The heavyweight guide to Ukraine
It is not really difficult to discern what the United States hopes to achieve by hosting the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, now scheduled (after much uncertainty over the date) for 27 November 2007. In the same way it is rather easy to figure out what Israel will gain from the fact of this meeting and its own attendance. In a sentence: both Americans and Israelis want this conference to take place for its own sake, without any agreements or declarations having to emerge from it.
In their eyes, simply to hold the meeting is the objective and counts as a success - one that serves several agendas, but not the one that really counts: resolving the historical conflict between the Palestinians and Israel's Zionist project. The key to understanding Annapolis, as so many comparable events in the middle east, can be expressed in Henry Kissinger's "classical" (and ingenuous) formulation: a "peace process" is a substitute for peace itself, and it could take for ever. Annapolis is part of this "process".
Pakistan's current political dilemma is both cyclical and exceptional. It arises from immediate political circumstances yet is rooted in its the country's six decades of history as a state. This combination of elements underlines the endemic nature and seriousness of the crisis.
Pakistan has long been misgoverned, by military regimes and political parties alike. But the latest phase of misrule involves even greater dangers than in earlier periods. The exercise of power in increasing swathes of territory along the border with Afghanistan by Taliban-style extremists, and the frequent bombings in the cities, signal the extent of current insecurities. The president-general, Pervez Musharraf, responds by arguing that even greater repression and control is necessary to secure the country. But the new forms of law and violence that are becoming routine indicate that Pakistan has moved out of his grasp, and that the way of governing the country which Musharraf represents has become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
The next few weeks are likely to decide President-General Pervez Musharraf's fate. The national and international reaction to the state of emergency Musharraf imposed on 3 November 2007 has forced him into a series of unwise but perhaps inevitable decisions, many of which he would have preferred to avoid. These decisions have increasingly distanced Musharraf from many of his erstwhile supporters at home and abroad and have left him looking increasingly isolated and embattled. Even the United States, which places such high value on Musharraf that it has even turned a blind eye to Pakistan's nuclear-proliferation activities, is beginning to turn on him.
It can be exasperating to hear people from the Balkans blame “foreign powers” with hidden agendas and geopolitical ambitions for their troubles, as if they themselves bear no responsibility for their fortunes. But it would be easier to refute this counterproductive thinking if it hadn’t so often been the case over history - and is the case today, particularly when it comes to Kosovo. The problem of determining the “final status” of a province that is still legally part of Serbia but whose population is 90% ethnic Albanian was always going to be difficult. What makes it even harder is that international policy toward the disputed territory is being driven by the interests of external actors rather than those of the people of Kosovo, including the Kosovar Serbs. The main obstacle to a settlement is that these powers - the United Nations, the European Union member-states, the United States, and Russia - are themselves deeply divided, for reasons that have little to do with Kosovo itself.
President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia told a meeting of doctors in Tbilisi on 14 November 2007 that his decision to order the break up the opposition demonstration a week earlier had been necessary to prevent the country sliding back to the chaos and civil confrontation of the mid-1990s. The justification contains an element of truth - but one that also underlines the extent of his miscalculation.
The demonstration on Rustaveli Avenue in central Tbilisi had entered into its sixth day when Saakashvili decided to act. Popular irritation at the disruption caused by the blockage of the capital's main street was growing - as was alarm at the opposition's call for a permanent street protest until Saakashvili resigned. After the turmoil of the 1990s, there is no stomach in Georgia for revolution.
Pakistan is in ferment. Pervez Musharraf, the general-president, insists that national stability transcends democracy, and that he is still the man to guarantee it. Musharraf's term as head of state expired on 14 November 2007, though it has effectively been extended by his declaration of an emergency on 3 November. His formation of a caretaker government on 15 November - at a time when he is facing increasing criticism from the United States - is paralleled by direct telephone contact between the two main opposition leaders and rivals, Benazir Bhutto (currently under house-arrest for the second time in a week) and Nawaz Sharif (in Saudi Arabia and prevented from returning to Pakistan). As the different power-centres seek to consolidate their positions, a quick or easy way out is hard to glimpse (see Irfan Husain, "Pakistan's multi-faceted crisis", 12 November 2007).
