Special Coverage 20+ minutes

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. 

22 September 2023

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC-HAITI  The Dominican Republic last Friday shut its borders with Haiti, escalating a dispute over construction of a canal by farmers on the Haitian side. The canal taps into the Massacre River, which runs along the northern border, to irrigate the drought-stricken Maribaroux plains. The Dominican government claims that digging it violates a 1929 treaty on shared use of the river waters. Crisis Group expert Diego Da Rin says the border closure could significantly harm both countries’ economies at a time when living conditions in Haiti have already deteriorated amid rampant gang violence and rising hunger. 

MALI  Fresh fighting broke out Sunday between Malian forces and a coalition of Tuareg rebels who claim to have temporarily seized two army bases in Lere, a town in the northern Timbuktu region. Clashes have intensified in recent weeks amid the withdrawal of MINUSMA, the UN stabilisation mission in the country, after ten years of deployment. Neither side stands to benefit from resuming hostilities, says Crisis Group expert Ibrahim Maiga. A return to dialogue is in the best interest of both the Malian state and the rebel groups, which signed a peace agreement with Bamako in 2015.  

UNITED NATIONS  World leaders attended the UN General Assembly for its annual high-level week in New York. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to both the Assembly and the UN Security Council, attempting to rally stronger support for Kyiv in fending off Russia’s aggression, but the main theme of the gathering was economic development, says Crisis Group expert Richard Gowan. As Zelenskyy huddled with non-Western leaders, lobbying them to take a harder line against Moscow, Western leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, focused on addressing the economic concerns of the so-called Global South. 

15 September 2023

COLOMBIA  The government released a new counter-narcotics strategy Saturday, aimed at helping small farmers find alternatives to growing coca as well as improving  law enforcement. Days later, the UN reported that Colombia’s coca crop had reached record levels in 2022, helping drive the price down dramatically. Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson says the government has a unique opportunity to help farmers stop planting coca, thus following through on President Gustavo Petro's promises to shift the focus of anti-drug efforts off the rural poor onto crime bosses.

NORTH KOREA-RUSSIA North Korean leader Kim Jong-un travelled to Russia for unexpected talks Wednesday with President Vladimir Putin. The two affirmed North Korean-Russian friendship but made no concrete announcements. After two failed satellite launches this year, says Crisis Group expert Chris Green, North Korea is likely seeking technological assistance. It may also be hoping that Russia will admit more North Korean workers. Putin accepted an invitation to visit Pyongyang, a sign of closer relations that will unsettle  Washington and Seoul. The U.S. threatened additional sanctions on Moscow should the two countries make a deal for North Korea to send weapons to Russia in order to aid its war effort in Ukraine. 

SUDAN  An airstrike on a market in the capital Khartoum Sunday, carried out by the Sudanese air force, killed over 40 civilians, one of the highest single-incident death tolls since war broke out between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in April. Meanwhile, attacks by all sides on residential areas intensifed in the Darfur and Kordofan regions. Crisis Group expert Shewit Woldemichael says outside actors now leading competing peace initiatives urgently need to coordinate diplomacy to end the fighting.

8 September 2023

GABON  Brice Oligui Nguema, leader of the junta that toppled long-time President Ali Bongo last week, was sworn in as interim president Monday, promising elections but giving no date for military rule to end. The coup in Gabon is the latest in a string of putsches in former French colonies in West Africa. It comes barely a month after a group of generals took power in Niger. Crisis Group expert Pauline Bax says the reasons for Gabon’s coup are markedly different from the causes of the earlier military takeovers. Nonetheless, the putsch signals that popular support for governing elites is declining in West Africa, leading some to see the military as a viable alternative.

SYRIA  Deadly clashes between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and allied Arab militias continued this week in north-eastern Syria. Fighting broke out after the SDF detained the (Arab) head of the Deir al-Zor Military Council, its local affiliate formed by the SDF in 2016. The initially isolated clashes expanded as Arab tribes reacted to reports that the SDF had killed or wounded dozens of civilians from the Council head's community. Crisis Group expert Heiko Wimmen says the violence can be seen as a failure of the SDF's governance approach since it took control of Deir al-Zor in 2019, when it sidelined local actors and largely neglected the area’s security and economy.

UKRAINE  President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov Sunday, following allegations that the ministry has mishandled repeated cases of corruption. Reznikov himself is not accused of wrongdoing and will become Ukraine’s ambassador in London. Zelenskyy named Rustem Umerov, the trusted head of the state property fund, as Reznikov’s replacement. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says Kyiv is eager to signal that it is fighting corruption in state institutions and that the sacrifices by the population and Western support are brought to good use. 

1 September 2023

GUATEMALA  The Supreme Electoral Tribunal on Monday officially declared Bernardo Arévalo of the Movimiento Semilla party winner of the 20 August presidential runoff. Hours earlier, the electoral registry, a body within the Tribunal, announced that Semilla’s legal status was being provisionally suspended in response to a judicial order following accusations of irregularities in gathering signatures for the party’s formation. Two days later, the Board of Directors of Congress refused to recognise Semilla as a party. Arévalo said the party’s cancellation was legally void and vowed to appeal the decision. Crisis Group expert Pamela Ruiz says domestic and international actors monitoring the risk of unrest should keep an eye on legal attacks on Semilla and other attempts to weaken Arévalo before he takes power on 14 January.

