Terrorism in the Age of Twitter -The New Yorker


In his influential 2004 book, “Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah,” the French political scientist Olivier Roy pointed out that what he termed Islamic “neofundamentalism,” despite its frequent references to the past and to the Koran, represents a very modern, even a postmodern, phenomenon. Emphasizing the role of the Internet in recruiting and sustaining jihadis, Roy said that this apocalyptic new ideology “valorizes the uprootedness of uprooted people” and provides them with a sense of belonging and meaning. The true believer, wherever he is, “remains in touch with the virtual community by sharing the same portable kit of norms, adaptable to any social context,” Roy wrote, adding that the Internet was “a perfect paradigm and tool of this virtual community.”



For further reading on the Paris attack, see:

The Facts About Terrorism -New Yorker

“Relative to other causes of premature death, terrorism is still a minor phenomenon. For every person killed in a terrorist attack, roughly forty people die in traffic accidents and roughly eighty die of alcoholism. Still, violent attacks on civilians have great salience, psychologically, and, according to the I.E.P. report, they are getting more common, especially in non-Western parts of the world. In 2014, five countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria—accounted for almost eighty per cent of the deaths caused by terrorists. Twelve years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq remains at the top of list, with close to ten thousand lives lost. Nigeria was the second most affected country, with more than seven thousand five hundred deaths.”


This article includes a link to this piece:

The Uneven Geography of Terrorism -CityLab

“Ultimately, terrorism is a consequence of failed or fragile states. More than nine in 10 of all deadly terrorist attacks over the last 25 years have occurred in nations where state-sponsored political violence was widespread. The Global Terrorism Index is in fact correlated with the Fragile States Index I wrote about recently (with a correlation of .42). These fragile and dysfunctional states are among the least educated, least affluent, least tolerant, and least urbanized in the world, with cities badly broken by ongoing military conflict.”


It also includes a link to the Global Terror Index 2015, a comprehensive report on terrorism over the last year. It is worth the download.




Click to access 2015%20Global%20Terrorism%20Index%20Report_0_0.pdf

Will Canada change its policy toward Iran? -Al Monitor and CBC


The Trudeau campaign promised to improve diplomatic relations with Iran, which had been cut by the Harper government, at least in part,  because of security concerns in Tehran. However, as this al Monitor article argues (please excuse the shameless self-promotion), the issue does not appear to be high on the agenda for either country.

“Pointing to the fact that Tehran is not a key trade, investment or security partner for Ottawa, James Devine, assistant professor of politics and international relations at Mount Allison University, told Al-Monitor, “On the Iranian side, there is less need for better relations with Canada. Tehran had previously seen Canada as a gateway to better relations with the West. However, since the July 14 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] was signed, relations between Iran and the Europeans have improved significantly. I don’t think Canada is as important to Tehran as it once was.” Adnan Tabatabai, a Berlin-based Iranian political analyst told Al-Monitor, “Iran-Canada relations have not been essential for either side. It is rather the presence of Iranians traveling back and forth to Canada that connects these two countries.”

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/11/iran-canada-trudeau-engagement-jcpoa.html#ixzz3soDwPl8m

Links to further reading on the Harper government’s policies can be found below. The first provides the details of how Canada managed the closure.  The move, which was announced by the PM while he was visiting Moscow smacked of grandstanding at the time. This CBC report confirms that impression arguing that the Canadian delegation left Iran quickly and quietly because as Canada’s Foreign Minister himself admitted “frankly, we didn’t want them to discover what our actions would be and then try to expel us before we could expel them.”

Inside Canada’s top-secret diplomatic exit from Iran
CBC News gets an inside peek at how Canadian diplomats got out — and left little behind


The second link suggests the threats sighted as a cause for leaving Iran were exaggerated.

Iran embassy report suggests little threat months before closure





How Internet censorship protects Iranian businesses -al Monitor


Given that this is a short article, it provides a fairly detailed look at Iran’s strategy for containing social media. It also makes the somewhat surprising argument that the rational is increasingly economic rather than political:

“These days, social media sites and the Internet in general are increasingly being looked at through an economic lens in Iran. This shift is the result of two main developments: first; the government’s relative success with containing security risks presented by the web, and second, an increasing realization of the business potential of the Internet — including social media.

Iran’s security apparatus has been accumulating the skills and expertise to limit the security risks presented by social media ever since the protests in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election.

