Entries with Categories Global Affairs Security and defence .

ISIS Toyota convoy in Syria [ISIS video footage]

▲ISIS Toyota convoy in Syria [ISIS video footage]

ANALYSIS / Ignacio Yárnoz

When you go to a Toyota distributor to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Toyota Hilux, what they proudly tell you is how resistant, fast and reliable the truck is. However, what they do not tell you is how implicated in wars and conflicts the truck has been due to the very same characteristics. We have seen in recent newscasts that in many of today's conflicts, there's a Toyota truck; no matter how remote the country is. This is because, if the AK47 is the favourite weapon for militias in developing countries, the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser are the militia's trucks of choice.

This is no surprise when one considers that the Toyota Land Cruiser was initially designed to be a military car inspired by the famous Jeep Willis at the time Japan was occupied by the US after Japan's defeat in World War II. However, its popularity among terrorist groups, militias, as well as developing countries' national armies only gained ground in the 80's when a conflict between Chad and Libya proved the trucks' effectiveness as war machines; simultaneously calling into question the efficacy of traditional war strategies and military logistics.

This little-known story is about how an army comprising 400 Toyota pickups of the Chadian army outmanoeuvred and overwhelmed a vastly superior force equipped with soviet-era tanks and aircrafts of the Libyan army. The historical event demonstrated how a civilian truck was able to shape international borders, tipping the balance in favour of the inferior party to the conflict.

The Toyota War

The Toyota War is the name given to the last phase of the Chad-Libyan War that raged on for almost a decade, yet did not have relevance until its last phase. This last phase began in 1986 and ended a year later with a heavy defeat inflicted on the Libyan army by the Chadians. In total, 7,500 men were killed and 1.5 billion dollars worth of military equipment was destroyed or captured. Conversely, Chad only lost 1,000 men and very little military equipment (because they hardly had any).

The last phase of the conflict developed in the disputed area of the North of Chad, an area that had been occupied by Libyan forces in 1986 due to its natural resources such as uranium (highly interesting for Gadhafi and his nuclear armament project). At the beginning of 1987, the last year of the war, the Libyan expeditionary force comprised 8,000 soldiers, 300 T-55 battle tanks, multiple rocket launchers and regular artillery, as well as Mi-24 helicopters and sixty combat aircrafts. However, the Libyan soldiers were demotivated and disorganized. The Chadians, on the other hand, had nothing but 10,000 brave and motivated soldiers with neither air support nor armoured tanks. However, by 1987, Chad could count on the French Air Force to keep Libyan aircraft grounded but, perhaps more importantly, a 400 Toyota pickups fleet equipped with MILAN (Missile d ́infanterie léger antichar) anti-tank guided missiles sent by the French Government. Additionally, it could also be equipped with .50 calibre machine guns, with archaic flak cannons for anti-air purposes or even rocket clusters to be used as WWII-style artillery.

This logistical combination proved to be superior to that employed by the Libyan army as Toyota pickup trucks could easily outmanoeuvre the heavily armoured Russian tanks. Whereas the latter consumed around 200 L/100 km, the Toyota trucks consumed a fraction, at 10L/100 km. In addition, Toyota Trucks could mobilize groups of 20 people in a single truck, enabling faster transport and deployment of troops to the conflict scene; an advantage the Russian tanks did not have.

Reminiscent of the Maginot line when the Nazi army challenged the old trenches system utilizing a fixed artillery method with the innovative Thunder war strategy, the Chad Army emerged victorious over the Libyans through a simple strategic innovation in military logistics. Something clearly demonstrated in the Battle of Fada. In this instance, a Libyan armoured brigade defending Fada was almost annihilated: 784 Libyans and CDR (Democratic Revolutionary Council) militiamen died, 92 T-55 tanks and 33 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles were destroyed, and 13 T-55s and 18 BMP-1s were captured, together with the 81 Libyan soldiers operating them. Chadian losses, on the other hand, were minimal: only 18 soldiers died and three Toyotas were destroyed.

All in all, this situation was one of the first deployments of the Toyota Hilux in a conflict zone, demonstrating the reliability of the truck and its high performance in harsh environments. A testament to the Toyota's endurance was its featuring in the famous TV show "Top Gear" where a 1980's Toyota Hilux was put to a wrecking ball, set on fire, submerged in a sea bay for 5 hours, then left on the top of a building waiting its final demolishment, yet still rolled.

Ever since, Toyota trucks have been sighted in conflicts in Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (CDR), Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, and Pakistan and as the New York Times has reported, the Hilux remains the pirates' 'ride of choice.'  The deployment of Daesh of a fleet of hundreds of Toyotas in Mosul in 2014 was a lasting testament of the trucks' durability.


Chad's troops during the war against Libya in the 1980s [Wikimedia Commons]

Chad's troops during the war against Libya in the 1980s [Wikimedia Commons]



How could the West deal with this issue? To deploy a massive fleet of Humvees? It would be naïve to attack an enemy with their own means. This hardly appears to constitute an effective solution. Humvees are already being substituted by JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) due to their vulnerability to IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices); something insurgents are allowed to use but western countries are not due to international treaties and ethical values (how can a mine be designed such that it can distinguish a civilian truck from a Toyota driven by insurgents?). This proves the challenge that counterinsurgency policies (COIN) entail and the need to move to a next generation as far as COIN strategies are concerned.

The Toyota example is one of many that clearly signals a need for conventional state armies to adapt their logistical capabilities to better match the challenges of non-conventional warfare and insurgencies; the primary forms of conflict in which our nations are today engaged. The first lesson is clearly that the traditional focus on high power and the availability of resources is poorly suited to respond to contemporary insurgencies and military engagement with primarily non-state entities. Rather, there is a growing need for logistical versatility, combining both attack power and high manoeuvrability. The Toyota issue is an interesting example that illustrates how groups like Daesh have been able to mobilize an easily accessible, relatively non-expensive market commodity that has proven to be effective in lending the group precisely the kind of logistical aid required to successfully wage its insurgency. This being said, there are a number of dilemmas posed to nation states engaging in COIN strategies that prevent them from being able to employ the same methodology. Clearly there is a need to constantly engage in the adaptation of COIN strategies to respond to new threats and the surprising innovation of the adversary. However, COIN campaigns have been difficult to manage, and even harder to win, since time immemorial.

Recent research in political science and economics investigates a number of difficulties security forces face during conflicts with insurgent actors (Trebbi et al., 2017). Development and military aid spending have uneven effects, and conventional military strategies, including aerial bombardment, can erode civilian support for the COIN. Although states have historically used mass killings of non-combatants to undermine logistical support for guerrilla actors, evidence from modern insurgencies indicates that these measures may have the opposite effect: in some cases, such measures may encourage recruitment and mobilization (Trebbi et al., 2017). As such, the challenge is to constantly adapt to meet the requirements of contemporary warfare, whilst simultaneously assessing and remaining cognizant of the effects that COIN measures have on the overall campaign.

Adaptation through learning and innovation occurs on a much different time-scale than evolution. Although both involve information exchange with the environment and with elements within the system, evolution occurs over long periods of time through successive generations that have been able to successfully survive to changes (Hayden, 2013). Learning is the process of modifying existing knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, or preferences, and innovation involves the incorporation of a previously unused element into the system, or the recombination of existing elements in new ways.


In the previous example of the conflict between Chad and Libya, it was mentioned that the Libyan army had its air force inoperative due to the presence of French air support. Another important point to make is that Toyotas may have been effective war machines for the terrain and surrounding environment, yet would nevertheless have been vulnerable to airstrikes had the Libyan army been able to engage air power against the Chadians. Air and space are part of the future of COIN strategies, despite composing only one element of them. They are our eyes (UAV systems), our way to get away or deploy forces (Chinook helicopters for example) and also the sword that can eliminate the threat (e.g. Predator drones). However, maintaining complete dominance over the battle space does not guarantee victory.

