A fierce ideological battle that appears to favor a radical Islamic constituency may hold the key to the future of a little-known but restive region in south Russia. The religious topography of the North Caucasus can no longer be reduced to a simple theological contest between Sufi traditionalists and Islamists. Increasingly, ideological schisms are emerging within the Islamist constituency itself, which Moscow rather ambiguously labels the “Wahhabi” community. The infighting revolves around differences in thinking between moderate reformers and radicals, a rivalry that, while long-prevalent in nearby Chechnya, has now become especially apparent in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, another patch […]

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles by Rhea Wessel on the rights of Muslim women in Europe, particularly Turkish women in Germany. The stories will appear occasionally on World Politics Review. FRANKFURT, Germany — Forcing girls and young women into marriage is illegal in most countries and banned under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but that doesn’t keep the practice from remaining prevalent in dozens of countries. In Europe, immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East continue to force partners on their children for economic security, clan continuity or the preservation of a […]

The relationship between Russia and Serbia has remained close despite numerous turnovers of leadership in both countries. The continual upkeep of this relationship finds its roots in similar cultural traditions. Both countries boast many of the same Slavic traditions, including the Cyrillic alphabet, Orthodox Christianity and a Slavic brotherhood that differentiates itself from the West. It should come as no surprise then why Russia, despite the breakup of the Soviet bloc, has continued to side with Serbia in its post-Soviet years — specifically regarding the current controversy surrounding Kosovo, which holds the status of an autonomous territory within Serbia. However, […]

Kingston, JAMAICA — The screaming of the newly widowed let the people of Common know revenge had visited them that Monday morning. A fierce current, taking hold of the Caribbean basin, lashed rolls of thunder and heavy rainfall down upon the tough uptown community’s ramshackle buildings. Flyposting, advertising downtrodden reggae dancehalls and erotica clubs, grew soggy and limpid, giving way to graffiti tags sprayed on the walls underneath. A congealed sludge of soil skimmed along the streetscape, dirt and leaves clogging in the strip of potholes and fissures that passes for Red Hills Road. A lone jerk vendor, braving the […]

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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 […]

What exactly is the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, doing in Iraq? Although the public has had occasion to be aware of the BND presence, up until now most will have been led to believe that the BND has been “quietly” cooperating with American and coalition authorities. Even more skeptical observers will have assumed that it is at least not cooperating with America’s enemies in the country. But a photograph published earlier this month in the German weekly Stern provides disturbing evidence that it is doing precisely that. (See here on the Stern website.) The photo depicts a middle-aged […]

Ever since Russia briefly interrupted natural gas deliveries to Ukraine on New Year’s Day 2006, Moscow has been harshly criticized in the West for allegedly using energy as a tool to blackmail its neighbors. The recent spat between Russia and Belarus over Moscow’s price hike on oil and gas deliveries to Minsk once again prompted charges from Western politicians and pundits that Russia is not a reliable source of energy. But where many Westerners perceive Russia as a regional bully, the Kremlin argues that former Soviet republics are not entitled to cheap Russian energy simply because Russia’s major export pipelines […]

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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 […]

MOSCOW — On Dec. 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Security Council in Moscow dedicated to addressing the social and economic problems of the Russian Far East. In Putin’s assessment, the situation in the region, which borders China, had become so grave as to constitute a threat to the country’s national security. According to a transcript on the Kremlin website, Putin declared in his opening remarks that past government action had failed to overcome the Far East’s grave problems. These include the district’s declining Russian population and its imbalanced economic activities. Putin also warned that the […]

MANCHESTER, England — In this gritty northern city once famous for its textile exports, two bus companies have had their operating licenses suspended for employing Polish drivers who cannot read English road signs. In the Romanian capital of Bucharest, a new bus station opened this week to cater for yet more people keen to travel to Eastern Europe’s favorite destination. As both Romania and Bulgaria became the European Union’s newest members on Jan. 1, Britain braced for a new wave of immigration. After the EU expanded eastwards in 2004, the London government hopelessly miscalculated the number of likely economic migrants […]

The resurgent strength of the euro in the international currency market could, ironically, be the agent of its demise in 2007. Problems caused by the lack of fiscal maneuverability that the “one-currency-fits-all” approach imposes saw Italy considering a return to the lira just last year. But in October, when French car manufacturing output dropped to 14 percent for the year, with the country’s monthly trade deficit running at a staggering $2.7 billion, and economic growth shuddering to a standstill, it left one of the EU’s biggest guns warning of possible withdrawal — a move which would signal the end for […]