Egypt, the West and the Arab Spring

America’s refusal to condemn the military coup in Egypt has revealed the West’s true hopes for the ‘Arab Spring’


By Gulshan Roy, 11th September, 2013

 “If there is a God, he will have a lot to answer for. If not… well, he had a successful life,” Pope Urban VIII once said of a man who would irreversibly frame the study of diplomatic strategy. The Cardinal of Richelieu became France’s First Minister in 1624 at the time of the bloody war of Counter-reformation in Europe. In spite of France’s Catholic faith, Richelieu refrained from joining his religious allies in the war on Protestant Europe. But far retired from the moral obligations towards peace, his calculus rested instead within the strategic reasoning that a protracted and prolonged bloodbath would inflict damage upon both his allies and enemies, and ultimately serve France’s national objective of acquiring more power in Central Europe. Upon his advice, France simply stood back and watched the bloodshed, waiting for the most opportune moment to enter the fray. As the Obama administration silently watches the unfolding tragedy in Egypt, one can hardly eschew the conclusion that the robed religious tactician has found a host of studious followers in Washington.

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Kyrgyzstan: dangers from outside and inside threaten stability

Kyrgyzstan has recently experienced an upsurge in tensions around the issue of pollution in the Kumtor Gold Mine, which it has not known since the ethnic riots of June 2010. Oppositional nationalists are using this tension to put Kyrgyzstan again on the edge of stability, at a moment when Islamist are growing strong in the region and Afghanistan is going through a security transition that could affect the rest of Central Asia.


By Alejandro Marx, 8th September, 2013

Since its independence in 1991, with the dissolution of the USSR, Kyrgyzstan has known stability until the ‘Tulip Revolution’ in 2005 when its first president Askar Akayev, elected in 1990 was succeeded by Kurmankek Bakiyev. Bakiyev left Kyrgyzstan in April 2010 as a result of violent street protests, followed soon after by ethnic riots. After the transitional presidency of Roza Otunbaeva, Almazbek Atambaev was inaugurated president  in December 2011. Atambaev is the leader of the Kyrgyzstan Social Democratic Party, which has 26 out of 120 seats in parliament. He previously held the post of prime minister in the governments of Bakiyev and Otunbaeva. His party rules an unstable coalition with the other parties, apart from the nationalist Ata-Jurt party.

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Jihad 2.0: How Social Media Supports Islamist Agendas in Syria

Based on primary information from forums, communiqués and social media activities, this article offers an insight into the online activity of political jihadists and shows how online platforms are being used to support the jihadist cause in Syria.

By Camille Maubert, 4th September, 2013

The notion that the internet is a strong asset for international terrorist groups is not new. Forums have long been acknowledged as the main channel for Al Qaeda to reach out to its followers and articulate its goals and ideology. However, changes in the online environment and the fast development of social media as a preferred way of communication have altered the nature of the jihadi activities online.

Despite complaints by some ideologues that forums are being abandoned by their followers in favor of other medias, these platforms remain an essential part of jihadi media strategies. Some of them, such as Shumukh al-Islam and Ansar al-Mujahedeen, have been active for years and thus benefit from an great credibility with their audience. They are also direct links between AQ central and its supporters, featuring messages from famous jihadi writers and clerics the most prolific of which include Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi, Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi, Abu Ubaydah and of course AQ’s current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Aside from official propaganda, forums enable groups and individuals alike to diffuse contents, post comments and share links with other bloggers in a relatively safe environment, ensuring cohesion within the jihadi community. However, developments in the Syrian crisis have created new needs which forums could not fulfill. As a matter of fact, Syria has been described as the first Youtube war, where every unfolding event is reported live by individuals using camera phones and posting images and videos online instantly. Such level of democratization and reactivity cannot be replicated in forums which are by definition restricted to members and censored by an editorial board. As a result, militants have turned to other platforms, namely Twitter and Facebook.