Due to the success of the air campaign in Operation Desert Storm, airpower seemed to be the predominating weapon of choice for future warfare. Yet, recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have called that assertion into question. Airstrikes in ground operations have proven to be controversial in small wars, especially when it comes to civilian casualties and its impact on civilian morale (an element that could enhance local support to insurgents). This is why, to win popular support, the US air force had to rethink its operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to win popular support (this also a result of Taliban and Pakistani propaganda and political pressure). Most recently, the US, along with France and the UK, have engaged in massive airstrikes on strategic infrastructure devoted to chemical development supposedly for a military use. Although being calibrated, proportional and targeted, those attacks have created a lot of internal discussion in the West and have divided society. As such, the future environment seems certain to further limit the kind of strikes it can make with airpower and missiles.

Consequently, technologically superior air assets nowadays face significant challenges in engaging dispersed and oftentimes unseen opponents. The Air Force must determine how modern airpower can successfully engage an irregular opponent. Air power, the "strategic panacea" of Western policymakers (Maxey, 2018), will no longer maintain the same utility that it does against rural insurgents. Although tactical Predator strikes and aerial reconnaissance may have shifted the street-to-street fighting against Daesh, such operations are severely limited within expansive megacities. The threat of civilian casualties is often too high, even for precision-guided munitions with limited blast radius. Further. buildings and layers of infrastructure often obscure a clear overhead view.

For 2030, the United Nations (UN) suggests that around 60 percent of global population will live in urban areas. There are 512 cities of at least one million inhabitants around the world, and this is expected to grow to 662 cities by 2030. Many of the megacities that will emerge will come from the developing world. That is why it is so urgent to design strategies to adapt to operating within metropolitan environments where small roads prevent large tanks to manoeuvre, where buildings give cover to heavy cannon targets and where one is more exposed to the crosshairs of insurgents taking cover in civilian infrastructure. 

As U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley remarked in 2016; "In the future, I can say with very high degrees of confidence, the American Army is probably going to be fighting in urban areas. We need to man, organize, train and equip the force for operations in urban areas, highly dense urban areas, and that's a different construct. We're not organized like that right now".

In addition to this, National armies must be able to work through host governments, providing training, equipment and on-the-ground assistance to their local partners. The mere presence of a foreign army in the area often creates a negative perception among the local population and, unfortunately, in other cases, violent opposition. However, if the army patrolling the city wears the national flag, things change. Defeating an insurgency depends upon effective state building.



Engel, P. (2018). These Toyota trucks are popular with terrorists — here's why. Business Insider. [Accessed 21 Apr. 2018].

S.L.P., I. (2018). The Toyota War in Syria. Instituto de Estrategia S.L.P. [Accessed 21 Apr. 2018].

Wang, A. (2018). How did the Toyota pickup become terrorists' favorite truck?. Quartz.

Maxey, L. (2018). Preparing for the Urban Future of Counterinsurgency. (2018). Air and Space Power COIN / IW | Small Wars Journal.

Costas, J. (2018). The dark and warlike side of the Toyota Land Cruiser.

Tomes, R. R. (2004). Relearning counterinsurgency warfare. Parameters, 34(1), 16-29.

Hayden, N. K. (2013). Innovation and Learning in Terrorist Organizations: Towards Adaptive Capacity and Resiliency. System Dynamics Society.

Ryan, A., & Dila, M. (2014). Disruptive Innovation Reframed: Insurgent Design for Systemic Transformation.

Trebbi, F., Weese, E., Wright, A. L., & Shaver, A. (2017). Insurgent Learning (No. w23475). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security & Defence Analysis Regional Affairs

July 1 presidential election does not open a serious discussion on the fight against drug trafficking

The 'iron fist' that Felipe Calderón (PAN) began in 2006, with the deployment of the Armed Forces in the fight against drugs, was extended in 2012 by Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI). In these twelve years the status has not improved, but rather increased violence. In this 2018 elections none of the main candidates presents a radical change from model; the populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Morena) proposes some striking measures, but continues to count on the work of the Army.

Mexican president on Flag Day, February 2018.

▲The Mexican president on Flag Day, February 2018 [Presidency of the Republic].

article / Valeria Nadal [English version].

Mexico faces a change of sexenio after closing 2017 as the most violent year in the country's history, with more than 25,000 homicides. How has this status been reached ? Can it begin to be resolved in the coming years?

There are several theories about the beginning of drug trafficking in Mexico, but the most widely accepted argues that Mexican drug trafficking was born when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States between 1933 and 1945, promoted the cultivation of poppy in Mexican territory with the veiled intention of promoting the production of large quantities of morphine to relieve the pain of U.S. soldiers during World War II. However, drug trafficking was not a serious national problem until the 1980s; since then, cartels have multiplied, violence has increased and crime has spread throughout Mexico.

The new phase of Felipe Calderón

In the fight against drug trafficking in Mexico, the presidency of Felipe Calderón marked a new stage. candidate of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), Calderón was elected for the six-year term 2006-2012. His program included declaring war on the cartels, with a "mano dura" (iron fist) plan that translated into sending the Army to the Mexican streets. Although Calderón's speech was forceful and had a clear goal , to exterminate insecurity and violence caused by drug trafficking, the result was the opposite because his strategy was based exclusively on police and military action. This militarization of the streets was carried out through joint operations combining government forces: National Defense, Public Security, the Navy and the Attorney General's Office (PGR). However, and despite the large deployment and the 50% increase in the expense in security, the strategy did not work; homicides not only did not decrease, but increased: in 2007, Calderón's first full presidential year, 10,253 homicides were registered and in 2011, the last full year of his presidency, a record 22,409 homicides were registered.

According to agreement with the high school of Legal Research (IIJ) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), in that record year of 2011 almost a quarter of the total Mexican population over 18 years of age (24%) was assaulted in the street, suffered a robbery in public transport or was a victim of extortion, fraud, threats or injuries. The fees of violence was so high that it surpassed those of countries at war: in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 there was a average of 12 murders per day per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Mexico that average reached 18 murders per day. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the number of complaints about this indiscriminate wave of violence was quite high leave: only 12% of the victims of drug-related violence reported. This figure is probably related to the high rate of impunity (70%) that also marked Calderón's mandate.

Peña Nieto's new approach

After the failure of the PAN in the fight against drug trafficking, in 2012 Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was elected president. With this, this party, which had governed for uninterrupted decades, returned to power after two consecutive six-year periods of absence (presidencies of Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón, both from the PAN). Peña Nieto assumed the position promising a new approach , contrary to the "open war" proposed by his predecessor. He mainly focused his security policy on the division of the national territory into five regions to increase the efficiency and coordination of operations, on the reorganization of the Federal Police and on the strengthening of the legal framework . However, the new president maintained the Army's employment in the streets.

Peña Nieto's results in his fight against drug trafficking have been worse than those of his predecessor: during his term, intentional homicides have increased by 12,476 cases compared to the same period in Calderón's administration and 2017 closed with the regrettable news of being the most violent year in Mexico to date. With just months to go before the end of his six-year term, and in a last-ditch effort to right the wrongs that have marked it, Peña Nieto brought about the approval of the Internal Security Law, which was voted by Mexico's congress and enacted in December of last year. This law does not remove the military from the streets, but intends to legally guarantee that the Armed Forces have the capacity to act as police, something that previously only had the character of provisional. According to the law, the military participation in daily anti-narcotics operations is not to replace the Police, but to reinforce it in those areas where it is incapable of dealing with drug trafficking. The initiative was criticized by critics who, while recognizing the problem of the scarcity of police resources, warned of the risk of an unlimited military deployment over time. Thus, although Peña Nieto began his term in office trying to distance himself from Calderón's policies, he has concluded it by consolidating them.


