One might forgive Middle Eastern and African dictators for finding a great deal of confusion in the messages they receive these days from the West. How would the West — that part of the world that loudly proclaims its devotion to human rights, due process of law and democratic freedoms — respond to a government-ordered detention, framing and torture of half-a-dozen visiting medical workers? The answer, of course, came through from Libya last week, and was heralded as a major victory for European diplomacy. The West, as it has done for centuries, is speaking loudly to the developing world. But […]

WASHINGTON BLOCKED AFGHAN KING — Did the Americans foist Hamid Karzai on the Afghan people even though Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan who died this week at 92, would have been the far more popular choice? Yes, says Ishak Shariar, Afghanistan’s first ambassador to the United States following the 2001 defeat of the Taliban. At the December 2001 U.N.-sponsored conference in Bonn to plan Afghanistan’s future and appoint an interim government, the two main Afghan political blocs were the so-called Rome group, which supported the king, and the Northern Alliance of mainly smaller ethnic groups that had spearheaded […]

LAGOS, Nigeria — About 5,000 refugees legally registered in Nigeria have been told they must fully integrate into Nigerian society or be repatriated to their home countries. The order came as a result of United Nations refugee agency’s decision to cease providing relief aid to displaced persons in Africa whose home countries are no longer burdened by war. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the governments of Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, have agreed to cooperate in a larger integration and repatriation effort being led by the agency across Africa. The Nigerian government’s order […]

Most analysts of the Bush administration’s “surge” strategy in Iraq have focused on its military dimension, especially the prominent deployment of thousands of additional U.S. troops to Baghdad and other contested regions of the country. Another important element of the administration’s strategy, however, is the renewed effort to advance Iraq’s economic reconstruction with the provision of considerable new funding and other additional support. The first results of this economic surge are now in — and they do not look encouraging. According to a July 30 report of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), headed by […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a weekly column the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff. WORLD’S UNIONS RALLY FOR IRANIAN LABOR LEADER — Labor unions from around the world have joined forces with human rights groups to protest the detention of Mansour Osanloo, head of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, who was reportedly abducted as he stepped off a bus on July 10. Osanloo had previously been held in Tehran’s Evin for most of 2006 for organizing a bus driver walkout in December 2005. The union […]

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — In the fading light of a summer’s evening, the three-story yellow building, standing in the middle of a cozy yard of coniferous trees in the north of this city, seems warm and inviting. It has the allure of a new house. But the high walls topped with concertina wire, the metal doors, and bars on the windows remind visitors it is a prison — albeit a very special kind of prison. A man who introduces himself as foreman Sasha emphasizes that the prison “fully meets all international standards.” He offers a tour of the facility his team […]

On July 18, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher met with representatives from South and Central Asian countries to discuss how the United States could promote economic integration in their region. The session was part of a dialogue conducted as part of the Third Annual Meeting of the U.S.-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The day before, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative hosted the third annual TIFA Meeting. The United States and the five Central Asian countries signed the TIFA agreement in June 2004. The TIFA process focuses on identifying means to […]

Last week in Lake Seliger, Russia, 10,000 Russian youth gathered for a two-week summer camp that involved volleyball sessions, morning exercise, sailing, and in-depth ideological instruction on President Vladimir Putin’s policies. As Russia’s government relations with Europe and particularly Britain are entering a new hostile stage, a pro-Putin youth movement called Nashi is playing a uniquely visible role in the Kremlin’s campaign against its opponents. Nashi, or “our guys” in Russian, claims 100,000 members across Russia. The movement emerged in 2005 following the youth-led protests in Georgia and Ukraine in 2004, when the Russian government took a series of measures […]

Whether the new British Labour Party government headed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown will seek to distance itself from the policies of U.S. President George Bush remains uncertain. So far, however, Brown seems to be resisting calls for significant change to Britain’s core foreign policies, despite a political atmosphere that is conducive to such a break. Many British people disapprove of recent U.S. policies regarding Iraq, climate change, and other issues. Moving away from Washington also would allow Brown to differentiate himself from his predecessor, Tony Blair, underscoring his authority and credentials. Several recent statements by newly appointed members of […]

