DILI, East Timor — All is calm in East Timor, but tension bubbles under the surface in this island state a few days before the historic, first post-independence parliamentary election, slated for June 30.Fourteen parties and coalitions arevying for seats in an election whose only certainoutcome is the creation of a meaningful political opposition, and thus potentially a more functional democracy than this former Portuguesecolony has ever known. However, only the next few months will prove whether that will translate into the stability and peace needed for real development, or into more trouble. The real political battle is between former […]

The world has dithered in putting together the necessary political response to the humanitarian catastrophe that has ensued in Darfur since 2003. The latest “breakthrough,” with the Sudanese government consenting to a hybrid U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, comes after years of stalling by Khartoum, and half-hearted efforts by the international community. In any case, the 20,000 troops will not get on the ground before 2008, and the peace agreement that they are meant to be enforcing remains a dead letter. So not much is likely to change for the traumatized people of Darfur anytime soon, despite French President […]

The Middle East, the land that gave the world the very concept of the Messiah, is about to receive a new one. So, why don’t we hear any Hossanas in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or Rammallah over Tony Blair’s imminent anointing as the new Middle East envoy by the International Quartet for Middle East Peace? By now, after a decades-long parade of envoys, special representatives, shuttle diplomats, mediators, negotiators, intermediaries, and every variety of peace-making performers and reconciliation evangelists, the one creed that is spreading in the region, beyond the three major monotheistic religions, is the gospel of cynicism. That’s the […]

Editor’s Note: To watch a video on the work of Zakia Zaki, click here. We were sitting in her office overlooking the rust-colored foothills of the Hindu Kush, Zakia Zaki speaking Persian slow enough for me to follow. A man brought in mugs of black tea and joined us. Zaki was the manager of the radio station I was visiting in Jabul Saraj, at the mouth to the mythic Panjshir valley, then half a day’s drive north of Kabul. The gentleman was her deputy. It was a first: I had never seen a man serve a woman tea in Afghanistan. […]

While much of the world watched in astonishment as gunmen from the rival Hamas and Fatah movements ripped through the streets of Gaza, terrifying civilians and tearing to shreds the myth of Palestinian unity, observers in Arab lands also found themselves mesmerized and horrified by what they saw. Among Arabs, the images packed a more visceral punch, leaving a sense of profound disillusionment.<<ad>>After all, the West had always viewed Palestinians, with their armed gangs and suicide bombers, with a mix of fear, skepticism, and — among some age groups and political persuasions — a certain amount of admiration. Among Arabs, […]

KABUL, Afghanistan — The bus bombing that killed at least 35 people Sunday in the deadliest attack in the capital since the fall of the Taliban may have been carefully planned with a timed device, says one of Afghanistan’s leading conflict analysts, another possible sign insurgent tactics are evolving. The Taliban claimed one of its suicide bombers was responsible for the thunderous early morning explosion that tore off the roof and sides of a bus carrying police recruits and blasted through two other transportation vehicles near Kabul police headquarters, scattering metal and body parts as far as 30 yards away. […]

LONDON — After months of fruitless shuttle diplomacy, threats of sanctions, broken promises and politicking, Sudan’s government has agreed to accept a coalition of United Nations peacekeepers to back up the beleaguered African Union mission in its western Darfur region. The deal, announced June 12 from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, would bring an additional 17,000 to 19,000 troops and 3,700 police officers into Darfur, a region the size of France where fighting between troops, government-backed militias and rebels has raged since 2003. An estimated 2.5 million people have been made homeless and some 200,000 have lost their lives […]

TEL AVIV, Israel — As a seemingly inexhaustible source of bad news, the Middle East is arguably the perfect place to go in search for the silver lining that the proverb promises for every cloud. The Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki demonstrated last week how it is done: In an article in the Wall Street Journal, he argued eloquently that the desperate situation in Iraq should be seen as part of a struggle comparable with the American civil war and he challenged skeptics with the question: “Why expect freedom to come easy to Iraq?” As it turned out, al-Maliki is […]

Hoping to curtail the violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta, new Nigerian President Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sent his vice president to the United States to meet with an international consulting firm that advises world leaders on conflict resolution, Nigerian officials and experts told World Politics Review. Yar’Adua sent Vice President Jonathan Goodluck to Boston last month to meet with staff at the Consensus Building Institute, an advisory group that specializes in “multiparty conflicts.” CBI’s client list includes the United Nations and the governments of Nigeria, Kenya, and Angola, as well as U.N. officials in Sudan. Outside of Africa, the […]

Now what? Is this anyone’s idea of how things would turn out in the yet-to-be-born Palestinian state? After three days of a vicious civil war in the Gaza strip, the Islamic militants of Hamas routed their rivals of the more secular Fatah. In the process, they killed scores of Palestinians. They terrorized their own people, and they made a questionable future even more uncertain. When Hamas gunmen took over the Gaza headquarters of Fatah and emptied file cabinets into the street, what came flying out the window were the best laid plans of politicians and pundits for a future Palestinian […]

OPATIJA, Croatia — Immediately, the signs along the road started to look familiar. The landscape tried with some success to transport me to an awfully different, dangerous time. I felt my back stiffen a little: back to the Balkans. This time, however, no checkpoints manned by armed men awaited. No bombed out homes marked the path of spreading carnage. Before I even had a chance to blink away the images of the 1990s in this region that brought the world that horrific expression “ethnic cleansing,” my 21st century cell phone beeped with a text message. “Welcome to Croatia!” The same […]

The Russians, Tom Clancy’s old reliable villains, are back. The American techno-thriller author has lent his name to several computer games, including the intricate new title from Ubisoft known as EndWar. The video game’s scenario? In the next twenty years, America deploys a space weapons system to protect the United States and Europe from nuclear attack, while a sullen Russia stays out of the missile shield club. A few years later, the world’s peak oil doomsayers are suddenly proven right and all of the world’s major oil producers — except for Russia — are found to have massively inflated their […]

LAGOS, Nigeria — A key militant group in Nigeria’s troubled Niger Delta region announced a one-month ceasefire Saturday, giving the country’s new president an opportunity to make good on promises to bring an end to the crisis there. The Niger Delta is the center of the oil industry in a country that is the sixth largest producer in the world, but the region is also home to some of Nigeria’s worst poverty. Over the last year-and-a-half, militant groups seeking a share of Nigeria’s oil wealth have sprung up in the delta. The groups have kidnapped Western oil workers and bombed […]

KABUL, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday reaffirmed the United States’ long-term commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan and hailed “real progress” made by NATO forces this year against the Taliban insurgency, despite rising violence in the southern and eastern provinces and the arrival of deadly Iranian-made weapons. Gates, on his second visit to the country since taking the helm of the Pentagon, said that after a round of talks with President Hamid Karzai, NATO commanders and other Afghan officials involved in training the national army, he believes the security situation has improved in recent months. “The Afghan alliance offensive […]