The shrinking water table beneath China’s northern plain is more than just a matter of concern to Beijing’s National Development and Reform Commission. It makes strategic planners in Washington nervous too because it increases the likelihood that the Chinese will have to import significantly more grain. Given China’s population of 1.3 billion and the rapidly growing urban middle classes with their rising taste for more western-style meat-oriented diets instead of traditional rice, this threatens to destabilize world grain markets, push up prices and lead to shortages, the Washington-based, internationally funded Worldwatch Institute has speculated. Water supply is becoming similarly stressed […]

By teaming up with allied nations on defense acquisition programs, the United States hopes to reduce the cost of weapons such as the Joint Strike Fighter, the next-generation fighter aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. But some question the benefits of cost-sharing with other countries. In the view of one defense analyst, such arrangements limit U.S. decision-making flexibility and offer little in return. “It’s a huge impediment to the American strategic debate” to conduct big defense procurement programs in conjunction with allies, according to Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at The Brookings Institution, a […]

Abu Bakar Bashir might be the “Teflon teacher.” Since the 1970s, he has preached Islamic theocracy in Indonesia, and lived 13 years in exile to avoid a jail sentence for his beliefs under the secular dictator Suharto. Even in Indonesia’s new, more liberal political climate, he has been hauled before Indonesian courts for involvement in bomb attacks on churches, the 2002 Bali bombings, a Jakarta attack, and for being the spiritual leader of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). But the charges haven’t really stuck. Prosecutors have had limited success linking him with JI, convicting him only of being part […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Shortly after Vietnamese tanks rumbled across Cambodia’s border in late 1978 the Khmer Rouge elite fled the capital and a new regime first attempted what the United Nations is poised to try again more than a quarter of a century later — account for the grisly deaths of up to two million people. Pol Pot and perhaps his closest friend from their university days in France, Ieng Sary, were long ago sentenced to death in absentia for genocide, in a trial widely regarded as a legal farce. It was so badly handled and wrapped-up in Cold […]

On May 26, 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), a collaborative program aimed at securing vast stocks of dangerous nuclear material scattered around the globe. The program, run by a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE known as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), has two central elements: repatriating or otherwise securing nuclear fuel; and converting reactors to use new, more proliferation-resistant technology. The program has seen some success and has even received more funding than expected, but so far progress has been slower than initially hoped. Programs like GTRI (others include the […]

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I just returned from a short trip to Beirut — my first since the ceasefire was implemented on Aug. 13, 2006. Apart from the roads and bridges damaged by Israel on the Damascus-Beirut road, everything seemed fine and normal in Lebanon. Malls were busy, offering 60 percent discounts, and so were clubs, casinos, hotels, and restaurants. Commercial billboards, usually reserved for advertising, were all booked by Hezbollah and showed signs praising the Lebanese resistance and its leader Hasan Nasrallah. One notable billboard showed a huge picture of Israeli troops carrying the coffin of a slain soldier, draped with the Israeli […]

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — On Aug. 16, the new Slovakian government, led by center-left Prime Minister Robert Fico, blocked the planned partial privatization of the airport in the country’s capital, Bratislava. The government rejected a $370 million offer by a Viennese consortium aiming to offset the need for a new runway at Vienna International by integrating the airports of the “twin cities” of Vienna and Bratislava, which are just 33 miles apart and thus well-suited to serve as twin hubs serving increased air traffic to the region. The deal is the first large privatization to be annulled in Slovakia in the […]

RIBNITSA, Transnistria — Last month, a trolley bus ambled along a Soviet-era street on a hot afternoon, and blew up before it reached its next stop. Eight people were killed, and 46 injured in this July bomb blast, creating a rumble not quite strong enough to pique the interest of the war-fatigued Western press. It happened again two weeks ago when a trolley bus on a similar route, this time touring around on a quiet Sunday afternoon, was blown to bits, killing a 50-year-old man and six-year-old girl. Ten people were injured, many of them seriously. The following day, a […]