Annual intentional homicides in Mexico

source: Executive Secretariat, Government of Mexico


What to expect from the 2018 candidates

Given the obvious ineffectiveness of the measures adopted by both presidents, the question in this election year is what anti-drug policy the next president will adopt, in a country where there is no re-election and therefore every six-year presidential term means a change of face. The three main candidates are, in the order of the polls: Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena); Ricardo Anaya, of the PAN coalition with the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), and José Antonio Meade, of the PRI. López Obrador came close to reaching the presidency in 2006 and 2012, both times as candidate of the PRD (he had previously been leader of the PRI); he then created his own party.

Meade, who represents a certain continuity with respect to Peña Nieto, although in the electoral campaign he has adopted a more anti-corruption tone, has pronounced himself in favor of the Internal Security Law: "It is an important law, it is a law that gives us framework, that gives us certainty, it is a law that allows the participation of the Armed Forces to be well regulated and regulated". Anaya has also positioned himself in favor of this law, since he considers that a withdrawal of the Army from the streets would be "leaving the citizens to their fate". However, he supports the need for the Police to recover its functions and strongly criticizes the lack of responsibility of the Government in subject of public security, alleging that Mexico has entered a "vicious circle that has become very comfortable for governors and mayors". In any case, neither Meade nor Anaya have specified what turn they could take that would be truly effective in reducing violence.

López Obrador, from a left-wing populist stance, is a major change with respect to previous policies, although it is not clear how effective his measures could be. Moreover, some of them, such as granting amnesty to the main drug cartel leaders, seem clearly counterproductive. In recent months, Morena's candidate has changed the focus of his speech, which was first centered on the eradication of corruption and then focused on security issues. Thus, he has said that if he wins the presidency he will assume full responsibility for the country's security by integrating the Army, the Navy and the Police into a single command, to which a newly created National Guard would be added. He has also announced that he would be the only one to assume the single command: "I am going to assume this responsibility directly". López Obrador pledges to end the war against drugs in the first three years of his mandate, assuring that, together with measures of force, his management will achieve economic growth that will translate into the creation of employment and the improvement of welfare, which will reduce violence.

In conclusion, the decade against drug trafficking that began almost twelve years ago has result been a failure that can be measured in numbers: since Calderon became president of Mexico in 2006 with the slogan "Things can change for the better", 28,000 people have disappeared and more than 150,000 have died as a result of the drug war. Despite small victories for Mexican authorities, such as the arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman during the Peña Nieto presidency, the reality in Mexico is one of intense criminal activity by drug cartels. From the electoral proposals of the presidential candidates, no rapid improvement can be expected in the next six years.

Categories Global Affairs: North America Security and defence Articles Latin America

[Javier Lesaca, Weapons of mass seduction. Ediciones Península, 2017. 312 pages]


review / Alejandro Palacios Jiménez

What is it that drives a young man to abandon his friends and family and freely give up his dreams to join the Islamic State? With this question in mind, Javier Lesaca immerses us in this narrative in which he dissects the communicative apparatus used by ISIS to gain followers and spread its ideas and influence through the virtual Caliphate.

Thanks to his extensive professional career, the author sample in Armas de seducción masiva has a high Degree of depth and analysis, which is not incompatible with an entertaining and convincing narrative. Javier Lesaca Esquiroz (Pamplona, 1981), graduate in Journalism at the University of Navarra, works as researcher at the International Observatory of programs of study on Terrorism. His extensive knowledge on topic has allowed him to work in organisations such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Bank development and the Government of Navarre. Education Her work experience is complemented by her participation in forums such as the United Nations (UN) Security committee or the Euro-Arab Dialogue of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

His main hypothesis is that the crisis of credibility in traditional institutions, which has been fuelled by the economic and financial crisis of 2008 and is palpable in the 15-O movement, coupled with the technological revolution of the 21st century, has allowed the Islamic State (ISIS, or Dáesh, by its Arabic nomenclature) to influence the perceptions of Western citizens, in particular millennials, in a way never seen before. Millennials, who do not feel represented by their respective state institutions, seek to feel important and to participate in a new project that helps them to make sense of their lives and to stand up every day for a cause worth fighting for. And ISIS offers them just that.

Weapons of mass seduction

But what is Dáesh? Far from historical and religious explanations, Lesaca presents us with an unprecedented answer: the Islamic State embodies what is called modern terrorism, which uses the instruments of the new generations to get its messages across. In other words, Daesh presents itself as a global social movement that uses local communication campaigns that are disseminated throughout the world and whose terrorist acts are used as a mere "performance" within a broader communication strategy. Thus, Daesh defines itself as a leaderless movement that, paradoxically, moves away from the more purely religious elements to suit the concerns of the youth audience it plans to seduce.

The fact that it is a headless movement does not imply that it is internally unorganised. On the contrary, ISIS is a terrorist group that uses social networks very effectively and whose internal structure allows it not only to influence, but also to be in possession of some of the media. Its strategy consists of both developing its own media and using what is called "earned media". reference letter The former refers to Daesh's large communication structure based on: press releases, infographics, photographic reports, magazines in different languages, the Al Amaaq news agency, Al Bayan radio, Ajnabah music productions, the Isdarat website (now closed), audiovisual production companies and offline marketing in some parts of Iraq and Syria (billboards, posters and cybercafés). The media won is measured in terms of the number of times the terrorist group has succeeded in having its actions condition the diary of the traditional media.

The use of such a multitude of communication channels with the goal to create a parallel world, which its activists call the Caliphate, and to geographically segment the audience to modify the framing of the message - all under the cover of twisted interpretations of the Koran - is what is known as transmedia terrorism. To make this strategy as effective as possible, nothing is left to chance. One example given in the book, sample , is the control that the all-powerful Syrian executive producer Abu Mohamed Adnani, a friend of the caliphate's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, exercised over his subordinates, supervising and approving the content and messages that ISIS transmitted to the public. So much so that Adnani was considered by the West to be the de facto man who exercised the real day-to-day leadership within the terrorist organisation until his death in 2016.

All of this communicative strategy is precisely described in the book thanks to the large number of concrete examples that the author provides of massacres that Dáesh has carried out since its existence and the way in which these have been transmitted. In this sense, Lesaca emphasises the effectiveness with which ISIS, making use of the new media, camouflages real executions among images of video games(Call of Duty) or fictional films(Saw, Hunger Games, Sin City) in order to blur the line between reality and fiction, creating what is called a transmedia narrative. The idea is simple: how are these images going to seem cruel to you if they are similar to the ones you see in a cinema conference room eating popcorn?

In written request, Javier Lesaca attempts to define a useful strategy for dealing with the terrorism of the future. He argues that it is unclear what tools states should equip themselves with to confront this new form of terrorism. However, a good way to do so would be to make democracy fashionable, that is, to reinforce the values that have allowed the construction of the welfare society and development the greatest period of prosperity in our history. "The Islamic State has managed to win the victory of aesthetics, which is why we must make values such as democracy, freedom and equality attractive cultural products," says Lesaca. But this is not enough, he says. In addition, "we must promote institutional strengthening by eradicating corruption and implementing policies to create a Economics capable of absorbing all the talent of the new generations and achieving an effective management of public services".

