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This week's editor

NSS, editor

Niki Seth-Smith is a freelance journalist and contributing editor to 50.50.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

A formula for failure: the Kabul Conference on the future of Afghanistan

The Afghan mission continues to flounder without direction, over a month after the "future of Afghanistan" was discussed at the Kabul Conference.

Wanted: Economic Equality to Mend Kyrgyzstan

Media reports of disturbances in Kyrgyzstan’s two main cities Bishkek and Osh focused on human rights and ethnicity. However, Balihar Sanghera suggests that the root cause lies in economic inequality.

Israel’s security: beyond the zero-sum

The prospects for progress in the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington are meagre. But breakthrough is essential if Israel is to be saved from itself.

UN mission fails to protect civilians in the DRC

The UN mission in the DRC is failing to protect civilians, as it emerges that 200 women were raped in a systematic attack in North Kivu earlier month. A US official alleges that Taliban forces have threatened foreign aid workers in Pakistan. A wave of attacks across Iraq raise questions about Iraqi stability. Human rights groups allege that state anti-terrorism drive violates human rights in Yemen. All this and more in today’s briefing...

Why attacking Iran is still completely nuts

The nuclear dispute will not be resolved by negotiation, but that doesn't make an attack on Iran any less absurd.

Beware of meddling in Kyrgyzstan!

Despite deep fissures in Kyrgyz society in the aftermath of the upheavals, external intervention would be counterproductive, advises John Heathershaw. Instead, foreign governments should concentrate their efforts on reducing the stakes of the conflict.

Al-Shabab renew offensive in Mogadishu

More attacks in Mogadishu, as Al-Shabab steps up its campaign against African Union troops. Convicted Islamists escape prison as fears of militant action in Central Asia increase. Russian security forces kill top Causcaus Emirate leader. Report calls for further US-Russian nuclear disarmament. All this and more in today’s security briefing.

Building a global peace movement

How can we build a strong and effective global peace movement?’ Cynthia Cockburn, Howard Clark and Dave Webb reply to Diana Francis

Twenty-first century mercenaries - Afghanistan's answer?

Contracted officers could be the future of international support for the Kabul government, argues Ray Kane.

Kaliningrad's Day of Anger

Some weeks ago Kaliningrad achieved a first in Russia by getting its governor Georgy Boos fired by the Kremlin. On 21 August thousands gathered to protest at the state of Russia and to demand the resignation of Putin and his government.

The Clash of Civilizations revisited

Samuel P. Huntington’s oft-pilloried work, “The Clash of Civilizations”, has long lost its original academic potency. However it has growing leverage at the grass-roots level where the clash has been reinterpreted to justify growing islamophobia

Kosovo: the UN court has spoken, let the dialogue begin

The Balkans are the next chapter in a quintessentially European story about competing claims for identity, sovereignty, and independence; and the European Union (backed by the United States) has a key role to play in it

Will Fini finish-off the Berlusconi saga?

Mr.Fini, who has rebranded himself a liberal Conservative with a Cameron-like position, may be paving the way for a new party of his own

Collective persecution of the Bahais in Iran

Many countries use national security as the pretext for violating human rights, but why should Iran single out the Bahais for this kind of persecution

Jordan’s uranium and Israel’s fears

At a time when other regional ties with Israel are facing setbacks, US and Israeli moves to prevent Jordan from enriching its own uranium may be misguided when Jordan can play positive role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process

In search of an Israeli left

The disconnection between the international left and its counterparts in Israel has become near total, to the detriment of the causes that both espouse. But a situation with complex roots can be remedied by looking more closely at the work of people on the ground, say Keith Kahn-Harris & Joel Schalit.

Taliban propose joint committee to investigate civilian deaths

The Taliban propose a joint committee to investigate civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Pakistan has announced a crackdown on charities connected with Islamist militants. Israel and Palestinian Authority are on the brink of direct talks. The South African government uses a heavy hand to suppress the national strike. All this an more, in today’s security update.

An asymmetrical drone war

The United States and Israel see the next generation of armed drones as a potent reinforcement of their military capacity against insurgents and rogue states. But Iran and Hizbollah too are in the race.

Colombia: a tale of two leaders

Juan Manuel Santos has made a refreshing start as Colombia’s president by departing from the policies of his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. But to map a new political direction he will need support from uncertain allies, says Adam Isacson.

