This week's editor

Mary Fitzgerald

Mary Fitzgerald is Editor-in-Chief of openDemocracy.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The Iraq weapons report: a review

The Iraq Survey Group has just published its interim report on the Saddam regime’s weapons programmes and capabilities. Ron Manley, a chemical weapons expert who oversaw the United Nations inspection operations in Iraq in the early 1990s, assesses it.

Iran and North Korea: the next targets?

Despite its problems in Iraq, the United States continues to focus on the nuclear ambitions of the other two ‘axis of evil’ states, North Korea and Iran. In the context of its doctrine of pre-emption, and the reluctance of the eight existing nuclear weapons states to disarm, can another dangerous conflict be averted?

Saddam's Islamist legacy

A recent visitor to Baghdad talks to influential Iraqis: what remains after dictatorship and manipulation of history, he finds, is a messianic revolutionary spirit in Islamic garb.

A war in trouble

The American project in Iraq is beset by severe pressures: armed resistance, logistical and morale problems, and the immense costs of reconstruction. Diplomatic discussions at the United Nations offer no respite. The window for progress on the ground is narrowing.

Iraq: the lesson from Somalia

Before agreeing to any military involvement in Iraqi peacekeeping, the United Nations and its member states should recall the bitter experience of the disastrous United States/UN operations in Somalia a decade ago.

Terrorism as regressive globalisation

An expert on modern warfare analyses the qualitatively new forms of terrorism we all face today – and the responses to them. How effective will a ‘war on terror’ turn out to be, and what of international law?

Iraqi realities

When it first planned the invasion, the US administration had a clear, ordered vision of the future of Iraq. The messy reality is in stark contrast. But despite the appearance of rapprochement with other powers, America is likely to continue to bear the overwhelming burden of a dangerous Iraqi occupation.

The neo-conservative lens

The intense logistical demands of United States forces in Iraq, no less than their exposure to guerrilla attacks, is a measure of the country’s security dilemma. The neo-conservative response is to escalate spending and troop numbers, avoid UN involvement, crush insurgency and ensure George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. Can it work?

An Israeli journalist prepares to fight

Among the thousands of reservists regularly called up to serve in Israel's army was one journalist, musician, and writer. David Bender was more than willing to heed the call of his troubled nation. In this poignant and revealing account, he offers a glimpse of the daily life of an Israeli soldier.

Deciding to refuse

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza presents acute moral dilemmas to many of its citizens. Some, like Guy Grossman, respond with ‘selective refusal’: a willingness to serve in the military but not in the occupied territories. Here, he explains the soul-searching and the political understanding that informs his decision.

Ariel Sharon and the Geometry of Occupation... (part 2)

Ariel Sharon and the Geometry of Occupation:
strategic points, flexible lines, tense surfaces, political volumes

Part one: Border versus frontier
The post-1967 transformation of the occupied territories is the story of how Israeli military and civilian planning became the executive arm of geopolitical strategy. The Suez Canal battles of the Yom Kippur war in 1973 were a national trauma that returned the ‘frontier’ to the Israeli public imagination. The figure of Ariel Sharon is central to this process.

The 'war on terror': two years on

The United States’s response to the atrocity of 9/11 was immediate. But the overthrow of the Taliban regime and Saddam’s Iraq has not crushed al-Qaida nor deterred militant resistance to United States forces. In his 100th column for openDemocracy, Paul Rogers assesses the political and human costs of the “war on terror”.

Ariel Sharon and the Geometry of Occupation... (part 1)

Ariel Sharon and the Geometry of Occupation:
strategic points, flexible lines, tense surfaces, political volumes

Part one: Border versus frontier

Put Chemical Ali on trial in Halabja

The arrest of Ali Hassan al-Majid, one of the old Iraqi regime’s most feared and hated figures, is an opportunity for his Kurdish victims to find belated justice.

The nail in the wood: an interview with Ismail Abu Shanab

Ismail Abu Shanab was a moderate by Hamas leadership standards. A ceasefire negotiator, he was prepared to consider the two-state solution. openDemocracy’s Paul Hilder interviewed him at his home in Gaza in July 2002, days after the assassination of Salah Shehadeh, leader of Hamas’s military wing. In this disturbing conversation, they talk about peace, violence, democracy, the US, bin Laden, and colonialism. One year on, Shanab shared Shehadeh’s fate.

A hard road in Iraq

The scale and severity of the casualties inflicted on United States troops in Iraq are increasing pressure on the Pentagon’s civilian leadership to share responsibility for the country’s security. But any such process is fraught with difficulties.

On going home

‘Return’ is a Palestinian dream, a compulsion, a wound. Is it also a curse? In retrieving the vision of a single, inclusive, secular, democratic state for Palestinians and Israelis, Omar al-Qattan argues that his people need to make a different return. It will not be to land irretrievably lost, but to the best of their own history, that they make the best of the future now available to them and their neighbours alike.

