.

— Albert G. Zeufack, Cesar Calderon, Megumi Kubota, Vijdan Korman, Catalina Cantu Canales, Alain N. Kabundi, « Africa’s Pulse, No. 24 », World Bank, octobre 2021.

- Wendy Williams, « Frontières en évolution: la crise de déplacements de population en Afrique et ses conséquences sur la sécurité », Rapport d’analyse n.8, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, janvier 2020.


To download charts a graphs, visit: https://africacenter.org/fr/spotlight/tendances-migratoires-a-surveiller-en-afrique-en-2022/

 

 

 

Des gangs criminels déstabilisent le nord-ouest du Nigeria

Par le Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 3 janvier 2022


Le nombre croissant des attaques de gangs criminels visant les communautés du nord-ouest du Nigeria, dont des enlèvements massifs d’écoliers, est porté par une présence limitée du secteur de la sécurité dans la région.


Connus dans les médias nationaux sous le nom de « bandits », de petits gangs de criminels menacent de plus en plus la région du nord-ouest du Nigeria, multipliant vols de bétail, pillages et rançonnements aux fermes et villages ruraux. Ces gangs n’hésitent pas à recourir à la violence, y compris au meurtre, pour intimider les villageois afin qu’ils se soumettent. Depuis 2020, ces gangs criminels auraient été impliqués dans plus de 350 événements violents liés à plus de 1500 décès. Cela représente une augmentation d’environ 45 % des attaques et une augmentation de 65 % des décès par rapport à la période 2018-2019. De nombreuses attaques et enlèvements de moindre envergure ne sont pas signalés.

Enhardis et de plus en plus organisés comme des entreprises criminelles sophistiquées, ces gangs ont fait la une des journaux du monde entier avec une série de raids d’enlèvements de masse dans des internats des États de Kaduna, Katsina, Niger et Zamfara. Les victimes sont généralement détenues contre de grosses rançons, ruinant souvent la famille touchée. De plus en plus vulnérables à ces raids, des centaines d’écoles ont fermé et plus d’un million d’enfants de la région ne se rendent plus en classe.

Ces incidents et autres attaques ont incité les autorités nigérianes à imposer une coupure des télécommunications mobiles dans la région et à restreindre les déplacements et les grands rassemblements. Plus récemment, un tribunal fédéral a jugé, à la demande du Directeur des poursuites pénales, que les gangs criminels du nord-ouest étaient des « terroristes », ouvrant la voie à un assouplissement des règles d’engagement militaire. Une réponse de sécurité sans distinction, cependant, pourrait bien aggraver l’instabilité.

Le Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique a parlé à deux experts nigérians au sujet de la détérioration des conditions de sécurité dans le nord-ouest. Kunle Adebajo est un journaliste qui a fait de nombreux reportages sur la crise du banditisme, et le Dr Murtala Rufa’i est maître de conférences au Département d’histoire de l’Université Usmanu Danfodiyo de Sokoto.


Pourquoi l’insécurité et la crise humanitaire qui affectent les États du nord-ouest se sont-elles récemment aggravées ?


KUNLE ADEBAJO : En effet, la situation dans le nord-ouest s’aggrave. Il y a eu une augmentation du nombre d’incidents violents, de décès et de victimes d’enlèvements, comme le documente le Suivi de la sécurité du Nigeria (NST) du [Council on Foreign Relations]. En 2021, il y a eu un doublement des enlèvements dans le nord-ouest par rapport à 2020. Cela perpétue la tendance à l’aggravation des dernières années, entraînant des décès qui approchent les 1000 par an. Il s’agit probablement d’une sous-évaluation importante. Il y a maintenant plus de 450 000 personnes déplacées internes (PDI) selon l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations : d’autres sources suggèrent des nombres encore plus élevés.

Auparavant, les attaques étaient principalement concentrées dans les zones rurales, mais maintenant les bandits s’aventurent plus loin de leurs repaires, dans les communautés les plus reculées. En effet, nombre de ces zones ont fait l’objet de raids répétés et sont de plus en plus appauvries. Les groupes de bandits se tournent donc vers les communautés urbaines pour obtenir plus d’argent, voler plus de bétail et obtenir des rançons plus importantes. On voit aujourd’hui des gangs de bandits qui attaquent plus fréquemment les sièges des gouvernements locaux et les collectivités plus importantes, plus proches des autoroutes fédérales, en particulier du fait qu’ils ont acquis les effectifs et les armes qui leur permettent d’affronter des cibles plus importantes. Cette année, des bandits ont attaqué des bases militaires et des postes de police à Zamfara et Sokoto, ce qui leur a donné accès à une plus grande puissance de frappe.

