President Barack Obama’s July 2011 deadline for a drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has raised concerns among Central Asian analysts, who worry that links between the Taliban, al-Qaida and Islamist militants in Central Asia could result in a negative spillover effect following the U.S. withdrawal. As if to highlight their fears, the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) claimed responsibility for a Sept. 19 attack on a military convoy in Tajikistan, which left 25 military personnel dead. And according to Baktybek Abdrisaev, former Kyrgyz ambassador to the United States and Canada and currently a visiting professor at Utah Valley […]

An increasingly vicious battle that has broken out between pro- and anti-Syrian factions in Lebanon is likely to determine the country’s ability to resist Syrian interference in its internal politics. Also at stake in the conflict is the future of a United Nations investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The assassination sparked a protest movement that blamed Syria for Hariri’s killing and forced Damascus to withdraw its troops after a nearly 30-year presence in Lebanon. The anti-Syrian groundswell paved the way for Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son, to become prime minister. Syria and its […]

On Sept. 12, after months of negotiations, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a historically low-profile international institution, announced that its participants had agreed to new international minimum capital standards for banks. Scheduled to be phased in carefully over the next eight years, the new agreement — informally referred to as Basel III — represents the most significant set of international financial regulations to emerge since the onset of the global financial crisis. Yet, to succeed, Basel III depends entirely on national governments voluntarily following through on implementing and maintaining the new standards. As a result, distributional consequences across countries […]

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Despite some typically incendiary remarks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attendance at the U.N. General Assembly’s 65th session in New York was marked by a low-key tone noted by many. The change in tone, including a reported willingness to resume talks with the U.S. and its allies, reflects the impact of Iran’s domestic politics. For increasingly, Ahmadinejad’s real battle is at home, against the mullahs who brought him to power. And in that struggle, Ahmadinejad and his allies are increasingly embracing Iran’s venerable 2,500-year-old national heritage to attack its recent three-decade Islamist experiment. The latest salvo, via a Web site called […]

On Sep. 6, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Financial Corporation (a branch of the World Bank Group) signed a mandate letter with the consortium behind the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, marking the start of an appraisal process that will eventually secure a €4 billion financing package for the project. The three international financial institutions committed €2 billion, €1.2 billion and €800 million, respectively. Along with the more modest €200 million grant provided by the European Commission last March, the contributions will certainly boost confidence in the project among private investors, who […]

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The title refers to a recurring thought I’ve been having since Brazil announced it was unilaterally extending its offshore sovereignty to cover the sea-bed oil reserves it recently discovered, despite the fact that its previous proposal to that effect had been rejected by the U.N., and its re-application has not yet been decided upon. That was soon followed by the news that Brasilia would further expand its naval capabilities — beyond the four Scorpene-class subs as well as a nuclear-powered one it has already contracted with France — to back up its claim. Everyone loves a soft, cuddly Middle Power […]

JUBA, Sudan — Growing fears over Southern Sudan’s approaching referendum on self-determination have ratcheted up the stakes of Friday’s summit between U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. President Barack Obama and high-level representatives of Sudan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently referred to the situation as a “ticking time bomb,” and statements this week from various officials on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York have further contributed to the bleak international outlook. Preparations for the referendum vote are badly lagging, as are negotiations between Khartoum and Juba over post-referendum arrangements. Meanwhile, trust between the North and South […]

The idyllic valley of Kashmir has been gripped by violence for more than three months now. Unlike past unrest, however, this summer’s riots have seen a new generation of young Kashmiris venting their anger at a central government that has failed to capitalize on the stability of recent years to provide them with economic opportunities and political reconciliation. The state government led by the telegenic, much-hyped Omar Abdullah waited almost two months after the initial violence to begin outreach efforts, by which time more than 50 people had already died in street protests and police action. New Delhi, too, stayed […]

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MADRID — For more than 40 years, the separatist terrorist group Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA) was a major force in Spanish politics and society. The group’s attacks claimed more than 800 lives, including many senior government officials, and in its prime, it exerted de facto control over vast swathes of the Basque Country, in both Spain and France. This combination of hard and soft power allowed the group to define the parameters not only of the political and academic debates over Basque autonomy, but also of wider discussions of regionalism in the late-Franco-era and, later, in democratic Spain. However, […]

