After the battles of Basra and Mosul, Iraq’s territorial integrity now faces another severe challenge on the constitutional front. With the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq having initiated rounds of talks to save the north from a potential cross-border war, the struggle over the future status of the northern city of Kirkuk has entered its decisive phase. Failure could lead to the ultimate disintegration of Iraq. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) currently enjoys constitutionally recognized authority over the three northern provinces of Erbil, Dohuk, and Sulaymaniyah. Yet it also enjoys de facto control over significant parts of Diyala, Kirkuk, and […]

A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will visit Syria next week to assess recent American claims that the installation attacked by Israeli warplanes last year was indeed a nuclear reactor in the final stages of construction. Two months ago, Michael Hayden, the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and other senior American intelligence analysts broke months of official silence about the September 2007 Israeli air strikes against a target located near the Syrian town of Al Kibar. Their intensive briefings for members of Congress, congressional staff, and, on background, the media, confirmed earlier suspicions that the […]

A former official in the Algerian civil service and the author of four previous novels, the Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal has recently published a new book titled Le village de l’Allemand: “The German’s Village.” Via the reflections of two brothers of Algerian origin living in the Parisian banlieues, it tells the story of the brothers’ father: Hans Schiller, a hero of the Algerian war of independence as a member of the National Liberation Front (FLN) — and, as so happens, before that an officer in the dreaded Nazi paramilitary force, the SS. For Boualem Sansal, “the line separating Islamism from […]

Last week, the Supreme Court once again waded into the murky legal waters of the War on Terror. In Boumediene v. Bush, a deeply divided court struck down a provision of the Detainee Treatment Act that limited the access to judicial review by detainees in Guantanamo seeking to challenge their classification as “enemy combatants.” The legal rationale for this decision, although controversial, was not complicated: aliens held by the United States in areas where the U.S. exercises sovereignty are protected by the Constitution; Guantanamo is within the de facto sovereignty of the United States; the Congress had not suspended the […]

Iran Proposal Signals Shift in U.S. Stance

In case you haven’t seen it yet, ISIS (via Laura Rozen) has posted an English-language version (.pdf) of the EU3+3 Iran proposal I referred to yesterday. And in comparing it to the last concrete offer made in June 2006, it’s very clear that the major difference is in the political incentives added to sweeten the deal. Here’s the political component, circa 2006: Support for a new conference to promote dialogue and cooperation on regional security issues. Here’s the same section from this week’s offer: -Improving the six countries’ and the EU’s relations with Iran and building up mutual trust.-Encouragement of […]

The EU3+3 Iran Proposal

Lots of confusion to sort through when it comes to the EU3+3 proposal just delivered to Iran. Iran rejected the offer. Or it didn’t. The EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed to freeze the assets of Iran’s largest European banking outlet, the Melli Bank. Or it didn’t. And Iran removed $75 billion from its European accounts as a precaution. Unless, of course, it didn’t. The proposal itself (I’ve read the French version here (.pdf), and I’m trying to track down an English version, but you can get a sense of it here and here) offers a trust building “freeze […]

France’s Syrian Initiative

Friday Lunch Club flagged this French language Le Point article over the weekend on France’s diplomatic contacts with Syria. After some initial reservations, Condoleezza Rice has apparently now warmed up to the idea, saying she’s convinced that France will deliver “the right message” to Syria. Now Hurriyet reports that Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to arrange a side meeting between himself, Bashar Assad and Ehud Olmert at the upcoming Union for the Mediterranean conference (to which Syria was conspicuously invited), in order to add French support to Turkish-brokered peace talks between Israel and Syria. (That last clause figures highly on the […]

In the political minefield that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the issue of Jerusalem hangs like a hornet’s nest on a limb over a pile of unexploded ordnance. That’s why many people caught their breath last week when Sen. Barack Obama, fresh from securing the Democratic nomination, walked through that field and stood face to face with the humming problem. Obama grabbed the Jerusalem hornet’s nest and shook it hard. Or at least it seemed that way for about 24 hours. Speaking before the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee June 4, the pro-Israel lobby, Obama reassured Israel […]

The Shiite Awakening

Back in the mid-90’s, when I was working as an intervention counselor with adolescent gang members in Santa Cruz and Watsonville (Calif.), I once proposed paying the kids to join neighborhood watch groups. The logic was that by both offering them alternatives to illegal income and empowering them with a responsibility to protecting people in their neighborhoods as opposed to victimizing them, we could get them to buy into the system. Needless to say, my idea was shot down like a Georgian drone over Abkhazia by the head of the County Juvenile Probation Dept, to the general amusement of all […]

