Whenever the war comes to an end, this challenge will become particularly difficult to manage. The shabiha will not disappear once their military purpose has ended. Instead, they will likely linger as organized crime groups, further eating away at the state’s legitimacy and slowing the country’s economic and social recovery.
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The most recent blow to Iranian influence was the victory of Muqtada al-Sadr’s political coalition in the Iraqi parliamentary elections in May 2018. He reached out to poor Shiites, marginalized Sunnis and even secular parties who wanted a change in Baghdad. Although he cannot form a government on his own or become prime minister, he will play an important role in shaping a new political climate that is likely to be more resilient to Iranian influence.
The most famous example of a successful initiative to prevent radicalization in Lebanon is a project by the NGO MARCH in Tripoli. It started from 2014 and brought together young people from two rival neighborhoods: the Alawite minority from the Jabal Mohsen area and the Sunni community of Bab el-Tebbaneh. The groups, who live in poor quarters of the city, separated by Syria Street, are known for their sporadic clashes and armed battles in the streets of Tripoli.
While the kidnapping of foreigners in Libya has made headlines, nationals from countries in sub-Saharan Africa are arguably the most vulnerable. Most of them are fleeing persecution, war and famine, pushing them to rely on criminal gangs to take them to Europe. However, since Europe began contracting Libyan militias to intercept boats at sea in February 2017, smugglers have resorted to kidnapping migrants to earn a profit instead.
Frustrated by the slow pace of government reconstruction, some citizens have begun taking matters into their own hands, with volunteers cleaning the streets and residents rebuilding their own houses and businesses. However, some have accused Baghdad of having sectarian motives for moving slowly on the reconstruction of former IS-held areas, which are primarily Sunni.
Turkey today finds itself at a crossroads. Will the country manage to heal the wounds of domestic strife and extricate itself from the destabilizing vortex of Syria’s civil war? The answer will ultimately not only determine the security, the stability, and ultimately the development of the country itself. Due to Turkey’s geostrategic importance, it will also influence the stability and security of the entire region, of Europe and the West at large.
IS’s state-building efforts appear to have been thwarted for now. But saving the children exposed and potentially indoctrinated in its ideology is key to avoiding further terror attacks in the West, tackling the root causes of regional upheaval, and working toward a future where children play instead of fight, and schools teach instead of drill.