Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Haiku of OSINT for 06/22/14

Militants advance
Sunni terror to Baghdad
Shiites will respond

Responsibility To Protect Doctrine And Iranian Dissidents In Iraq

The responsibility to protect (R2P) is an emerging norm in international relations.  It modifies the inviolability of state sovereignty and allows the international community to intervene in a state's internal affairs to prevent genocide.  The UN system has two special advisers developing this norm within the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  Determining how well states are enforcing this norm is now a worthy US foreign policy objective.  Let's pick a test case from the Middle East.

The People's Mojahedin of Iran (aka Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK) are a longstanding Iranian dissident group that first opposed the Shah and later opposed the Islamic revolutionary government.  MEK had a history of causing trouble in several countries but cleaned up its act in recent years.  It convinced a critical mass of prominent Americans to lobby for its removal from the US State Department's list of designated terrorist organizations.  Its exile within Iraq left the Shiite-led government with both a bargaining chip and a humanitarian responsibility.

Iraq could have used MEK's status as a showpiece for its commitment to human rights.  Keeping the group disarmed and safeguarded was a no-brainer opportunity to show the Middle East that Iraq was serious about not interfering in its neighbors' affairs.  The Al-Maliki government instead squandered this opportunity by allowing armed elements, with the alleged collusion of its armed forces, to raid MEK's enclaves in 2013.  The influence Tehran now possesses in Baghdad may have been an enabling factor in the attacks against MEK.  The mechanisms of anti-MEK action are less important than the precedent they set.  Baghdad's inability or unwillingness to ensure fair treatment of a dissident group was a clear signal to Sunnis that they could expect no better treatment from a Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad.

The international community can easily assemble pretexts for renewed intervention in Iraq under R2P doctrine.  The anti-MEK violence was the beginning.  ISIS has begun imposing sharia law in Mosul and other cities it has taken hostage in the last few weeks.  The Sunni tribes who acquiesced to ISIS's advance will soon regret their "inshallah" nonchalance toward that group's power grab.  The Al-Maliki government in Baghdad has proven itself unable to protect expatriate dissidents and its own minority populations.  That is a clear breach of R2P.  The human cost of nonintervention under R2P grows progressively worse with delay.  Ron Capps' Seriously Not All Right describes the horror of genocide in the face of the international community's delayed intervention in several conflicts.  UN invocation of R2P would signal to Iraq's Sunnis and stranded MEK activists that help is justified.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Haiku of OSINT for 06/14/14

Think stability
Big Data on disaster
Drive intervention

Whom To Call For Help In Stability Operations

The United States has taken a decisive swing away from armed interventions of all sorts since pulling back from military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Other actors will fill the empty space left by Uncle Sam's absent forces.  The US cannot afford to cede the mitigation of instability to others.  Count on the deep state elite to keep America's head in the stability operations game.  The roll call of miscellaneous entities doing that work is worth a look-see.

The Institute for Defense and Business is one of those entities that pops up to fill a market demand.  Their curriculum reminds me of the US Army offerings vetted through TRADOC schoolhouses.  The difference is the hybridization of course offerings that bridge knowledge gaps between the public and private sector.  There's also an interesting nexus of events and projects between the Center for Advanced Logistics Management and the Association for Enterprise Information.  National policymakers lean on these quasi-private organizations when their whole-of-government efforts need a boost.

The US government has its own interdisciplinary research programs touching stability operations.  The NDU Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) helps run the Sharing To Accelerate Research - Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support (STAR-TIDES) project.  That kind of research on how disasters drive socioeconomic disruption will eventually underpin doctrinal approaches to humanitarian intervention.  The relief sector is leveraging Big Data; CrisisMappers and Geeks Without Bonds allow tech pros to gather around Big Data approaches.  Expect USAID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance to use lessons from these projects in its future development programs.

There's enough interagency and public-private work among those projects to keep plenty of government and non-profit workers busy for the rest of their careers.  If enough of them join the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA), they will have a critical mass for trade shows and other reasons to hang out together.  Armed humanitarian intervention shouldn't happen by accident.  It's no accident that the deep state makes room for deep thinking in stability operations.