RUSSIA  Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the mercenary Wagner Group, was buried in St Petersburg Tuesday after his plane crashed in the Tver region last week, killing him and all the company’s other top figures. The incident came two months after Prigozhin organised an armed rebellion, marching on but stopping short of Moscow. The circumstances of his death have become a topic of widespread speculation. Absent its leaders, Wagner has an uncertain future. Crisis Group expert Oleg Ignatov says if Wagner emerges from this episode diminished, it will inevitably affect the Kremlin’s operations and ambitions in Africa and other regions where Moscow has relied on the group to advance its interests.

ZIMBABWE  President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday was declared the winner of last week’s election, granting him a final five-year term in office. The main opposition party was quick to reject the result, alleging massive irregularities in the vote and demanding fresh elections. Election observers, notably from the Southern African Development Community, also criticised the conduct of the polls, pointing to curbs on freedom of assembly and bans on opposition campaign rallies. Crisis Group expert Nicolas Delaunay says the irregularities, coming on top of the government’s patchy human rights record, are likely to hamper Harare’s drive to re-engage with international partners and secure the removal of sanctions.

19 August 2023

ECUADOR  Pedro Briones, a local organiser for the Citizen Revolution party, was shot dead Monday, the fourth assassination of a political figure in the space of three weeks as 20 August elections draw near. Presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was killed last week; a legislative candidate and a mayor were gunned down before that. Six Colombians with alleged ties to organised crime have been arrested in the Villavicencio assassination. Villavicencio was an outspoken advocate of tough approaches to drug trafficking, corruption and other illicit activity. Crisis Group expert Glaeldys Gonzalez Calanche says the spate of murders highlights the salience of criminal violence as a political issue. It is likely to benefit candidates who promote heavy-handed security policies.

NIGER  A group of West African countries met this week to discuss strategy for military intervention in Niger, after the junta the ignored an ultimatum the nations had set demanding reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum. Bazoum was deposed in a coup on 26 July. The West African bloc would prefer negotiations as a means of restoring democratic government but failing that is considering force. Authorities in Burkina Faso and Mali, who themselves seized power in military takeovers, have vowed to come to the Nigerien junta’s defence should external actors try to dislodge it. Crisis Group expert Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim says outside powers concerned with a peaceful resolution to Niger’s crisis should press urgently for dialogue so as to avert an armed conflict.

5 August 2023

COLOMBIA Security forces stepped up operations against the Gulf Clan and other criminal armed groups Monday, leaving twenty dead in clashes, three days before a formal ceasefire with the largest leftist insurgency, the National Liberation Army (ELN), went into effect. Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson says the government seems keen to regain a military advantage over armed organisations even as it pursues dialogue. It may signal a long-awaited alignment in Bogotá’s strategy: seeking concessions from these groups using both force and negotiations.

LEBANON Fighting erupted this week between factions in Ain al-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp near the southern city of Sidon. The clashes, which pit forces loyal to the Fatah party against an array of Islamist-leaning groups, have killed at least twelve and displaced 300 families. Some link the gun battles to unrest in the West Bank, where the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority is cracking down on a new generation of militants. Others suspect that Hizbollah and elements of Hamas are egging on the Islamists in order to weaken Fatah. Crisis Group expert Heiko Wimmen says the confrontation continues a worrying trend whereby tensions in occupied Palestine manifest among Palestinians in Lebanon.

PAKISTAN A suicide bomber struck an Islamist party's election campaign gathering in the Bajaur district near the Afghan border Sunday, killing 54 and injuring more than 200. Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-KP), the area branch of ISIS, took responsibility. Crisis Group expert Jerome Drevon says the attack is likely connected to the conflict between IS-KP and the Afghan Taliban, who are friendly with the Pakistani party that was holding the rally. The Taliban have lately been dealing serious military blows to IS-KP in Afghanistan.

29 July 2023

ECUADOR  President Lasso declared a 60-day state of exception across Ecuador’s prison system, in the provinces of Manabi and Los Rios, and in the city of Duran in response to raging violence. The mayor of Manta port city was gunned down, three days of clashes between gangs in the country’s main prison in Guayaquil killed at least 31 inmates and armed men terrorised citizens in Esmeraldas and Guayaquil. Crisis Group expert Glaeldys Gonzalez says the government is limited to combating the criminal groups with the states of exception – which have not yielded effective results in the past – until new general elections are held. The groups are exploiting the government’s limited capacity by expanding operations, confronting their rivals, and seizing strategic drug trafficking sites, all the while increasingly targeting local officials and politicians.

LIBYA  The ongoing political crisis took a new turn on Tuesday after the House of Representatives approved a roadmap that sets the stage for the appointment of a supposed unity government next month. The ambition of unifying the country under a single executive and thereby ending rule by two parallel governments since early 2022 has its merits. But Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says the move will face opposition from factions allied to the Tripoli government of Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabaiba, which could mobilise in protest. The UN and Western capitals also have not expressed support for the House's decision, raising the question to what extent the new government, if indeed appointed, will enjoy international recognition. 

