Tag: South China Sea

Peace picks, February 12-18

  1. Geostrategic Flashpoint: The Eastern Mediterranean | Monday, February 12 | 9:00am – 10:00am | CSIS | Register here |

The Eastern Mediterranean forms a geostrategic seam between Europe and the Middle East, and for over seventy years, the region represented a strategic anchor for the United States. Today, Washington and its allies are struggling to adapt a coherent Eastern Mediterranean regional policy that acknowledges dramatically new economic, political, and security realities.  As Syria enters its seventh year of conflict, Russia and Iran deepen their military footprints in the region, and NATO ally Turkey radically alters its domestic and external policies, the strategic importance of the region to the United States is growing while U.S. influence there appears to be waning. To assess regional security challenges and discuss NATO and U.S. Navy operational approaches to the Eastern Mediterranean, we are pleased to host Admiral James G. Foggo, III (commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples; commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe; commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa) for a timely conversation. Jon Alterman (CSIS) and Heather Conley (CSIS) will offer reflections and observations on a recently concluded CSIS research project on the Eastern Mediterranean.


  1. Iran’s Political Future | Monday, February 12 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm | Atlantic Council | Register here |

The Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative invites you to a panel discussion on “Iran’s Political Future,” in the aftermath of recent protests. The demonstrations, which took place in more than 100 Iranian cities and towns in late December-early January, focused on poor economic conditions, Iran’s interventions abroad, and domestic political constraints. Analysts are divided over whether the Iranian system can profit from the protests to enact meaningful reforms or whether the system is too repressive and brittle to change through relatively peaceful evolution. Please join Nazila Fathi (Iranian journalist and author), Suzanne Maloney (Deputy Director, Foreign Policy Program, Brookings Institution), and Alireza Nader (former Senior International Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation). Barbara Slavin (Director, Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council) will moderate.


  1. Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum: The New Landscape of CVE in Southeast Asia | Tuesday, February 13 | 9:30am – 11:00am | Johns Hopkins University SAIS | Register here |

The dynamics of international violent extremism are rapidly changing. Groups like ISIS are losing physical territory, and their ambition post-caliphate is uncertain. Former fighters are returning to their home countries, creating new security risks and raising important questions about how to effectively rehabilitate and reintegrate foreign fighters. Southeast Asian countries from Indonesia to the Philippines have experience preventing and countering violent extremism, but as the global dynamics change, what can be learned from long-standing efforts to prevent violent extremism in Southeast Asia? How is the landscape changing? What are the key risks emerging? Join a panel of experts to discuss the needs and opportunities for countering violent extremism in Southeast Asia. Featuring Sinisa Vukovic (Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University SAIS) and Luke Waggoner (Senior Governance Specialist, International Republican Institute). Kimberly Brody Hart (Senior Manager, Search for Common Ground) will moderate the discussion.


  1. Managing Fragility for Peace, Security, and Sustainable Development | Tuesday, February 13 | 1:00pm – 2:30pm | CSIS | Register here |

Countries experiencing significant fragility, while amounting to about 20 percent of the world’s population, are projected to be home to 80 percent of the world’s extremely poor by 2035. Societies affected by poor governance, limited institutional capability, low social cohesion, and weak legitimacy tend to exhibit erosion of the social contract, diminished societal resilience, and low levels of economic and human development. Spillover effects of fragility include increased risks of armed conflicts, forced migration, spread of diseases, organized crime, and terrorism. Ambassador Michel’s report places these challenges to security and development posed by fragility in the context of centuries-long trends toward declining violence and increased prosperity and freedom. Featuring Joseph Hewitt (Vice President for Policy, Learning and Strategy, USIP), Laurel Patterson (Senior Policy Advisor, Crisis, Fragility, and Resilience, UNDP), Romina Bandura (CSIS), and James Michel (CSIS).


  1. Colombia Peace Forum: Colombian Human Rights Defenders Navigate Post-Accord Challenges | Wednesday, February 14 | 10:00am – 12:00pm | U.S. Institute of Peace | Register here |

The government’s peace accord with the former FARC rebels presents a historic opportunity to work towards the construction of a democratic Colombia. At the heart of this process are human rights defenders and civil society organizations, who play a vital role in addressing the underlying economic and social root causes of violence and holding stakeholders accountable to the commitments of the accords. Join the U.S. Institute of Peace, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and the Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF) to hear from the leading Colombian human rights activists. They will discuss the challenges they face in their communities and the role they play in engaging regional institutions, local authorities and diverse social sectors to secure lasting peace in Colombia. Speakers include Carla Koppell (Vice President, Center for Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace), Enrique Chimonja (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz), and Socorro Acero Bautista (Comité Permanente por la defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Colombia, CPDH), among others.


