Tag: Venezuela

Peace picks November 9-13

  1. War or Peace? the Gulf States and Russia’s Intervention in Syria | Monday, November 9th | 12:00-1:30 | Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington | REGISTER TO ATTEND  | The war in Syria, now in its fourth year, has killed more than a quarter of a million people, contributed to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, and become a breeding ground for ISIL and other extremist groups that threaten not only the region but much of the rest of the world. In September, Russia began carrying out airstrikes in Syria as part of a coordinated counterattack with Iran and Hezbollah against rebel groups supported by Gulf Arab states, Turkey, and in some cases the U.S.What does Russia hope to accomplish by its intervention in Syria? How have the Arab Gulf states responded, and how is this affecting recently improved GCC-Russian relations? What role are Iran and Hezbollah playing on the ground and likely to play at the negotiating table? Is the Obama administration seriously considering a substantive expansion of American military involvement in Syria, or will it focus primarily on diplomacy? Are the Vienna talks laying the groundwork for serious negotiations and a political settlement? And how does ISIL factor into the Syrian conflict, the trajectory of its development, and its impact on the region?This AGSIW panel will look at all these questions and more arising from Russia’s intervention in Syria and the response of the Gulf Arab states. Speakers include Fahad Nazer, non-resident fellow at AGSIW; Mark Katz, professor of government and politics at George Washington University; and Bessma Momani, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. The discussion will be moderated by Hussein Ibish, senior resident fellow at AGSIW.
  2. Demonizing Dissidents: How INTERPOL is being abused by Dictatorships | Monday, November 9th | 4:00-7:00 | Fair Trials & Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In recent years, the use of INTERPOL’s “wanted person” alerts has expanded vastly with over 120,000 now circulating across the globe. Unfortunately, as it has become easier for countries to obtain INTERPOL Red Notices, some have been used as an instrument for silencing dissent and exporting repression with devastating consequences. Join us to discuss how INTERPOL is starting to address this problem which has been undermining its reputation as the global “good guys” in the fight against crime, and hear from people whose lives have been turned upside down by Red Notices, including: Sherif Mansour, an Egyptian-American democracy and human rights activist working for the Committee to Protect Journalists; Benny Wenda, a West Papuan tribal leader who leads an international campaign for the people of West Papua; Lutfullo Shamsutdinov, a human rights activist and witness of the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan; and Patricia Poleo, an award-winning anti-corruption journalist and vocal critic of Hugo Chavez, subject to a Red Notice from Venezuela.
  3. Our Walls Bear Witness: Iraqi Minorities in Peril | Monday, November 9th | 6:30-8:00 | US Holocaust Memorial Museum | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Join the Museum for a discussion with experts on the plight of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq who have been targeted by the self-proclaimed Islamic State and are now displaced, not knowing when—or if—they will be able to return home. The discussion will take place on the opening night of FotoWeek DC (November 9–12), for which the Museum will project onto its exterior walls photographs from a recent trip to Iraq.Speakers include Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, who recently returned from northern Iraq; Dakhil Shammo, a Yezidi human rights activist from the region; and Knox Thames, special advisor for religious minorities in the Near East and South and Central Asia at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.You can submit questions for the panelists on Twitter using the hashtags #IraqCrisis and #WallsBearWitness.
  4. Turkey with the brakes off: What does Erdoğan’s victory mean? | Wednesday, November 11th | 5:00-7:00 | Central Asia-Caucasus Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Turkey’s ruling AKP restored its majority in parliament on Nov 1. But the election was held after President Erdogan refused to accept the June 7 election’s results, sabotaged efforts to form a coalition government, relaunched war in the country’s southeast -– and after a massive suicide bombing in Ankara.Will this election stabilize Turkey? What does this election mean for Turkey’s regional posture, and what kind of partner will it be for the U.S.?Speakers at this forum will draw from Turkey Transformed, a recently published study in which CACI scholars partnered with the Bipartisan Policy Center to investigate Turkey’s transformation under Erdogan. Speakers include: Eric S. Edelman, Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; Svante E. Cornell, Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute; Blaise Misztal, Director of Foreign Policy, Bipartisan Policy Center; Alan Makovsky, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; and John Hannah, Senior Advisor, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The discussion will be moderated by Mamuka Tsereteli, Research Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute.
