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Conflict and Peace

Stories related to violent conflicts, diplomatic tensions, and conflict prevention, mediation and resolution.

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Iran seizes Israel-linked container ship in the Gulf of Hormuz

Iran seizes Israel-linked container ship in the Gulf of Hormuz

Amid heightened tension in the Middle East, and an expectation of some sort of Iranian attack on Israel, it was announced on Saturday (13 April) that Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval units had seized an Israeli linked container ship in the Straits of Hormuz. “A container ship named ‘MCS Aries’ was seized by the Sepah (Guards) Navy Special Forces by carrying out a heliborne operation,” IRNA, the Iranian state news agency reported, adding that the operation took place “near the Strait of Hormuz” and “this ship has now been directed toward the territorial waters” of Iran. Several media sources have aired a video that shows commandos raiding a ship near the Strait of Hormuz by helicopter. The video showed the attack earlier reported by the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations. It described the vessel as being “seized by regional authorities” in the Gulf of Oman off the Emirati port city of Fujairah, without elaborating. The vessel involved is likely the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime. Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC, which did not immediately respond. The MSC Aries had been last located off Dubai heading toward the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. The ship had turned off its tracking data, which has been common for Israeli-affiliated ships moving through the region. Regional media reported that 20 Filipinos were on board the ship.
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US sees Iran moving military equipment including drones and cruise missiles

US sees Iran moving military equipment including drones and cruise missiles

The US has observed Iran moving military equipment, including drones and cruise missiles, around the country, signalling that it may be preparing to attack Israeli targets from within its own territory, two intelligence officials told CNN reporters. However, it is not clear whether Iran is preparing to strike from its soil as part of an initial attack, or whether it is posturing to try to deter Israel or the US from a possible counterstrike on its territory.  One of the intelligence officials said the US had observed Iran preparing as many as 100 cruise missiles.

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Commentary
Commentary: The four Cs that will characterise Armenia-Azerbaijan relations for the next decade

Commentary: The four Cs that will characterise Armenia-Azerbaijan relations for the next decade

Armenia and Azerbaijan have practically been in a state of war with each other ever since they emerged as independent countries following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Over the last three years they have been negotiating, sometimes with the help of others, sometimes on their own, to end the cycle of violence and usher in a new era of peace. So far they have failed to agree on the text of a peace agreement, but it is likely that eventually they will, possibly quite soon. However, even in the absence of a formal peace agreement Armenia-Azerbaijan relations are changing, and will continue to change to become much more nuanced than has been the case so far. A relationship that has so far been based on confrontation and containment is making way for one based on contact and co-operation. The process is unlikely to be very quick, or simple and easy. At least for another decade Armenia-Azerbaijan relations will continue to be a mix of all four elements: confrontation, containment, contact and co-operation. Managing this mix will be the challenge facing the leadership in the two countries. The international community must be ready to support this process tangibly and speedily.
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Commentary: encircled by war, violence and turmoil, can the six GCC countries sustain their quest for development?

Commentary: encircled by war, violence and turmoil, can the six GCC countries sustain their quest for development?

The six Gulf monarchies that form the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – project themselves as islands of peace and stability regardless of their difficult neighbourhood. For some time now their main focus has been the development of their economies – this to ensure that they can maintain their prosperity as the world transits away from hydrocarbon energy resources which up to now has been their main source of income. This they need to do not least to sustain the high standard of living to which their citizens have got used to. Ambitious plans, many costing tens of billions of euros to be implemented, are now in place. Most depend on peace, stability and tranquillity for their success. These attributes are these days in short supply in the wider region in which the GCC countries sit. An unprecedented level of war, crises and turmoil encircles the six countries. In this commentary commonspace.eu Managing Editor, Dr Dennis Sammut says that questions arise if the Gulf Monarchies have what it takes – not just in financial resources, and those things these resources can buy - but also in terms of wisdom, internal cohesion and strategic depth, to weather the storms of the future. Even if they are able to navigate the geopolitics of the moment, what impact is the tension that surrounds the region having on its domestic politics? Are the grandiose economic plans still viable, or is a more modest approach going to be necessary?
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Gaza War: the first hundred days