NAGORNO-KARABAKH  Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to engage in high-level dialogue under U.S., European Union and Russian auspices as the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijan's blockade worsens each day, with severe shortages and hardship for local Armenians. The latest round of talks on Tuesday in Moscow concluded without any tangible results. Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan says calming the escalating crisis and achieving lasting agreements is an urgent task, not least given the worsening humanitarian situation. Without a diplomatic breakthrough and an end to the blockade, tensions will continue to mount along the front lines amid repeated deadly incidents, any one of which could potentially escalate into a larger conflict with significant civilian casualties.

22 July 2023

KENYA At least six people have been killed and dozens arrested this week as opposition supporters in the capital Nairobi and cities across the country protest proposed increases in taxes, including on fuel, and more generally the rising cost of living. The government says the hikes, contained in its Finance Bill, will help it pay down debt, but the opposition has denounced them as inflationary when many Kenyans are already struggling financially. Politics raises the stakes: opposition leader Raila Odinga continues to reject President William Ruto’s 2022 election victory. Bipartisan talks about the Finance Bill, among other issues, have stalled, and Kenya’s High Court has suspended the legislation ending a legal challenge. With tensions between government and opposition running high, says Crisis Group expert Meron Elias, the unrest could very well intensify if the two sides do not resume talks.

PERU Tens of thousands marched in the capital Lima and other departments Wednesday, while others blocked highways around provincial towns, calling on President Dina Boluarte to step down. Riot police fired tear gas at protesters carrying rocks and bottles; six demonstrators and two officers sustained injuries. Unrest has persisted in the country since December, when left-wing ex-President Pedro Castillo was arrested after illegally trying to dissolve Congress. Many protesters want closure of Congress, early general elections, work on a new constitution and Castillo’s release. Crisis Group expert Glaeldys Gonzalez Calanche says the turmoil has deeper roots, however, in Peru’s fragmented party system and widespread distrust in the main democratic institutions.  

UNITED NATIONS On Monday, Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal, the crucial initiative launched in mid-2022 to allow Ukraine to resume shipping that had been stymied by a Russian naval blockade. The move sent jitters through global markets, bumping up grain prices. Crisis Group expert Richard Gowan says Moscow may be hoping to pressure Western states into easing obstacles to Russian agricultural exports and unblocking Russian assets. Its rejection of the grain deal comes right after it blocked a UN Security Council mandate authorising humanitarian aid to Syria. Having used the UN as a space for compromise with the West, Russia is taking a harder line as its war in Ukraine drags on.

15 July 2023

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC  Hundreds of Wagner Group personnel flew out of the capital Bangui last week, a departure some speculated was tied to the Kremlin’s attempt to rein in the private military company following its aborted mutiny in Russia in late June. Wagner mercenaries have been operating in the country since 2017, pursuant to an agreement between Bangui and Moscow. If a redeployment is under way, it appears to be limited, says Crisis Group expert Charles Bouessel. Russia has assured Central African authorities that its military assistance – Wagner is helping the army fight insurgents – will continue. Nonetheless, the news raises several questions, for instance who will now control the Wagner contingent in the country and what will happen to the economic assets the mercenaries have acquired.

NATO  Alliance leaders met this week in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius for their second summit since Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine. Their ranks are now poised to grow by one, as NATO on Monday accepted Sweden’s application to join, which Türkiye had previously held up, objecting to Stockholm’s policies toward groups Ankara classes as terrorist. Crisis Group expert Olga Oliker says Sweden’s historic reversal in seeking a NATO berth (alongside Finland, which has already joined) is a direct result of Russia’s war in Ukraine: Stockholm and NATO capitals see Moscow’s aggression as threatening all Europe. As for prospective Ukrainian membership, the alliance deferred with a carefully worded, if not unexpected, statement Tuesday promising Kyiv an invitation “when allies agree and conditions are met” even as it pledged continued aid to Ukraine.

ROHINGYA REFUGEES  Six Rohingya living in camps in Bangladesh died last week in violence involving rival militant groups, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO). The RSO killed five ARSA members in a gunfight, according to Bangladeshi police, after ARSA murdered a refugee community leader. Crisis Group expert Tom Kean says the shootings are the latest escalation in a growing turf war among ARSA, the RSO and other factions. Insecurity has become a major problem in the camps, at least as big as the ration cuts that the UN has been forced to make due to declining international funding. Refugees increasingly fear for their own safety.  

8 July 2023

ISRAEL-PALESTINE  The Israeli military on Monday launched its largest-scale offensive in the northern West Bank in years, deploying thousands of soldiers and conducting multiple airstrikes in Jenin. The operation killed at least twelve Palestinians, wounded 50 and forced 500 families to flee. Militants in Gaza fired rockets the next day. Crisis Group experts Tahani Mustafa and Mairav Zonszsein say this significant escalation may be the first in a series of increasingly routine incursions, which could mark a new and more violent stage in the conflict. The armed groups Israel hopes to deter are unlikely to back down because their emergence was driven by despair, anger and hopelessness at the status quo, including Israel’s open commitment to entrench its control of occupied territory.

THAILAND  After the progressive opposition Move Forward Party secured the most seats in May’s general elections, the new Thai parliament convened to select a new speaker – Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, a veteran politician who ran unopposed. The new speaker will now convene a joint session with the 250-member military-appointed senate to elect the next government. Crisis Group expert Matt Wheeler says despite securing the most seats, Move Forward Party’s leader Pita Limjareonrat faces legal and political hurdles in his quest to lead the next government. Street protests can be expected if the courts disqualify Pita from holding office.