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If you haven’t been following the U.K.’s defense review, it might come as a surprise to learn that things seem to have gotten a bit panicky in the land of the stiff upper lip. This post by Rob Dover at Kings of War strikes a downright un-British note in its sense of impending doom. In a column that I flagged last week, Michael Clarke summed up the problem facing British defense and strategic planners when he wrote, “The long term may be difficult, but the short term is near impossible.” Of course, no one forced the British to follow the […]

Last week’s brazen kidnapping of seven foreigners, including five Frenchmen, by al-Qaida-linked militants in a uranium mining town in Niger has increased pressure on both France and the European Union to become more militarily involved in the region’s fight against jihadists. The kidnapping threatens France’s major source of uranium for its nuclear power plants, calls into question the practice by some European governments of paying ransoms to free hostages, and throws down the gauntlet for the EU in its counterterrorism efforts. In response to the abductions, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and seven of his European counterparts urged EU foreign […]

When Europe ran the world, trade followed the flag, meaning that globalization in its initial expression — otherwise known as colonialism — grew out of the barrel of a gun, to paraphrase Mao Zedong. On this subject, Franklin Roosevelt and Vladimir Lenin agreed, even if that conclusion led them to embrace diametrically opposed strategies: FDR’s realization that “the colonial system means war” drove him to erect an international liberal trade order following World War II that doomed the vast colonial systems of his closest European allies. Roosevelt’s success not only enabled America to contain and ultimately defeat the soul-crushing Soviet […]

Last week, the controversy over France’s expulsions of illegal Roma immigrants reached a peak, when EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding implicitly compared the policy to those of Nazi Germany. Calling for legal action against France, Reding said, “Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe,” adding, “I thought Europe would not have to witness [this] again after the Second World War.” Reding’s remarks came after French media leaked an internal Interior Ministry memo from early August ordering the dismantling of 300 camps, with the Roma settlements singled out as “priority.” The French government had […]

A great deal of ink has been spilled on the domestic trajectory of the “Tea Party” movement, which is demonstrating its growing clout within the ranks of the Republican party and could end up playing a decisive factor in the 2010 midterm congressional elections. But less attention has been given to the foreign policy implications of the Tea Party’s possible ascendancy. Even if the Republicans take back control of both houses of Congress this fall, the Tea Party is unlikely to play a major role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. However, its perspective will shape popular perception, and its counsel […]

Nuclear energy’s recent renaissance has seen the United States firm up nuclear cooperation agreements with a number of emerging nuclear nations. However the most eye-catching so far is the proposed deal with Vietnam, which stands out not only for its departure from the standard template of such deals, as epitomized by the U.S.-UAE nuclear agreement, but also because it comes at a time when Sino-American interests have been at odds in the South China Sea. More broadly, the deal reflects the unfolding American strategy to counter Chinese assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region. Nonproliferation hawks are up in arms that the […]

With little more than 50 days left until elections on Nov. 7, tensions are rising noticeably in Burma — the country renamed Myanmar by its military rulers. The junta that keeps the country in its steely grip is trying to make sure the election goes off exactly as planned — which is to say, without triggering a new revolt, let alone a full-fledged revolution, and without producing an electoral outcome that would embarrass the regime or weaken its hold on power. The regime is so nervous that it recently ordered the temporary suspension of the magazine Modern Times as punishment […]

This past spring, the international community put discussions about the future of Bosnia, a country crippled by institutional dysfunction, on ice until after the upcoming elections on Oct. 3. But even should the election’s winners have the will to address the gridlock that blocks effective governance, they will not have the power. The best that can be hoped for is that the country’s profound political frustrations continue to be expressed peacefully. The internationally brokered Dayton Accords brought an end to the Bosnian civil war in 1995 and subsequently safeguarded the political prerogatives of the country’s Serb and Croat minorities in […]

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