At summary, this is a book that is a must-read for all those who want to familiarise themselves with the internal organisation and Structures of the power of Daesh, its objectives and the means it uses to achieve them group . It is also an invaluable guide for the study and subsequent reaction of the West to the communication campaigns not only of the Islamic State, but also of subsequent terrorist organisations that will form part of what is already known as modern terrorism.

Categories Global Affairs: Security & Defense Middle East Book Reviews Terrorism

The deployment of nearly 19,000 peacekeepers has reduced violence, but human rights violations continue

President Joseph Kabila's leverage of power and social and tribal resentment have fueled violent conflict inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past year and a half. So far, 3.9 million people have been displaced; In 2017 alone, 3,300 deaths were recorded. The UN intervention has reduced the levels of violence, but the conflict in Kasai province is still alive.

Forces of the mission statement UN Stabilization Agency in the DRC

▲Forces of the mission statement UN Stabilization Agency in the DRC [MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti]

article / Eduardo Villa Corta

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is in the midst of a major civil crisis that has been going on for a long time. While this country has had numerous internal problems and conflicts, the one in the Kasai region, in the south-central part of the country, stands out for its high issue of deaths and human rights violations.

The origin of this conflict dates back to 2016, when President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, decided to delay the elections in order to remain in power longer. The death of his main opponent, Étienne Tshisekedi, facilitated Kabila's intentions to remain in the presidency, but he has since had to confront a civil service examination Kamuina Nsapu's militia.

To understand the status It is necessary to start from the tribal division present in the DRC. Territorial chiefdoms and divisions are administered by a traditional chief and his committee. These hereditary lines follow a succession process, which must be ratified by the Ministry of the Interior. In the case of the Kamuina Nsapu tribe, in January 2012 there was a problem with the access to the leadership of Jean Pierre Nsapu Pandi, because the Ministry of the Interior (appointed by Kabila) did not recognize the new leader. After some time, he received word that the Ministry had selected another chief from outside the tribe. This selection generated resentment that led to a revolt. From that moment on, Nsapu Pandi decided to start recruiting people in the area.

Among the reasons why this movement grew and expanded in the region is in the first place the status of widespread poverty. Given low living conditions and low economic growth, the leader's promises were a popular incentive. The knowledge of the language Local Tshilub and the Charisma itself staff Nsapu Pandi also helped him gain supporters, so that by the end of July 2016 some 800 young people were following him. It was then that the militia, called Kamuina Nsapu out of devotion to their leader and guide, the revolt began, with the burning of a police station 20 kilometers from the city of Tsimbulu.


The Kasai conflict, in the heart of the Congo


The conflict took a leap a few weeks later, when a clash broke out between police and military in Tsimbulu. The episode ended with Pandi's death order in combat, given by the president himself. From that moment on, the newly formed militia was grouped with the civil service examination Kabila and went from being a group to become a national one. It is now a militia in civil war with the government, in a confrontation that has devastated the Congolese population.

The Kamuina Nsapu militia and its atrocities had a swift response from Kabila. The latter responded with disproportionate and disproportionate force, since in their actions against the militia the authorities caused some 400 deaths in the first weeks, both among armed elements and among the civilian population. The group has grown exponentially due to the strong civil service examination Kabila, who nevertheless continues to hold power in Kasai to this day. Both sides of the conflict have been involved in atrocities and serious human rights violations.

The data about deaths and harm to people are not easy to obtain. According to sources in the Catholic Church, in 2017 alone the conflict caused at least 3,300 deaths. That same year, 1.7 million people left their homes and moved to neighbouring countries in search of asylum. To date, a total of 3.9 million people have been displaced. The conflict has exacerbated famine in the country, which has reached 7.7 million people. Of these, 3.3 million are located in the Kasai region, which is the hardest hit by the conflict. In January 2018, it was estimated at 400,000 issue of malnourished children. The numbers are only rising due to migration and the status of danger suffered by thousands of people. The DRC has order the World Bank $1.7 billion to be able to establish and help the population. But this sum has not been delivered nor has there been any financial contribution from any international organization.

The truth is that these atrocities are the responsibility of both sides in the conflict. The involvement of both parties can be seen in the finding of mass graves (80 have been found in the area) following a United Nations initiative. It showed that everything from beheadings to mutilations had been committed, and that the victims ranged from soldiers to children. The UN has sent observers and "blue helmets" to the area: a total of 19,000 troops whose troops are being sent to the area. mission statement It is to try to keep the peace, support civilians and investigate the events that happened. So far, 2,800 human rights violations have been recorded. At least two UN observers were beheaded in the Kasai region, which is difficult for international organisations to access due to government restrictions and the very unfolding of violence.

This conflict is based on social and tribal resentment and the struggle for control of the country. In order for the country to recover, both Kabila and the Kamuina Nsapu would have to reach some point in the country. subject complimentary. To achieve this, the international community should reiterate the pressure exerted in 2016 at the start of a conflict that has escalated over almost two years. The African Union and the UN should push both parties to the dispute towards a ceasefire, in mediation both regionally and extracontinentally. The most conducive solution to the stabilization of the country is the holding of free elections.

Categories Global Affairs: Africa Security and defence Articles

China, India and Japan are investing in their respective air forces with an eye on the neighbor

North Korea is making headlines about space-faring weaponry, but it is Asia's great powers – China, India and Japan – that are striving for full air potential.

Chinese J-20 Stealth Fighter

▲Chinese J-20 Stealth Fighter

article / Sebastian Bruzzone

North Korea is not the most powerful military air power in Asia. The exuberant parades and frequent ballistic missile launches by this nation are certainly far from their actual firepower, although they invest roughly 15% of their GDP in it. Military air hegemony is mainly in three centres-states:

Japan. The Japanese air force, established in 1954, combines its level of technique and sophistication with U.S. aircraft. Both countries, also with South Korea, carry out exercises in the airspace of the Pacific Ocean. Its aviation fleet varies from generation to generation. It has modern F-15 and F-2 aircraft manufactured by Mitsubishi Industries (Japanese, national company) and Lockheed Martin (American company), and older aircraft such as the Phantom F-4. Similarly, it has an early warning team and attendance and another for tanker planes to keep the rest of the aircraft in the air for as long as possible.

India. The Indian Air Force possesses Soviet and domestic technology, as well as a training system and management of the British Royal Air Force. Its fleet has 300 state-of-the-art fighters supplemented by older MiG-21s. In addition, 200 offensive ground attack aircraft and C-17 Globemasters in the field of logistics to ensure cargo transport and refueling and immediate warning.

China. Since the end of World War II, the Chinese government has invested in its aerial weaponry to become the continent's leading military power. Today, it has 600 fighters of the 4th and 4.5th generations, as well as the aircraft of the aforementioned countries. Unlike Japan and India, the main manufacturer of their equipment is the country itself and they have not been imported from any other nation. What stands out most about the Chinese Air Force is the evolution in recent years. It has gone from having a very large and poorly trained fleet to being made up of pilots who can spend more than 24 hours on a plane. However, the Chinese aviation industry still has quality issues in its engines. Still, we may be talking about the most important air power in Asia.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security and defense Articles

Great Wall of China, near Jinshanling

▲Great Wall of China, near Jinshanling [Jakub Halin-Wikimedia Commons]

COMMENTARY / Paulina Briz Aceves

The Great Wall of China was completed after decades of successive efforts by different dynasties, not only as a defensive line, but also as a sign of China's attitude towards the outside world. Although this wall currently has no use, other than to be a tourist attraction, it has been an example for the creation of another great wall, which, although not physical, has the same effects as the original: isolating the Chinese community from the outside world and protecting itself from attacks that threaten its sovereignty.