VENEZUELA  In a major blow to the prospects for a competitive, free and fair 2024 presidential election, the comptroller's office controlled by the Maduro government announced that María Corina Machado – the current opposition frontrunner – is barred from holding public office for fifteen years. Crisis Group expert Mariano de Alba says the arbitrary decision confirms that the government is in no mood to allow a competitive election after the unfair presidential poll in 2018 deepened Venezuela’s political crisis and led to U.S. economic sanctions. The possibility of a negotiated agreement to improve electoral conditions in return for partial sanctions relief appears increasingly unlikely.

1 July 2023

KENYA  Suspected Al-Shabaab militants killed five villagers in Lamu county, just south of Somalia, last Saturday, raising the death toll in such cross-border attacks to at least 30 in the past month. The dead include soldiers and police, but also civilians. The killings followed Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki’s visit to Lamu, during which he vowed to enhance security measures in the area. Crisis Group expert Meron Elias says Al-Shabaab has likely stepped up its incursions into Kenya because it is under pressure in Somalia, where the government has launched an offensive against the insurgency.

UGANDA  Unknown assailants brutally murdered 44 people, most of them children, at a school close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last week. Six other students were kidnapped. Ugandan officials blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group also known as Islamic State Central Africa Province, for the atrocity. The group has kept mum about the school attack, though the Islamic State did claim an ambush Wednesday that killed four Ugandan soldiers. In 2021, Kampala sent troops into the eastern DRC to track down the militants, who have been based there for some two decades. Crisis Group expert Richard Moncrieff says better coordination among regional intelligence services is needed to rein in the ADF.

UNITED STATES  A UN special rapporteur, law professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, released a 23-page report Monday expressing “serious concerns” about conditions for the 30 men still held in the U.S. military’s detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The U.S. opened the facility in 2002 to house people captured in its globe-spanning war on terrorism. Many prisoners have been there for twenty years; nineteen have never been charged with a crime. Ní Aoláin said “every single detainee” shows evidence of “deep psychological harm”. She also claimed many are subject to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. The Biden administration said it disagreed “in significant respects” with some of her findings. Crisis Group expert Michael Wahid Hanna says the administration made the right decision in opening the jail to the UN special rapporteur’s scrutiny. It was a step toward much needed transparency in the war on terror. The administration should move as quickly as possible to close the facility.

24 June 2023

HONDURAS An apparent riot took at least 46 women’s lives in a jail Tuesday. Most of the women burned to death in a fire and others died of gunshot wounds. President Xiomara Castro sacked the security minister, accusing prison authorities of “acquiescence” in the unrest, which she blamed on the criminal gangs prevalent in the country. Crisis Group expert Pamela Ruiz says it was the fourth such mass-casualty incident in Honduran jails since 2003, but the first in a women’s penitentiary. Castro has restored military control of prisons, in a step back from promises to put civilian police in charge of the penal system.

PALESTINE A string of violent incidents this week raised tensions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The Israeli army staged a major raid in Jenin refugee camp Monday, meeting stiff Palestinian resistance including an improvised explosive device. The fighting left six Palestinians dead and 92 wounded; seven Israeli soldiers were also injured. The army entered the camp to arrest suspects in an Israeli settler’s killing in May. On Tuesday, Palestinian gunmen shot five settlers dead in retaliation for the raid, prompting settler attacks on nearby villages in which another Palestinian was killed. Meanwhile, says Crisis Group expert Tahani Mustafa, Israel announced it will build 1,000 new housing units in the West Bank, a further expansion of the settlement project that portends more turmoil to come.

SOMALIA At least 26 people were killed Tuesday amid firefights in Garowe, capital of the Puntland federal member state. Crisis Group expert Omar Mahmood says the violence is linked to uncertainty about the date for forthcoming state elections and the number of parties that will compete. Opposition groups suspect the incumbent state president, Said Abdullahi Deni, of trying to secure an extension of his mandate via constitutional amendments. Government and opposition will need to reach agreement on the electoral cycle to prevent further violence.

17 June 2023

HAITI CARICOM, a body of Caribbean nations, convened Haitian politicians and civil society leaders in Jamaica this week for talks aimed at resolving the country’s political crisis. Haiti’s political forces have been at odds over how to structure a transitional government since President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in July 2021, even as rampant gang violence renders life intolerable for much of the population. Outside powers stress that Haitian political consensus is necessary before they might consider sending troops to help bring the gangs to heel. Crisis Group expert Diego Da Rin says the meetings were somewhat hopeful, rekindling dialogue between acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry and opposition groups.

INDIA Nine people died Wednesday in new clashes between the Kuki and Metei ethnic groups in the north-eastern state of Manipur, bringing the death toll in this strife to over 100 since May. The majority Metei are seeking recognition as a tribal community, a special status that would give them certain government benefits. The minority Kuki oppose this idea. Crisis Group expert Praveen Donthi says the fighting threatens to escalate to the level of a civil conflict, with Manipur divided into ethnic enclaves. The state government, headed by a Meitei, has not been neutral, meaning it is not well placed to convene urgently needed peace talks.

