• Strategic Comments

    Humanitarian implications of armed conflict in cities

    21 December 2017. 

    The Syrian civil war and the military campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have prompted a major reconsideration of responses to armed conflict in cities. The growing consensus among practitioners is that responses to urban armed conflict should extend beyond short-term aid and lay the groundwork for dealing with longer-term challenges posed by urbanisation.

  • Strategic Comments

    Angola’s uncertain transition

    08 December 2017. 

    An improbably smooth transition in Angola appears to be taking shape under President João Lourenço, inaugurated on 26 September. But he faces major challenges in diversifying Angola's plummeting economy so as to make it less dependent on oil, and in rehabilitating its international reputation, which has been damaged by longstanding corruption. Much depends on whether he can exploit his non-partisan instincts and common touch to become a charismatic leader with a long-term vision.

  • Strategic Comments

    Strategic implications of the ambush in Niger

    22 November 2017. 

    The October jihadist ambush in Niger that left four American soldiers on a combined patrol with Nigerien forces dead has raised questions about the extent to which US military personnel should advise and assist local military operations overseas. It has also produced controversy about civil-military relations in the Trump administration. As a result, Congress's post-9/11 Authorization of the Use of Military Force, delegating broad powers to the president to initiate counter-terrorism efforts, may be curtailed.

  • Strategic Comments

    Spain’s Catalan separatist crisis

    16 November 2017. 

    Catalonia's 1 October referendum on independence precipitated a major political crisis in Spain and prompted Madrid to assume direct rule of Catalonia pending regional elections scheduled for 21 December. There appears to be a realistic possibility that Catalan voters will opt for a less disruptive push for enhanced autonomy within Spain. But if they re-assert independence, the cycle witnessed over the past several months could repeat and produce deeper crisis.

  • Strategic Comments

    The repercussions of the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum

    09 November 2017. 

    Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani appears to have overreached in holding a referendum on independence, although almost 93% voted for it. Major powers support Iraq's territorial integrity. The Iraqi government has asserted military control over the region with Iran's help. Facing political and economic isolation, the Kurdistan Regional Government's authority and cohesion has been weakened. Barzani's futility has likely hardened the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK)'s position in Turkey and increased its regional freedom of action.

  • Strategic Comments

    Peace in Colombia and the ELN

    02 November 2017. 

    The ceasefire announced between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), coming as the prior peace agreement with the much larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is being implemented, has attracted both hope and scepticism. While a viable peace agreement with the ELN would put Colombia on a path to comprehensive peace, shepherding two major agreements would tax Bogotá’s capacity and the ELN has a history of reneging on commitments to non-violence.

  • Strategic Comments

    The Rohingya crisis

    26 October 2017. 

    The mass exodus of some 600,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh, triggered by the Myanmar government's repressive policies, has produced a severe humanitarian crisis and geopolitical disruption in the region. While the international community is responding fitfully to both developments, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's reputation as a liberal reformer has been tainted and Myanmar's international rehabilitation limited.

  • Strategic Comments

    America’s Indian Ocean strategy

    11 October 2017.  A combination of structural and policy impediments will tend to keep the Indian Ocean region fragmented in the US policy lens. The United States is likely to use the region as a staging area for counter-terrorism efforts in and around the Persian Gulf, and as a secondary theatre in the deepening strategic competition with China. Increasing tension with Iran could also sharpen US focus on the northwest corner of the region.

  • Strategic Comments

    US Afghanistan policy: regional aspects

    05 October 2017. 

    US President Donald Trump's new ‘Afghanistan and South Asia’ policy identifies Pakistan and India as key players but ignores or minimises other influential regional actors with vested interests in Afghanistan, including China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Unless the US better integrates their interests, any regional approach to Afghanistan's stability and security is unlikely to succeed.

  • Strategic Comments

    The Trump administration’s Afghanistan policy

    28 September 2017. 

    In addition to reducing terrorist threats, US President Donald Trump's new Afghanistan policy seeks to roll back the Taliban on the battlefield and pressure the group into an acceptable political settlement with far fewer US troops than Barack Obama deployed. Trump has also proposed involving India more closely in Afghanistan's economic development, which stands to antagonise Pakistan, the Taliban's key backer. In this light, it appears unlikely that the new policy will succeed.

Thailand’s political direction

Domestic political crisis and the death of its much-beloved king have rendered Thailand introverted. But there may now be scope for a return to consensus-based political stability.

Rising Israeli–Iranian tensions

The prospect of a regional war between Israel and Iran looms larger after Israel shot down an Iranian-made drone launched from Syria and attacked military targets there.