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Iran: Redoubling its influence

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After many months of cliffhanging talks between Iran and the five plus one big power negotiating team – the United States, the EU, Britain, France, China and Germany – a nuclear deal was achieved that limits but does not curtail Iranian nuclear developments. By bringing Iran in from the cold the deal has upset all the alignments of the Gulf. The agreement brought jubilation in Tehran, relief in the White House and dismay in Israel. Many questions remain to be settled politically while the Republicans in the US A believe too much has been given away.

Features | Guy Arnold | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 12

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Europe’s escalating migrant crisis

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Unprecedented numbers of migrants are reaching EU borders, surpassing 100,000 in July alone and reaching more than 340,000 this year so far, writes Franklin Adesegha. Italy and Greece are struggling to cope, while Macedonia has declared a state of emergency. Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has said he believed the migrant crisis would push the EU to adopt uniform rules for refugees in place of the current patchwork of laws and approaches.

Features | Franklin Adesegha | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 12

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Is Russia an enigma or threat to the West?

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Russia has always been an enigma or seen as a threat to the West and perhaps never more so than at the present time. It has joined forces with the great powers of the West to exert pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme for Russia like the other powers does not want to have an apparently maverick nuclear Iran on its doorstep though it does not show similar concern about Pakistan and India – both bordering Russia and both equipped with nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. It has supported President Assad throughout the ISIS crisis. Its concern about Iran may rather have been enhanced in order to allow Russia to join the other major powers in an operation that has world-wide implications.

Features | Guy Arnold | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 11

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Why saying ‘yes’ to the Iran deal is safer than ‘no’

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The U.S. has to think about how it will cope in the international arena if it rejects the JCPOA after the rest of the world has accepted it. Americans are divided over whether or not to accept the deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program. The numbers – deep cuts in enriched uranium stocks and centrifuges – and the most intrusive inspection regime ever make the deal look good. But even those who believe it defuses the Middle East’s literally most explosive situation for nearly a generation – a world-politics eternity – must acknowledge that many Americans are dissatisfied. Though the lock-step in which Republicans approach it might suggest otherwise, the national security stakes are so high that

Features | Jon Greenwald | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 11

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Venezuela: Unnatural Disaster

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The accelerating deterioration of Venezuela’s political crisis is cause for growing concern. The collapse in 2014 of an incipient dialogue between government and opposition ushered in growing political instability. With legislative elections due in December, there are fears of renewed violence. But there is a less widely appreciated side of the drama. A sharp fall in real incomes, major shortages of essential foods, medicines and other basic goods and breakdown of the health service are elements of a looming social crisis. If not tackled decisively and soon, it will become a humanitarian disaster with a seismic impact on domestic politics and society, and on Venezuela’s neighbours.

Features | Crisis Group | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 11

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Moody’s computer predicts Clinton’s win of 2016 Presidency

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While the 2016 Presidential Election will be a “nail-biter”, the contest will ultimately be won by the Democrats. Or so an election model made by Moody’s Analytics says. The model makes certain assumptions, namely that the economy will be near the top, or not at the top, of voters’ minds during the election. The model captures the impact of the health of state economies in the lead up to the election on voting decisions, as well as party affiliation and political realities. Just a little background: the fact that the model looks at state economies is important because the US has an electoral college.

Features | Alan Brown | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 13

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Revisiting Counter-terrorism Strategies in Pakistan: Opportunities and Pitfalls

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The 16 December 2014 attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, which killed 150, mainly children, claimed by the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan-TT P), was ostensibly a game changer. A week later, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) government unveiled a new counter-terrorism strategy, the twenty-point National Action Plan (NAP), with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Raheel Sharif vowing to target all terror groups without distinction. Six months later, amid continued terror attacks, the NAP looks far more like a hastily-conceived wishlist devised for public consumption

Features | Crisis Group | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 10

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The ongoing plight of refugees

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Thousands of people have been rescued so far from vessels, which sank off the coast of Libya or Greece while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Several tragedies took place this year of thousands of people who had died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. “No one should have to die reaching safety in Europe,” said Ms. Melissa Fleming UNH CR spokesperson. “The vast majority of people arriving to Europe across the Mediterranean – and there have been 200,000 this year – are people that are fleeing war and conflict and persecution.”

Features | Ali Bahaijoub | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 12

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Sisi’s anti-terrorism law takes Egypt back to Mubarak’s era

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved an antiterrorism law that sets up special courts and protects its enforcers in the face of a two-year-long Islamist insurgency that aims to topple his government. The law has come under fire from human rights groups who accuse Sisi, who as military chief deposed a freely elected Islamist president in 2013, of rolling back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The law details sentences for various terrorism crimes ranging from five years to the death penalty. It also shields those applying it, such as the military and police, from

Features | Alan Brown | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 11

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Greece and lenders finally reach bailout deal

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Greece and its international lenders reached an 85 billion-euro bailout agreement last month after marathon talks lasting several weeks to save the country from financial ruin and raising hopes it can make a major debt repayment in time. After a last attempt lasting 23- hour exhausted Greek officials emerged in a central Athens hotel to announce the two sides had agreed on terms of the three-year agreement barring a couple of minor issues that were being ironed out.

Features | Ali Bahaijoub | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 11

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Myanmar quagmire as Suu Kyi allies with ousted ruling party boss

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Myanmar’s Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said last month her opposition would ally with powerful ousted ruling party leader Shwe Mann, as the country’s political forces re-align in the biggest shakeup since the end of military rule. President Thein Sein purged rival Shwe Mann and his allies from the Ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (US DP) in dramatic fashion last month, just months before a landmark election. “It is now clear who is the enemy and who is the ally,” Suu Kyi told reporters at the country’s parliament, when asked if Shwe Mann’s sacking had cost her an ally.

