In the wakeof the attempted Christmas Day bombing aboard a Northwest Airlines passenger jet en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, the world has turned its attention to Yemen. The would-be bomber’sclaims that he was trained by al-Qaida in Yemen are lookingincreasingly plausible as the investigation unfolds on both sides ofthe Atlantic. In light of the increased attention to the perilous internal situation in Yemen, World Politics Review is temporarily opening up free access to three four recent articles on the country. These articles will remain freely accessible until Jan. 8. In a prescient Nov. 5 article, World Politics Review Columnist […]

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 15, 2009, as part of the WPR feature “Illicit Flows and Transnational Threats.” It is made available here for free, as part of a promotion that ends Jan. 5. To experience more of WPR’s subscription service, sign up for a 30-day free trial. In January 2009, retired Gen. Mauro Tello Quiñones took command of a police unit charged with combating drug-related violence in the popular Mexican tourist destination of Cancún. The assignment lasted just one week. In early February, Tello and two aides were kidnapped and killed. Before murdering Tello, the […]

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has faced challenging times before, but in recent months, Tehran has been confronted with one crisis after another. The threats of severe international sanctions over its nuclear program are mounting, just as domestic strife undermines the legitimacy of the regime. With its plate so full, why did Iran suddenly decide to taunt Iraq — a country with which it fought an eight-year war — by provocatively raising the Iranian flag on an Iraqi-controlled oil field? The answer may point to even more trouble on the horizon for Iran’s leaders. The startling news […]

More than 56 years after the end of the Korean War ushered in a long period of relative military isolation, South Korea is finally taking steps towards a regional security role commensurate with the country’s advanced economy. But South Korea’s rise as a military power is complicated by its domestic politics — and a belligerent North Korea. Despite a technologically advanced military and a Gross Domestic Product that, at just shy of $1 trillion, makes it the world’s 15th-wealthiest country, the Republic of Korea has rarely deployed troops outside its borders. In 1999, Seoul sent 400 soldiers to boost a […]

For regular watchers of “The Dadis Show” — the television broadcasts made by Guinea’s self-promoting junta leader, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, since taking power in a bloodless coup in December 2008 — the events of the last month have built into a cliffhanger. But whether it will mark the series’ season finale, or its last bow, remains to be seen. Dadis is currently convalescing at a hospital in Morocco after being shot in the head at close range on Dec. 3. His close confidante and head of the presidential guard, Lt. Abubakar “Toumba” Diakite, admitted in an interview on Dec. […]

It has become an article of faith that American counterterrorism policy — especially as practiced in Afghanistan — is a failure, and that as a consequence a new approach is required. This perception served as a major justification for the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan by the Obama administration, while the associated elevated sense of risk explains much of the resistance to closing the detention center in Guantanamo and holding terrorist trials in federal courts. Fortunately for the United States, the real story is quite different, as the American Security Project’s latest annual report (.pdf) on terrorism trends documents. […]

In discussing my proposal last week for a Sino-Indian Convention that would define 21st century spheres of influence in Central Asia, a colleague suggested that it was an idea that Otto von Bismarck would have been proud of. They didn’t mean it as a compliment. We think of Bismarck as a caricature of the old European warlord, peering through a monocled eye while croaking about decisions forged in “blood and iron.” Most of all, we see him as someone whose policies were designed for personal and imperial aggrandizement, not the betterment of the people. We distrust his approach to the […]

After more than a year of fighting, the resumption of peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was a welcome development in Mindanao, an island mired in endemic violence. But although talks have resumed in earnest, persistent structural obstacles mean that hopes for a lasting peace remain slim. The most positive development that has emerged from the latest effort is an internationalization of the process, which has now clearly moved beyond the informal and largely ineffectual mediation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. On Sept. 15, Manila and the MILF agreed […]

KUALA LUMPUR — As Thai leaders come to terms with an ailing monarch and grapple with the headline-grabbing antics of antagonists in Cambodia, insurgents in the deep south of the country have been raising the stakes in their bid for autonomy. Casualties blamed on shootings, bombings and military raids have become an almost daily occurrence in recent months, leading Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, to tour the troubled southern province of Narathiwat on Dec. 9. Together they urged locals to condemn the violence, while promising further talks and some degree of autonomy to the […]