The "Great Firewall of China" – the government's online surveillance and censorship effort – monitors all traffic in Chinese cyberspace and allows authorities to both deny access to a variety of selected websites, and disconnect all Chinese networks from the Internet. network of the Internet. In addition to the Great Firewall, the Chinese government has also created a domestic surveillance system called the "Golden Shield," which is administered by the Ministry of Public Security and others Departments government and local agencies. The Chinese government understands how valuable and powerful technology, innovation, and the Internet are, which is why it is cautious about information disseminated on Chinese soil, due to its constant fear of possible questioning of the Communist Party and disruption of China's political order.

China's cyber policies and strategies are barely known in the international world, but what is known is that China's network security priorities are motivated by the goal the main challenge of the Communist Party to stay in power. China's rulers understand that cybernetics are something that is already fully integrated into society. Therefore, they believe that in order to maintain political stability, they must keep an eye on their citizens and control them, leaving them in the shadows by censoring not only general information, but also sensitive issues such as the massacre in the city. place Tiananmen or Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution .

Filters that control what citizens see on the web have become more sophisticated. In addition, the government has employee around 100,000 people to monitor the Chinese internet, to control information not only coming from the West, but even that which is generated in China itself. It is true that this meddling in the media has undoubtedly caused the Chinese government to assert its power over society, because it is clear that whoever has the information definitely has the power.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security & Defense Comments

Mobilisation of the Royal Thai Armed Forces in 2010

▲Mobilisation of the Royal Thai Armed Forces in 2010 [Roland Dobbins-WC]

COMMENTARY / Álvaro Aramendi Baro

Terrorism is hitting harder and harder in Thailand. The causes of this incipient growth are difficult to pin down. However, the coup d'état of the Royal Armed Forces led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha on May 22, 2014 and, obviously, the subsequent political repressions played a very important role. Nor should we forget the pressure exerted by the BRN (Barisan Revolusi Nasional), which for decades has been fighting for the independence of Pattani (located in the south of Thailand). group revolutionary also operates in northern Malaysia. This terrorist organization is currently used by ISIS. ISIS's strategy, as well as that of Al-Qaeda, is based on encouraging and incentivizing nationalist insurgencies in order to have easier access to those territories under its target.

Despite this, the jihadist influence has taken different paths from those we already know, such as in Iraq or Syria. It is enough to follow the media to guess that the self-styled Islamic State prefers global media expansion to national expansion. This is not the case in Thailand. Both the objectives of terrorism and its communication strategy are national and rather hidden, in the shadows. Because of this, the relationship between them is not entirely evident today.

The status It's not what it should be. If there is one thing Thailand needs today, it is a period of peace in order to recover from past events. In the last century, there have been at least twelve successful coups d'état, the last of them, and not counting the one in 2014, in 2006. There is an urgent need for a quiet period in which to establish a strong foundation, and other structure, for its constitutional monarchy (similar to that of England).

Perhaps the best way to resolve the conflict is to avoid falling into the error of other countries, such as Burma or the Philippines, and to avoid strong repression. That is why, as Crisis Group warns, the best option would be dialogue and not the exclusion of ethnic minorities such as the Rohingya, in the case of Burma, or the Muslim community in Thailand (with a Buddhist majority). Should this happen, the terrorist pressure would become more and more unbearable, until the pot could only explode. Annexation to groups such as ISIS can occur for a variety of reasons, not adding one more to the list is essential.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security & Defense Comments

The new EU cooperation programme should lead to increased investment in security and defence.

After seven long years of hibernation, the European Union's Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) was launched on 11 December, with the aim of achieving greater convergence in security and defence matters, mission statement . The initiative represents a leap forward in the process of European integration, overcoming the period of stagnation and hesitation brought about by the last economic and financial crisis.

Soldiers carrying the European Union flag in front of the EU institutions, 2014.

Soldiers carrying the flag of the European Union in front of the EU institutions, in 2014 [European Parliament].

article / Manuel Lamela Gallego

The very year in which the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome was commemorated ended with a certain sense of vindication and reaffirmation on the part of the European Union and its member states, having succeeded against all odds in generating investment and cooperation in the areas of security and defence. The implementation of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is the response to the urgent need for investment in these two areas, a need that the EU has had for decades and that not even the failure in the Balkans managed to address.

We speak of reaffirmation in the face of the evident crisis that the European Union has suffered in recent years, when doubts have been raised about its own continuity. Despite this delicate situation status, the EU has acted with admirable flexibility and has considered its own role on the world stage with the aim of continuing to make a positive difference in the world goal . It is in this context of reflection and change that the launch of PESCO should be framed.

To this recent loss of credibility must be added the collection of 'failures' that the EU has accumulated in generating a common defence strategy. Javier Solana's words in 2003 acknowledging the failure and fracture of the Union in the Iraq crisis management cast a shadow of impotence and ineptitude that the EU has so far been unable to shake off. area The implementation of PESCO represents a great flash of light in Europe's external action, as it demonstrates the unity within the European project in the highly sensitive area of security and defence.   

In this way, and in compliance with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, on 13 November, and after several months of insistence by the European committee , 23 Member States signed a notification that represents the first step towards the implementation of Permanent Structured Cooperation. This moment was declared "historic" by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. This is undoubtedly a turning point in the history of the European Union, since after several decades it has managed to break with the tendency to reduce European cooperation to the sphere of economic integration. PESCO aspires to lay the foundations from which, with truly binding projects, common and shared strategies can be generated that will gradually shape the new Europe of security and defence. In its measure, Permanent Structured Cooperation is positioned like the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Commission, whose decision-making dimension was one of the pillars for the expansion of European supranationalism into other, more ambitious areas.      

Legal basis

The legal basis for PESCO is found in Articles 42(6) and 46, together with protocol issue 10, of the Lisbon Treaty (2009).

article 42(6): "Member States which fulfil higher military capability criteria and which have made more binding commitments on subject to perform the most demanding tasks will establish permanent structured cooperation on framework of the Union. This cooperation shall be governed by article 46 and shall not affect the provisions of article 43".

If anything should be emphasised about the Permanent Structured Cooperation it is its binding nature, whereby states will be truly bound by their commitments, as we can see from article 46(4): "If a participating Member State no longer fulfils the criteria or can no longer assume the commitments referred to in Articles 1 and 2 of the protocol on permanent structured cooperation, the committee may adopt a decision suspending the participation of that State".

PESCO's lack of influence over state sovereignty is one of its fundamental characteristics. This is clearly reflected in articles 46(5) and 46(6) of the Lisbon Treaty. The first clarifies the steps to be taken by a Member State to leave project: it need only notify committee of its intention to leave withdrawal. The second deals with decision-making within the Permanent Structured Cooperation: decisions will be taken unanimously, in a unanimity constituted by the votes of the representatives of all Member States participating in PESCO.

expense of 2% of

On 11 December, the European committee finally decided to launch PESCO, an initiative that Ireland and Portugal joined, bringing the issue membership to 25 countries. This led to the adoption of the first 17 projects on which participating states commit to cooperate and which will be formally adopted by committee in 2018. These projects will cover various areas of European security and defence, such as the training of troops or the standardisation and facilitation of cross-border military transport (the latter of which has been in high demand by NATO in recent years). In addition to this list of projects, it is worth highlighting the commitment of states to steadily and continuously increase defence budgets in real terms. After several years of economic and financial recession in most European states, defence spending falls short of the 2% of GDP agreed at the NATO summit in Wales in 2014. This is undoubtedly one of the most important tasks for PESCO to fulfil in order to continue with a stable development .