Un autre facteur majeur est l’absence d’une police et d’une architecture militaire adéquates au sein des zones touchées. Les collectivités disposant d’une équipe mobile de patrouille de police (MOPOL) sont devenues similaires aux villes de garnison du nord-est et sont nettement plus sûres que les autres. Ainsi, des personnes qui ne bénéficient pas d’une telle présence policière migrent vers ces lieux, soit de façon permanente, soit juste la nuit lorsque les attaques sont les plus fréquentes. La présence de groupes d’autodéfense ou de groupes armés communautaires s’est également avérée dissuasive pour les bandits. Il s’agit cependant d’une arme à double tranchant, car les groupes d’autodéfense renégats peuvent lancer des attaques de représailles contre les communautés d’éleveurs voisines, contribuant à une nouvelle escalade. Il y a de nombreux excès et exécutions extrajudiciaires dans ce processus.

MURTALA RUFA’I : Pendant des années, la sécurité du nord-ouest s’est détériorée parce que le gouvernement fédéral et ceux des États n’ont pas bien évalué la gravité du problème du banditisme et ont historiquement cherché à le minimiser (refusant parfois l’accès aux groupes d’aide et interdisant l’établissement de camps de PDI). Le gouvernement n’a pas investi dans la compréhension de la dynamique régionale, ni sur la manière dont les groupes de bandits opèrent en son sein et, par conséquent, n’a jamais élaboré de politiques cohérentes ou coordonnées pour faire face à la multiplication des enlèvements et raids menés par ces gangs criminels.

Au cours de la dernière année, les mesures contre la COVID, notamment la fermeture de la frontière internationale avec le Niger, les restrictions du marché et les fermetures partielles, ont créé de nombreuses difficultés pour les habitants de la région du nord-ouest. La pauvreté et le chômage ont augmenté, ce que nous avons documenté dans des enquêtes auprès des communautés rurales. Au début, le commerce transfrontalier s’est arrêté, puis l’activité commerciale informelle a repris. Cependant, la corruption et les pots-de-vin ont augmenté depuis que ces activités ont été officiellement interdites. Des gangs de bandits ont profité de la situation en fournissant des vivres à certaines communautés durement touchées, puis en recrutant de jeunes hommes et des informateurs parmi eux. Il s’agit d’un modèle qu’ils ont suivi dans le passé, profitant des personnes appauvries lorsque le gouvernement était corrompu ou absent.

Il existe plusieurs villages servant de communautés d’accueil pour certains gangs. Les gangs se cachent dans les forêts voisines et permettent aux villages de poursuivre une vie normale tant que ces derniers payent des taxes et fournissent des recrues. En retour, les bandits protègent ces villages des autres gangs et leur fournissent occasionnellement de la nourriture et d’autres choses en cas de besoin.


Quels sont les groupes armés à l’origine de la crise ? Combien y a-t-il de groupes et de quelle taille sont-ils généralement ? Ces groupes sont-ils de grandes entreprises criminelles, chacune dirigée par un leader identifiable, ou existe-t-il de nombreuses petites bandes itinérantes sans allégeance ni leadership central ?


KUNLE ADEBAJO : Il est difficile d’obtenir les chiffres exacts. Un comité d’enquête mis en place par le gouvernement de Zamfara a estimé qu’il y avait au moins 105 camps de bandits dans et aux alentours de l’État, à partir duquel les bandits lancent des attaques. La plupart des groupes sont originaires de Zamfara et opèrent dans diverses zones boisées qui relient et fournissent des corridors entre plusieurs États, leur permettant de se déplacer librement. Le Zamfara borde plusieurs États du nord-ouest : le Sokoto, le Kebbi, le Niger, le Kaduna et le Katsina. Un chercheur a pu documenter 62 groupes de bandits, principalement au Zamfara, avec un effectif allant de 28 à 2500 hommes. Parmi les principaux chefs de groupes de bandits, on trouve Bello Turji Gudde, Halilu Sububu, Shehu Rekep et Abubakar Abdullahi (alias Dogo Gide, qui aurait été tué). Les groupes sont indépendants les uns des autres mais ont des niveaux d’influence variables sur les autres gangs en fonction de leur taille et de leur force. C’est pourquoi il est difficile qu’un dialogue avec un chef de gang puisse avoir un grand effet sur la situation générale en matière de sécurité.

