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This week's editor

Olly Huitson, Editor

Oliver Huitson is Co-Editor at OurKingdom and a freelance journalist.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

After failure in Iraq

The United States is considering two military options in Iraq: keep going, or fortify around key military bases. What will happen if neither works?

A death sentence in India

The case of a Kashmiri Muslim convicted for terrorism raises serious questions about the operation of Indian democracy, says Shubh Mathur.

Israel's strategic victory in Lebanon

The new facts on the ground in southern Lebanon suggest that the instant conventional wisdom about Hizbollah's victory over Israel is wrong, argues David Ucko.

Suez: Arab victory or Arab tragedy?

The Suez conflict of October 1956 is remembered as a moment of Arab triumph as well as British and French humiliation. The perspective of fifty years suggests a different lesson to Hazem Saghieh.

New frontiers: from Iraq to outer space

The United States leadership's unbounded military ambition stems from an absolute need to maintain control.

Lebanon: who won the war?

Israel's painful post-war inquest is matched by Lebanese scepticism over Hizbollah's "divine victory", reports Eric Silver in Jerusalem.

Election and empire

George Bush may change course on Iraq. Democrats may gain in US elections. But, argues Norman Birnbaum, America will suffer because of its hubris.

Christians and Zionists: apocalypse row in Jerusalem

The "theo-con" ambitions of foreign evangelicals in Israel are challenging the delicate historical balance of Jerusalem's religious communities, reports Jan McGirk.

Lebanon: the war after the war

The argument that, after all, Hizbollah's war with Israel was a failure is the product of military-commerial spin.

The Lebanon war of 12 July-14 August 2006 was widely reported as defeat for Israel and a victory for the Hizbollah movement. Now, two months on, a new interpretation of the war's outcome has emerged which suggests that the war was less a defeat for Israel then may have been supposed. The revised assessment deserves careful and critical attention.

Hamas's path to reinvention

An internal shift from religion-based to politics-defined struggle is reshaping Hamas's identity. Khaled Hroub, author of "Hamas: A Beginner's Guide", explains how it has happened and criticises the west's failure to understand this key Palestinian trend.A remarkable yet mostly overlooked transformation has been taking place within the thinking and political practice of Hamas over the past few years.

Abkhazia: land in limbo

Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili introduced John McCain, leader of a senatorial delegation to Tbilisi in September 2006, as "the next president of the United States", a compliment repaid by McCain's styling the Georgian people America's "best friends".

The president and me

Why, despite similar backgrounds, have Pakistan's President Musharraf and former Guantànamo detainee Moazzam Begg ended up on opposite sides of the "war on terror"?

London without a map

The way Britain's governing institutions work is blinding their officials to the real threats and challenges facing the country.

Arab-Israeli settlement: a global call to action

At the initiative of the International Crisis Group, 135 global leaders issue a call for urgent international action to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

A house divided: Bosnia after the elections

The election has brought small signs of change to a Bosnia where institutional fragmentation has cemented ethnic division, reports Nicholas Walton.

The nuclear shopping-mall: AQ Khan and Iran

The worldwide network in sales of nuclear technology created by the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan is a key element in the stand-off between Tehran and Washington, says Gordon Corera.

How democracy works in Pakistan

The authorities in Islamabad have many ways to ensure the right result in elections. Irfan Husain tells some tales from the polling booth.

Iran: the politics of the next crisis

The George W Bush administration, embarrassed by intelligence leaks and under siege over Iraq and Afghanistan, may seek electoral fortune by raising tensions with Tehran.

Pakistan on edge

Pervez Musharraf's military rule has led to growing Talibanisation and rising al-Qaida influence in Pakistan. As internal opposition to his policies mounts, Shaun Gregory asks: how long will the United States continue to support him?

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, the United States gave the Pakistani regime of General Pervez Musharraf little option but to join the "war on terrorism" it was intent on pursuing.

Iraq: the cost of asymmetry

The United States plan to "lock down" Baghdad highlights the imbalance between the "long war's" expensive, ineffective military strategy and a cheap, devastating insurgency.

Al-Qaida's new terrain

The successes of a new generation of jihadi militants in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest that the United States is losing the first phase of its long war.

