Wednesday’s release of the much-anticipated Winograd Report on Israel’s conduct of the 2006 Lebanon War is bringing the Israeli political system to the boiling point. The heat is rising quickly under the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who led the country in the war against Hezbollah, the first war in Israel’s short history in which the country did not win a decisive victory. Olmert remains deeply unpopular, but he may yet survive. In the end, it could be another politician — the other Ehud — who ends up the loser. Nobody knows what will remain after the temperature drops […]

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in Paris last week and he gave an interview to the French daily Le Figaro. This is what he had to say about an Egyptian proposal to hold four party talks on Gaza involving Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas: I don’t see how we can accept the Egyptian proposal. We have nothing to say to Hamas. We speak to them when we interrogate them in our prisons. But this is a fundamentalist group that says openly that it has received a divine mandate to destroy Israel. One should, on the contrary, weaken […]

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a staunch U.S. ally, has confirmed that a Lebanese military investigation is underway following allegations that Palestinians living in the country’s Nahr al-Bared refugee camp were beaten by Lebanese soldiers, and their homes looted and torched, in the aftermath of last summer’s battle between Islamist militants in the camp and the Lebanese army. Lebanese troops burned some homes to rid them of poison left behind by defeated militants at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, Siniora wrote in a yet-unreleased letter to Amnesty International in December. It was the first response the rights […]

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Next month, the U.S. government will begin negotiations with the government of Iraq concerning the terms under which the United States will operate in Iraq after the expiration of the previous U.N. mandate. As the New York Times reports today, the negotiations with Iraq will center around a number of difficult issues, including immunity from local laws for U.S. contractors and whether the U.S. military will be able to operate unilaterally, or will be required to gain some level of approval from Iraqi officials. However, the substantive debate in Congress, concerns whether or not the “status of forces” agreement will […]

Life again turned even more difficult for the embattled people of Gaza a few days ago. Everyone has heard about Israel’s tightening of border controls, and about the temporary shutdown of Gaza’s power plant. But looking at the news, shovels and flashlights have been needed to excavate some of the most important information about Gaza’s latest crisis. It is impossible to understand what is happening in Gaza without having the full story. Much of the news coverage has carefully concealed that, as many in the Arab world point out, responsibility for the current crisis lies squarely on the shoulders of […]

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The most-read World Politics Review articles from Monday, Jan. 14 through yesterday: 1. State Department’s Plan to Cut Diplomats is Ill-Conceived2. Transatlantic Intelligencer: Saddam’s Money, German Iranian Trade, and More3. Iran’s Hormuz Actions Help Israel Make its Case4. Battle Over Suharto’s Legacy a Test for Modern Indonesia5. Colombia-Venezuela Rift Grows as Chávez Appears to Confirm Support for FARC6. More Allied, Not U.S., Forces Key to Success in Afghanistan7. Hamas and Islamic Millenarianism: What the West Doesn’t Recognize8. Indian Soaps Fall to Islamic Censorship in Afghanistan9. Militant ‘Farmer’ and French Government Make Common Cause in GM Crop Ban10. Corridors of Power: […]

CHINA UNDER FIRE FOR ACTIVIST DETENTION — While Hu Jia is not the only human rights activist to face detention in recent months, his Dec. 27 arrest has garnered special attention from human rights groups and governments, which are attempting to use the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games to press China to improve its human rights record. The European Parliament and U.S. State Department have joined calls for Hu’s immediate release. Chinese authorities maintain Hu is being investigated for subversion in accordance with Chinese law. Hu, a longtime environmental and rights activist, rose to prominence due to his advocacy on behalf […]

It is, perhaps, surprising how much President George W. Bush has talked about democracy and freedom in the Middle East. Last weekend in Abu Dhabi, he delivered his third speech dedicated largely to that topic, which is three more than any previous U.S. president. Bush’s dedication to the theme of freedom in the Middle East is genuine. In his formulation, appreciation for the rights of the individual in the Middle East would expand liberty, undermine extremism, and enhance the security of Americans, Arabs, and others. As the president has seen things, Middle Eastern governments have been the obstacles to realizing […]