Gaza War: the first hundred days

The world on Sunday marked the 100th day of the war in Gaza. Thousands took to the streets across the world, many supporting one side or the other in the conflict. For the Palestinian people in Gaza the anniversary is simply another opportunity to count the dead and injured, not to speak of other untold suffering that they have to endure. And there seems to be no end in sight. Also Sunday, Israeli warplanes struck targets in Lebanon following a Hezbollah missile attack that killed two Israeli civilians — an older woman and her adult son — in northern Israel. The exchange of fire underscored concerns that the Gaza violence could trigger wider fighting across the region. The war in Gaza, launched by Israel in response to the unprecedented 7 October attack by the Palestinian group Hamas on Israeli territory, has killed nearly 24,000 Palestinians, devastated vast swaths of Gaza, driven around 85 percent of the territory’s 2.3 million residents from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population into starvation. In a sign of widening rift in the positions of Israel and the US, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaking to the CBS TV channel on Sunday (14 January) said the US has been speaking to Israel “about a transition to low-intensity operations” in Gaza.“We believe it’s the right time for that transition. And we’re talking to them about doing that".
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US and UK attack Houthi controlled areas in Yemen

US and UK attack Houthi controlled areas in Yemen

The United States and the United Kingdom have conducted overnight a series of strikes on territory in Yemen controlled by the Houthi Movement. Other countries, including Australia, Bahrain, The Netherlands and Canada provided support. Saudi Arabia allowed overflight over its territory by the attacking aircraft. The strikes were led and coordinated by the US. The Pentagon said they were intended to disrupt and degrade the Houthis' military capabilities – specifically drone and missiles sites which they’ve been using in Yemen to target international shipping in the Red Sea. In the early hours of the morning, jets from a US aircraft carrier already in the region - backed up by a tomahawk fired from US warships hit more than 12 sites - including in the capital Sanaa and the port of Hudaydah. President Biden defended the action saying the strikes were in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international shipping. The British contribution in the attack was in the form of four Typhoon jets that flew from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus - a round trip of several thousand miles - which required refuelling. They used paveway bombs to hit 2 targets – a site said to be used for launching drones and an airfield from where the Houthis have fired missiles. In a statement soon after the strikes, Rishi Sunak said Britain would always stand up for the freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade. The Houthis were defiant before the threat of airstrikes – and also now after. One of its officials posted “the battle will be bigger and beyond the imagination and expectation of the Americans and British”. “Our country was subjected to a massive aggressive attack by American and British ships, submarines and warplanes,” Houthi Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Al-Ezzi said, according to official rebel media. “America and Britain will have to prepare to pay a heavy price and bear all the dire consequences of this blatant aggression,” he said. US Central Command described military strikes against Houthi sites as a ‘success’ in a statement on Friday morning.  The US Central Command said they hold the Iranian-backed Houthis responsible for attacks on international shipping over the past few weeks. These strikes aimed to undermine the Houthi ability to carry out more attacks. Sixty targets at 16 Houthi locations were hit by more than 100 precision-guided munitions, it said.
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UN Security Council adopts strongly-worded resolution condemning Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping

UN Security Council adopts strongly-worded resolution condemning Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday evening (10 January) adopted a resolution condemning Houthi attacks against international maritime shipping in the Red Sea. The resolution condemns “in the strongest terms” multiple Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea over the past two months, which have raised concerns over disruptions in global trade and regional security.  The council demanded that the group immediately cease such behavior and release the Galaxy Leader, a Japan-operated cargo ship with links to an Israeli businessman, and its 25 crew members.   Authored by the US and Japan, the resolution stated that there should be respect for international law that upholds the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms by operators of merchant and commercial vessels. It also noted that member states have the right to defend their vessels from attacks.  Since mid-November 2023, the Houthi rebels have repeatedly attacked commercial vessels in the Red Sea, at last count 24 times, and threatened to continue to do so until Israel ends its war on Gaza.   The capture of the Galaxy Leader was followed by an attempt to seize another commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden on Nov. 26. There have now been almost daily, and indiscriminate, attacks in the Red Sea.  Prior to voting on the draft resolution, Council members voted on three amendments to the text that Russia had proposed, none of which were adopted. In all three votes, four members voted in favor (Algeria, China, Russia, and Sierra Leone), two members voted against (the UK and the US), and nine members abstained. The Council then voted on the Japan-US draft text, without any of the Russian amendments, which received 11 votes in favor and four abstentions (Algeria, China, Mozambique, and Russia). The draft text was adopted as resolution 2722.