Al-Qaida in Iraq in 2007

In 2007, Al-Qaida in Iraq was responsible for 4,552 attacks against civilians, 3,870 civilian murders, and 17,815 injuries, according to briefing slides posted on the Internet by the Multi-National Forces Iraq. The slides offer a fascinating glimpse inside the operations of AQI, and the moral depths to which its members will sink. For example, the slides include a look at a grisly AQI torture manual, complete with illustrated instructions on how to drill through a hand, as well as a picture of two Iraqi girls injured in AQI’s April bombing of the Kirkuk Girls Primary School. Download the pdf file […]

Managing the End of U.S. Hegemony

Parag Khanna‘s cover article in yesterday’s New York Times magazine, “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony,” is an impressively meaty piece of geopolitical analysis in the realist tradition. The article is dense with insights and propositions worth contemplating, whether or not one believes the picture he paints of the present and future geopolitical situation are valid. His thesis: the era in which the United States is the lone superpower is ending, and the world is moving inexorably toward a tri-polar balance of power, with the United States, Europe and China as the poles. This new global order, he writes, will be multi-civilizational […]

Europe Threatened by Exotic Plants and Squirrels

An article in last Friday’s edition of the French daily Le Monde provides an illustration of the disturbing extremes to which environmentalist discourse can go in Europe nowadays. Entitled “More than 10,000 Exotic Species Imperil European Biodiversity,” the article begins: “The invaders are among us. It is a story that seems like a science fiction film, but it is happening in Europe, under the worried eye of scientists who have long observed the wave of invasions, but had not imagined that it could take on such dimensions.” The “invaders” in question? Some 10,670 “alien” plant and animal species. The article […]

EU Advocate General Recommendation Threatens U.N. Anti-Terror Measures

In a move with potentially devastating consequences for the effectiveness of U.N. counterterrorism measures, an Advocate General at the European Court of Justice, Miguel Poiares Maduro, recommended to the court last week that it annul EU financial sanctions against suspected al-Qaida financier, Yassin Abdullah Kadi (aka “Qadi”). The sanctions were originally applied by the EU in 2001 in conformity with U.N. Security Council Resolutions. Kadi’s name was placed on the U.N.’s consolidated list of Qaida or Taliban affiliated persons and entities shortly after the 9/11 attacks. A series of U.N. Security Council Resolutions require U.N. member states to freeze the […]

Freedom House: 2007 Saw Decline in World Freedom

Last year saw serious setbacks in the progress of political rights and civil liberties, according to the latest Freedom in the World report from Freedom House, released Jan. 16. South Asia saw the most pronounced negative change, according to the report, but the region of the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and parts of Africa also had significant declines in freedom. The number of countries rated “Free,” “Partly Free,” and “Not Free,” at 90, 63 and 42 respectively, did not change significantly from 2006, but researchers found significant backward movement for several countries within each category, in many cases […]

Old Media and Burning Cars in France

The media coverage of the fall 2005 riots in France’s banlieues made the image of burning cars into an international icon of French urban mayhem. But in fact the deliberate burning of cars has been a large-scale and endemic phenomenon in the banlieues for many years now — even in times of relative “calm.” It is so widespread and common that it appears to be a kind of urban pastime. The French daily Le Figaro claims, however, to have discovered that the problem is at least worse somewhere else. Thus, in an article titled “The Burning of Cars is More […]

Will Global Warming Contribute to Islamist Extremism?

In “Waterworld,” a dispatch from Bangladesh in the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly, Robert D. Kaplan uses the country’s current experience to examine a number of difficult problems faced by the developing world — from the inability of shallow-rooted democracy to handle certain ills, to how NGOs compete with criminal and violent elements to fill the societal gaps left by corrupt and inefficient governments. But one pontential problem he highlights particularly caught our eye — the way in which global warming, especially in Asia, could contribute to the spread of Islamic extremism: [Bangladesh’s traditional] low-calorie version of Islam is […]

Convicted Jihadist Goes Free Following Degauque Trial in Brussels

On Nov. 9, 2005, Muriel Degauque, a 38-year-old Belgium convert to Islam, blew herself up in a suicide attack against an American convoy near Baghdad. She is reputed to have thus become the first Western woman to commit a suicide attack. Five young men were accused by Belgian authorities of belonging to a terrorist network that sent Degauque and at least three other persons to Iraq to take part in the jihad against American and allied forces. One of the young men, Youness Loukili, lost a leg fighting against American forces during the siege of Fallujah. After initially denying having […]

French Journalists on Trial for Covering Niger Rebellion

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — Pretrial hearings for two French journalists facing a possible death sentence for “undermining state security” in the West African state of Niger got underway Tuesday, Jan. 15. The journalists, Pierre Creisson and Thomas Dandois, both employed by the Franco-German TV Arte, were arrested on Dec. 17 for interviewing Tuareg rebels in northern Niger, in violation of a state law against any broadcast of activities associated with the 11-month old northern rebellion. The two journalists initially told Niger authorities that they would be traveling to the southern part of the country to compile a report on bird […]

Khalilzad for President — of Afghanistan?

