In a region rife with seemingly unsolvable conflicts, one budding relationship is demonstrating that not all hope is lost in the Middle East: Once implacable enemies, Turkey and the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq are forging ever-closer political and economic ties, independent of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad. The Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish relationship is blossoming despite the failure of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “Kurdish initiative,” an effort to mend relations with Turkey’s domestic Kurdish minority, who account for some 20 percent of the Turkish population. The world’s largest ethnic group without an independent state of its own, […]

When hundreds of thousands of Darfuri refugees flooded across the Chad-Sudan border in 2003, fleeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing orchestrated by the Sudanese government and its militia proxies, the U.N. and various aid groups raced to help. Humanitarian workers built a vast and sophisticated network of refugee camps to house as many as 300,000 people. The European Union and, later, the U.N. deployed peacekeepers to protect the camps. By 2008, the refugee camps in eastern Chad had become a self-contained society, one of the biggest and seemingly most permanent in all the world. It was also a major reason […]

Almost a year ago to the day, members of the Honduran military physically removed then-President Manuel Zelaya from the presidential palace, stripping him of the presidency and forcing him into exile in Costa Rica. In spite of massive international attention and multilateral efforts in the days and months that followed, reconciliation — both domestically and internationally — remains elusive. The region continues to be divided over current President Porfirio Lobo’s legitimacy, to the point that on a recent return flight from Peru, Lobo’s plane had to bypass Ecuadorian airspace because the Ecuadorian government still refuses to recognize his presidency. Arguing […]

Since late last year, members of the U.S. Congress have introduced no less than 34 different bills dealing with information security and Internet policy. Many of these bills are well-meaning, such as the House resolution calling upon Vietnam to “release imprisoned bloggers and respect Internet freedom” — even if the bill applies no penalties and, more importantly, appropriates no money. But the more significant “cyber” bills are the ones dealing with the security of the Internet. Since April 1, 2008, when Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe introduced a particularly mammoth piece of cyber legislation, Congress has worked diligently in […]

The first official visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Washington last week offers a convenient opportunity to assess the current Russian-U.S. relationship. Since assuming office, one of the priorities of U.S. President Barack Obama and his foreign policy team has been to improve ties with Russia and other foreign governments that had become alienated from the United States. Relations between Washington and Moscow became especially strained in 2007 and 2008 following the acute confrontations that arose over the planned U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia’s August 2008 War with Georgia, and other issues. Despite […]

China’s spreading labor unrest is rightfully portrayed in the Western press as an immense challenge to that country’s status as the “world’s factory floor.” But to Beijing’s bosses, it’s likewise a tool for addressing rising income inequality, which is why the Communist Party has remained most reticent to address it head on. Such a hands-off approach carries additional dangers, however, the most prominent being that, once emerging labor activists get a taste for pressing their collective demands, China’s political leaders could find themselves riding a Solidarnosc-like trade-union tiger that’s not easily tamed. China has long suffered isolated sparks of labor […]

The expectations of a nation will weigh heavily on Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s shoulders as he is sworn in as the Philippines’ 15th president on June 30. Aquino was elected with a convincing 42 percent of the vote in the May 30 election, the biggest electoral mandate in the country’s history. The question he faces now is, Can he deliver? Aquino seems to be doing most things right, but doubts remain as to whether he will be willing or able to push through the reforms the country needs. In a country renowned for its scandals, the 51-year-old bachelor is seen as […]

In the early 18th century, King Vakhtang VI of the ancient Georgian kingdom of Karlti watched as his land was overcome with chaos and warfare. Having traded his vassalage to Persian overlords for allegiance to Peter the Great, the Georgian king was unexpectedly abandoned by his new allies and saw his kingdom brought to ruin by the onslaught of Persians, Ottomans, Afghans, and Russians. Vakhtang’s submission would eventually lead to Georgia’s total capitulation to Russian domination in the 19th century and Soviet rule in the 20th. Today, the dynamics that marked the tumult of the 18th century are no less […]

