The two recent explosions within the Iranian nuclear establishment are the latest escalation in the war that is being fought between Israel and the US against Iran. The war is aimed at delaying and if possible preventing Iran from successfully completing its Shahab3 ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme. The tools being used by the anti-Iranian forces are targeted assassinations, sabotage and cyber weapons. However, it is unlikely that the war will stop the Iranian intent to develop its nuclear and ballistic weapons. At best it will significantly delay and interrupt their development.
This Christmas the Colombian government is sending small shining spheres through the rivers of poor regions controlled by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Inside each shining orb there will be a message: "Do not let this Christmas go by. Demobilize". This is perhaps the first time Christmas decorations have been used for counterinsurgency purposes. After the death of the top leader of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, during an army operation last November, the government hopes to reach a record figure for demobilisations of guerrillas during the festivities and the two following months.
In the decade since 9/11, much has been written about the alleged changes in the nature of insurgent and revolutionary movements. Many of these studies in fact base their arguments on an interpretation of the functioning of the global Jihadist movement. They boil down to a technical analysis of principles of insurgency and counterinsurgency, devoid of politics and ideology. The presently successful Arab Spring movements, which have eclipsed the Jihadist appeal in most of the Middle East, indeed do display some of these trends. Nevertheless, they also bear witness to the continued importance of politics and ideology. Their success is ultimately based on the mobilisation of widespread popular support through an appealing cause that taps into widespread grievances.
Dictatorships have generally withstood the test of time as a result of a series of myths perpetuated amongst the populations of their countries. These myths revolve around the unchallengeable power of the dictator and the futility of resistance. However, the Arab Spring is playing a key role in falsifying these beliefs, creating a watershed moment in history which will be remembered as the beginning of the end of dictatorship.
Tuesday 22 November 2011 saw the controversial and much dreaded Protection of State Information Bill (POIB) tabled before the South African Parliament. Spearheaded by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), its original objective appears to have been to replace the apartheid-era Protection of Information Act of 1982, so as to bring South Africa’s state information legislation more in line with the country’s Constitution and democratic principles.
For those not familiar with the title’s reference, Watchmen is a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons about an alternate version of US history of the 1950s and 1960s. One particularly interesting aspect of the story concerns the efforts of one of the main characters to persuade humanity that war and division are not the answer to world problems. In order to do so, he elaborately orchestrates a major catastrophe which succeeds in helping people to realise that they can be better off if united. Arguably, Europe is witnessing its "Watchmen moment", mutatis mutandis of course; no-one is advocating a catastrophe of such dimensions in order to come to our senses.
On 31 October, a clear majority of UNESCO members voted to welcome Palestine as a full member in the UN body. As a result both UNESCO and the Palestinians are punished hard by the US and Israel. Why this anger? And what next for Palestine’s UN membership bid? The vote was held in Paris where the headquarters of the UNESCO is located. Only 173 out of the 194 member states of the UN body came to the vote. Of these, a clear majority of 107 voted in favor – amongst them France, Spain and heavyweights Brazil, Russia, China, and India – 14 voted against (Israel, US and Germany) and 52 abstained. This was a clear victory for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which was thus granted the majority needed to become a full member of the UN organization.