Two years after an unexpected surge in Dutch support for the Afghan war, the Netherlands has taken the first steps towards officially withdrawing from the NATO coalition in Afghanistan beginning in late 2010. A non-binding parliamentary decision in October rejecting an extension of the Dutch mission represents a striking break from the overall trend within NATO of deepening the alliance’s commitment to the eight-year-old war. The U.S. military is adding 30,000 troops to its current 70,000-strong force in Afghanistan, while the U.K., Italy and Poland — as well as non-NATO-members South Korea and Georgia — have also signaled their willingness […]

Global Insights: U.S. and Iran Continue Diplomatic Dance

It’s not often that a U.S. official defends Iran at an international forum. But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman did just that at the sixth annual Manama Dialogue, a regional security conference organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies held in Bahrain on Dec. 11-13. Feltman deflected charges by the Yemeni and Saudi governments that Iran was providing military assistance to Houthi rebels operating along the Yemeni-Saudi border. Meanwhile, at the same conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki provided the most detailed counteroffer to date from Tehran regarding proposals that Iran exchange its […]

While Afghanistan has often been touted as the crucible for the regeneration of the Western alliance, it also offers another opportunity for the United States: a means to promote a stabilizing modus vivendi between India and China. In his recent WPR Briefing on China’s stake in containing Pakistani militants, Michael Kugelman observed, “Pakistan’s instability threatens the security of China’s citizens, its government and its energy imports,” particularly when it comes to the “combustible province of Baluchistan.” He notes, “Whenever China has demanded something of Islamabad, the latter has often complied.” And in surveying the Indian strategic view of Afghanistan, Dan […]

Counterinsurgency, commonly referred to by its military acronym, “COIN,” essentially boils down to armed nation-building — a deliberate process of empowering people and weakening guerrillas until a state-friendly balance emerges. By contrast, counterterrorism seeks the tactical annihilation of the enemy. President Barack Obama’s new Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy is an effort to do both, promising to dismantle and disrupt al-Qaida while leaving the expensive and time-consuming job of definitively defeating it to Islamabad and Kabul. Call it COIN-lite. Can such an approach work? For now, yes. But if we extend the time horizon to 5-10 years from now, the outlook […]

World Citizen: Mediation as the Third Path to Global Power

Throughout history, the most transparent and blunt expression of international power has involved the projection of military force. Over the years, other forms of power have gained importance, with the concept of “soft power” — or the ability to peacefully persuade and attract other nations to acquiesce to a country’s will — recently gaining prominence as an alternative to traditional “hard power.” But for countries without the luxury of the large military budgets that fuel hard power or the massive cultural and economic assets that underpin soft power, a third way has emerged as a path to global influence. Call […]

On the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, many observers discussed the implications of the events that took place last Nov. 26. But few have commented on the implications of what did not take place: New Delhi did not mobilize its armed forces. It did not retaliate against terrorist safe havens, nor did it go to war with the country — Pakistan — where they were located. Rather, it limited its response to calling upon its neighbor to shut down the terrorist cells and extradite the masterminds and abettors of the Mumbai attackers. Islamabad responded half-heartedly. It failed to bring […]

A little more than 10 years after the people of what is now Timor-Leste voted for independence, this small, half-island country has compressed into a few short years what many other post-colonial states have taken decades to achieve. It has been largely destroyed, achieved independence, had a political crisis, transitioned to democracy, and now appears to be heading into a period of political calm and economic growth. After the near-catastrophic events of 2006, Timor-Leste’s prospects are looking relatively positive, even if a number of important caveats apply. After roughly 300 years of Portuguese colonial neglect came to an end in […]

“We must make sure that the deployment of our troops is not merely the appetizer and that the main course becomes . . . an outbreak of nation-building and infrastructure construction and resources which are . . . not within our capacity to provide for everyone around the world.” After eight years of operations in Afghanistan, and the recent announcement that additional troop deployments will continue to execute a strategy that stretches the military beyond its traditional combat role for at least another 18 months, the above quotation could easily convey the commitment-fatigue prevalent in Washington these days. But the […]

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