African leaders made plain their disappointment and concern over Sudan’s handling of the conflict in its western Darfur region by rejecting the central African country’s bid to lead the African Union during an annual summit this week that also saw a first effort at African mediation by new U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Prosperous and stable Ghana instead assumed the mantle of the 53-member pan-African grouping at the meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, amid warnings from Sudanese rebels that they would attack an under-equipped AU peacekeeping force operating in Darfur should Sudan be tapped to succeed the Congo […]

A fierce ideological battle that appears to favor a radical Islamic constituency may hold the key to the future of a little-known but restive region in south Russia. The religious topography of the North Caucasus can no longer be reduced to a simple theological contest between Sufi traditionalists and Islamists. Increasingly, ideological schisms are emerging within the Islamist constituency itself, which Moscow rather ambiguously labels the “Wahhabi” community. The infighting revolves around differences in thinking between moderate reformers and radicals, a rivalry that, while long-prevalent in nearby Chechnya, has now become especially apparent in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, another patch […]

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles by Rhea Wessel on the rights of Muslim women in Europe, particularly Turkish women in Germany. The stories will appear occasionally on World Politics Review. FRANKFURT, Germany — Forcing girls and young women into marriage is illegal in most countries and banned under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but that doesn’t keep the practice from remaining prevalent in dozens of countries. In Europe, immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East continue to force partners on their children for economic security, clan continuity or the preservation of a […]

Lawless Afghan-Pakistani borderlands have emerged as a flash point between officials on both sides over who is responsible for bringing order to a known Taliban safe haven in the face of a gathering insurgency. The blame game ignores the reality that the “Pashtun belt” at ground level belongs to neither country, with a history of rejecting would-be occupiers. The same rugged tribal areas that Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida operatives retreated to following the U.S.-led 2001 invasion to topple the Taliban have become a rear base for Taliban militants launching cross-border attacks against NATO-led security forces in Afghanistan […]

It is no longer possible to chin up in Zimbabwe. Not with the profusion of woes rending the country each passing day. Dozens are dying at the country’s public hospitals following a monthlong strike over pay by the few remaining doctors, inflation is fast approaching the 1,300 percent mark and political oppression has reached epidemic proportions. Formerly a major tobacco producer and breadbasket for southern Africa, Zimbabwe continues to hurtle down the tubes, producing an endless stream of sob stories. It rivals war-torn African countries in spewing out displaced people and refugees running away from the country’s socio-economic meltdown. A […]

The relationship between Russia and Serbia has remained close despite numerous turnovers of leadership in both countries. The continual upkeep of this relationship finds its roots in similar cultural traditions. Both countries boast many of the same Slavic traditions, including the Cyrillic alphabet, Orthodox Christianity and a Slavic brotherhood that differentiates itself from the West. It should come as no surprise then why Russia, despite the breakup of the Soviet bloc, has continued to side with Serbia in its post-Soviet years — specifically regarding the current controversy surrounding Kosovo, which holds the status of an autonomous territory within Serbia. However, […]

Kingston, JAMAICA — The screaming of the newly widowed let the people of Common know revenge had visited them that Monday morning. A fierce current, taking hold of the Caribbean basin, lashed rolls of thunder and heavy rainfall down upon the tough uptown community’s ramshackle buildings. Flyposting, advertising downtrodden reggae dancehalls and erotica clubs, grew soggy and limpid, giving way to graffiti tags sprayed on the walls underneath. A congealed sludge of soil skimmed along the streetscape, dirt and leaves clogging in the strip of potholes and fissures that passes for Red Hills Road. A lone jerk vendor, braving the […]

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EXTRA TIME — More on the IRS investigation of Washington’s foreign embassies: The German Embassy has complained to the Revenue that the Feb. 20 deadline for embassy employees to file back taxes from 2003 through 2005 is “unreasonably short” and asked for an extension to June 30. The extra time would “afford employees the possibility to prepare” their returns, the embassy said in a letter written to the State Department for forwarding to the IRS, as protocol demands. In November, the IRS proposed what it called a “settlement initiative” for thousands of non-diplomatic employees — both foreign and U.S. citizens […]

