Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 7, November 2013.
By Tom Elliott, Ph.D.
On March 27, 2013, while the technology world preoccupied itself with a sophisticated cyberattack on a spam prevention service, a low-tech assault on the Internet was taking place in shallow waters off Alexandria, Egypt. Three men with scuba gear and a fishing boat were arrested while allegedly trying to cut one of the main communications cables that links Europe to the Middle East and Africa. This incident of hacking – in the most literal sense of the word – should remind us that the Internet we all rely upon depends upon physical infrastructure, much of which is easily located and relatively unprotected. Continue reading →
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 6, October 2013.
Map of Egypt. Source: University of Texas.
By Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Egypt is on the verge of being engulfed by a long-term insurgency. After a brief period of democratization following the Arab Spring, the world’s most populous Arab country has returned to a popular military dictatorship. General Sisi will likely lead the country, either as power behind the President, or as President himself. The primary difference between the Egypt of Sisi and the Egypt of the pre-Arab-Spring Mubarak will be a function of the overthrow of the democratic Islamism of President Morsi. A new outraged minority with pro-democracy and pro-Islamist beliefs fielded popular protests, and was repressed with lethal force. A significant minority of that minority will now divert their energy towards terrorism and organized insurgency. Continue reading →
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 4, August 2013.
Figure 1: Comparison of Gambia and Sierra Leone on the Ease of Doing Business in 2013. Data Source: World Bank. 
By Anders Corr, Ph.D., and Naheed Vadsaria
Political risk in the tiny West African state of “The Gambia” is high. Named after the small river around which its borders fluctuate, the country hosts a dictatorship established in a 1994 coup. The country also hosts Hizbollah operatives who conduct international financial transactions, and is one of the top African cocaine transshipment points to Europe. Local businesses are considering fleeing to Sierra Leone to escape a raft of seemingly arbitrary and protectionist laws promulgated by the President for potentially personal reasons. Continue reading →
Figure 1: China and Philippines: Military Expenditure and Energy Use, 1989-2011. Shortly after most US forces left the Philippines in 1991-2, Chinese military expenditure and activity in the South China Sea increased dramatically. Data source: Correlates of War Project.
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 3, July 2013.
By Anders S. Corr, Ph.D., and Priscilla A. Tacujan, Ph.D.
The Philippine government is constitutionally required to craft an independent foreign policy, but it must accelerate cooperation with foreign powers to do so effectively. China’s growing militarization and energy consumption are fast out-pacing the meager military spending and energy consumption of the Philippines (See Figure 1). This makes China, more so than the Philippines, willing to risk military conflict over disputed energy resources, fishing areas, and transportation routes in the South China Sea. Continue reading →
Long considered an anchor of East African stability, Tanzania has recently made headlines for aggressive expansion of its mining and extractive industries. In what might be considered growing pains, economic prosperity has strained government and civilian relations, and is increasingly testing the governance skills of Tanzania’s Ministries. Adverse investment laws, widening religious conflict, and proliferation of small arms and light weapons, however, tarnish Tanzania’s image as a peaceful and prosperous republic. Continue reading →
Russian naval vessel in Sevastopol. May 2009. Credit: Pavel Parmenov.
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 2013.
By Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Russia has deployed at least a dozen warships near the coast of Syria in the past few months, the largest Russian naval deployment since the end of the Cold War. Yesterday, Russia delivered sophisticated radar-guided Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles to Assad’s Syrian forces. The Russian actions are strategically offensive to the United States, as well its European and Israeli allies. They are meant to dissuade Israel, the US, and Europe from increased involvement. The anti-ship weapons, in particular, are offensive weapons that could be used by Assad’s Syrian forces to attack NATO naval platforms necessary for intervention in Syria (WSJ, NYT).
Russian actions with respect to Syria complicate the war from a primarily internal issue, to one over international influence between aspirant global and regional hegemons. Because the weapons delivery could be seen to counter Western military actions in the region, they have already increased US congressional criticism of Russia. Such criticism will likely increase in future, especially if the weapons are used against Western assets. This strategic offense to Western military commanders will lead them to more strongly support military options. Ironically, the Russian action increases pressure on Western political leaders to order intervention. Continue reading →
Bomb crater in Serekaneye, Syria. Photo Credit: Fatih Polat., March 22, 2013.
