Special Coverage

On Our Radar

On Our Radar scans conflicts and crises around the globe every week and features some of the hotspots Crisis Group's analysts are closely watching. Whether an under-reported trend or a headline-grabbing development, our field experts explain why it matters or what should be done. 

18 March 2023

IRAN-SAUDI ARABIA  China brokered a deal between Tehran and Riyadh that commits both to a principle of non-interference and sets out a roadmap to better ties. The pair agreed to two months of further dialogue before reestablishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies. Crisis Group expert Anna Jacobs says the deal is a big step forward. While it does not solve the various points of friction between the two countries, Saudi-Iran rapprochement should help mitigate some of these proxy conflicts and promote de-escalation in key conflict areas, such as Yemen. It also suggests greater commitment to resolving differences through diplomacy.

MEXICO  Following the abduction of U.S. citizens in Mexico, calls are gathering steam stateside to double down on heavy-handed responses to organised crime, including by designating some cartels as foreign terrorist organisations (FTO) and taking military action in Mexico. Crisis Group expert Falko Ernst says such policies are unlikely to help. The U.S. already has in place most of the FTO tools to combat organised crime, especially as concerns freezing assets, while billions of dollars spent on force-based policies in recent decades have failed to curb the drug supply. Instead, the U.S. could dent demand by investing in addiction prevention and hampering criminal groups’ ability to purchase American guns, while supporting Mexico to tackle its region-specific conflicts.

PAKISTAN  Former Prime Minister Imran Khan's supporters clashed with police attempting to execute an arrest warrant issued by an Islamabad court after Khan’s repeated refusal to appear before the court. Police used tear gas and water cannons against party activists attacking law-enforcement personnel outside Khan’s residence, injuring 59 police officers. The Lahore High Court then temporarily suspended the police operation. Crisis Group expert Samina Ahmed says with Khan insisting that the Sharif government intends to assassinate him, the heightening tensions bode ill for the upcoming 30 April elections in Punjab province and raise the prospect of further violent unrest.

11 March 2023

GEORGIA  The ruling Georgian Dream party withdrew a controversial foreign agents bill this week after it triggered large-scale protests in the capital Tbilisi, which police violently dispersed. Critics and protesters argued the draft law would impinge on civil liberties and was akin to a similar Russian law. Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan says the government has backed down for now in response to growing public anger, widespread unrest and its fear of losing power. Criticism from the U.S. and European Union has also played a role, as Tbilisi cannot afford to isolate itself from its Western partners and thereby risk increasing its vulnerability to Russia, which maintains security and military personnel in the two breakaway regions Moscow recognised in 2008.

SOMALILAND  Around 185,000 people have fled the town of Las Anod in Sool region after deadly fighting erupted last month between Somaliland armed forces and Dhulbalhante clan militias, killing over 200 people. The latest violence started after Dhulbahante representatives declared they did not recognise Somaliland’s administration and wanted to be part of Somalia, demanding the withdrawal of Somaliland forces. Crisis Group expert Omar Mahmood says the continued violence is highly worrying, as it aggravates a precarious humanitarian situation. It also risks a wider conflagration, which could draw in outside actors like Puntland, Somalia or Ethiopia.

SOUTH KOREA-JAPAN  South Korea announced a plan to respond to a November 2018 court ruling that ordered two Japanese companies to compensate Koreans forced to work in its factories during the colonial period. Seoul intends for the remaining victims to be compensated by Korean companies that benefited from Japanese reparations paid when the two states normalised ties in 1965. Crisis Group expert Christopher Green says given Russia’s war in Ukraine, ongoing tensions with China and an increasingly assertive North Korea, it is not surprising that the U.S. and its allies have welcomed a deal that portends improved relations between South Korea and Japan. But the plan – which its many critics argue absolves Japan of responsibility for historic wrongs – has stoked considerable controversy and opposition in South Korea. Protests are almost certain to hamper President Yoon Suk-yeol's implementation of the deal, and may even come to define his presidency.

4 March 2023

KASHMIR (INDIAN-ADMINISTERED)  Indian authorities have rearmed the Village Defence Group, a Hindu militia first formed in the 1990s, in a remote part of Jammu and Kashmir, the mountainous territory divided between Indian and Pakistani administration and claimed by both countries. The action comes after several killings of local minority Hindus for which police blame Muslim insurgents. Though Muslim militants are not as numerous as in previous decades, they have been attacking non-Muslim minorities following moves by New Delhi to take away the region’s semi-autonomy, suppress civil rights, imprison Muslim politicians and restaff the administration with Hindu civil servants. Muslims suspect that these policies aim to alter the region’s demographic balance in Hindus’ favour. Crisis Group expert Praveen Donthi says the militia’s reappearance is an ominous development that could fan inter-communal animosity, recalling the violence of the past but this time aided by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government. 

ISRAEL-PALESTINE  Hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian towns of Huwara, Burin and Einbus in the northern West Bank Sunday night, in the largest of a string of such assaults in recent years. The mob, demanding revenge for two Israelis killed by Palestinians on a West Bank highway earlier that day, torched houses and cars and beat residents with metal rods and rocks. A Palestinian was also shot dead. Though these towns are in Area B, a part of the West Bank under Israeli security control, Israeli soldiers largely stood by during the rampage. Of the ten suspects who were arrested, nine were released (though two are now in administrative detention.) Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials had met earlier Sunday in Aqaba, Jordan to discuss resuming security cooperation. Crisis Group experts Tahani Mustafa and Mairav Zonszein say the confluence of events illustrates disturbing patterns: settlers enjoy virtual impunity for violent acts, and the open sympathy of members of Israel's new far-right government, while meagre diplomatic efforts serve to reinforce the status quo of deepening Israeli control of the occupied Palestinian territories.

NIGERIA  The electoral commission declared Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress winner of the 25 February presidential election, which took place amid logistical and technological difficulties as well as voter intimidation and other violence. The two main opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party, say the vote tally is fraudulent and demand that it be annulled. They have decided to lodge their protest in court rather than in the streets, in accordance with an agreement they signed before the balloting. Tensions were high right after the poll, says Crisis Group expert Nnamdi Obasi, but they have subsided substantially despite widespread disillusionment with the election’s conduct and outcome. Six of the 36 state governments have filed suit at the Supreme Court asking it to void the election.

25 February 2023

CAMEROON  Deadly hostilities have intensified between government forces and Anglophone rebels as both sides increased their military activities. The uptick in attacks is being partly fuelled by the stalled peace initiative, which Canada announced last month and the government quickly denounced. Crisis Group expert Arrey E. Ntui says the Canada-led facilitation is delayed but not dead. Separatists have not retracted their commitment to the process, though they have intensified their military campaign for an independent Southern Cameroon. Government forces likewise have increased actions to contain them. President Biya fears talks may be perceived by the public as an admission that the army has failed to defeat Anglophone militants.

CHINA-JAPAN  This week, Japanese and Chinese senior officials revived a security dialogue mechanism that had been moribund for four years. Both Beijing and Tokyo used the discussion to air a long list of security concerns in the relationship. Of core concern for China is Japan’s decision to significantly bolster its defence spending and counter-strike capabilities, the tightening U.S.-Japan security alliance, and what this portends for Japan’s role in a Taiwan Strait crisis, says Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao. Deep distrust remains in the relationship, but such discussions can be useful for reducing the chances of miscalculation, particularly as the two sides regularly encounter each other around the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

IRAN  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reportedly discovered uranium enriched to 84 per cent at one of Iran’s nuclear facilities. As senior IAEA officials visited Tehran seeking clarifications, Iran maintained that it has not undertaken enrichment above 60 per cent. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says the IAEA’s discovery comes as relations between the agency and Tehran are already strained over the lack of progress in a long-running safeguards investigation into past activities at undeclared sites, as well as modifications at Iran’s Fordow facility that the IAEA said had not been disclosed in advance. With talks to revive the nuclear deal in deep freeze, the accumulating tensions between Tehran and the IAEA will raise alarm in Western capitals and Israel about Iran’s advancing nuclear program, and sets the stage for a showdown at the IAEA’s Board of Governors meeting that begins on 6 March.

18 February 2023

COLOMBIA  Government and National Liberation Army (ELN) negotiators began a second round of talks in Mexico, hoping to continue discussions on a wide agenda for peace as well as a possible ceasefire. Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson said that the negotiations are likely to move forward slowly, even as the urgency of the humanitarian situation continues. The Petro government last week signed ceasefire protocols with a faction of dissidents of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Yet despite dissidents' ceasefire with the government, they are still fighting the ELN in Arauca and Nariño, with devastating fallout for civilians.

TUNISIA  Authorities continued their crackdown on opponents as police detained multiple individuals, including an official of the largest opposition party An-Nahda, a prominent lobbyist and others linked to the media, judiciary and labour sectors. Crisis Group expert Michaël Ayari says the arrests are widely seen as an orchestrated campaign by President Saïed, who faces declining popularity following the recent legislative elections, which saw the lowest voter turnout ever. A growing number of opposition figures and former officials face trials on various charges and Saïed is stepping up his harsh public discourse, accusing opponents of an assassination plot against him and blaming them for inflation and shortages. His crackdowns risk further political polarisation that could lead to violence.

UKRAINE  Russia continues its campaign of missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, albeit at a decreased frequency and intensity since January. With temperatures gradually rising above freezing and a decline in unscheduled power cuts, Ukraine may just have dodged the worst of the humanitarian winter crisis. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says that in the east, Russian activity along the front line suggests an offensive may be in the offing. Yet so far, Moscow has been unable to amass a force strong enough to punch through Ukrainian defensive lines. Russian forces have advanced around Bakhmut city in Donetsk but they have suffered an unsustainably high rate of attrition and for now Ukrainians hold the main road out of the city. With Moscow unlikely to field a significantly superior land force anytime soon, Ukraine's Western partners voice concern that it could resort to intensified air strikes.

11 February 2023

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO  Thousands took to the streets of Goma, capital of North Kivu province, on Monday to protest the perceived inaction of an East African force in beating back the M23 rebels threatening the city. The force, which deployed in November, is composed of Kenyan, Burundian, Ugandan and South Sudanese soldiers. Protesters say it is reluctant to tackle the M23 because the insurgents are backed by Rwanda, with which the troop-contributing nations want to keep good relations. The M23 is the strongest of several rebel groups in North Kivu and adjacent provinces, some of which are Congolese but others of which are from the DRC’s neighbours, giving each of those countries its own distinct interests in the multifaceted conflict. Regional diplomats held an extraordinary summit last Saturday, but it did little to ameliorate the complex, interlocking dangers in the DRC’s east. Crisis Group expert Onesphore Sematumba says the Goma protest underscores the depth of popular frustration as the intense fighting nearby continues to displace civilians. 