UKRAINE Officials in Kyiv accused Russia of blowing up a small dam in Donetsk Monday, a week after the explosion breaking apart the huge Kakhovka hydro-electric plant on the Dnipro river. Both dams sit in territory occupied by Russia after its all-out invasion in 2022, at least some of which Ukraine hopes to retake in its long-awaited counteroffensive. The Kakhovka dam’s collapse inundated dozens of towns, many of which are in an active war zone, complicating a reliable count of casualties and the Ukrainian aid response, which is further hampered by continuing Russian attacks. Russia, meanwhile, has seemingly done little in the way of rescue in areas under its control. Crisis Group expert Simon Schlegel says the humanitarian and ecological toll is massive and mounting.

10 June 2023

U.S.-CHINA  The U.S. Navy on Sunday released footage of a Chinese warship cutting in front of a U.S. destroyer transiting the Taiwan Strait the previous day, which the U.S. called an “unsafe interaction". A similar incident involving U.S. and Chinese fighter jets had occurred the previous week. In the current political climate, a collision would produce a political crisis that would set bilateral relations even further back, says Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao. The message that such shows of resolve are risky and can lead to unintended consequences should be sent to Beijing through as many channels as possible. 

COLOMBIA  Audio recordings leaked on Sunday of Colombia’s former Venezuela Ambassador Armando Benedetti accusing President Gustavo Petro of accepting $3.4 million in questionable circumstances for his presidential campaign. Congress the following day paused debates on Petro’s social reform program to allow investigation into Benedetti’s allegations. Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson says the scandal stands to complicate Petro’s efforts to enact promised reforms, as well as the total peace agenda aimed at dialogue with armed and criminal groups, with potentially dramatic consequences for populations exposed to persistent armed violence and social need.

LIBYA  The presidents of Libya's rival assemblies, who met in Morocco this week, failed to sign off on electoral legislation negotiators on Sunday announced was ready for adoption. Passing these laws would have been a critical first step toward holding the country's long-delayed presidential and legislative elections. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says this outcome should not come as a surprise, as disagreements persisted over longstanding controversies such as criteria to stand in the presidential election and, more broadly, over the very notion of holding a vote at all. 

3 June 2023

EL SALVADOR  The NGO Cristosal released a report Monday highlighting maltreatment of accused gang members in the country’s jails. It said 153 people have died in custody since last March, when President Nayib Bukele launched a campaign of mass arrests. Of the dead, 29 bore signs of torture, such as strangulation and beating. Crisis Group expert Ivan Briscoe says harsh prison conditions do not resolve the deep issues driving gang membership and criminal activity. But Bukele is unlikely to halt his crackdown, which has reduced violence sharply and remains popular.

LIBYA  Tripoli-based authorities ordered drone strikes twice in the past week outside the western city of Zawiya, saying they are targeting smugglers. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says politics may also play a role, with the country still divided between rival governments, one led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabaiba in Tripoli and another by parliament in Tobruk. The strikes hit armed groups tied to Ali Bouzriba, an MP seeking to oust the premier. Dabaiba is trying to stay in power by cutting a deal with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who nominally backs parliament at present.

SUDAN  Battles continued between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, despite a nominal ceasefire extension. More than 1.9 million people have fled the fighting, which has expanded and implicated various parties, particularly in Darfur. Talks sponsored by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have yet to yield tangible results. Crisis Group expert Shewit Woldemichael says unless Sudanese, African and other foreign actors put in concerted effort to end the conflict soon, Sudan will become yet another failed state with serious security implications for its neighbourhood and beyond. 

27 May 2023

INDIA India this week hosted a G20 working group meeting on tourism in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir. Pakistan condemned the meeting being held in the disputed territory, accusing India of instrumentalising its G20 presidency for political purposes, while China, Türkiye, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Oman skipped it. India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomy status in 2019. Crisis Group expert Praveen Donthi says the Modi government wanted to project peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir but deadly militant attacks and insecurity persist across the region, as made evident by the stringent security measures that surrounded this meeting.

RUSSIA Authorities on Tuesday reported that “saboteurs” from Ukraine had launched a raid into Russia’s Belgorod region and had deployed reinforcements to repel the invaders. While Ukraine denied involvement, its officials openly say the two combat groups, reportedly comprised of Russian citizens, believed to have conducted the operation are part of its defence forces. Crisis Group expert Oleg Ignatov says that as Kyiv plans counteroffensive operations, Ukraine hopes to divert Russia's attention and resources from other parts of the frontline while demonstrating that Russian authorities are now unable to defend its borders and Ukraine can wreak havoc on Russian territory using relatively limited resources.

20 May 2023

THAILAND  In a surprise outcome, the opposition and progressive Move Forward party became Thailand’s largest party in parliament in Sunday’s elections, securing 152 seats. The other main opposition party Pheu Thai won 141 seats, while military-backed parties secured fewer than 80. Crisis Group expert Matt Wheeler called the result a political earthquake, and said any effort by the establishment to prevent Move Forward from forming the next government, via the appointed senate or the judiciary, will invite a popular backlash that could see renewed mass protests.

TÜRKIYE   A run-off presidential vote will take place on 28 May after neither incumbent President Erdogan nor the main opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu secured the threshold of 50 percent of votes on Sunday, although the ruling party and its allies secured a majority in parliament. Crisis Group expert Nigar Goksel says the two presidential contenders are likely to present themselves as the patriotic choice with national unity issues, such as how to deal with Türkiye's large refugee population and pro-Kurdish political parties and armed groups, dominating the discourse.

