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 […]

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 […]

Last week’s resignation of Maj. Gen. Daniel Halutz, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), could precipitate the long-expected change in Israel’s military and political leadership as a result of the country’s perceived poor performance during last summer’s conflict in Lebanon. There had been numerous calls within Israel for Halutz’s departure ever since the military failed to achieve its two major objectives in the war — securing the release of the two IDF soldiers abducted by Hezbollah guerrillas and destroying that group’s military infrastructure in Lebanon. The massive scale of the fighting that ensued quickly overshadowed the […]

Take a seat at one of the many waterfront restaurants bordering the Sea of Galilee in the Israeli city of Tiberias and nature immediately gives you a lesson in history, geography and military strategy. The lapping waters of Lake Kinneret, as it is known in Hebrew, shimmer placidly at your side, evoking images of biblical history. But what really grabs your eye is the soaring terrain rising ominously on the other side of the water, the Golan Heights. The land rises sharply from the eastern side of the lake. Sitting in the Golan’s shadow, there remains little doubt that control […]

With most of Congress in an uproar over new White House plan for the war in Iraq, one could be forgiven for thinking that the new strategy is diametrically opposed to last month’s report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. To be sure, the harsh tone towards Iran and Syria was not something that James Baker and Lee Hamilton recommended, but in several respects the ISG and the White House are actually singing in tune. First, sending reinforcements to Baghdad was not opposed by the Iraq Study Group. The ISG report clearly states that it could “support a short-term redeployment […]

On a cool evening in March, 2006, I toured a makeshift prison on an Iraqi army base in northwestern Baghdad, not far from the dim chamber where Saddam Hussein would later be executed. The jail was crude, a few rooms guarded by men in track suits who casually balanced rifles over their shoulders like golf clubs. The cells were unbarred, unclean, and unlocked; nothing more than rooms in a large building that might once have been a school. The prison was run by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, a shambling bureaucracy that had by then already been accused of […]

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Palestinian leaders preparing for a joint meeting with their Israeli counterparts and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a bid to move the stalled peace process forward, are having trouble keeping their own internal struggles in check as the situation in the territories spins rapidly out of control. If the Palestinians cannot present a united front ahead of the meeting set to take place within the next several weeks, they risk further delays in the of the hoped-for establishment of a Palestinian state and continued ills for their troubled population. Dozens of people have been killed and more than […]

TEHRAN, Iran — It wasn’t the news of the raid by the U.S. Army against the Iranian interests section in the northern Iraqi town of Arbil that set off the alarm bells. Nor the announcement by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that “twice in the past two or three weeks . . . we’ve captured Iranians,” followed by former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk threatening “serious consequences” as a result of Bush’s new strategy of escalation against Iran. The announcement that a second aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. John C. Stennis, would be moving […]

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FOREIGN REACTION TO BUSH SPEECH GLOOMY — If domestic reaction to President Bush’s new Iraq strategy has been largely negative, foreign comments have been no better. From Paris to Riyadh, media comment has been critical of the administration’s approach and skeptical of its success. An editorial in the leading French newspaper Le Monde began: “Anyone who expected the American president to learn a lesson from the Democratic victory in Congress and from the current chaos in Iraq and overhaul his strategy is disappointed.” But the paper said Bush has at least “abandoned his triumphalist tones.” In addition, “gone are the […]

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Last week’s London Sunday Times exposé “Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran” has set the media buzzing. Given the probable source for the thrust of the article — the senior Israeli military — this is not surprising. But what underlies the furor is the disconcerting reality and approaching menace of the first “in anger” nuclear strike since 1945. The Sunday Times article itself was almost a re-run of the paper’s March 13, 2005, “Revealed: Israel Plans Strike on Iranian Nuclear Plant.” (URL for link) Both were written by the same journalist, but with one notable difference: the latter suggested […]

WASHINGTON — As “civil war” rages in Iraq, so does the increasingly furious fight between Democrats and the Bush administration over what to do now that the holidays — and with them the season of election-year posturing — are finally over. The rhetorical salvos could not have been more piercing across Washington yesterday as the new Democratic leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened the first in a series of hearings on how to change the current course of action in Iraq — just hours before President George W. Bush appeared on national television in an apparent attempt to […]

In advance of President Bush’s speech Wednesday evening, the sound and shape of his new strategy for Iraq unfolded in Baghdad’s Haifa Street district Tuesday, when over 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops supported by helicopter gunships and F-15 fighter jets engaged Sunni Muslim insurgents in one of their strongholds. The Iraqi authorities said about 50 militants were killed in one of the biggest operations in the capital since the 2003 invasion. The offensive effectively launched of the Battle for Baghdad, one of the key elements of the new U.S. strategy to pull Iraq back from the brink of chaos. Iraqi […]

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WILL SHIITE CHURCHMAN OPPOSE SURGE? — Aside from Democratic opposition at home, President Bush’s troop increase for Baghdad is “greatly vulnerable” to rejection by a powerful figure in Iraq itself — the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, whose charisma and towering influence over the majority of Shiite Muslims remains as undisputable as ever. A well-informed Western source in Iraq says the chances are that the aged, reclusive cleric could come out against the surge unless the Bush administration has privately prepared the ground with him in advance, which doesn’t seem to have happened. He is said to feel that the military […]

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“Osama bin Laden Captured” is a headline that wasn’t written in 2006: the same with “Zawahiri Caught,” a reference to al-Qaida’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. A year is the sum total of its failures, as well as its successes; and before going too far into January, it might be sobering to take a quick backward glance at what didn’t happen last year. Iraq, of course, offers dozens of unfulfilled hopes and expectations. The Bush administration likes to boast of its role in bringing free elections to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. But free elections, it turns out, don’t guarantee democracy. To get […]

TEHRAN, Iran — A bravura performance by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein at his own hanging has transformed him into a martyr in the eyes of secular and religious Sunni Muslim nationalists throughout the Arab World and may have sharpened Sunni-Shiite tensions beyond the point of no return. Defiant to the end, Saddam stood with a noose around his neck and expended his last words condemning America and Iran. It was a skillful manipulation of many Arabs’ fears that — with Arab nationalist strongman Saddam gone — a resurgent Iran will dislodge traditional regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and […]

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Right up to the very end, the farm community near the town of Massoudiyye in northern Lebanon was untouched by this summer’s Israeli invasion. Its Lebanese farmers and their migrant Syrian workers, ironically, had even briefly benefited — demand for their produce increased as supply in the south waned under Israeli air attacks. Then, two days before the Aug. 14 ceasefire, an Israeli jet aimed a bomb at one of the community’s small road bridges — and missed. Residents came outside to see what had happened. That’s when the Israeli jet dropped a second bomb, killing 11 […]

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One year from now we will pause to look back at 2007, the year that was. Historians and journalists will shuffle through their files and ponder what transpired. They will look at events and personalities and try to jump ahead of future historians, deciding what about the waning year will be remembered by posterity. The best minds will emphasize happenings that looked like isolated events, but in fact were turning points or signs of important new trends — thresholds into a new era. Trust no one claiming to have specific knowledge of what the future will bring. And yet, who […]