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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Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Listen: In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer, Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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