MURTALA RUFA’I : Historiquement, il y a eu des centaines de petits gangs divisés basés entre les États de Zamfara et de Kaduna. Différents chefs contrôlaient différentes zones pour atténuer les querelles entre gangs, mais les groupes dépendant de ces seigneurs de guerre disposaient d’une autonomie relative. Ainsi, les États du Niger et de Kaduna sont sous la coupe d’Abubakar Abdallahi. Le Katsina était sous l’emprise de feux Auwalun Daudawa et Dangote Bazamfare. L’État de Sokoto oriental est sous la juridiction de Turji. Et il y a beaucoup de dirigeants rivaux dans l’État de Zamfara.

Au cours de l’année écoulée, bon nombre de ces gangs autrefois rivaux ont commencé à unir leurs forces contre l’ennemi commun que sont les groupes de protection communautaire et du gouvernement, alors que des mesures visant à contenir le banditisme (coupures des communication, restrictions d’essence et interdictions des motos) sont entrées en vigueur. Cette unité a permis aux gangs de partager des informations concernant les mouvements des forces de sécurité et de combiner leurs effectifs pour attaquer de plus grands villages et des villes mieux gardées. Il s’agit d’une évolution inquiétante, mais il n’est pas certain qu’elle se poursuive puisque les gangs ont toujours été farouchement indépendants et se sont souvent livrés à des escarmouches sur leurs territoires.


Que veulent ces groupes ?


KUNLE ADEBAJO : Surtout de l’argent et de l’importance. Les groupes tirent leurs revenus de divers moyens : le vol des populations locales (argent, objets de valeur, bétail), la taxation des communautés (pour utiliser leurs fermes ou pour se protéger des attaques par exemple) ou le paiement de rançons par des particuliers et des gouvernements. Ils réquisitionnent aussi parfois des terres agricoles fertiles, que les membres du gang cultivent ensuite eux-mêmes.

Les bandits se sont plaints dans certaines interviews d’être marginalisés par le gouvernement et de ne pas avoir accès aux commodités de base telles que l’éducation et les soins de santé. Ils ont protesté contre la discrimination en tant que peuple Peul. Mais les opérations criminelles et terroristes des bandits sont principalement de nature marchande plutôt que politique ou ethnique. Certains jeunes hommes ont décrit comment ils ont rejoint des gangs de bandits après avoir eux-mêmes été victimes de raids de bandits et avoir tout perdu, ne leur laissant que peu d’autres options. Nous n’avons pas encore vu de grande organisation collective, comme c’est le cas avec Boko Haram dans le nord-est. L’opportunisme est leur modus operandi actuel.

MURTALA RUFA’I : La violence dans le nord-ouest est initialement née de conflits fonciers provoqués par la dégradation de l’environnement, la croissance démographique, et surtout la corruption du gouvernement concernant les droits fonciers – qui ont profité aux élites politiquement connectées au détriment des éleveurs qui ont trouvé l’accès à leurs pâturages historiques et les voies de circulation de leur bétail bloqués. Mais lorsque des éleveurs mécontents recrutés par des gangs ont commencé à attaquer les communautés agricoles et ont réalisé qu’ils avaient le pouvoir, l’élan et la capacité à piller ces communautés à volonté, le conflit a pris une nouvelle dimension motivée par des raisons économiques. Certains sont devenus pilleurs à plein temps. Désormais, la violence est fondamentalement et purement une activité criminelle motivée par le gain économique.


Cependant, les nouvelles mesures gouvernementales ravivent les griefs ethniques parmi les Peuls de la région, qui se sentent injustement pointés du doigt et ciblés par les politiques d’endiguement du gouvernement. Ce sentiment aide les gangs à recruter de jeunes hommes dont les moyens de subsistance ont été affectés par ces politiques. Cela aide également les gangs à faire équipe de manière opportuniste et à former des alliances sous la bannière de la défense du peuple Peul. Et tout cela bien que les gangs attaquent encore des éleveurs peuls, et que de nombreux membres des gangs ne parlent même pas le peul.