13 May 2023

INDIA  India’s Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday announced clashes between the Kuki and Metei communities that killed 60 and displaced over 35,000 in the country’s north-eastern Manipur state had ceased. Crisis Group expert Praveen Donthi says longstanding tensions, fuelled by the growing influx of Chin refugees from neighbouring Myanmar, who share close ethnic links with the Kukis, boiled over last week over Metei demands that they be recognised as a tribal community, which the minority Kuki oppose. While the deployment of central security forces has put an end to the violence, deepening distrust between the communities could still lead to further outbursts.

IRAN  Iran's lead nuclear negotiator on Tuesday maintained that the 2015 agreement could still be salvaged if the U.S. and Western allies showed "credible political will". Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says that five years after former U.S. President Trump withdrew from the deal, and more than two years since negotiations to restore it began under the Biden administration, neither Washington nor European partners are likely to be satisfied with its restoration, even if Tehran were to concede on the demands that led to deadlock last year. A narrower agreement, or shift toward a regional non-proliferation strategy, may be a more feasible option. 

ISRAEL-PALESTINE  Israeli air strikes on Tuesday killed five Islamic Jihad commanders and at least eight civilians, launching an exchange of heavy fire that, despite Egyptian efforts to mediate a ceasefire, marks the conflict’s gravest escalation in almost a year, with one Israeli and around 30 Palestinians dead. Palestinian groups in Gaza had last week fired rockets into Israel after Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan on 2 May died in Israeli custody following a prolonged hunger strike. Crisis Group experts Mairav Zonszein and Tahani Mustafa say that while the over sixteen-years-long siege on Gaza continues, the cycle of violence is bound to carry on.

6 May 2023

KOREAN PENINSULA  The U.S. seems to be moving ahead with plans for a South Korean port visit by a nuclear ballistic missile submarine, as agreed last week during South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s White House meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. The two presidents issued a declaration reaffirming the U.S.-South Korea alliance, which Biden promised to back up by enhancing “the regular visibility of strategic assets” on the peninsula. North Korea denounced the statement as “hostile and aggressive”; China warned it could put the region on a “dangerous path”. Crisis Group expert Chris Green says Beijing may be about to punish Seoul, presumably economically, for inching too close to Washington. Pyongyang will likely also feel compelled to respond, at a minimum with missile tests.

PERU  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released a report Wednesday decrying lethal force in the state’s response to mass protests running from last December through 23 January. Demonstrators were calling for early elections following former President Pedro Castillo’s ouster. But the report identified deeper grievances, including Indigenous peoples’ and farmers’ demands to redress various forms of inequality. It also pointed to particular types of violence directed at women during the unrest, recommending that reparations address the gendered impact of abuses. Together with Amnesty International’s findings published last week, says Crisis Group expert Glaeldys Gonzalez Calanche, the report highlights the flaws of Peruvian democratic institutions and helps advocates seeking justice for victims of state violence.

SUDAN  Fighting persisted between the army and paramilitary forces this week, including in the capital Khartoum, despite another round of declared ceasefires. Mediation attempts have failed thus far, though they continue. Refugees continue to flee across borders amid a mounting humanitarian crisis. For now, says Crisis Group expert Shewit Woldemichael, both sides appear intent on gaining the upper hand on the battlefield before any negotiations. But neither is poised to win, leaving the civilian population caught in the crossfire. Mediators should be sure to coordinate their efforts, as more than one track seems to be emerging.

29 April 2023

BURKINA FASO Men in military uniform killed dozens of people in the north-central Yatenga province, authorities said Monday, as they announced an investigation into the deaths. Survivors buried 136 bodies — including 50 women and 20 children, as well as 66 men — on Thursday. The country's north is wracked by conflict between the army and groups of jihadist militants, one of several such wars across the Sahel. The government has armed volunteers to help it battle the insurgents. All the warring parties have increasingly targeted civilians of late, says Crisis Group expert Mathieu Pellerin, including the jihadists but also members of the security forces and volunteers. The latter abuses are causing Ouagadougou's strategy to backfire, as they deepen the population's distrust of the central state and feed the insurgencies.

HAITI Maria Isabel Salvador, the new UN special representative for Haiti, stressed the urgency Wednesday of stopping the country’s “vicious circle of violence”, in reference to the criminal gangs fighting for control of the capital Port-au-Prince and other cities. She was briefing the UN Security Council two days after angry Port-au-Prince residents burned thirteen suspected gang members to death. With the police overwhelmed, says Crisis Group expert Renata Segura, citizens are increasingly organising “self-defence groups”, prompting fears of more such vigilantism.

SUDAN A series of announced ceasefires broke down this week, in another worrying sign that rival military leaders Abdelfattah al-Burhan and Muhammad “Hemedti” Dagalo are digging in for protracted war. The UN has recorded over 450 deaths – likely a severe undercount – in fourteen days of fighting mostly in urban areas across the country. Tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing to Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan; thousands of Sudanese have also left by boat or plane from Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast. Many more, however, remain trapped in neighbourhoods the belligerents have turned into combat zones. Crisis Group expert Shewit Woldemichael says those left behind need life-saving provisions, including food, drinking water and medical supplies. Delivering humanitarian aid is urgent, as is mediation to end the conflict.