The Permanent Structured Cooperation initiative was taken by France, Germany, Spain and Italy, which confirms the functioning of the two-speed Europe, although in the end project has been joined by practically the entire Union, with the only absences being Malta, Denmark (which does not participate in European defence) and obviously the United Kingdom, which is planning to leave in March 2019. It remains to be seen whether this high participation does not jeopardise the initial ambition of project. Although the very nature of PESCO facilitates the coexistence of the two Europes as long as the minimum commitments are met.

The friction that PESCO and NATO may have or the future position that the UK will hold in European defence after its exit from the EU are other questions that PESCO raises. Only its implementation will dispel these uncertainties. Leaving these doubts aside for a moment, what can be said is that Permanent Structured Cooperation opens up a wide horizon and that it is exclusively in the hands of European citizens to take advantage of it.

As the current French Minister of Economics and Finance, Bruno le Maire, says: "Europe is not a certainty, it is a fight".



Council of the EU. (11 December 2017). Retrieved from Cooperation on subject defence: statement press

Council of the European Union (2017). Legislative acts and other instruments (PESCO), (p. 20). Brussels.

European Union (2009). Treaty of Lisbon. Lisbon, Portugal.

The Council and the High Representative of foreign affairs and security policy (2017). Notification on Permanent Structured Cooperation, (p. 10).

Categories Global Affairs: European Union Security and defence Articles

Moscow continues militarization of the peninsula to prevent other forces from entering the region

Since the turn of the century, Russia had been losing economic, political and military influence in several Black Sea littoral countries; the seizure of Crimea attempted to correct the status. The Kremlin has just deployed a new missile group on the peninsula, in the framework of a long-term rearmament program deadline that seeks to ensure that operationally the Black Sea is a Russian 'lake'.

▲Putin in Sevastopol during the 2014 celebration of the victory in World War II [Kremlin].

article / Vitaliy Stepanyuk

"The bear will not ask anyone's permission." This was the allegory used by Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a Valdai Discussion Club meeting in October 2014, to reflect that Russia will not seek anyone's permission when pursuing its national interests and those of its people.

These words were pronounced a few months after the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The process of change of government had been initiated and troops had been mobilized to the newly incorporated territory, making any subject Ukrainian intervention to regain their land impossible. Approximately four years later, the militarization of the peninsula continues its course by the Russian Federation.

Thus, the deployment of a new defense system in Crimea has just become known, an action justified by Moscow as a measure to protect the airspace over the Russian-Ukrainian border, and also to deal with continued threatening activity on the border, arising mainly from the presence of NATO.

Since the occupation of Crimea, the Kremlin has initiated a long-term rearmament program deadline to achieve a zone (A2/AD) that would prevent other forces from accessing the region. This zone would limit the freedom of both air and ground maneuver for potential invaders. Together with other missile systems in Armenia, Krasnodar and elsewhere, this establishes a truly comprehensive anti-access zone. The establishment of advanced defense systems, the update of radars, the modernization of the Black Sea Fleet and the deployment of fighter aircraft are some of the initiatives undertaken to create such a blockade zone against any outside advance. In the coming years, six new attack submarines and six new surface ships are planned to be added to that Fleet, which could operate beyond the Black Sea, even supporting military operations in Syria.

Moving away from the old satellites

The increase in NATO troops and their presence in countries bordering Russia is seen by Russia as a threat to its security. Countries such as Poland, where NATO mobilized in January 2017 about 3.500 soldiers, and others such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary see the deployment as necessary in view of the status occurred in Ukraine and Russian military exercises near their borders: a clear example is Zapad 2017, a set of strategic and military exercises carried out jointly by Russian and Belarusian troops, in Belarus, in the Kaliningrad Oblast and along the entire northern strip bordering NATO countries.

Map from Wikimedia Commons

Looking back over the recent history of the last 20 years, we can see how Russia has been losing economic, political and military influence over the territories bordering the Black Sea since the beginning of the century. Thus, in Georgia (2004) and Ukraine (2005), more pro-Russian presidents were replaced by more pro-Western ones. In addition, Bulgaria and Romania had become members of NATO, while Georgia and Ukraine were working on it.

Operations in the Black Sea area

Threatened by this status, Russia decided to do everything possible to prevent Georgia and Ukraine from becoming NATO members, while at the same time developing strategies to remove the remaining states from NATO's influence.

With the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin showed its determination to contain NATO, maintaining to this day a B military influence in various regions of that country. The same happened in Ukraine after the flight of former President Viktor Yanukovych, when Russia invaded Crimea in March 2014. In this way, it secured control over the naval base of its Black Sea Fleet located in Sevastopol (Crimea). It also militarily supports pro-Russian separatists in the war in Eastern Ukraine, destabilizing the country.

In other countries bordering the Black Sea, Russia has acted differently. In the case of Bulgaria and Romania, the only countries bordering the Black Sea that are members of the European Union, Russian influence prevails in supporting pro-Russian political parties and establishing strong ties at subject business. However, Romania is another region that constitutes a challenge to Russian foreign policy, due to its impetus in defending NATO's presence in the Black Sea.

In the case of Turkey, which unlike several of the countries mentioned above was not part of the USSR or the Soviet bloc, the Kremlin has supported the authoritarianism carried out by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking mainly two basic objectives: to dissociate Turkey from NATO, to which it has belonged almost since its beginnings (1952), and to ensure its friendship with the country that exercises control over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits, which allow access to the Mediterranean Sea. If Turkey were to close the straits, the Russian fleet would be isolated and unable to exert its influence beyond the Black Sea. This could happen if Turkey and Russia were to find themselves at odds with each other in a conflict. In such a case, as the second strongest military power in the region, Turkey could be a clear threat to isolated Russian troops. On the other hand, the relationship with Turkey presents numerous challenges for Moscow: one example is the disagreement over the Syrian conflict, where Turkey opposes the Assad regime, while Russia supports it. 

Importance of the Black Sea

At final, Russia seeks to strengthen its influence and dominance over the Black Sea. This is mainly due to some essential characteristics: firstly, this sea is an important strategic point, as it would allow access to the various adjoining territories; secondly, control over ports and trade routes would give the power to obstruct trade and energy supplies (it is a territory crossed by a multitude of energy transport pipelines); finally, Russia could greatly influence regions that share a common history with Russia, infringing on its relationship with NATO.

Immediate challenge

In conclusion, it is interesting to understand that the main challenge facing Russia is to maintain the status quo, according to Yuval Weber, a professor at Harvard University. To do so, Russia has to be able to maintain the separatist group in the Ukrainian war, until the Kiev government falls and can then engage in conversation with a possible puppet government that will accept a solution on Russian terms. However, maintaining such a state of affairs implies having to deal simultaneously with international intervention and Russia's own weak domestic economic status , where there is growing social dissatisfaction over wages, cutbacks in services, poverty in some regions, among other problems.

Both Russia's internal and external status , as well as that of its territories of influence, are contingent on the results of the upcoming Russian presidential elections, to be held on March 18, 2018. The World Cup is not the only thing at stake.

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia Security and defense Articles

▲Trilateral summit of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Sochi in November 2017 [Turkish Presidency].

ANALYSIS / Albert Vidal and Alba Redondo [English version].

Turkey's response to the Syrian Civil War (SCW) has gone through several phases, conditioned by the changing circumstances of the conflict, both domestically and internationally: from giving support to Sunni rebels with questionable affiliations, to being one of the targets of the Islamic State (ISIS), to a failed coup attempt in 2016, and always conditioning its foreign policy decisions on the Kurdish issue. Despite an initially aggressive stance against Assad at the beginning of the Syrian war, the success and growing strength of the Kurdish civil service examination , such as result of its role in the anti-ISIS coalition, has significantly influenced Turkey's foreign policy .

