The Paradox of U.S. Decline … and the Tensions with North Korea

This article stresses the paradoxical character of a U.S. decline, and addresses the impossibility for the U.S. to accept its demise as superpower. It applies this framework to the case of the 2017 tensions with North Korea, and deduces a possible future path for the U.S. course of action, as well as possible levers regarding […]

China: Towards the Digital and Ecological Revolution?

“Airpocalypse” turns the air of the great Chinese cities into a kind of chronic and massive chemical attack. Meanwhile, ecological issues are gaining a new and strong political traction. In the meantime, China is also becoming a world leader of the digital transformation. In other words, two major dynamics run through China in the same […]

Sources of American Decline… and Power – The View from the U.S. National Intelligence Council

The question of a U.S. decline is increasingly on the agenda as signals seem to pile up to indicate a relative loss of power status. The last instance of such dynamics at play is the 4 to 8 October 2017 state visit to Russia of King Salman Saudi Arabia King Salman, a long-standing close ally of […]

Which U.S. Decline? The View from the U.S. National Intelligence Council

The second decade of the 21st century appears to be rough for the U.S.. Could it mean that American power is waning? The question of a putative decline of the U.S. regularly emerges in international relations and in the media since at least the 1970s (Kenneth Waltz; Theory of International Politics, 1979: 177-178). However, each […]

The Islamic State in Libya – When Libyan Tribes Pledge Allegiance to the Khalifah

The coming Battle for Sirte to defeat the Islamic State in Libya is principally seen from the perspective of the struggle between the U.N.-backed new government supported by some militias including Misrata, and those who refuse that government’s legitimacy, such as nationalist Haftar (e.g. “The scramble for Sirte”, The Economist, 14 May 2016. In the meanwhile, the Islamic State becomes an insignificant threat. Similarly, the situation on the ground, notably the tribes and related politics, are quasi ignored. Yet, it is crucial to have an understanding of what is happening, which goes beyond a top-down approach, and to consider also the perspective of the enemy, through red team analysis for example, as we are doing here. The consequences for not doing so may be deleterious, […]

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The Islamic State in Libya – Force, Fighters and Tribes

What is the current state of play for the Islamic State in Libya, and, most importantly, how can it evolve? The question is increasingly relevant considering the rising possibility of an international intervention in Libya against the Islamic State, a complex matter considering notably the questioned domestic legitimacy of the new U.N.-prompted Government of National Authority (GNA) (e.g. APA, “Libya unity gov’t approval postponed indefinitely“, 19 April 2016), despite strong pressure imposed on Libyans to recognise it, such as the U.S. President “Executive Order — Blocking Property And Suspending Entry Into The United States Of Persons Contributing To The Situation In Libya” (White House, 19 April 2016). Is the Islamic State’s threat in Libya hyped and “not a realistic fallback” for a Khilafah, furthermore […]

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Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Wilayat and Wali in Yemen

When we started our series to better understand the Islamic State system, we identified the wilayat (“what is taken charge of”, “what is ruled”) as unit of analysis and as a system, which can then be monitored to foresee and warn about the overall developments of the Islamic State (see Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Structure and Wilayat, 4 May 2015). Since then, evolution has taken place on the ground, while the body of knowledge gathered by students of the Islamic State has grown. This is notably the case for Yemen. Back in May 2015, our understanding, grounded in the evidence available then, was that there was one wilayat in Yemen, wilayat Sanaa, loosely categorised as part of those wilayat where fighting was preeminent and only extremely […]

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Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Structure and Wilayat

Conflicting information regarding the Islamic State and the evolution of the war emerge everyday from the media, while analysts, commentators and official statements are no less swaying. For example, on 13 April 2015, “Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman” stressed that the Islamic State had “ceded 5,000 to 6,000 square miles of territory”, painting a “rosier portrait” as […]

War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (1)

Tribalism in Libya’s civil war is a powerful dynamic that must be analyzed and understood before endeavoring foresight. Libya comprises 140 tribes, of which an estimated 30 to 40 have political influence, making it “one of the most tribal nations in the Arab world” (Kurczy and Hinshaw, The Christian Science Monitor, February 24, 2011; Varvelli, ISPI, May 2013). As a result, if a few or many of them side with one or the other warring groups, then this will impact the war. Tribal identity and its product of favoritism are dynamics that can have a profound effect on political allegiances (see section on Creating Grievances). Because tribes are inclusive and often have extended familial ties, they are naturally predisposed to favoritism […]

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War in Libya and its Futures: State of Play – Islamist & Misrata forces (1)

With this post of our series on the war in Libya, and the next, we shall examine the pro-Islamist Libyan actors, including Islamist groups, militias from Misrata, the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli, and their regional supporters – Qatar and Turkey, after having focused previously on the Nationalist forces and the internationally recognized Council of Representatives in Tobruk (see Nationalist Forces I & Nationalist Forces II). The complexity and lethality of Libya’s civil war is steadily increasing for a host of reasons. As underlined previously (Mitchell, “Features of a War”), the Libyan conflict is not easily categorized. As far as ideological affiliation is concerned, for example, several Islamist militias in Libya hold to a Salafi-jihadist ideology. However, Seth G. Jones […]

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