22 April 2023

GULF Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they will resume full diplomatic relations more than two years after the signing of the January 2021 Al-Ula agreement, which formally ended the intra-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) confrontation. Crisis Group expert Anna Jacobs says the announcement follows a long period of high-level dialogue and visits, including a visit by UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Doha during the World Cup in November. The restoration of ties means that all former blockading states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE) have now resumed diplomatic ties with Qatar or announced their intention to. It is a positive step for GCC unity, even if tensions and competition remain a reality.

NORTH KOREA Leader Kim Jong-un this week reaffirmed Pyongyang’s intention to launch what the country calls a “military reconnaissance satellite” in the coming months. Kim stated the importance of launching the satellite for “securing real-time information” about the military activities of “hostile forces” and implied the launch could be timed to coincide with U.S.-South Korea military drills in June that mark the 70th anniversary of their alliance. Crisis Group expert Christopher Green says that while North Korea has a genuine need for intelligence on alliance military activities in South Korea, it won’t be met by a satellite launch. Rather, a satellite launch is a way of testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

SUDAN Deadly fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted in the capital Khartoum and spread to cities and towns countrywide. Millions of civilians are caught in the crossfire and fast running out of basic necessities in a burgeoning humanitarian disaster. Crisis Group expert Shewit Woldemichael says the hostilities have pushed the country toward full-blown civil war. The combat could quickly slide into a sustained war that risks rippling through Sudan’s restive peripheries – embroiling countless armed groups and communal militias. The immediate priority must be achieving a humanitarian ceasefire, while all national, regional and international actors must remain united in rejecting the war.

15 April 2023

ISRAEL-PALESTINE Israel decided Tuesday to close Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade to non-Muslim visitors for the remainder of Ramadan, which is due to end on 20 April. This plaza, where al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock are located, is also sacred to Jews as the site of the ancient Temples. Jewish Temple Mount activists, emboldened by Itamar Ben-Gvir, national security minister in Israel’s far-right government, hope to undermine a decades-old understanding limiting the frequency and nature of their visits to the Esplanade. Past Israeli governments have stopped Jewish visits entirely as the Muslim holy month drew to a close, in order to lower tensions. The present cabinet’s welcome choice to follow suit shows that it, too, understands how sensitive the site is, says Crisis Group expert Mairav Zonszein. Events last week, when Israeli forces attacked Palestinians in al-Aqsa, prompting rocket fire at Israel from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, may also have played a role in the decision. It is in all parties’ interest to avoid additional friction that could lead to multi-front cross-border conflict.

MYANMAR Regime aircraft bombed and strafed a village in Kanbalu township in Myanmar’s north-western Sagaing Region Tuesday morning, reportedly destroying several buildings and killing dozens, including many civilians. Forces fighting the regime, a junta that deposed a democratically elected government in 2021, had invited locals to the opening of a “people’s administration office” in the village, which the resistance controls. A rescue worker told reporters the death toll could top one hundred. The regime acknowledged ordering the attack but said it hit only “terrorists”. Crisis Group expert Richard Horsey says the strike is part of a strategy: the regime is committing war crimes to mete out collective punishment – deliberately targeting non-combatant residents of conflict zones – and thereby to intimidate people throughout the country who oppose military rule.

UNITED STATES Media outlets discovered a trove of alleged classified U.S. intelligence assessments on a gaming website Saturday. The photographed documents, many of which appear to be from the Pentagon or the CIA, cover a range of highly sensitive issues. Most concern the war in Ukraine, including estimates of Kyiv’s fighting capacity in resisting Russia’s all-out invasion, while others touch on related matters, such as alleged Egyptian plans to transfer arms to Moscow. Still others show evidence of U.S. spying on allies such as Israel and South Korea. Federal authorities arrested a young air national guardsman Thursday in connection with what they are treating as a major security breach. Crisis Group expert Michael Wahid Hanna says at least some of the papers seem to be authentic, though others have clearly been doctored. In any case, the news is embarrassing for Washington, which must now reassure allies that may become wary of intelligence sharing, particularly given the suspect’s low rank. The breach may also trigger greater Congressional scrutiny of how some U.S. partners are approaching the war in Ukraine as well as further questions about U.S. military assistance to Egypt, straining Washington’s relations with those countries.

8 April 2023

SUDAN  Signatories of the December framework agreement postponed for the third time signing a final deal for the transition to civilian rule, delaying the ambitious timeline agreed in March. Crisis Group expert Shewit Woldemichael says the delay is a result of disagreement between army chief and de facto head of state General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sovereign Council deputy and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” over the timeline for the RSF’s integration into the regular forces and the terms of command and control of the integrated army. Reform of the security sector is one of the thorniest issues a civilian transitional government will have to manage. Rising tensions between the two forces in recent weeks fanned fears of an internecine conflict within the military before both leaders reached an agreement to de-escalate the situation. 