De quelle façon fonctionne la réponse sécuritaire actuelle, et de quelle façon est-elle défaillante ? Qu’est-ce qui a fonctionné dans le passé ?


KUNLE ADEBAJO : La réponse actuelle en matière de sécurité n’est sans aucun doute pas à la hauteur de l’ampleur de la menace. Il n’y a pas assez de policiers sur le terrain, et ceux qui sont disponibles ne sont pas assez équipés pour la tâche. Les forces armées du pays sont également trop sollicitées. Il y a environ 334 000 policiers dans le pays, mais on estime que près de la moitié d’entre eux sont déployés comme escortes armées pour les politiciens ou personnes qui peuvent se permettre ce type de service. Cela laisse seulement une petite partie des forces armées pour protéger le reste de la population. Le gouverneur de Katsina s’est récemment plaint que son État comptait moins de 3000 policiers.

Les efforts antérieurs de négociation des traités de paix et des programmes d’amnistie à l’égard des bandits dans des endroits comme Zamfara ont jusqu’à présent échoué. Bien que des progrès aient été signalés au départ, ils se sont rapidement effondrés, les gouverneurs exprimant leur frustration face à la résurgence des attaques et à l’aggravation de la situation en matière de sécurité. Ces accords n’ont pas abouti, souvent en raison de l’encadrement fragile des gangs de bandits et du fait qu’il y ait tant de groupes indépendants les uns des autres.

La réponse en matière de sécurité doit également être accompagnée de beaucoup plus de surveillance et d’action de la police communautaire. Cela nécessiterait de renforcer la confiance du public envers les services de sécurité, d’améliorer et d’étendre la collecte de données et les exercices de profilage, et de disposer de suffisamment de personnel compétent au sein des forces de l’ordre et des institutions militaires afin d’assurer le suivi des renseignements recueillis.

Il existe des exemples de commandants militaires exceptionnels qui ont été très impliqués envers les groupes armés communautaires et ont accompagné leurs hommes lors de raids contre les camps de bandits dans les forêts. Lorsque les communautés locales ont vu ce genre de dévouement, elles ont été volontaires pour travailler avec eux et fournir des renseignements. Mais par la suite, ces personnes ont été réaffectées, et leurs remplaçants la plupart du temps ne sont pas à la hauteur.

MURTALA RUFA’I : Les récentes mesures de contrôle du gouvernement ont momentanément mis les bandits au pas, mais ils se sont adaptés et ont en fait à ce jour profité de la situation. Ils communiquent entre eux via des téléphones satellites alors que, du fait du blocage des réseaux cellulaires, les communautés locales ont perdu leur capacité à communiquer avec les forces de sécurité et à les tenir au courant des attaques imminentes de bandits. Les restrictions en matière de circulation entraînent également une augmentation des prix et, par conséquent, nuisent aux communautés rurales. Les bandits exigent des taxes plus élevées pour couvrir leurs propres dépenses en carburant qui augmentent. Cela appauvrit davantage les communautés, parmi lesquelles les bandits peuvent trouver de nouvelles recrues.

Le gouvernement fédéral a envoyé encore plus de troupes dans la région, mais cela est encore insuffisant, un grand nombre étant également déployées dans le nord-est contre Boko Haram. L’armée reste principalement dans les villes fortifiées et les avant-postes, et se rend rarement dans les communautés locales où ces groupes de bandits et leurs chefs sont ouvertement connus, même des enfants. Les frappes aériennes de l’armée semblent souvent cibler uniquement les troupeaux de bétail, les effrayant et les dispersant, ce qui ne fait qu’appauvrir davantage les communautés d’éleveurs. Les frappes aériennes sont souvent futiles et dangereuses car les bandits utilisent les villages ruraux comme boucliers humains, ce qui signifie qu’il est difficile de les isoler comme cibles.

