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This week's editor

Ray Filar

Ray Filar is co-editor of Transformation and a freelance journalist.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

War without end, amen

For an informed and sceptical take on the Afghanistan war, see Paul Rogers' many columns on the subject in his weekly openDemocracy commentary

Yet another British casualty in the war in Afghanistan has just been announced.  Only the British dead rate a mention, not those who are injured or maimed for life, nor the dead and injured of the country itself.   It is a long way from Tony Blair's confident statement in the House of Commons in October 2001 that British troops were joining a 'strong' coalition with 'robust plans' and 'humanitarian plans ... falling into place'.  There was debate, but no vote, on Blair's commitment of troops.

In January 2006, John Reid announced in Parliament 'a seamless package of democratic, political, developmental and [oh yes!] military assistance in Helmand'.  No vote.  In March Reid added this comment: 'If we came for three years here to accomplish our mission and had not fired one shot at the end of it, we would be very happy indeed'.  A large contingent of troops was deployed in Helmand in May of that year, the British presence rose by some 3,300 troops by the following summer.   Fatalities immediately began to rise every year, from 39 in 2006 to nearly 70 so far this year.  Now over 120 British troops have died there, the coalition is weak and growing weaker, and humanitarian plans have fallen into a corrupt limbo.

This eight year long war, tragic not only for the UK but more so for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has never once been put to the vote in the House of Commons.  There has been no need.  The government was able to enter into the war, and then to escalate the British commitment, through Royal Prerogative powers that do not even oblige ministers to inform Parliament on actions that they take under these powers.  As Andrew Blick said, in his magisterial dissection of the Ministry of Justice report reneging on the aborted government pledge to reform the Royal Prerogative, Parliament's ability to debate and vote on the deployment of troops in action will not be statutory (but is limited to a parliamentary resolution), and leaves the government enough discretion to drive a battalion or two through.

Suicide bomb in Iran kills 42

42 people killed and dozens injured in a suicide bombing in Iran's southeast. Civilians flee as Pakistan launches South Waziristan offensive. South Sudan village raided, seven die. Gun battles and bombings in southern Russia. UN passes resolution in support of Gaza report. All in today's security briefing.

AfPak: the unwinnable war

The United States is preparing both to escalate its commitment and retool its strategy in Afghanistan. But the realities of war - and, crucially, the calculations of Pakistan's elite - mean that this will only postpone the moment of real decision.

UN High Commissioner backs Gaza Report

The UN Human Rights chief backs the Goldstone report. More bomb attacks strike Pakistan. The head of Mi5 defends Britain’s foreign intelligence co-operation. All this and much more in today’s security update.

Angry exchange between India and China exposes ongoing rift

China and India exchange words over disputed Himalayan territory. Grenade attack injures forty in Moldova. Hezbollah plays down Israel's claims of missile stockpiling. North Korea accuses South of naval transgression. Deadly attacks hit police in Pakistan. All this and more in today's update.

The Armenia-Turkey process: don’t stop now

The openDemocracy authors Juan Gabriel Tokatlian and Vicken Cheterian are critical of the Armenia-Turkey rapprochment. But there is a positive case for the protocols, responds Kerem Oktem.

DR Congo: arc of war, map of responsibility

The political dynamics of conflict in Africa’s most complex region must be understood if enduring solutions are to be found. Martin Shaw reads fellow openDemocracy contributor Gerard Prunier’s book “From Genocide to Continental War”. 

China and Russia strengthen ties at Beijing summit

Officials meet for Shanghai Cooperation Organization talks as China and Russia commit to improving relations. UN-backed Congo offensive a ‘humanitarian disaster'. Britain commits 500 more troops to Afghanistan. Syria and Turkey to hold joint military exercises. China tries fourteen more over Xinjiang unrest. All this and more in today's security briefing.

Armenia-Turkey: genocide, blockade, diplomacy

A bad agreement cannot turn old adversaries into good neighbours, says Vicken Cheterian.

Al-Qaeda influence wanes in face of financial crisis

U.S. targeting of al-Qaeda funds harming group's influence, alleges US Treasury. Clinton pushes for Iran sanctions in Russia. North Korea test fires missiles ahead of talks. Fatah agrees Palestinian unity deal. All this and more in today's update.

Airstrikes target Pakistan Taliban after weekend of deadly militant attacks

Militant attacks prompt Pakistan to accelerate Waziristan offensive. UN representative admits fraud in Afghanistan election. Turkey and Armenia normalize relations. All this and much more in today's update.

Armenia and Turkey: forgetting genocide

The decision of Armenia's government to open formal relations with Turkey entails a pragmatic and dangerous silence over the events of 1915, says Juan Gabriel Tokatlian.

Israeli Foreign Minister says ‘no chance’ of peace deal

No chance for peace in the middle east, says Israeli foreign minister. The US denies  involvement in the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist. Over forty people are killed in a devastating bomb attack in North West Pakistan. All this and more in today’s security update.

Afghanistan: from insurgency to insurrection

A prospective change in the character of the Afghan war has momentous implications for the United States and its allies.

No Help for Sex

Kristen Cordell reflects on the countrywide effort in Liberia to stop sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers.