  1. U.S. National Security and the Korean Peninsula: Perspectives from a Defector, a Russian, and an Analyst | Wednesday, February 14 | 1:00pm – 3:30pm | Wilson Center | Register here |

Join us for a discussion on U.S. national security and the Korean peninsula from the perspectives of a former senior ranking official of the Kim Jong-un regime, a professor of St Petersburg University, and a renowned author on issues related to North Korea at a conference hosted jointly with the Institute for Corean-American Studies (ICAS). Featuring Jong Ho Ri (Former head, Korea Daehung Trading Corp., North Korea), Sergei Kurbanov (Professor, St Petersburg State University), Tara O (Adjunct Fellow, Pacific Forum, CSIS), Abraham Denmark (Director, Asia Program, Wilson Center), Synja P Kim (President and Chairman, ICAS). Sang Joo Kim (Executive Vice President, ICAS) will moderate the discussion.


  1. American Peacemaking Experience in the Balkans: Lessons for Ukraine | Thursday, February 15 | 10:00am – 12:00pm | U.S. Institute of Peace | Register here |

The United States played a leading role in ending wars that gripped the Balkans more than 20 years ago. Amid growing interest in the possibility of a peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, a fresh look at American efforts in the former Yugoslavia is timely: What can be learned from the U.S. diplomatic experience in the Balkans that might be applied in the Ukrainian conflict? Ambassador James Pardew, former member of Richard Holbrooke’s negotiating team on the Balkans, will discuss insights captured in his new book, Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans. Panelists include Michael Haltzel (Foreign Policy Institute Senior Fellow, John Hopkins SAIS), John Herbst (Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council), and Boris Ruge (Deputy Head of Mission, German Embassy to the U.S), among others.


  1. Vietnam’s Relations with China and the U.S.: A Delicate Internal and External Balancing Act | Thursday, February 15 | 9:30am – 11:00am | Stimson Center | Register here |

In recent years, Vietnam’s foreign alignment strategy has raised broad attention from the region. Vietnam has a long and complicated history with China. Particularly in light of the 1979 Sino-Vietnam war and the existing maritime disputes, there exists profound distrust. In contrast, against the history of the Vietnam War, US’ relations with Vietnam has made steady progress in the past decade. Secretary of Defense Mattis just completed his trip to Vietnam in late January 2018, opening channels for more conversations and defense ties that are widely interpreted to assist Vietnam to counter China’s growing strength and ambition in the region. Although the alignment choice for Hanoi appears clear, the picture is significantly complicated by Vietnam’s domestic politics. The power struggles among different political factions within the party play an innate role in determining and influencing the country’s foreign policy. The Stimson Center is pleased to host the top Vietnam specialists from China and the U.S., Dr. Pan Jin’e (China Academy of Social Sciences) and Murray Hiebert (Deputy Director of the Southeast Asia Program, CSIS) to discuss the current state of Vietnam’s relations with the two great powers, the triangular relationship and the factors influencing their future.


  1. The Best Way Forward in Afghanistan | Friday, February 16 | 12:00pm– 1:30pm | Middle East Institute | Register here |

The war in Afghanistan, the longest in U.S. history, shows little sign of winding down. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in military aid and state support, Afghanistan still struggles with resilient Taliban and Islamic State insurgencies. Increasingly, questions are being asked as to why the United States maintains a presence in Afghanistan. How is a U.S. presence serving American security interests? The Trump administration has pledged an indefinite commitment to victory in Afghanistan, but what does success look like and what would have to change to achieve it? Does the U.S. have a clear and coherent strategy going forward and what, if any, are the alternatives? The Middle East Institute is pleased to host an expert panel to discuss these and other questions about the US mission in Afghanistan. MEI’s Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies, Marvin G. Weinbaum, will moderate the discussion with Vanda Felbab-Brown (senior fellow, Brookings), Christopher Kolenda, (adjunct senior fellow, Center for a New American Security), Ahmad Khalid Majidyar (fellow and director of the IranObserved Project, MEI) and Amb. (ret.) Ronald Neumann (President, American Academy of Diplomacy; former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan).

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Indonesia has a plan

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 2.31.47 PMOn Monday, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) hosted its annual Fullerton Forum in Singapore. The keynote address was delivered by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs and a retired general in the anti-terror squad of the Indonesian special forces. Pandjaitan was introduced by both Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS-Asia and by Ng Eng Henthe Defense Minister of Singapore.

