November 2013 Newsletter

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November 2013
The Jamestown Foundation Leadership: Glen E. Howard, President
At a Glance

Jamestown Welcomes New Board Member

Updated Agenda: Register Now! 

In the News

A Discussion with Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Key Themes and Trends in November

Featured Publications

Media Apperances

Support Jamestown

Jamestown Staff & Fellows
Editor, China Brief
Program Associate
Program Associate/Events Coordinator
Senior Editor of Global Terrorism Analysis Program
Director of Programs for the Balkans, Caucasus & Central Asia
Senior Fellow – China Program
Senior Fellow – Eurasia Program
Senior Fellow
Senior Fellow – Eurasia Program
Senior Fellow
Featured Articles
Hot Issues
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Jamestown Welcomes New Board Member

William B. Richards

William B. Richards recently joined the Jamestown Foundation’s Board of Directors. Mr. Richards is Managing Partner of WBR Advisors LLC, which provides strategic advice to financial firms. He has a 40-year career on Wall Street that began in 1973. Mr. Richards has been involved with hedge funds since 1983, when he met Julian H. Robertson, Jr. of Tiger Management. Most recently, he managed relationships with hedge funds for a global investment bank. In addition to his finance and hedge fund work, he is Professor with Distinction in the Masters of Finance program at I.E. University in Madrid, Spain, which is ranked third highest in the world.

Mr. Richards served as an Infantry Lieutenant during the Vietnam War. He spoke Vietnamese and was an advisor to the Vietnamese military on the border of Cambodia. He is currently Chairman of the Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF), the largest private funder of research into Cerebral Palsy, where Paul A. Volcker also serves as Chairman Emeritus.

Updated Agenda: Register Now!
The Jamestown Foundation’s Seventh Annual Terrorism Conference
The Jamestown Foundation will hold its Seventh Annual Terrorism Conference at the Cargegie Endowment for International Peace on Thursday, December 12, 2013. Speakers at the conference will focus their discussion on al-Qaeda and its offshoots in North Africa and the Middle East. See below for a preliminary agenda: 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

8:30 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW
The Root Room
Washington, DC

Click here to see the agenda and to register for the conference

In the News
Boko Haram Declared a “Foreign Terrorist Organization”
Jamestown analyst Jacob Zenn testified at a Joint Subcommittee Hearing on Boko Haram on November 13, 2013 on the continuing threat posed by Boko Haram. That same day, the U.S. State Department designaed the Nigerian militant group a “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO). During his testimony, Jacob Zenn provided a list of recommendations to Congress, including, to label Boko Haram as an FTO. To read the transcript of Zenn’s testimony, click here.
Jacob Zenn is an expert on northern Nigerian security and consultant on countering violent extremism for U.S think-tanks and international organizations in Nigeria and Tajikistan. He is the author of “Northern Nigeria’s Boko Haram: The Prize in Al-Qaeda’s Africa Strategy,” published by the Jamestown Foundation and based on his fieldwork in Boko Haram’s main area of operations in northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, Chad, and southern Niger. 
The Syrian War against al-Qaeda

General Salim Idriss, the commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced in a telephone interview on December 2 that his opposition group will participate in the Geneva 2 peace negotiations scheduled to be held on January 21, 2014 on the condition that the Syrian regime agrees to “confidence-building measures” (read more at the Washington Post). Idriss highlighted the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda affiliate, referring to the group as “very dangerous for the future of Syria.” To read more about Salim Idriss, refer to his profile in the July issue of Militant Leadership Monitor.

Syrian Rebel Commander Killed in Airstrike

Syrian Rebel Commander Abd al-Qadr Salah of the Tawhid Brigade, the largest armed opposition group in and around the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, died from wounds he sustained in a Syrian government airstrike on November 18, 2013. Jamestown analyst Nicholas A. Heras drew up a Brief about the commander in the September 2013 issue of Militant Leadership Monitor. To read the brief, click here. Heras described al-Salah as a charistmatic, popular military commander with a reputation for bravery and honesty.

A Discussion with Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Between al-Qaeda and the PKK: The Future of the Kurds in Syria

Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a longtime observer of Kurdish affairs in the Middle East spoke at the Jamestown Foundation on November 13 on the ongoing fighting between al-Qaeda and the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK – Kurdistan Workers’ Party) in Syria. Wilgenberg, who recently traveled to rebel held areas in eastern Syrian discussed the recent setbacks by Syrian rebels at the hands of the Kurdish-backed Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG – People’s Protection Units). Wilgenburg believes that the military successes of the YPG are attributed to Syrian government support for the Kurds. The YPG, he noted, is nothing more than a de facto reincarnation of the PKK. Wilgenburg believes that Syrian rebels have lost the support of local Kurds in eastern Syria because of the rebels mismanagement and appropriation of local resources as part of their alignment with Sunni militant groups. The recent capture of a major Iraqi border checkpoint by the YPG was a major setback to anti-Assad forces and Turkey, since it decreases PKK/Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD – Democratic Union Party) dependence on Turkish border crossings with Turkey.