Last month the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1888, reaffirming the UNs commitment to ending rape as a tool of war. The UN Mission in Liberia is leading efforts in six countries in Africa to check its own staff on a highly visible and challenging part of the problem: sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers. 

US considers Afghan strategy on eighth anniversary of conflict

The US considers its strategy in Afghanistan on the eighth anniversary of the conflict; Pakistan weighs its options in its fight against insurgents; Anti-IMF protests take a violent turn in Turkey; Uganda frees Somali defense minister and Mugabe seeks better relations with the West. All this and much more in today's security briefing.

Carrots and sticks in Moldova: Russian peacekeepers, big loans and the need for reforms

The rhetoric of the new Moldovan government is not music to the Kremlin's ears. However the powers that be in Chishinau have no choice. Immediately after the present summit of the Community of Independent States, the government has to move ahead with the hard work of serious reform of the economy, judiciary, media and bureaucracy.

North Korea ready to restart nuclear talks

North Korea ready to restart nuclear talks in return for improved US relations. A key suspect in Rwandan genocide arrested in Uganda. US set to stay the course in Afghanistan despite deliberation. All this and much more in today's security briefing...

From Cable Street to Cable Broadband

The extreme right has harnessed the power of Britain's twenty-first century connectivity, revolutionising the threat to our multicultural society.

Turkey's political-emotional transition

Turkey is engaged in a renegotiation between its pro-west commitments and its family ties to east and south. This is part of a wider shift in regional relationships and perspectives, says Carsten Wieland.

Pressure on Obama mounts after deadly day in Afghanistan

Pressure mounts on Obama after deaths of eight US soldiers in Afghanistan. Iran agrees to inspection of secret nuclear plant. China strengthens bonds with North Korea after state visit. All this and much more in today’s security briefing.

PLO supports deferral of UN Gaza resolution

A ‘historic’ resolution on the UN’s report into the Gaza war is deferred with the support of the PLO. Aung Suu Kyi’s appeal against further detention is denied by a Burmese court. Obama has a face to face discussion with the commander of US forces in Afghanistan. All this and more in today’s security update.

The jihadist style-journey: Germany’s election and after

A video-letter from a purported al-Qaida soldier calling on Germany to end its military involvement in Afghanistan has heightened security concerns in the country before and after the election. But it is Bekkay Harrach's "western" appearance as much as his message that deserves scrutiny, say Mina Al-Lami & Ben O'Loughlin.   

Iran courts controversy with long-range missile tests

Iran test-fires long-range missiles capable of striking Israel and American bases in the Persian Gulf. Somali government ousts insurgents from central town. Six die in Iraq minibus bomb. Honduras suspends civil liberties to forestall revolution. Security forces open fire as opposition gather in Guinea capital. All this and more in today's update.

Security Council will call for nuclear weapons to be scrapped

Obama heads a meeting calling for the scrapping of nuclear weapons. Somali port readies itself for a battle between competing Islamist rulers. Eleven escape in Iraqi jail break. Taliban attacks leave eleven dead in Pakistan, and more in today's briefing ...

Psychoactive and Operation Cast Lead

During the attack on Gaza, Israeli mental health professionals could find themselves trapped between social peers who vigorously identified with government policy, and Palestinian citizens of Israel, considered, at times of hostilities,‘the enemy'. This is an account of the dilemmas and experiences of members of one such group - Psychoactive.

Two of the authors will be speaking at a conference in London in October. (See end of article for details.)

Cash flow in the Gaza Strip

The military offensive against Gaza was the latest stage in a calculated assault on the feasibility of a Palestinian state, and in particular a viable Palestinian economy

Afghanistan: limits of military power

The United States-led coalition's problems in Afghanistan are accentuated by an enemy capable of reading its intentions - and which has time on its side.

Russia, Poland and the history wars

On the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Army's invasion of Poland, Rodric Braithwaite understands why Poles are not quick to give the Russians credit for occasionally getting things right. The end of communism would not have been possible without Mikhail Gorbachev and the Russians made impressive efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to establish an objective record of their own history.

Battle for Moldova’s political heart

Moldova's long-ruling communists, having recently been dethroned by the four-party Alliance for European Integration (AEI), are struggling to win back lost ground. The frantic activities of communist ex-President Voronin suggest he is not finding democracy easy

A world in need: the case for sustainable security

A combination of global crises makes the search for fresh, effective and transforming approaches to security essential.

(This article was first published on 10 September 2009)

"Born-again" Muslims: cultural schizophrenia

The divine rage that sparked the attacks on New York and Washington was inspired by the collision between a particular interpretation of Islamic faith and disabling social experience, says Malise Ruthven.

(This article was first published on 27 September 2001)

The dangers to Afghan democracy

The value of elections to the Afghan people should not be underestimated. Voter cynicism, a product of misgovernance of the country, should not be mistaken for voter apathy.

The right of return

Israeli understanding of the Jewishness of Israel is complex, and it makes the right of return the most contentious issue on the negotiating agenda

Secure Bradford before Helmand

Britain should secure its own disenfranchised Muslim community rather than sustaining a major expeditionary campaign in Afghanistan, argues John Mackinlay.
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