Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

18 Jun 2015

In the Roundup this week we look at the changing rhetoric of Jabhat al-Nusra, the influence of Salafi-jihadi groups in Mali, and how the Kurdish Peshmerga are essential to defeating extremism in Iraq.

We also highlight commentary on concerns in Israel's Druze community over their coreligionists in Syria, a proposed amnesty in northern Nigeria for the reintegration of fighters into society, and the unlikely status given to India's Narendra Modi by Germany's "anti-Islamisation" PEGIDA movement.

Top Stories

Jabhat al-Nusra: Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra seems to be attempting to convey a more moderate and conciliatory image. Its change of rhetoric should not be read as an ideological shift, writes Milo Comerford.

Kurdistan: A recent report claimed that Kurdish divisions were undermining the fight against ISIS. But supporting the Peshmerga is essential to defeating extremism in Iraq, writes Bayan Abdul Sami Rahman.

Middle East & North Africa

Iran: The fall of Mosul last year shocked Iraq's Shia population, and rang alarm bells in Iran. ISIS gaining control over revered Shia shrines represented a stark threat to Iranian authorities and prompted a swift response. Kasra Naji explores how Iran is helping to combat ISIS in Iraq, and the cost of the efforts at home.

Lebanon: The Lebanese Shia militant group Hizbullah has been fighting for the Assad regime against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in neighbouring Syria, but there are growing concerns that the conflict will cross the border into its home territory. Dorris Carrion examines the potential domestic fallout from Hizbullah's military activities.

Israel: Druze communities traditionally pledge allegiance to the political power that they find themselves governed by. However, in light of the Syrian conflict there is a difference of opinion amongst those based in the State of Israel and those in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Inna Lazareva explores the divide over who commands their loyalty and how they can help their fellow-Druze in Syria.

Saudi Arabia: This spring, as Pakistan's Defence Minister pledged to "protect Saudi Arabia's territorial integrity," the Pakistani parliament voted against joining Saudi Arabia's coalition combatting the Houthi movement in Yemen. Jonah Blank investigates exactly what is to be gained, or lost, in this complicated relationship between the Sunni world's most heavily armed power and its wealthiest.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mali: Despite the signing of a peace agreement, ongoing violence in Mali raises questions over the influence of Salafi-jihadi groups and radicalisation. But they are part of a wider problem, writes Andrew Hernann.

Africa: New research indicates that terrorism is one of the main obstacles to peace in sub-Saharan Africa,  explains Martin Ewi. However, to eliminate terrorism and eradicate conflict on the continent, an African Union goal for 2020, the root causes of terrorism must be addressed. 

Nigeria: As the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari considers its strategy for tackling the Boko Haram insurgency,  Tarila Marclint Ebiede discusses the complexities of a potential amnesty programme recently proposed by the Northern Elders Forum, which may allow for the reintegration of civilian militias and fighters coerced into joining militant groups.

Central & South Asia

Pakistan: This week marks a year since Pakistan's military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, an offensive against militant strongholds in North Waziristan, which the army claims has disrupted the ability of the Pakistani Taliban to operate.  Shaimaa Khalil reports from the refugee camps that contain some of the 800,000 people thought to have been displaced by the fighting.

India: Shifting geopoliticial currents have made the Middle East more strategically important to India than ever before, particularly given the influence of India's sizeable diaspora in the region. However, India's engagement in the Middle East is complicated by growing Hindu nationalism and Modi's history with India's Muslim population, argues Kadira Pethiyagoda.

India/Germany: Narendra Modi has also become an unlikely hero of Germany's 'anti-Islamisation' organisation, PEGIDA,  writes Anuradha Sharma. The group's leader Lutz Bachmann has expressed a desire to feature Modi at a PEGIDA event, with Lutz' aide describing Modi as an example of "courageous leaders... positioning themselves against Islamisation."    

East & South East Asia

China: As the Iraqi Foreign Minister arrives in China on an official visit for talks with his counterpart, there seems to be an "unwillingness" by China to increase its commitment in the fight against ISIS, writes Shannon Tiezzi. This suggests that Iraq may be resigned to interacting with China purely on an economic level.

Myanmar: With the plight of Rohingya Muslims gaining worldwide attention, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics assesses reports by International Crisis Group and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on the effects of the upcoming elections on the crisis.

Myanmar: Meanwhile, the  Economist suggests that, given recent support for the minority in ISIS statements, the reason that the region has not been a draw for foreign fighters is partly because Myanmar keeps such tight control over its borders.


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