Where to now? Twists in the Yemen takeover

Co-authored with Danya Greenfield, former Deputy Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council.  

We provide an overview of the rapidly-evolving situation in Yemen following the Houthi rebel takeover of government last week. We look at what this means for the US counter-terrorism strategy and how Yemen’s allies can continue to support the country through this latest political crisis.

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American Sniper. The media takes more than potshots in war



I can’t imagine there was much popcorn munching as cinema-goers in Baghdad sat watching American Sniper.

The film about Chris Kyle and his record assassination of Iraqis opened last weekend in Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt, sparking outrage at the film’s depiction of both Iraqis and the main character. While turnout in those countries was relatively low, the number of Americans who saw the movie- reportedly people who hadn’t visited the cinema in years- is testimony to its popularity here. As one viewer in the United States expressed to me:

“Finally a movie that doesn’t trash our hard work in wars around the world. I ‘m tired of all the films that make America and American soldiers out to be the bad guy”.

Whatever our personal thoughts, the views that are being expressed illustrate  the increasingly instrumental role that the media plays in shaping opinions about war, and in modern warfare itself.

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Why we should care about Yemen (and its not all about Al Qaeda )



You may have noticed Yemen in the news lately. One of the Charlie Hebdo attackers was trained there, and Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attack. In the last few days, the actions of the Ansarullah group- also known as the Houthi rebels- that took Sana’a in September 2014, culminated with  the capture and resignation of President Hadi amid Houthi demands for constitutional amendments and greater power-sharing.

Yemen’s future is, again, uncertain.

Whilst only a small country, this oft-ailing state is important – and not only because of Al Qaeda’s presence. Instead of heeding the calls to throw-in the towel or send in the troops, here is why (and how) we should continue to care about Yemen:

Look out also for our forthcoming interview on Yemen’s future with Danya Greenfield, Deputy Director of the Rafiq Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council.

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In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, Two Views is highlighting 5 activists working to secure equal rights and social justice around the world.  Here is our list of 5 tireless advocates who have dared to speak up in the hope of making our lives better:

  1. Fatima Jibrell

 0702jibrellIn a country that lacked a central government for nearly two decades, the fate of Somalia’s environment  would seem nearly futile.  Fatima Jibrell, however, persevered  as an environmental activist working to empower local communities to conserve and  manage their natural resources.  In the wake of Somalia’s 1991 civil war, she co-founded the non-profit organization Adeso (previously called the Horn of Africa Relief and Develop Organization). In recognition of her advocacy of community-driven environmental consciousness, Jibrell was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2002 and the National Geographic/Buffet Award for Leadership in African Conservation in 2007.  Most recently in November 2014, she became Somalia’s first Champion of the Earth, the United Nations top environment award.

  1. Emily Stanger

In 2012, emilyForbes Magazine named Emily Stanger to its Top 30 Under 30 list.  Since then, Stanger has been working in Liberia and Sierra Leone to enhance economic opportunities for women in West Africa.  In early 2014, when many were fleeing Sierra Leone during the peak of the Ebola outbreak, Emily redirected her efforts and became an advisor in the Office of the President in Sierra Leone to combat the rapid spread of the ebola virus. One of Stanger’s many contributions to organizing Sierra Leone’s ebola response was spearheading the transformation of a local hotline into a high capacity call center that answered and responded to more than 2,000 ebola-related calls daily. Stanger continues to work tirelessly with the hope that Sierra Leone will be ebola-free in the very near future.


Charlie Hebdo & our right to say what we want. Four off-the-mark commentaries

Charlie Hebdo attack opens a Can of Worms, by Jason Crislip The comparison of President Obama to Hitler by Rep. Randy Weber (R) of Texas, Rupert Murdoch’s (unsurprising) comments on the responsibility of ‘all Muslims’, and Steven Emerson’s ‘leading expert’ blooper on Birmingham being an only-Muslim town….  There’s been quite a bit of “wish I hadn’t said that” in the recent commentary on the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The quest for real insights, a healthy public debate and the spirit of ‘leaving no angle uncovered’ means we’ve seen some less-than-well-thought-out, and sometimes uninformed, commentary. But let’s not forget that its our right to say what we want. Here are four of the most interesting off-the-mark commentaries in the mainstream media on the Charlie Hebdo attack:

1.“We need to talk about virgins in heaven” is the title of this opinion piece published in The Huffington Post, UK edition.
Can we please add name-calling to the list of things we need to talk about, Mr. Sturgis?

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Thank you Charlie Hebdo. What we can learn from the debate on the Paris cartoon attack

CharlieHebdo Biscuit

One of the few positive things that has come out of the tragic attack and killing of the Charlie Hebdo satire cartoonists in Paris is the depth of the debate that we’re seeing concerning freedom of speech, ethics, inequality and other issues. There are many divergent reactions and opinions out there and, alongside the inevitable vitriol, there’s some very candid reflection.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo is not just about cartoonists and killers, obviously.

This is evident in that the commentary touches upon everything from immigration issues, foreign fighters, capitalism, modernity and societal inequalities to our methods used in the war on terror. These seemingly disparate issues are being linked, disputed, disregarded, and- most importantly- debated.

Here are nine of the best English-language pieces out there on the Charlie Hebdo cartoon Paris attack (and some quotes from them) that are pushing us to think harder, deeper and perhaps even more laterally, about the killings and the entire associated problematic.  Watch out for the expletives!

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D.C’s growing homeless crisis. Where do the homeless go when its cold?


“As cold as the surface of Mars”. Those were truly chilling words to read about the temperatures sweeping North America the past few days. Exposure to such cold is downright dangerous. Studies estimate that approximately 28,000 deaths in the USA-  more than 1% of all deaths- occur each year due to hypothermia and other exposure-related causes; many are of homeless people.

While Washington D.C’s Dupont Circle residents who lost power on tuesday got a little taste of what its like to be without heat in such conditions, that’s nothing to compare with our fellow city residents on the streets. For those in the area who are used to greeting D.C’s homeless, you may have noticed fewer familiar faces in the past days. That’s not because there are actually fewer homeless- in fact, D.C. has a growing homelessness crisis. Where do the homeless when its cold? Could the Affordable Housing initiative and the D.C 2024 Olympic bid make a difference to the growing homeless crisis?

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