Pandjaitan stated that the goal of terror groups is always to destabilize countries and demoralize their populations. ISIS has not succeeded in doing this so far in Indonesia because the Indonesian government is clear that it does not negotiate with terrorists and will respond immediately to any attacks. ISIS recruitment is a global problem; the number of foreign fighters joining ISIS doubled between 2014 and 2015. Brookings estimates there are 46,000 Twitter accounts that support ISIS. In Indonesia, even some middle-class people have joined ISIS, including a policeman who died in Syria.

Indonesia is a huge country with many poorly-educated people; ISIS’s propaganda concerning the caliphate is powerful among lower-class people. Syria and Iraq are included in Islamic “end times” prophecies, and ISIS convinces people to fight the West and all countries that lack Sharia. ISIS wants to see the caliphate expand to Southeast Asia. Its fighters are hard to deal with because they have what Pandjaitan refers to as a “one-way ticket”: they are prepared to die.

In the January 14 attacks in Jakarta, Indonesian security forces responded rapidly, eliminating the terrorists in less than 12 minutes. They killed four terrorists, and using one of their cell phones, were able to track down and arrest others. This sets an example for terrorists. The attackers were previously linked with Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian affiliate of Al Qaeda. Even though ISIS and AQ are fighting each other in Syria, their affiliates are capable of cooperation; Indonesia believes the local ISIS and AQ leaders have merged their work.

Terrorists in Indonesia operate in cells to maintain secrecy; cells do not have contact with other cells, making it difficult for the police to crack down on networks. So far, the authorities have had success in mapping terror networks, but Pandjaitan cannot promise that Indonesia is immune from attacks. Terror groups also communicate their final decisions to stage attacks via couriers, which are hard to intercept.

Fighting terror effectively involves three components:

  1. A soft approach.
  2. International intelligence cooperation.
  3. A hard approach.

The soft approach to fighting terror is Indonesia’s strategy of first resort. This includes counter-radicalization and deradicalization campaigns that are holistic in nature and will partially be conducted using the media.  They are working with Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah to spread the message, including on television, that ISIS is not Islam and Islam is not ISIS. Indonesia has freedom of religion, so people have the freedom to follow sharia law.

The government is also campaigning against religious intolerance. Indonesia is the largest archipelago country in the world, which makes it difficult to manage. The government is working on categorizing terrorists as ideologues, militants and sympathizers. Ideologues will be imprisoned separately to help stop radicalization in prisons. The government is also cracking down on social media content supporting terror, including videos that provide instructions on how to build bombs.

The ASEAN countries already have a platform for intelligence sharing regarding threats, attacks, and terror financing. Intelligence cooperation in the region is already very good.

The hard approach is a secondary approach, but is one that Indonesia is prepared to use. Indonesia has prepared its special forces to conduct operations anytime and anywhere within the country. If terrorists take hostages, the special forces will free them immediately. The Indonesian government is also altering counterterrorism legislation so that the authorities will be able to detain those suspected of plotting terror attacks for 7-30 days. Those found to have no terror links will be released. New legislation also allows the government to revoke the citizenship of Indonesians who join groups of foreign fighters.

Another key to stopping terror in Indonesia is economic improvement. Economic growth has stopped slowing. The economy grew by about 5.5% this year. Consumer confidence and confidence in the government have increased. The government has been trying to distribute economic growth more evenly between Indonesia’s regions and improve the country’s infrastructure. There has historically been a large gap between the haves and the have-nots. Many terrorists come from poor backgrounds. This year, Indonesia will spend $70 billion or 36% of the national budget on outlying regions. Funding for villages has increased from $2 billion to $4.5 billion in 2016. This will give each village around $100,000 to spend, which will help reduce rural poverty and boost economic growth. Poverty reduction is crucial. Indonesia has 230 million Muslims. If 2% live in extreme poverty and are brainwashed by ISIS, one can imagine how many will become terrorists and stage domestic and regional attacks.

An audience member asked Pandjaitan about links that had been discovered between the terrorists in the recent Jakarta attacks and terrorists from Mindanao in the Philippines. Pandjaitan stated that radicals in Mindanao are supporting radicals in Indonesia, including through the smuggling of weapons and explosives. Indonesian authorities are working to crack down on weapons smuggling.

Another audience member asked about Indonesia’s position regarding China’s actions in the South China Sea. Because of Indonesia’s territory in the Natuna Islands, Indonesia has declared that its Special Economic Zone extends into the South China Sea. There were reports that Indonesia was considering pursuing international arbitration against China. Pandjaitan replied that China acknowledges the Natuna Islands are part of Indonesia, so China and Indonesia are not in conflict regarding this matter. However, Indonesia views the South China Sea as an important area for global shipping. Indonesia does not wish to see power projection in this area and views freedom of navigation as very important.

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