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A Mozambican Newspaper With a Difference

The author brings to light a Mozambican newspaper – named @Verdade – which does not follow traditional financial models, and has in turn become a “tool for change”. The name of the newspaper curiously contains an @ symbol. Their English language website can be found here


By Roberto Valussi, 27th August, 2013

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the birth of a very rare creature in the contemporary media landscape: an independent, respected, profitable, popular and free newspaper. The square was circled not in some glitzy borough of London, but in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

The product in question is the weekly newspaper @Verdade (‘Truth’ in Portuguese, the country’s official language), which has become the most read national newspaper since 2010, only two years after its first number was fit to print. Its slogan is ‘A Verdade não tem preço’, which translates to, ‘the Truth is priceless’.

@Verdade is more than a newspaper; as its founder Erik Charas put it, “I did not start the venture for the business or for the media aspect. My intention was to uplift the country, to contribute in order to do change.”

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The Merit Delusion – Caste and Affirmative Action in India

In this article, Satish Chandra questions the accepted definition of “merit” in the caste-based reservations debate in India. 

Editor’s note: SC/ST stands for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes while OBC stands for Other Backwards Castes. These government caste-groupings are determined by the degree of the lack of socio-economic progress as determined and decided by the government. Studies reveal that SC/STs are on average far poorer, are discriminated against, and lack access to opportunity outside of government mandated reservations when compared to the ‘General’ castes. OBCs are on average better off than SC/STs but worse off than ‘General’ castes. Of course, there are genuine concerns over these government classification of castes, which don’t always accurately reflect the socio-economic conditions of those castes. However, that is a different debate for a different time.

Before reading the article, it would be a good idea to watch the following documentary on caste and untouchability, called India Untouched. It dispels the myth that caste-based discrimination is a thing of the past in India, by capturing – on camera – instances of such discrimination taking place to this day. Alternately, please watch this playlist of very short videos by Video Vounteers.


By Satish Chandra, 2nd August, 2013

Reservations for socially and economically backward castes in academic institutions and government jobs (affirmative action) are a highly contentious issue in India, although mostly for all the wrong reasons. One of those is an argument that reservations dilute merit. Consider this “joke” that was email-forward fodder years ago and is now doing the rounds on social networks. It is good example of how badly caste issues are understood.

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Discovery of India – Chapter 2: Election Freebies, Women and the Mid Day Meal Scheme

InPEC brings to you the “Discovery of India” log of Karthik Radhakrishnan, an engineering graduate student from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as he travels through India. This chapter describes the tale of a village in Tamil Nadu which is hit by floods every year and the residents have no means to get by.
Place : Thalainayar (Nagappatinam District, Tamil Nadu)
Date : 22nd July, 2013

By Karthik Radhakrishnan, 29th July, 2013
Thalainayar is a Town Panchayat in the district of Nagappatinam (For people who remember the Tsunami of 2004, Nagappatinam district had the maximum number of casualties in Tamil Nadu.) This is a story of a tiny village in this Panchayat, Santhantheru, whose residents have no food, no drinking water and absolutely no money. This village gets flooded for three months every year and the residents are put up in a nearby school, where close to a hundred families live together with inadequate food and space. The floods take away both the lives and livelihood of these poor people who rely totally on agriculture for their food.

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An Attempt to Discover India – Chapter 1

InPEC presents to you the “Discovery of India” log of Kartik Radhakrishnan, an engineering graduate student from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as he travels through India. In this post, he presents the story about a village in India which “has been forgotten by both the political and administrative executive of the country.”

Place : Aalapalayam (50km North of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu)
Date : 25th June, 2013


By Kartik Radhakrishnan, 10th July, 2013 (republished)

In the past few months, I have often asked myself the question “What do I consider to be a privilege in my life?” The answer seemed to be obvious “food, shelter and education.” Now that I think about it, this might have been a very shallow response from a guy sitting inside an AC room, oblivious to the actual hardships of the world. How about eating your food without the stench of an exposed drainage that runs around your house? How about a house whose roof falls on your head with every rainfall? How about the absence of an avenue to dispose your dead ones? Continue reading

Can India Deliver on its Clean Energy Promises?

