Thursday, 18 January 2018
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Pakistan's relations with both the United States and Afghanistan continue to be strained and are likely to remain so. The recent spat in which President Trump denounced Pakistan's "lies and deceit" in a New Year's Day Tweet, and Pakistan's response that it would "let the world know who is lying", coupled with the US withholding $255 million of US aid since Summer 2017 is very public evidence of that strain, says Dr Sohail Mahmood.

The Ghani government in Afghanistan alleges that Pakistan provides safe havens for the Taliban militants seeking to destabilise Afghanistan. Both it and the USA have repeatedly argued that the leadership councils of the Taliban and the Haqqani terrorist network are based in Pakistan, where they plan and coordinate attacks inside Afghanistan. The United States also blames Pakistan for allowing terror groups to operate from its soil.


The powerful Pakistan Army vehemently refutes these charges and claims that that is no organised infrastructure of any banned organisation in Pakistan. It maintains that there are no facilitators of terrorist groups in Pakistan. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is mostly unsecured and for the first time the Pakistan Army has started to fence it for effective border management.

A PROXY – ISLAMIC STATE IN IRAQ AND SYRIA (ISIS)

ISIS is on the asymmetric back foot, having lost it stranglehold on territory across Iraq and Syria. However the organisation should be understood as a persistent symptom of two inseparable and ongoing issues in the Middle East, writes Tom Spencer.

IRAQI SECTARIANISM

Post US led invasion, a vicious cycle of sectarianism has perpetuated virulent jihadism; recurrent militant insurrection will likely erupt at particular flash points stemming from Al Anbar province. With unsecured borders, vast geographic sparsity and historic Ba'athist Sunni support for Saddam Hussein centre in towns - Fallujah and Ramadi – Al Anbar has twice provided insurgents' freedom of movement to springboard jihad against Iraq's Shia led government.

REGIONAL WAR BY SECTARIAN PROXY

Beyond Iraq, there is a transnational struggle for political-religious hegemony between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, fought via regional proxies; ISIS is merely one faction co-opted into the wider war. As the flash point amidst Iraq's jidhadist woes, it is no coincidence that Al Anbar province borders Syria, Jordan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the spectre of Iran lies to the east. Inversely to Saddam's Iraq regime, Syria's premiership, led ostensibly by President Bashar Al-Assad, relies upon an Alawite religious minority, a branch of Shia Islam, for support.

In Spring 2011, facing a popular and once secular revolt against Syria's government, it was unsurprising that Assad progressively invited Shia Iran and its regional paramilitary proxy Hezbollah, in situ Lebanon, to reinforce his ailing military. An indecisive West feared supporting a revolt that included Wahhabi Sunni extremists; private donors amongst Sunni Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, did not. Western indolence persisted as a loose 'Sunni' jidhadist coalition - Al-Nusura Front - grew in dominance as it pooled men and material from across the Gulf. Civil war engulfed Syria. Reaching stalemate with Assad's military prior to Iranian reinforcement, Islamists dismembered secular factions - once 'children of the revolution.'

In 2013, ISIS - a reconstituted Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) - also answered the call to arms of Al-Nusura Front. It later manoeuvred to assume group lead in order to draw more fighters, lay claim to a cross border caliphate and switched fire to exploit Iraq's sectarian resurgence. No longer undecided, a Western led coalition responded militarily in 2014 to ISIS's regional land grab.

Now beaten back, an account of the now widely-dubbed DAESH (ISIS)'s short lived yet rapid trajectory within this proxy war is vital to understanding how it will almost certainly persist. (Continued on next page)

109 service personnel have been granted by Her Majesty the Queen in the annual New Year Honours list.. This seems to be a reduction ion previous years, and includes only one knighthood. 44 civilians have also been honoured either for their work in the MOD or in other aspects of Defence. The serving personnel named in the New Year Honours List for 2018 are listed on the next page.

We mark the passing of those who served this country. Contributions from comrades and families welcome.

We note with sadness that there are now only 10 of "The Few" who flew in the Battle of Britain known to be remaining (9 Britons, 1 Canadian). The Battle of Britain Historical Society would be delighted to know of any more, including overseas citizens who came here to fight for freedom.

The news that Brexit negotiations between the UK Government and the EU have achieved ‘sufficient progress’ to move to phase two means that the real negotiating can begin. This is the future trade relationship between the UK, Europe and the wider world. The future prosperity of the UK will be defined by how matters evolve during the next phase.

Paul Everitt is the Chief Executive of ADS the Trade Association of the Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space industries of the UK. In an exclusive interview he tells the U K Defence Forum's Nick Watts that the sector is of crucial importance to the UK economy, so securing a future under the new post-Brexit dispensation matters. According to ADS, in 2016 the turnover of the combined industries was £72 bn; 363,000 jobs and contributed £ 37 bn in exports. UKTI estimates that in 2016 the defence industry exports amounted to £ 5.9bn; on a rolling 10 year basis the UK is the second largest global defence exporter. The security industry export value amounted to £4.3 bn, moving the UK upwards to 5th place in the rankings.

The "Cold War" between Saudi Arabia and Iran has the potential to escalate into a "Hot War". Not since the 1979 Iranian Revolution have relations between the two countries been so strained, writes Joseph E Fallon.

The Iranian Revolution radically altered how Tehran and Riyadh perceived the other. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia now defined their respective identities in sectarian terms, Shia and Sunni, with each viewing the other as an existential threat.

For Tehran and Riyadh, the past became the present. The 1,400 year old battle of Karbala at which Hussein, son of Caliph Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammed, was killed, resulting in the schism of the Islamic community into Shia and Sunni, is being refought daily by Tehran and Riyadh. Through inflammatory rhetoric and proxy wars, each seeks to defeat the other, religiously and politically, to become the paramount power in the Middle East.

Since the upheavals that swept across North Africa in 2011 Algeria has been an immovable anchor in a region trying to find stability in the face of wave after wave of change in the neighbourhood: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and somehow also in Morocco, writes Ambassador Garcia Munoz


Algeria has kept a steady course in the two decades since its civil war ended. After six parliamentary elections since the country adopted in 1989 a multiparty political system, there is no effective challenge to the long-time leader and his entourage other than the President's poor health. However, change is in the horizon because a lack of economic diversification and lagging growth.

In the six years since the ousting of long time strongman ruler Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has fractured into pieces, mainly along tribal lines. In 2014, Libya had just a single government in Tripoli, the General National Congress (GNC), which was voted into power by popular election after the civil war ended. The GNC failed to hold elections before its term ended. Then his rival in the East, General Khalifa Hifter asked for its dismisal. The GNC persisted, and three months later, Hifter — backed by Egypt — launched what he called "Operation Dignity" to try to force it from power. The GNC then did hold elections, but turnout was low, and Islamists backed by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood were defeated. The low turnout led to claims that the elections lacked legitimacy. A coalition backed by Islamist militias and fighters from the powerful western city of Misrata formed "Dawn Movement", that dislodged the newly elected government — the House of Representatives— which fled to eastern Libya to ally with Hifter. The Misratan-Islamist coalition then restored the GNC's power in Tripoli, giving the country two governments.

Although locked in a long competition for regional primacy with its traditional rival, Algeria, Morocco has benefited from Algeria's large and well secured territory which buffers the country from jihadists in the region and in the Sahel, writes Garcia Munoz.


But economic and social unrest and growing conservative forces of Islam together with rising political militancy are threats to Morocco's long time stability. Contemporary religious political movements espouse a postmodern Islamist model to attract youth who, out of frustration due to unemployment that reaches more than 36 percent, are searching for an alternative to the current system

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