The France-based non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders recently released its Worldwide Press Freedom index, which ranks Russia as 147th on a list of 168 countries in terms of protecting journalists and media expression. Russia’s 147th ranking is five spots behind the Democratic Republic of Congo, the site of the bloodiest conflict in the world, and just a few spots ahead of Iraq, where 85 journalists have died violently since 2003. Russia even allegedly lags nineteen spots behind Kazakhstan, where President-for-Life Nursultan Nazarbayev erected a golden statue of himself and whose government has threatened to sue the British comedian Sacha Baron […]

Over the last month, Russia has experienced a surge of contract killings, with five high-profile murders — a potent reminder that the country is far from the stable democracy its leaders say it is. The Oct. 7 murder of the anti-Kremlin journalist and human rights advocate Anna Politkovskaya is the most prominent of these, and the latest of 11 murders of Russian journalists in the last six years. Sadly, however, Politkoskaya’s is not the most recent such killing. Aleksandr Plokhin, manager of the Moscow branch of the state-owned Vneshtorgbank, was shot dead on Oct. 10. And Anatoly Voronin, an executive […]

Gaza is close to exploding into war. The only major issue appears to be which will come first — a new war with Israel or a Hamas-Fatah civil war. With crushing domestic pressure on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in the wake of foreign aid cuts — the result of Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist — Hamas and other terrorist groups have been smuggling an unprecedented level of weaponry into Gaza from Egypt. But any move by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-led PA and set up an emergency government — thereby defusing the growing […]

Editor’s Note, July 9, 2012: Due to facts that have recently come to our attention about the reliability of the primary source for this article, World Politics Review is retracting it. The information attributed to “a special adviser to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan” is unreliable and possibly false. We deeply regret this error. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has rescheduled for Nov. 4 the repeatedly postponed all-parties national reconciliation conference, seen as crucial to salvage rapidly diminishing hopes for a national accord in that war torn country. Most recently set for Oct. 21, the conference was called off indefinitely […]

The analogy between the recent violence in Iraq and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam is illustrative, but not for the reasons suggested by Thomas Friedman and the White House. Friedman’s Oct. 18 column in the New York Times suggested that, “while there may be no single hand coordinating the upsurge in violence in Iraq, enough people seem to be deliberately stoking the fires there before our election that the parallel with Tet is not inappropriate.” Friedman’s comparison between the recent violence in Iraq and the Tet Offensive is inappropriate for several reasons: First, such a comparison suggests that the violence […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — For army conscript Pramote Wannasuk, 22, and villager Dison Mansu, 36, the military coup in Thailand and all it promises for positive change came too late. Both men, Pramote a Buddhist and Dison a Muslim, were murdered this week in the quiet terrorism that plagues this predominantly Buddhist country’s religiously and culturally divided south. They are among more than 50 people who have been killed or wounded in the past 10 days alone in an escalating conflict that has left about 1,800 dead and many more wounded over the last almost three years. Many hoped that the […]

In late 1979 Craig Etcheson was an impressionable 23-year-old who divided his time between rock concerts and first year Ph.D. studies in mathematical models of war at the University of Southern California School for International Relations. The Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple and The Grateful Dead were his bands of choice. Then Vietnam invaded Cambodia and lifted the veil on the true scale of carnage committed by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. Images from the Killing Fields shocked the affable Etcheson. The slaughter of about one third of Cambodia’s population in the previous three-and-a-half years was something the young mathematician found […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Just two months ago, Colombia was buzzing with hope and optimism. A flurry of comminiqués between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group and the hardline president, Álvaro Uribe, suggested that an agreement to exchange prisoners was imminent. Three European countries, France, Spain and Switzerland, acting as peace facilitators, proposed to demilitarize a zone in southwestern Colombia where hostages held by FARC would be swapped for imprisoned guerrillas. It was hailed as the possible beginning of future peace talks between the country’s largest rebel group and the government which had shown a rare glimpse of […]

The closer the mid-term elections get, the less responsible the debate over Iraq is likely to become. Inversely, post-election political dynamics will favor arguments and options more grounded in reality than rhetoric. The national debate over the way forward in Iraq will become much more consequential the evening the votes are counted. Regardless of which party finds itself in control of Congress on Nov. 8, the new political constellation will favor a reduction in partisanship and some unusual political bedfellows. If the Republicans retain control of Congress, they will give increasingly less fealty to a lame-duck White House. Regardless of […]

