BELGRADE, Serbia — The arrest of Ratko Mladic offers Europe some closure on a horrific period of its recent history, and is a substantial boost for Serbia and its president, Boris Tadic. But obstacles remain ahead for Serbia on its long journey back to the European family. After 16 years of evading near misses and false leads, Mladic came quietly. The former head of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) was found not in a mountain redoubt in Bosnia, but in an innocuous town on the northern Serbian plains. Mladic has been indicted on 15 counts, including genocide and crimes against […]

Just more than a week ago at the United Nations saw the close of the Meeting of Governmental Experts on the Implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects — an elaborate name for an initiative whose progress has been marred by bureaucratic chaos, slow implementation and unequal state capacities. The Program of Action, created in 2001, is a series of recommendations on small arms and light weapons, ranging from destruction of surplus arms to changing national laws to regulate the arms trade. The […]

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Facing pressure from the European Union, the Serbian political entity within Bosnia-Herzegovina backed off of plans last week to hold a referendum that would have challenged the authority of statewide institutions in the country. In an email interview, Bruce Hitchner, a professor at Tufts University and the chairman of the Dayton Peace Accords Project, discussed Bosnia’s relations with the EU. WPR: What is the current status of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s EU aspirations, on both sides? Bruce Hitchner: The European Union has strongly supported Bosnia’s eventual membership in the EU, and Bosnia-Herzegovina has signed a Security and Stabilization Agreement with the European Union, […]

The future of women’s rights in the Arab Spring countries has been an open worry in recent months. Observers have noted there are no women in the transitional government in Egypt. Fundamentalist elements in Yemen that had opposed raising the marriage age for girls, currently at 8 years old, are among the chief opposition forces trying to bring down the Saleh government. Paraphrasing T.S. Eliot, spring might well be the cruelest season for women in the Arab world. It is in this context that recent reports in the Egyptian media are so troubling. According to the Egyptian Center for Women’s […]

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Apparently President Barack Obama’s speech on U.S. Middle East policy has created quite the uproar among those who are shocked to learn that there is gambling going on in Rick’s place. So be it. For me, I’ll limit my textual analysis to the speech’s few sentences that might end up having a real-world impact. First place goes to this one, which represents the kind of contractual language against which future U.S. policy should be held accountable: Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest — today I am making it clear that it is a top priority that […]

When the Arab Spring began erupting late last year, most world leaders responded with a mixture of bewilderment and incoherence. Whether in Tunis or Cairo, Washington or Paris, heads of government seemed confused about how to react to the mass popular demands for democratic change. That, however, was not the case inside the palaces that house the reigning monarchs of the Middle East. There, the swelling political seas were met with a steady hand on the rudder. As they watched besieged presidents plead or do battle with their people, and as they observed Western leaders nudge and later withdraw their […]

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China is calling for the international community to help fight what it calls a homegrown terrorist problem in mostly Muslim Xinjiang. The Chinese government accuses the region’s Uighur minority population of seeking independence through violence, while the Uighurs blame Beijing for suppressing their culture and religion.

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The crackdown in Syria appears to have taken a chilling turn after amateur video revealed what was reported to be a mass grave. Residents recovered 13 bodies from a pit near the southern city of Deraa — four of them children.

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King Abdullah II of Jordan recently formed a royal committee to review and propose amendments to Jordan’s constitution. In an email interview, Jillian Schwedler, a Jordan expert at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, discussed protests and reform in Jordan. WPR: How has Jordan been affected by the popular upheavals in the region? Jillian Schwedler: Like citizens throughout the Middle East, Jordanians of various political and socio-economic backgrounds were inspired by the protests in Tunisia and then Egypt to raise questions about their own government. Small protests took place throughout the country for nine consecutive Fridays beginning in late-January. The most […]

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This video shows graphic footage of the violence that erupted on Israel’s borders with Syria over the weekend, leaving at least four people dead and many wounded. Reports on Monday had put the number of people killed at 12. The violence erupted on “Nakba Day,” which commemorates the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during fighting after the founding of Israel in 1948.

Following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the developments still unfolding in the region, several questions arise: Is the Arab Spring over? Have we reached a turning point where no new revolutions are likely and where the remaining autocratic leaders will reaffirm their power monopolies? And what do post-revolutionary developments in Tunisia and Egypt suggest about the pace and prospects of their political opening and possible democratization? In trying to answer these questions, the two waves of democratization in Eastern Europe and Eurasia provide useful analytical comparisons. The 1989 revolutions in the former communist bloc, as well as its […]

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Myanmar was recently reported to have concluded its first set of international energy deals — with China, Singapore and South Korea — since the installation of a nominally civilian government late last year. In an email interview, Matthew Smith, a senior consultant for EarthRights International, discussed Myanmar’s trade and energy relations. WPR: What is the current state of Myanmar’s energy sector, and who are its major international partners? Matthew Smith: Myanmar — also referred to as Burma — is rich in natural gas, and its rivers have the region’s greatest potential for hydropower generation. Investment in the energy sector is […]

At the start of the Arab revolutions, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) tentatively placed Turkey on the side of the pro-democracy movements, starting with Tunisia and then Egypt. In contrast to 2009, when Ankara backed the Ahmadinejad administration following Iran’s disputed elections, Turkey was the first country to call for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down at a time when other leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, were hedging their bets. In doing so, Erdogan positioned himself and Turkey as regional leaders in encouraging democracy in other Muslim countries, based on […]

The recent events in the Arab world and Iran have led many in the West to urge President Barack Obama to take a stronger stance against human right abuses in Iran. The Obama administration should resist this temptation, as doing so would only serve to weaken Iran’s domestic opposition. As the popular uprisings in the Middle East have demonstrated, revolutions are most successful when they are organic. The voices calling on the Obama administration to give greater attention to human rights abuses in Iran have been forceful and diverse. A Washington Post editorial from last month, for instance, told the […]

Even for a man who was no stranger to government shackles, Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye’s arrest last Thursday was particularly vicious. Though it was Besigye’s fourth arrest since April 11, when he and his supporters began holding “walk to work” protests against rising fuel and commodity prices, this one was met with disbelief across this East African nation of 33 million. A day after being released on bail following his previous arrest, Besigye was intercepted in his vehicle at a Kampala roundabout by plainclothes officers, who smashed the car’s windows with a hammer and a pistol, and doused Besigye’s […]

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