Commentary Week In Review

The Commentary Week in Review is posted on the blog every Friday. Drawing from more than two dozen English-language news outlets worldwide, the column highlights a handful of the week’s notable op-eds. Sarkozy Helps France’s Wealthy The first law passed by Nicolas Sarkozy’s government was a tax cut, which, according to Jordan Stancil’s assessment in an article posted on the Web site of The Nation on August 15, was “massive and unnecessary,” will go “mostly to the wealthy, [will] further degrade France’s public finances and probably lead to cuts in programs the majority of people rely on.” Stancil asserted: The […]

The State Department’s Video Channel

In the past, I have criticized the State Department and the U.S. government in general for making poor use of so-called “information and communications technology” like blogs, and the Internet in general, for public diplomacy. In a February blog post, after having difficulty locating a transcript of a press conference by a military commander in Iraq, I specifically wondered why the U.S. military doesn’t make better use of video on its Web sites. “If we were running [Multinational Forces-Iraq public affairs], we’d post a copy of the video of every press conference on our site, and also post it to […]

Haiti Dispatch: The Altitude of Wealth and the HNP

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — Wealth appears to be directly related to the altitude of your housing in Port au Prince: The higher you live the richer you are. The headquarters of the U.N. stabilization force, MINUSTAH, is midway up the mountain. Most of the U.N. workers appear to live in Petionville, as high up as you can get. Traveling higher, the roads improve, the cars get nicer, and traffic-choked streets give way to tree-lined avenues and gated estates. MINUSTAH headquarters is located in the old Hotel Christopher, and buzzes with activity as white “UN”-emblazoned Toyotas filled with administrators and […]

The Business of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Bush administration is considering designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. The purposes of that move are myriad (including, according to Ralph Peters, to provide a legal basis for bombing IRGC sites in Iran). But it’s clear that a major aim would be to allow the U.S. government, in concert with allies in Europe and elsewhere, to further tighten financial sanctions against the IRGC and its business interests. Military organizations with business interests? Unfortunately, it’s a not uncommon phenomenon around the globe (even in some democracies, such as Indonesia). […]


PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — I get conflicting answers as I talk to Haitians about their views of the U.N. MINUSTAH peacekeeping force and the legacy of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Many Haitians I speak with express their disgust at MINUSTAH inaction in the face of a wave of kidnappings by former Aristide supporters that swept the country after Aristide’s departure in 2004. One computer technician described a situation where dozens of kidnappings occurred each day, many perpetrated by Cité Soleil-based gangs. If a kidnap victim couldn’t raise ransom, more often than not they were shot. Another Haitian I spoke […]

Iran Dominates Opinion Pages

In compiling the commentary section of our Media Roundup each day, we browse the opinion pages of many tens of international newspapers, journals and magazines. Given that opinion editors follow the news cycle, its not unusual to see distinct trends in commentary coverage. However, the heavy focus on Iran today caught our eye because it was so pronounced, and because there was no one news event that obviously triggered the deluge. Iran, of course, has been a prominent subject of international coverage for many months now, and Ahmadinejad did set off on a tour of Central Asia this week (we […]

The Blans of Haiti

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — Walls Guest House has the feel of an upscale hostel, and was founded in 1984 by Anne and Jack Wall of Ontario. Any profit the guest house makes for visitors such as myself is funneled into FIDA, an organization they created to support agricultural cooperatives in rural Haiti. The place hosts an interesting group of expats and visitors, one that gives you a somewhat representative idea of reasons for foreign interest in Haiti. Two women are here to adopt Haitian children. One is from Arizona, and hopes to take five children back with her. She’s […]

Wrath of Rights Groups Wallops China

Juliette Terzieff reports in this week’s Rights & Wrongs: OLYMPIC COUNTDOWN BRINGS CHINA CRITICISM — Condemnation of China’s human rights record rained down from all sides this week as Chinese authorities marked the one year countdown to the beginning of the 2008 Beijing Games with a lavish celebration. Amnesty International released a scathing report on the status of human rights in China Aug. 7, charging China has broken promises it made when bidding to host the games by increasing abuse and surveillance of political dissidents, harassing and detaining local and foreign journalists and closing publications focused on social development. With […]

Where Does the U.S. Get Its Oil?

UPDATE April 20, 2011: The below item has been so well-read in the almost four years since we first published it, we have produced an updated chart to depict the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most recent data on U.S. oil imports. This time, instead of a one-month snapshot, however, we’re showing annual totals by country, and the trend over several years. The chart below shows U.S. oil (and products) imports by country for the top 15 source countries during the six years beginning in 2005 and ending in 2010. For each country, the 2005 import volume is represented by the […]

Haiti: Stable at Last?