SOMALILAND  Clashes between the Somaliland army and local forces in the town of Las Anod killed at least 30 this week. Tensions in Las Anod have been rising since late December, when Somaliland forces cracked down on protesters decrying the unclaimed assassination of a local politician, but Crisis Group expert Omar Mahmood says the roots go much deeper. Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Its claim is unrecognised internationally, however, and contentious in parts of the territory it administers. Las Anod and its environs are predominantly inhabited by the Dhulbahante clan, which generally has resisted Somaliland’s authority and leaned toward Somali unity. Somaliland forces pulled back from Las Anod in early January, and Dhulbahante representatives flooded in for a heralded meeting to chart their political future. This week’s violence came at that meeting’s conclusion, when the clan members called on Somaliland to respect their desire to be part of Somalia. Fighting is likely to continue, given the two sides’ contrasting political stances, and could spread beyond Las Anod’s vicinity.

SYRIA  The number of known deaths from the massive earthquakes that shook north-western Syria and southern Türkiye climbed over 23,000 Friday, including more than 4,000 in Syria. The quakes hit a swathe of the country, but damage was greatest in the north west, the last area held by rebels fighting the regime in Damascus. Crisis Group expert Dareen Khalifa says the situation is catastrophic. North-western Syria is besieged, for all intents and purposes. Local rescue workers have received no help, as donors are reluctant to provide direct support to the area. UN humanitarian aid was very slow to trickle in – the first trucks arrived from Türkiye only on Thursday – and will likely remain inadequate to meet the scale of need. North-western Syria’s population has tripled since the civil war began, as Syrians displaced by fighting elsewhere seek refuge; now the quakes have uprooted many of these people once more.

TÜRKIYE  As of Friday, authorities had confirmed 20,000 people dead in Türkiye due to the earthquakes, with the toll expected to rise much higher in the coming weeks. The epicentre of the first quake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, was in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş. More than 12,100 buildings collapsed or were severely damaged there and in nine other provinces – an area whose population is over thirteen million. The government declared a three-month state of emergency in these ten provinces, as rescue teams began despairing of finding survivors in the rubble, amid winter snows and temperatures dropping well below freezing. Some 7,000 rescue workers from 75 foreign countries have come to help. Crisis Group expert Berkay Mandıracı says this calamity is by far the deadliest in the contemporary Turkish state’s almost 100-year history. The government is under huge pressure, with many painting its response as slow and over-centralised. Critics also say the government has allowed shoddy construction practices and failed to conduct proper building inspections. The quakes are likely to deepen political polarisation, with elections slated in May, and certainly will add considerably to socio-economic strains in the country. 

4 February 2023

HAITI  Hooded police officers on motorcycles brought the capital Port-au-Prince to a standstill late last week, blocking streets, torching cars and breaching security barriers at the airport as well as at acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s residence. Crisis Group expert Diego Da Rin says it is the latest sign of brewing rebellion among Haitian police, who feel the authorities have left them ill-equipped and unprotected in fighting the criminal gangs that control much of the country. At least ten officers were killed in the week preceding the riots. Henry has promised the police upgraded gear and weaponry, but continuing attacks on police stations are a dark omen for the force’s future. Calls for an international mission to rein in the gangs may now grow louder.

IRAN  The government confirmed a drone attack Sunday on what it described as a defence ministry workshop in Isfahan. There were no reported injuries, and officials said the damage was minimal. In a subsequent letter to the UN Security Council, the foreign ministry pinned responsibility on Israel, whose role has also been widely hinted at in Western media reports. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says Iran’s initial response could come in the form of renewed attacks on Iraq-based Kurdish separatist groups that Tehran claims are working with foreign powers. The incident, which follows a pattern of Israeli operations targeting Iranian military facilities and personnel, also raises the risk of retaliation at a time when Iran’s government is facing continued domestic discontent and increasingly confrontational relations with the West over its repression of protests, military cooperation with Russia and advancing nuclear program.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE  U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders Tuesday, reaffirming support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict amid a deeply disquieting escalation of violence. In the worst incidents over the preceding week, the Israeli army killed ten Palestinians in the West Bank town of Jenin and a Palestinian shot seven Israelis dead in Neve Yaakov, a settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. Crisis Group experts Mairav Zonszein and Tahani Mustafa say invocations of a two-state solution ring hollow, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government opposes one and peace negotiations have been moribund for years. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s government is promising to build more settlements in the occupied territories and Palestinian politicians are diverted by infighting over who might succeed President Mahmoud Abbas, two of several factors that not only augur poorly for restarting talks but also suggest the situation could get much worse.

PAKISTAN  A suicide bomber attacked a mosque inside a government compound Monday, killing 101 people, the vast majority of them police officers. The mosque is located in Peshawar, capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where security forces are battling the Pakistani Taliban insurgency. The Pakistani Taliban first claimed, but later denied, responsibility for the bombing. Crisis Group expert Samina Ahmed says militant operations have surged since the Afghan Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, where Pakistani Taliban leaders enjoy safe haven. The number of attacks in Pakistan has spiked in the last two months, after the insurgents called off a ceasefire due to deadlock in talks with authorities.

PERU  Congress rejected two proposals to hold snap elections this week, amid mounting anger among protesters who have pressed for them since former President Pedro Castillo’s ouster in early December. Forty-seven people have been killed in clashes with police since then, including, for the first time, a demonstrator in the capital Lima last week. According to a recent survey, 73 per cent of the public supports holding a vote in 2023 to help defuse the crisis. Castillo’s successor Dina Boluarte, who has come under sharp criticism from protesters as the death toll climbs, backs organising fresh polls, as well as empowering the next Congress to overhaul the 1993 constitution. Crisis Group expert Glaeldys Gonzalez Calanche says Congress seems disconnected from citizens’ demands, threatening further upheaval.

28 January 2023

ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN  The EU on Monday announced its plan to establish a civilian monitoring mission in Armenia that will conduct routine patrols with the aim of fostering stability along the border with Azerbaijan, including in the areas that have witnessed hundreds of casualties since the 2020 war. Crisis Group experts Olesya Vartanyan and Zaur Shiriyev say the mission is a bold step to help prevent tensions spiralling into renewed conflict and get EU-mediated peace talks back on track. The mission, however, would enjoy better prospects of success if the EU can secure Baku’s cooperation and agreement on regular meetings to discuss incident prevention.

BURKINA FASO  The government on Monday formally requested French military forces – some 400 soldiers operating in the country since 2018 as part of efforts to combat jihadist groups – to leave the country within a month. Crisis Group expert Rinaldo Depagne says this decision was motivated by several reasons. The government wants the country to defend itself and promote a patriotic spirit, to look for new external partners to get easier access to military equipment and to satisfy its political base. The announcement followed protests in the capital Ouagadougou against the presence of French forces. 

CAMEROON  Canada last week announced an agreement between the Cameroonian government and several Anglophone separatist groups to engage in a peace process facilitated by Canada to end the brutal conflict ongoing since 2017. The Cameroon government's spokesperson, however, denied that Canada was assigned the role of facilitator. Crisis Group expert Arrey E. Ntui says discreet, low profile consultations between the parties have been ongoing for about two months. The formal announcement of the peace process was supposed to mark a rare, positive step by the parties aimed at ending one of the world’s most neglected conflicts. The surprise rebuttal from Yaoundé highlights divisions within the government and that intense diplomatic effort is required to secure Cameroon’s support.

21 January 2023

DR CONGO  The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a blast at a church in Kasindi city in the country’s east on Sunday, which killed at least fourteen people and wounded dozens. Crisis Group expert Onesphore Sematumba says the blast was almost certainly conducted by the ISIS affiliate Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan-origin, multinational jihadist group which operates in DR Congo’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces. The church attack is only one of a number of recent atrocities, and more than a year of joint Ugandan and Congolese army operations seem to have done little to dent its operational capacity.  

LIBYA  The speaker of Libya’s House of Representatives, Aghila Saleh, on Wednesday announced that UN-backed talks between his Tobruq-based parliament and the rival Tripoli-based assembly had reached a dead end. The objective of those talks, ongoing for the past eight months, was to amend a draft constitution that – if approved by the assemblies – was meant to chart a roadmap toward elections and unify a country that has been divided into two parallel executives since last February. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says the announcement is not necessarily bad news. The talks between representatives of the two assemblies were controversial from the outset, and participants did not appear to be willing to negotiate in good faith. The UN envoy now has an opportunity to chart a fresh roadmap toward elections in consultation with Libya's politicians. 

TUNISIA  Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital Tunis on Saturday, the twelfth anniversary of the departure of the autocrat Ben Ali, to rally against current President Kais Saied’s power grab and deteriorating economic conditions. Crisis Group expert Michael Ayari says many citizens describe their daily lives as unbearable amid shortages of essentials, the rising cost of living, crumbling state institutions, increasing corruption, spreading delinquency and a country drained of its best-skilled workers due to legal and illegal migration to Europe. Saied is increasingly isolated and the worsening economic situation could fuel new popular protests, further polarise political elites and cause violence.

14 January 2023

AFGHANISTAN  An explosion near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the heart of downtown Kabul on Wednesday injured at least 40 people, according to a nearby hospital. Taliban officials claimed that only five people were killed but the death toll may rise. Crisis Group expert Graeme Smith says the Islamic State’s local branch, the Islamic State Khorasan Province, claimed the attack. The group is broadening its recruitment beyond traditional supporters in the eastern provinces to benefit from anti-Taliban sentiment in other parts of the country. Still, overall violence remains at low ebb during the winter months, and it’s unclear whether armed resistance against the Taliban will gain traction when the weather improves enough to allow fighters greater mobility. 
ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN  Azerbaijani-supported activists maintained a blockade of the only road that connects Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. In the entity’s main town of Stepanakert, which is home to roughly half of the mountainous enclave’s Armenian population of 120,000, food shelves are bare and locals queue for hours to buy scarce goods from nearby villages. Schools have shut due to a lack of food, and residents say they can no longer find painkillers, much less medication for diabetes, cancer and other illnesses. Crisis Group’s expert Olesya Vartanyan says the urgent humanitarian situation comes amid an ongoing crisis in talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan and after their failure to sign a peace deal in 2022. If the sides do not find a way to resume contacts, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is likely to continue to deteriorate. 
ETHIOPIA  Fulfilling a key clause of the November peace deal, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has begun surrendering heavy weapons to federal forces. Crisis Group expert William Davison says this is another important step that will bolster a still fragile peace process. Critically, the truce is holding, aid is entering Tigray, and the federal government is restoring services, indicating that federal-Tigray relations are improving. But outstanding challenges remain, including the continued presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray and Amhara region’s control of the disputed Western Tigray area.