America's entrapment

United States forces in Iraq are responding to armed resistance against their occupation by recruiting agents of the old regime to enforce security. Their political masters see the presence of foreign militants in Iraq as confirming the logic of the ‘war on terror’. Is this grand strategy, or delusion?

By the Caspian Sea

The fierce post-Soviet conflict between the small Caucasian republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is also one between geographies of the mind. The landlocked Armenians, condemned to history, better fighters, have the land; the Azeris have oil, sturgeon, and a Promethean shoreline. In an extract from ‘The Taste of Dreams: an obsession with Russia and caviar’, Vanora Bennett evokes the mysterious alchemy of the Caspian Sea.

The right of return: the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

For generations of Palestinians, the longing to return to lands and settlements lost in the catastrophe of 1948 is both at the core of their being, and the only route to justice for their people. But is such an aspiration either realistic or compatible with the creation of an enduring peace with Israel? Ghada Karmi, who has spent a lifetime in exile, defines the crucial choice.

From the ashes: a multilateral mission?

Johanna Mendelson Forman, recently returned from Iraq, knew well many of those killed and injured in the bombing of the United Nations mission in Baghdad. In mourning her colleagues, she reflects on the meaning and implications of this event for the UN’s future role in the country.

Two insurgencies, one superpower, no victory

This week, major acts of sabotage in Iraq were followed by a devastating assault on the UN mission in Baghdad. Meanwhile, increasingly bold guerrilla attacks in Afghanistan expose the fragility of the security situation there. The ‘war on terror’ is in trouble on two fronts

The Arab media and the Iraq war

The Iraq war was not simply about regime change in a single country, but a prelude to a larger regional shift in political systems. The crucial impact on the Arab world will include a vital lesson for its media: no less than the inevitability of democracy. Can the Arab media rise to the challenge of telling this story truthfully?

The news media and the second 'intifada'

The role of the news media in violent conflicts, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, is a major concern to combatants, publics, and media professionals alike. A scholar who has closely followed news coverage of the second Palestinian ‘intifada’ which broke out in September 2000 draws three significant lessons from the way the issue has been depicted on both sides.

The challenge of global climate change

The lesson of a sweltering summer in Europe, and of extreme weather events in the tropics, is that climate change is a reality. The small northern English vineyard of our global security correspondent may benefit, but the impact on the world’s poorest will be dire. This long-term challenge urgently needs political leadership.

Singing Iraq: poetry by Salah Niazi

Salah Niazi’s poetry moves between the quotidian and the eternal. He writes in both English and Arabic; the translations here are his own.

Singing Iraq: poetry by Hashem Shafiq

The great change in Iraq in the spring of 2003 allowed the voices of the country’s poets to be newly heard. Here are three of the poems Hashem Shafiq read at a moving Iraqi poetry event in London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Singing Iraq: poets in conversation

Two long-exiled Iraqi poets, after reading their poetry at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in the wake of war and a complex liberation in their homeland, discuss with the audience the legacy of a long dictatorship on their own and their compatriots’ spiritual condition.

Destination Baghdad

This column was written by Arthur Helton and Gil Loescher on the eve of their research and evaluation visit to Iraq, from where they were to report for openDemocracy on the challenges of reconstruction facing Iraq’s new governors. On 19 August, they were victims of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. Arthur Helton was killed and Gil Loescher severely injured in the blast.

Russia's future in balance: Putin versus Khodorkovsky?

The unofficial pact between Russia’s parliament and its business ‘oligarchs’ has been an important element in the country’s recent political stability and economic progress. Now, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is targeting executives of the giant Yukos oil corporation – including its ambitious head, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, interviewed here. Are both pact and progress now at risk?

Two nations, one project: keeping the Palestine-Israel Journal alive

The “Palestine-Israel Journal” is a remarkable experiment in cooperation across the bitter divides of the Middle East conflict. In the face of financial pressures, a Kafkaesque transport system, and the reality of two distinct national narratives, its Israeli co-editor describes his colleagues’ efforts to remain true to their core purpose: good professional work.

The Japanese decision

Why has the Japanese government decided to send armed forces to Iraq to assist in its economic recovery? A leading scholar of Japanese politics places the decision within the context of the country’s search for a self-defined global role over the past generation.

The Pentagon: the force is with us

United States planners are undeterred by the casualties and setbacks of their Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. Indeed, with proposed new ‘global reach’ and nuclear weapons systems the Pentagon is sending a clear message to the world: business as usual.

The perils of professionalism: the BBC in the Middle East

The BBC, under intense pressure in Britain itself over its coverage of the Iraq war, faces challenges to its professionalism and impartiality in an equally controversial political arena: Israel and Palestine. Sarah McGregor-Wood and Hillel Schenker of the Palestine-Israel Journal interview the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief, Andrew Steele, about the dangers and satisfactions of getting the story, telling the truth – and taking the rap from both sides.

Where are the weapons?

The issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was crucial in the justification for war offered by the United States and its British ally. Their subsequent failure to find evidence of an active WMD programme is now raising serious questions of trust for governments in Washington and London.
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