Watching a president dismiss a senior general inevitably calls to mind Abraham Lincoln, who during the Civil War sacked generals left and right until he found one who served his purposes, and Harry Truman, who famously fired Gen. Douglas Macarthur during the Korean War. Unlike his predecessors, who removed generals either for their performance or due to disagreements over policy and strategy, President Barack Obama let Gen. Stanley McChrystal go because McChrystal had permitted a command environment that led some of his staff to crudely dismiss the president’s advisers. As if to underscore the continuity in policy and strategy, Obama […]

Are the deck chairs being reshuffled on the Titanic that is the Afghan war? First, Afghan President Hamid Karzai forced the resignations of his interior minister, Hanif Atmar, and the head of his intelligence services, Amrullah Saleh. Next, the U.K. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles, went on indefinite leave, turning over his post to his deputy. Now, in the aftermath of the infamous Rolling Stone profile, U.S. President Barack Obama has removed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus. What is interesting to note, of course, […]

BUJUMBURA, Burundi — For the capital of a country just years removed civil war, this steamy lakeside city is surprisingly cosmopolitan. Though Burundi, according to IMF statistics, has the lowest per capita GDP in the world, no one would guess from Bujumbura’s celebrated nightclubs or its colonial era Art Deco buildings. In the hills that rise from the plain of the city center, shantytowns have been razed to make room for McMansion-style houses, reflecting a growing middle class that’s also on display at the city’s lakeside. There, on a recent Sunday, throngs of urban Burundians, ex-pats and international travelers lounged […]

A recent headline in Britain’s Sunday Times must have sent blood pressure readings soaring on both sides of the gulf known on one side as the Persian Gulf and on the other as the Arabian Gulf: “Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear sites.” Had Riyadh really struck a deal with the Jewish state, making it easier for Israeli jets to pound Iranian targets? The Times quoted anonymous “defense sources in the Gulf” who maintained that the kingdom had gone as far as to conduct practice drills in which its air defenses would stand down, allowing flights […]

MEXICO CITY — Ten years ago, Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN) swept to power on an agenda of change, ousting the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) after 71 years of uninterrupted rule. The PAN agenda included more jobs, 7 percent economic growth and honest government — a departure from the PRI, which had presided over a political system oiled by corruption and patronage. A decade later, removing the PRI from power on the federal level remains the party’s greatest accomplishment. Much of the center-right party’s agenda has gone unfulfilled, and the PAN has largely failed to establish itself as a party […]

On Feb. 11, 2008, gunfire erupted across Dili, the capital of East Timor, as rebels under disgruntled former army officer Alfredo Reinado unleashed separate attacks against the country’s president and prime minister. President Jose Ramos-Horta, who a year earlier had won the country’s first presidential election since gaining independence in 2002, was shot and wounded. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped injury. Reinado and another rebel died when government guards fired back on the attackers. The government of East Timor, also known as Timor Leste, declared a state of emergency after the attack. Two years later, it’s clear that the assassination […]

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When Roza Otunbayeva came to power at the head of the Kyrgyz interim government in April, she knew that the road ahead was going to be tough. Her program of constitutional reform, new elections, and a jump-start for the country’s stagnating economy would have been difficult even in less uncertain times. But since the spring, Otunbayeva has been faced with a spate of riots, murders, violent clashes and burning villages in the south of the country, culminating in the flight of an estimated 400,000 Uzbeks and the death of more than 2,000 Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in violent riots over the […]

As if to provide yet one more piece of evidence of the Afghan tragedy, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report yesterday showing the devastating effects of domestically produced opium on Afghanistan’s own population. It complements other studies (.pdf) that have highlighted the suffering that Afghan opium, heroin, and other opiates cause in other countries. Taken together, the reports make it clear that solving the Afghan drug challenge will require a comprehensive multilateral approach. Yesterday’s UNODC report (.pdf), entitled “Drug Use in Afghanistan: 2009 Survey,” confirms a pattern seen in the international evolution of the […]

BEIJING — In 2003, China formulated the “Peaceful Rise,” a foreign policy framework for how it would re-emerge as an influential player in the new multilateral order. The most recent demonstration of how Beijing is putting this vision into practice is the ongoing four-nation tour to South Asia and the Asia-Pacific by China’s vice president and potential future leader, Xi Jinping. Xi has visited Bangladesh, Laos, New Zealand and Australia, with a separate visit to Myanmar promised in the near future. Taken together, the deals he has signed on the tour shed light on China’s principal strategic objectives in one […]

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