7 January 2023

COLOMBIA  President Petro on 31 December announced a six-month ceasefire with six armed groups, including National Liberation Army (ELN), two Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident groups and two post-paramilitary groups. The ELN, however, denied a ceasefire had been agreed, prompting the government to clarify that it will be discussed in the ongoing peace negotiations with the group but other armed groups had agreed. Crisis Group expert Renata Segura says the episode marks the government’s first major misstep in the current peace process with the ELN, although no lasting damage may have been done. As most violent altercations in Colombia are between criminal organisations, and not between the state and armed groups, securing the buy-in of the other actors is an important development that could offer immediate relief to conflict-ridden areas.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE  National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir became the first minister in almost five years to enter Jerusalem's Holy Esplanade (the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex). The move, which the Palestinian Authority called an “unprecedented provocation” and Hamas labelled crossing a “red line”, sparked international condemnation, including from Israeli friends the U.S., Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Crisis Group expert Mairav Zonszein says Ben-Gvir did not enter the compound for religious reasons, nor as a message aimed at Hamas. Rather, he sought to set a precedent for further change to the historic status quo. As an epicentre of friction in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with violent clashes as recently as May 2021, any Israeli effort to change the status quo or claim sovereignty over the Holy Esplanade almost certainly will trigger violence far beyond Jerusalem. 

UKRAINE  Ukrainian artillery struck a Russian military base in occupied Makiyivka, a suburb of Donetsk, on New Year’s Eve. A Ukrainian Army Telegram channel said that some 400 mobilised Russians had been killed, while Russia this week admitted 89 had died. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says the strike, which was conducted using the U.S.-supplied HIMARS system, marks the highest number of Russian fatalities in a single incident that Moscow has admitted since the war began. The subsequent blame game among Russian military observers points to persistent disciplinary and logistical problems that may be leading Russian commanders to concentrate large numbers of troops, even within range of Ukrainian artillery.

24 December 2022

AFGHANISTAN  The Taliban authorities announced Tuesday that they would ban women from attending university “until further notice”. Damaging as this misogynistic policy will be to Afghan women, says Crisis Group expert Graeme Smith, it will also hinder the country’s economic recovery from decades of war. Afghanistan already suffers from shortages of female health care workers, teachers and other professionals, many of whom fled after the Taliban’s 2021 takeover for fear of precisely this sort of draconian measure. This move will compound these problems; it may also bring new sanctions. With the Taliban signalling that they will keep the country isolated, international donors should focus on rebuilding livelihoods in order to minimise the population’s suffering. 

PERU  Protests rocked the country for a second week as Congress approved interim President Dina Boluarte’s proposal to hold early elections in April 2024. Boluarte assumed office on 7 December in the wake of her predecessor and running mate Pedro Castillo’s bungled attempt to dissolve the legislature. Lawmakers impeached Castillo for this illegal gambit; he now faces eighteen months in pretrial detention. (Mexico has offered him asylum and granted it to his family.) Unrest has persisted in several southern regions following the legislators’ decision. Crisis Group expert Glaeldys Gonzalez Calanche says many Peruvians remain deeply dissatisfied with the country’s political institutions. They are demanding Boluarte’s resignation, snap polls in 2023 and justice for the 27 people killed in clashes with police since Castillo’s ouster.

SUDAN  This week marked the four-year anniversary of the popular uprising that unseated Sudan’s long-time president, Omar al-Bashir, coinciding with a deadline for reaching an agreement to form a civilian government after fourteen months with the military in charge. On 5 December, the military concluded an initial framework deal with a civilian coalition. This agreement has significantly divided Sudanese political actors, delaying the conclusion of talks and inadvertently extending the military’s de facto rule. Crisis Group expert Shewit Woldemichael says it is critical for all actors to make concessions during the next round of negotiations in order to reach a final accord that has broader legitimacy. The framework agreement, despite its flaws, is an opportunity to form an inclusive civilian government that should not be squandered. 

U.S.-UKRAINE  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy got a warm reception in Washington Wednesday on his first trip outside the country since Russia’s all-out invasion on 24 February. At a White House meeting, U.S. President Joe Biden affirmed Washington’s continued support for Kyiv, including a Patriot missile battery, reiterating that the U.S. will back Ukraine in the war “as long as it takes”. That evening, Zelenskyy spoke to a joint session of Congress, thanking the U.S. for its massive assistance to date. Displaying awareness of scepticism in the Republican caucus, he stressed that the aid was “not charity” but “an investment” in mutual security objectives – and also not enough. Crisis Group experts Olga Oliker and Michael Wahid Hanna say both presidents scored important political victories: Zelenskyy laid down markers for additional assistance Kyiv hopes to receive down the road, while Biden won a show of bipartisan unity behind his Ukraine policy. Congress will vote on a new aid package before January, when the Republicans will take over the lower house.

17 December 2022

INDIA-CHINA  Indian and Chinese troops clashed along the disputed border in Arunachal Pradesh state in the east last Friday, severely injuring around 30 Indian and likely as many Chinese troops. Both sides reportedly fought with non-lethal weapons such as sticks, nail-studded clubs and tasers to bypass agreements forbidding the use of firearms and blamed each other for the incident. Crisis Group expert Praveen Donthi says though face-offs are common between the troops along the disputed border known as the Line of Actual Control, this is the biggest since the deadly clash in June 2020. It does not portend well for relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which are already under severe stress, and marks the new normal of “no war, no peace” between the two powers.  

KOSOVO-SERBIA  Serbs barricaded highways and border crossings in northern Kosovo in protest against the arrest of a former police officer suspected of taking part in attacks on election officials, and against the presence of heavily armed Kosovo police in Serb-majority areas. The EU and the U.S. embassies in Belgrade and Pristina called on protesters to remove the barricades. Crisis Group expert Marko Prelec says that the EU-led negotiations aimed at normalising the Belgrade-Pristina relationship and securing autonomy for Serb-majority areas in Kosovo continue, while both sides are resorting to unilateral acts on the ground in an attempt to improve their positions in the talks.

PERU  After President Castillo attempted to shutter Congress and rule by decree, Congress impeached him and swore into office Vice President Dina Boluarte as his replacement. His removal sparked nationwide protests demanding the chamber’s dissolution and general elections, which intensified this week with attacks on police stations and Boluarate declaring a 30-day state of emergency. Clashes between protesters and police have killed eighteen and injured hundreds. Crisis Group expert Glaeldys Gonzalez Calanche says the wave of violence comes at a time when citizens’ confidence in Peruvian democracy and political actors has severely deteriorated as politicians have failed to address growing challenges, such as high levels of extreme poverty and unprecedented levels of food insecurity. Many see general elections and all-inclusive dialogue as the only exit from the crisis.

10 December 2022

EL SALVADOR  President Bukele announced a military operation involving 10,000 police officers and soldiers against gangs in the country’s most populous city of Soyapango. The operation, branded as a new phase of the government’s security strategy, takes place under a state of emergency imposed in March in response to a sudden uptick in gang violence. Crisis Group expert Tiziano Breda says that the operation, while unlikely to lead to a permanent weakening of gangs, is designed to be a public display of the government’s power and control. Unless it is coupled with efforts to improve services and offer opportunities to youth targeted by gang recruitment, such heavy-handed methods are unlikely to yield anything but a temporary reprieve in violence.

SAUDI ARABIA  China’s President Xi commenced his first visit to the kingdom since 2016. The three-day trip is aimed at boosting and diversifying economic ties beyond oil. Crisis Group expert Anna Jacobs says Xi’s visit symbolises Riyadh’s desire to diversify its relations amid an increasingly multipolar world order and tensions with the U.S. The latter stem from the kingdom’s concerns over Washington’s commitment to its security and U.S. disquiet over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and prosecution of the war in Yemen. Ties further frayed following the OPEC+ decision to cut oil production, which Washington saw as helping Russia mitigate the impact of sanctions. The U.S. will be closely observing agreements made during Xi’s visit, especially those related to defence, arms sales and nuclear power.
SOUTH SUDAN  At least 10,000 civilians in Kodok – the capital of Fashoda county, in Upper Nile state – are at risk of attack by Nuer militia forces from northern Jonglei state. Aided by several Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) soldiers, the militias since early October have repeatedly targeted the local ethnic Shilluk population, displacing tens of thousands. The local Shilluk militia, the Agwalek, has fought the Nuer militia forces. Crisis Group expert Ferenc David Marko says the state government has declared it cannot resolve the crisis, while the small UN peacekeeping force in Kodok is severely understaffed and may fail to deter an attack. The federal government has deployed limited armed forces, but it remains unclear if they are willing, or even able, to protect civilians. External stakeholders, including regional and donor powers, should press Juba to intervene to prevent further bloodshed, while the UN should reinforce the area with more peacekeepers and provide protection for humanitarian relief.

UKRAINE-RUSSIA  Russian authorities accused Ukraine of attacks on three Russian air bases near the cities of Saratov, Ryazan and Kursk on Monday and Tuesday, which killed three people and damaged several aircraft in Russia’s strategic bomber fleet. Kyiv acknowledged the attacks but did not take direct responsibility. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says the strikes once more reveal that Ukraine has long-range capabilities that Russian intelligence seemed to be unaware of and its air defence unprepared for. Whether Kyiv can use such capabilities repeatedly to eventually shift the military balance remains unclear.

3 December 2022

ISIS  The Pentagon said Wednesday former Syrian rebels had killed Abu al-Hasan al-Hashemi al-Qureishi, the top leader of ISIS, in a mid-October operation in Daraa province in southern Syria. ISIS had released an audio recording earlier that day announcing his death. Crisis Group expert Jerome Drevon says al-Qureishi’s demise is another setback for the jihadist group, whose previous chief was killed in February, and which has largely gone underground since losing its last territorial seat in 2019. Yet ISIS remains resilient in Syria, particularly in the centre and north east, where it conducts regular raids while accumulating resources and strengthening its support networks.

PALESTINE  Nine Palestinians were killed this week in confrontations with the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank. An Israeli soldier was badly injured when a Palestinian (later shot dead) rammed into her with his car. A total of 211 Palestinians and nineteen Israelis have lost their lives in Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2022 to date, making it the conflict’s deadliest year since 2006. Beyond the daily violence and indignities of the occupation, several factors are contributing to the heightened tensions, says Crisis Group expert Tahani Mustafa. Among them are stepped-up Israeli raids, arrests and killings of Palestinians and the bleak prospects for positive change on the ground, given the potential for a new far-right Israeli government with an openly annexationist agenda. 

