Category Archives: The Intelligence, Summer 2013

The Drought After the Arab Spring

IMG_3667An economic ‘dry summer’ followed the Arab Spring in post-revolution Tunisia.

by Clare Cushing

The Arab Spring began two and a half years ago in a small, dusty town in the middle of Tunisia, just north of its barren deserts. If you were to drive through Sidi Bouzid now, you would see sheep being hung to bleed into the orange sand and smell mouth-wateringly fresh barbecue kebabs being cooked on the side of the road. But above all else you would be struck by the abject poverty that is found here. A few mud-shack shops line the side of the road. Men sit in the cafes, on the pavement, on the road, and on the grass with bored, loafing expressions, cups of strong green tea with almonds, and perhaps the protection of a piece of shade. Some cover their eyes with their scarves and sleep. If there is anything here, there is time. As in most of Tunisia, there is not much to do. Jobs are scarce. In Sidi Bouzid it is easy to imagine the economic despair Mohamed Bouazizi must have felt when he deliberately set fire to himself in 2010, unwittingly also sparking the flame that would start the Arab Spring.

Unfortunately, almost three years after the revolution, things have only gotten worse. The nation is facing a severe economic crisis. Tunisia’s unemployment rate for 2012 was at 18.8 percent with over 33 percent among its youth, putting Tunisia’s unemployment rate among the highest 25 percent in the world; in 2010, the high unemployment rate, which in part initiated the revolution, was a full 4.8 percent lower. Likewise, while GDP growth was at a steady 3.1 percent in 2010, it dropped to 1.9 percent in 2011. Although GDP is now gaining some ground and is back up to about 3.6 percent, this rate is much lower than the original 2010 predictions for the 2013 GDP, which estimated it to be around 6 percent growth.

Over the last decade, Tunisia’s main industries have been petroleum, mining, tourism, and textiles. In 2007, before the global economic crisis, Tunisia’s industrial production growth rate was as high as 7.2 percent. In 2010, before the revolution, Tunisia was still maintaining a slow but constant industrial production growth rate of 1.6 percent. In post-revolution 2011, however, this dropped dramatically to a 6.4 percent yearly decline. Although some recovery has been made since then, Tunisia’s industries are still in a state of utter despair.

Without political stability, it seems unlikely that …

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Islamic Extremism Festering in Russia

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

The Boston Bombers were not likely part of a Russian terror organization, but the next ones could be.

by Cristina Maza

In the wake of the Boston bombings, spotlights were shone on Russia’s Muslim-majority republics in a way unseen since the second Chechen War came to an end in 2009. The two brothers who perpetrated the bombings, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, have family ties throughout the region, leading many to believe that the atrocious acts of terror they committed were linked to global terrorism networks that originate in the northern Caucasus and span across the world into the United States. Many astute commentators, however, doubt that the crimes of the Tsarnaev brothers had much to do with their connections to a specific religious leader or extremist group. Experts in the United States are split over whether the two brothers were at all part of a larger conspiracy or just two lost boys who, unable to assimilate into American culture, turned to radical Islam in search of a lost identity.

The life stories of these two troubled youth, their connections to the post-Soviet space, and the path that brought them to the United States are perplexing, to say the least. Both of the Tsarnaev parents are of Chechen origin, but it is unclear whether either of the two brothers were born in Chechnya. While some sources claim that at least the eldest brother was, others have found that he was born in the area now known as Kalmykia. What is clear is that after the war broke out in 1999, the family fled first to Dagestan (where the younger Tsarnaev brother eventually attended elementary school) and then to neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

After the family immigrated to the United States in 2002, the boys did not return to the region until 2011 when their father moved back to Dagestan after falling ill. Following his father’s return to Russia, the eldest Tsarnaev brother spent six months in Dagestan, where some believe he was influenced by radical factions. Those accused of influencing the eldest Tsarnaev during his visit to Russia include diverse figures such as Caucasus Emirate terror group leader Dokka Umarov and members of the Dagestan-based extremist group Shariat Jamaat. None of these connections, however, have been proven.

If Tamerlan Tsarnaev was influenced during his 2012 journeys to Chechnya and Dagestan, it is more likely to have been by foreign jihadists residing in the Caucasus. Salafism, also known as Wahhabism, a radical branch of Islam, has become increasingly present since the second Chechen War brought volunteer veterans from Afghanistan and other surrounding areas. Following the war, many of the volunteers remained to establish terrorist sects in the region. The international community paid little attention to the phenomenon until …

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Obama Tries to Cool the Planet

John Kerry in India
John Kerry in India

In a speech on Climate Change, the U.S. President sets a clear direction for the U.S. and the world.

by Dinesh Sharma

If visuals could convey his message, Obama wiping his brow with his handkerchief in the summer heat as he delivered his speech on the climate, it suggested that ‘he gets it.’ In Washington on June 25, Obama spoke on America’s role in preventing climate change. The day prior, Al Gore blogged on his Facebook page, “Looking forward to tomorrow’s speech by President Obama. We must not delay, there is too much at stake.” In the President’s wide-ranging speech on climate change, Gore was not disappointed: Obama tried to cool the planet.