When the Washington Post reported last week that Zalmay Khalilzad, the American representative at the United Nations, was considering running for president of Afghanistan, Khalilzad publicly denied the story. But that hasn’t stopped some of his friends both in Washington and in Afghanistan from going forward with a plan to draft him to succeed President Hamid Karzai, whose term ends in October of next year. A Khalilzad-for-president committee is about to be formed in the United States to advance his candidacy, according to a well-informed source. The forceful, Afghan-born envoy played a key role in shaping post-invasion Afghanistan. At the […]

U.S. Public Diplomacy: Forget the U.S. Image, Focus on Enemy Wrongs

In “Why Al-Qaeda is Losing,” published in the Washington Post on Jan. 13, Gary Anderson seizes on the simple insight that al-Qaida’s methods are abhorrent to most Muslims as the logical basis for recommending a new U.S. public diplomacy strategy. Forget feel-good “listening tours” of Muslim nations focusing on rehabilitating the U.S. image, he counsels. Instead, focus on the actions of Islamist extremists to degrade their reputation in the Muslim world: . . . Our message isn’t selling. We can’t change what we are, nor would we want to. No matter how much the government may disapprove, the government’s official […]

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The voice of fugitive militant leader Shakir al-Abssi arose like a specter from Lebanon’s recent past yesterday. In a voice recording posted on the Internet, the radical leader of the Fatah al-Islam terrorist group threatened further attacks against the nation’s U.S.-backed army. In May, entrenched in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, the Jordanian-born al-Abssi led his Fatah al-Islam militants, which included many non-Palestinians, in a 15-week battle that tested the Lebanese national army and destroyed the refugee camp. Al-Abssi reportedly escaped just hours before Fatah al-Islam’s remaining holdouts were killed or captured in a final breakout […]

In her first major comments on relations with Russia, Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s new Prime Minister, last month insisted that she had no intentions of worsening relations with Russia: “I will strive to establish a relationship of equal partnership,” she said. Although Ukraine held its most recent round of legislative elections on Sept. 30, 2007, it was only on Dec. 18, that the so-called “Orange bloc” parties aligned with President Viktor Yushchenko consolidated their narrow victory by securing the appointment of Tymoshenko, currently the country’s most influential and popular politician, as prime minister. Yushchenko had actually appointed Tymoshenko as prime minister […]

Stumbling Toward a Plan B in Pakistan?

As WPR Editor-at-Large Roland Flamini pointed out in a commentary piece last week, the initial reaction of the Bush administration to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto did not inspire confidence that the administration had a Plan B if their effort to broker a power-sharing between Bhutto and Musharraf did not pan out. This week, however, several news reports make it clear that there is a lot of administration activity surrounding Pakistan, even if the reports don’t paint a clear picture of a unified plan. If anything, the administration appears to be moving on several different fronts at once to try […]

Saddam’s Money in France — and in American Publishing?

In an article that appeared last month (Dec. 21) in the daily Le Figaro, French journalist George Malbrunot reports that the French government is continuing to resist Iraqi efforts to recover the financial assets of Saddam Hussein in France. According to Malbrunot’s report, some €23.48 million of Saddam’s money remains blocked in French banks. (The original report placed the money in the Banque de France: a claim that has since been denied by the French national bank.) France would thus be in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483 of May 22, 2003, which requires that the financial assets of […]

The General in the Wings

The least desirable — but certainly not unlikely — short-term outcome of Pakistan’s post-Bhutto turmoil is the emergence of another military strongman to replace President Pervez Musharraf. In which case, the name most frequently mentioned in Washington is Musharraf’s recent successor as chief of the country’s powerful army, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani. Unlike the blustering Musharraf, the general waiting in the wings is reclusive and at the same time popular with the army, but the apparent contradictions in his background make him hard to read. Before taking over as army chief from Musharraf, he was director of the murky Inter-Services Intelligence […]

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice again called for the creation of a Civilian Reserve Corps to assist in post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction. Just days before, the State Department announced it would cut diplomatic positions by 10 percent, due in large part to the demands of Iraq. In calling for both an increase and a decrease in diplomatic capability at the same time, Rice’s department is acting like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While it’s long past time for the establishment of a reserve corps to help the United States manage post-conflict situations, the call for a decrease […]

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