Nicaragua’s former left-wing dictator Daniel Ortega appears set to win his fourth attempt to be the democratically elected president of his country, which is still trying to recover from the ravages of a long civil war. The latest opinion polls show he could win election on the first ballot, on Nov. 5. A poll published Oct. 18 by the daily El Nuevo Diario showed the former Sandinista rebel commander has 37.5 percent support against 20.1 percent for his closest rival, former Vice President Jose Rizo, of the Liberal Party. Under Nicaraguan election law, the leader of the first-round ballot is […]

I volki syty i ovtsy tsely. “The wolves are full and the sheep are still alive.” That Russian version of “having one’s cake and eating it too” describes the current state of Russian foreign affairs in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In the few past weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not only intensified Russia’s policy regarding Georgia, but convinced the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, to pass a resolution that gives Russia unprecedented clout in the sovereign territory of its struggling southern neighbor. Russia introduced the resolution, which passed on Oct. 16, as part […]

WASHINGTON — Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said North Korea’s nuclear test was “a cry for help”, and Iran’s defiant refusal to halt its nuclear program is aimed at forcing the United States to normalize relations between the two countries. Speaking at Georgtown University in Washington Monday, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize told a gathering of foreign policy specialists and college students that testing a nuclear bomb was “the only trump card” North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il had. The North Koreans “feel isolated and threatened,” ElBaradei said. Their message was […]

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Like a scene from a Hollywood gangster film, two masked gunmen burst into the Amedic bar in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, and opened fire on patrons watching a Bulgaria-Netherlands soccer game. Seconds later, their target, Nikolai Ivanov — a.k.a the Beaver — lay dead from 9 bullets; two of his associates lay bleeding on the floor next to him. The slaying on Oct. 7 in the small Balkan nation was the latest bloody salvo in an organized crime turf war that has seen over four dozen mob hits in the past five years and, in the last decade, 120 contract-style killings […]

NAIROBI, Kenya — The African Union has released a blueprint designed to guide the continent in its relations with “emerging powers” like China, Brazil and India. A task force formed by the union says Africa must have a strategy for engaging these countries to avoid a “second colonization” and to make sure Africa benefits as much as possible from its relations with them. The strategic plan, completed Sept. 13 at a meeting of the AU “Task Force on Africa’s Strategic Partnership with the Emerging Powers” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, assesses how cooperation with emerging powers can help Africa use her […]

BAMAKO, Mali — One three-letter acronym, ATT, encapsulates Mali’s most powerful political brand. Across West Africa’s largest country, it is the universal code for President Amadou Toumani Touré. Elected to a five-year term of office in 2002, Touré can boast of a genuine popularity amongst his citizens. “Because ATT is good. Because he works,” Sekou Camara, a security guard, said. “If people say something, then he listens.” Such praise extends beyond those on the economic margins. Amadou Konta, the general manager of Loulo mine, owned by offshore Randgold Resources and listed on the NASDAQ, proved equally effusive about Touré. “He’s […]

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The spiking violence in Iraq is part of an enemy strategy to affect upcoming U.S. elections. French lawmakers are out of control. No, it’s the Turks who need to check themselves. The Latin American ideological saga continues. The United States must not ignore the important elections in Congo. And, yes, more North Korea. It was a thematically diverse week in the world’s English-language opinion pages. Much of the discussion about Iraq centered on what many are now calling a civil war pitting Sunni and Shiite Muslims against each other. Jeff Stein offered a jaw-dropper in the Oct. 17 New York […]

MAYSAN PROVINCE, Iraq — A Royal Air Force Merlin helicopter swoops low over the marshes of southern Iraq, over the heads of fishermen poling narrow boats along winding channels. Reeds bend and water ripples under the chopper’s rotor blast. The fishermen shield their eyes to gaze up at the roaring machine. It’s a typical encounter in the remote province of Maysan on the border with Iran. Here, more than 10,000 crude fishing boats ply the wetlands that straddle the border, providing sustenance to hundreds of thousands of Shiite “Marsh Arabs” who populate teeming villages that aren’t marked on any map. […]

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