Out of cold peace

Israel and Syria's longstanding cold peace cannot last in a region redefined by the 2006 conflict in Lebanon, says Abigail Fielding-Smith.

Europe's foreign policy: saying 'no' to the US?

The European Union may - just may - be on the cusp of unveiling a foreign and security policy towards the most explosive issues in the middle east which marks a significant break with the strategy followed so far under the leadership of the Bush administration. Although the new EU strategy is as yet being pursued tentatively and with a desire to avoid provoking Washington, American neo-conservative ideologues are already scenting a major new transatlantic rift.

Sri Lanka: time to act

Since the 2002 Sri Lankan ceasefire collapsed in April 2006 and fighting resumed in the north and east, many are asking whether it will be possible to prevent a return to all-out war between the Colombo government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The evidence of the bitter and destructive current fighting in the northern Jaffna peninsula, in which dozens of soldiers on either side have been killed, might even suggest that the tipping-point has been passed.

The renewed conflict, which has escalated dramatically in recent weeks, is also taking an enormous toll on civilians. The tit-for-tat political killings have now become bloody massacres by both sides. In the towns of Muttur and Sampur, the constant barrage of artillery has claimed an untold number of lives. On 6 August 2006, the bodies of fifteen staff members of the international aid organisation Action Contre La Faim (ACF) were found in the town of Muttur, most with gunshot wounds to the head. The bodies of two other staff members were reportedly found in a car nearby. Sixteen of those killed were minority Tamil, one was Muslim. The ACF, suspending operations in Sri Lanka, announced that its "entire team in Muttur was assassinated."

Although the identity of the killers remains unknown, circumstantial evidence points to government soldiers. Colombo has ordered an enquiry, inviting an Australian forensics expert to investigate, but the government has a poor record of investigating and prosecuting atrocities, and hopes are low that this time will be any different. The balance of international opinion, reflected in a statement by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) on 30 August, is that the Sri Lankan government's own forces were responsible for the massacre.

The return of military conflict in Jaffna and the east is accompanied by a continuation of political violence. On 12 August, Kethesh Loganathan, a courageous Tamil human-rights advocate who had joined the government's peace secretariat seeking a solution to the conflict, was killed in an attack that bore the hallmarks of an LTTE assassination. Throughout Sri Lanka's two-decade long conflict, the Tamil Tigers have decimated the moderate Tamil leadership in order to maintain a totalitarian hold on Tamil politics.

Meenakshi Ganguly is the South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch

Also on Sri Lanka in openDemocracy:

Alan Keenan, "Sri Lanka's election choice"
(18 November 2005)

Alan Keenan, "Sri Lanka between peace and war" (15 May 2006)

When I spoke to Loganathan in Colombo in June, he was depressed about the peace process. "There was a policy of pacification and appeasement of the LTTE by both the government and the international community which has only encouraged human-rights violations to the point where we will end up with multiple sources of violence, including, I fear, sections of the defence establishment running amok", he said.

His fears were justified. Fierce fighting that broke out after Tigers closed a reservoir sluice gate on 20 July, cutting off crucial water supplies, has killed many civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands. On 14 August, suspected Tamil Tiger bombers attacked the Pakistani ambassador's convoy; he escaped, but seven others died. That day air-force bombs killed at least twenty (the LTTE claims sixty-one) Tamils, mostly young women, and injured more than 100. The Tamil Tigers said the site was a school deep in their territory. The army claimed it had bombed a rebel camp.

The cost of neglect

With rampant impunity for serious human-rights abuses, violence continues to escalate. More than 1,000 combatants and civilians have been killed in 2006. This has placed the SLMM truce mission, created as part of the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire agreement to keep tabs on ceasefire violations by both sides, in an increasingly difficult position.

The monitoring mission is hamstrung by its connection to the peace process, limiting its willingness to speak out on human-rights violations for fear of disrupting peace talks. Its limited capacity was severely weakened when, on 1 August, Sweden, Finland and Denmark announced their withdrawal from the mission in response to a Tamil Tiger demand that all European Union nations pull out because the EU had named it (in May 2006) as a terrorist group.