Relations between Turkey and Syria have been fraught with difficulties for the past century. The Euphrates River, which originates in Turkey, has been one of the main causes of confrontation between the two countries. Turkey's construction of dams limits the flow of water to Syria, causing losses in its agriculture and generating a negative impact on the Syrian Economics . This problem is not limited to the past, as currently the project GAP (project of Southeastern Anatolia) threatens to further compromise the water supply of Iraq and Syria through the construction of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric dams in southern Turkey.

In addition to disputes over natural resources, Hafez al-Assad's support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the 1980s and 1990s greatly hindered relations between the two countries. However, conflict was avoided altogether with the signature of the protocol of Adana in 1998. Another source of discord between Syria and Turkey has been the territorial claims made by both nations over the province of Hatay, still claimed by Syria, but administered by Turkey, which incorporated it into its territory in 1939.

Despite the above issues, Syria and Turkey enjoyed a good relationship during the decade leading up to the Arab Spring and the revolutions of the summer of 2011. The international response to the Syrian regime's reaction to the uprisings was mixed, and Turkey was unsure of what position to take until, in the end, it chose to support the rebel civil service examination . Thus, Turkey offered protection on its territory to the rebels and opened its borders to Syrian refugees. This decision signaled the initial stage of the decline in Syrian-Turkish relations, but the status significantly worsened after the downing of a Turkish plane on June 22, 2012 by Syrian forces. This resulted in border clashes, but without the direct intervention of the Turkish Armed Forces.

From a foreign policy perspective, there were two main reasons for reversing Turkey's non-intervention policy. The first reason was a growing series of Islamic State (ISIS) attacks in July 2015 in Suruc, Central Station in Ankara and Atatürk Airport in Istanbul. The second, and arguably the most important reason, was Turkey's fear of the creation of a Kurdish proto-state in its neighboring countries: Syria and Iraq. This led to the launch of Operation Euphrates Shield (also known as the Jarablus Offensive), considered one of Turkey's first direct military actions in Syria since the SCW began. The main goal was to secure a area in northern Syria free from control of ISIS and Democratic Union Party (PYD) factions. The Jarablus Offensive was supported by article 51 of the UN Charter (the right of nations to self-defense), as well as several UN Security committee resolutions (Nos. 1373, 2170, 2178) pertaining to the global responsibility of countries to fight terrorism. Despite being successful in achieving its objectives, the Jarablus offensive ended prematurely in March 2017, without Turkey ruling out the possibility of similar future interventions.

Internally, Erdogan's military intervention and assertive posturing aimed to gain public support from Turkish nationalist parties, especially the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Grand Unity Party (BBP), as well as general public backing for the constitutional changes then being proposed. That would give Erdogan greater executive powers as president. Consequently, a foreign distraction campaign was more than welcome, given the growing domestic unrest and general discontent, following the coup attempt in July 2016.

Despite Turkey's assertiveness sample towards Syria, Turkish military intervention does not indicate strength. On the contrary, Erdogan's actual invasion of northern Syria occurred in the wake of disputes (between Syria and Iraq) that threatened to undermine Turkish objectives, both at home and abroad. Thus, limited United States (US) interference and the failure of rebel forces to topple the Assad regime meant the perpetuation of the terrorist threat; and, more importantly, the continued strengthening of Kurdish factions, which posed the most effective force against ISIS. Indeed, the Kurds' success in the anti-ISIS coalition had helped them gain worldwide recognition similar to that of most nation-states; recognition that meant increased financial support and increased provision of weapons. A Kurdish region, armed and gaining legitimacy for its efforts in the fight against ISIS, is undoubtedly the main reason for Turkish military intervention. In any case, the growing Kurdish influence has resulted in Turkey's shifting and ambiguous attitude towards Assad throughout the SCW.


▲visit of Erdogan to the command of Operation Olive Branch, January 2018 [Presidency of Turkey].


Turkey's changing stance on Assad

While Turkey aggressively supported Assad's ouster at the beginning of the SCW, this stance has increasingly taken a back seat to other more important issues of Turkey's foreign policy with its neighboring states, Syria and Iraq. Indeed, recent statements by Turkish officials openly acknowledge the resilience of the Assad government, a fact that opens the door to future reconciliation between the two sides. These statements also reinforce a very profuse view, according to which, Assad will be a piece core topic in any future agreement on Syria. Thus, on January 20, 2017, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek said,"We cannot keep saying that Assad should go. A agreement without Assad is not realistic."

This easing of rhetoric towards Assad coincides with a positive shift in Turkey's relations with the Syrian regime's allies in the conflict (Iran and Russia), in its attempts to bring about a resolution of the conflict. However, the official Turkish position towards Assad lacks consistency, and appears to be highly dependent on circumstances.

Recently, a war of words initiated by Erdogan with the Syrian president took place, in which the Turkish president accused Assad of being a terrorist. Moreover, Erdogan rejected any subject negotiations with Assad on the future of Syria. For his part, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem responded by accusing Erdogan of being manager of the bloodshed of the Syrian people. On January 2, 2018, forces loyal to Assad fired shells towards Turkish territory. Such a launch prompted an immediate response from Turkey. On January 18, Mevlüt Çavusoglu (Turkish Foreign Minister) announced that his country intended to carry out an air intervention in the Syrian regions of Afrin and Manbij.

A few days later, Operation Olive Branch was launched, under the pretext of creating a "security zone" in Afrin (in Syria's Aleppo province); although it has focused almost entirely on expelling what Erdogan calls Kurdish "terrorists," which are actually composed of Kurdish factions backed by the U.S. These Kurdish groups have played a crucial role in the anti-ISIS coalition. The operation was reportedly launched in response to U.S. plans to create a border force of 30,000 Syrian Kurds. Erdogan stated in a recent speech :"A country we call an ally insists on forming a terror army on our borders. Who can that terrorist army attack if not Turkey? Our mission statement is to strangle it before it is born." This has significantly worsened relations between the two countries, and triggered an official NATO response, in an attempt to avoid confrontation between NATO allies in Manbij.

The US is seeking a balance between the Kurds and Turkey in the region, but has maintained its formal support for the SDF. However, according to analyst Nicholas Heras, the US will not help the Kurds in Afrin, as it will only intervene in the areas of mission statement against ISIS; starting from Manbij and towards the East (thus Afrin is not under US military protection).

Impact of the Syrian conflict on Turkey's International Office

The Syrian conflict has had a strong impact on Turkish relations with a wide range of international actors; of which the most important for both Turkey and the conflict are Russia, the United States, the European Union and Iran.

The downing of a Russian SU-24 aircraft in 2015 led to a deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey. However, thanks to the Turkish president's apology to Putin in June 2016, relations normalized, ushering in a new era of cooperation between the two countries. This cooperation reached its pinnacle in September of the same year when Turkey purchased an S-400 defense missile system from Russia, despite warnings from its NATO allies. In addition, the Russian business ROSATOM has planned to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey worth $20 billion. Thus, the partnership between the two nations has been strengthened in the military and economic spheres.

However, despite the rapprochement, there are still significant differences between the two countries, particularly with regard to foreign policy perspectives. On the one hand, Russia sees the Kurds as important allies in the fight against ISIS; and considers them essential members in the post-conflict peaceful resolution (PCR) meetings. On the other hand, Turkey's priority is to bring democracy to Syria and prevent Kurdish federalism, which translates into its refusal to include the Kurds in PCR talks. Nevertheless, the ties between Turkey and Russia seem to be quite strong at the moment. This may be due to the fact that the (in Turkey's case, increasing) hostility of both countries towards their Western counterparts outweighs their differences regarding the Syrian conflict.