  5. The ISIS Scorecard: Assessing the State of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy | Thursday, November 12th | 9:30-12:30 | American Foreign Policy Council | RSVP: events@afpc.org | The Honorable Newt Gingrich will give a keynote address. Speakers at this Capitol Hill conference include: Amb. Alberto Fernandez, Vice President of Middle East Media Research Institute and Former State Department Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications; Sebastian Gorka, Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory, Marine Corps University; Celina Realuyo, Professor of Practice, William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, National Defense University; and James S. Robbins, Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs, American Foreign Policy Council.
  6. The Transatlantic Forum on Russia | Thursday, November 12th | 8:30-2:30 | Center for Strategic and International Studies | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Please join us for the fourth joint conference of CSIS and the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding (CPRDU). Since 2012 CSIS and CPRDU have partnered to examine the impact of Polish-Russian reconciliation and its wider regional and transatlantic implications. Significant structural cracks in Europe’s security architecture – crafted at the end of the Second World War and refined by the Helsinki Final Act – have appeared since Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea and its incursions into eastern Ukraine. As a result, the principal challenge to the transatlantic community is to formulate a new foreign policy approach towards Russia. Our expert panelists will discuss the nature and scope of this new policy while considering historical relations between Russia and the West. See here for the full agenda and the featured experts.
  7. Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence | Thursday, November 12th | 2:00-3:30 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In his new book, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks examines the recent phenomenon of violent extremism by exploring the origins of violence and its relationship to religion. Rabbi Sacks challenges the assertion that religion is an intrinsic source of violence and describes how theology can be central to combating religious violence and extremism. Through analysis of biblical texts tied to the three Abrahamic faiths, Rabbi Sacks illustrates how religiously-inspired violence stems from a critical misreading of these texts.  Governance Studies at Brookings will host a discussion addressing Rabbi Sacks’ book and other important issues related to the roots of religious violence. This event is part of the long-running Governing Ideas book series, which is hosted by William A. Galston. E.J. Dionne, Jr. will also join the discussion.After the discussion, panelists will take audience questions. Books will be available for sale before and after the event.
  8. Migration, Asylum, and the Role of the State: Defining Borders, Redefining Boundaries | Thursday, November 12th | 4:00-5:30 | The Kluge Center at the Library of Congress | No registration necessary | Issues around immigration, migration, and asylum are pressing political, social and cultural concerns in the United States and Europe today. Three Fellows at the Kluge Center will discuss the role of the state in establishing geographic, technological and bureaucratic controls over the flow of peoples, cultures and beliefs across borders, and examine how the notions of national borders and state boundaries have evolved over the 20th and 21st century and how migrants and immigrants continue to challenge state-defined categories. Speakers include: Iván Chaar-López, researching databases, computers, and drones as instruments of border and migration control along the southern border (Digital Studies Fellow, University of Michigan); Katherine Luongo, researching witchcraft and spiritual beliefs among African asylum-seekers in Europe, Canada and Australia (Kluge Fellow, Northeastern University); and Julia Young, researching early 20th century Mexican immigration to the U.S. (Kluge Fellow, Catholic University).
  9. The Syrian Refugee Crisis & the U.S.: What is our responsibility? | Thursday, November 12th | 7:00-9:00 | Institute for Policy Studies | No registration necessary | Three experts on the Syrian crisis will address the issues faced by refugees, the need for ending the war to end the refugee crisis, the role of the U.S. in creating and its obligations for solving this crisis, and what the U.S. should do to assist and welcome Syrian refugees—and prevent similar crises in the future.Speakers include Pam Bailey, human rights activist and journalist; Phyllis Bennis, IPS fellow and author of numerous books and articles on U.S. policy in the Middle East; and Rafif Jouejati, Syrian activist and director of FREE-Syria. The forum will be moderated by Andy Shallal, activist and owner of Busboys and Poets. The event will be held at Busboys and Poets.
  10. The Search for Stability and Opportunity: The Middle East in 2016 | Friday, November 13th | 9:00-5:00 | The Middle East Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Middle East Institute will host its 69th Annual Conference at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. The event will bring together prominent Middle Eastern and American experts and foreign policy practitioners to delve into the many questions and challenges that face the region during this period of unprecedented change. Experts from across the region and the U.S. will examine Middle Eastern states’ pursuit of security out of the current disorder, the policy imperatives that will confront the next U.S. president, strategies for empowerment, inclusion, and equity in Arab societies, and the trends and channels in which youth are challenging the societal and political order. See here for the full agenda and featured experts.
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Transition matters

