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from The Great Debate:

To beat Islamic State, Obama needs Iran

Masked Sunni gunmen pray during a patrol outside the city of Falluja

President Barack Obama delivered a speech Wednesday night designed for an American public that has been losing confidence in its commander in chief.  Much of his address was about attitude -- we are tough, we will act, we will prevail, but we will do all this with airpower, not boots on the ground (or not many) and in cooperation with friends and allies. This mission will not be a repeat of Afghanistan or Iraq (President George W. Bush’s wars), Obama promised, but will be more like Obama’s campaigns against al Qaeda -- don’t forget he killed Osama bin Laden! -- and the continuing strikes against radical Islamists in Somalia and Yemen.

But the president must know that the Islamic State cannot be treated like the insurgents in Somalia and Yemen. The reason this group has caused such concern is that it is not just one more localized group of violent guerrillas. It is an embryonic state that is beginning to govern large areas of the Sunni heartlands of Iraq and Syria. So it will not easily be bombed into oblivion, nor will it suffice to take out its top leader with a skillfully executed commando raid, as in Pakistan.

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa provinceBoots on the ground will be needed to retake the territory now under Islamic State control. But the president has said they will not be our boots. So whose?

His Iraq case is easier to address. Baghdad has a new government that may be capable of rebuilding its security forces and enlisting the cooperation of the Kurdish peshmerga in the north and some Sunni tribes in Anbar province.

from Photographers' Blog:

Somalia’s gradual healing

Mogadishu, Somalia

By Feisal Omar

After 22 years, Somalia clearly shows signs of recuperating from the deep wounds of civil-war and insurgency.

The emergence of a recognized Somali government has positively changed life; particularly in the city which was mostly an Islamist stronghold two years ago. Somalis in the diaspora have returned for the first time and run various kinds of businesses: contemporary hotels, restaurants and shops. The arrival of Turkish companies that busily repair the ruined roads and mass construction of apartments teaches one of the rebirth of Somalia.

from John Lloyd:

Maybe don’t give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses

As we saw last week, Africans are desperately risking, and losing, their lives in the struggle to get into Europe. They come above all from the war-afflicted states of Eritrea, Somalia and Syria. They trek to Libya (itself now increasingly in bloody turmoil, a Spring long gone) or Tunisia, and from there seek a boat to the island of Lampedusa, the southernmost piece of Italian soil, nearer to the north African coast than it is to Sicily.

The emigrants pay up to 1,000 euros to traffickers, who sometimes take their money and disappear, sometimes pack hundreds of them into fishing boats, which might normally carry a dozen men. From there they set off to cover the 80 or so miles to the lovely island, a luxurious resort with some of the best beaches on the planet, and now the fevered hope of some of the world’s poorest.

from The Great Debate:

Civil wars and Syria: lessons from history

A man at a site recently hit by what activists said was a Scud missile in Aleppo's Ard al-Hamra neighborhood, February 23, 2013. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman

Most of the international debate about Syria policy focuses on how to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power.

from Photographers' Blog:

“Are you al-Shabaab or soldiers?”

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Mogadishu, Somalia

By Feisal Omar

At 11:30 on Sunday morning I was sipping a cup of coffee at the Village restaurant near the palace when I heard a blast followed by gunshots.

I walked out onto the street and could see pickup trucks with anti-aircraft guns mounted on them, rushing toward the Mogadishu court. I started my vehicle and drove speedily in the direction of the court. I arrived moments later at the court building where there was an intense exchange of gunfire.

from Full Focus:

Somalia Now

A look inside the African nation in images taken over the past three months.

from Photographers' Blog:

One month in Somalia

By Feisal Omar

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

April 5 - I was in my car and was not far from the theater when I heard a big explosion. I stood up and immediately saw a local journalist covered with blood and running. I asked him about the explosion and he told me it was inside the theater. I went towards it but security was tightened after the blast as the government feared other blasts would follow. By then, government soldiers were firing on anyone rushing to the scene.

After some minutes I managed to enter the theater. I saw dead bodies including those of the two biggest sports officials. I was shocked. Rescue workers stood on scattered pieces of human flesh as they collected casualties. I had to take their photos as tears rolled down my cheeks.

from The Human Impact:

Invest in women in conflict zones to promote change

Where would you put your money as an investor? A leading campaigner against gender-based violence says there is only one answer - invest it in women in conflict zones.

"Conflict zones have the biggest potential for change," Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women, told delegates at the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford last week.

from The Human Impact:

A refugee, an amputee, a marathon runner: Abdifatah’s story

Abdifatah Dhuhulow takes a break from some training in London’s Hyde Park, February 17, 2012. ALERTNET/Shanshan Chen

For someone who struggles to run a few metres before collapsing with a stitch, I'm constantly amazed by the skill of long-distance runners, and used to think crossing the finishing line of a marathon was the height of physical achievement -- until meeting Abdifatah Dhuhulow.

from Bernd Debusmann:

To curb piracy, bring on hired guns

By Bernd Debusmann

The views expressed are his own.

Better late than never. After years of debate, there is growing consensus among governments, major shipping companies and maritime organizations that armed private security guards are a potent deterrent to high-seas pirates. That view is certain to crimp a criminal business already showing signs of decline.

Numbers tell part of the story: In the first nine months of the year, Somali pirates attacked 199 ships, a hefty increase over 126 attacks in the corresponding period in 2010. But the number of ships they hijacked dropped from 35 in 2010 to 24 this year. Expressed differently, their success rate declined from 28 percent to 12 percent. Not a single vessel carrying armed guards was taken.

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