In terms of infrastructure, Iran has separated the global Internet from domestic traffic by implementing a national information network. In critical moments, this control enables the authorities to switch off global Internet access without interrupting the domestic network on which day-to-day affairs are run. Having parallel web infrastructure is critical, considering Iran’s increasing dependence on electronic services. For instance, the total electronic financial transactions in Iran in a 24-hour period peaked at 150 million this year on March 19. Consequently, Iran has transferred a major portion of servers and databases from foreign to local firms, resulting in an increase in domestic Internet traffic — from 10% to 30% of overall traffic in May. There are plans to increase domestic traffic to 80% in the near future.

In regard to social media, Iran has been moving in two parallel directions. It has mastered data-mining techniques, enabling it to find potential troublemakers who use the web as a tool for stirring political unrest. This expertise has proven effective, as attested by the tracing and capturing of several cells of online political activists in past years. Iran has also established several organizations to produce online content and fight the political opposition’s activities on the web. These measures have contained short-term security risks to a large extent. However, long-term social and cultural transformations resulting from exposure to online media still remain a concern for the Islamic Republic’s elites.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/11/iran-filtering-policies.html#ixzz3r7ENqytV

for further reading, see:
Rouhani battles judiciary over Internet censorship
Will Iran’s national internet mean no world wide web?

Obama: The Conversation -VOX


In the second part of an in depth interview with VOX (the first part dealt with domestic politics) Barak Obama discusses foreign policy. There are a number of interesting dimensions to the interview. In this post I am highlighting his discussion of realism in US foreign policy.

“This is a really sort of big-picture question, but over the years, I’ve heard a number of different members of your team refer to your kind of philosophy in foreign affairs as “realism.” 1 Is that a term you would use?

Barack Obama:
You know, traditionally, a lot of American foreign policy has been divided into the realist camp and the idealist camp. And so if you’re an idealist, you’re like Woodrow Wilson, and you’re out there with the League of Nations and imagining everybody holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” and imposing these wonderful rules that everybody’s abiding by. And if you’re a realist, then you’re supporting dictators who happen to be our friends, and you’re cutting deals and solely pursuing the self-interest of our country as narrowly defined. And I just don’t think that describes what a smart foreign policy should be.

You seemed to resist the realist label earlier, but when you talked about your goals earlier, you seemed very concerned about disorder, and you didn’t mention anything like democracy and human rights. And the countries you mentioned partnering with, it’s places like Egypt, where they came to power in a military coup; Saudi Arabia, with public beheadings; Bahrain, where during the Arab Spring they were beating nonviolent demonstrators and repressing that violently. Do you have any concerns about the sort of long-term sustainability of those kind of partnerships?

Barack Obama
“This is a perfect example, Matt, of where the division between realism and idealism kind of breaks down. I think any realist worth their salt would say that any society that consistently ignores human rights and the dignity of its citizens at some point is going to be unstable and not a great partner. So it’s not just the right thing to do; it’s also very much in our interest to promote reforms throughout the Middle East. Now, the fact that we have to make real-time decisions about who are we partnering with and how perfectly are they abiding by our ideals, and are there times where we’ve got to mute some of our criticism to get some stuff done, are there times where we have an opportunity to press forward — that doesn’t negate the importance of us speaking out on these issues.”


The Rabin assassination, 20 years later -Various Sources


The assignation of Yitzhak Rabin was 20 years ago today (Nov 4th, 1995). Some taking stock is in order:

“Amir wanted to stop Israel ceding land in the occupied West Bank to Palestinian control; he believed the land was a gift from God to the Jewish people that could never be traded away. He achieved his objectives.”

Did Rabin assassination kill the best chance for peace? -BBC


This New York Times article argues that Israeli politics have now moved toward a pragmatic center. What the author considers a pragmatic center, however, looks to me like a shift to the right, or at least a profound sense of resignation:

“In the 1990s there was “a clash between two big ideologies,” said Micah Goodman, an Israeli-American Jewish philosopher and the director of a pluralistic Israeli academy for young adults in the West Bank. The right believed that settling the biblical heartland of the West Bank would hasten salvation and bring on the Messianic era. The left believed that a withdrawal from all the territories conquered in the 1967 war would bring peace and allow Israel to finally become part of the family of nations, which Mr. Goodman describes as another “almost Messianic” idea.

“Over the last 20 years, Israelis stopped believing in both ideas,” he said. “The new left does not speak of peace, but of occupation. The new right does not speak of salvation, but of security.”

20 Years After Rabin, Israeli Politics Have Shifted -NYTimes