SOMALIA  Al-Shabaab fighters stormed a hotel in Mogadishu Sunday night, initiating a siege that lasted until the following evening. At least eight civilians, a police officer and five militants died. The Islamist insurgency has ratcheted up its attacks in the Somali capital, mounting a lethal assault on another hotel in August and killing more than 100 people in a bombing of a busy intersection in October. The latest hotel siege is worrying evidence of the militants’ continued ability to strike the city, says Crisis Group expert Omar Mahmood, even in districts heavily guarded by security forces. It comes amid a fresh government offensive aimed at rooting Al-Shabaab out of rural areas in central Somalia.

26 November 2022

COLOMBIA  The government this week reopened peace talks with its last remaining leftist insurgency, the National Liberation Army (ELN). The talks are the centrepiece of President Petro’s plan to seek “total peace” through dialogue with all armed and criminal groups. Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson says that there are enormous expectations riding on the negotiations in conflict-affected communities, both to lower violence and to set the tone for a broader de-escalation. Colombia’s conflict is no longer a fight between the state and armed groups but rather between rival groups, who fight amid and atop the civilian population. The government’s focus on initial humanitarian agreements with these armed and criminal groups could be a first step toward reducing the devastating impact.

IRAN  The government’s crackdown on nationwide anti-government protests continues, especially in Kurdish-majority regions. Tehran also began enriching uranium to 60% as its fortified Fordow plant and promised to install more advanced centrifuges in response to a censure vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says relying on brute force to suppress protests has only deepened domestic anger and mobilised sweeping international condemnation. The lack of progress on resolving outstanding safeguards concerns deepens the impasse around Iran’s nuclear activity. Combined with an array of Western sanctions over Tehran’s arms provision to Russia, the trend lines across intersecting domestic, nuclear and regional fronts give ample reason for concern in the weeks ahead.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE  Unclaimed bombings at two bus stops in Jerusalem during Wednesday’s rush hour killed one Israeli teenager and wounded at least eighteen. Crisis Group expert Mairav Zonzsein says the attacks take place against a backdrop of heightened tensions and volatility. For months Israel has conducted raids in the northern West Bank, which is witnessing its deadliest wave of violence since the Second Intifada. In recent weeks there has been an uptick in Palestinian attacks on Israelis, just as Knesset members are in the process of assembling Israel’s most far-right government ever. The explosions signal a more organised effort to target civilians that will likely provoke a harsher Israeli response, perpetuating a deadly cycle of violence.

19 November 2022

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO  Tens of thousands of villagers in North Kivu province have fled fighting between M23 rebels and the Congolese army in the past week. The UN estimates that 188,000 people have been displaced since the M23 launched an offensive on 20 October. Battles are so intense that humanitarian agencies are unable to aid many of those in need. Congolese authorities continue to accuse neighbouring Rwanda of backing the insurgents, a charge Kigali denies. As the rebels draw closer to Goma, North Kivu’s capital, Crisis Group expert Onesphore Sematumba says African-led diplomacy is badly needed to avert the humanitarian catastrophe that would follow the city’s fall.

TÜRKIYE  A bomb went off Sunday in Istiklal Street, a bustling commercial avenue in Istanbul, killing six and injuring 81. No one has claimed responsibility, but authorities quickly blamed the PKK, the Kurdish insurgency that has been battling the Turkish army for decades, and the YPG, its Syrian affiliate (though they did not exclude an ISIS connection). Police arrested a woman, charging her with detonating the explosives. Ankara also excoriated Washington, which is backing the YPG in its fight with ISIS in Syria. The Turkish government sees the YPG as an extension of the PKK; it believes that the group’s quasi-autonomy in Syria is encouraging Kurdish militancy in Türkiye. Crisis Group expert Berkay Mandıracı says the attack raises public expectations that Ankara will carry out a wider incursion into northern Syria to roll back the YPG.

UKRAINE  Russia launched more than 90 missiles at Ukraine on Tuesday, and sent in several drones, in what was likely its largest single aerial attack since its all-out invasion in February. The projectiles hit several power plants, plunging parts of Kyiv and other cities into darkness amid the winter chill. What seems to have been a Ukrainian air defence rocket – fired during the Russian barrage – landed in Poland, killing two. Warsaw and its NATO allies responded by urging calm. Russian bombardment continued later in the week, taking at least two Ukrainian lives. Crisis Group expert Olga Oliker says the incidents underline not only the war’s human costs but also its escalatory risks: when Moscow mounts such massive air assaults, the odds of a stray missile, Russian or Ukrainian, hitting a third country go way up.

U.S.-CHINA  Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping spoke for three hours Monday in their first in-person meeting since assuming leadership of their respective nations. The meeting, held on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia, produced agreement to resume dialogue on a variety of issues, including guiding principles for the bilateral relationship and global challenges such as climate change, economic problems and food insecurity. Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao says the meeting marked a positive shift in tone, signalling willingness on both sides to find ways to prevent U.S.-Chinese competition from spiralling into conflict. Plenty of differences remain, including over Taiwan, but the meeting was a step in the right direction. 

12 November 2022

ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN  Foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Washington, DC, this week for bilateral talks following border clashes in September that killed almost 300 military personnel and civilians and injured over 550. Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan says the meeting shows the two sides are back on track in their discussions on a potential peace deal. Armenia, which proposed that the talks take place in Washington, is seeking a foreign guarantor to ensure the potential agreements are implemented, as its traditional backer Russia appears ineffective in preventing Azerbaijani attacks both in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the border while it continues its war in Ukraine. While the talks are a positive step, the sides appear a long way off from meeting the end-of-year deadline for a peace deal.

COP27  The 27th annual UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) kicked off on Sunday in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh. The Egyptian presidency is determined to focus on drumming up greater financial support for states struggling with the effects of climate change. Crisis Group expert Champa Patel says it is critically important that there is also a focus on how climate-financing mechanisms can reach the most vulnerable who are affected by both conflict and climate-related stresses. Our analysis shows that countries affected by both climate change and conflict receive on average only one third of the climate financing collected by countries free from conflict, with the most violent countries of all receiving only one fifth. In order to protect the most vulnerable, effective climate adaptation requires understanding the specific ways in which climate stressors exacerbate conflict risks.

PAKISTAN  Former Prime Minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan was shot and wounded in a botched assassination attempt in Punjab’s Wazirabad city on 3 November. The attack, which claimed the life of one PTI supporter and wounded several party leaders, came during Khan’s “long march” to Islamabad to demand snap elections. Crisis Group expert Samina Ahmed says the attack has sparked protests countrywide and more violence could be on the cards. Khan has vowed to continue protests until the coalition government agrees to early elections and has blamed the government and a senior military officer for the assassination attempt, significantly heightening tensions between Khan and the Pakistani military, the country’s most powerful institution.

5 November 2022

BLACK SEA  This week, Russia briefly suspended its participation in the Black Sea grain deal – the set of agreements permitting Ukraine to export its harvest by sea. Moscow made the move after a Ukrainian drone attack on its fleet in Sevastopol but relented after Kyiv offered assurances that food delivery ships would not be used for military purposes. Russia may also have wanted to deflect criticism that it was cutting food supplies to poor countries in Africa and the Middle East. Moscow has engaged in stop-start cooperation in humanitarian programs before, says Crisis Group expert Richard Gowan, such as in Syria. It may make further threats to block the exports in order to gain concessions from Kyiv and the West.
BRAZIL  Workers’ Party candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidential run-off Sunday, in a result swiftly recognised by Washington and key Latin American capitals. Outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro has not formally conceded defeat, but on Tuesday evening he ordered the administrative transition to proceed, curbing speculation that he would contest the outcome through formal channels. Such questions had been mounting as supporters of the far-right incumbent blocked more than 200 roads and railways throughout the country. Though protests may continue, says Crisis Group expert Ivan Briscoe, the rapid outside recognitions of Lula’s victory were important in heading off a possible constitutional crisis, as was the authorities’ smooth handling of the tally and the public acceptance of the result by prominent Bolsonaro backers, including São Paulo’s governor.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO  M23 rebels took several towns in North Kivu province last week, reportedly advancing to positions kilometres away from Goma, the region’s capital and commercial hub. Congolese authorities, who claim that neighbouring Rwanda backs the insurgents, expelled the Rwandan ambassador and recalled their own from Kigali following the fighting. Kigali denies the accusations, and charges Kinshasa with harbouring perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Crisis Group expert Onesphore Sematumba says regional mediation is urgently needed to defuse the Congolese-Rwandan tensions, which threaten to expand the wars in the country’s troubled east.
ETHIOPIA  African Union peace envoy Olusegun Obasanjo announced Wednesday evening that federal and Tigray regional leaders had agreed to a “permanent cessation of hostilities” at talks in the South African capital Pretoria. The deal comes after a fresh federal offensive, backed by Eritrean and Amhara regional troops, had raised fears of even greater bloodshed, including mass civilian casualties, in Tigray. It provides for Tigray’s forces to disarm and to cede the region’s highways and airports to federal control. For its part, the federal government has promised a restoration of services and “unhindered” shipments of humanitarian aid to Tigray, which it has blockaded since late 2020. Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell says the truce is desperately needed, but it remains too early to tell how committed the parties are to carrying out the deal’s terms. 
KOREAN PENINSULA  A test-fired North Korean ballistic missile landed near South Korean waters Wednesday, just over 55km east of the coastal city of Sokcho. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol denounced the “provocation”, as the South’s military, vowing to respond “firmly”, fired three air-to-ground missiles into seas near the North. Pyongyang later shelled a “buffer zone” near the maritime border, explicitly violating a September 2018 inter-Korean military agreement. Crisis Group expert Chris Green says the North Korean actions, in concert with U.S.-South Korean military exercises that are also under way, are fostering an atmosphere of escalation that will not lead to war but does raise the risk of miscalculation.
SOMALIA  Two car bombs blew up outside the education ministry building in Mogadishu last Saturday, killing more than 100 people, mostly passers-by, and injuring some 300 more. The country’s main Islamist insurgency, Al-Shabaab, took responsibility, accusing the ministry of waging a “war on minds” with a curriculum the group considers un-Islamic as well as “recruiting students” to counter its activities. It was the deadliest Al-Shabaab attack in the capital since 2017. Crisis Group expert Omar Mahmood says the bombings show Al-Shabaab’s continued reach months into a renewed government offensive. The group will likely conduct more such operations as the government’s campaign expands.