So, while the world gears up for the deployment of 15,000 peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, Sri Lanka - where more than 65,000 have died since the conflict began - now has lost thirty-seven of its fifty-seven monitors. That's right: only twenty international civilian monitors are on the ground with a limited mandate as the country descends into conflict.

The United Nations should turn to Sri Lanka now and immediately dispatch a team to investigate the recent killings. It should then, perhaps through the new Human Rights Council, approve a strong human rights monitoring and protection mission that would operate in government and Tamil Tiger-held areas. Such a mission would be separate from peace talks, allowing it to speak out with a clear voice on human-rights abuses - political killings, "disappearances," death threats. It would not end human-rights abuses in Sri Lanka, but it would increase pressure for accountability and help to deter them. Crucially, it could also help create the space for independent Tamil voices.

Norway, India, the United States, Japan and the European Union are trying to give new life to the peace process, while largely ignoring the escalating human-rights crisis. Now is the time to disrupt the vicious cycle of abuses that feed the conflict and lead to more abuses. For the people of Sri Lanka, doing nothing will be disastrous.

The SWISH Report (6)

A fourth report from the South Waziristan Institute of Strategic Hermeneutics to the al-Qaida Strategic Planning Cell on the progress of the campaign.

Thank you for inviting us to deliver a fourth report to you on the progress of your movement. You will recall that our work for you commenced with an initial assessment in July 2004, a follow-up in January 2005 and our most recent report in February 2006.

You will also recall that we informed you of other work we have undertaken for the International Security Policy Group attached to the prime minister's office at 10 Downing Street, London (May 2005); and for the Strategic Advisory Group at the United States state department in Washington, DC (September 2005). You are, we are assured, content to recognise that we will work for any client; and you will also have noted that the advice we offered to the parties in London and Washington has been comprehensively ignored.

Mecca: Islam's cosmopolitan heart

The historic, open and inclusive tradition of the Hijaz is a truer beacon for 21st-century Muslims than the arid Wahhabi dogma of Saudi Arabia's rulers, says Mai Yamani.

Musharraf's predicament, Pakistan's agony

The 9/11 attacks made Pakistan the frontline of the global war on terror. But it has all been downhill for Pervez Musharraf since then, writes Iftikhar H Malik.

The Baluchi insurrection

The killing of a leading Baluchi nationalist leader in Pakistan's restless western province may backfire on Pervez Musharraf's regime, says Irfan Husain.

Arab Gulf states: the Iran complex

The small countries of the Arabian peninsula, caught between a resurgent Iran and a combative United States, must apply diplomatic skill and economic intelligence to survive, says Emile El-Hokayem.

Lebanon on the edge

The intense military inquests and feverish diplomatic activity after Lebanon's war reveal the fragility of the Israel-Hizbollah ceasefire.

What next?

The war in Lebanon is a reality-shock that exposes systemic American failure, long-term Israeli vulnerability and the danger of middle-east Armageddon. It’s time for global patriots to think European, says Anthony Barnett.

France in Lebanon: the strength of hesitation

French caution over troop deployment in southern Lebanon reflects not cowardly political calculation but military responsibility in face of real risk, says Patrice de Beer.

Lebanon, Lebanon

So answer me this one, please. If you kill a hundred innocent civilians and one terrorist, are you winning or losing the war on terror? "Ah", you may reply, "but that one terrorist could kill two hundred people, a thousand, more!" But then comes another question: if, by killing a hundred innocent people, you are creating five new terrorists in the future, and a popular base clamouring to give them aid and comfort, have you achieved a net gain for future generations of your countrymen, or created the enemy you deserve?

The war on terror: past, present, future

The United States responded to the attacks of 11 September 2001 by declaring a global "war on terror". More recently, it has redefined the conflict as the "long war".

Srebrenica's search for justice

The Serb massacre of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in July 1995 remains agony to the survivors, professional challenge to lawyers and scientists, and a source of political polarisation among Bosnians and Serbs, reports Peter Lippman.

The discovery of a mass grave in August 2006 near Zvornik in eastern Bosnia containing the remains of 1,150 Bosnian victims of the Srebrenica massacre is only the most recent evidence of the scale of the atrocity per

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