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a panel on Thursday entitled “Searching for Answers to Troubled Democratic Transitions,” co-sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Inter-American Dialogue, and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). The panel gave Abraham Lowenthal, professor emeritus of International Relations at USC, and Sergio Bitar, non-resident senior fellow and project director at Inter-American Dialogue, the opportunity to present their new book, Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders, an edited volume of lengthy interviews the two editors conducted with leaders who oversaw the gradual and successful transition of their countries from autocracy to democracy, as well as with some opposition figures from those countries.

The aim of conducting the interviews was to determine whether lessons can be drawn from earlier transitions in ‘Third Wave’ countries such as Indonesia, Chile, and Ghana and applied during what some have termed a democratic recession. After their overview, the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gershman, contributed comments, while the audience also heard from two experts on countries currently on the cusp of transitions: Priscilla Clapp, senior advisor at the US Institute of Peace and the Asia Society, discussed Myanmar, while Moisés Naím, distinguished fellow at Carnegie, discussed Venezuela.

Carnegie’s vice president for Studies, Thomas Carothers, introduced the panel, remarking that the world has not seen a single new democracy emerge in the past decade. The Arab Spring was a period of hope, but with transitions thwarted in many of those countries, we have also been observing worrying global trends that would seem to suggest the push for democracy has slowed or even begun to reverse. Carothers still believes that the arc of history bends toward democracy, however, and the panelists would appear to agree.

Lowenthal underlined that the aim of the book was not to produce a work of theoretical comparative politics, but to try to distil best practices and recurrent issues for democratic transitions from the experiences of leaders who had lived and struggled through them. The narrative of prior experience can provide general principles that politicians in developing democracies can apply to local problems. Through their interviews, Lowenthal and Bitar observed that a set of issues cropped up in each case, apparently inherent to the process of transitioning. These included the problems of unifying oppositions while marginalizing destabilizing elements within them, preventing violence while separating a legitimate police force from the armed forces, and fighting corruption and impunity, among others.

Lowenthal and Bitar came up with ten imperatives for transition:

  • Move gradually and take every opportunity, not waiting for a ‘better’ choice
  • Maintain a hopeful vision about the process
  • Build coalitions between political parties and social movements
  • Protect the spaces of open dialogue
  • Build a constitution that represents all members of society and institutes a system for problem-solving
  • Enhance and reinforce political parties, or create them if necessary
  • Separate the police from the armed forces and ensure the latter is subject to the government
  • Ensure transitional justice
  • Manage the political economy of transition, to provide the basic conditions for governance
  • and manage external support, so that it converges with domestic forces

Gershman found the book instructive. Despite apparent autocratic resurgence and a crisis of confidence or political dysfunction in many advanced democracies, he thought what is currently occurring should not be understood as a democratic recession, but rather a ‘third reverse wave’ following on the Third Wave of the late 20th century. He offered steps that ought to be taken by advanced democracies to shepherd democratic transitions elsewhere, including a call to regain the will to fight the political and intellectual battle for liberal democratic values.

Gershman was uncompromising; he diverged from Lowenthal and Bitar in rejecting gradualism, saying that we cannot accept hybrid regimes as better than dictatorships. The editors, however, confirmed that all the interviewees had come out strongly in favor of gradual transitions. That is often how transitions transpired successfully.

Clapp found much similarity between the cases described in the book and the situation in Myanmar today, although the transition there is still in early stages and needs to be further developed. The international community entertains very high expectations given Myanmar’s specific history and context: it has been for so long a repressed society and still faces significant challenges in its transition, in military-civilian relations, an economy thoroughly controlled by an oligarchy, and exclusion of ethnic minorities.