It’s a sign of the weakness of the Republican Party and its nominee that Sen. John McCain’s best chance of victory may lie in championing the hugely unpopular war in Iraq. Polls indicate that most Americans wish the war had never started, and would like to see American troops pulled out of the country sooner rather than later. At the same time, though, Americans have a much more positive impression of the conduct of the war since early 2007. The troop surge, which which began that January, saw not only a temporary increase in American troops but also the introduction […]

While Arab and Israeli peace negotiators expend their energy trying not to bolt from their seats in exasperation, business men and women on both sides of the divide think they may just have found a way to peace that will prove faster, more entertaining, and definitely more profitable. Driven more by a quest for profits than by ideology, Arab and Israeli entrepreneurs are quietly working together on a variety of ventures. Small-scale partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians and between other Arabs and Jews have happened for years. Larger, higher-profile deals are now becoming more common. In recent months, an iconic […]

Weak Carrots, Weak Sticks

Hats off to Hampton for live-blogging the CNAS Iran panel yesterday. Given how much trouble I have transcribing a sentence or two from a recording that I can go back and replay, I’m impressed. As for the panel itself, Dennis Ross makes a bunch of points that I’ve been underlining for a while, namely the dangers of regional proliferation that a nuclear Iran poses, and the fact that deterrence is an entirely unsatisfactory outcome to this impasse. I also really liked his formula of “weak carrots and weak sticks” to sum up our policy to date. For me, the strong […]

Live Blogging the CNAS Iran Panel

I’m attempting to live-blog the Iran panel at the Center for a New American Security’s “Pivot Point” conference in Washington. We’ll see how this goes . . . Panelists are Nicholas Burns, James Miller, Dennis Ross, Suzanne Maloney, James Dobbins. Ambassador Burns sets the theme of the discussion: Should the next president continue the current U.S. policy of sanctions to try to persuade Iran to abandon its program, and of conditioning talks on that goal, or should he drop many of the preconditions for diplomacy, as a new CNAS report suggests? Miller begins to Summarize the CNAS report. Other panelists […]

Democracy Promotion and Sovereign Wealth Funds

A few years ago, Hampton’s post about democracy promotion and terrorism probably ran the risk of being twisted by unscrupulous critics into an apology for the terrorists. That got me thinking about the logical inconsistency employed by those who argued for democracy promotion, while denying that any real political grievances feed violent Islamic extremism. Fortunately, those days are over, and we can now discuss things as they exist in the real world. Hampton already mentioned all the caveats necessary when considering democracy promotion. To which Dan Drezner will apparently be adding one more in Congressional testimony tomorrow: sovereign wealth funds. […]

The Long Play on Iran

Thomas Barnett’s got about the most clearcut, incisive rundown of the strategic reality we face in terms of Iran that I’ve seen to date. We can’t afford to be naive about Iran’s intentions. But neither can we afford to be naive about our own leverage, which are tactically diminished right now. That means it’s time to start thinking about the long play. So, sure, containment (as opposed to isolation), but combined with engagement. The fact is, the only things that even raise Iran to the level of irritation are its location and its oil reserves. That’s two major factors to […]

Part I: Series IntroductionPart II: NATO Reintegration and European Defense PARIS — In assessing the strategic environment to which the Livre Blanc, France’s strategic posture review, must respond, none of the French officials and experts interviewed by World Politics Review could really speak with much certainty. Taken together, the conversations we had gave the distinct impression that outside of the stable if evolving configurations of the European Union and the Atlantic alliance, France’s emerging strategic vision is driven more by questions than by answers. Russia’s determination to reclaim its former influence presents both opportunities for partnership and more alarming scenarios […]

Twenty-six Americans are presently being tried in absentia in an Italian court for the 2003 abduction of the Egyptian cleric Osama Mostafa Hassan Nasr: better known, as “Abu Omar.” The Americans are accused of having kidnapped Nasr as part of the CIA’s program of “extraordinary renditions.” They are supposed to have held him in an American military base before “rendering” him to Egypt for interrogation. Seven Italian intelligence officials who allegedly aided in the operation have been charged as well. Last month, the New York Times, Associated Press, and Los Angeles Times all ran stories citing in dramatic and sometimes […]

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