The Editor of InPEC – Siddharth Singh – attended the Clean Energy Ministerial that took place in Delhi on the 17th and 18th April, 2013. The Prime Minister of India, while inaugurating the summit, reiterated several clean energy promises that the Government of India has made in the past. In an article on RTCC (Responding to Climate Change), Siddharth analyses whether India has the capacity and will to keep up with these goals. 


By Siddharth Singh, 24th April, 2013

On a recent RTCC article, I begin,

“(The Prime Minister made…) bold promises about India’s commitment to the cause. These include a goal to double India’s renewable energy capacity from 25000 MW in 2012 to 55000 MW by 2017.

This in turn includes, for instance, the National Solar Mission which has an objective of developing 22000 MW of solar capacity by the year 2022. These are a part of India’s commitment to reduce the energy intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020.”

I present a few reasons why India may find it hard to keep up with these promises. Two of these are, 1. general delays in project implementation and 2. the overbearing fiscal deficit.

“(…) it is commonplace to find projects delayed across sectors. According to a study by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, as of May 2012, 42% of the infrastructure projects in consideration were delayed.

Another issue is the precarious fiscal situation of the government.(…) The impact of this may go either way for the renewables sector. On the one hand, lowering fossil fuel subsidies and the rise of overall electricity prices (by the ways of a loan restructuring arrangement with state electricity companies) may make renewables more competitive with traditional sources.”

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

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Pyongyang’s Quandary

The provocative rhetoric coming from North Korea could hide a faint sense of desperation.


By Gulshan Roy, 3rd April, 2013

On Saturday 30th March, a statement released by the highest North Korean command warned that it was entering “a state of war” with its feuding southern neighbour. As Koreans on both sides watched the unfolding drama being broadcast on every major international television news channel, Mr Kim Jong-un managed to conjure an even more spectacular artifice by releasing photographs of him discussing with his senior commanders under the backdrop of a ‘Plan to Hit the U.S Mainland’ written in bold. News channels are not often presented with opportunities for such great TV. Yet, Mr Kim’s moment of teeth-showing turned into bathos once it reached its intended audience: instead of injecting any sense of panic on the other side of the Pacific, the images received in Washington were swiftly turned into material fit for some banter over bourbon.

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Open Economy, Sealed Fate

The author investigates whether the proposed reforms in India’s financial, energy and retail sectors really make a difference to the economy which many have said has ‘bottomed out’ this fiscal year. 


By Yayaati Joshi, 12th March 2013

To begin with, I deem it appropriate to describe the proposed reforms and the purported merits of those reforms in the financial, energy and retail sectors of India, and mention briefly, the state of the affairs of the Indian economy. The growth of the GDP in the last 5 years has been less than encouraging, to say the least. Looking at the trend of the GDP from 2004—that’s when the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the key figure of the 1991 Economic Reform, has been shouldering the responsibility of running the country—it has resembled a sine curve, with the crests and troughs rising and falling dramatically in 2010 onwards.

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Iran: The Waiting Game

As talks have resumed over Iran’s nuclear program in Almaty, the failure of the sanctions regime raises serious questions about mainstream diplomatic commonplaces. Far from being the favour it is portrayed to be, the rapprochement effort towards Tehran from the P5+1 is borne out of necessity.


By Gulshan Roy, 8th March 2013

“Iran won’t retreat one iota from its nuclear program” was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration on Iranian national television on the 9th of November 2011. The Iranian President is used to defiant flourishes as evidenced by his repeated promises to ‘finish off’ Israel. To his credit, however, his resolve not to sink in the face of gradually increasing pressure from the West has been steadfast. His country is weathering a deadly sanctions regime that has all but crippled the Iranian economy. Last week, the two sides met in Almaty, Kazakhstan in a desperate attempt to salvage the worsening situation. And as a beaming Mr Ali Baqeri (Iran’s deputy chief negotiator) left the fruitless round of negotiations with the P5+1 (the five permanent Security Council members and Germany), sanction-fanatics in the West were uncomfortably loosening their ties and scratching their moist foreheads. They ought to.