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In both Washington and Tokyo, U.S. policymakers seem to have lost sight of the big story now unfolding in Asia’s energy marketplace: Energy resource-poor Japan is revving up its diplomatic drive to strengthen relations with the oil- and gas-rich countries of Central Asia in a bid to ensure its energy security amid stubbornly high oil prices. Japan invited foreign ministers of Central Asian nations to talks in early June. And in a more significant move that highlights how passionately Japan is wooing the Central Asian nations, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who steps down in late September, will visit the region […]

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Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of the World Politics Review Commentary Week in Review, in which we look back at the week’s opinion pages. The column will be posted every Saturday by noon. Last week, I said I was pining for somebody to write something about Iraq, given how the bloodshed there recently has been overshadowed by the Lebanon conflict. This week, I got my wish. While poverty in Asia, the future of Iran, Lebanon, and the balderdash of Chavez and Mugabe all were represented in the opinion pages, this week’s op-ed action was rooted in the soft […]

Amid the shattered dreams of a grand transformation, Lebanon, a land fabled for its vulnerability to foreign intervention, offered an opportunity, a deliverance from the troubles that have afflicted U.S. policy in the Middle East. Since at least 1990, Syria had established dominion in Lebanon and rendered it a base for all sorts of pro-Syrian militant organizations — Palestinian and Lebanese, secular and fundamentalist. Many Lebanese were not happy with the Syrian order, and the opportunity for change came with the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on March 14, 2005. Hariri was a man with a vision […]

NEW DELHI, India – Amid mixed reports of a rebel withdrawal and relative calm, there continue to be fierce and bloody clashes on the island nation of Sri Lanka between military forces of the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers. Some analysts have begun dubbing the ongoing violence the beginning of ‘Eelam War IV’ — a reference to the repeated failure of peace talks in the 20-year-old civil war in the tiny country off India’s southern tip. But Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to deny such, saying instead […]

Now that the border between Lebanon and Israel has changed from war zone to twilight zone — an eerie landscape where the potential for renewed fighting hangs heavily in the air — history’s pundits can review their recent pronouncements on the conflict to see just how useful they proved. They can examine what they wrote to see how much it really helped us understand what just transpired in the Middle East and how effectively they guided the peacemakers in their search for a solution. A close look, I’m afraid, will show that history’s lessons have proven confusing, contradictory and even […]

MEXICO CITY — The unfavorable results of last month’s Mexican election and allegations of fraud so angered Jesus Alberto Nito Tellez that he left his wholesale business in the central Mexican city of Celaya three weeks ago and drove to the heart of Mexico City, where he pitched a tent in a protest camp organized by disgruntled presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost the presidential race. How long Nito Tellez stays depends on how soon he and his colleagues from a left-leaning coalition, dubbed “For the good of all” and headed by the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), […]

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NAIROBI, Kenya — The collapse of the World Trade Organization talks in the past month has presented Africa with a double predicament. On the one hand are the lost trade opportunities following the collapse of the WTO’s Doha Round. If the talks had succeeded in favor of Africa’s position, the continent would have gained better market access to the European, U.S. and Japanese economies. The continent also sought to successfully negotiate for the elimination of agriculture production and export subsidies that make produce from developed countries cheaper than Africa’s in the world market. On the other hand, the preferential trade […]

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Weaving through the narrow mountain roads over the Bosnian-Montenegrin border in a blue mini passenger bus, Bulajic Veselin fidgeted impatiently for the duration of his six-hour journey. Traveling to his hometown of Niksic, Montenegro, from the University of Tuzla in Bosnia, this trip held a special significance for Veselin. For the first time in his life, the 25-year old medical student was returning home to a free and independent Montenegro. “This is a historic time for my country,” he says, pointing enthusiastically to the grassy hills and mountain lakes as though seeing them for the first time. […]

“Italian troops are not going to Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah,” Italy’s foreign minister said Tuesday. Nobody is going to use force against a movement “considered by many Lebanese as patriotic” and “a sort of national resistance force,” said Massimo D’Alema in an interview with the Italian magazine l’Espresso. The August 11 U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon also said the Shiite militia should turn in their weapons. But D’Alema says the only “realistic solution” is for Hezbollah fighters to be integrated into the Lebanese regular armed forces – a process the minister estimates will […]

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