Mr. Van Wilgenburg is a frequent writer on the Kurds for the Jamestown Foundation’s publication Terrorism Monitor and Militant Leadership Monitor, where he has profiled the leaders of the various Kurdish groups inside Syria and northern Iraq. 

Click here to read articles by Wladimir van Wilgenburg


Key Themes and Trends in November

Making Sense of the Third Plenum

The conclusion of the much-anticipated Third Plenary Session of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee has raised more questions about China’s future than it answered. Party propagandists spent most of the year promoting it as a meeting dedicated to producing “unprecedented” economic reforms. The Plenum concluded by releasing an ambitious wish-list that cut across the economy, government and military, but with little information about plans for implementation. Jamestown analyst Nicholas Borst dug into these documents to decipher China’s ambitions for economic reform (for more, read Economic Reform in the Third Plenum: Balancing State and Market). Willy Lam identified a bold move by President Xi Jinping to centralize power under his control (for more, read Xi’s Power Grab Towers over Market Reforms). Finally, Kevin McCauley analyzed plans to restructure the military for modern operations (for more, read Third Plenary Session Calls for PLA Reform and Restructuring).

Featured Publications
The Rise of al-Shabaab: A Militant Leadership Monitor Special Report

In this Quarterly Special Report (QSR) on the rise of al-Shabaab, we focus on the various militants who are guiding al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-aligned militant organization that aims to impose Shari’a in Somalia. The group began as a radical youth wing of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union in 2006. The QSR begins with Andrew McGregor’s analysis of the political and security landscape in Somalia, with an historical look at Somali resistance to Ethiopia. The QSR includes profiles of a number of al-Shabaab’s leaders, showing that they are divided over both the group’s ideology and its links with al-Qaeda. Another article assesses al-Shabaab’s deadly attack on Kenya’s Westgate Mall on September 24, 2013. The attack was orchestrated in protest of Kenya’s support for a new, autonomous administration in southern Somalia, which threatens to deprive Shabaab of operational mobility in one of its last strongholds. The QSR concludes with a timeline of al-Shabaab’s activity since September 30, 2012. The timeline highlights attacks by al-Shabaab, showing the group’s increasing capability to carry out attacks.

To purchase this report, click here


Militant Leadership Monitor – November Issue

The November Issue of Militant Leadership Monitor features two briefs by Nicholas A. Heras. The first focuses on the recent announcement of the formation of al-Jabhat al-Islamiya (Islamic Front), a coalition of seven powerful opposition groups in Syria, with a look at one of its most prominent leaders, Shaykh Hassan Abboud. The second brief provides a snapshot of Shaykh Ahmad Issa who has been described as the new overall leader of al-Jabhat al-Islamiya. Dario Cristiani provides the first profile of Fu’ad Muhammad Khalaf, al-Shabaab’s Somali-Swedish militant. Next, Jacob Zenn takes a look at Boko Haram founder Muhammad Yusuf, as an individual and as a preacher, to develop a better understanding of him and his impact. Animesh Roul follows with a portrait of the new Pakistani Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah. The concluding profile by Andrew McGregor is of al-Shabaab’s Ikrima al-Muhajir.

To purchase this report, click here

Media Appearances
Jamestown Analyst Nicholas A. Heras appeared on the nationally syndicated radio program “Background Briefing” to discuss the “war within the war” in Syria
Analyst Jacob Zenn was quoted by Voice of America about Boko Haram’s transition to a jihadism.
Jamestown’s Michael W.S. Ryan was interviewed by Voice of America’s “On The Line” video broadcast concerning recent strains in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Jamestown analyst Wladimir van Wilgenburg was cited by Hurriyet in an article about Kurds in Syria.
Jamestown Foundation Senior Fellow Vladimir Socor provided remarks on “The New Social Media in Transitional Societies: Politics, Ethics, Responsibility” at the Baku International Humanitarian Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan, on October 31–November 1, 2013. To read the full speech, please click here.
Jamestown Foundation analyst Wladimir van Wilgenburg was quoted by NOW in an article about an offensive recently launched by the YPG in direct retaliation to a joint ISIS-Jabhat al-Nusra suicide attack in al-Qahtaniyah, in Syria’s Hasakah province on the Syrian-Turkish border.
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