Features | Hnin Yadana Zaw and Antoni Slodkowski | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 12

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Mali’s fragile peace

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As the Malian government and various northern-based rebels signed another ‘final agreement’ in Bamako on 20 June, alarm is growing about the deterioration of security across the country. France and the United Nations pin hopes of progress on this latest accord’s political and military provisions, negotiated between Bamako officials and tuareg nationalist groups. Yet the political and economic allegiances of the Tuareg nationalist groups, such as the Coordination des mouvements de l’Azawad(CMA), formed last year, remain complex and obscure. Some Tuareg militias

Features | Ali Bahaijoub | 1 September 2015 | Hits: 10

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Timeline of the Islamic State

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After seizing large swathes of Iraq in an unexpected and lightning advance, on 29 June 2014, an Islamist group going by the name Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), sometimes referred to as Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), declares a caliphate in the territories it controls. It drops any geographical reference from its name, shortening it to Islamic State, and proclaims Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its leader. Over the 15 months that follow, IS engages in extreme levels of violence, taking over more territories and forcing its brutal rule upon hundreds of thousands of people. The group becomes a brand name for terrorism all over the world, turning into a magnet for local and foreign radicals willing to join it.

Cover Stories | Alan Brown | 31 August 2015 | Hits: 14

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Drones to monitor ISIS in Africa

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The United States is holding discussions with countries in North Africa about locating drones at a base there to heighten monitoring of ISIS in Libya following a recent spate of terrorist attacks, writes Franklin Adesegha. Such a base near Islamic State strongholds and training camps in Libya would help the United States ‘fill gaps in our understanding of what’s going on’ in that region, a source told The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper said drone flights would give U.S. military and intelligence agencies realtime information on the militant group’s activities in Libya. The militant group has gained ground in the region because of a ‘security vacuum’ and have already set up training camps.

Cover Stories | Franklin Adesegha | 31 August 2015 | Hits: 13

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What are the differences between Sunnis and Shia?

There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims and about 20% of them live in the Middle East and North Africa. Shia make up roughly 10% of all Muslims, and globally their population is estimated between 154 to 200 million, according to a 2009 report from the Pew Forum. Iran has the largest Shia majority, with more than 66 million making up nearly 90% of the population. Shia are also in the majority in Iraq and Bahrain. There are sizable Shia communities in Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Muslims identify themselves with different strands of Islamic tradition. Muslims are split into two main branches, the Sunnis and Shia. The split originates in a dispute soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad over who should lead the Muslim community. The great majority of Muslims are Sunnis - estimates suggest the figure is somewhere between 85% and 90%.

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 31 August 2015 | Hits: 12

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ISIS threat and risk of stalemate

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The Islamic State is quickly proving to be a major threat to both rebel and loyalist forces in Syria and Iraq. Though the Islamic State certainly faces some critical threats of its own, including rebel and coalition efforts to cut off its supply lines through Turkey, the group is still able to maintain its momentum in a number of areas. Each new base, town or supply depot that it secures only boosts its foothold in Syria’s civil war, which in turn translates into gains across the border in Iraq. While the diversion of rebel forces to Aleppo has clear benefits for the Syrian government, it is facing problems of its own stemming from Islamic State activities in other areas of the country. Following the Islamic State’s capture of Palmyra last May.

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 31 August 2015 | Hits: 11

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What weapons does ISIS have?

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From run-of-the-mill thugs to an effective fighting force, ISIS has made gains in both Iraq and Syria under the collapse of local military and security forces. In June 2014 when the US -backed Iraqi army was routed by Islamic State militants in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, government forces retreated hurriedly from the group’s ferocious assault leaving behind a treasure trove of costly military hardware, including US -made armoured Humvees, trucks, rockets, machine guns and even a helicopter. According to Reuters, the U.S.- made weaponry that fell into enemy hands including 2,300 Humvee armoured vehicles, at least 40 M1A1 main battle tanks, 74,000 machine guns, and as many as 52 M198 howitzer mobile gun systems, plus small arms and ammunition.

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 31 August 2015 | Hits: 12

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How many fighters does ISIS have?

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Of course, there is nothing new about people joining overseas battles for ideological reasons – countless fighters from all over the world joined the International Brigades fighting Franco in Spain in the late 1930s, for example or the thousands who joined forces with the Afghan Mujahidin to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The conflict in Syria and Iraq appears to have attracted more foreign volunteers than any war since 1945, according to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR ) which points out that over the course of the conflict, a total of 20,730 foreign fighters are thought to have joined IS’s ranks, but this figure includes those who have subsequently returned home, been killed in the fighting, or been arrested.

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 31 August 2015 | Hits: 11

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What is ‘Islamic State’?

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The so-called Islamic State stated goal has been to establish a “caliphate” to rule over the entire Muslim world, under a single leader and in line with Islamic law, or Sharia. Unlike some other insurgent or militant groups, it holds territory that it seeks to govern. It has therefore set up a bureaucratic system that in many aspects mimics that of a modern state. Islamic State came into being on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. It is sometimes referred to as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) Levant The rapid advance across Syria and Iraq by militant fighters from Islamic State in 2014 threw the region into chaos and led to US air strikes against their key positions.

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 31 August 2015 | Hits: 12

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