Reproduced by permission of
Jane’s Intelligence Review (Vol. 17, No. 1, January 2005), a Jane’s Information Group publication.
Underage soldiers have become a recurring feature of the modern battlefield, present in the majority of the world’s conflicts and armed organisations. The global spread of child soldiers raises deep dilemmas for both policy and military strategy and tactics, and has worrisome implications for the extent, level and persistence of conflicts. In short, the ‘soft’ issue of children has become a ‘hard’ security threat that must be taken into account in war and security planning.
Juveniles have been present in armies in the past, most notably the Hitler Jugend in the closing weeks of the Second World War, but in general the use of children as combatants has been limited. However, this has changed radically in recent decades. There are now as many as 300,000 children under 18 years old presently serving as combatants in 40 per cent of the world’s armed organisations (both non-state and state linked) and they fight in almost 75 per cent of the world’s conflicts. An additional set of as many as 500,000 children serve in armed forces not presently at war.
While questions of differing cultural standards of maturity are sometimes raised, the youth in question cover a range considered underage both according to international law and by almost every state in its own legislation. Some 80 per cent of those conflicts where children are present include fighters under the age of 15 and 18 per cent of the world’s armed organisations have used children of 12 years and under. The average age of child soldiers found by separate studies in Southeast Asia and Central Africa was just under 13.
[Targeting Rouhani’s brother] is a very convenient way to cause pain to the family without necessarily provoking a crisis of office. The general message that the rest of the system is trying to send to Rouhani is not to get too far ahead of himself, to not allow his decisive election victory to give him illusions of greater autonomy and authority than his position actually has.
There's often a temptation to look for some kind of logic [in the arrests of students and dual nationals in Iran]... I think that this particular case [of Xiyue Wang] highlights the fact that the logic is simply the paranoia of the Islamic Republic—its judiciary and its security services in particular.
This is just a system [in Iran] that views individual foreigners who come to the country, particularly people with some language capabilities, as inherently suspect.