Naím presented a dissent. By interviewing leaders only, the book presents one perspective on the transition process. Valuable as this work is, there are significant differences with many of the countries today on the cusp of transitioning, as opposed to the Third Wave countries covered in the book. These ignored factors include the phenomenon of states incorporating crime into their behaviour, as ‘mafia states’ (like Russia or Venezuela); the crucial role oil plays in oil-producing autocracies, shoring up regimes; the outsized influence of foreign actors; the role of social media; and expanding middle classes. Naím also thought it a simplification that militaries are treated as unified institutions, when really within militaries there are numerous factions competing for power.

A key issue remained unresolved: whether the experiences of Third Wave democracies could be applied to countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere in the future.

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The war may be over, crime persists

Sergio Guzmán Escobar, a SAIS master’s student, reports from Friday’s conversation with Juan Carlos Pinzón, Colombia’s Minister of Defense, at the Inter-American dialogue. Video of the event is available here.

With the Colombian peace talks between the Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionaras de Colombia (FARC) – the world’s longest lasting Marxist-Leninist insurgency – reaching what analysts call a “point of no return” the Colombian Minister of Defense, Juan Carlos Pinzón, discussed the country’s security outlook. The minister arrived from Davos, Switzerland where he reassured international investors about the continuity of Colombia’s security policies in a post-agreement scenario.

Moreover, he reviewed the country’s current security threats and outlined them as:

1. Armed Insurgent Groups – Communist insurgencies groups like the FARC and the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional (ELN), who engage in terrorist activities, drug trafficking, extortion, child recruitment and illegal mining.
2. Organized Crime – Remnants of the former right-wing paramilitary organization Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) and groups of organized gangs that engage in drug-related violence in both urban and rural contexts.
3. Citizen Security – street crime and urban gangs who are responsible for the palpable insecurity in the cities, including muggings and house burglary.

The fact that the negotiations come to a successful end will not necessarily mean that the country’s security outlook will improve overnight. The nature of the threats will change and the armed forces and the police will have to respond accordingly. The minister noted that Colombia has already undergone four different Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) processes and will be able to see the process through in collaboration with multiple government agencies that have experience in this field, especially the National Agency for Reintegration.

As a result of the negotiations, rumors have emerged about the future of the Colombian military possibly downsizing as part of the agreements with the FARC. The minister was emphatic that the armed forces are not going to be downsized regardless of budgetary pressures. The size of the armed forces in the next 5-10 years will remain constant. But there will be a greater mix of military police activities (the Colombian police is a under the Ministry of Defense and is a separate branch of the Armed Forces), to enable the armed forces to engage threats resulting from the peace process. “An agreement will not banish crime.”

Responding to allegations that a new rural police force would include demobilized members of the FARC, the minster remarked “No.”

A pending issue the minister failed to signal in his remarks arises from Venezuela. As the peace agreements are close to being finalized, Colombia is no longer dependent on Venezuela’s “good offices” to keep the FARC at the negotiating table. If oil prices remain low, Caracas’s economic situation will be dire. Scarcity of basic goods will cause President Maduro’s political support among the population to wane. Turbulence in Colombia’s neighbor may represent a real security threat.

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Geopolitics of lower energy prices

Oil prices are down by about 20% from their recent peak (or 15% from their three-year plateau around $100 per barrel) and likely to stay low for months if not years. Downward pressure will continue unless the Saudis are prepared to rein in their production (no sign of that yet) or prices decline enough (to $70 or less) to turn off the flow of  tight oil and gas in the US, which has become a major factor on world markets.

There is a lot of benefit to be seen from lower oil prices. From the US perspective, cutting revenue flow to the governments of Russia, Iran and Venezuela is a big plus. Putin, who is already feeling substantial pressure from European Union and US sanctions, faces serious financial difficulties. Iran, likewise hurt by sanctions, will find it difficult to generate anything like the revenue it needs to fund economic recovery, even if sanctions are lifted. Venezuela was already headed towards a financial crisis. Its budget is almost entirely dependent on oil revenue.

Major oil and gas producers in the Gulf will be hit as well. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates , Kuwait and Qatar as well as Iraq will feel the pinch. They are far more likely to cut their spending on various international causes than risk austerity at home. That could mean scarcer resources for the restored military autocracy in Egypt, Yemen’s besieged government and Syria’s opposition. It could also mean less revenue for Islamist extremists of various stripes, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, for which oil sales are a significant portion of revenue.