A series of events in Georgia between late September and mid-November 2007 - political infighting, mass demonstrations, the declaration of a state of emergency, and the announcement of presidential elections on 5 January 2008 (a year in advance of schedule) - has convulsed the country and earned it the kind of global media attention most of its citizens regret. Is this crisis part of the pain of a still-evolving democratic transition, or evidence of something more serious? An outline of the main contours of this period of instability suggests that Georgia's problems are serious, but cannot be attributed only to short-term misjudgments or maladministration by government; they are also rooted in larger historical, institutional and geopolitical realities.
Israel is often portrayed by its supporters as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. But these very same supporters, in their excessive zeal for their cause, sometimes end up by violating one of the most fundamental principles of democracy - the right to free speech. While accepting free speech as a universal value, all too often they try to restrict it when it comes to Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians. The result is not to encourage but to stifle debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at
St Antony's College, Oxford.
Among his books are The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (WW Norton, 1999) and (as co-editor) The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 (Cambridge University Press, 2001). His most recent book is Lion of Jordan: the Life of King Hussein in War and Peace (Penguin, 2007)
Pervez Musharraf's announcement on 11 November 2007 elections would be held in the first week of January 2008 surprised nobody. After all, Pakistan's president had achieved his primary goal of sacking the supreme-court judges who might have questioned his re-election on 6 October. The election schedule was intended to deflect western criticism of his recent actions. But as he announced in a rambling press conference, the state of emergency would continue until the elections. And the judges who refused to take an oath on the newly promulgated provisional constitutional order (PCO) would not be reinstated.
The conference sponsored by the United States government in Annapolis, Maryland, scheduled for the last week of November 2007 has little chance of brokering a meaningful agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that will facilitate progress on the ground.
What is happening in Pakistan is unprecedented. It the first case of a coup in the country's history - and possibly the first in the world directed specifically at the judiciary and the independence that it had started to display. All Pakistani citizens have been directly affected by the events of 3 November 2007 - many of them in the most direct way possible; I myself, a lawyer in Pakistan, was arrested by the police the day after the imposition of martial law, before being released on bail on 8 November.
The Arab world's
economic record in recent decades is a story of failure. Despite an exponential
leap in its population, which has become increasingly youthful as a result, it
has been unable to pioneer on its own account any of the ingredients of a
modern, dynamic economy: new technologies, value-added concepts, international
trends, recognisable brands, creative intellectual property, theoretical
breakthroughs in any serious discipline, or - with a handful of exceptions -
wealth-creation vehicles that extend outside its borders.
Tarek Osman is an Egyptian investment banker covering the Gulf and UK markets.
Also by Tarek Osman in openDemocracy:
"Egypt: who's on top?" (7 June 2005)
"Egypt's crawl from autocracy" (30 August 2005)
"Hosni Mubarak: what the Pharaoh is like" (16 January 2006)
"Can the Arabs love their land?" (22 May 2006)
"Egypt's phantom messiah" (12 July 2006)
"Mahfouz's grave, Arab liberalism's deathbed" (23 November 2006)
"Egypt: a diagnosis" (28 June 2007)
In spring 1972, two United Nations conferences were held on successive months in an effort to articulate and find answers to the problem of the deep divisions and inequalities in global society. Both their respective south/north locations (Santiago [Chile] and Stockholm) and their themes (trade and development, and the global ecosystem) have a profound resonance today. Even after a generation and more of practical experience and discussion of the issues addressed by these conferences, it is worth returning to the moment of the early 1970s to understand what it represented and what lessons it may still offer.
