Stories written by Syed Mansur Hashim

Will the Iran sanctions work?

Last month, a flotilla of ships carrying more than 20 million barrels of Iranian oil headed off to China's north-eastern Dalian port in a bid to stave off the impending US sanctions that just came into effect on November 4. According to Russian media, the Iranians were quite confident that the country would be able to sell its oil bypassing the latest round of sanctions. Obviously, a deal has been reached with China because the port of Dalian typically saw shipments of oil between 3 and 4 million barrels a day. So, a jump of this magnitude can only mean one thing.

Climate Deal on HFCs

Hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs are thought to be responsible for contributing to 0.5 Celsius warming of the climate. On October 14, 170 countries came together in Kigali, Rwanda to sign an amendment to the Montreal protocol treaty that will commit nations to eliminate 90 percent HFCs with phasing out work slated to begin in 2019. HFCs are used in air-conditioning, refrigeration and aerosols and its usage has been rapidly increasing (at about 10 percent annually) as income levels spurred in Asian countries like China and India with expanding middle classes; the mass scale adoption of air conditioning in homes, commercial buildings and cars was inevitable. The downside to HFCs is that it is considered to be much more destructive to the climate than carbon dioxide.

Turkey’s Syria Headache

Five years into the 'oust Assad' campaign, Turkey finds itself isolated in the region and beyond. After a narrow escape from a failed coup attempt, President Erdogan may finally be rethinking his Syria policy. Because the arming of rebels that included hard-line Islamists has not only contributed to the killing of some 280,000 innocents, it also brought upon Turkey the problem of millions of cross-border refugees and failed to put a dent against the Kurdish Workers' Party, i.e. PKK. The overly ambitious foreign policy of the Turkish government where Erdogan found himself at odds with Egypt, Libya and of course Syria, has done little to raise his profile in the region. That the Syrian engagement is a foolhardy experiment where the rebels cannot bring down Assad is now all the more evident with Russia's entry into the conflict.

The Importance of Soft Power

The world is at war with extremists. Developed and developing nations, whether it is France, the United States, Russia or China, the Middle East or countries in the sub-continent, we are all battling one form of Muslim militancy or another. And while alliances are being forged on a regional or trans-continental basis to fight outfits like the Boko Haram, Al Qaeda or the Islamic State (IS), and battles are being fought out on land in Iraq Syria, Libya or Yemen, on the streets of Paris or in Dhaka, every nation that has faced the onslaught of extremists who are connected to a global network of jihadists that is increasingly sophisticated, the realisation that they are now battling for the 'hearts and minds' of the populace is emerging.

When Kids Become Monsters

We have been attacked as never before. The facts do not need to be repeated. The savagery with which 20 hostages were slaughtered need not be retold. Islamic terrorism has arrived in Bangladesh with a bang and it has shaken us to our foundations. The relative peace we lived in while the world around us disintegrated in the face of onslaught by extremist outfits such as the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda and other similar outfits across the length and breadth of all continents is now not news anymore, merely a fact of life.

Islamic State: Foreign Fighter Trends

Thanks to Edward Snowden dumping sensitive data on to the net, there now exists more accurate estimates on foreign fighters recruited by the Islamic State (IS). Indeed, going by The Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point (United States Military Academy) recently made available a report titled 'The Caliphate's Global Workforce: An Inside Look at the Islamic State's Foreign Fighter Paper Trail' which provides data of some 4,600 foreign fighters recruited between early 2013 and 2014. This study which is a compilation of 4018 Mujahid Data forms, 2 Excel files (with 155 individuals entered), Exit records (31 files, 431 individuals) and 15 miscellaneous files provide a pattern of recruitment, which interestingly points to something rather disturbing, i.e. Europeans are signing up in alarming numbers, mostly from smaller countries like Belgium and Denmark. We are talking continental Europe here and the IS has successfully recruited from East and West and the Balkans.