Lower oil prices will also give a boost to global economic growth, particularly in the US and Europe but also in China and India. The Economist worries that the lower prices may be due to slack economic growth and that lower prices will do little for consumers, but then it gives ample evidence that the lower prices are in fact due to higher production. If past patterns hold, global economic growth could gain by a significant 1% over current 3.3% predictions for 2015.

What has happened in the past couple of weeks is part of a broader secular trend that will have profound impacts on geopolitics and economics for a long time to come. Production of oil and gas is rising sharply in the Western Hemisphere, especially in the US, Canada and Brazil. Demand is rising principally in the East, where economic growth is strong, the economies are still heavily dependent on energy, and energy resources are scarce. This trend has implications for future security risks and burden sharing:  it will not make much sense for the US to carry most of the burden of ensuring the security of the strait of Hormuz when 90% or more of the oil shipped through this classic “choke point” is going to India, China and other Asian consumers.

Asian consumers should be stocking 90 days of imports, as members of the International Energy Agency are required to do. They should also be providing some of the naval assets to protect the strait of Hormuz. That will require a major rethink on the part of the US, as well as creation of a multinational force that the Asians can feel comfortable joining.

There are calls in Congress to curtail the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is slated for use in an oil supply disruption. That would be an unwise move, as a major disruption of oil markets anywhere means a hike in prices everywhere. The US may be much less dependent on the Middle East in the future, but it will still be vulnerable to the economic damage of an oil supply interruption.

We have tended to view the rise of Asia as a challenge. But of course it is also an opportunity. The US will soon be the world’s largest oil and gas producer. If the Washington can continue to moderate American demand and in addition decides to allow oil and gas exports, the assumption of its declining influence could soon be proven, once again, a mirage.

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Peace picks July 14-18

1. Ending Wars to Build Peace: Conflict Termination Workshop Monday, July 14 | 8:30 am – 1:00 pm United States Institute of Peace; 2301 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Designing a conflict termination strategy is an essential but often overlooked component of warfighting. Improperly planned or incorrectly implemented, a failure to effectively terminate a conflict will leave open the original issues that brought on the war and likely create the conditions for future conflict.  The U.S. Institute of Peace, U.S. Military Academy’s Center for the Study of Civil-Military Operations and RAND Corporation invite you to an event featuring notable experts sharing their observations and concerns about the issue of war termination, its planning, transition and challenges.  SPEAKERS: Gideon Rose, Author, How Wars End, Amb. Jim Jeffery, Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Hon. James Kunder, Former Deputy Administrator, USAID, Lt General Mark Milley, Commander, U.S. Army III Corps, and Dr. Rick Brennan Senior Political Scientist, RAND.

2. Ukraine: The Maidan and Beyond Monday, July 14 | 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm National Endowment for Democracy;1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The forthcoming July 2014 issue of the Journal of Democracy will feature a cluster of eight articles on Ukraine. Please join NDI as four of the contributors elaborate on the subjects discussed in their articles. Serhiy Kudelia analyzes the evolution of Ukraine’s political system during the past four years and why it led to the downfall of President Viktor Yanukovych. Lucan Way assesses the role that civil society played in bringing down Yanukovych and the challenges that it will now face. Anders Aslund examines the “endemic corruption” that has long plagued Ukraine and goes on to suggest how the new government can rebuild the country’s economy. Finally, Nadia Diuk considers the longer-term significance of the Maidan Revolution.

3. Doing Business in Burma: Human Rights Risks and Reporting Requirements Tuesday, July 15 | 8:15 am – 10:00 am Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law; 500 8th St. NW, Washington D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND In 2012, the U.S. lifted economic sanctions on resource-rich Burma, sanctions that had been in place for over a decade. American businesses are required to publicly report to the State Department on the potential human rights, environmental, and political impacts of their investments if they exceed $500,000. Some of the questions that will be addressed: How can the Reporting Requirements guide companies and their attorneys in assessing and managing the risks that accompany new investment in Burma? Why is the information contained in the reports valuable to the State Department and other organizations? SPEAKERS: Amy Lehr, Attorney, Foley Hoag LLP, Jason Pielemeier, Esq., U.S. Department of State/DRL, Genevieve Taft, Global Manager of Workplace Rights, Coca-Cola, and Jennifer Quigley, Executive Director, U.S. Campaign for Burma.