By Anders Corr, Ph.D.
The US and NATO could be pursuing a strategy of adding fuel to the fire in Syria. The Government of Syria has been allied with Iran, and irritated the US and NATO from a nonproliferation perspective, for a long time. The US has consequently wanted to destabilize the Syrian Government. Now, that wish has been met. The Syrian Government is in a counterinsurgency against rebels that are closely allied with Al Qaeda. Other than humanitarian considerations, the US and NATO should be quietly overjoyed that two enemies are fighting. Continue reading →
By Anders Corr, Ph.D. On Sunday and Monday in Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh, from 70,000 to 200,000 Islamist protesters called for adoption of Islamic law (Sharia) by the secular government. The government responded with force to related road blockages, violent riots, and primitive thrown explosives. The government use of force included some live fire, and a total of approximately 37 killed over two days. That number will likely rise, and thrice that number were likely wounded. The largest opposition party, which is allied with the Islamists, called for a 2-day general strike (WSJ, NYT, CNN, WP, AJ). Footage of the protests is below, courtesy of Associated Press.
The effects of such force will be to increase the number and militancy of islamists in Bangladesh. A minority will likely turn to more subversive violence, such as terrorist assassinations, extortion, and bombings. Such action and reaction by the government and protesters has no obvious resolution in sight. Combined with Islamist anger at continuing legal proceedings against prominent Islamist politicians and public anger at mounting factory deaths, the last two days is likely a turning point for Bangladesh’s stability — in a decidedly negative direction. At least some of this increasing unrest may soon target foreign visitors, investments, and suppliers in the country.
Responses of Don’t Know or No Answer for 28 New York Times/CBS polls. Blocks represent the density of observed DK/NA percentages for the 28 polls. The black line represents the probability of each DK/NA rate given a poisson distribution. The green dotted line depicts the mean of the observations. The black dotted lines depict two standard deviations above and below the mean. The most recent Syria poll, with a 14% DK/NA rate, is well above 10.5 (two standard deviations above the mean). The question is therefore highly unlikely to be valid and should be clarified for future polls.
CBS News and the New York Times released a poll yesterday on opinions regarding Syria. The poll posed a question to 965 adults nationwide worded as such: “Do you think the United States has a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria between government forces and anti-government groups, or doesn’t the United States have this responsibility?” Answers included “Yes” by 24% of respondents and “No” by 62% of respondents. CBS headlines interpreted the poll as “Americans Against Intervention in Syria.” The New York Times stated, “Americans are exhibiting an isolationist streak, with majorities across party lines decidedly opposed to American intervention in North Korea or Syria, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.”
While the wording of the poll question on North Korea was acceptable, the question on Syria was ambiguous due to usage of the word “responsibility” and the phrase “do something”. It would be very possible to think that the US has no responsibility to act in Syria, but should do something nonetheless. It is also possible to think that the U.S. has a responsibility to do something, but should nevertheless refrain from acting. Finally, “doing something” is ambiguous, and does not necessarily mean “intervention” as asserted in the reporting of the poll by the New York Times. The biases are countervailing, and lead to ambiguity. Continue reading →
A new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative promoted by Secretary of State John Kerry today in Israel is unlikely to bear fruit, especially in the short-term. Secretary Kerry unveiled the plan, which is purposefully non-specific. It includes meager US-funded economic incentives, and a call for supporting the Arab League’s 2002 proposal for Israel to accept the pre-1967 border in exchange for recognition (WSJ).
Israel will not accept the 1967 borders, and any proposal for the same is an attempt to solicit Arab nations on other issues. Likewise, Palestinians will not be influenced by scarce development funding available from the Department of State. Such development funding is the price of admission for a new peace initiative, another in a string of de rigueur Israeli-Palestinian peace processes led by successive US Secretaries of State. Continue reading →