29 October 2022

CHAD  The government brutally repressed protests last Thursday organised by civil society and opposition groups calling for a return to civilian rule, killing at least 50, wounding 300 and arresting 500, as authorities suspended seven opposition parties. Prime Minister Kebzabo announced a curfew in the capital N’Djamena and Moundou, Doba and Koumra. Crisis Group expert Enrica Picco says the unrest followed the conclusion of the national dialogue earlier this month, which extended the Transitional Military Council by two years, maintained its leader Mahamat Déby as head of state and permitted him to run for president at the next elections. The outcomes heighten fears among many Chadians of a dynastic power grab and risk further fuelling tensions, which may presage further protests and, in turn, government repression.

IRAN  Marking 40 days since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death following her detention by morality police, thousands of protesters marched in the capital Tehran and locations countrywide, including Amini’s hometown Saqqez in the Kordestan region. The same day, the U.S. issued a third batch of sanctions in response to the government’s ongoing crackdown and Germany announced that there would be no “business as usual” with Tehran. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says the state’s coercive response is likely to further fuel anti-government sentiment and deepen the country’s social, economic and diplomatic isolation.

KOREAN PENINSULA  North and South Korea traded warning shots across their disputed maritime border on Sunday, after what was purportedly a North Korean merchant vessel crossed the shared Northern Limit Line. South Korea’s navy acknowledged its ships pursued the North’s vessel back over the line. Crisis Group expert Chris Green says cross-border incursions of this kind do not yet form a pattern of North Korean behaviour and it is too early to state categorically that the incident was intentional. It must be seen, however, in concert with rising rhetorical tensions and in the context of the rapid pace of Pyongyang's missile testing this calendar year. If the maritime border incursion was indeed an intentional provocation by the North, it suggests further and more serious inter-Korean clashes may lie ahead, with the contested West Sea once again an area of particularly acute risk.

22 October 2022

ETHIOPIA  Federal and allied forces this week continued their advance into Tigray, capturing Shire city on the north-western front as well as Alamata and Korem on the southern front. The war has suspended what was previously only a trickle of humanitarian aid into Tigray. Crisis Group expert William Davison says further Tigrayan resistance is highly likely despite the losses they have endured, and there is a real danger of atrocities against civilians by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops and their allies. The federal government may also make greater demands of Tigray’s government, such as disarming its forces and surrendering its leaders, which the latter are likely to reject, boding ill for African Union-brokered peace talks scheduled for 24 October.

LEBANON  Parliamentarians this week failed for the third time to elect a new president ahead of the expiry of incumbent Michel Aoun’s term on 31 October. Should Aoun’s successor not be appointed in time, Lebanon will plunge into yet another presidential vacuum, almost certainly creating constitutional uncertainty and even more political polarisation. Crisis Group expert David Wood says that the political drama will distract attention from what should be Lebanon’s main priority, namely addressing the country’s crippling socio-economic crises as living standards continue to nosedive for most Lebanese. While political elites bicker, angry citizens have held up banks demanding access to their money, cholera has returned for the first time since 1993, and boats with Europe-bound migrants aboard continue to depart from the coast.

UKRAINE  The Russia-installed head of Kherson region on Wednesday said the Russian military would evacuate up to 60,000 civilians out of Kherson city, amid reports that Russian forces there face a precarious military situation with Ukrainian forces continuing their counteroffensive. Forcibly deporting civilians from occupied territories to the territory of the occupying force can constitute a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says the civilians will have to rely on ferries for the risky crossing of the Dnipro River as road and rail bridges toward the Russian rear are damaged. At the same time, Russia continues missile barrages and drone attacks across Ukraine, targeting energy infrastructure with the aim of wearing down Ukrainians by creating an unlivable situation.

15 October 2022

ISRAEL-PALESTINE  Tensions and violence continue to rise in the Israeli-occupied West Bank amid near-daily incursions by Israeli security forces, particularly in the northern cities of Jenin and Nablus, and surrounding areas. Over 100 Palestinians have been killed this year in altercations, and Israeli security services report a significant uptick in Palestinian shooting attacks. Crisis Group expert Tahani Mustafa says the West Bank has not seen this level of violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians since the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. Israel’s current strategy has proved counterproductive, with Palestinian paramilitary groups becoming more organised and more active over the last year, drawing in young Palestinian men who see no future in the evolving situation, while Palestinian leaders are embroiled in infighting over who will succeed ailing President Mahmoud Abbas. In this political uncertainty, chances of more widespread violence can only increase.

MYANMAR  Regime leader Min Aung Hlaing has moved to exert his authority over the military-established Union Solidarity and Development Party ahead of next year’s planned elections, says Crisis Group expert Richard Horsey. At the party’s conference last week, nearly a dozen leaders including the chair were replaced with Min Aung Hlaing loyalists. At the same time, the regime continues its persecution of the winners of the 2020 elections, with Aung San Suu Kyi convicted on corruption charges on 12 October – her thirteenth conviction since the coup in February 2021. She was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, meaning that she now has to serve a total of 26 years, with a series of further charges still pending.

PAKISTAN  Thousands of residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat Valley took to the streets to protest the return of Pakistani Taliban militants to the region, demanding protection from extortion and a surge in militant attacks that have killed local politicians and police personnel. Crisis Group expert Samina Ahmed says locals are angered by the state’s complicity in allowing the Pakistani Taliban to return. Although there is no official acknowledgement, the group’s return was likely part of their ongoing negotiations with Islamabad conducted under the aegis of the Afghan Taliban. Without preconditions and oversight, their resurgence threatens a return to the dark days of the past when they ruled the region and imposed their harsh version of Islam on Swat’s society. 

8 October 2022

BRAZIL  Former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva on Sunday won more votes than any candidate in history, surpassing President Bolsonaro by over 6 million ballots. Gaining 48 per cent of support, however, was not enough to secure the overall majority needed to avoid a run-off. The elections showed that despite the challenges Brazil has faced in recent years, bolsonarismo is strong. Not only did the incumbent president fare much better than polls had suggested, his party won six new seats in the Senate and 22 in the House of Representatives. Crisis Group expert Renata Segura says if Lula prevails in the second round as predicted, Bolsonaro might refuse to accept the results and his supporters could take to the streets. Even in the event of a smooth transition of power, Brazil is highly polarised and the new administration will face an opposition that will be much more active than anything Lula saw during his previous terms in office.

KOREAN PENINSULA  Following a series of missile launches in late September, North Korea on Tuesday fired what appeared to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan for the first time since 2017. The missile flew some 4,500km, marking the longest flight of a North Korean missile. Crisis Group expert Chris Green says Pyongyang’s decision to launch the missile over Japan on an extended trajectory marks a notable step-change compared to the recent spate of missile launches, all of which fell in nearby waters after flying 650km or less. Although the North Korean foreign ministry blamed the U.S. and South Korea, saying that its launch was simply a response to allied military exercises, by acting without any regard for the people or territory of Japan and much less for shipping or aviation, the country’s leadership has demonstrated that it is clearly now in escalatory mode.

YEMEN  The six-month-old UN-brokered truce expired on 2 October but has yet to collapse. Negotiations are ongoing after the government accepted and the Huthis rejected an updated UN proposal. The Huthis made new demands relating to the disbursement of salary payments to the defence and interior ministries. They want these funds, alongside civil service salaries in areas they control, to be deposited in a U.S. dollar account they control. Crisis Group expert Veena Ali-Khan says violence is yet to exceed levels seen during the truce itself and the UN may still be able to secure a truce extension. The current deadlock appears to be part of a Huthi bargaining strategy, based on their perception of relative strength, to reap greater economic benefits from an extended truce. But the longer the impasse drags on, the greater the risk that hostilities will resume and possibly trigger renewed escalation, thereby diminishing Yemenis’ hopes for a nationwide ceasefire.

1 October 2022

BALTIC SEA  Two explosions Monday damaged the Nord Stream pipelines, which carry Russian natural gas to European markets, causing leaks into international waters off a Danish island. Russia had switched off the pipelines earlier in September amid tensions with the West over its war in Ukraine. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg both described the blasts as "sabotage". The press quoted unnamed European leaders pointing the finger at Moscow, which denied any role, suggesting instead that Washington had most to gain from damaging the pipelines. Crisis Group expert Giuseppe Famà says the incidents will not only add immediate pressure on European gas prices but also cast Nord Stream's future into doubt as Europe strives to diversify its energy supply sources in order to curb its dependence on Russia.

IRAN  Anti-government protests entered their third week, amid widespread outrage at the 16 September death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in police custody. Severe restrictions on internet access make it difficult to fully assess the scope of unrest, but it appears to be nationwide, as Iranians voice multiple longstanding grievances. Security forces have cracked down hard, killing at least several dozen, and injuring or arresting many more. The government's repressive response has brought broad international condemnation, including fresh U.S. sanctions. Crisis Group expert Naysan Rafati says the iron fist may suppress the mass expression of dissent, but there is little sign the government is willing to address the underlying causes.

RUSSIA  Russians continued to leave the country, packing flights and lining up for hours at crossings into countries such as Georgia, to escape President Vladimir Putin's order mobilising 300,000 men for the front in Ukraine. The mobilisation order, like Moscow's announcement that it was annexing partly occupied Ukrainian territory, is an escalation, says Crisis Group expert Olga Oliker, but also evidence that Russia's war effort is struggling. European countries should let fleeing Russians apply for asylum rather than barring the door, as many are doing at present, both for humanitarian reasons and to degrade Russia's war machine. They should also take steps to relieve the burden of receiving the Russians on front-line countries within and outside the European Union.

UKRAINE  Russian President Vladimir Putin signed "treaties" Friday to annex four eastern Ukrainian territories, following the Kremlin's sham referendums in occupied parts of those regions, which it said yielded over 95 per cent support for absorption into Russia. The four regions are Donetsk and Luhansk, parts of which have been under Russian-backed separatist control since 2014, as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, portions of which Russia occupied after launching its full-scale invasion in February. Any voting that took place was coerced, often at gunpoint. In a speech, Putin vowed to use any and all means to hang on to the Ukrainian lands. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, blasted the annexation as a violation of international law's most basic principles. The bigger Russia’s provocations, says Crisis Group expert Alissa de Carbonnel, the more important it will be for the West to react with the balance of resolve, unity and prudence that has marked its response to date.

24 September 2022

ETHIOPIA  Fighting between a federal coalition and Tigray forces continues to escalate. After Eritrea called up some reservists to support Ethiopian forces last week, Tigray's government on Tuesday claimed Eritrea launched a “full-scale” offensive across multiple border crossings in the north. Crisis Group expert William Davison says a decisive military blow will probably not be landed anytime soon and external actors' concerted diplomatic efforts may not bring a breakthrough, meaning this phase of the destructive civil war could well become protracted. It could also morph into even more of regional conflagration with the involvement not only of Eritrean forces, but also Sudanese armed actors should the fighting become focused on the disputed Ethiopia-Sudan border, where Eritrean troops are present and Amhara region has taken over a large area that used to be under Tigray's administration.