In April -May 1972, the third session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development ("UNCTAD III") convened in Santiago (in a Chile then in the second year of Salvador Allende's tumultuous Unidad Popular coalition government). The event was invested with great hope by what were then called "third world" nations in particular that, after the widely recognised failure of the UN's "development decade" of the 1960s, a new process would move towards the establishment of a fairer international trading system as well as support for national industrial development.
In the event, a rich agenda (involving issues such as commodity agreements, compensatory finance, tariff preferences and allocation of the new special drawing-rights liquidity) was not matched by great progress in the outcome. The unity of purpose across an industrialised north intent on maintaining its dominant trading position, and a corresponding disunity among the poorer states of the "global south", meant that the hope was to a great degree unrealised.
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001In June 1972, the UN Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) took place in Stockholm. The expectation was that the gathering would concentrate on the pollution problems of the old industrialised states, and thus be relatively limited in focus. In the event, the conference turned out to have a much wider frame of reference, raising the discussion of global issues onto a new level. Much of the credit for this was due to the publication of a slim book which had an extraordinary intellectual impact.
This was The Limits to Growth - an early analysis of global systems undertaken at MIT by Dennis L Meadows, Donella H Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III, who had been commissioned by an unusual collection of industrialists, diplomats, bankers and others known as the Club of Rome. The volume sold more than a million copies in its first couple of months after publication (just in time to influence the Stockholm conference) and eventually as many as 12 million copies in thirty-seven languages would be purchased. It was a pivotal influence in introducing ideas of sustainability, environmentalism, and new economics to an emerging global community of professionals, activists, academics, and citizens concerned in fresh ways about the "fate of the earth".
The core analysis of The Limits to Growth was that the impact of increased human activity would ultimately exceed the capacity of the global ecosystem to maintain itself, with potentially disastrous consequences. The vigorous reaction to the book at the time (especially by free-market economists) was part of its effect; many of its arguments, such as its estimation of the time it would take for problems to emerge (seventy years, in some cases), were subject to severe criticism. Yet today, The Limits to Growth and the warnings of many at the UNCTAD and UNHCE conferences that addressing global inequalities was essential in ensuring global stability are looking uncomfortably prescient.
The driving force of the Club of Rome, the singular group that commissioned The Limits to Growth study, was an Italian industrialist called Aurelio Peccei. For a period, the Club of Rome (founded in 1968) achieved a degree of prominence; this gradually faded, but as with the Limits project (which was updated on its thirtieth anniversary, in 2002) there are signs that its message has echoes in this new generation.
In addition to his weekly openDemocracy
column, Paul Rogers writes an international security monthly briefing for the
Oxford Research Group; for details, click here
Paul Rogers's latest book is Global Security and the War on Terror: Elite Power and the Illusion of Control (Routledge, July 2007). This is a collection of papers and essays written over the last twenty years, with two new essays on the current global predicamentAn example of this reviving interest was a Club of Rome meeting on 6 November 2007 in the grand surroundings of the Schloss Bellevue in Berlin, at the invitation of the president of the Federal Republic of Germany (and former head of the International Monetary Fund), Horst Köhler. It was an opportunity for the club to voice a new agenda which emphasises three linked aspects of the global system:
* the deepening wealth-poverty divide, as a globalised free market delivers patchy economic growth but singularly fails to enhance or even aid socio-economic justice
* the increasingly evident environmental constraints on human activity (most prominently climate change and intensifying conflicts over resources, especially oil and gas)
* the inability of the more powerful states to see such problems as matters for anything other than control, if need be by military force. All too often, their attitude seems to be that it is preferable to maintain the current system rather than recognise the problems of unsustainability and even survivability that it poses.
The participants in Berlin, as befitting the wellspring of the Club of Rome initiative itself, were an unusual mixture. They included former foreign ministers, ambassadors, industrialists, bankers, development specialists and even the odd academic; they were drawn principally from continental Europe and north Africa, secondarily from Latin America and India, with a smattering from north America or Britain. That alone gave the meeting a "feel" that differed markedly from the normal atmosphere in the numerous security conferences that dot the globe. It may not have been truly global, and it was most definitely an elite group, yet its very make-up insulated it from the familiar if almost intangible fate that attends many such gatherings: slipping easily into the usual Euro-Atlantic English-language mindset that effortlessly assumes it knows what is best for the world.
