Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

19 Jun 2014

Iraq continues to dominate this week's Digest, with events there reverberating around the region. We include a backgrounder on ISIS, and a report into the way that the group uses social media as an auxiliary to its military campaign. 

Top Stories

Iraq: In a backgrounder for Religion & Geopolitics, Peter Welby charts the rise of ISIS from a terrorist group in Northern Iraq in 2002 to an army that holds more territory than Lebanon, and is capable of overwhelming a larger, conventional force.

Afghanistan: Thomas Ruttig writes a situation report for Religion & Geopolitics. Meanwhile, Pakistan is changing its tactics in Afghanistan, argues Frederic Grare, expanding beyond its traditional proxy of the Taliban, and pushing it towards power-sharing agreements. 

Middle East and North Africa

Iraq: As the ISIS offensive in Northern and Western Iraq continues, hopes for a non-sectarian response fade. Prime Minister Maliki's desire to stay in power will force him to appeal to his Shia base, argues Reidar Visser. Meanwhile, Joshua Landis suggests that in emphasising sectarianism in Iraq, ISIS has picked a fight it can't win. 

Iraq: With the Islamists making inroads towards Baghdad, the Kurdish Peshmerga have mobilised to protect their northern autonomous region, explains Mohammed Salih.

ISIS: While the group's military attacks garner the most attention, it has an extremely sophisticated social media operation, recounts J M Berger

Iran: 35 years after the turmoil of the Iranian revolution the country is a beacon of stability in the region. As Britain reopens its embassy and the US turns to Iran for help against ISIS, Trita Parsi argues that the world cannot afford to ignore the stabilising role the country can play.

Saudi Arabia: Recent events have raised the spectre of ISIS expanding into Saudi Arabia, report Glen Carey and Deema Almashabi, as leaflets promoting the group were distributed in Riyadh last month, and memories are revived of al-Qaeda's campaign a decade ago. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: After attacks in Mpeketoni this week, Harry Misiko summarises security and governance weaknesses that are enabling the violence to continue. Meanwhile, it remains unclear who carried out the attacks;  Dennis Okari looks at the possibilities.

Nigeria: An interesting perspective on Boko Haram this week from Alex Crawford, who reports from Cameroon where the group appears to be recruiting young boys. For more on the group, see our backgrounder by Jacob Zenn.

Central and South Asia

Pakistan: In the wake of the terror attacks in Karachi last week, drone strikes were carried out on the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan. Pakistani generals have belatedly recognised the group as the nation's greatest threat, writes Daniel Markey. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif has been severely weakened in his attempts to control the army, argues The Economist.

East and South-East Asia

Myanmar: There is growing pressure on Myanmar to acknowledge and address the Rohingya conflict writes Katherine Marshall in her situation report for Religion & Geopolitics. Writing for Reuters, Aubrey Belford says conditions are becoming 'apartheid-like' in Rakhine state.


Sectarianism: Almost any conflict across the Muslim world is summarised in terms of a vicious sectarian conflict that has plagued Islam since the 7th Century, but this misses the point, argues Abdul-Azim Ahmed

Measuring Peace: In their latest Global Peace Index, the Institute for Economics and Peace finds that the situation in Ukraine, the ongoing conflict in Syria and increased terrorist activity in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq have contributed to a deterioration in global peace.


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