Then and Now: Colombia, ISIS, Yemen

Then and Now: Colombia, ISIS, Yemen

Three Months Ago—Colombian rebels started rearming

In June we noted that just two years into the historic peace deal between the Colombian government and the rebels of the FARC, several thousand dissident fighters had opted to take up, or keep, their weapons.

That problem has gotten worse since then.


In late August, a former FARC leader formally called for a return to armed struggle. The current leadership of the FARC, which is now a political party, remains committed to the deal, despite misgivings from Colombian president Ivan Duque that it goes too soft on former rebels accused of grave crimes.

It remains to be seen how many fighters will heed the new call to arms, but the government's slow implementation of the economic and social justice aspects of the deal – in particular measures to speed land reform and provide alternatives to coca cultivation – have left the future of peace in doubt. Ending a war that killed 200,000 and displaced 7 million was one thing: securing the peace is proving to be quite another.

Six Months Ago—ISIS Plots a Resurgence

Six months ago, when American-backed forces pushed ISIS from its last sliver of territory in Syria, we considered how the group might continue to exert influence. Trump hailed a total defeat of the Islamic State, a claim he continues to push. But that doesn't fully match up with what even his own military says. So where do things currently stand?

Territory: The group has mostly been pushed to rural and remote areas. It's taking advantage of the porous frontier between Iraq and Syria, where security services are scarce and fragmented, to mobilize small groups and wage attacks. But the prospect of ISIS reclaiming anything close to its former territory – once the size of Britain– is negligible: ISIS' manpower has been severely reduced as a result of military defeats earlier this year. And American and international forces have kept the remaining fighters away from urban areas.

Recruitment: The Al Hol camp for displaced persons in northeast Syria, which hosts 70,000 people including ISIS family members, has become a breeding ground for terror recruits. Lax security at the tent-camp has allowed ISIS ideology to spread like wildfire, a boon for new enlistments, according to the US military. ISIS affiliates have also taken root in other countries spanning Africa and Asia, presenting a potent threat. Meanwhile, non-Middle East countries have mostly opposed ISIS fighters returning home, but the risk of ISIS inspired terror attacks remains. Many have flowed into other countries in the Middle East, joining sleeper cells.

Takeaway: Despite the collapse of its self-proclaimed caliphate, ISIS' strength and adaptability cannot be overlooked. And don't forget: the Islamic State still has millions of dollars stashed in the region. ISIS lost its territory, but it still has a real and deadly reach.

Nine months ago — Hopes For Yemen Ceasefire Dwindle

Back in December, we wrote about the UN-backed ceasefire in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah, which prompted hopes for broader peace talks between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition, and an end to the war. Both sides agreed to halt fighting in that city so that food aid, the lifeline for 80 percent of Yemenis, could flow in. Deadlines came and went and much of the deal failed to take hold.

Why did the ceasefire fall apart? The ceasefire was supposed to roll out in stages, allowing for al UN takeover. While initially the withdrawal seemed to be on target, both sides reported renewed clashes and continued to wage attacks. While some humanitarian aid managed to get through, there's been a huge drop in the arrival of supplies through the port, with shipping companies citing violence in the city as a major deterrent, according to the UN.

What's happened since? Houthi rebels escalated attacks on Saudi cities – refusing to heed a key demand from Riyadh – raising fears of a spillover deep into the Gulf region. Meanwhile, a widening schism between Saudi-backed government forces and UAE-backed secessionist groups in Southern Yemen – allied against the Houthis but otherwise driven by competing priorities – opened a new front in Yemen's war that threatens to further fragment the fragile state.

What now? According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration plans to hold direct talks with the Houthi leaders in Oman in an effort to broker a ceasefire. While the US hopes to get the Saudis to participate, it's unclear if they've agreed. Details remain mostly hush hush. Meanwhile, a humanitarian conflict that's already the worst in the world continues to deteriorate.

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Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

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Dr Anthony Fauci says the US is again "going in the wrong direction" as COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across America. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations — an apt indicator of serious illness from COVID — have spiked in 45 out of 50 states as a result of the contagious delta variant and rejection of vaccines, which are leading many US states to now have a vaccine surplus. We take a look at the 10 states where hospitalization rates have increased the most in recent weeks, and their corresponding vaccination rates — and unused vaccine rates.

Iraqi PM's face-to-face with Biden: Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's prime minister, met with President Biden at the White House Monday to discuss the future of US troops in Iraq. The US still has about 2,500 troops stationed in Iraq to engage in "counterterrorism" operations and train Iraqi forces. In an interview published this week, al-Kadhimi called for the withdrawal of all US combat troops, because, he said, Iraqi forces have proven capable of fighting ISIS militants on their own. (Just last week, some 30 Iraqis were killed when ISIS militants attacked a busy Baghdad market.) Al-Kadhimi still wants non-combat US troops to stay on in a training capacity. He became PM in 2020 as a consensus candidate after nationwide protests over corruption and joblessness forced the resignation of the unpopular previous government. At least 500 protesters were killed during a crackdown by Iraqi security forces, fueling demands for fresh elections, which are set to take place this October. The green PM has a tough job: he has to juggle relations with the Biden administration, which just pledged $155 million in aid to Iraq, and ties with Tehran, an influential player in Iraqi politics. (Iraq relies on Iran for energy imports, and Iran-backed militias inside Iraq are a force to be reckoned with.) Local sentiment has soured on the US presence as Iraqis resent being caught in the middle of US-Iran fights inside Iraqi territory.

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7,100: As a third COVID wave ravages Myanmar, the death toll has now risen above 7,100, a gross undercount because that total includes only those who died in hospitals. Myanmar, which has one of the weakest healthcare systems in Asia, is also dealing with a vaccine hesitancy problem: people are rejecting shots because they see vaccination as validation of the military, which overthrew the democratically elected government earlier this year.

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Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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"We've been dealing with pandemics from the earliest recorded history. Thucydides writes about a pandemic in the history of the Peloponnesian War. So the last thing 2020 was, was unprecedented," Stanford historian Niall Ferguson told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. Ferguson, whose new book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe," believes that the world should have been better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic based on the numerous health crises of the 20th century, from the 1918 Spanish flu to influenza and HIV/AIDS. He provides perspective on how the COVID crisis stacks up compared to other pandemics throughout history.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

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