4. New Story Leadership for the Middle East Congressional Forum Tuesday, July 15 | 10:00 am – 2:00 pm New Story Leadership; Cannon House Office Building, 200-299 New Jersey Ave SE, Washington D.C.
 REGISTER TO ATTEND New Story Leadership for the Middle East is presents their class of 2014, featuring presentations from young Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are living, working, and learning together this summer in Washington, DC. Young voices throughout the world have decisively spoken up for change, demanding new leadership, greater freedom, and the right to choose their own futures. Now a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians wants to engage you in an emerging conversation by sharing their stories and their hopes for peace.

5. For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty Tuesday, June 15 | 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Heritage Foundation;214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND While much progress has been made toward poverty alleviation, many well-intentioned efforts have led Christians to actions that are not only ineffective, but leave the most vulnerable in a worse situation than before. Is there a better answer? Combining biblical exegesis with proven economic principles, For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty equips Christians with both a solid biblical and economic understanding of how best to care for the poor and foster sustainable economic development. With contributions from fourteen leading Christian economists, theologians, historians, and practitioners, For the Least of These presents the case for why markets and trade are the world’s best hope for alleviating poverty. SPEAKERS: Dr. Anne Bradley, Dr. Art Lindsley, Michael Craven, and Derrick Morgan.

6. The Madrid 3/11 Bombings, Jihadist Networks in Spain, and the Evolution of Terrorism in Western Europe Tuesday, June 15 | 2:00 pm – 3:50 pm Brooking Institute; 4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Ten years after the terror attacks in Madrid, Professor Fernando Reinares, a senior analyst within Elcano Royal Institute, has published a definitive account of the attacks. Reinares provides evidence showing that the decision to attack Spain was made in December 2001 in Pakistan by Moroccan Amer Azizim and that the Madrid bombing network began its formation more than one year before the start of the Iraq war. Spain battles the challenge of jihadist radicalization and recruitment networks that are sending fighters to join the wars in Syria and elsewhere. On July 15, the Intelligence Project at Brookings will host Professor Reinares for a discussion on his book’s revelations, the empirical data on the evolution of jihadism in Spain and the future of terrorism in Western Europe.

7. Forgotten, but Not Gone: The Continuing Threat of Boko Haram Tuesday, June 15 | 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm International Institute for Strategic Studies; 2121 K Street NW, Suite 801, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The furor of the #BringBackOurGirls movement has faded rapidly and Boko Haram’s insurgency, now in its fourth year, has again been largely forgotten by the international media, despite the fact that violence has continued in the form of mass killings, attacks in the capital, Abuja, and new abductions. Virginia Comolli will be discussing the implications of Boko Haram’s insurgency for Nigeria, repercussions for other West African countries and the role of non-African partners in dealing with the security challenges the group presents. Comolli is the Research Fellow running the newly established IISS Security and Development Programme.

8. Petrocaribe, Central America, and the Caribbean: Who Will Subsidize the Future? Wednesday, July 16 | 8:30 am – 10:30 am Atlantic Council of the United States; 1030 15th St. NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND US Vice President Joe Biden used his recent trip to Latin America to announce a new initiative to promote energy security in the Caribbean. Is it enough? Join the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center for a timely discussion on the future of Petrocaribe.  The huge Venezuelan oil subsidy enters its tenth year, and continues to provide Caracas with political support from its closest neighbors – but at what cost to the region? Given Venezuela’s economic demise, will Petrocaribe continue delivering into the future?  Now is the moment to examine energy alternatives for the Caribbean and Central America. This event will launch the Atlantic Council’s new report, Uncertain Energy: The Caribbean’s Gamble with Venezuela, authored by Arsht Center Senior Nonresident Energy Fellow David L. Goldwyn and his associate, Cory R. Gill.

9. The Resurgence of the Taliban Wednesday, June 16 | 10:30 am – 12:00 pm Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND In autumn 2001, U.S. and NATO troops were deployed to Afghanistan to unseat Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers. Yet, despite a more than decade-long attempt to eradicate them, the Taliban has endured—regrouping and reestablishing themselves as a significant insurgent movement. Hassan Abbas, author of The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier, will examine how the Taliban not only survived but adapted to regain power and political advantage. Carnegie’s Frederic Grare will moderate.