For years Israelis have worried that the international community would give up its efforts to contain the threat from Iran’s militant regime and leave Israel to confront it alone. Israelis, who say muscular diplomatic sanctions are the best route, have maintained that despite Iran’s specific taunts and threats against Israel, the danger posed by the Islamic Republic extends not only to the entire Middle East but far beyond. Just when it looked like Israel was about to fail in its efforts to convince the world about the dangers posed by Iran, the Iranian regime itself stepped in to help Israel […]

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As part of the ongoing propaganda battle between the United States and Iran over a Jan. 6 incident in which two alleged Iranian speed boats approached some U.S. Navy ships in the Straits of Hormuz, the U.S. military held a press conference Jan. 13 in Bahrain. The commanders of the two U.S. ships involved in the incident, the U.S.S. Port Royal and U.S.S. Hopper, explained their versions of the incident. Here’s video of that press conference: And here’s the complete Defense Department’s video of the incident (all 45 minutes of it): Meanwhile, on Sunday, a new theory emerged about the […]

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 […]

TAYLOR TRIAL RESUMES — At the Hague Jan. 7, prosecutors began presenting their case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor. A Canadian “blood diamond” expert was called as the first of 144 expected witnesses for the prosecution. Taylor faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role trading weapons for diamonds in the brutal 1991-2002 Sierra Leone war. Additionally, the prosecution alleges that the diamond trade through Liberia that earned the Revolutionary United Front — which was responsible for much of the war’s violence — $125 million a year could not have happened without the […]

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A Wednesday report in the German economic daily Handelsblatt makes clear that German-Iranian trade continued to boom in 2007 despite existing U.N. sanctions and international calls to isolate Iran economically. According to statistics cited in a report by Germany’s Federal Trade Agency (BFAI), German exports to Iran are supposed to have declined by 15 percent to around €3.5 billion. However, in what the paper calls a “surprising development,” German imports from Iran actually increased by 50 percent to some €580 million. It should be noted, moreover, that both figures are said to be based on statistical data running only through […]

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Fresh off his come-from-behind victory in New Hampshire’s Republican primary, Sen. John McCain co-authored an op-ed published in today’s Wall Street Journal (the online opinion section of which, is now totally free) with Sen. Joe Lieberman. Their message: The surge has worked, but it’s unclear whether its gains can be sustained after the United States completes a planned drawdown to the pre-surge level of 15 brigades. Thus, they write, a hasty further drawdown would be risky: Gen. Petraeus has already announced that five “surge” brigades will be withdrawn by mid-July. The process is now underway. The Pentagon has also announced […]

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On closer inspection, the story of Saddam’s Hussein’s financial holdings in France is full of perverse twists and interconnections that cast many aspects of the run-up and aftermath of the Iraq War in a new light. The fact that a front company of the late Iraqi dictator should own a major stake in the publisher of the sneeringly titled “I am America (And So Can You!)” by Stephen Colbert — a comic who made his name, after all, by mocking President Bush and, notably, the latter’s decision to invade Iraq — is only the most glaring of them. As noted […]

A poignant human and political drama always begins to unfold in American life at this time in the election cycle, when the country turns its attention to choosing a new president and begins to ignore the man in the Oval Office. Americans become mesmerized, electrified, even obsessed with the campaign. All the while, the sitting president still has a long time in his contract as leader of the most powerful country in the world. And yet, the resident of the White House starts looking strangely unimportant, his image begins to fade from the evening news, and even his most passionate […]

Much is at stake when President Bush visits the Middle East this week. The problems of the region have haunted this president, who started his term in office determined to focus on domestic issues, but was quickly forced to devote much of his time and energy to fighting the “war on terror.” With the campaign for the election of the next president already well under way, George W. Bush has to think about his legacy, and he has just one more year in office to shape it. There is little doubt that the Bush presidency will be remembered in future […]

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