During the past year, the Implementation Support Unit (ISU), established by the Sixth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in December 2006, has provided essential support for international efforts to prevent biological terrorism. Unlike the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the BTWC lacks the large institutional structure to help administer convention-related activities as well as monitor and enforce compliance with its provisions. The three-person ISU, which started work in April 2007 and became fully operational in August 2007, attempts to help fill that gap from its office at the Geneva branch of the […]

Diplomatic tension between Russia and Great Britain that has been building over the past year is likely to continue in 2008. The tension began in May 2007, when Russia refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoy, the main suspect in the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (the successor to the KGB) and an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Litvinenko defected to Great Britain in 2000 and became a British citizen. He was poisoned with radioactive polonium at a London restaurant in November 2006 while attempting to investigate the murder of Russian journalist […]

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 […]

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The voice of fugitive militant leader Shakir al-Abssi arose like a specter from Lebanon’s recent past yesterday. In a voice recording posted on the Internet, the radical leader of the Fatah al-Islam terrorist group threatened further attacks against the nation’s U.S.-backed army. In May, entrenched in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, the Jordanian-born al-Abssi led his Fatah al-Islam militants, which included many non-Palestinians, in a 15-week battle that tested the Lebanese national army and destroyed the refugee camp. Al-Abssi reportedly escaped just hours before Fatah al-Islam’s remaining holdouts were killed or captured in a final breakout […]

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The New Year in Sri Lanka began with an all-out confrontation between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist group that has been battling the Sri Lankan government on and off for decades. An already fragile ceasefire accord between the two warring parties was irreparably damaged on Jan. 3 when the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa withdrew from the agreement. This in turn rendered the presence of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, an independent body of international investigators observing and recording human rights violations on the island, obsolete. The fact that […]

In her first major comments on relations with Russia, Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s new Prime Minister, last month insisted that she had no intentions of worsening relations with Russia: “I will strive to establish a relationship of equal partnership,” she said. Although Ukraine held its most recent round of legislative elections on Sept. 30, 2007, it was only on Dec. 18, that the so-called “Orange bloc” parties aligned with President Viktor Yushchenko consolidated their narrow victory by securing the appointment of Tymoshenko, currently the country’s most influential and popular politician, as prime minister. Yushchenko had actually appointed Tymoshenko as prime minister […]

Some 20 years after its founding, the Palestinian organization Hamas remains little understood in the West. Although it is invoked nearly daily in the media, it has been the subject of only a very small number of serious studies. The most common error made by observers in considering contemporary Islamist movements — and notably, Hamas — is that of attempting to grasp them in terms of concepts and modes of thought that are proper to the West. Most western analyses of the phenomenon of Islamism tend to underestimate or even obscure a fundamental element that is common to all the […]

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Two United Nations peacekeeping soldiers were injured Tuesday by a roadside bomb on a coastal motorway south of Beirut. Company Sgt. Dave Williams and regimental Sgt. Maj. John McCormack, both from Dublin, Ireland, were traveling in a U.N. vehicle when the bomb exploded at 2:50 p.m. local time, causing them “superficial injuries,” according to Irish Lt. Col. Eamon O’SiochrĂș, head of the Irish team that is part of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The explosion occurred near the town of Rmaileh, just outside Lebanon’s third biggest city, Sidon, 35 kilometers south of Beirut. The blast […]

BAHRAIN PASSES LAW ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING — Bahrain’s legislature Dec. 31 signed off on a law to combat human trafficking, which has particularly victimized the country’s migrant workers. Bahrain’s king is expected to approve the law. The law provides for the establishment of a new Human Trafficking Victims Assessment commission to provide medical and psychological assistance to trafficked persons and a new Human Trafficking Authority to create strategies to combat the scourge. It also sets up financial penalties of up to $265,000 for those convicted of trafficking. Fines are subject to doubling in cases where the victims are below 15 […]

According to official results released yesterday, Mikheil Saakashvili won a definitive first-round victory in this weekend’s snap presidential elections in Georgia. Saakashvili received a narrow majority of votes, thereby obviating the need to engage in a runoff with the next-highest vote getter. The Central Election Commission concluded the former president garnered 53 percent of the vote on Saturday, while the second-place finisher received 27 percent. Whatever their effects at home, the events of the last few months are unlikely to either improve Georgia’s already troubled relationship with Moscow or bolster its chances of joining NATO, which Saakashvili, his main political […]

THE GENERAL IN THE WINGS — The least desirable — but certainly not unlikely — short-term outcome of Pakistan’s post-Bhutto turmoil is the emergence of another military strongman to replace President Pervez Musharraf. In which case, the name most frequently mentioned in Washington is Musharraf’s recent successor as chief of the country’s powerful army, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani. Unlike the blustering Musharraf, the general waiting in the wings is reclusive and at the same time popular with the army, but the apparent contradictions in his background make him hard to read. Before taking over as army chief from Musharraf, he was […]

BASRA, Iraq — It seemed like such a small thing. Royal Air Force security troops patrolling the outskirts of Basra air station in southern Iraq on Dec. 17 leaped out of their new Mastiff armored trucks in order to scout out a bridge before the lumbering blast-proof vehicles crossed. One of the 34 Squadron troopers noticed something he didn’t recall seeing before: a crack in the concrete near the far side of the bridge. He pointed it out to Flight Lt. Edward Cripps, who eyed the idling Mastiffs, their drivers waiting for the all clear. This is what happens, Cripps […]

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice again called for the creation of a Civilian Reserve Corps to assist in post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction. Just days before, the State Department announced it would cut diplomatic positions by 10 percent, due in large part to the demands of Iraq. In calling for both an increase and a decrease in diplomatic capability at the same time, Rice’s department is acting like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While it’s long past time for the establishment of a reserve corps to help the United States manage post-conflict situations, the call for a decrease […]

Benazir Bhutto’s presumed assassination was a disaster waiting to happen: She had predicted it herself. After years of exile, she was welcomed home on Oct. 18 with a suicide bomb attempt, and there was no reason to suppose that her many enemies would be content with that failure. The likely prospect of her winning the now-postponed Jan. 8 parliamentary elections and becoming the prime minister of a non-religious government threatened, in different ways, the current leadership, Islamic fundamentalists, the Taliban and al-Qaida, and her old nemesis, the army. Her assassins, therefore, tried to make sure of a kill by first […]

Imagery of weather and baseball dominated Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s visit to China at the end of 2007. Greeting Fukuda in Beijing, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao observed that, “Although it is a chilly winter day, we can feel the warmth from friendly China-Japan relations here.” The Chinese had characterized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s October 2006 visit as “ice-breaking,” while terming Wen’s April 2007 trip to Japan as “ice-thawing.” The most publicized event of the summit occurred when Fukuda and Wen, dressed in baseball uniforms, tossed a ball back and forth in front of the cameras to symbolize […]

This year, the leaders of the European Union likely will become preoccupied with securing ratification of the Lisbon Reform Treaty, which their heads of state and government signed on Dec. 13, 2007. The aim of the treaty is to strengthen Europe’s ability to advance its internal and external objectives. Despite surface appearances, the new arrangements, if adopted, will not radically enhance Europe’s status as an international security actor. The Treaty of Lisbon, also known as the Reform Treaty, aims to restructure the EU’s core institutions in response to two fundamental changes in recent years. First, from April 2004 to January […]

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