Djibouti, New Battlefield of China’s Global Ambitions

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 5, May 2019

By Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Hong Kong Baptist University

Ships carrying Chinese military personnel depart from a port on July 11, 2017 in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province of China. VCG/VCG via Getty Images.

On August 1, 2017, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) opened in Djibouti, a former French colony of Eastern Africa, its first outpost overseas. Presented as a logistic support facility rather than a full-fledged military and naval base (1,000 to 2,000 personnel), the PLA presence in this strategic spot is a game changer not only in this part of the world but also globally.

Located next to the Bab el Manded, the strait that controls any southern access to the red sea, Djibouti is of strategic importance not only for China. Since its independence in 1977, it has kept a meaningful albeit diminishing French military presence (1,450 personnel). Since 2002, it also includes a large American military base (4,000). More recently, for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, other militaries, for example the Italians and the Japanese, have set foot in this tiny territory not bigger than Belgium.

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Senate Undermines America as an Alliance Partner: The Resolution to Ban US Military Assistance in Yemen

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 12, December 2018 

By William R. Hawkins

Tribal gunmen loyal to the Huthi movement brandish their weapons on March 26, 2015 during a gathering in Sanaa to show support to the Shiite Huthi militia and against the Saudi-led intervention in the country. Warplanes from a Saudi-led Arab coalition bombed Huthi rebels in support of Yemen’s embattled president, as regional rival Iran warned the intervention was a “dangerous” move. Credit: MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

Those who pushed the U.S. Senate to adopt Senate Joint Resolution 54 (S.J.Res.54), “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress” in mid-December sought to avoid any mention of the strategic importance of Yemen, the nature of the civil war that has been raging there, or the support Iran has been giving the Shia Houthi rebels who started the conflict. Instead, the resolution aimed only at the U.S.-Saudi alliance and the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting to defend the internationally recognized Yemen government. No American combat units are involved in the Yemen conflict. The U.S. has been providing intelligence and logistical support to give a critical edge to the coalition forces that are doing the actual fighting.

The supposed purpose of the resolution was to “punish” Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi activist working to topple the regime. He is commonly called a “journalist” but was actually only a writer of opinion pieces published by The Washington Post and other liberal outlets. His views were not compatible with American interests in the Middle East as I outlined in the October 20 issue of this journal.

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Gulf Geopolitics Casts Shadow Over Somalia

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 7, July 2017

By Haroon Mohamoud

Tribal infighting—of which the recent Gulf blockade on Qatar is merely a modern manifestation—is nothing new to the Arabian Peninsula. Feuding among the Al Sauds, Al Thanis, Al Khalifas, Al Sabahs and a handful of other royal families—who rule Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the emirates of the UAE—is almost as old as their respective genealogies (1).

In the early twentieth century, the discovery of the world’s largest oil reserves in the region brought a gradual end to scarcity, thereby removing the fuel for much of this turbulence among warring factions. And just as petrodollars financed the modernisation of the barren deserts particularly with ever higher glass towers, it has also created powerful regimes in the region that seek to enhance their geopolitical clout.

One particular arena where this export of influence is acute is in the Horn of Africa (2). Prized for its strategic position for centuries, it is fast becoming a stage where the Gulf blockade is being played out (3). The process could well be drawn out, its results long-lasting.

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Political Risk to Investment in Iran: Sanctions, Inflation, Protectionism, War, Bonyads, and the IRGC

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 7, November 2013.

Figure 1: Foreign Investment in Iran and its Neighboring Countries, March 19, 2012-March 19, 2013. Data Source: The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran News.

Figure 1: Foreign Investment in Iran and its Neighboring Countries, March 19, 2012-March 19, 2013. Data Source: The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran News.

By Reza Yeganehshakib

Despite a tumultuous recent political history that includes revolution, war and sanctions, relations between Iran and the West are improving and Western investors are increasingly interested. But, Iran’s politics cause sanctions, and the economy suffers from inflation. Protectionist laws are on the books, and in some cases economic crimes are punishable by death. Regardless of warming relations with the West, Iran has in the past reneged on its agreements, and war is still a risk with non-Western bordering countries and regional powers. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has nationalized foreign investments in the recent past, and the politically powerful revolutionary foundations known as Bonyads control large segments of the most lucrative investment sectors. Continue reading

Physical Vulnerability of the Internet

US-East-Coast-Map-of-Submarine-CablesJournal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 7, November 2013.

By Tom Elliott, Ph.D.

On March 27, 2013, while the technology world preoccupied itself with a sophisticated cyberattack on a spam prevention service, a low-tech assault on the Internet was taking place in shallow waters off Alexandria, Egypt. Three men with scuba gear and a fishing boat were arrested while allegedly trying to cut one of the main communications cables that links Europe to the Middle East and Africa.[1] This incident of hacking – in the most literal sense of the word – should remind us that the Internet we all rely upon depends upon physical infrastructure, much of which is easily located and relatively unprotected.

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Stalemate in Egypt: Expect Years of Insurgency vs. Autocracy

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 6, October 2013.

Map of Egypt. Source: University of Texas.

Map of Egypt. Source: University of Texas.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Egypt is on the verge of being engulfed by a long-term insurgency. After a brief period of democratization following the Arab Spring, the world’s most populous Arab country has returned to a popular military dictatorship. General Sisi will likely lead the country, either as power behind the President, or as President himself. The primary difference between the Egypt of Sisi and the Egypt of the pre-Arab-Spring Mubarak will be a function of the overthrow of the democratic Islamism of President Morsi. A new outraged minority with pro-democracy and pro-Islamist beliefs fielded popular protests, and was repressed with lethal force. A significant minority of that minority will now divert their energy towards terrorism and organized insurgency.

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Political Risk in The Gambia: Crime, Terrorism, Monetary Instability, Small Business Flight, and Protectionism

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 4, August 2013.

Figure 1: Comparison of Gambia and Sierra Leone on the Ease of Doing Business in 2013. Data Source: World Bank. [1]

Figure 1: Comparison of Gambia and Sierra Leone on the Ease of Doing Business in 2013. Data Source: World Bank. [1]

By Anders Corr, Ph.D., and Naheed Vadsaria

Political risk in the tiny West African state of “The Gambia” is high.  Named after the small river around which its borders fluctuate, the country hosts a dictatorship established in a 1994 coup. The country also hosts Hizbollah operatives who conduct international financial transactions, and is one of the top African cocaine transshipment points to Europe. Local businesses are considering fleeing to Sierra Leone to escape a raft of seemingly arbitrary and protectionist laws promulgated by the President for potentially personal reasons.

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Political Risk to the Mining Industry in Tanzania

Data Source: African Economic Outlook, National Accounts of Tanzania Mainland.

Data Source: African Economic Outlook, National Accounts of Tanzania Mainland.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2013.

By Ilan Cooper and Nathan Stevens

Long considered an anchor of East African stability, Tanzania has recently made headlines for aggressive expansion of its mining and extractive industries. In what might be considered growing pains, economic prosperity has strained government and civilian relations, and is increasingly testing the governance skills of Tanzania’s Ministries. Adverse investment laws, widening religious conflict, and proliferation of small arms and light weapons, however, tarnish Tanzania’s image as a peaceful and prosperous republic. Continue reading