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A Mantle of Illusion – The Drone Program and President Obama

The drone program has considerably intensified under the Obama administration. As the American press and congress are only now waking up to this fact, the silent response from the White House shows the president is not quite the peacekeeper he projects himself to be.


By Gulshan Roy, 26th February 2013

Drones. You hear about them spying from everywhere though you can never see them. At last, however, you may now luckily read quite a lot about them in the written press. On February 6th, The New York Times revealed that air-strikes conducted in Yemen came from unmanned armed vehicles (UAVs) from an American military base in Saudi Arabia. Since, every hawk and every dove of every state in America made sure to have their screeching and cooing heard on the issue, drowning the debate in their deafening staccato. Why so much agitation, you may ask?

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‘Iranian Mothers for Peace’ Alert the World on Sanctions and Shortage of Medicines

“The right to health and access to medical treatment and medication is one of the fundamental human rights anywhere in the world. Please do not allow the killing of our sick children, beloved families, and fellow Iranians from the lack of medicine, caught in instrumental policies of coercion and power.”

“Iranian women for Peace”, a human rights organisation in Iran have written an open letter to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, and Dr Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organisation alerting them to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iran as a result of the shortage of vital medication due to US/EU led sanctions. In this letter by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, the intentions of Iranian Mothers for Peace are explained as well as the plea to the UN to respond.

by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, 4th February 2013. Continue reading

Lifting the Curtain

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision by the US Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. Claire Beckenstein, a political consultant in Washington DC, looks at the political culture surrounding the issue to discuss how far American women have come and how far they still have to go.


By Claire Beckenstein, 22nd January, 2013

Abortion is an issue that evokes visceral responses from people at both ends of the spectrum.  This issue has the ability to divide a nation and separate a family.  It is so powerful that people will even kill in the name of the cause.  On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, one could exhaust themselves for days thinking of the questions and assumptions around what America would be like without legalised abortion.  If we continue to fight the issues from our past we cannot move forward.  Therefore, it is best to focus on the present and note how monumental this decision has been for women and their health, especially to those women who view abortion as a choice, a freedom and as a right to take control of their future.

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Deja vu: The French Intervention in Mali

On January 11, 2013, French President François Hollande sent a military expedition to rescue Dioncounda Traoré’s government from the “imminent terrorist threat”. Camille Maubert, a security analyst, explores this turn of events. 


By Camille Maubert, 16th January, 2013

Five days after the French “surprise” intervention in Mali, it is – to say the least – not clear what operation Serval is all about. Brandishing UN Article 51 (which proclaims the individual and collective right to protect a member subjected to armed aggression), French President François Hollande sent a military expedition to rescue Dioncounda Traoré’s government from the “imminent terrorist threat”.  750 ground troops, 30 tanks and several Rafale combat planes have thus been mobilised to strike Islamist strongholds in the North and West of Malian territory, making, according to “security sources”, important damage to the groups’ bases and leadership.

However, doubts are rising as to what the ins and outs of the intervention are in a context where reliable information is scarce. Indeed, most of the information publically available relies on two sources. On the one hand there are the official communiqués published by the various actors’ communication outlets which are often politically biased, and which are therefore unreliable and/or contradictory. For instance, while French defence spokesperson announces 60 terrorist casualties, the Malian army increases their number to “hundreds” and Islamic groups refuse to make any statements. On the other hand, the local press predominantly relies on witness accounts from the population and “local officials”. The weakness of such sources is patent, as they are based on what people saw, or think they saw, and therefore produces subjective and incomplete interpretations.

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Infographic: Literacy in India

Upon tasking himself with creating an infographic on primary education in India, Akshan Ish found that while India’s literacy rate is steadily growing, and the country boasts of having one of the largest workforces in the world by 2020, the education system fails to equip students with fundamental skills at the elmentary level – leaving a huge chunk incompetent to contribute to the fast growing economy. 

In this post, InPEC has also included Akshan’s background notes, which gives the reader a look into the process of infographic design.


By Akshan Ish, 19th December, 2012

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The Impact of Sanctions on Iranian Society and Artists

Economic sanctions are not only shattering the lives of the Iranian people but also strangling Iran’s social and cultural development. Iran is headed for a humanitarian catastrophe unless steps are taken to avert it.

