Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

01 Oct 2015

In this week's Roundup, as world leaders meet in New York, we look at the importance of understanding extremist ideology, and how the chaos of the conflict in Yemen has helped al-Qaeda's branch in the country.

We also feature analysis on the rise of Muhammad bin Nayaf, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and leading figure in the fight against jihadism in the country; on the methods that Boko Haram used to infiltrate Cameroon; and the Taliban's capture of the city of Kunduz, far from its traditional stronghold.

Top Stories

Jihadi Ideology: A summit at the UN General Assembly this week discussed counter extremism strategies. Peter Welby argues that their deliberations must be informed by an understanding of jihadi groups' ideological motivations.

Yemen: Despite the loss of key figures and the emergence of ISIS in the region, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has taken advantage of ongoing conflict in Yemen to gain territory and support, writes Mubaraz Ahmed.

Middle East & North Africa

Saudi Arabia: King Salman's appointment of Muhammad Bin Nayef as Crown Prince was welcomed in Washington. Bruce Riedel looks at how the pro-American 'prince of counter-terrorism' made his reputation in the battle against al-Qaeda, and the challenges that ISIS and the conflict in Yemen may throw up.

Syria: As Russia starts military operations in Syria in support of Assad, Charles Lister argues that the choice should not be between the Syrian regime and ISIS, writing that Assad himself has facilitated the rise of Syrian jihadism.

Palestine: Since the start of the Syrian conflict, relations between Hamas and its longstanding sponsor Iran have become strained, with Hamas irking Iran by its opposition to Assad and deepening ties with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Ehud Yaari explores Iran's efforts to establish a new pro-Iranian proxy in the Gaza Strip.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: Marking the second anniversary of al-Shabaab's attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall on 21 September 2013, Tristan McConnell narrates the events inside the mall described by survivors. The attackers justified the killing spree that left 67 dead as retaliation for Kenyan intervention in Somalia and perceived repression of Muslims.

Central African Republic: As national elections near, Anthony Fouchard and Ty McCormick discuss this week's escalation in violence between Muslims and Christians, sparked by the murder of a Muslim taxi driver, that have escalated into calls by Christian vigilantes for the resignation of interim President Catherine Samba-Panza and the removal of French soldiers.

Cameroon: A new report by Amnesty International highlights some of the methods by which Boko Haram has infiltrated Cameroon's Far North region in 2014 and 2015. Religion & Geopolitics draws out the key findings.

Central & South Asia

Afghanistan: With the capture of the city of Kunduz, far from its traditional stronghold, the Taliban becomes one of a small number of jihadi groups to have controlled a large urban centre in the last decade. Michael Kugelman warns that Afghan armed forces and the country's national unity government face a major challenge in regaining control.

Afghanistan/Pakistan: C. Christine Fair says that recent developments in Afghanistan, including the announcement of Mullah Omar's death and the emergence of ISIS' 'Khorasan Province' in Afghanistan and Pakistan, suggest that Islamabad is losing its grip on Taliban operations.

Pakistan: The number of incidents of Sunni-Shia sectarian violence in Pakistan this year has dropped by almost half, compared to 2014. Arif Rafiq looks at some of the factors that help to insulate the diverse communities of Pakistan from external sectarian pressures.

East & South East Asia

Myanmar: At the United Nations General Assembly session in New York, a meeting of the partnership group on Myanmar this week discussed the upcoming elections in the country. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlighted his disappointment at the "effective disenfranchisement of the Rohingya" in the election debate.

Vietnam: In a country where some religious leaders have been arrested or banned for practising their faith, the Economist explores a new law that may loosen religious restrictions. Critics are sceptical, however, believing that it may give the government more power to suppress religious worship.


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