Negotiations are set to resume in September between Iran and the P5+1 countries — the five permanent U.N. Security Council members along with Germany — with an eye to restarting a diplomatic process that might lead to a resolution of the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program. The question is whether something akin to the 2003 Libyan breakthrough is possible — or even desirable. By that scenario, Iran would stop all of its efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons breakout capability — notably, the ability to enrich uranium. In return, the U.S. and its Western allies would agree to lift sanctions […]

Stepped-up hostilities between Turkish forces and Kurdish guerrillas in southeastern Turkey and predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq coupled with a high-powered Iraqi Kurdish campaign to achieve greater autonomy are complicating U.S. efforts to ensure that Iraq remains united once American troops leave the country. The increased hostilities couldn’t come at a worse time for the Obama administration, which is preparing for next year’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The U.S. had hoped that closer Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish cooperation and Ankara’s conciliatory moves toward Turkey’s estimated 15 million Kurds — who account for approximately 20 percent of Turkey’s population — would end […]

Brazil has a serious problem: Its economy is growing too fast. No kidding. In today’s global environment of sluggish growth and fears of a recessionary “double dip,” word of this peculiar challenge facing Brazilian policymakers might sound like the setup for a joke. But don’t wait for the punch line. Brazil, like much of Latin America, is showing astonishing resilience in the face of a daunting economic environment that cuts across borders. The region that popularized words such as junta and caudillo, and the countries that for decades served as the inspiration for caricatures of tin-pot dictators — not to […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Washington’s decision to partially lift the ban on contact with Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces command has angered human rights organizations within the country and beyond. The decision, which had been rumored for some time, was announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at a meeting last Thursday with Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta. The ban on Kopassus was part of a U.S. military embargo imposed more than a decade ago in response to repeated human rights abuses committed by Kopassus units and by Indonesia’s military, the TNI, in Papua, Aceh and East Timor. The […]

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I haven’t had the time to read anything other than second-hand commentary on the WikiLeaks document dump, but as “revelations” go, this one seems to be weak tea. The direct effect on the Afghanistan War will most likely be felt in some of the relationships the U.S. must manage (Pakistan and India, for instance). There’s also the risk that some of the granular information they contain, which extend to some NATO coalition partners, could accelerate the crumbling of support in Europe. Beyond that, as Joshua Foust noted, there is the human cost faced by Afghan informants and other strategic assets […]

Fifteen days after twin suicide bombings killed 76 people in Kampala, Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni used an African Union summit in the capital city to declare war on the Somali group responsible for the July 11 bombing — as well as on foreign fighters aiding the group. “The terrorists should be wiped out of Africa,” Museveni said on Monday. “Let us act and sweep them out of Africa and to where they came from in Asia and the Middle East.” But to secure its borders, cities and regional interests, Uganda must do more than target terrorists. Roving rebel groups, many […]

As Gen. David Petraeus takes over the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan, he is right to continue a strategy of counterinsurgency and to strengthen it with a plan that seeks to give local Afghan communities the means to defend themselves. However, both the recently announced local defense plan, which pays community members to don a rifle and police uniform, and the over-arching counterinsurgency of which it is a part take the wrong path to reducing violence in Afghanistan. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2008, the U.S. “cannot kill its way to victory.” Yet, the Pentagon has emphasized “providing […]

KYIV, Ukraine — To many observers, Ukraine’s recently elected President Viktor Yanukovych is the same pro-Russian stooge he was in 2004, when he walked away the loser of the Orange Revolution that catapulted pro-Western former President Viktor Yushchenko into power. The apparent evidence of Yanukovych’s pro-Moscow slant abounds. Since taking office in February, he extended the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s lease on its Ukrainian base in Sevastopol, a move attacked by opponents as endangering Ukraine’s sovereignty. He also signed an array of cooperation agreements across several sectors during one of his many meetings with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. And he […]

