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CFR Backgrounder: Europe’s Migration Crisis

May 13, 2015 Comments off

CFR Backgrounder: Europe’s Migration Crisis
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The growing numbers of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing turmoil in Africa and the Middle East poses complex challenges for European policymakers still grappling with weak economic growth and fractured national politics. Europe, according to a 2014 report from the International Organization for Migration, is currently the most dangerous destination for irregular migration in the world, and the Mediterranean Sea the world’s most dangerous border crossing. To date, the European Union’s collective response to its growing migrant crisis has been ad hoc and, critics charge, more focused on securing the bloc’s borders than on protecting the rights of migrants and refugees. With nationalist parties ascendant in many member states and concerns about Islamic terrorism looming large across the continent, it remains unclear if political headwinds will facilitate a new climate of immigration reform.

Country Analysis Brief: South Africa

May 5, 2015 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: South Africa
Source: Energy Information Administration

South Africa’s energy sector is critical to its economy, as the country relies heavily on its large-scale, energy-intensive coal mining industry. South Africa has limited proved reserves of oil and natural gas and uses its large coal deposits to meet most of its energy needs, particularly in the electricity sector. Most of the oil consumed in the country, used mainly in the transportation sector, is imported from Middle East and West African producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and is locally refined. South Africa also has a sophisticated synthetic fuels industry, producing gasoline and diesel fuels from the Secunda coal-to-liquids (CTL) plant and Mossel Bay gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant. The synthetic fuels industry accounts for nearly all of the country’s domestically produced petroleum as crude oil production is very small.

CRS — State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism–Legislative Parameters: In Brief (February 27, 2015)

April 23, 2015 Comments off

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism–Legislative Parameters: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria are identified by the U.S. government as countries with governments that support acts of international terrorism. As the 114th Congress is sworn in and begins its first session, U.S. foreign policy and national security policies toward Cuba, Iran, and North Korea are in a state of close scrutiny, with an eye to easing sanctions, including removing Cuba and Iran from the terrorist lists, and with an eye to returning North Korea to the same lists. While it is the President’s authority to designate, and remove from designation, terrorist states, Congress is likely to weigh in as the reviews proceed.

This brief report provides information on legislation that authorizes the designation of any foreign government as a state sponsor of acts of international terrorism. It addresses the statutes and how they each define acts of international terrorism; establish a list to limit or prohibit aid or trade; provide for systematic removal of a foreign government from a list, including timeline and reporting requirements; authorize the President to waive restrictions on a listed foreign government; and provide (or do not provide) Congress with a means to block a delisting. It closes with a summary of delisting in the past.

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports on the Middle East

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports on the Middle East (PDFs)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

African Leadership Transitions Tracker

March 30, 2015 Comments off

African Leadership Transitions Tracker
Source: Brookings Institution

The African Leadership Transitions Tracker (ALTT) is an interactive feature that factually recounts and visually presents changes at the head of state level in every African country from independence or end of the colonial period to the present. The interactive application aims to start a broader conversation about leadership transitions and what they mean for the region and beyond.

The ALTT does not intend to validate the nature of transitions. However, it looks at the process of competition and the contestability of transitions over time in order to highlight key trends.

For example a multiparty election is defined in the tracker as one in which “two or more political parties have affiliated candidates competing in an election.” Only military coups that lead to a change in leadership are presented.

Country Analysis Brief: Angola

March 23, 2015 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Angola
Source: Energy Information Administration

Angola is the second-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, behind Nigeria. The country experienced an oil production boom between 2002 and 2008 as production started at several deepwater fields. In 2007, Angola became a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

CFR Backgrounder: Al-Shabab

March 18, 2015 Comments off

Backgrounder: Al-Shabab
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Al-Shabab, or “the Youth,” is an al-Qaeda-linked militant group and U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization fighting for the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia. The group, also known as Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, and its Islamist affiliates once held sway over Mogadishu and major portions of the Somali countryside, but a sustained African Union military campaign in recent years has weakened the group considerably. Still, security analysts warn that the group remains the principal threat in a politically volatile, war-torn state.

Al-Shabab’s terrorist activities have mainly focused on targets within Somalia, but it has also carried out deadly strikes in the region, including coordinated suicide bombings in Uganda’s capital in 2010 and a raid on a Nairobi mall in 2013 (PDF). Washington fears the group, which has successfully recruited members of the Somali diaspora in the United States, may strike on U.S. soil. However, many terrorism experts say al-Shabab’s reach is limited to East Africa.

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