The two leading candidates for the French presidential elections, whose first round will occur in April, offer the French electorate a clear choice in their differing foreign policies. If elected, either of the two leading candidates — Nicolas Sarkozy, from the governing center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) party, and Ségolène Royal, from the opposition Parti Socialiste (PS) — could introduce considerable changes in French policies regarding the European Union, the United States, and other key issues. Both candidates have made clear their intention to adopt policies that differ from those of the current French president, Jacques Chirac. Since […]

BRUSSELS — Buying a packet of cigarettes in Belgium these days can be a harrowing experience. European cartons already carry large health warnings, such as “Smoking Kills” and “Smoking When Pregnant Harms Your Baby,” often framed in black and occupying up to half the surface of the pack. But from May, smokers in this rain-swept country of 10 million people will also been confronted with graphic pictorial warnings on their cigarette packs. The pictures are not for the faint-hearted. One shows a man with a swollen-red tumour protruding from his neck. “Smoking can lead to a slow and painful death,” […]

TEHRAN, Iran — What was the Soviet ambassador’s car doing, parked inside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, during the height of the Cold War? Relations between staunch U.S. ally Riyadh and committed adversary Moscow were at an all-time low, as Soviet arms and funding were being delivered to a number of Arab nationalist, anti-royalist regimes, such as Nasserite Egypt, Marxist Southern Yemen and Baathist Syria. “What is the ambassador doing in our embassy?” Abdurrahman Ar-Rashed, the current editor of Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, recalls asking of then-Saudi Ambassador to London, Sheikh Nassir Al-Manqoor. “We do not […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every week by Sunday morning. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. ET TU COSSIGA? — Every Italian political crisis worthy of the name is flavored with a dollop of conspiracy. In Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s sudden resignation earlier this week, one conspiracy involves Senator-for-Life Francesco Cossiga, whose defection from the government ranks in the vote that defeated the Prodi administration came as a surprise. A former president of the republic and still an influential figure in Italian politics, Cossiga is […]

Last month’s uranium smuggling episode in Georgia has renewed concerns about nuclear terrorism. In that incident, a rogue Russian trader sought to sell 100 grams of highly enriched uranium on the local black market. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the primary multinational institution involved in these issues, 662 confirmed cases of smuggling of radioactive materials occurred between 1993 and 2004. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recorded 215 reported incidents of nuclear trafficking in 2005 alone (though it is unclear whether the increase resulted from more sales attempts or improved detection and reporting procedures). At the […]

PERUGIA, Italy — Following a humbling defeat in a foreign policy vote in the Senate, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned Wednesday evening. After weathering a nine-month political storm with an extremely narrow Senate majority, the government was beaten on its strongest suit. “Foreign policy was one of the few things that were working,” commented foreign minister Massimo D’Alema, who, boasting a 62 percent approval rating, is the most popular member of the frail Prodi government. Prodi’s government coalition, L’Unione, failed to obtain the majority in a vote aimed at legitimizing the government’s foreign policy ahead of the crucial Feb. […]

One of the most important issues the new Congress will need to address is how to revise the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). During President Bush’s visit to the Baltic countries, in late November 2006, he announced the administration’s intention to seek a limited expansion of the VWP, providing new entrants accept measures yielding what Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has termed a “net increase in security.” A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators recently introduced the Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2007 to achieve this objective. On Feb. 15, the Senate Homeland Security and […]

Thirteen years ago, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin struggled to build a viable democracy against a post-Soviet backdrop of political instability and ideological ambiguity. While he could call for elections and appoint various ministers, it was more difficult to establish an ideology for both government officials and the voting public to ensure democracy thrived. In an attempt to fill the ideological void, Yeltsin appointed a committee to define Russian national identity in 1994. In the words of famed Russian expert Nicholas Riasanovsky: “[T]heir first task — admirably academic — was to gather everything that has been written and said on […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every week by Sunday morning. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS MOQTADA AL-SADR? — The cleric is not in Tehran, but in Kufa, southern Iraq, according to a Western source. Stories that he has fled across the border are incorrect, according to Albrecht Gero Muth, a former adviser to Kofi Annan when the latter was U.N. Secretary General, who remains in contact with al-Sadr. Presumably, the rumors are designed to focus on al-Sadr’s link with […]