As the president flew off to Sub-Saharan Africa the same week, one of the regions facing the wrath of climate devastation, he made a resounding call to action.  Is this the second coming of the almost mythic and progressive Obama, who like Superman flies from one corner of the earth to another to save it?  Mired in controversies from the NSA-Snowden story and the IRS debacle and facing a gridlock in Congress, the President may have sounded a clarion call to action, but it is not clear what will actually materialize from his progressive speech:

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged, and by taking an all-of-the-above approach to develop homegrown energy and steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our kids’ health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so we leave a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations.

He said the U.S. has “limits in place for arsenic, mercury, and lead, but we let power plants release as much carbon pollution as they want.” These carbon emissions contribute to higher rates of asthma attacks and cause frequent and severe floods and heat waves.

While arguing for the safety of the next generation, Obama also made a case for innovation and independence from foreign oil—suggesting that we need “cleaner forms of American energy”.  Tackling one of the major challenges of the 21st century will require …

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The U.S. Immigration Vote: Will it End the Debate?

U.S.-Mexico border fence
U.S.-Mexico border fence

A new bill passed through the Senate but still under debate in the House may solve America’s immigration woes.

by Yatindra Bhatnagar

The United States is, and will always remain, a nation of immigrants. The magnet of opportunity and the hope to succeed will continue draw people from all over the globe. A recent survey has indicated that over 130 million people from far and near want to immigrate to the United States, more than to any other country. The influx has continued both legally and illegally for over two centuries and may well continue forever.

The debate for and against immigration—illegal and also legal—will also never end, but in June, a bipartisan majority of Senators agreed to a new immigration reform bill. The bill passed through the U.S. Senate by a 68-32 vote margin, ending the immigration reform debate in its chamber and moving the debate on to the House, which, at the time of this publication, has yet to approve the bill. The new legislation offers the possibility of citizenship to over 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country as well as dedicating significant efforts to strengthening the border.

The immigration reform includes a mandatory, national employment verification system; allows for more legal immigration of low- and high-skilled workers; improves border security; and eventually gives Green Cards to most of the nation’s 11 million illegal, or undocumented, immigrants who pass background checks and pay fines.

The bill is making history. The long path to citizenship it introduces for present illegal immigrants ensures their future and takes the first major step in this direction in almost 27 years. In 1986 amnesty was offered to over three million illegal immigrants who got a chance to get Green Cards and eventually citizenship. That was thought at the time to be a sure step to stop the illegal influx, but it failed sadly and miserably. The result, another 11 million undocumented (meaning illegal) immigrants are now being added to the population, creating further incentive for many more to come.

The Senate’s comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill was …

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Translating a Culture

England’s Prince William “Patel”
England’s Prince William “Patel”

The cultural diffusion of English in India paved the way for modern globalization.

by Dinesh Sharma

The link between language, culture, and power is undisputed. This link is at the root of culture and language security. In India, it was colonization that first implemented the English language as one of power on the subcontinent. But surprisingly, the cultural diffusion of English in India began much earlier than we had thought—well before English was officially introduced as the language of education and discourse.

Prince William Patel

The news in June that England’s Prince William’s great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Eliza Kewark, was of Indian origin sent amusing sensations through the Indian news media. According to BritainsDNA, a gene typing company, Ms. Kewark gave birth to Prince William’s great-great-great-great-grandmother, Katharine Scott Forbes, in 1812. “It’s a great thing to unite people across the distances,” said Dr. Jim Wilson, a geneticist at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at BritainsDNA.

As Indophile writer Patrick French observed, this shows that the second-in-line to the British throne is 1/256 Indian in origin. Apparently the hunt is on for Prince William’s other ancestors in Surat, Gujarat. According to genetic testing, a rare variation of mitochondrial DNA passed through the mother’s line links Prince William to Ms. Kewark, who was a housekeeper of William’s fifth great-grandfather, Theodore Forbes, a Scottish merchant who worked in Surat for the East India Company. Previously, Ms. Kewark was thought to be of Armenian origins; now it turns out she was half Indian.

British Asians welcomed the news with a pleasant surprise. Keith Vaz, the senior Labour MP of Indian origin, told the Hindustan Times, “At last all Indians have a royal connection. As a long-lost cousin, perhaps Prince William can now kindly bring back the Koh-i-Noor diamond which the rest of his family borrowed many years ago!” Priti Patel, a prominent Tory MP, said of the Royal connection, “We hope this includes a love of curry and Bollywood dancing!  Indians in Britain will look upon him as one of us.”

As the historian William Dalrymple has shown in The White Moguls, prior to the First War of Independence (also known as the Indian Mutiny) in 1857, intermarriages and sexual liaison between English civil servants, soldiers, and merchants and the Indian population during peacetimes were …

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