The Persian Gulf, between Power and Collapse

A tale of two cities:  Warsaw, Teheran At the international United Nations conference on climate change in Warsaw, Poland, started on the 12th of November, the Philippine diplomat begged for the negotiators to find an international binding accord on climate, one day after a monster storm left a trail of mass destruction in his country. At the end of tense negotiations, it was established that each country should define national contributions for this global effort, which will be discussed during further negotiations. At the very same time, in Geneva, a historic deal was struck between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN security council and Germany, about Iran nuclear program: Teheran promised to suspend it, in exchange of a […]

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Climate of Change on the Red Sea

Since the “Arab spring” in 2011, one has seen a series of old and entrenched dictatorships topple (Georges Corm, Le Proche-Orient éclaté, 2012), from Tunisia to Yemen, or, as in Syria, being replaced by a monstrous civil war. However, the very complex political forces thus unleashed, are not only rooted in the changing social, political and religious Middle-East context. New socio-environmental dynamics have also appeared, which reveal the dire vulnerability of some of these societies, about to lose the very resources upon which they depend. So, they struggle to find new resources, or new ways and means, in a very tense strategic context. These new trends are particularly impressive around the Red Sea, where Middle-East power relations are deeply transformed by […]

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Surviving the Gulf of Aden: a New Strategic Paradigm for the Future of the Region

On 15th September 2013, saboteurs blew up the pipeline linking Yemeni oil fields in the North to the Hodeidah export terminal, on the Red Sea coast. It was the third time in two months. In the meantime, the Yemeni political life was also marked by a deluge of US drone strikes against militants of “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP).  On 18th October, a militia of armed and well-organised Islamist militants attacked a Yemeni military base in the Southeast, preceded by a car bomb suicide attack, which killed five soldiers. The two following weeks saw endless attacks and manifestations, against the government as well as sectarian violence, leaving dozens dead. In the meantime, on the other side of the Gulf of […]

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Facing the Fog of War in Syria: The Tragedy of Kurdistan

This post is the latest update for the State of Play: The Kurds in the Syrian civil war. It can be read independently, but readers will be able to refer to the initial post for background. A general call to arms to fight Jihadis – Since first clashes erupted on 12 July, intensifying on 16 July, notably over and in the city of Ras al-Ain, the YPG (The People’s Defence Units – see updated mapping of actors below) has been fighting Jahbat-al Nosra (JAN) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS or ISIL) (van Wilgenburg, Al-Monitor, July 16). At the end of July, fighting was raging in the area of the oil fields of Rmeilan “around the main […]

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Somali Piracy: a Model for Tomorrow’s Life in the Anthropocene?

Pirates, scientists and climate change “It was like the wild west out there”. This comment was not made by a soldier after fighting in the streets of Bagdad, or by a police officer coming back from a difficult raid in a dangerous favela in Rio. No, it was made by Peter deMenocal, a marine geologist of […]

Facing the Fog of War in Syria: The Syrian Islamists Play the Regional “Game of Thrones”

This second update covers the evolution in Syria from July to October 2013. It focuses first on dynamics of change involving the interplay between the Syrian Islamist factions on the ground and international players – especially the declaration of an “Islamic framework” and then the creation of the Islam Army, with impact on the overall situation, and provides an updated mapping for Syrian Islamist groups. It then looks at evolutions related to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces. Syrian Sunni factions intending to install an Islamist state in Syria (For background and past state of play, see here) It is within those groups that we have been witnessing throughout September-October 2013 the most potent changes. As always, and as Lund […]

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Portal to the War in Syria

In the light of the sometimes relatively long updates being necessary to keep the series on Syria up to date, the whole section on Syria has been reorganized and a starting page for the series introduced. Updates up to October 2013 are being added in the meantime.

Facing the Fog of War in Syria: Updates

As underlined when we started the series on Syria, one of the analytical challenges we face, in terms of strategic foresight and warning, is the fog of war. The, at time, rapid evolution of the situation, fits badly with any static mean to deliver analysis. We need, of course, to monitor what is happening, but also to regularly integrate this surveillance in our strategic analysis and finally to make it known to concerned audience (readers, decision-makers, policy-makers). After having outlined the methodological difficulties and presented the solution chosen, we shall focus on the updates themselves. Methodology: challenges and imperfect solutions First, in terms of periodicity and content of publication (delivery in SF&W jargon), a right balance must be found between […]

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Report – Potential Futures for Syria in the Fog of War

This report presents three main scenarios (leading to ten sub-scenarios) for the future of Syria and prospects for peace within the next five years, after describing the state of play and the actors on the Syrian battlefield. To consider the fog of war, it identifies indicators to monitor that impact the likelihood of each scenario and sees the scenarios as a dynamic set, where one potential future can morph into another out of an evolving state of play.

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Evaluating Forces on the Syrian Battlefield

Having an idea of the forces present on the battlefield in Syria is crucial to understand the state of play, to follow the course of the war, to evaluate the impact of the decisions taken by external players, and to estimate the likelihood to see one scenario (or one of its variations) happening. Here is a synthesis of the various estimates found for each warring group…

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