TAIWAN  Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy in the U.S. on Wednesday as Taiwan’s defence ministry reported that it was “closely monitoring” Chinese navy vessels passing through the Bashi Channel south of the island. Maritime authorities in China’s Fujian province also announced a patrol operation to inspect cargo vessels transiting the Strait. Taiwan said it would not comply. Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao says China’s measured response so far is likely due to a number of factors, including that the meeting taking place in the U.S. was meant as a compromise by Taipei and Washington and that former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou was visiting China. An overly belligerent response would undercut Beijing's message to Taiwan that economic exchange and dialogue with the mainland will deliver benefits and so Taiwanese citizens should vote for Ma's opposition Kuomintang party, which favours closer ties with Beijing, in the upcoming election set for January 2024.

YEMEN  All eight members of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), the government’s executive body representing a range of anti-Huthi groups, met in person for the first time in six months in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh. The meeting took place as ceasefire talks between the Saudis and the Huthis have made some progress, and follows a breakthrough China-brokered deal between Tehran and Riyadh – who support opposing sides in Yemen’s war – to restore diplomatic relations after seven years. Crisis Group expert Ahmed Nagi says this meeting is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the Saudis aim to brief PLC members on a possible ceasefire agreement resulting from their ongoing negotiations with the Huthis. Secondly, Riyadh is attempting to overcome the many rifts among the PLC’s associated factions.

1 April 2023

KENYA  Protests in Kenya again turned violent on Monday and Thursday, with police firing tear gas and water cannons at crowds in the capital Nairobi, and officers reportedly shooting one protester dead in the country’s third-largest town Kisumu. Police are also investigating the death of two people during clashes in Nairobi’s informal settlement of Kibera. Authorities had violently repressed demonstrations last week after opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost to President Ruto in elections last year, called for bi-weekly protests against what he perceives as a stolen election, the high cost of living and the new government’s policies. Crisis Group expert Meron Elias says the protests are costing the country millions of dollars each day and could be the first major domestic challenge for Ruto, who has put economic recovery at the top of his agenda.

EL SALVADOR  This week marked one year since El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele imposed a state of exception as part of a crackdown on gang violence. Amid record low murder rates, Bukele boasts gang members are being locked up and will spend decades behind bars. Rights organisations have documented over 65,000 people detained, many of them arbitrarily, while 111 people have died in detention. A recent University Institute of Public Opinion poll indicates that while a vast majority of Salvadorans feel safe with the state of exception, many were unaware constitutional guarantees had been suspended and expressed concern at authorities’ lack of transparency. Crisis Group expert Pamela Ruiz says President Bukele will likely continue capitalising on Salvadorans’ feeling safer and homicide reductions to outweigh concerns of arbitrary arrests and deaths. 

ISRAEL  Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced controversial anti-democratic legislation would be delayed following months-long protests and a nationwide strike. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to protest the government’s planned overhaul of the judicial system, which would notably allow parliament to supersede Supreme Court decisions and control judicial appointments. The crisis also threatened the ruling coalition, as Netanyahu on Friday fired his defence minister after he suggested postponing the overhaul. While the delay indicates that the protests – along with U.S. pressure – are powerful, says Crisis Group expert Mairav Zonszein, Netanyahu is preoccupied with his survival and seems intent on pursuing the legislation at a later date. Meanwhile, the government continues its control and dispossession of the Palestinians, about which the Israelis taking to the streets are not protesting.

25 March 2023

HAITI  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called Tuesday for urgent international action to redress growing displacement in Haiti, amid ever sharper fighting among heavily armed criminal gangs in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. At least 160,000 people have been driven from their homes as gangs battle for turf. Gangs now control almost the entire capital, with Haitian security forces in disarray. Outside powers remain reluctant to intervene, in light of past failures and the lack of broad political consensus in the country. External backing for Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry is a major sticking point, says Crisis Group expert Diego Da Rin, as that support has allowed him to avoid serious power-sharing negotiations with his opponents. If this impasse endures, a UN peacekeeping operation may be the only way to reduce violence that has become intolerable for the vast majority of Haitians. 

U.S.-ETHIOPIA  The U.S. State Department said Monday it had determined that Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, as well as allied Amhara fighters, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict in and around Tigray from 2020 to 2022. It also said Tigrayan forces were responsible for war crimes. The statement came shortly after Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Ethiopia, during which he commended the federal government and Tigrayan representatives’ commitment to a peace deal signed late last year. Addis Ababa rejected the U.S. announcement as “inflammatory” and “selective”, partly because it levelled fewer allegations at the Tigrayan side. Crisis Group expert Will Davison says the statement’s timing may indicate U.S. plans to resume suspended aid to Ethiopia even as it presses for accountability for the war’s horrors. The government is likely to keep blocking a UN investigation that might buttress such calls. 

YEMEN  Clashes reignited Monday in the Harib district of Marib, the northern province where most of the country’s oil deposits lie. The Huthi rebels have been trying to take Marib from forces aligned with the internationally recognised government since early 2020. A de facto truce has prevailed in the last six months. When the Huthis attacked anew, they made progress in the western Harib mountains, before their local adversaries sent reinforcements to the front. Dozens of civilians fled to other areas, fearful of the conflict spreading. Crisis Group expert Ahmed Nagi says the renewed fighting is particularly significant, coming just after the deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to start restoring diplomatic relations. Some had hoped that detente would quiet the war in Yemen, where Riyadh backs the government side and Tehran the rebels. The Huthis’ escalation is likely a signal that the deal is not important to them as well as an attempt to break the stalemate in their own negotiations with the Saudis.

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.