SIEM REP, Cambodia — Twelve-year-old Van Nak remembers like it was yesterday the force of the blast that took his right arm and his father. “It hit me here,” he says tapping his chest with his only hand, “and knocked me over.” Van was just 6 years old when he accidentally triggered a landmine near the Thai-Cambodian border while planting rice with his now deceased dad, one of the tens of thousands of victims of subterranean explosives that litter the countryside. According to the government-run Cambodian Mine Action Center, anywhere between four and six million mines and pieces of unexploded […]

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China’s decision to conduct its first test of an anti-satellite weapon represents a sharp escalation in the hitherto low-key dispute between China, Russia, and the United States over the use of outer space for military purposes. The test, which occurred Jan. 12 (Beijing time), represents the first anti-satellite attack by any country in over two decades. It also marks the first use of a ground-based missile to destroy an orbiting satellite. On Jan. 18, the Bush administration confirmed media reports that China had used a kinetic kill vehicle (i.e., one which attacks targets by colliding with them rather than exploding […]

China’s recent decision to blast one of its own satellites from the sky using a ground-based missile has re-ignited concerns in Washington that a potential military rival could be seeking to “weaponize” space. While China’s Foreign Ministry stressed that the “test was not directed at any country and does not constitute a threat to any country,” the destruction of its own satellite has created a hotbed of speculation regarding Beijing’s possible ulterior motives. Some China experts contend it was an attempt by Beijing to pressure Washington to negotiate an international treaty banning weapons in space. The Bush administration, however, remains […]

What exactly is the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, doing in Iraq? Although the public has had occasion to be aware of the BND presence, up until now most will have been led to believe that the BND has been “quietly” cooperating with American and coalition authorities. Even more skeptical observers will have assumed that it is at least not cooperating with America’s enemies in the country. But a photograph published earlier this month in the German weekly Stern provides disturbing evidence that it is doing precisely that. (See here on the Stern website.) The photo depicts a middle-aged […]

NAIROBI, Kenya — Six months of peace talks to end more than two decades of conflict in northern Uganda have been virtually for naught, and their progress is now being held up by a simple question of geography. Bellicose rhetoric from Sudan President Omar al-Bashir that the Lord’s Resistance Army would be expelled from the south of his own embattled nation “by the end of this month” has emboldened the shadowy rebellion to demand a new host — and mediator — for negotiations to end the war that has made night travellers of tens of thousands of children and displaced […]

Ever since Russia briefly interrupted natural gas deliveries to Ukraine on New Year’s Day 2006, Moscow has been harshly criticized in the West for allegedly using energy as a tool to blackmail its neighbors. The recent spat between Russia and Belarus over Moscow’s price hike on oil and gas deliveries to Minsk once again prompted charges from Western politicians and pundits that Russia is not a reliable source of energy. But where many Westerners perceive Russia as a regional bully, the Kremlin argues that former Soviet republics are not entitled to cheap Russian energy simply because Russia’s major export pipelines […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — Astrology and superstitious belief are part of everyday life in impoverished Burma, where hope for every family hangs on some fortune-teller’s prophesy. But there is one prediction no one in the country is prepared to make — who will succeed ailing leader Than Shwe. Rumor is rife in Rangoon that the hardhearted general who cherishes his family life is seriously ill with intestinal cancer. His death or withdrawal from a position of influence is seen by some Burma-watchers as a small chance for a break in the long-running deadlock between the hard-line military regime and the suppressed […]

Last week’s resignation of Maj. Gen. Daniel Halutz, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), could precipitate the long-expected change in Israel’s military and political leadership as a result of the country’s perceived poor performance during last summer’s conflict in Lebanon. There had been numerous calls within Israel for Halutz’s departure ever since the military failed to achieve its two major objectives in the war — securing the release of the two IDF soldiers abducted by Hezbollah guerrillas and destroying that group’s military infrastructure in Lebanon. The massive scale of the fighting that ensued quickly overshadowed the […]

Take a seat at one of the many waterfront restaurants bordering the Sea of Galilee in the Israeli city of Tiberias and nature immediately gives you a lesson in history, geography and military strategy. The lapping waters of Lake Kinneret, as it is known in Hebrew, shimmer placidly at your side, evoking images of biblical history. But what really grabs your eye is the soaring terrain rising ominously on the other side of the water, the Golan Heights. The land rises sharply from the eastern side of the lake. Sitting in the Golan’s shadow, there remains little doubt that control […]

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