Complementing its work to build peace internationally, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) also serves the American people directly as a core part of its founding mandate from Congress.
After nearly a decade of civil war and strife, Syria’s long-troubled economy is in tatters with spiraling hyperinflation, food shortages, and widespread unemployment. The Syrian pound has less than a fifth of the currency’s value from this time last year. These economic woes have led to new protests in areas long controlled by the regime. Amid this economic turmoil, the U.S. Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act comes into force today, targeted at key internal and external pillars of support for the Assad regime. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at what led to the economic collapse, how the regime is responding to the protests, and the implications of the new U.S. sanctions.
As the United States and Iraq engage in important talks this month, USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed says the focus should be “Iraq-centric policy,” even as Baghdad “is under a lot of pressure from Iran and its allies … to use the dialogue to put pressure on the United States to withdraw its troops and limit U.S. influence.”
Police in Pakistan have found themselves in an unprecedented situation since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year. Under-resourced and poorly trained, they have struggled to ensure compliance with public health restrictions—such as lockdowns and social distancing—against a backdrop of Pakistan’s overarching governance challenges. With only outdated legal frameworks and conventional training and education to rely on, the police have largely responded to violations with corporal punishment, detentions, and arrests—actions that have been reported by the media and widely condemned.
Afghanistan’s government is accelerating its release of thousands of Taliban prisoners as a step toward peace talks, President Ashraf Ghani told an online audience today. The number of prisoners freed should now surpass 3,000, Ghani said, announcing that 2,000 more will be released “within a very short period.” That move, taking the total of freed Taliban fighters to 5,000, would fulfill a central Taliban pre-condition for peace talks. Ghani voiced optimism that a rare “window of opportunity” has opened for peace negotiations, but said further steps are vital to seize the chance to end the nation’s 40-plus years of warfare.
Lebanon’s leaders have lacked a cohesive strategy to respond to COVID-19, exacerbating tensions that sparked mass protests last fall. But while the government struggles, and Hezbollah’s influence weakens, USIP’s Elie Abouaoun says, “Unfortunately, the protest movement is as fragmented as the government.”
Since October 2019, Iraq has been rocked by multiple crises. Protesters hit the street last fall to demand an end to corruption and foreign interference, an overhaul of the political system, and economic justice, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi in November. Several attempts to form a new government failed until Mustafa al-Kadhimi succeeded in May. At the beginning of 2020, the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani resulted in ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran that largely played out on Iraqi soil. Then the coronavirus descended up Iraq.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic many countries around the world have reported an alarming increase in domestic violence. Indeed, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for measures to address the “horrifying surge in domestic violence” linked to COVID-related lockdowns. In Afghanistan—one of the worst countries in the world for women by almost any metric—the lockdown exacerbates the dire situation many Afghan women already face. As the Afghan peace process inches forward amid a global pandemic, Afghan women’s inclusion and input are critical to combatting COVID and building peace.
Just over a year ago, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was formally established as part of a peace agreement to end nearly five decades of conflict between the Philippine government and Moro secessionists. This report discusses the many notable achievements of the BARMM government during its first year while cautioning that these accomplishments are not irreversible, and that the BARMM will need international support—including from the United States—to confront future challenges.
In recent weeks, Chinese and Indian soldiers have been fighting on their long-disputed border. USIP’s Vikram Singh says these skirmishes are not new—but that the latest hostilities echo China’s aggression in other parts of the region, saying, “It seems like China is flexing its muscle in every direction.”