Insurgency dump

Whereas the previous two article dumps have focused largely on the overlap between a state’s growth and the institutions which underpin it, this one seeks largely to deal with those actors whose goal is to actively dismantle the state. What separates the subject matter from the institutional dump is that the actors in question are typically defined by their role as non-state actors or, as is the case in the excerpt about Jordan, that the state is particularly devoid of insurgency.

Egypt’s Mainland Terrorism Landscape

Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

“On May 8, four men carried out a brutal mass shooting, emptying their magazines into an adjacent car as they drove along the Nile in Helwan, a district in Cairo. Eight policemen were killed during the attack, which was claimed by both the Islamic State in Egypt (that is, the branch of the global organization that operates in mainland Egypt, rather than Sinai) and a lesser-known group, the Popular Resistance Movement. Our long-term research shows that violence like this has been thriving in mainland Egypt for years. While the insurgency in the restive North Sinai has garnered a great deal of concern, actors in the mainland (that is, outside of Sinai) have evolved since then-Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El Sisi asked for a popular mandate to counter terrorism in July 2013, and those actors continue to carry out regular attacks across the country. These actors are neither monolithic nor immutable; violence has seen two distinct phases, and is possibly now entering a third. While all three phases have seen a mix of small attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), shootings, and intermittent large-scale attacks, the actor landscape has shifted.”

The Law of Revenge: Deadly Hatred among Anti-IS Alliance in Iraq

Der Spiegel

“The roughly 30 Sunni villages surrounding Tuz Khurmatu are completely empty today. Where houses stood until just a few months ago, there are ruins today. Or, in the case of the village of Hweila, there is nothing left at all. It was bombed and flattened down to knee level, with just a bit of re-bar, some piles of rubble and bits of concrete pillars sticking out above the undulating grass. It is silent but for the sound of crickets and a few birds. Clumps of flowers reveal where yards once were. It is as though IS [the Islamic State] has set in motion a distinctly Iraqi machinery of barbarism, one which can also function just fine without the jihadist group. But the fact that the Hashd militias are now going after the Kurds in Tuz may have less to do with a carefully considered plan and more to do with internal rivalries within the groups. For roughly the last six months, the Iraqi state has been almost completely insolvent. The price of oil is too low to continue financing the state amid rampant corruption in the country. In Tuz Khurmatu, construction has stopped on a new hospital and school and the hollow structures stand empty. Even the Shiite militias, who had been able to pay substantial salaries until now, are no longer able to buy their fighters’ loyalty with money alone. So they have been trying to outdo each other with brutality.”

What to expect from Jordan’s new prime minister

Washington Post – Monkey Cage

“Unlike many other states in the region, Jordan had no revolution, coup d’état or civil war during the Arab Spring — for which many Jordanians are thankful — but did see a resurgence of activism and protest, especially in 2011 and 2012. Since then, many movements have toned down their own activism in the wake of political violence and turmoil across Jordan’s borders. The regime, meanwhile, initiated a series of top-down reforms meant to defuse tensions within the kingdom. Today, however, the gap between the regime and its diverse forms of opposition remains quite wide, over not only future trajectories but also what exactly happened during Jordan’s version of the Arab Spring. For many in the regime, Jordan serves as a model of a regime reforming itself, changing laws on parties and elections, revising the constitution and opening up the system carefully and gradually. For its critics and activist opponents, these measures are merely cosmetic, not meaningful shifts in Jordan’s palace-centered power structure. Recent changes to the constitution were regarded with alarm in many quarters of Jordanian politics as solidifying monarchical power, rather than pluralism, separation of powers, or checks and balances. In some respects, a new set of elections and a new post-election government might test just where Jordan is in this process.”

Yemen: Stemming the Rise of a Chaos State

Chatham House

“In the case of Yemen, the groups taking part in the civil war are routinely oversimplified into ‘pro-Hadi’ and ‘pro-Houthi’ camps. The reality is that most Yemenis do not support either the president or the northern rebels; rather, they are part of much smaller groups with their own identity, ideology, grievances and political goals, from secessionists in the south to Salafists in Taiz and Aden and tribal leaders in the north. Maintaining the illusion that either Hadi or the Houthi–Saleh alliance is representative of, or has control over these groups would be a dangerous folly. There is a growing consensus among Yemen analysts and researchers that the transitional process of 2012–14 failed because of exactly such a gap in policy-makers’ understanding of Yemen, and because of the mismatch between the needs of the Yemeni people and the priorities of the transition’s foreign sponsors. Along with the Yemeni elites, the UN and the member states of the UN Security Council focused on political power-balancing at the elite level, reinforcing the power of these elites while ignoring local dynamics and historically marginalized groups such as the Houthis and southern separatists, and paying little more than lip service to addressing the collapse in services and standards of living.”

How Russia allowed homegrown radicals to go and fight in Syria


“Four years ago, Saadu Sharapudinov was a wanted man in Russia. A member of an outlawed Islamist group, he was hiding in the forests of the North Caucasus, dodging patrols by paramilitary police and plotting a holy war against Moscow. Then his fortunes took a dramatic turn. Sharapudinov, 38, told Reuters that in December 2012 Russian intelligence officers presented him with an unexpected offer. If he agreed to leave Russia, the authorities would not arrest him. In fact, they would facilitate his departure. ‘I was in hiding, I was part of an illegal armed group, I was armed,’ said Sharapudinov during an interview in a country outside Russia. Yet he says the authorities cut him a deal. ‘They said: “We want you to leave.”’ Sharapudinov agreed to go. A few months later, he was given a new passport in a new name, and a one-way plane ticket to Istanbul. Shortly after arriving in Turkey, he crossed into Syria and joined an Islamist group that would later pledge allegiance to radical Sunni group Islamic State.”


War on the Rocks

“Al-Nusra starts with embedding itself in the opposition and then incrementally moving to subsume, purge, or dominate revolutionary forces, both civilian and military. It has used this approach throughout Syria. Unlike ISIL, al-Nusra’s logic of control is defined by achieving a loose military and political dominance, rather than complete control, although the latter is its long-term objective. The group carefully chooses when and where to assert its authority to maintain a careful balance between its long-term aims—full control and establishing an Islamic Emirate in Syrian—and the need to appease revolutionary forces and the local population. Upon entering new territory, for example, al-Nusra often refrains from imposing its control on the population or governance institutions. Instead, it initially shares control with the groups already in power on the ground, even if they are secularists and oppose al-Nusra’s visions for Syria. Al-Nusra uses this approach to prevent an abrupt rejection by the local population that may result in a full-fledged confrontation with opposition armed groups, as well as to diffuse its presence in opposition-held areas. But sharing control does not necessarily foster agreement. It is a tactic to delay confrontation until al-Nusra has the military and political means to dispense with its temporary allies and purge, or subsume, their members. This gradualist approach dovetails with al-Nusra’s strategy to gain genuine grassroots support for its long-term political project.”



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