Instead there was a certain unease, born of a recognition that the status quo simply cannot be maintained. It is not just that the "war on terror" has proved to be such a disastrous example of the failure of the control paradigm, nor is it that the anticipated emancipatory promise of the globalising 1990s has been found so wanting. It is, rather, an understanding that socio-economic divisions are getting wider precisely at a time of encroaching environmental pressures and constraints. In such circumstances, the "old thinking" that is rooted in the maintenance of the current order is just starting to be recognised as obsolete if not dangerously counterproductive.
The past as prologue
In the same year as the Santiago and the Stockholm conference, the economic geographer Edwin Brooks envisaged the risk of "a crowded glowering planet of massive inequalities of wealth, buttressed by stark force yet endlessly threatened by desperate people in the global ghettoes". That seems in retrospect a projection informed by acute foresight, yet there is very little sign of the new thinking that will be vital if more peaceful world is to be achieved (see "A tale of two towns", 21 June 2007).
In Britain, for example, senior defence chiefs on 8 November 2007 called (at the launch of the National Defence Association) for increased military spending. The appeal comes at a time when the Royal Navy is planning to build Britain's largest ever warships, two 65,000-tonne aircraft- carriers designed to pursue advanced expeditionary warfare, no doubt primarily in the waters of the oil-rich Persian Gulf (see "British sea power: a 21st-century question" [12 July 2006] and "Gordon Brown's white elephants" [26 July 2007]).
The government also plans to spend tens of billions of pounds in order to remain a nuclear-weapons state for at least the next half century. With its carriers and its nuclear "deterrent" British security policy entirely ignores the real security threats and persists in its desire to help the United States in its vain - but potentially hugely destructive - efforts to maintain control (see "Britain's 21st-century defence", 15 February 2007).
Here, in principle, "Britain" could be substituted by "France" or indeed most other leading states of the western alliance - where military and political elites are accompanied by think-tanks which too engage in deep exploration of the technical and political requirements for staying in control but with little evident concern for or real understanding of the underlying causes of insecurity.
There is some, all too disparate, evidence of new ideas (see, for example, here, here and here) but they often lack institutional and financial support. This is where the revived Club of Rome could have an impact. It may be drawn from an elite but its members appear to have some appreciation of the scale of current global predicaments and the urgency of creating new policies to match them.
Thirty-five years ago the Club of Rome, through its The Limits to Growth report, expanded the world's understanding of the global ecosystem in a quite remarkable manner. As it approaches the fortieth anniversary of its formation, the ideas which the group embodies are more needed than ever.
Pakistan is in the midst of yet another crisis. The country's general-president, Pervez Musharraf, imposed a state of "emergency plus" on 3 November 2007. Most sources persist in calling the announcement "martial law" - and for good reason, because it was in his role as the chief of the army that the "provisional constitution order" (which replaced the 1973 constitution) was issued last Saturday afternoon. Only the president has the authority to impose an emergency in Pakistan, and this does not appear to have happened in this case.
The police car blocks my way on the small gravel road. At first I don't get it. Then I back off, into a glade in the darkness behind.
The young policeman drives a bit further, preventing me from getting back onto the road. He rolls down the window while his colleague observes me carefully.
"What are you doing here?", he asks.
It is not a strange question. We have stopped in the middle of the night, in a dark forest between two of Stockholm's poorest areas. The two loudspeakers clearly visible in the back of my car make it clear that that part of the vehicle is full of stuff.
European Union member-state governments are increasingly aware of the danger of terrorism perpetrated within their own borders - sometimes by their own citizens. From late 2005 onwards, the European commission and justice and home affairs (JHA) council of ministers have rightly begun to place a high priority on curbing radicalisation and recruitment into terrorism, particularly on the internet. The latest manifestation of these efforts is the presentation by the European commission on 6 November 2007 of a new "counter-terrorism package". Its proposals will be voted upon at the next JHA council on 8-9 November.
Pervez Musharraf's second coup, or "emergency plus" as it is being referred to in the Pakistani media, was widely expected by the time it was finally announced on the afternoon of 3 November 2007. Musharraf's limited options mean that it is being seen here as the last roll of the dice by a desperate gambler.
In his midnight address to the nation on state TV, Musharraf came across as nervous and hesitant, far from the image of the straight-talking commando he has successfully maintained over his last eight years as the leader of Pakistan. A significant moment came when, switching from Urdu to English, he appealed for understanding and patience from the international community. This, and his quoting of Abraham Lincoln to justify his suspension of the constitution, made plain that his message was intended for Washington.
Just a few months ago the spin sounded so persuasive: the Pakistan military was weary and bruised and looking to take a back seat in politics, President Pervez Musharraf had run out of friends in Washington due to his lack of progress in the "war on terror", Pakistan was sliding violently towards the edge of the abyss and its people were crying out for democracy.
Enter stage left Benazir Bhutto, the exiled (and allegedly corrupt) former prime minister resurrected as a political player in Pakistan by months of assiduous lobbying on Capitol Hill. The notion occurs to someone in the United States administration to concoct a wholly artificial deal which will reconcile Musharraf and Bhutto after years of mutual antipathy, allowing the general to stay on as a civilian president and Bhutto to again become prime minister - both outcomes incidentally requiring changes to the apparently endlessly pliable Pakistan constitution.
The benign spin continues: with Bhutto's immense political support, with a rebalancing of the presidential-prime ministerial relationship, with the assured backing of the army following the US-backed reshuffle of senior commanders, and with Pakistan's newly assertive and independent supreme court acting as referee, Musharraf's political base will be broadened and Pakistan's secular- pluralist forces will be united against the anti-western Islamist currents which threaten Pakistan. This new dispensation, widely labelled a "democratic transition", will usher in a new phase of civilian rule in Pakistan, stabilising the situation, defeating extremism and terrorism, and providing an important stepping-stone towards real democracy in the future.
A military in charge
It did not take long for the story to begin to unravel. The first threads were exposed when Nawaz Sharif, another of Pakistan's exiled former leaders, made an ill-judged attempt to return to Pakistan on 10 September 2007 (against the wishes, rather unusually publicly expressed, of Saudi Arabia). Sharif was promptly tricked into boarding a plane at Islamabad which he thought was headed for Karachi but was flown instead to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, a move that was clearly pre-planned by Riyadh and Washington. Nawaz was not to be allowed to spoil the Musharraf-Bhutto deal, a point underlined by the high-level US state department delegation which visited Pakistan a few days later to finalise its elements.
On 18 September, lawyers for President Musharraf said that he would take off his uniform, thereby relinquishing the post of chief of the army staff, but only after he was re-elected as president for five more years. In the teeth of a storm of opposition which claimed that his re-election while still in uniform was illegal and unconstitutional, Musharraf - winning all but five votes cast in both houses of Pakistan's parliament - was reconfirmed in office on 6 October.
This election, boycotted by opposition parties, was widely seen as corrupt and undemocratic. The parliament which voted to extend Musharraf's period in office was itself constituted as long ago as 2002, in a process widely seen at the time as rigged by Musharraf. The supreme court has yet to rule on the legality of Musharraf standing while still in uniform, though since its defiance of the president over his suspension of chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in March 2007 it has reverted to pro-military supplication, and seems very unlikely now to find against Musharraf's re-election.
in openDemocracy on Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf:
Maruf Khwaja, "The Islamisation of Pakistan" (12 April 2006)
Iftikhar H Malik, "Musharraf's predicament, Pakistan's agony" (5 September 2006)
Irfan Husain, "How democracy works in Pakistan" (29 September 2006)
Ehsan Masood, "Pakistan: the army as the state" (12 April 2007)
Irfan Husain, "Pervez Musharraf's bed of nails" (29 April 2007)
Ayesha Siddiqa, "Pakistan's permanent crisis" (16 May 2007)
Paul Rogers, "Pakistan signals red" (5 July 2007 )
Paul Rogers, "Pakistan's peril" (19 July 2007)
Maruf Khwaja, "The war for Pakistan" (24 July 2007)
Irfan Husain, "Pakistan: the enemy within" (30 July 2007)
Irfan Husain, "Pakistan's poker-game" (14 September 2007)
On 21 September, Musharraf reshuffled the most senior army posts. He appointed two trusted personal allies to key positions: Nadeem Taj to be director-general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and Mohsin Kamal to head the 10th Rawalpindi Corps. The latter is critical because it is this corps which has historically mounted coups against the civilian leaderships in Pakistan, based just eighteen kilometres down the road in Islamabad. Musharraf followed with another important move on 2 October: the appointment of Ashfaq Kayani (the ISI's former director-general) to be the deputy chief of army staff, and the man thus earmarked to succeed Musharraf if he is forced to relinquish his uniform.
A leader in knots
These three appointments, and Musharraf's new term of office as president, seem certain to underwrite the decisive role of the Pakistan military in Pakistani politics for the foreseeable future (see Ehsan Masood, "Pakistan: the army is the state", 11 April 2007). In no small part this is because of an obscure clause in the constitution - 58 (2b) - which gives the president power to dismiss prime ministers and to dissolve parliaments. The removal of this clause to rebalance presidential-prime ministerial powers was part of Bhutto's demands, but the signs are that this has not and will not be agreed. As the deal stands, the Pakistan military will retain control of foreign policy, of defence policy, of internal security, and will remain in a position to defend its expanded role in Pakistan's economy and civilian institutions (see Ayesha Siddiqa, ""Pakistan's permanent crisis", 16 May 2007). In a society such as Pakistan, and in the context of the "war on terror", that leaves precious little for the prime-ministerial purview.
Many conclude therefore, that despite the rhetoric Bhutto's return is much more about her desire to be rehabilitated nationally and internationally and to have corruption charges against her and her family in Pakistan dropped than about her personal desire to see democracy in Pakistan restored. Her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) despite its historic slogan of "bread, clothes and shelter" is not presenting a credible manifesto for economic redistribution, health and welfare for Pakistan's poor. Rather it is engaged in the politics of patronage, a constant theme of discussion among Pakistan's journalists and intellectuals.
But even were it to be accepted that Bhutto's inclinations are democratic, there is little prospect of her realising any such ambitions. Her return to Karachi on 18 October attracted huge numbers along her triumphant procession- route, but by the time the suicide-bombers struck around midnight in a well-timed and well-planned attack, the perhaps million-strong crowd had dwindled to fewer than 20,000. Soon after the bombs, a shocked Bhutto accused leading figures around Pakistan's former military ruler Zia ul-Haq of co-responsibility with religious extremists. Certainly there are still many such figures who remain deeply antagonistic to her and close to the militants, but her comments - after being absent from Pakistan during its last eight tumultuous years - made many question whether she was fighting yesterday's battles.
Many rumours of government complicity circulated in the aftermath of the Karachi attacks (among them the failure of the Pakistan government to protect Benazir, the coordinated switching-off of street-lighting along the procession route, the control of Karachi by the pro-Musharraf Muttahida-Quami-Movement [MQM]). The atmosphere of suspicion made Musharraf's refusal to accept Bhutto's call for international investigation of the attacks look defensive. But the more important consequence has been the government decision to ban large political gatherings on security grounds, a move that will surely affect the ability of the PPP and others to campaign for the parliamentary elections due in early 2008.
At the cliff-edge
In any event, even assuming the smooth unfolding of the terms of the deal with Pervez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto is far from guaranteed a significant electoral result. The Pakistan military and intelligence services will certainly (as in the past) work to undermine electoral support for the PPP and try to influence the size of its mandate: sufficient to endorse Musharraf in a subsequent vote of confidence, but not large enough to dominate parliament.
If the strategy works, the options then all play into the military's hands. If Bhutto is weak or is forced into an alliance with the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) and its allies she will be neutered as a political force, even within her limited purview; if Nawaz Sharif is allowed to return (as now seems likely - though perhaps later rather than sooner to retard his own political fortunes) then a political free-for-all will likely paralyse parliament, leaving the military to continue running the country.
Meanwhile, in the wings stand the Islamist political parties. They are usually dismissed as a political force in Pakistan on the grounds both of their poor showing in pre-2002 elections and the supposedly moderate nature of Pakistan's polity. This time, however, the Islamists may surprise. The broad coalition of Islamist parties brought together under the MMA umbrella to shore up Musharraf in 2002 were significantly empowered precisely by Musharraf's support. Today they are offering to Pakistanis a manifesto of economic redistribution, healthcare, and welfare under the banner of Islam.
The Islamist parties may yet benefit from disillusion with the PPP over the fact that Bhutto has done a deal with Musharraf and his American masters, and reap the rewards of widespread antipathy in Pakistan towards the United States, the war on terror, and Nato's presence in the region. Their own ambitions for Pakistan cannot be termed democratic, but their role in the country's current political predicament cannot be ignored.
There is a full year before the United States presidential election of 4 November 2008, but the nomination campaigns are already being run at an intense pace. This, against the background of a situation where the US's military forces are heavily engaged abroad, makes it inevitable that the state's security posture is growing in importance as an issue.
The rooted unpopularity of the Iraq war raises the expectation that a combination of Democratic candidates pursuing an anti-war line and Republicans seeking to distance themselves from President Bush might create a dynamic in favour of a more constructive, multilateral and peace-building foreign policy. This is not the way the campaign is going; on the contrary, its unfolding character carries ominous signs for security in the middle east in the coming months.
Sit any Friday afternoon on the corner of el-Wad Street and St Stephen's Road in Jerusalem's Old City, just opposite the Austrian hospice. Thousands of Muslim worshippers throng to the mosques on Haram al-Sharif. Additional thousands of Orthodox Jews flock to prayers at the Western Wall. And the brown-robed Franciscans bearing the cross turn the corner and proceed to the Third Station of the Cross. Lest this picture appear overly idyllic: CCTV security cameras are ever-present, as are patrols of the Israel border police, while a handful of messianic Jewish settlers dart out of the Muslim quarter alleys.
These are cautiously optimistic times for proponents of the United States military effort in Iraq. The "surge" is in its ninth month and on the surface is showing results sufficient to justify the claims of some in Washington - even beyond the community of true-believer neo-conservatives - that success is at last in sight.
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001
Islam's encounter with the west is as old as Islam itself. The first Muslim minorities living under western Christian domination date back to the 11th century (in Sicily). Yet the second half of the 20th century witnessed a distinctively new phenomenon: the massive, voluntary settlement in western societies of millions of Muslims coming from Muslim societies across the middle east, the Indian subcontinent, Turkey, Africa, and southeast Asia. The west has also witnessed the development of an indigenous trend of religious conversion (as in the case of the Nation of Islam).
In the third week of October 2001, the operation to terminate the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was getting underway. United States air-strikes were attacking Taliban military forces, and the CIA and other agencies were beginning the urgent task of re-equipping and rearming the Northern Alliance warlords so that they could push the Taliban out of northern Afghanistan. The George W Bush administration was confident that its key objectives were within reach: the Taliban regime would be defeated; its leader Mullah Omar and the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden would be killed or detained; and the al-Qaida movement would be dispersed and weakened, if not destroyed.