[This article is based on a talk presented by independent researcher Mehrnaz Shahabi on November 17 at the Nour Festival of Arts in London, which seeks to celebrate, explore and promote culture and arts in the Middle East and North Africa.]


By Mehrnaz Shahabi, 17th December, 2012

For 33 years now, since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran has been the target of US economic sanctions, which have increased in scope and severity over time. The impact of sanctions on populations is not always quantifiable and can be contradictory. Despite their negative impact in isolating and hindering Iran’s economic progress, and the tragic loss of life due to the boycott of spare parts for the aging Iranian airline, in so far as necessity is the mother of invention, sanctions in many instances have acted as an impetus for technological progress; and the experience of success and survival through adversity has infused a collective sense of empowerment and self-confidence.

When I was asked in July to talk about the impact of sanctions on Iranian society, the idea was to place some emphasis on the arts and artists. Since then, the reality of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding as a result of the economic warfare on Iran has shifted the emphasis, by necessity, from the artists to their audience, since it is inconceivable to think of arts separately from the audience at which it is directed. Continue reading

InPEC Exclusive: Latest US Presidential Debate Polling Data

InPEC has obtained the first polling data from the host of the first US Presidential debate, the University of Denver.  This is the first website outside of the US to break this polling data.

NEW UNIVERSITY OF DENVER POLL:

OBAMA HOLDS NARROW LEAD IN COLORADO; VOTERS OVERWHELMINGLY SAY ROMNEY WON FIRST DEBATE

Strong Debate Performance Improves Voters’ Impressions of GOP Nominee

DENVER – The University of Denver, host of the first Presidential debate on Oct. 3, today released poll results that found President Barack Obama leading Governor Mitt Romney among likely voters in Colorado, 47-43. Four percent said that they would vote for someone else, and five percent noted that they remain undecided. The poll also found that President Obama is currently leading among independent voters, 48-31.

Despite President Obama’s current lead in Colorado, respondents have improving impressions of Gov. Romney. Those who said that they watched or heard about the debate believe that Gov. Romney won by a huge margin, 68-19. That includes almost half of Obama supporters (47 percent), with just 37 percent of the President’s supporters saying he did the better job. In addition, 38 percent of likely Colorado voters said their impression of Gov. Romney is improving, while 18 percent of respondents felt the same way about President Obama.

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Libya, the Arab Winter?

In this essay, the author explores the fragile security situation and the rise of Islamist groups in post-revolution Libya. 


By Camille Maubert, 3rd October, 2012

Libya, through the persisting instability and violence ten months after the demise of Colonel Gadhafi, illustrates how fragile revolutionary gains can be. Indeed, the fall of the regime led to the disintegration of the status quo, the polarisation of the political scene and the assertion of new power relations. As the regime fell, so did the unity that the tyrant coercively insured over the great multiplicity of groups in the country, and this political break up resulted in the (re)-emergence of voices and groups with diverging agendas, interests and allegiances. The fight against the repressive regime united a multiplicity of actors from various tribal and socio-economic backgrounds into a strong, inclusive, but leaderless movement which disintegrated after the fall of the dictator. The uprising lost its unity at the moment when it lost its enemy. As a result, the constituents of this heterogeneous movement reorganised themselves in various groups with different – and sometimes competing – agendas. Among them are Islamists, which are the focus of this study because of their central role in the on-going violence. The security vacuum which stemmed from such a sudden change gave rise to instability, violence, and the empowerment of un-democratic actors – armed militias, terrorist groups, and so on – and increased insecurity in the wider Sahel region.

Accordingly, this paper aims to address the security consequences of the Libyan uprising by asking ‘How did the popular revolution impact on the regional security environment?’ In other words, it seeks to analyse the repercussion of the instability intrinsic to the post-revolutionary transitional period on Islamist activities in order to assess the shape and extent of the terror threat in the region. It argues that the security landscape is characterised by an increased Islamist presence which feeds on the instability, weak governance and widespread violence to expand its activities and audience.

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