On Saturday the first widespread negotiated ‘cessation of hostilities’ started in Syria, and a day later it is still in place despite some violations – already a small victory. The deal has been brokered and supported by the US and Russia, two of the most powerful backers on each side of the conflict, and the UN has also backed it with a resolution. So what are the chances this ceasefire will succeed?
Over the last weekend I participated in the 62nd Harvard National Model United Nations, as the culmination of the United Netherlands course I’ve taken this last semester. While others from my delegation participated in simulations of UN debate, I took a slightly odder role – that of Minister of Health in the Cabinet of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, 1978. The simulation covered the two years between the communist coup in April ’78 and the Russian invasion in ’79, and was essentially a kind of war game. My fellow communist cabinet members and I took actions on social reform and security, and then received updates from the Harvard staff on the new situation based on what we’d done. While the simulation ended with us all dying in a Soviet invasion, it was a useful reminder of just how tricky it is to run a country. Continue reading
Over the last weeks and months almost every day has brought a new headline. Hundreds drown in the Mediterranean, 70 suffocate to death inside a truck, Thousands stranded at Budapest train station. The media and the continent have woken up to the fact that Europe faces its largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, with thousands of people a day trying to claim asylum. This shouldn’t be a cause for panic though. Instead, European leaders need to take a look at the opportunities this crisis offers, and what can be achieved by accepting the refugees heading towards the EU. Continue reading
Today I want to take a look at a few statements Mike Huckabee made over the weekend about his position on Israel. These statements are important because he is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, the most powerful office in the world. While he might not be the frontrunner, his positions on Israel and Palestine are a sign of how the Republicans are becoming steadily more one sided on this issue – one that will be a huge talking point in the upcoming candidate debates. Continue reading
After a few months in which it seemed that the Islamic State was on the back foot, one week has shaken things up all over again. IS scored two of its biggest victories since taking over Mosul last year, seizing first the Iraqi city of Ramadi, then the Syrian city of Palmyra, and finally the last border crossing between Iraq and Syria they still didn’t control. So why are these cities so important? What will the effect be on Iraq and Syria? And what does this mean for the US’s strategy? Continue reading
Less than an hour ago the Saudi Arabian government announced that Operation Decisive Storm, the boldly named bombing campaign against the Yemeni Houthi forces, has ended. According to the Saudis, the operation has achieved its military goals, and will be followed up by an effort to facilitate political dialogue in Yemen. This is true, but only if by “achieving military goals” they mean “failing to achieve anything”. Continue reading
Yesterday President Obama announced that Cuba would be taken off the US’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism, to which Cuba replied “thanks, about time“. It shows real progress towards better relations with Cuba, but also raising an interesting question – what does it mean to sponsor terrorism? More importantly, what is terrorism actually? In this adaption of an essay I wrote for university in my first year, I take a lot at how useless this word really is. Continue reading