In terms of volume, the more than 90,000 documents posted on the WikiLeaks Web site has to be one of the largest publications on the Internet of classified U.S. government material. But in terms of content, the so-called Afghanistan War Logs don’t tell us anything that most people who have been following the war even casually don’t already know. For example, U.S. officials have long complained about support within Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for foreign terrorist groups — including the Taliban, which the ISI helped establish. The large number of Afghan civilian casualties resulting from coalition […]

There’s no question that globalization, in its modern American form of expanding free trade, just went through its worst crisis to date. But while economists debate whether or not we in the West are collectively heading toward a 1938-like “second dip,” it’s important to realize just how myopic our fears are about the future of a world economy that America went out of its way to create, defend, and grow these past seven decades. First, no matter how severe any second dip becomes, comparing our current plight to the Great Depression of the 1930s is an exercise in profound hyperbole, […]

Diplomats and international officials like talking about conflict prevention, but they are curiously uncomfortable talking about how conflicts actually work. Instead, there is a never-ending quest to explain the economic or social root causes of today’s wars. These explanations have gained in sophistication to the point that no self-respecting analyst today would ascribe violence to “ancient ethnic hatreds,” a phrase that was often applied to the Balkan wars just a decade ago. Instead, economists talk about how greed and natural resources fuel violence, reducing rapacious governments and marauding rebels to rational economic actors. Political experts prefer to highlight the need […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Kang Guek Eav, a.k.a. Duch, the notorious commandant of Pol Pot’s S21 death camp where about 16,000 people were sent to their deaths, was found guilty on Monday of murder, torture and crimes against humanity by a United Nations-backed court. The decision was hailed by local and international authorities seeking justice for up to 2 million people who perished here between 1975 and 1979, amid one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century’s bloody history. However, many of the victims were upset by the sentence, which could see the 67-year-old former mathematics teacher walk out […]

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Although Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are often lumped together in the same Latin American “populist left” basket, the fact that Correa is involved in mediating the latest manufactured crisis between Venezuela and Colombia underscores the difference between the two. It also suggests that power in the emerging geopolitical landscape will increasingly relocate toward the connecting states that manage to bridge differences between various feuding nodes. Clearly, Turkey is the most visible example of how that will work, but Qatar is another. And a detail from this NY Times article on the impact of sanctions on […]

The 2014 Afghan security plan unveiled by President Hamid Karzai this week at the international conference in Kabul raises once again the question of whether the U.S. and NATO are moving towards a 21st century variant of the “Najibullah strategy” as they seek to determine their end game in Afghanistan. The reference is to the regime of Mohamed Najibullah, the Afghan leader at the time the Soviet Union withdrew its combat forces from Afghanistan in 1989. The Afghan government that the Soviets left behind controlled the major population centers as well as some of the rural regions of the country, […]

NEW DELHI — Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s three-day visit to Pakistan last week to move the bilateral Composite Dialogue forward will be joining a long list of Indo-Pak diplomatic debacles, the most recent one being at Sharm el-Sheikh last July. However, even by the abysmal standards of Indo-Pakistani diplomacy, the public spat between Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart, Mehmood Qureshi, at the joint press conference in Islamabad on July 15, marks a new low in bilateral engagement. It has also raised a fundamental question about India’s foreign policy toward its neighbor, one that is deeply dividing an already […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — Nearly two weeks after three bombs exploded in Uganda’s usually tranquil capital, killing at least 73 people and injuring scores more, the investigations into the attacks seem to be moving swiftly. Experts from countries including the United States and Israel are providing forensic assistance to help piece together the operation and trace those behind it. Police say they have arrested more than 40 people, including 11 Somalis and 16 Pakistanis, and images of two suspected suicide bombers, reconstructed by Interpol, were released earlier this week. In claiming credit for the attacks, the Somali insurgent group al-Shabab effectively […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is putting the finishing touches on his second budget since taking office, one that some suspect could serve as a campaign platform for early elections aimed at winning back support his party lost in the 2008 voting that brought him to power. Back then, with the global economy facing recession, and amid forecasts of a depression, the Malaysian opposition scored unprecedented gains at the ballot box. Najib’s governing United Malays National Organization (UMNO) lost its cherished two-thirds majority with which it has controlled politics here for more than half a century. But it was a […]

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