SARKO THE PERSUADER — That French President Nicolas Sarkozy was going to be the Energizer Bunny of international politics was clear from the moment he first bounced up the steps of the Élysée Palace in his jogging shorts. But he has also shown strong powers of persuasion. One prime example: Sarko persuaded the European Union — over breakfast, no less — to back France’s candidate for managing director of the International Monetary Fund in Washington. The governments of Italy, Poland, and the Netherlands all had their own nominations to succeed the Spaniard Rodrigo Rato, who is resigning in October. But […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a weekly column covering the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff. DETAINEES APPEAR ON IRANIAN TELEVISION — Two detained Iranian-Americans appeared on Iranian television Wednesday and Thursday evenings in a program apparently aimed at building a case they had traveled to Iran to foment regime change. Haleh Esfandiari, head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Middle East Program, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant for the Open Society Institute, were seen on the program “In the Name of Democracy” speaking in heavily edited […]

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — As he watched children and teenagers play soccer in the courtyard of apartment buildings with faded facades, Moussa Damiba recalled better days here. Lots of white people lived in these buildings before the crisis, the 32-year-old said. “The crisis” is the catch-all term used to describe the years of instability, defined by a coup d’etat, a country-dividing civil war and political violence. But Damiba worries about the future too after last month’s attempted assassination of Guillaume Soro, the leader of the rebel New Forces who is now Ivory Coast’s prime minister. When Soro’s plane landed in […]

NEW YORK — America generally has had an uneasy relationship with the Non-Alignment Movement, which represents some 118 countries, mainly in the developing world. More than a half century ago — on June 9, 1955, to be precise — John Foster Dulles, the U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, upset the leaders of several non-aligned countries, including former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, when he chastised in a speech that “neutrality (a term used by the then U.S. administration to refer to non-alignment) has increasingly become an obsolete and, except under very special circumstances . . . […]

On June 13, the Japanese government approved the latest edition of its annual defense white paper, “Defense of Japan 2007.” The report identifies North Korea and China as Tokyo’s primary strategic concerns while reaffirming Japan’s alliance with the United States, commitment to international peacekeeping, and intent to keep defense spending slightly below 1 percent of its gross domestic product (some $39 billion). This version of the white paper was the first published by Japan’s new Ministry of Defense, which before January 2007 only had “agency” status. Compared with the previous Defense Agency, whose main function was to manage the Japanese […]

Did you feel the earth shake after President George W. Bush took to the podium on Monday and announced he would work to propel the Mideast peace process by calling an international meeting this fall? No? That’s because the proposal was simply not earth-shaking. The call, made gravely, in a speech filled with heady talk of pivotal choices, and peace, and decency and hope, does not amount to a grand strategy for reaching an Arab-Israeli agreement. Instead, Washington’s proposal represents one tactical piece in the very limited, focused, and trouble-filled plan to prop up the unpopular government of Mahmoud Abbas, […]

The “Color Revolutions” that swept through Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2004-2005 have mostly faded out. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution has given way to political clan warfare and hopes for reform have been put on hold. The Tulip Revolution brought little more than a change of personnel to Kyrgyzstan. Only Georgia’s Rose Revolution has maintained its hue. Why has Georgia been able to maintain its revolutionary spirit despite several setbacks over the past three years? One reason seems to be the talented, young technocrats the revolution placed in Georgian ministries. Just as the “Chicago Boys” famously helped right Chile’s economy […]

Editor’s Note: Click here to watch a video of Carmen Gentile reporting from Cité Soleil. PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Edith Destiny remembers the days when gunfire in the Haitian capital’s slums kept her awake all night. “Things are beginning to improve here — I don’t hear nearly as many gunshots as I used to,” said Destiny while deep-frying a batch of Haitian “marinade” for potential customers along a busy thoroughfare in Cité Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s largest, and most notoriously violent, slums.<<ad>>The 38-year-old mother of two said fewer gunshots means better business for her and the other merchants along 19th Street, […]

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