After seven long years, the Indian government has decided that the time has come to once again make its presence felt in Iraq by naming an envoy to the country. The previous ambassador to Iraq was withdrawn in 2004 as the security situation in the country spiraled out of control. Even after the situation in Iraq had stabilized, with largely peaceful elections last year and the U.S. decision to withdraw its forces completely by the end of this year, New Delhi took its time to come to terms with the rapidly changing realities on the ground. After all, when it […]

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Opposition forces in Libya say they’re planning a final assault on the capital Tripoli. It’s essentially the last part of the country that remains under the control of long-time leader Colonel Gaddafi and protesters say his days in power are now numbered.

The rapidly spreading chaos in Libya should give the American people pause, and may end up giving the U.S. military another item to add to its endless to-do list. Setting the stage for what might be called the battle for Tripoli, anti-government forces and rebel military units are moving from the country’s apparently “liberated” east to face off against Moammar Gadhafi’s Praetorian Guard of tribal and regime loyalists. The New York Times described “clusters of heavily armed men in mismatched uniforms clutching machine guns,” “dozens of checkpoints operated by . . . plainclothes militiamen,” and “machine-gun toting foreign mercenaries” stalking […]

A lot of international relations theories are being stress-tested by events in the Arab world right now, with some emerging better than others. Two in particular that are worth mentioning are Ian Bremmer’s 2006 book, “The J Curve,” which predicts a dangerous dip into instability when closed, authoritarian states attempt to open up to the world; and Evgeny Morozov’s new book, “The Net Delusion,” which critiques the notion that Internet connectivity is inherently democratizing. (In the interests of transparency, I work as a consultant for Bremmer’s political risk consultancy, Eurasia Group, and penned a pre-publication blurb for Morozov’s book.) Both […]

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When she was first named foreign minister last November, I, like most observers, noted Michèle Alliot-Marie’s reputation as a professional, the kind of minister who could be counted on to take care of business and not make headlines. She arguably delivered on the first count, but was done in by her abject failure to deliver on the second, with the never-ending revelations from her ill-fated Christmas holiday in Tunisia fatally undermining her legitimacy as the face of France’s foreign policy. Nevertheless, it’s worth repeating that Alliot-Marie’s failings were a function of her professionalism — that is, they reflect the standard […]

Will the collapse of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime be the salvation of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela? Even without a forcible overthrow of the “Brother Leader” and the uncertainty of a subsequent interregnum, a protracted Libyan civil war that damages the country’s energy infrastructure could drive energy prices back to 2008 levels. Joshua Schenyer, surveying the landscape, concluded grimly, “Regardless of what comes next in Libya’s lethal political standoff, the OPEC country’s oil sector is nearly certain to suffer, bringing long-lasting supply disruptions or even permanent damage. None of several potential outcomes is benign for Libya’s oil industry — the lifeblood […]

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If the debate about how the U.S. and the international community should respond to the carnage in Libya highlights one thing, it is that we still have not arrived at either a domestic or global consensus about when and why to intervene militarily in the affairs of a sovereign state. I include Iraq in the title of this post for three reasons. First, the pre-emptive nature of the Iraq invasion in many ways served to sidetrack the debate over humanitarian interventions. Second, the outcome of the Iraq War served to chasten the broad middle of the policy debate, if not […]

Much analysis of the wave of unrest sweeping the Middle East has identified economic hardship as a crucial motivation for the uprisings. Many Middle East experts pointed to unemployment and the rising price of food in Tunisia to explain that country’s uprising. The same experts pointed to unemployment and mass poverty to explain the subsequent Egyptian uprising. But after Egyptians successfully ousted Hosni Mubarak, unrest subsequently spread to Libya, Algeria, Iran, Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan, countries with very diverse economic conditions. Standards of living in Bahrain and Libya, for example, are much higher than in Egypt and Yemen. Furthermore, the […]

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One of the major points of speculation about the impact of the Egyptian uprising is over how a democratic government in Cairo will affect Egypt’s foreign policy, in particular regarding Israel. A just-released Ifop poll of French opinion on the Afghanistan War (via Jean-Dominique Merchet) highlights a point I’ve been meaning to make: Democracies are not immune to unpopular foreign policy. According to the Ipof poll, 72 percent of French people oppose the country’s involvement in the Afghanistan War. That’s slightly higher than the two-thirds who opposed the war at the time that French President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to deploy […]

For players of the decades-old parlor game of divining succession in despotic Arab regimes, one rule never varied: The current dictator would personally choose his successor, almost always selecting one of his sons to head the regime after his death. Until this week, that dynastic pattern seemed certain to apply to Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi, whose sons have spent years seeking their flamboyant father’s favor and jockeying for position within that most peculiar of regimes. The eccentric, histrionic and often-buffoonish Gadhafi has provided four decades of outrage, disbelief and even entertainment for outside observers. For those living under his rule, […]

Bahrain may be the 163rd most populous country on Earth, but for the past week it has taken center stage, along with Libya, in the unfolding drama shaking the Arab world. While the island kingdom carries little of the weight and influence of a political and cultural power like Egypt, the events in Bahrain have the potential to reshape the geopolitics of the Gulf, with knock-on effects for global oil markets and the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Following the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, disgruntled Bahrainis took to the streets to protest corruption, institutionalized racism and the lack of political rights and […]

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The future of Libya appears to be a knife-edge, as airforce fighter jets have bombarded the capital, Tripoli, reportedly on the orders of leader Muammer Gaddafi. Witnesses in Tripoli say that mercenaries are roaming the streets, firing at anyone they see in a bid to dissuade people from demonstrating against Gaddafi.

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The discussion of the impact of social media like Twitter and Facebook on popular uprisings has focused on their role as networking and organizing tools. Their function as broadcast media has been less appreciated. The thought was triggered by something we haven’t seen in the recent uprisings: the storming of state television networks — even if in Egypt there were some late moves to assemble in front of the network headquarters. In historical terms, control of a broadcast medium has been critical to revolutions. Because most of those broadcast media have been infrastructure-heavy, to contest state control of them, a […]

The current wave of upheaval in the Arab world that has unexpectedly swept away the long-lasting presidents of Tunisia and Egypt and which may trigger regime changes all over the region has also steepened the ongoing rise in oil prices and raised fears about the stability of the global oil market. On Jan. 31, after five days of upheaval in Egypt, the price of a barrel of Brent crude on the London-based Intercontinental Exchange passed the $100 threshold for the first time since the financial meltdown of September 2008. Brent crude is currently trading for more than $105, while prices […]

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