“If US President Donald Trump drove the way he conducts foreign policy, he would be pulled over on suspicion of DUI”
In a speech in Ohio recently, President Trump said that the US is about to pull out of Syria “very soon”. The statement has, yet again, put the finger on the confusion coming out of Washington when it comes to Foreign Policy. He was immediately contradicted by the State Department who said they didn’t know anything about that.
For the troops in the field in Syria, fighting with and supporting the Kurdish-Arab forces in the SDF (the backbone of which is the Kurdish YPG), utterances like this make their job a lot harder.
At the same time, this reflects well the situation on the ground in Syria, where the situation is getting worse from a security-position and where Turkey feels it has a free hand in pursuing attacks against the Kurds. That is a goal Turkey has pursued all along of course, even to the detriment of fighting the Islamic State.
For the Turkish government with President Erdogan at the helm, the long-term goal is to secure the Turkish-Syrian border all the way to Iraq, thus crushing the Kurdish Rojava area along the way. Ever since 2017, when Turkey got the green light from Russia to create buffer-zones further west, cutting off Kurdish areas in western Syria from its eastern heartland, Turkey has relentlessly pushed the Kurds. The latest operation in Afrin (with the cynical moniker “Olive Branch”) is but the latest military push against the Kurds.
But if Erdogan really are going to expand the offensive eastwards, there is a real risk of clashing with US forces, despite the fact that Turkey is a NATO-country and that the US-Turkey relationship is strategic. In an offensive by Turkish-supported Islamist militias, and with Russian mercenaries taking part, a push towards Deir al-zour (which is controlled by Kurdish forces) was beaten back with severe losses due to a powerful US response. This was a warning-sign not to pick a fight with US forces, but with the chaotic policy-statements coming out of the Trump-administration and with Turkish officials openly voicing a preference for Russia instead of the US, it’s a very clear risk that the violence in Syria will not abate anytime soon.
And if the western allies can’t seem to act in a coherent fashion (which seems to be the case right now) to meet Turkish, Russian and Iranian offensive strategic aims in Syria and elsewhere in the MENA-region, peace in Syria seems a very long way off.
According to a study done by the London School of Economics, referenced by the Economist in a widely shared article, there is a connection between polygamy and civil war as well as more violence in general.
Of the 20 most fragile states in the world, all are very or somewhat polygamous and polygamous states are more prone to invade their neighbors as well.
Polygamy almost always means rich men having several wives. One example The Economist use is that if the top 10% marry four wives each, the bottom 30% can’t marry at all. This creates a situation where many young men are not only sexually frustrated, but also socially marginalized, since marrying and having children is often a prerequisite for being seen as an adult for men in traditional societies (where polygamy is most frequent).
Since polygamy create a shortage of brides, the “bride-price” required can swiftly increase making it impossible for many to ever be able to marry, not by any legal means anyway. With this follows violence whereby young men take to illegal measures to secure enough to marry. In a country like South Sudan, for example, cattle-rustling, with all the violence that goes with it, is a severe problem, creating feuds that can fester a long time.
This pool of frustrated young men is also easy recruits for organized crime and of course jihadist-groups (like Daesh, al-Shabab and Boko Haram). Joining these groups means fighting, and with the fighting comes looting, and perhaps enough wealth to marry.
This is borne out in another study from Texas A&M University, also referenced by the Economist. In it researchers Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M and Hilary Matfess of Yale University said that a high bride-price is a “critical” factor “predisposing young men to become involved in organized group violence for political purposes”.
So in conclusion, even if polygamy is in retreat globally, in certain areas it’s alive and well, creating more violence and social upheaval along with keeping women in social and human bondage.
Since 2014 France has suffered 20 terrorist-attacks by Jihadists. With the attacks in Carcassonne and Trebes 245 individuals have been killed and hundreds wounded.
As have been the case in several other incidents, the perpetrator in the latest attack – Redouane Lakdim – was known to the Police and was placed on the so-called “Fiche S-list”, a list of individuals suspected of being radicalized (or in the process) but not having actually conducted a terrorist-attack yet.
There are some general conclusions that can be drawn from this latest Jihadist-attack in France. First is the fact that this kind of terrorism is probably here to stay for some time yet. There are very few signs that this kind of violence will necessarily diminish with the demise of the Islamic State. On the contrary, as volunteers are returning home from Syria and Iraq, there will be a new cadre of radicalized Islamists ready to do battle.
Also, France itself has suffered more attacks than any other European country. There are a number of reasons for this, among them the fact that France have had more volunteers going off to fight with Islamists in Iraq and Syria, than any other. Also the fact that the radicalization of Islam has been very obvious in France, but for a long time was met with a denial by authorities that this had anything to do with Islam (the French term for this is: “rien á-voirism” or “nothing-to-do-ism”).
Another lesson to be drawn is that no matter how good the Intelligence- and security services may be (and the French ones are very good), if the number of suspects rise above a certain number, there is simply no way to keep tabs on everybody. Even when an individual is under surveillance or put on the notification-list, they might slip under the radar, as was the case with Mr. Lakdimi.
Since 2014, and especially since January 2015 with the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, France has stepped up its anti-terror and CT-work, and signs are that stricter citizenship-laws are considered making it easier to strip individuals of their citizenship and to deport them.
That is in the cards in other European countries as well, and the example often cited is the Italian one where tougher laws are already on the books and where deportations are an integral part of the CT-policy. Experts cite that as among the most important tools to explain why Italy, as opposed to France, has not experienced the same level of Jihadist violence. Laws from the days of fighting the Italian mafia, restrictive citizenship-laws, deportation and a quick and streamlined process of dealing with Islamic radicalization, are all reasons for Italy’s comparatively successful fight against terrorism. That France and other countries in Europe are mulling similar measures is therefore no surprise.