Jeanne Lynch

Research Associate

ISIS Declares Caliphate: The Worsening Situation and the Role of the International Community

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made a huge move yesterday by declaring a caliphate spanning large areas over Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been capturing Iraqi cities one by one for several weeks now. They have successfully overrun military forces, and in some cases made forces voluntarily retreat.

(ISIS has recognized their caliphate as crossing international boundaries and ridding the countries of lasting colonial-era borders and has therefore changed its name to only “The Islamic State”.)

Abu Muhammad al-Adani, ISIS spokesperson, made this announcement on Sunday, which was also the beginning of Ramadan. In it al-Adani declared ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the imam and caliph (religious and political successor of the Prophet Muhammad) of “Muslims everywhere."

Last week, ISIS had been suspected of overtaking an oil refinery in Baiji, Iraq that would give them control of 1/3 of Iraq’s oil output. Because of this development, President Obama approved 300 troops to be sent to Iraq. These troops are part of what is called an “assessment” mission.

A Weapon of War Tolerated for Too Long

"It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. There's nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power."

With this statement, Angelina Jolie, co-chairing with Foreign Secretary William Hauge, kicked off the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict on Tuesday in London, the first of its kind. In attendance are representatives from over 100 countries, experts in the fields, faith leaders, survivors, and NGO and international organization representatives.

The issue of sexual violence is not a new topic in the US, as sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, is at the forefront of policy action. The importance of the international community to use political will to end sexual violence in the world’s current conflicts is paramount.

Human Rights Watch recently documented cases of sexual abuse in many current conflicts including those in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Libya, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Syria. This report doesn’t even include the recent discovery of sexual abuse happening in South Sudan right under UN peacekeepers' noses. Even worse, allegations in South Sudan have been made against government soldiers and rebel forces.

The four main goals for the summit are:

The New UN Peacekeeping Mandate in South Sudan: What Does it All Mean?

The United Nations is now warning of a potential famine in South Sudan. Though South Sudan had agreed to ceasefires in January and again in early May, they did not last. The UN had to act quickly because with the surges of violence, there has been an increase in secondary deaths due to starvation and disease. The conflict has heavily interrupted the crop-growing season by displacing farmers, and the UN estimates that if the violence does not stop, famine will ensue.

On May 27th the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2155, which renews the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), but makes some important amendments. From this resolution, a civilian protection mandate was added to address the growing humanitarian and security needs. This stems from un-subsiding violence that broke out in December when President Salva Kiir fired his rival Riek Machar from the deputy president position. This event fueled underlying ethnic tensions between the Dinka who support Kiir and the Nuer who support Machar.

This action of civilian protection from the UN is a huge step in the right direction with regards to UN involvement in conflicts. The UN has a record of not taking appropriate action quickly enough, most notably in Rwanda in 1994; hopefully this is a sign of changes to come.