UN criticises slow aid for Pakistan

UN calls for more aid to Pakistan flood victims, as giving remains highly politicised. Blast leaves seven dead in Xinjiang in a suspected ethnically-motivated attack. France begins Roma deportation. As last combat brigades depart Iraq, questions remain about its future. India accuses Pakistani soldiers of violating ceasefire in Kashmir.

Iraq’s future hanging by a thread

Iraqis now have greater physical security, though violence continues and politics are stalemated. But the years of conflict have corroded trust, entrenched sectarian identities, undermined livelihoods, and ravaged the environment. Zaid Al-Ali, travelling through Iraq, finds a society under intense stress whose human and national bonds are frayed - but far from broken.

The Holocaust, genocide studies, and politics

A compelling argument among scholars of genocide reflects the gradual development of the field beyond its point of origin, the Nazi murder of Europe’s Jews. The questions include whether and how different episodes of mass killing should be seen in a common frame; how such a development changes understanding of the Holocaust; and how historical interpretation and modern political argument intertwine, not least over Israel and anti-semitism. Martin Shaw, both participant and observer in this debate, presents an overview of its core issues.

Indonesia’s far east: security and politics

A tide of protest in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua is a challenge to Jakarta, says Charles Reading: find a new security paradigm, or face increasing radicalism in the country’s poorest region.

Flood-ravaged Pakistan faces economic, political and security fall-out

Flood-ravaged Pakistan faces economic, political and security fall-out. Deadly attacks rock Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Afghan’s protest ‘civilian’ deaths. IDF accused of systematic abuse by rights groups. Blast in the Caucasuses. All this and more in today’s security briefing.

The guns of August: two years later

The bitter conflict over South Ossetia in August 2008 has turned to post-war stalemate. But just as the war and the current impasse involve more than Georgia and Russia, says Rein Müllerson, so progress in the region and beyond requires bold diplomatic thinking on all sides.

The drug war: new paradigm vs old paradox

The appointment of a new head of the lead United Nations anti-drugs agency is a precious opportunity to abandon a failed policy, says Juan Gabriel Tokatlian.

South Africa poised to boost AU troops in Somalia

South African cabinet meet to discuss the possibility of sending peacekeeping troops to Somalia. North Korea expresses further anger as Seoul and Washington carry out further military drills. Secular Palestinian groups join Hamas, saying that a return to direct talks with Israel would be ‘dangerous’. US Defence Secretary gives concrete dates for the beginning of US withdrawal from Afghanistan. All this and more in today's security briefing.

Strategy and insurgency: an evolution in thinking?

America's internecine counter-insurgency debate is now making some progress, though not on a single predefined path.

Abkhazia: two years of independence

The small Black Sea republic of Abkhazia, already free of Georgia’s control since the war of 1992-93, emerged more secure from the Georgia-Russia war of August 2008. But if the “dreadful” years of its modern history have ended, the young state is now living through “difficult” times. George Hewitt, in Sukhum, reports and reflects.

Covering the conflict: Human rights and journalism in Northern Ireland

Did journalists do enough to defend human rights during the troubles in Northern Ireland? That was a key question in a fascinating debate in Belfast last week under the auspices of Amnesty International and Féile an Phobail.

Al-Qaida’s business jihad

The failed assault on a Japanese oil supertanker is, alongside developments in Iraq and Yemen, a signal of the al-Qaida movement’s protean challenge.

Kigali grenade attack injures seven days after Kagame re-elected

Grenade attack rocks Kigali just two days after Kagame re-elected as president, while opposition groups urge international community to reject result. The Lord’s Resistance Army is violently abducting recruits in central Africa, according to a recent report from Human Rights Watch. A top Iraqi general insists Iraq not ready for troop withdrawal, but comments brushed off by US and Iraqi officials. Car bomb rocks Bogota in first security test for Santos. All this and more in today’s briefing...

Farming in Gaza

Our Gaza correspondent goes on a visit to the countryside, to see how farmers who have survived every sort of setback are faring this summer

Sakartvelo: a political prospect

The two years since the war of August 2008 have been tough for Georgia. But in domestic politics and foreign relations alike the country has achieved more than once seemed possible, says Alexander Rondeli.

Can the flotilla inquiry save the Israeli-Turkish alliance?

An inquiry into Israel's raid on the Mamara is unlikely to heal the fractures of the Turkish-Israeli relationship. A definitive break in relations would alter the strategic balance of the middle east, leaving the possibility of peace even more forlorn, argues Avni Dogru.
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