ASPI suggests
20 Feb 2015|

In this week’s collection of reads and podcasts, we’ve got Islamic State and sovereignty, Indonesian politics, China’s South China Sea policies, Nigeria and Boko Haram, drones and more.

Does ISIS believe in sovereignty? Richard A. Nielsen writes on Monkey Cage blog that ISIS’ ideology puts the group at odds with norms of Westphalian sovereignty. Demolishing political borders between Syria and Iraq appears to be in keeping with their jihad on the concepts of international relations.

On the other hand, Audrey Kurth Cronin argues that ISIS behaves more like a ‘proto-state’ and, in policy terms, that means counterterrorism frameworks are ‘ill-suited’. (And for those with a Foreign Affairs subscription, Kurth Cronin’s essay, ‘ISIS is not a terrorist group’, expands on the important differences between organisations like al-Qaeda and ISIS.) Cronin’s assessment is a counterpoint to that of the Obama Administration: on Tuesday the President emphasised the ‘t’-word in refererring to ISIS during this week’s Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington.

While the Chan–Sukumaran news dominates in Australia, there have been other concerning developments in Indonesia such as the ongoing battle between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Read Jacqueline Hicks on what the POLRI–KPK stoush reveals about how Jokowi is handling transactional politics and the parliament.

CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has some striking before-and-after images of how China has been reclaiming and building on islands in the South China Sea. If you haven’t already, it’s worth subscribing to the AMTI Brief for updates.

But what do Chinese citizens think of the PRC’s policies in the East and South China Seas? UWA researcher Andrew Chubb’s new report (PDF) synthesises the results of a Chinese-language survey that explores how Chinese citizens receive information about territory troubles and how they think the PRC should behave. Interestingly, of the ten policy options presented, ‘international publicity’ received the most support, while ‘send in the troops’ was close to the bottom for both potential flashpoints. Keep reading here (or join us in Canberra for a panel discussion with Andrew Chubb, see Events below).

International Crisis Group has a useful Q&A on what the postponement of Nigeria’s general elections means for Africa and for the fight against Boko Haram. Meanwhile, Hilary Matfess looks at what’s next for Nigeria’s democracy.

Sticking with the African continent, have you ever heard of the ADF? The other ADF? an Islamist group in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Often overshadowed by Boko Haram, the Allied Democratic Forces was founded in Uganda 20 years ago. But a recent operation by the Congolese military made it possible for UN experts to interview fighters and analyse the organisation. In addition to implementing a form of sharia law, the ADF’s government ran, among other things, an internal security service and orphanage. For more, read Daniel Fahey’s overview here.

UAV enthusiasts, check out Robert Farley’s ‘The five most deadly drone powers in the world’ which features the capabilities of all the usual suspects but ends by asking which countries could potentially replace the ‘D5’.

Lastly, restrain yourselves, ladies, KJU has a new ‘do! Giving new meaning to a ‘high and tight’, one site wants to know, given the haircut’s obvious strength, should it be made a potential party to the six-party talks in its own right?


Over at Sinica, Kaiser Kuo and Jeremey Goldkorn interview Howard French to discuss the impact of Chinese development activities in Africa as well as the complications in China’s ‘win-win’ approach to investment in Africa (46mins).


Canberra: Next Tuesday 24 February, the Menzies Research Centre will holding the inaugural forum of the National Security Network at Parliament House at 5–6pm. This iteration grapples with options for the ANZUS alliance in light of changes to global power, featuring Michael L’Estrange and Ross Babbage. Stick around after for a networking event 6–7pm. Registration is essential and available here.

ASPI and the Perth USAsia Centre are jointly hosting a panel discussion on Chinese public opinion on maritime disputes and the implications of China’s actions for regional stability on Monday 2 March at 2pm. The event’s free and more details, including registration, are available here.

Calling nuclear wonks: ANU’s SDSC is hosting the US State Department’s Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, who’ll deliver a lecture on ‘Stemming the nuclear tide: the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at 45’, on Thursday 5 March at 6pm. Registration is required and available here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist