The heavyweight guide to Ukraine
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.
If the unprecedented global protests over insulting depictions of the Prophet Mohammed in a book, newspaper or a papal speech tell us anything, it is that Muslims around the world can act in concert without following a leader or sharing an ideology. While such demonstrations might possess a local politics, in other words, they are shaped by global movements that lack traditional political meaning, not least by sidelining leaders and institutions for popular action in the name of a worldwide Muslim community as seen on television. The same holds true for Muslim support of global militancy, whose televised icons are capable of attracting a following without the help of local institutions or leaders.
A notable speech by Britain's defence minister Des Browne on 24 September 2007 accepting the need to negotiate with Taliban groups in Afghanistan appeared to be a signal a change of policy by the British government (see "Afghanistan: six years of war", 4 October 2007). In one respect, however, this was also an echo of actual practice on the ground, where British soldiers deployed to Helmand province have frequently dealt with local leaders known to have links to the Taliban.
More than six years after 11 September 2001, the United States's war against al-Qaida has reached a stalemate. Osama bin Laden remains at large, Al-Qaida has not been defeated, and it has learned how to disperse and survive in response to US military pressures.
is an advisor to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and a visiting
professor at the University
Pablo Policzer is an assistant professor and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Latin American politics at the University of Calgary
This article is based on a longer paper, "Al Qaeda, Armed Groups, and the Paradox of Engagement", published in September 2007 by the Transnational and Non-State Armed Groups Project web portal, operated by the programme on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University
See also the authors' "Talk or Fight? Al Qaeda from Centre to Periphery", Oslo Forum (2007)
Almost exactly six years ago, on 7 October 2001, the United States started the war to terminate the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. By mid-November the regime had disappeared from Kabul, and victory over an enemy which had harboured the al-Qaida movement responsible for the 11 September 2001 atrocities seemed complete.
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 2001At the time, the post-9/11 wave of sympathy in Europe (as well as elsewhere) for the US ensured general support for the anti-Taliban campaign in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities, but not all analysts believed that immediate military action against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan was the right response.
It seems like the Serbian government is escalating its rhetoric about the final status of Kosovo. But most of the noise is not being directed toward any of the parties to the negotiations. It is the sound of competing political parties talking to one another.
The Serbian government's rhetoric on Kosovo has been escalating over the past several weeks, and there have been a few pointed gestures. Foreign minister Vuk Jeremić demonstratively walked out on an after-dinner speech to be given by the former United Nations mediator Martti Ahtisaari. The government discussed formally notifying the UN Security Council that the United States advocacy of independence for Kosovo constituted a threat to the sovereignty of Serbia. The pejorative formulation that an independent Kosovo would be "the first Nato-state" began to be repeated in a number of public fora. There was a sustained exchange between officials from prime minister Vojislav Koštunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and President Boris Tadić's Democratic Party (DS) over whether Serbia ought to continue its efforts to join the Nato alliance, and at the party congress of the DSS, the party's platform was altered to oppose joining the alliance.
Among the many consequences of George W Bush's "war on terror" around the world, it is easy to forget that two of the most important have been in the domestic arena.
The first is a substantial increase in the United States defence budget (see "The world as a battlefield", 9 February 2006). Most of the additional resources have been spent on equipping the forces that have borne the brunt of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan: the US army, the marine corps and special-forces command.
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 2001The second consequence is the impact of the war's casualties, which arguably is just beginning to be felt in many spheres (social, medical, political, cultural, and - though more indirectly, as this column discusses - technological).
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is in essence political. It started as a result of where Israel was established and how Palestinians were consequently forced from their homeland in 1948. The conflict was further aggravated when Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, the West Bank, including east Jerusalem and the Gaza strip, in 1967. Palestinians now are either under occupation or refugees. In some cases they are refugees under occupation. In all cases they have been denied their political rights, primarily their right to self-determination and statehood.
Lebanon has approached the opening of its two-month presidential election period, scheduled to begin on 25 September 2007, in a troubled mood. The atmosphere of foreboding is intensified by the assassination on 19 September of the member of parliament Antoine Ghanem (along with six other people). Ghanem was a critic of Syria, and many at his funeral three days later were convinced that Syria was responsible for his death.
Vicken Cheterian is a journalist and political analyst who works for the non-profit governance organisation CIMERA, based in Geneva
Also by Vicken Cheterian in openDemocracy:
"The pigeon sacrificed: Hrant Dink, and a broken dialogue" (23 January 2007)
"Serbia after Kosovo" (18 April 2007)
"Georgia's arms race" (4 July 2007)
The two most recent columns in this series have focused on the increasing tensions between the United States and Iran, evident in the belligerent statements coming out of Tehran and the even more sustained, hostile rhetoric emanating from the George W Bush administration and the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party (see "Baghdad spin, Tehran war" [6 September 2007] and "Iran: war and surprise" [13 September 2007]).
A potentially decisive season of hearings and discussions about the performance and future of United States forces in Iraq has come to a provisional conclusion with the Congressional testimony of the US's two leading players in Baghdad: military commander General David H Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker. But any expectation that their or their predecessors' reports assessing the progress of the military "surge" and its accompanying political efforts has proved futile. Instead, Washington - and United States political discourse about Iraq more generally - sleepwalks (see Gideon Rachman, "Many contenders but just one voice", Financial Times, 18 September 2007).