RUSSIA  President Putin announced mobilisation in Russia for the first time since 1941, when Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Defence Ministry is planning to mobilise at least 300,000 soldiers for the war with Ukraine. Crisis Group expert Oleg Ignatov says mobilisation is a major escalation by the Kremlin, driven by fear of defeat in Ukraine, and points to Russian determination to escalate the conflict rather than seek its end. Since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has faced consistent shortages of personnel, but it is not clear that mobilisation will be sufficient to solve its problems, which also include logistics and equipment gaps, as well as a motivated Ukrainian military supplied by the West. Thus far, the order has led to widespread but relatively small-scale protests in Russia as well as evasion and attempts to leave the country by those subject to the order.
UNITED NATIONS  World leaders met for the first full-scale in person session of the UN General Assembly in New York this week. There was an inevitable focus on Russia’s war on Ukraine. Many non-Western leaders, such as Senegalese President Sall, called for immediate negotiations to end the war. But their European counterparts, including Ukrainian President Zelenskyy appearing by video link, emphasised that Russia is not at present ready for real talks. U.S. President Biden had tough words for Russia too, but also spoke at length on the need to address poorer countries’ concerns over food price increases. Crisis Group expert Richard Gowan says that Biden and other Western leaders’ focus on food security was well calibrated to appeal to the Global South, and UN members are likely to condemn any effort by Russia to annex Ukrainian territory in the weeks ahead.

17 September 2022

AFGHANISTAN  The Taliban and Pakistani forces clashed on Wednesday in the eastern border province of Paktia as the Taliban accused Islamabad of erecting a military post on the border. Crisis Group expert Graeme Smith says tensions between the sides have been simmering for months and have occasionally escalated into armed clashes. Pakistan has grown frustrated with the sanctuary that Afghanistan’s new rulers have afforded the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), which is orchestrating a deadly cross-border campaign in Pakistan. Islamabad and the Taliban also disagree over the Durand Line, which the Taliban rejects as the official border and Pakistan continues to fence. The skirmishes take place as Taliban also battles the Islamic State's local branch and armed resistance forces in the north. 

ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN  In the first large-scale escalation since the 2020 war, fighting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani troops this week killed at least 135 Armenian and 77 Azerbaijani soldiers. The hostilities erupted along multiple parts of the border and included heavy Azerbaijani shelling and drone strikes reaching civilian settlements and key towns inside Armenian territory. Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan says that the ceasefire that was agreed on the second day of fighting remains fragile and could easily collapse into renewed clashes with Azerbaijani forces potentially taking over more territories inside Armenia. 

IRAN  The International Atomic Energy Agency expressed ongoing concern around the lack of Iranian engagement on an investigation into past activities at undeclared sites. 23 out of the 35 members comprising the agency's Board of Governors on Wednesday supported a statement by the U.S., UK, France and Germany urging Iran to resolve all outstanding safeguards issues. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says the fate of the investigation has been a key sticking point in efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran's demand for the probe to be closed runs counter to the IAEA's mandate, and the continued impasse makes the deal's revival unlikely before the U.S. midterm elections, if at all.

10 September 2022

BURKINA FASO  An improvised explosive device targeting a supply convoy travelling between the northern towns of Bourzanga and Djibo killed at least 35 civilians on Monday. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) group – a coalition of four jihadist groups formed in 2017 – has imposed a blockade on Djibo and frequently targets convoys seeking to deliver supplies. Crisis Group expert Mathieu Pellerin says this attack stands out because it specifically targets civilians as opposed to the army. If JNIM conducted the attack, its motivations may be varied. The group may have sought to kill suspected informants linked to the army, show that the state’s strategy of escorts cannot secure local populations, or signal to authorities that despite the recent surrendering of a JNIM unit in the area, the group retains its ability to launch deadly attacks.

HAITI  Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Port-au-Prince and other cities on Wednesday to demand de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation and to protest against mounting insecurity, chronic fuel shortages, and soaring prices of goods. Crisis Group expert Renata Segura says these protests and a series of demonstrations held during August might indicate the reversal of a downward trend in the number of protest actions over the past year. Demonstrations are likely to continue in the run-up to 17 October, when a general strike is planned and by which time Henry must update the UN Security Council on the process of finding an agreement to overcome the political stalemate that has reigned since the assassination of then President Jovenel Moïse in July last year.

TÜRKIYE-GREECE  President Erdoğan accused Athens of militarising what should be demilitarised Eastern Aegean islands, threatened to “do what was necessary”, and warned of a “heavy price” should Greece harass Turkish F-16 fighter jets. The latter warning follows Ankara's accusation that Greece in August used the Russian-supplied S300 air defence system to lock on to Turkish jets in the region. Ankara appealed to the U.S. over the incident. Crisis Group expert Nigar Göksel says the war of words between both sides has been escalating for several months. Aside from the dispute over the sovereignty and alleged militarisation of islands close to Türkiye, irregular migration flows and Ankara’s energy exploration activities around Cyprus have recently fueled the harsh rhetoric. Tensions could further increase ahead of scheduled general elections in both countries in 2023.

3 September 2022

ETHIOPIA  Federal troops and Tigray regional forces returned to front-line fighting in Amhara-Tigray border areas last Wednesday, shattering the March ceasefire. This week federal forces conducted an airstrike on Tigray’s capital Mekelle and Tigray forces launched an offensive in northern Amhara region. Fighting spread on Thursday to north-western Tigray, with Tigray's authorities saying Eritrea's military was part of a major federal offensive, and fronts also opened on Tigray's southern boundary with Amhara and on the Ethiopia-Sudan border. Crisis Group expert William Davison says the return to hostilities follows the hardening of positions on both sides in recent weeks, notably over whether the African Union or Kenya should lead the peace process and Tigray’s demand that the federal government lift a blockade before talks begin. With the risk that fighting protracts into a period of sustained conflict, the UN, African Union, European Union and U.S. envoys should press both sides to de-escalate. Neither is likely to achieve their political objectives on the battlefield. 

LIBYA  Armed groups supportive of Sirte-based Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha tried to enter Tripoli on Saturday in a failed attempt to remove the rival interim government led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabaiba. Pro-Dabaiba units managed to repel the attack, leaving 32 dead and around 160 wounded. Crisis Group expert Riccardo Fabiani says that while violence has subsided, tensions between the two camps remain high. A lack of domestic consensus on a way out of the political crisis that was sparked by the appointment of the rival government in March 2022, combined with the absence of a new UN special representative for Libya who could help mediate, risks fuelling a new round of violence in the near future.

UKRAINE The Ukrainian army on Monday announced the beginning of a counter-offensive around the southern city of Kherson, which Russia occupied in early March. Kyiv cautioned against expectations of a swift breakthrough. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says while Ukrainian forces have spent weeks targeting Russian supply lines with artillery and sabotage operations in preparation for the attack, it is unclear whether they possess the necessary advantage in troops and firepower to retake Kherson. At the same time, Russian forces also face significant challenges. More than 20,000 Russian soldiers occupying the western bank of the Dnipro River are reliant on bridges in their rear that are damaged and under frequent artillery fire, complicating their ability to resupply or retreat. 

20 August 2022

MALI  The last French soldiers left Mali Monday, as Paris relocated the bulk of the force carrying out Operation Barkhane, its counter-terrorism mission in the Sahel, to Niger. French troops had been fighting Islamist militants in Mali since 2013. Paris decided to withdraw them as its ties to Malian leaders frayed, following two coups in Bamako in 2020-2021 and the government’s decision to employ Russian Wagner Group mercenaries in its battle with the jihadists. Crisis Group expert Richard Moncrieff says the rupture with Paris comes amid trouble in Bamako’s relations with other Western powers engaged in the country, including as part of the UN mission, and with neighbouring countries leading efforts to persuade the authorities to move toward elections. 

MEXICO  The government dispatched army units to Ciudad Juárez, on the U.S. border, following an explosion of criminal violence on 11 August that left eleven people dead, nine of them civilians. The killing began as a prison riot involving rival criminal groups and spilled out into the streets, with members of the Los Mexicles organisation shooting seemingly haphazardly at nearby establishments, including a radio station and several convenience stores. Crisis Group expert Falko Ernst says the events underscore the dilemmas Mexican policymakers have faced for decades in dealing with organised crime. Security responses are certainly necessary but in themselves have proven inadequate to stop the proliferation of criminal groups that feed on social ills like inequality and lack of alternative livelihoods.

PALESTINE  The death toll from Israel’s bombardment of Gaza on 5-7 August rose to 49, with numerous civilians, including seventeen children, among the dead. The escalation occurred after Israeli security forces arrested an Islamic Jihad cell leader in the West Bank town of Jenin on 2 August. The group vowed retaliation, which Israel said it attacked to preempt. In response, Islamic Jihad fired more than a thousand rockets at Israel, but the projectiles caused no Israeli casualties, with many intercepted by Israeli air defences and some falling in Gaza itself. Crisis Group expert Tahani Mustafa says the hostilities, while of shorter duration than previous rounds involving Hamas, show that the threat of longer, deadlier exchanges is ever present as long as the coastal strip remains under siege, with its population trapped and impoverished. 
European Union-facilitated efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal are continuing after the U.S., Iran and other parties convened in Vienna earlier this month for four days of negotiations, in which some of the remaining gaps narrowed. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says the seeming new momentum in the talks is a marked change from what previously appeared to be near-total deadlock. But disagreements over the scope and viability of U.S. sanctions relief mean that success is far from assured.

6 August 2022

DR CONGO  A confidential UN Group of Experts report that was leaked on Thursday reportedly provided evidence of Rwandan military operations on Congolese soil since November 2021 and the Rwandan army’s alleged support to the M23 militia, a Tutsi-led group that re-emerged late last year. It also reported that the Congolese military fought alongside the FDLR, a remnant of the Rwandan Hutu militia responsible for the 1994 genocide. Crisis Group expert Nelleke van de Walle says these revelations could further increase tensions between Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame who have been at loggerheads for months, accusing each other of supporting rebel groups. Regional mediation efforts have so far not been able to de-escalate the situation. Solving the diplomatic rift between the two neighbours is also high on the agenda of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will visit both the DRC and Rwanda next week.

