Corridors of Power

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every Sunday. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. NEVER GIVE UP — Pope Benedict XVI has marked the 50th anniversary of the European Union by reviving the Vatican’s campaign to have a reference to Europe’s Christian roots included in the draft constitution. Speaking in the Vatican Saturday, Pope Benedict called on Catholic politicians to challenge “the secularists who want to keep quiet about the Christian culture in Europe and in the world.” Elaborating on one of his top concerns, he […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every Sunday. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. FLAG OF CONVENIENCE — This week, the foreign minister of Malta, Michael Frendo, was in Washington to sign the Bush administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative. The tiny Mediterranean island is the smallest member of the European Union (pop: 410,000, acreage: 90 square miles), but the signing is not as marginal as it seems at first glance. Malta has the world’s eighth largest ship registry, so the agreement will enable U.S. inspectors to board […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every Sunday. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives.BANDAR REMEMBERED — Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabian national security adviser, is well known in Washington, where he spent 22 years as the Saudi ambassador. When he comes to town these days — which is often — it is as one of the key architects of Saudi Arabia’s recent emergence from publicity-shy kingdom to key player in Arab diplomacy. As an indication of its new activism, Saudi Arabia will host the annual […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every week by Sunday morning. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. WHO OWES WHOM? — Invasions, as the Bush administration can attest, are costly undertakings. But in the case of Iraq, the United States is unlikely to follow the example of the Russian government, which has sent Afghanistan the bill for the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation. Moscow is asking the Afghans to pay $9 billion it says Russia spent on “development” in Afghanistan in the infamous decade that […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every week by Sunday morning. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. ET TU COSSIGA? — Every Italian political crisis worthy of the name is flavored with a dollop of conspiracy. In Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s sudden resignation earlier this week, one conspiracy involves Senator-for-Life Francesco Cossiga, whose defection from the government ranks in the vote that defeated the Prodi administration came as a surprise. A former president of the republic and still an influential figure in Italian politics, Cossiga is […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every week by Sunday morning. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS MOQTADA AL-SADR? — The cleric is not in Tehran, but in Kufa, southern Iraq, according to a Western source. Stories that he has fled across the border are incorrect, according to Albrecht Gero Muth, a former adviser to Kofi Annan when the latter was U.N. Secretary General, who remains in contact with al-Sadr. Presumably, the rumors are designed to focus on al-Sadr’s link with […]

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THE ONCE AND (ALMOST) CURRENT KING — Afghan President Hamid Karzai took time away from his country’s growing problems earlier this week to report to parliament on King Zahir’s improving condition following his hospitalization in India on Feb 4. King who? After living in exile in Rome for 27 years, 92-year-old former King Zahir Shah returned to Kabul in 2002 following the defeat of the Taliban. But for U.S. republican sensitivities he might well have ended up as Afghanistan’s restored monarch. In the loya jirga (tribal conference) that determined Afghanistan’s political future, the idea of restoration had strong support. Older […]

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UNTIMELY DEPARTURE — The U.S. intelligence community is upset at John Negroponte’s sudden departure from his post as the director of national intelligence after less than two years. According to one insider, Negroponte has left unfinished the important structural reform he began shortly following his appointment as overall head of the country’s 15 intelligence services two years ago. President Bush shifted Negroponte, a veteran diplomat, from national security to fill the second ranking position at the State Department when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s first choice, Robert Kimmitt, the deputy secretary of the Treasury, didn’t want to transfer to Foggy […]

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EXTRA TIME — More on the IRS investigation of Washington’s foreign embassies: The German Embassy has complained to the Revenue that the Feb. 20 deadline for embassy employees to file back taxes from 2003 through 2005 is “unreasonably short” and asked for an extension to June 30. The extra time would “afford employees the possibility to prepare” their returns, the embassy said in a letter written to the State Department for forwarding to the IRS, as protocol demands. In November, the IRS proposed what it called a “settlement initiative” for thousands of non-diplomatic employees — both foreign and U.S. citizens […]

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NO RED CARPET FOR PRODI — Ten months after Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s election, he still has not been invited to the White House, and political commentators in Rome have concluded that the center-left coalition leader is being given the Bush cold shoulder. It’s unusual for the new prime minister of a key NATO country not to have visited Washington sooner, but the word from Italy is that this is the Bush administration’s way of expressing its displeasure with the way the bilateral relationship is going. The left wing of Prodi’s government, which includes the Communists, is pressing for […]

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FOREIGN REACTION TO BUSH SPEECH GLOOMY — If domestic reaction to President Bush’s new Iraq strategy has been largely negative, foreign comments have been no better. From Paris to Riyadh, media comment has been critical of the administration’s approach and skeptical of its success. An editorial in the leading French newspaper Le Monde began: “Anyone who expected the American president to learn a lesson from the Democratic victory in Congress and from the current chaos in Iraq and overhaul his strategy is disappointed.” But the paper said Bush has at least “abandoned his triumphalist tones.” In addition, “gone are the […]

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WILL SHIITE CHURCHMAN OPPOSE SURGE? — Aside from Democratic opposition at home, President Bush’s troop increase for Baghdad is “greatly vulnerable” to rejection by a powerful figure in Iraq itself — the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, whose charisma and towering influence over the majority of Shiite Muslims remains as undisputable as ever. A well-informed Western source in Iraq says the chances are that the aged, reclusive cleric could come out against the surge unless the Bush administration has privately prepared the ground with him in advance, which doesn’t seem to have happened. He is said to feel that the military […]

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