Institute of World Affairs

International Programs since 1924

Category: Articles

Michel Aoun: Lebanon’s New President

At last, and after more than a two year wait, the Lebanese parliament has elected former Army General and disputed Prime Minister, Michel Aoun, as the country’s next President.

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Lebanon: Mosaic of Sects or Budding Nation-State?

It has been almost thirty years since the adoption, in October 1989, by the Lebanese Parliament of the Taif Accord.  The agreement put an end to a civil war that engulfed Lebanon for more than 15 years.  Between 1989 and 2005, the Taif Accord remained largely unimplemented because of internal disputes between Christian and Muslim Lebanese and foremost because of Syria’s heavy-handed manipulation of politics in the country.

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Boko Haram, a Presidential Election, and the Price of Corruption in Nigeria

The Mouse that Roared

What is to be made of the recent crisis in Nigeria that pitted the outgoing government of Goodluck Jonathan against Boko Haram? How is it that a rebel group consisting of a core of some 7,000 to 10,000 fighters using mostly small arms and bombs has been able to resist, and often rout, the largest army in West Africa? Why has this conflict lasted for close to six years? Why was the presidential election scheduled for February 14 postponed for six weeks, and why in the interim were foreign mercenaries brought in to do battle with homegrown insurgents?

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Reap the whirlwind: Climate change and terrorism

The dire predictions contained in the recently released UN climate change panel report are upon us. In Africa, the effects of climate change have stalled — and are reversing — generations of progress made against poverty and hunger.

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The sad fate of Mohammed Morsi

History has again repeated itself as farce. This time, the protagonists were Mohammed Morsi and the head of Egypt’s armed forces, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. On June 22, the General advised the President to take immediate steps to defuse a situation that was quickly spiraling out of control, to initiate a national dialogue, inclusive of all the opposition movements, and to express a commitment to building bridges across a highly fissured political landscape.

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Egypt’s hip-hop uprising

Egypt has just entered a tunnel darker than the one that, just a year ago, produced Mohammed Morsi and ushered in the short, sad reign of his Freedom and Justice Party. With the military’s ouster of the country’s only freely elected president, a new era begins with little promise of lasting solutions to the problems that plague the country.

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The Salafist Winter: Aiding Post-Conflict Statebuilding in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya

Executive Summary

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are confronted with major structural adjustment challenges that cannot be solved without the help of regional and international donors and private investment. After decades of one-man rule, their economies are in tatters, political institutions are fragile, civic society is underdeveloped, and security has yet to be firmly established. Progressive minded secularists are engaged in an uneven battle with conservative Islamists intent on consolidating power. The situation in all three countries is fluid, dynamic and dangerous. Violence is never far from the surface, and when it flares up regimes are shaken and unable to mount an effective response. These close neighbours are entering new territory with an untested leadership and with an administrative apparatus sorely in need of technical assistance. Only Libya possesses sufficient natural resource wealth that properly managed can help it recover without international financial assistance. The military takeover in Egypt has quieted the street for the moment, it remains to be seen if in its aftermath the country can be put on a sounder political and economic footing. Like Egypt, Tunisia requires substantial foreign aid and investment to right its economy. Security, education, employment, all must figure prominently in national development strategies. Support for secularist parties is essential to balance political power and to avoid the rise of religious tyranny. In all cases, international actors should be supportive of locally generated solutions, and highly attentive to sensitivities about foreign intervention. Outside engagement should be broad-based, and include regional intergovernmental organizations such as the Arab League. Such engagement must be sustained over a sufficient period of time to increase the likelihood that there will not be political and economic backsliding.

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Sanctions and Myanmar’s “new look” government

Why, after almost 50 years of military rule, has the current Burmese (Myanmarese) strongman, Thein Sein, allowed the wedge of political and economic reform pry open his otherwise authoritarian state?

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Egypt Inc.: Revolution or Proxy Fight?

Pity the poor dictator whose quest to modernize ends up sowing the seeds of his destruction.  There is the exquisitely decadent Ben Ali clan in Tunisia, which struck a bargain with the Third Estate, allowing it more freedom, prosperity, mobility than has any other state in the region, as long as it kept its head down in matters political. But educated people, middle class people, people who travel freely, who have access to modern communication technology, and, most importantly, who have a sense of personal empowerment, can be bought off or shut out for just so long. When the economy went bad due to the aftershocks of the global financial crisis, Ben Ali ran out of inducements, and when the army he kept small to avoid competition refused to fire on the people, and his much larger police force was cowed into inaction, he ran out of threats. Within days the modernizing but greedy Tunisian plutocracy was forced to flee this most European of Maghrebi states. This is a scenario that has been played out all too many times, and not only in this politically benighted corner of the world.

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L’État, c’est moi! Gaddafi, Savimbi, Money and Politics in Africa

Muammar al-Gaddafi has been in power for over 40 years. He is likely to stay in power unless he is forcibly removed by his own people, which seems a remote possibility given the resources at his disposal, some say billions in cash, or by the international community, read the United States, which also appears improbable given “Afraq” war weariness reminiscent of the post-Somalia period when inaction led to the deaths of many thousands in Rwanda. And resources are the key to who wins and who loses in these protracted affairs. Witness the ability of another African Big Man, Jonas Savimbi of Angola, to wage a long battle with an oil-rich government even after he lost U.S. and South African backing and his lifeline through Zaire was cut. Savimbi armed and fed a sizeable force, UNITA (National Unity for the Total Independence of Angola), for eight years on proceeds from diamonds and ivory, which netted approximately $500 million annually. At one point 40 flights a week were taking off and landing at his two main airfields in the central highland towns of Luzamba and Andulo. While the internationals tried to broker a peace deal, Savimbi was using South African and other smugglers, based in Namibia and Botswana, to get diamonds out and to get supplies in, including large arms shipments from Bulgaria and Ukraine.

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