10. Citizens, Subjects, and Slackers: Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian Attitudes Toward Paying Taxes Wednesday, June 16 | 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm Woodrow Wilson Center; 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Marc Berenson’s unique surveys of Poles, Russians, and Ukrainians, conducted from 2004 to 2012 regarding their attitudes towards paying taxes, illustrate that Polish citizens express a far greater willingness and support for paying taxes than Russian citizens, who, in turn, are more willing taxpayers than Ukrainian citizens.  Unlike Poles, whose compliance is related to their trust in the state, and Russians, whose compliance is related to their fear of the state, Ukrainians, showing the lowest support for tax obedience, have reacted to state efforts to increase compliance with less fear and little trust. This suggests that post-transition governments must find ways to create and build up levels of trust on the part of citizens in their state, but that bridging the exceptionally high and long-held levels of distrust in the Ukrainian state will remain an extreme challenge for those seeking a new rule-of-law Ukraine. Kennan Institute Global Fellow, Amb. Kenneth Yalowitz, will provide discussion.

11. Fixing the US Department of Veterans Affairs: Prospects for Reform Thursday, June 17 | 10:00 am – 11:30 am American Enterprise Institute; 1150 17th Street, NW, Washington D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Recent scandals at medical centers for veterans have trained a spotlight on longstanding inefficiencies within the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In the case of the VA’s disability system, a nearly century-old approach to wounded veterans still prevails. The widespread consensus is that the problem goes much deeper than falsified waiting lists and delayed access to care, and necessitates a global overhaul. What would a renewed vision of veteran care look like, and how should we clarify the objectives of the VA’s disability system? In the interim, what short-term reforms are practical? Join AEI as House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller presents a blueprint for reform, followed by a discussion with experts in health care, disability, and public administration. Other speakers include Michael H. McLendon, Joseph Antos, Richard V. Burkhauser, Peter Schuck, and Sally Satel.

12. Beyond Air-Sea Battle: The Debate Over US Military Strategy in Asia with Professor Aaron Friedberg Thursday, June 17 | 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm IISS; 2121 K Street NW, Suite 801, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND China’s military build-up, particularly the expansion of its long-range nuclear forces and its development of ‘anti-access/area-denial’ (A2/AD) capabilities, poses a serious threat to both the American position in East Asia and the security of other regional powers. The growth of these forces challenges Washington’s ability, and perhaps its willingness, to project power into the region. This could call American security guarantees into question, eventually undermining the United States’ place as the dominant Asia-Pacific power. Left unchecked, perceived shifts in the regional military balance away from the US and its allies towards China could also raise the risks of miscalculation and deterrence failure. Professor Aaron Friedberg of Prince University will be launching his new Adelphi series book, Beyond Air-Sea Battle: The Debate Over US Military Strategy in Asia.” He will be joined by discussant Elbridge Colby, the Robert M. Gates Fellow at the Center for New American Security.

13. Putting Military Personnel Costs in Context: Analysis by AEI and BPC Friday, July 18 | 9:00 am – 10:00 am Russell Senate Office Building; Constitution Avenue and 1st Street, NE, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND According to a new study by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the per capita cost of military personnel on active duty increased by 42 percent over the last decade. Overall, growth in cost was much faster than growth in the number of people serving. AEI and BPC invite you to a conversation about the cost trends impacting America’s professional volunteer force and their implications for the future. SPEAKERS: Linda Bilmes, Charlie Houy, Scott Lilly, Ann Sauer, and Charles Wald.

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90 miles from you know where

Politico Magazine yesterday published my piece based on a visit to Cuba last week under the heading “The Dangers of Collapse in Cuba.”  Here is the lead paragraph:

Cuba’s 1950s cars and Havana’s crumbling facades have long been its iconic symbols in the American imagination. They don’t disappoint, as I discovered on a trip to Cuba last week. But I didn’t expect zippy Hyundais with Miami FM on their radios or a private collection of contemporary Cuban art, installed floor to 20-foot ceiling in a fabulous apartment with a terrace overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Both the apartment and the art would put many wealthy New Yorkers to shame.

You’ll have to go to the  Politico Magazine website for more. 
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