In the high-stake poker game that is Pakistani politics, President Pervez Musharraf currently holds two aces. The third is held by the restored chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, while ex-prime minister and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto holds the fourth.
The joker in the pack was unceremoniously discarded on 10 September 2007, when Nawaz Sharif - also a former prime minister, ejected from office by Musharraf in October 1999 - made his eagerly-awaited return to Pakistan. Sharif, told he was being taken to jail in Karachi or Quetta, was put on a waiting plane and flown to Saudi Arabia to complete his ten-year exile.
The fallout of the war in Iraq has helped to make the George W Bush administration one of the least popular in US political history. The domestic political repercussions are a matter of intense debate and speculation as the campaign for the presidential and congressional elections in November 2008 gets underway.
It is likely that the outcome of the elections will be greatly affected by the progress of United States efforts in Iraq and the experience of its military forces. The most recent of a number of assessments of the US's current predicament - the reports, and testimony before Congress, of General David Petraeus (the US military commander in Iraq) and Ryan Crocker (the US ambassador there) - have drawn intense media coverage in this respect.
Yet another anniversary of 11 September has arrived, and the papers and airwaves are again full of anxious speculation about how democratic states, agencies and citizens are coping in the "war on terror." The question recurs: is al-Qaida's threat increasing or decreasing? But this is the wrong way to think about this challenge. The real question is: how will it end?
Audrey Kurth Cronin is senior research associate in the Changing Character of War Programme at Oxford University.
She has researched and written widely on issues of terrorism and security, including essays in International Security.
She is the co-editor (with James M Ludes) of Attacking Terrorism:Elements of a Grand Strategy (Georgetown University Press, 2004), and the author of the forthcoming book, How Terrorism Ends: Lessons from the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Groups
The debate in the United States over the status report on Iraq has already begun, even before the week beginning 10 September 2007 when General David Petraeus presents his findings to Congress and the White House. The ingredients of the debate include a grim national-intelligence estimate (NIE) released on 23 August 2007; a report from the US's government accountability office (GAO) on the failure of the Iraqi government to pass most of the "benchmarks" set for it, published on 4 September; and statements from several members of Congress returning from short visits to the troubled country.
A war of position in Washington is well underway in advance of the status report on the United States military "surge" in Iraq being prepared by the military commander in the country, General David Petraeus. The general's hint on 4 September 2007 that progress in achieving key objectives might allow modest troop withdrawals from Iraq early in 2008 is being used as one gambit in this power-game; the bleak report of the US government's accountability office - stating that the Iraqi government had passed only three of the eighteen "benchmarks" set for it by the US Congress - is another.
...strategic points, flexible lines, tense surfaces, political volumes
Ariel Sharon and the Geometry of Occupation:
strategic points, flexible lines, tense surfaces, political volumes
In his long reign of calculated cruelty Saddam has used every means available to him – from assassination, kidnapping and torture, to full-scale war, poison gas, ethnic cleansing, and mass deportation. But even by his standards, the gassing of civilians in Halabja on 16 March 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, is an act with few parallels. It has also become the test case, repeatedly cited in recent months of build-up to another war, of how “Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people”.
But there are a few outstanding questions regarding Halabja, and Saddam is not the only villain.
"With steps such as this, your majesty's wisdom and vision would take Egypt to lead modernity in the east", said Nubar Pasha, a prominent civil servant (later Egypt's first prime minister) whose family had settled in Egypt in the early 19th century. The addressee of the remark was the Khedive of Egypt, and the occasion was the inauguration of the Cairo opera house in 1869 - only the fourth in the world, and the first anywhere in the middle east, Africa and Asia.
Nubar Pasha, the obsequiousness to a ruler aside, was not exaggerating. The era was one of great social progress in Egypt, marked by the establishment of new educational institutions, factories, publishers that translated foreign books, and cultural bodies. Nubar was among those who pioneered this wave of modernity; part of the small, region-wide army of visionaries, business and community leaders and officials who had helped the ruling Mohammed Ali family in Egypt, the feudal masters of Mount Lebanon and the Beys of Tunisia (among other leaders of Arab states) to take their countries forward. Nubar Pasha, like many of those luminaries, was Christian (in his case of Armenian origin).
On 6 November 1914, a week after the Ottoman empire had entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary), Indian Expeditionary Force ‘D’ landed at Fao in the southernmost province of Ottoman Iraq. Their subsequent occupation and de facto annexation of the area consolidated a connection with a region in which Britain had long been economically dominant.
The force marched swiftly northwards, at first meeting little resistance; the euphoria this created encouraged those in charge in Delhi and London to contemplate an immediate dash for Baghdad. But it was poorly supplied and, at least initially, badly led, and early in 1916 it was checked by a Turkish rally at Kut.
The approaching submission of General David Petraeus's report on the progress of the United States's military "surge" strategy in Iraq refocuses attention on American options there after a summer of conflicting signals and assessments. The report, due to be presented by mid-September 2007, is already surrounded by politically charged speculation in a Washington gearing up for a new, post-Labor Day phase in the electoral cycle. What then is happening on the ground in Iraq that might make its way into the final draft?