On February 5, 2007, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski accepted the resignation of Defense Minsiter Radoslaw Sikorski. Although Sikorski’s departure will have few short-term implications, over the long term it could weaken Poland’s support for several important American-led security initiatives. Sikorski indicated that he resigned out of frustration because the government would not provide him with sufficient resources to ensure the success of the country’s expanded role in the NATO-led post-conflict stability operation in Afghanistan. Characterizing the deployment as Poland’s “most dangerous mission since WWII,” Sikorski had unsuccessfully requested substantial funds to enable the Polish military to generate goodwill among […]

In both his annual Kremlin news conference, which occurred on Feb.1, and in his appearance at the Munich Security Conference the following week, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Insisting that the Russian government must consider how to ensure the country’s national security, Putin pledged to adopt a “highly effective” response. For several years, the U.S. government has been pursuing bilateral initiatives with select NATO members to deploy a small number of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors in Eastern Europe. On Jan. 20, 2007, U.S. officials made a formal proposal […]

MADRID, Spain — On Feb. 15, three senior judges of Spain’s High Court are to hear opening pleas from 29 individuals charged in connection with the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. Eight or nine long, legally convulsive and controversial months later, the magistrates will deliver the verdicts that Spaniards hope will bring closure to a country still traumatized and bewildered three years after it was targeted for one of Europe’s most savage terror attacks, and justice to those deemed responsible for it. How close they come to achieving that remains to be seen. A not inconsiderable tangle of loose ends, […]

“Munich to US: ‘Don’t Send Your CIA Thugs out into Europe’s Streets’“. Thus ran the triumphant headline on the Spiegel Online’s English-language site a day after it became know that the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office had issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA employees presumed to have participated in the abduction of German citizen Khaled Al-Masri in early 2004. Just one day later, however, the headline had acquired a certain unintended irony as reports emerged that Masri himself had beaten up a social worker in his hometown of Neu-Ulm, leaving the man hospitalized for three days. The assault occurred on […]

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THE ONCE AND (ALMOST) CURRENT KING — Afghan President Hamid Karzai took time away from his country’s growing problems earlier this week to report to parliament on King Zahir’s improving condition following his hospitalization in India on Feb 4. King who? After living in exile in Rome for 27 years, 92-year-old former King Zahir Shah returned to Kabul in 2002 following the defeat of the Taliban. But for U.S. republican sensitivities he might well have ended up as Afghanistan’s restored monarch. In the loya jirga (tribal conference) that determined Afghanistan’s political future, the idea of restoration had strong support. Older […]

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The revelation late last Wednesday (Jan. 31) that British police and intelligence services had interrupted an imminent kidnapping and execution plot in Birmingham is illuminative of the challenge Britain currently faces in dealing with its internal extremism. But perhaps more importantly, it is indicative of the broader realities of the current state of this global phenomenon. According to media sources, the plot involved the kidnapping of a Muslim British soldier and the group of extremists in question (nine arrests have been made thus far) planned to torture him, force his “apology” for his actions in Iraq and then ultimately decapitate […]

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Standing in front of an aerial photograph of Kosovo’s biggest ski resort, Kirk Adams gets visibly excited. “You’ll get half a meter of powder here” — he points to a ridge on the mountain — “and you have it all to yourself. You’re skiing fresh tracks all day.” The resort, which Adams frequents, is a former Yugoslav ski area in a remote town called Brezovica. The whole complex is slipping into disrepair. Only one of nine lifts is functional. The two hotels are shabby, functional at best. “As a resort it’s a nightmare,” Adams concedes. “But it […]

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth 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. Read the rest of the articles in the series here. STUTTGART, Germany — Hülya Kalkan recently joined the growing ranks of German women of Turkish descent who have written condemning accounts of their young lives. In her book, “I Just Wanted to be Free,” published in 2005, Kalkan relates how she and, a few years later, her younger sister Esme narrowly escaped being forced […]

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