ASHKELON, Israel — There is a hint of political schizophrenia in the Middle East peace process. Even as outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declares that Israel and the Palestinians are tantalizingly close to a peace deal, rocket fire from Gaza is reaching deeper than ever into Israel. The latest Israeli community now enduring life under regular rocket attacks is this Israeli coastal city, Ashkelon, whose targeting by militants raises the stakes in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza. Israeli negotiators and Palestinian Authority leaders may well be making progress in their peace talks, but a major […]

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Against the backdrop of starvation and warfare, there are signs that Somalia’s decline might soon turn around. At this point in Somalia’s tortured history, the country’s fortunes are tethered to its resurgent Islamist groups. In early November, one of southern Somalia’s major ports fell to an advancing Islamist army. The U.N. had been using the “beach port” at Merka to deliver thousands of tons of food aid to refugee camps on the outskirts of Mogadishu. With its fall to the Islamists, there was concern that food shipments might be disrupted. But Pete Smerdon, a U.N. spokesman in Nairobi, Kenya, told […]

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) released Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World last week, with its avowed purpose to “stimulate strategic thinking about the future by identifying key trends, the factors that drive them, where they seem to be headed, and how they might interact.” The release of the report was more specifically timed to inform the thinking of the incoming Barack Obama administration about the broader strategic challenges and opportunities it will confront upon assuming office on Jan. 20, 2009 — and before officials of the new administration become overwhelmed by their daily inboxes. The authors of Global Trends […]

NO JOY AT THE SUMMIT — To French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s disappointment, Barack “One-president-at-a-time” Obama stuck to his word and refused to meet with any of the world leaders who attended last week’s economic summit in Washington. The French pressed hard, arguing that as current president of the European Union Sarkozy had hoped to be the first transatlantic leader to meet the American president-elect. Throughout the week-end, Sarkozy had a plane on standby to leave for Chicago at a moment’s notice. But no summons came from the Windy City. Meanwhile, there was no sign in Washington of the warm relations […]

JERUSALEM — Political posters are beginning to appear on Israeli streets, sending early signals to voters in advance of next February’s parliamentary election. In Jerusalem, discreet posters show Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu touting his pledge to “Watch over Jerusalem.” In more progressive parts of the country, the ever-serious visage of Kadima’s Tzipi Livni, the current foreign minister, highlights her pragmatic vow to do “What is good for Israel.” With three months to go, the tight contest is shaping up as a duel of personalities between Netanyahu and Livni. Livni, who failed to form a coalition after Ehud Olmert announced his […]

Global arms sales continue to grow, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), with the value of worldwide weapons contracts rising by an estimated 9.2 percent in 2007. The CRS put the value of major arms transfer agreements at almost $60 billion, up from $54.9 billion the year before. The United States accounted for over 41 percent of the sales, or approximately $24.8 billion, a significant increase from the 2006 figure of $16.7 billion. Russia still ranked second, but the value of its arms transfer agreements actually fell from $14.3 billion in 2006 to $10.4 billion in 2007. Conversely, the […]

BURMA CONVICTIONS RAISE CONCERNS — Burma’s ruling military junta has come in for another round of criticism and condemnation over the recent convictions of participants in 2007’s pro-democracy demonstrations. On Tuesday and Friday of last week, authorities convicted a total of 60 activists on various charges, including forming illegal organizations and illegal use of electronic media, sentencing some to as many as 65 years in prison. Human rights advocates and world leaders have expressed concern about the trials, which represent a spike in the Burmese regime’s ongoing crackdown on dissent. U.S State Department officials openly challenged Burmese authorities in public […]

AMMAN, Jordan — The front page of Wednesday’s Jordan Times featured a photograph of a helmeted Israeli soldier pushing a grimacing young Palestinian’s face into the ground, with one fist pressing hard against the jaw of his youthful victim and the other one twisting the Palestinian’s arm behind his back. The previous Sunday’s paper had a picture of a bloodied little boy, with a caption explaining the child was a Palestinian “beaten up by Jewish settlers.” Every day, it seems, the paper brings another shocking image of Israeli brutality, with captions that describe a black-and-white scenario of utter evil against […]

In late October, U.S.S. Kearsarge, a 40,000-ton amphibious assault ship, arrived off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago laden with hundreds of doctors, nurses and engineers, and tons of medical supplies. The tiny developing country was the fifth stop in Kearsarge’s four-month tour of Latin America, advancing a new Pentagon strategy for creating security through good deeds. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls it “soft power” — and it’s all the rage in a military exhausted by five years of hard combat. The Navy’s three-dozen amphibious ships, with their extensive medical facilities, along with its two specialized hospital ships, are […]

Just hours after President-elect Barack Obama’s election victory, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev used his first state of the nation address before both houses of the Russian parliament to declare that Russia would deploy short-range Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad “to neutralize if necessary the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe.” Medvedev also said that Russian electronic equipment would jam the U.S. systems and that he had canceled plans to dismantle three missile regiments deployed in western Russia. Kaliningrad, a Baltic Sea port which lies between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, hosts a major Russian military base. The Iskander surface-to-surface missile has […]

No matter who is elected president today, the next leader of the United States should make reforming the U.S. national security system a top priority. That’s the conclusion of the Project on National Security Reform (PNSR), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization funded and supported by Congress, foundations, and the private sector. After more than a year spent analyzing case studies of how the U.S. government mitigated, prepared for, responded to, and recovered from various national security challenges, the PNSR research indicates that the U.S. national security system’s performance is inconsistent. And America needs better to address the challenges it will […]

BURMA LEADER MARKS 13 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT — The first lady of Burmese politics, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, marked 13 years under house arrest on Oct. 25, as supporters around the world continued their calls for her release. Australia’s The Age called the date a prominent illustration of the “bitter tyranny” existing in Burma, noting that “the Lady’s unjust imprisonment is a powerful reminder of a brief moment of freedom realized by Burma’s people and the dream that remains unfulfilled.” The anniversary happened to coincide this year with the seventh Asia-Europe summit meeting, a major gathering of government […]