Les groupes armés communautaires sont de plus en plus visiblement présents dans le nord-ouest. En réponse aux premiers épisodes de violence, ces groupes ont souvent pris les Peuls pour cible sans discernement, les harcelant et aggravant la situation. La brutalité des miliciens Yan Sakai (« gardes volontaires » en haoussa) contre les gardiens de troupeaux a été à l’origine de la montée en puissance des gangs de bandits permanents dans la région à partir de 2011. De nombreux membres de groupes d’autodéfense parlent ouvertement du sentiment anti-Peul et de l’impression qu’il existe une menace peule qui doit être traitée durement. Par conséquent, la violence et la réponse aux gangs criminels ont le potentiel de dégénérer en un conflit intercommunautaire plus large.

L’utilisation de milices volontaires pour protéger les communautés est compréhensible en raison de la faible présence de sécurité, mais les groupes d’autodéfense comme Yan Sakai sont techniquement illégaux, non formés et n’ont pas de comptes à rendre. Les politiques gouvernementales des États de la région du nord-ouest ont été incohérentes, oscillant entre parrainage indirect, interdiction et condamnation. On sait que des personnalités politiques puissantes les utilisent pour régler leurs comptes. Une politique cohérente et coordonnée est nécessaire pour freiner les abus de ces groupes, qui opèrent sous forme de milices ethniques haoussas et qui ethnicisent le conflit. Un modèle possible est une Force d’intervention commune civile dans le nord-est, qui constituerait une présence de sécurité permanente en formant, en payant et responsabilisant les groupes d’autodéfense envers un plan d’action officiel.

Les programmes d’amnistie ont un potentiel car certains des chefs des bandits déclarent vouloir la paix. Des programmes d’amnistie coordonnés et bien mis en œuvre sont une option pragmatique, faute de quoi il sera très difficile de vaincre ces groupes maintenant que de nombreux gangs se sont enracinés au sein des communautés et exercent l’autorité là où l’État n’est pas présent. Les tentatives passées d’amnistie ont échoué parce qu’elles ne concernaient qu’un seul État et n’avaient pas été coordonnées et menées à terme. Il s’agissait d’ententes à l’amiable qui n’ont pas tenu sous la pression. Une campagne militaire sur le terrain cherchant réellement à capturer et à tenir pour responsables les chefs des bandits, associée à un programme d’amnistie bien conçu, pourrait potentiellement donner des résultats.


Activité des gangs criminels au Zamfara


Historiquement, le problème des bandits du nord-ouest du Nigeria est né au Zamfara, en grande partie à cause des processus corrompus d’attribution de titres de propriété au début des années 2000, qui ont profité aux élites haoussas au détriment des éleveurs. Les zones boisées de l’État de Zamfara sont l’une des raisons pour lesquelles des gangs criminels à plein temps se sont finalement implantés là-bas. Les gangs exploitent également des mines d’or artisanales au Zamfara et profitent sa frontière internationale avec le Niger pour pratiquer la contrebande d’armes et de stupéfiants.


Ressources complémentaires


- James Barnett et Murtala Rufa’i, « The Other Insurgency: Northwest Nigeria’s Worsening Bandit Crisis » (L’autre insurrection : l’aggravation de la crise des bandits dans le nord-ouest du Nigeria), War on the Rocks, 16 novembre 2021.

- Idayat Hassan, « Nigeria’s Rampant Banditry, and Some Ideas on How to Rein It In » (Le banditisme endémique du Nigeria et quelques idées sur la façon de le maîtriser), The New Humanitarian, 8 novembre 2021.

- Kunle Adebajo, « Vigilantes Defying the Odds To Protect Lives In Northwest Nigeria » (Des groupes d’autodéfense défient le destin pour protéger des vies dans le nord-ouest du Nigeria), HumAngle, 3 novembre 2021.

- Kunle Adebajo, « Displaced By ‘Bandits’ (Parts 1-5) » (Déplacés par des « bandits » (Parties 1 à 5)), HumAngle, 17 juillet – 12 octobre 2021.

- Leif Brottem, « La complexité croissante des conflits entre agriculteurs et éleveurs en Afrique de l’Ouest et centrale », Bulletin de la sécurité africaine n° 39, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 3 août 2021.

- Mark Duerksen, « Les diverses menaces envers la sécurité du Nigeria », Éclairages, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 14 avril 2021.

- Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, « The Nigerian State and Insecurity » (L’État nigérian et l’insécurité), Video Rountable, 17 février 2021.

- Olajumoke (Jumo) Ayandele, « Affronter la crise du Kaduna au Nigeria », Éclairages, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 18 février 2021.

 

 

 

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