The relationship between Turkey and the United States is more ambiguous. As important members of NATO, both countries share important ties from work. However, looking at recent developments, one can see how these relations have been deteriorating. The main problem between Washington and Ankara has been the Kurdish issue. The US supports the People's Protection Units (YPG) militias in the SCW, however, the YPG is considered a terrorist group by Turkey. It is not yet known how their relationship will evolve, but possibly both sides will reach a agreement regarding the Kurdish issue. As of today (January 2018), the confrontation in northern Syria is at a stalemate. On the one hand, Turkey does not intend to give in on the Kurdish issue, and on the other hand, the US would lose its prestige as a superpower if it decided to succumb to Turkish demands. Support for the Kurds has traditionally been based on their role in the anti-ISIS campaign. However, as the campaign winds down, the US is finding itself in a bind trying to justify its presence in Syria in any way it can. Its presence is crucial to maintain its influence in the region and, more importantly, to prevent Russian and Iranian domination of the contested theater.

The US refusal to extradite Fethullah Gülen, a bitter enemy who, according to Ankara, was one of the instigators of the failed 2016 coup, has further strained their relations. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, only 10% of Turks trust President Donald Trump. In turn, Turkey recently declared that its agreements with the U.S. are losing validity. Erdogan subryaed that the dissolution of ties between the two countries would seriously affect the legal and economic sphere. In addition, Turkey's Zarrab was convicted in a trial in New York, for helping Iran evade sanctions by enabling a money laundering scheme, which was filtered through US banks. This has been a big problem for Turkey, as one of the defendants had ties to Erdogan's AKP party. However, Erdogan has called the trial a continuation of the coup attempt, and has dealt with potential criticism by organizing a media campaign to spread the idea that Zarrab was one of the perpetrators of the conspiracy against Turkey in 2016.

With respect to the European Union, relations have also deteriorated, despite the fact that Turkey and the EU have strong economic ties. As result of Erdogan's "purge" after the failed coup, the continued deterioration of freedoms in Turkey has strained relations with Europe. In November 2016, the European Parliament voted in favor of fail EU accession negotiations with Turkey, justifying its decision on the abuse of human rights and the decline of the rule of law in Turkey. By increasingly adopting the practices of an autocratic regime, Turkey's accession to the EU is becoming impossible. In a recent meeting between the Turkish and French presidents, French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the ties between the EU and Turkey, but suggested that there was no realistic chance of Turkey joining the EU in the near future.

Since 2017, after Erdogan's victory in the constitutional referendum in favor of changing the system (from a parliamentary to a presidential system), EU accession negotiations have ceased. In addition, several European bodies, which deal with human rights issues, have placed Turkey on a "black" list, based a assessment, according to which the state of democracy in Turkey is in serious danger due to the AKP.

Another topic related to the Syrian conflict between the EU and Turkey is refugees. In 2016, the EU and Turkey agreed to transfer €6 billion to support Turkish reception of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. While this appeared to be the beginning of a fruitful cooperation, tensions have continued to rise due to Turkey's limited capacity to host such issue of refugees. The humanitarian crisis in Syria is unsustainable: more than 5 million refugees have left the country and only a small issue of them have received sufficient resources to restart their lives. This problem continues to grow day by day, and more than 6 million Syrians have been displaced within its borders. Turkey hosts, as of today, more than 3 million Syrian refugees and, consequently, Ankara's policies have result been greatly influenced by this crisis. On January 23, President Erdogan stated that Turkey' s military operations in Syria would end when all Syrian refugees in Turkey could return safely to their country. The humanitarian financial aid is being sent to civilians in Afrin, where Turkey launched the latest offensive against Kurdish YPG militiamen.

Regarding the relationship between Iraq and Turkey, in November 2016, when Iraqi forces arrived in Mosul to fight against the Islamic State, Ankara announced that it would send the army to the Iraqi border, to prepare for possible developments in the region. The Turkish Defense Minister added that he would not hesitate to act if Turkey's red line was crossed. This received an immediate response from Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi, who warned Turkey not to invade Iraq. Despite this, in April 2017, Erdogan suggested that in future stages, Operation Euphrates Shield would be extended to Iraqi territory: "a future operation will not only have a Syrian dimension, but also an Iraqi dimension. Al Afar, Mosul and Sinjar are in Iraq."

Finally, Russia, Turkey and Iran have cooperated in the framework Astana negotiations for peace in Syria, despite having somewhat divergent interests. In a recent call between Iranian President Rouhani and Erdogan, the Turkish president expressed his hope that the protests in Iran, which occurred in late 2017, will end. The relations between the two countries are strange: in the SCW, Iran supports the Syrian (Shiite) government, while Turkey supports the Syrian (Sunni) civil service examination . Something similar happened in the 2015 intervention in Yemen, where Turkey and Iran supported the opposing factions. This has led to disputes between the leaders of the two countries, however, such tensions have eased since Erdogan made a visit to Iran to improve their relationship. The Qatar diplomatic crisis has also contributed to this dynamic, as it positioned Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and in favor of Qatar. Although there is an enduring element of instability in relations between the two countries, their relationship has been improving in recent months as Ankara, Moscow and Tehran have managed to cooperate in an attempt to overcome their differences to find a solution to the Syrian conflict.

What lies ahead for Turkey in Syria?

Thanks to the negotiations in Astana, a future agreement peace in the region seems possible. The "cessation of hostilities" zones are a necessary first step, to preserve some areas from the violence of war, as outlined in the Turkish strategic plan from the beginning. That said, the result is complicated by a number of factors: the strength of the Kurdish factions is a major element of discord, as well as a source of conflict for the powerful who will manage the post-conflict transition.

There are two main factors that have clearly impacted Turkey's foreign policy decisions regarding the Syrian conflict. The first has to do with the long and complex history of Turkey and its Kurdish minorities, as well as its obsession with preventing the Kurds from achieving a Degree territorial autonomy. If achieved, this would embolden the Turkish Kurds and threaten Turkey's territorial integrity. Turkey unilaterally attacked positions of the Kurdish civil service examination , including some backed by a NATO ally (the US), thus demonstrating how far it is capable of going to ensure that the Kurds are not part of the solution at the end of the civil war. All this produces uncertainty and increases the chances of new conflicts in Syria.

The second factor is related to the changing nature of the government in Turkey, with a move away from the Western-democratic model towards a more authoritarian and quasi-theocratic model , taking Russia and Iran as political allies. In its pivot to the east, Turkey maintains a fragile balance, considering that its objectives differ from those of its new friends (Russia and Iran), with respect to the political result in Syria. Recent developments indicate, however, that Turkey seems to be reaching a agreement on the Assad issue, in exchange for more flexibility in dealing with the Kurdish issue (part of the anti-ISIS coalition), which it considers a threat to its national security.

Currently, in January 2018, the relationship between Turkey and the U.S. appears to be at an impasse, especially in relation to the U.S.-backed group SDF. Erdogan has stated that, after his operation in Afrin, he will continue with a move towards Manbij. Therefore, under NATO auspices, a agreement is being negotiated to clearly delineate the areas in which both countries are militarily active. There is great uncertainty as to how long such partition agreements (under the guise of an anti-ISIS coalition) can last before a new conflict breaks out. However, it seems likely that one of the two possible scenarios will occur to avoid the possible outbreak of war between the great powers in the Middle East.

There are two options. Either a agreement is reached regarding the future role of the SDF and other Kurdish factions, with Turkey's consent, or else the US will withdraw its support for the Kurds, based on the mandate that their alliance was limited to joint fighting in the anti-ISIS coalition. In the latter case, the US risks losing the political and military advantage that the Kurds give it in the region. It also risks losing the confidence of its Kurdish allies, a fact that could have serious strategic repercussions for US involvement in this region.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defense Middle East Analysis