Rohingya refugee crisis a ‘grave security risk’, ICG warns

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army may “shift to cross-border attacks” using Bangladesh as a base for recruitment and training, conflict analysts ICG warned on Thursday. Above, a young Rohingya refugee holds a toy gun at the Shamlapur camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2017
0

Rohingya refugee crisis a ‘grave security risk’, ICG warns

YANGON: Prolonged displacement of Rohingya refugees in squalid Bangladeshi camps poses a “grave security risk,” conflict analysts ICG warned Thursday, raising the specter of militants recruiting among the displaced and launching cross-border attacks on Myanmar.
Raids by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on August 25 sparked the vicious Myanmar army response, which has forced more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee Rakhine state for Bangladesh.
ARSA “appears determined to regroup and remain relevant” and may draw on desperate Rohingya refugees languishing in camps for future operations, the ICG International Crisis Group said in the report.
The group may “shift to cross-border attacks” using Bangladesh as a base for recruitment and training, the study said, cautioning the risk of an ever-deepening cycle of violence is all too real.
“Such attacks would have profoundly negative consequences,” straining Myanmar-Bangladesh relations and worsening contempt for the Rohingya “that would further diminish prospects of an eventual refugee return.”
Global outcry over the refugee crisis, one of the worst in recent history, has triggered a hyper-defensive response inside the country, where anti-Rohingya attitudes have hardened since ARSA’s emergence.
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group eligible for citizenship, instead calling them “Bengali,” suggesting they are illegal immigrants.
In another serious looming risk, ICG warned that Rohingya’s plight has become a “cause celebre of the Muslim world” with Al-Qaeda, Daesh and other global jihadi groups calling for attacks on Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military has repeatedly used the terror threat to justify its campaign in northern Rakhine state.
ARSA has distanced itself from any wider global cause for jihad, saying it is only fighting to protect Rohingya rights.
International pressure is ratcheting up on Myanmar.
This week the UN rights chief said Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya showed possible “elements of genocide,” as calls for the safe and sustainable repatriation of refugees grows.
Myanmar refutes any wrongdoing saying it was forced into a defensive action by ARSA attacks.
It has agreed with Bangladesh to start repatriation of “eligible” refugees within a few months.
But there are widespread doubts over how many Rohingya can prove they are entitled to return to Rakhine, or want to go back to areas riddled with communal mistrust and where their villages were razed.
China, a key strategic ally of Myanmar, is pitching itself as an arbiter in the crisis, and has repeatedly urged the international community to take a softline on Myanmar.
But pressure is mounting in the West — particularly Washington — to reimpose targeted sanctions on Myanmar military figures.
Sanctions were slowly rolled back in recent years as reward for democratic gains after decades of outright junta rule.
The ICG study said any fresh sanctions would backfire by isolating Myanmar and calcifying hatred toward the Rohingya.


US launches campaign to erode support for Iran’s leaders

US President Donald Trump, second right, is flanked by, from left, Security Adviser John Bolton, the US ambassador to Finland Robert Frank Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a working breakfast with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in Helsinki, Finland, in this July 16, 2018 photo, prior to his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital. (AP)
Updated 22 July 2018
0

US launches campaign to erode support for Iran’s leaders

  • Washington has long called Iran the world’s leading “state sponsor of terrorism” because Tehran arms and funds proxy militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah
  • Iranian leaders refused to spend on their people funds freed by the nuclear weapons deal, using it instead for proxy wars and corruption

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups, US officials familiar with the matter said.
More than half a dozen current and former officials said the campaign, supported by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, is meant to work in concert with US President Donald Trump’s push to economically throttle Iran by re-imposing tough sanctions. The drive has intensified since Trump withdrew on May 8 from a 2015 seven-nation deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The current and former officials said the campaign paints Iranian leaders in a harsh light, at times using information that is exaggerated or contradicts other official pronouncements, including comments by previous administrations.
The White House declined comment on the campaign. The State Department did not respond to detailed requests for comment, including on Pompeo’s role.
A senior Iranian official dismissed the campaign, saying the United States had sought in vain to undermine the government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Their efforts will fail again,” the official said.
MORE CRITICAL POSTS
A review of the State Department’s Farsi-language Twitter account and its ShareAmerica website — which describes itself as a platform to spark debate on democracy and other issues — shows a number of posts critical of Tehran over the last month.
Iran is the subject of four of the top five items on the website’s “Countering Violent Extremism” section. They include headlines such as “This Iranian airline helps spread violence and terror.”
In social media posts and speeches, Pompeo himself also appeals directly to Iranians, the Iranian diaspora and a global audience.
On June 21, Pompeo tweeted out graphics headlined: “Protests in Iran are growing,” “Iranian people deserve respect for their human rights,” and “Iran’s revolutionary guard gets rich while Iranian families struggle.” The tweets were translated into Farsi and posted on the ShareAmerica website.
On Sunday, Pompeo will give a speech titled “Supporting Iranian Voices” in California and meet Iranian Americans, many of whom fled the Islamic Revolution that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
In a briefing to reporters this week ahead of the speech, a senior State Department official said Pompeo plans to address in his speech the “last 40 years of stealing from the Iranian people, the terrorism they have committed around the region, the brutal repression at home.”
AGGRESSIVE CAMPAIGN
Some of the information the administration has disseminated is incomplete or distorted, the current and former officials said.
In a May 21 speech in Washington, Pompeo said Iranian leaders refused to spend on their people funds freed by the nuclear weapons deal, using it instead for proxy wars and corruption.
By contrast, in March testimony before a US Senate committee, the US Defense Intelligence Agency director, Robert Ashley, said social and economic expenditures remained Tehran’s near-term priority despite some spending on security forces.
Pompeo also accused “Iran-sponsored Shia militia groups and terrorists” of infiltrating Iraqi security forces and jeopardizing Iraq’s sovereignty throughout the period of the nuclear agreement.
While opponents accuse the Iran-backed Iraqi militias of human rights abuses against civilians, which the groups deny, the militias fought Daesh extremists and helped keep them from overrunning Iraq in 2014 after Iraq’s army collapsed. They then aided the US-backed offensives that liberated Daesh-held territory and some units are being incorporated into Iraqi security forces.
Experts said the administration also is exaggerating the closeness of the relationship between Iran and Afghanistan’s Taliban militants and Al-Qaeda by calling them co-conspirators.
The State Department did not respond to requests for comment about the accuracy of the information it was disseminating.
It is too early to determine the impact of the administration’s communications campaign, US officials said.

TWO POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, said the strategy to economically strangle Iran and stoke public discontent with the leadership aimed to produce one of two outcomes.
“Outcome one is capitulation, forcing Iran to further curtail not only its nuclear program but also its regional ambitions,” Sadjadpour said. “Outcome two is the implosion of the Islamic Republic.”
But some US officials and other experts cautioned that by fueling turmoil in Iran, the US administration could foster greater authoritarian rule and a more aggressive foreign policy, raising the threat of a US-Iran confrontation.
Washington has long called Iran the world’s leading “state sponsor of terrorism” because Tehran arms and funds proxy militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah. Iranian leaders urge the destruction of the United States and Israel, and Iranian proxies have killed hundreds of US soldiers and diplomats since the Islamic Revolution.
That record provided previous administrations with ample material for waging their own public relations campaigns against Tehran, including trying to communicate directly with the Iranian people.
President George W. Bush’s administration established Radio Farda, a US-funded broadcaster that beams into Iran what it says is “objective and accurate news and information to counter state censorship and ideology-based media coverage.” The Obama administration launched a Farsi Twitter account — @USAdarFarsi – in 2011.