IRAN  Negotiators of the U.S., Iran and the 2015 nuclear accord's other signatories resumed talks in Vienna on Thursday in the latest effort to revive the deal. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says since that last meeting in March, when the technical provisions of a deal were nearly complete, gaps have widened on key issues of sanctions relief, guarantees and IAEA investigation into past activities at undeclared Iranian nuclear facilities. That the parties are convening again implies at least some headway has been made on the remaining issues, but it is unclear if the bottom lines of the U.S. and Iran can be reconciled. The past weeks have demonstrated what an alternative to a revived deal looks like: more U.S. sanctions and more Iranian nuclear escalation.

NAGORNO-KARABAKH  Azerbaijan this week launched a new military operation following a significant build up of its forces near the front lines in recent weeks. Baku’s forces on Wednesday advanced near the main road that connects the entity with Armenia and along two other front lines, while launching drone attacks that de facto authorities in Stepanakert said killed two of its soldiers and wounded 19. Baku reported at least one of its soldiers was killed on the same day. Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan says the flare up in areas that have remained largely calm since the 2020 war has raised fears in Yerevan and Stepanakert of a broader Azerbaijani offensive in the coming days to seize more territory. Baku may be attempting to force Armenia to soften its position on a number of issues in the ongoing negotiations to settle the post-war issues, including Armenia's demand for Nagorno-Karabakh to be assigned special political status. 

23 July 2022

SOUTH SUDAN  South Sudan's leaders are debating this week a controversial proposal to extend their time in power beyond February 2023, when the 2018 peace deal's transitional period was supposed to end after national elections that have yet to be scheduled are unlikely to occur any time soon. Earlier this month, the U.S. announced it had withdrawn funding for the ceasefire monitoring body in the country, citing a lack of progress on the peace deal provisions. Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell says the looming end of the peace deal is ratcheting up political tensions in the country and forcing the parties to negotiate new timelines for elections and other key promises they've made, such as for a new constitution and unified national army.

TAIWAN  Reports this week indicated that U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will lead a delegation to visit Taiwan next month. Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. lawmaker to embark on a trip to Taiwan since a former speaker of the house visited the island in the 1990s. Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao says given U.S. military warnings against the trip, the risks of a Taiwan visit by Speaker Pelosi are evident. Even if China does not respond with escalatory measures immediately, the visit would exacerbate existing tensions and contribute to Beijing’s perception that it must respond resolutely down the line to make clear its determination to bring Taiwan under its control and deter what it sees as Washington’s chipping away at the status quo.

UKRAINE  After its capture of Luhansk region late last month, Russia continues operations to bring the remainder of Donetsk region under its control, while Ukraine has announced plans for a counter-offensive to liberate the Black Sea coast. This week, Kyiv's forces attempted to cut off the southern Russian-occupied city of Kherson from supplies and stepped up their attacks. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says a large-scale counter-offensive would come with the risk of heavy battlefield losses that could blunt Ukraine's defensive capacity.The announcement on Friday of a grain deal between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN – which could allow Ukraine to export grain stuck in its ports via the Black Sea – might lead decision makers in Kyiv to wait and see before undertaking a major southern operation. The resumption of food exports could prove crucial for Ukraine's battered economy as well as global food security, but would rely on a fragile truce in the Black Sea, something Ukraine might be hesitant to jeopardise.

16 July 2022

BRAZIL  Marcelo Arruda, a local official from the leftist opposition Workers’ Party, was shot dead Saturday on his fiftieth birthday by a supporter of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro is running for re-election in October against the Workers’ Party candidate, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. The gunman, a federal prison guard, had been asked to leave Arruda's birthday celebration at a sports club because he was shouting pro-Bolsonaro slogans. Crisis Group expert Ivan Briscoe says the killing is a deeply worrying sign that the president’s backers may disrupt the election with violence, particularly because Bolsonaro has repeatedly cast aspersions on the voting system’s integrity. 
HAITI  Rampant gang violence and runaway inflation have combined to produce a growing socio-political emergency in Haiti. Over the last week, more than 50 people have been killed in gun battles between rival criminal organisations in the capital Port-au-Prince and other major cities where the state has lost its grip. Meanwhile, food prices have shot up by 52 per cent in the last year, putting some 1.3 million people “one step away from famine”, according to a World Food Programme official. The UN renewed its political mission in the country Friday, despite protests from Haitian civil society groups that have come to distrust outside intervention. Many say it is time for Haitian-led solutions to the country's problems, Crisis Group expert Renata Segura points out, but with the state virtually collapsed and deep polarisation impeding the formation of a new government, the scenarios are grim.
UNITED STATES  As part of his first Middle East visit as president, Joe Biden travelled to Saudi Arabia Friday for bilateral meetings, including with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and a summit with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. The visit reflects a pivot from his campaign rhetoric describing the kingdom as a “pariah” following the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Crisis Group expert Michael Wahid Hanna says the trip was hastened by the spillover effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Concerned about soaring energy prices and Riyadh’s overall approach to Moscow, the Biden administration is keen to tamp down tensions despite criticism for seeming to forsake its pledges to centre human rights. The domestic political costs could be notable or minimal depending on whether the visit produces concrete achievements on energy production, human rights, regional security and/or normalisation with Israel.
U.S.-SYRIA  A spokesperson for U.S. Central Command said a U.S. airstrike Tuesday killed Maher al-Agal, whom the Pentagon calls the top ISIS commander in Syria. One of Agal’s lieutenants died the next day of his injuries. The strike occurred in Jindayris, a town in the north west near the Turkish border. Crisis Group expert Dareen Khalifa says the significance of Agal’s death should not be downplayed. Yet it may not disrupt the ISIS insurgency in Syria for long, as the group does not depend solely on individual leaders for operational effectiveness. Instead, it relies heavily on a network of decentralised cells that do not need specific orders from above to carry out their small-scale raids.

9 July 2022

COMMODITIES  A worldwide “cost-of-living crisis” drove 71 million people into poverty in the first three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, according to a UN Development Programme report released Wednesday. The UN classifies all those getting by on $3.20 per day or less as living in poverty. The rate of increase in poverty numbers is faster than that in the initial eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdowns. Crisis Group's President and CEO Comfort Ero says the Ukraine war’s supply disruptions, as well as sanctions imposed on Russia, have exerted upward pressure on food and fuel prices, hitting poorer countries in eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East the hardest. Wealthier nations should marshal more of their resources to help those in need.

LIBYA  A wave of protests aimed at the political establishment has swept cities controlled by the country’s rival governments as Libyans vent their frustration with the lack of progress in unifying national institutions as well as difficult living conditions. Demands vary from place to place but include fresh elections, removal of foreign military personnel, action to counter inflation and improvement in public services. Crisis Group expert Riccardo Fabiani says the demonstrations show that Libya’s stability remains as precarious as ever. To avoid a relapse into violence, international actors should renew their efforts to push the two political camps to agree on an electoral path forward.

PALESTINE  Algeria hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh Tuesday for their first face-to-face meeting since 2016. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hopes to unite Abbas’s Fatah faction with Hamas before November’s Arab summit in Algiers, which he intends to take up the question of Palestine. But the initiative faces major challenges, says Crisis Group expert Tahani Mustafa. Neither party has a pressing interest in reconciliation, with Hamas rising in popularity at the expense of Fatah, which is increasingly reliant on the West and Israel.

UZBEKISTAN  President Shavkat Mirziyoyev declared a month-long state of emergency in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous area with the constitutional status of “republic”, following deadly clashes between protesters and security forces last week. Eighteen people were killed and 243 injured in the unrest. The president also dropped proposed constitutional amendments that would have weakened Karakalpak autonomy and promised public consultations on the issue. With little media coverage of the incident, says Crisis Group expert Alissa de Carbonnel, it is hard to know exactly how the violence started and how serious the risk of a reprise may be.

2 July 2022

ETHIOPIA-SUDAN  The week saw worrying escalations in al-Fashaga, a swathe of fertile land disputed between Ethiopia and Sudan. First, Sudan accused the Ethiopian army of executing seven of its soldiers on Sudanese soil and displaying the bodies in Ethiopia; Addis Ababa heatedly rejected the account, claiming the soldiers were killed in a clash with a local militia on its side of the frontier. Then, on Wednesday, locals reported firefights as Sudanese units advanced on two villages held by Ethiopian troops. Khartoum denied any such operation, but reportedly took hold of a border town. The situation is highly dangerous, warn Crisis Group experts Alan Boswell and Will Davison. Al-Fashaga lies next to Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia where the civil war that raged last year is still smouldering. The two cross-cutting conflicts – together with tensions over Ethiopia’s huge new dam on the Nile – could further destabilise the Horn of Africa.

G7 Leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Germany vowed to “stand with Ukraine as long as it takes” in resisting Russia’s invasion. They also pledged $4.5 billion to bolster global food security amid spikes in prices of food, fuel and fertiliser exacerbated by the war. The U.S. is to supply half this amount and has promised an additional $2.76 billion to follow. Crisis Group expert Champa Patel says the G7’s attention to the commodity crisis is welcome but insufficient in its sole focus on emergency aid. The West should also do what it can to tackle supply chain disruptions to ease the flow of staple goods around the world.

IRAN-U.S.  Following a visit to Tehran by the EU’s top diplomat, Iranian and U.S. officials convened in the Qatari capital Doha Tuesday and Wednesday for indirect negotiations aimed at breaking a months-long impasse around reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Multilateral talks paused in March with an agreement nearly ready, but political obstacles – chiefly, the U.S. designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organisation and Iranian demands for economic guarantees – prevented it from going forward. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says the lack of a breakthrough in Doha shows that despite the benefits both sides would derive from a deal, neither appears to have the political will or the flexibility to concede on remaining issues of disagreement.

MIGRATION  Authorities found 51 migrants dead of heat exhaustion, dehydration and related causes in the back of an airless lorry abandoned on an interstate highway near San Antonio, Texas, on Monday. Most of the migrants – men, women and children – were from Mexico and Central America. It is the deadliest single human smuggling incident in U.S. history, coming amid a surge of attempted border crossings. Crisis Group expert Tiziano Breda says the horrific incident illustrates the impossibility of suppressing northward migration in the Americas when Mexicans, Central Americans and others are willing to take such risks to escape increasing privation and violent crime in their home countries. 

25 JUNE 2022

ECUADOR  Nationwide protests against President Lasso’s government led primarily by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) began on 13 June over rising prices of fuel, food and other basics. The violence escalated this week, resulting in four dead, more than 100 people detained and 120 police officers seriously injured. Crisis Group expert Nora Brito says CONAIE and other organisations met multiple times with government officials in 2021 but received no response to their demands. Lasso this week accused protesters of seeking only “chaos”. With the president facing multiple challenges, including the economic effects of the war in Ukraine, inflation, institutional inefficiency, chronic inequality, corruption and an uptick in homicides, there is growing uncertainty about his future if he delays negotiations. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the government may increase repression or violent protests could prompt the military to pressure Lasso to resign.

GEORGIA  Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in the capital Tbilisi on Monday in support of joining the EU. The protests followed the EU Commission’s report that recommended the bloc postpone giving Georgia candidate status and instead offer a “conditional perspective” requiring the government to pass reforms aimed at making institutions stronger and more democratic. Georgia submitted its membership application in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan says the protest was one of the biggest in Georgia’s 31 years of independence, confirming the widespread public support for joining the EU. Protesters also expressed anger toward the political leadership, which they see as responsible for the political failures that led to the EU’s decision.

SRI LANKA  Amid the UN’s warning of a “full-blown humanitarian crisis” and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s lament that the economy “faced a complete collapse”, already waning hopes for root-and-branch political reform were dashed. After the opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) proposed a 21st amendment to the constitution aimed at abolishing the executive presidency – a key demand of the unprecedented island-wide protest movement – the speaker of the house on Tuesday announced the Supreme Court’s ruling that any such amendment would require both a two-thirds parliamentary majority and approval through a referendum. The cabinet the previous day had approved a less far-reaching amendment in which the president would retain considerable powers. Crisis Group expert Alan Keenan says the failure of established institutions to respond positively to widespread demands for “system change” adds to growing risks that social tensions born of economic desperation could turn violent.

18 June 2022

COLOMBIA  Two outsider presidential candidates – leftist senator and former mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro and populist real estate magnate Rodolfo Hernández – face off in a second round vote to elect Colombia's next president on Sunday. Crisis Group's Elizabeth Dickinson says that the incoming president will face deep political polarisation and deep public anger at worsening living conditions, as well as a burgeoning conflict in the countryside. With much of the implementation of a 2016 peace agreement with former FARC rebels pending, the next four years will be decisive in determining whether Colombia can finally consolidate peace or whether people in rural areas continue to suffer worsening violence.

IRAQ  Government formation efforts have now entered their ninth month with little progress on the horizon. In a dramatic announcement, Sadr, leader of the largest block in parliament, announced the withdrawal of his 73 MPs. Although their resignations are yet to be approved, the move has yet again taken Sadr’s Shiite rivals by surprise. These parties are uneasy about a scenario in which Sadr does not participate in government, as he is likely to stir unrest in the streets through demonstrations. Crisis Group expert Lahib Higel says that despite the current deadlock, several options remain on the table. Parliament’s recess will give Iraq’s political elites another opportunity to agree on a consensus government. Sadr may consider an out-of-parliament opposition more advantageous to his populist legitimacy. And Sadr's Shiite rivals may try to form a two-thirds quorum to elect a president. That course, however, will require that the Sunni and Kurdish factions allied to Sadr consent. The last option is new elections.

SUDAN  A land dispute between members of Gimir and Rezeigat Arab communities in Um Hereez village in Kulbus locality, West Darfur, escalated into fighting that killed at least 125 people and injured dozens, mostly Gimir, during the first two weeks of June. An estimated 50,000 people have been displaced to nearby villages, and at least 25 Gimir villages have reportedly been burnt and looted. Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell says the conflict has delayed a humanitarian assessment by UN OCHA in the region, including in Kereneik locality, where an earlier eruption of violence in May between Arab nomads and ethnic Masalit groups killed at least 179 people and displaced 125,000. Community leaders from both sides have established a committee to evaluate the affected areas and called for a de-escalation of violence.

11 June 2022

IRAN  In a 30-2 vote (with three abstentions), the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors on Wednesday passed a resolution censuring Iran's lack of cooperation in answering agency safeguards concerns on activities at undeclared sites. Ahead of the vote, Iran vowed to respond harshly and set about installing advanced centrifuges and removing two cameras. On Thursday, it removed 27 IAEA cameras. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says the ramping up of nuclear activity and dialling down of international oversight underscores the urgency in reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, negotiations around which have stalled in recent months. 

U.S.-LATIN AMERICA  Leaders from countries in the western hemisphere met in Los Angeles for the ninth Summit of the Americas, where the rift between many Latin American countries and the U.S. was obvious. The U.S. decision to not invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua resulted in the presidents of Mexico and Honduras staying home in protest, while the presidents of El Salvador, Bolivia and Guatemala declined to participate for other reasons. Crisis Group expert Renata Segura says the polarisation was also evident in the summit’s civil society forum. Many local activists lamented the missed opportunity to demand that governments engage productively with their respective opposition and guarantee free and fair elections. Local groups working with migrants also demanded that the focus be not solely on those arriving at the U.S. border, but rather on the millions of refugees from Venezuela and elsewhere who have fled to other countries within the region. 

YEMEN  The government and the Huthis on 2 June extended a UN-mediated truce for two months just hours before the deal’s expiration. The ceasefire, which has been in place since 2 April, has led to a 50 per cent drop in civilian casualties. Crisis Group expert Veena Ali-Khan says while the truce extension is a crucial step toward the sustained reduction of violence, it does not necessarily bring both parties closer to a permanent deal to end the war. Some provisions – such as reopening the roads in and around Taiz, a government-held city besieged by Huthis where the situation remains volatile – are unfulfilled. Without progress in Taiz, the truce will remain fragile and may fail to kickstart talks toward a more formal ceasefire and political transition.

4 June 2022

ISRAEL-PALESTINE  Thousands of right-wing Israelis marched waving Israeli flags through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City Sunday. The annual demonstration marks the 1967 seizure of East Jerusalem, which Israel has occupied (along with the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights) in violation of international law ever since. The event attracts far-right youth, including Jerusalem and West Bank settlers who openly call for expelling Palestinians from the occupied territories. Chants included "Death to Arabs!" and "Shireen is dead!", a reference to Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, whom a CNN investigation has found was likely "shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces" on 19 May. Last year, the march was one in a series of events in East Jerusalem prompting Hamas to fire rockets at Israel, helping set off an eleven-day war. It probably will not lead to escalation this time, says Crisis Group expert Laure Foucher. But the steady erosion of the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites is a ticking time bomb, especially with diplomatic attention focused elsewhere.

SUDAN  General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the ruling Sovereign Council, announced Sunday that he was lifting the state of emergency in place since the military grabbed sole power last October. Regular mass protests have taken place throughout the country since the coup, bringing a crackdown that has left nearly 100 dead, including two young men killed by security forces Saturday. The demonstrators call for full restoration of constitutional government in civilian hands. Burhan promised to free protesters now in jail as a prelude to talks with political parties about getting a transition to civilian rule on track. Rolling back the state of emergency was long a demand of the military's domestic and external critics, says Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell, but the generals have yet to show they are willing to step back from either repressive tactics or their dominant political role.

UKRAINE  In a speech to Luxembourg's parliament Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded with Western countries to send higher-grade weaponry to help Ukrainian forces fight the Russian invasion. He said Russia is now in control of roughly 20 per cent of Ukraine's territory following this week's battles in the east. The U.S. announced Tuesday it was shipping advanced rocket launchers to Kyiv, and Germany said it would make its most up-to-date air defence system available. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says the West should keep up its arms deliveries, while avoiding direct engagement of their own or allied forces in the war. But as Ukraine asks for heavier and more sophisticated weapons, Western partners should improve oversight of the transfers.

21 May 2022

GEORGIA  Breakaway territory South Ossetia's de facto president Anatoly Bibilov announced last Friday a referendum scheduled for 17 July on whether the region — which Moscow recognised as an independent state in 2008 — should accede to the Russian Federation. Bibilov was defeated in second-round elections earlier this month by Alan Gagloev, who will take over as de facto president next week. Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan says that if the referendum goes ahead, the majority of the local population of some 30,000 people will certainly vote in favour of joining Russia. But whether Moscow promptly proceeds with annexation depends on its readiness to revise the status quo that has been in place for almost fourteen years and risk precipitating a new crisis in another post-Soviet state, which could divert its focus from the war in Ukraine.

LIBYA  The political crisis took a violent turn on Tuesday when Fathi Bashagha, prime minister of the government that recently won a vote of confidence in the Tobruk-based parliament, entered Tripoli in a failed bid to install his government in the capital. Armed groups loyal to the Tripoli-based interim government of Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabaiba opened fire, forcing Bashagha to retreat to the central city of Sirte, where he announced his government would be based instead. According to Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini, Bashagha’s move can only deepen Libya’s political crisis, which erupted on 1 March when Libya split into two rival governments following legal disputes on the validity of the parliament's confidence vote in favour Bashagha, whom the pre-existing Tripoli-based government refused to recognise as legitimate. It is likely that the two camps' positions will harden further, complicating UN-backed efforts to negotiate a way out of the impasse. To prevent a return to fighting, the two governments and their respective backers should embark on talks aimed at forming a new unity government.

UKRAINE  Heavy fighting continued in the east, where Ukrainian forces appear to have escaped the threat of encirclement and Russian forces made small gains in the northern portion of Donbas, focusing their advances on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk – the two largest towns in Luhansk region under Ukrainian control. The Seversky Donets River, which Russian forces made a costly and failed attempt to cross last week, forms much of the front line. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says Ukrainian forces lost their last toehold in the south of Donbas this week after the Azov Battalion holed up in Mairupol's Azovstal steel mill surrendered and nearly 1,000 of its fighters were transported to Russian-held areas where they face an uncertain fate. In the north, Ukrainian forces launched a series of successful counter-offensives. Most notably, Kyiv's forces reached the Russian border north of Kharkiv on Monday, winning Ukraine’s second largest city a much-needed reprieve from Russian artillery bombardment.

14 May 2022

COLOMBIA  Militants of the post-paramilitary Gulf Clan armed group on 5 May declared an “armed strike” that shut down almost a third of the country for four days, in what they said was retaliation for the extradition to the U.S. of the group's captured former leader, known as Otoniel. Crisis Group analyst Elizabeth Dickinson said the strike was an alarming demonstration of the Gulf Clan's presence and control just ahead of presidential elections later this month. The Colombian state could do little to stop Gulf Clan partisans from patrolling rural areas, setting up illegal checkpoints, and threatening the population. This latest incident only adds to the urgency of addressing a deteriorating rural security situation by focusing more on protecting civilians. Colombia's next president will have to address this head on.

EGYPT  Two attacks within one week in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula killed sixteen security forces personnel. The Islamic State claimed one of the attacks, which killed eleven soldiers and marked the deadliest assault in the region in four years. Crisis Group expert Riccardo Fabiani says the sudden spike in violence in the Sinai Peninsula comes after several months of relative calm. The lull in fighting had seemed to indicate that the Egyptian army's tactics were working and the resettlement policy for local residents, who were gradually allowed to return to their