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — The island of Haiti is surprisingly easy to get to from the United States. Pay $300 for a round trip ticket from Miami, and an hour and a half later an Airbus 300 descends from the Caribbean skies to deposit you at the gates of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, and into the middle of a nation both hurting from decades of instability and full of a renewed sense of optimism after restoration of basic security following a humanitarian intervention by U.N. troops. World Politics Review will be featuring a series […]

Commentary Week In Review

The Commentary Week in Review is posted on the blog every Friday. Drawing from more than two dozen English-language news outlets worldwide, the column highlights a handful of the week’s notable op-eds. World Bank-Rolling Iran Mark Kirk pointed out in the August 10 Washington Post that while both the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency have found Iran in breach of its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the World Bank continues to fund projects in Iran. According to Kirk, a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, the World Bank is presently funding “nine government projects in […]

Letters on Suleiman Jamous

The following are email messages World Politics Review received in response to Day 16 of Kurt Pelda’s “Among Darfur Rebels and Refugees: A Road Diary,” in which he criticized rebel leader Suleiman Jamous. Pelda’s response to these letters is contained in his epilogue to the diary.-o-Aug. 2, 2007 Sir: Kurt Pelda’s insinuation that Suleiman Jamous was not a legitimate humanitarian coordinator for the SLA is unfounded. During the time in which Suleiman held this position, he interacted on a day-to-day basis with numerous international agencies, all of whom came to hold him in high esteem for his efficiency, honesty and […]

Italy’s Mosque Building Boom

Roland Flamini reports in this week’s Corridors of Power that Italy has seen quite a boom in the number of mosques in the country in the last few years: BOOM IN MOSQUE BUILDING — According to a report last week by the Italian Department for Security Information, the country’s version of Homeland Security, the number of mosques has doubled nationwide in the past seven years from 351 to 735. But the mosque building boom doesn’t reflect a corresponding surge in Muslim worshipers. Only about 8 percent of Italy’s one million Muslims frequent the mosque regularly. That works out at about […]

Does the U.S. Need the U.N.?

WASHINGTON — In the words of former U.N. Assistant Secretary General Gillian Sorensen, the United States must regard the United Nations as a “valuable instrument” and push to work with the organization in order to guarantee its success in the future. Sorensen, now a senior advisor of the United Nations Foundation, stressed to academics and analysts gathered at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies on Aug. 1 that while the United Nations certainly needs the United States, the opposite is also true. The United States’ reputation as a world leader has been damaged during the past several years, […]

‘FULL AND FRANK’ — While President Bush insisted that the change of leadership in Britain had not altered U.S.-British relations, Gordon Brown’s first official visit to Washington as prime minister somehow managed to place the partnership in a more distant, formal context. “Full and frank” — Brown’s description of his talks with Bush — recalls the Cold War, when it was diplospeak for “we disagreed,” and one step above “useful exchange of views.” We are a long way from Tony Blair’s warm, intense, and (at least in public) full endorsement of George Bush’s policies. European diplomats in Washington, briefed by […]

Commentary Week In Review

The Commentary Week in Reviewis posted on the blog every Friday. Drawing from more than two dozenEnglish-language news outlets worldwide, the column highlights ahandful of the week’s notable op-eds. What Bush could learn about the Middle East from Napoleon, Peru’s economic inequality, Japan’s historic election, Poland’s identity crisis and more. Demands on Peru’s Poor Writing in the July 30 Miami Herald,Michael Shifter described the “profound social divisions” afflicting Peruwhere President Alan García has just completed the first year of hisfive-year term. “García can at least have thepeace of mind that his second term marks a vast improvement over thefirst,” wrote […]

Gadhafi’s Deal

What did Libyan leader Gadhafiget in exchange for freeing the five Bulgarian nurses and thePalestinian doctor accused of infecting 460 Libyan children with AIDS?Quite a lot, it seems. Details are still murky, and news reportsconflict with government declarations, but here’s a roundup of Libya’sgains: Two arms deals, worth somewhere around $405 million with European arms giant EADS. As Gadhafi’s son noted, “this is the first armaments deal by a western country with Libya.” An accord with France to build a nuclear reactor for civilian use. A French official confirmed that French company Areva, the world leader in nuclear energy, would […]

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