Iranian-American Scholar Detained in Iran

Friend of the blog Matt Stone sends word that respected scholar and American citizen Kian Tajbakhsh was detained by Iranian authorities on Thursday. This Robin Wright piece in Time magazine gives some background on Tajbakhsh, whose academic work has won him an international reputation as a brilliant scholar. The State Department has condemned his arrest, and a Web site has been established to organize efforts toward his release.

Turkey, China and the Uighurs: The Erdogan Factor

I wish I could claim “the Erdogan Factor” as my own invention, but Yigal Schleifer coined the term to explain what just put the kibosh on Turkey’s moderate response to the Xinjiang riots: Speaking to reporters live on NTV television last Friday, Turkish PrimeMinister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has a habit of doing away withdiplomatic niceties — said: “The incidents in China are, simply put,tantamount to genocide. There’s no point in interpreting thisotherwise.” So much for a moderate response. I personally find Erdogan’s inability to bury his emotional reactions with “diplomatic niceties” compelling, and would almost argue for a […]

PALERMO, Italy — It’s a balmy morning in the Sicilian capital, and a dozen African men are lounging in the shade at the Missione di Speranza e Carita, a Church-run shelter that’s home to more than 500 immigrants. Though they are all recent arrivals to Italy, only some of the men have proper documents. They are waiting to speak with Brother Dario, a Catholic Friar and mission administrator, for help in finding employment. In addition to meals and a bed, the shelter provides vocational training to as many of its residents as it can handle. These days, however, accommodating new […]

Turkey, China and the Uighurs

In a WPR Briefing yesterday, Joshua Kucera mentioned in passing Turkey’s response to the Xinjiang riots. Yigal Schleifer has more today. The keywords for Turkey are Turkic Uighurs, leading to both public outpourings of sympathy, but also official declarations of concern and a promise to bring the matter before the UNSC, where Turkey is currently a non-permanent member. But the other keywords are ethnic separatists, leading to a bit of sheepish self-consciousness, given Turkey’s stance towards separatists among its own Kurdish minority. All this at a time when Turkey is actively courting China. President Abdullah Gul recently paid a state […]

Moral Hazard in Iraq

According to McClatchy (via Friday Lunch Club), no quid and no quo regarding yesterday’s release of the five Iranian detainees in Iraq. In fact, U.S. forces handed them over to Iraqi authorities despite misgivings. This is a case where Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is flexing some muscle in his newly “autonomous” relationship with the U.S. That, of course, is to be expected, and to the extent that it hastens realistic expectations Stateside for U.S.-Iraq relations moving forward, it is a good thing. Michael Wahid Hanna’s WPR Briefing was especially insightful on that subject. But those who will point to […]

Sources inside Iran say that the opposition movement that returned to the streets yesterday is no longer driven by electoral loyalties, but by a rejection of the “election coup” that concentrated power in a small and radical faction of the Iranian political elite. While the causes of popular discontent are relatively easy to trace, explaining the struggle within the establishment is less straightforward. Two interpretations have emerged as the dominant narratives. The first focuses on the tug-of-war between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Expediency Council and Assembly of Experts. Both men are historical […]

U.S. Releases Iranian Detainees

I’d thought of the five Iranians detained in Iraq a few weeks back, in the aftermath of the Iranian elections. It occurred to me then that liberating them would be a way to offer a concrete goodwill gesture to Tehran, thereby providing a bit more liberty of action in terms of offering moral support to the Iranian opposition. According to the Washington Post and the Times of London, they were released today as part of the detainee-release agreement with Baghdad. Kevin Sullivan wonders if it’s the quid for Iran’s quo of releasing some of the protestors who had been detained […]

Vice President Joe Biden lived up to his “talks before he thinks” reputation once again, when he told an interviewer that the United States would not stop Israel if it decided to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. “Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else,” Biden said on a weekend talk show. Political analysts decided this was another Bidenism, which President Barack Obama would soon have to correct. Sure enough, a couple of days later the president, during his visit to Moscow, […]

After a protracted election campaign, the 35-member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finally selected Yukiya Amano of Japan as its next director general earlier this month. Amano’s tenure will begin following the retirement of current IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei at the end of November. Ambassador Amano will certainly face no shortage of challenges when he begins his four-year term. As detailed in a 2008 report (.pdf) by a panel of senior experts, the IAEA must surmount major weaknesses if it is to manage the surge in dangerous nuclear material that will result from the growing […]

In 1946, George Kennan keyed the famous “Long Telegram,” which identified the Soviet Union as an enemy of the United States. In 1947, the original telegram was reworked and published in Foreign Policy magazine as “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.” Together, these documents formed the codex for the U.S. Cold War strategy of containment, and thereby the basis of the eventual U.S. victory in that conflict. Here’s what a “Kennan” might have written for the 21st century. The Nature of the Threat Posed by Globalization We are now engaged in a conflict that will dictate whether we succeed or fail […]

The Spanish National Criminal Court (Audiencia Nacional) said on Tuesday it was scrapping an investigation into a 2002 Israeli Air Force bombing in Gaza that killed a suspected Hamas militant and 14 civilians. The move comes just days after the lower house of the Spanish Parliament voted to limit the scope of a 1985 law that allows judges to investigate crimes against humanity anywhere in the world. Taken together, the developments mark a significant setback for advocates of universal jurisdiction, a legal concept whereby states can claim criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes were committed outside the boundaries of […]

For years, Iran watchers and Iranian opposition leaders, most of whom are exiled in the West, have pointed to the discontent swelling below the surface of Iranian society. Evidence of Iranian discontent was visible in the country’s massive drug problem and in the sporadic protests born of economic hardship and rising unemployment. The huge popularity of the Persian blogosphere, used as a way around restrictions on freedom of expression, was another clear sign of the national mood. The question no one was able to answer was how to engage with that mood in order to unify the disparate visions for […]

The United States took an important step yesterday toward leaving Iraq by moving combat troops out of Iraqi population centers in anticipation of the June 30 deadline specified in the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). This redeployment has focused attention on Iraq’s current security situation and triggered stepped-up efforts by insurgents to undermine the symbolic importance of the transition, by launching attacks generally aimed at Shiite civilians. It has also provided fodder for those in the United States who wish todelay withdrawal. However, looking at Iraq solely through the prism of short-term security trends clouds thinking about how the […]

In 2006, when Dutch forces occupied Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, they expected to wage a traditional counterinsurgency campaign focused on winning the support of the local population. “We’re not here to fight the Taliban. We’re here to make the Taliban irrelevant,” said Dutch commander Hans van Griensven. An Australian reconstruction team subsequently joined the Dutch battlegroup, to help rebuild schools and roads, and to provide vocational training to local workers. Dutch and Australian troops were working at a pair of schools in July 2007 when the Taliban attacked. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside one school in the […]

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