Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of two commentary articles written by members of the opposition to the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. This article is written by Ibrahim El-Houdaiby, a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The second installment will be penned by a member of the secular wing of the Egyptian opposition. CAIRO, Egypt — The latest escalation by the Egyptian regime against the Muslim Brotherhood has been widely portrayed as a conflict between a “secular” government and a religious-Islamist opposition. This is hardly the case. It is rather part of a larger conflict […]

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Anatoly Serdyukov, the director of the Federal Tax Service since 2004, as Russia’s new defense minister. Since then, Serdyukov has kept a low profile, despite a recent visit to China to promote military cooperation and Russian arms sales with Beijing. Serdyukov was a surprising choice. Apart from serving his obligatory two years of military service after graduation from the Leningrad Institute of Commerce in 1984, Serdyukov never worked in the defense community. He has now become the first genuine civilian to head the Russian Ministry of Defense. His Russian and Soviet predecessors had […]

The Year of China in Russia got off to a top-level handshaking start in Moscow this week, ensuring that whatever else might go amiss, visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao would have something to smile about, for the TV stations back home at least. But after three days of political pledges and promises with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders, the Chinese president has returned home without any progress on the one issue that hexes Beijing now — energy security. China cannot maintain its racing economic growth of over 10 percent a year without scouring the world to vacuum up […]

GAUR, Nepal — In a small concrete shed next to Gaur town hospital in southern Nepal, the corpses of 13 young Maoists lay sprawled in a mess of drying blood. A red communist flag was bunched under one outstretched hand and outside the shed another 12 bodies were lined up in the midday sun. The gruesome scene was the aftermath of the worst single day of violence since the Maoists rebels signed a peace agreement with the government last November. A day after the carnage of March 21, leaders of Nepal’s top political parties arrived by helicopter to assess the […]

TEHRAN — I decided to move to Iran after having spent seven years living in and writing about the Arab World, where foreigners are generally handled as a rare and privileged species. As such, I approached reports of Iranian impudence in dealings with the West and Westerners with suspicion. Were these reports just another case of anti-Iranian Western propaganda? The steady stream of reports coming out of Iran about Westerners being arrested, summarily tried and jailed on spying accusations did make me wonder, however. Iran is the only country in the region where this is a regular occurrence. This doesn’t […]

LONDON — In Ivory Coast, it began with a foul stench emanating from the rank of dump trucks hired to dispose of an unknown shipment that had come aground at the port of Abidjan under cover of darkness. The shipment of highly toxic waste, floated through international waters by the Dutch multinational Trafigura aboard a Panamanian-flagged ship, was the residual product from an offshore cleaning of fuel oil tainted with too much sulphur. Shunted from port to port, it finally landed in Abidjan for the bargain-basement fee of $20,000. But in the seven months since it was offloaded and disposed […]

The assembled contestants for the 2007 “Mrs. World” competition, a spin-off of the better-known “Miss World” contest, gathered in late-February in Gudermes, Chechnya, where they were feted by the republic’s guileful young President, Ramzan Kadyrov. Staged as part of an ongoing attempt by the Kremlin, and its proxy regime in Chechyna, headed by Kadyrov, to showcase the supposed “normalization” of Chechen society after 15 years of turmoil, the whole affair made for a quite an absurd spectacle. The collection of beauties, dubbed the “world’s most beautiful married women,” made quite an impression on President Kadyrov. As Chechnya’s acting president — […]

WAKEFIELD, England — On Thursday (March 29), the Scottish Parliament will dissolve ahead of an election scheduled for May 3, amid one of the most keenly fought campaigns in Scotland’s political history. It is an election that could have far reaching consequences for the 300-year political union of Scotland and England and the future of the United Kingdom as a state. Current polls show that the opposition Scottish National Party (SNP) is as much as six points ahead of the ruling Labour Party and within touching distance of its dream of power. Although Tony Blair devolved power to Scotland in […]

From the moment Iranian forces captured a group of 15 British sailors and Marines, the tensions among competing power centers within Iran began bubbling to the surface. One can almost imagine the heated debates raging among assorted Mullahs, military men and politicians about what to do with the 14 men and one woman taken on March 21 in the waters of the Persian Gulf. That, not coincidentally, was the day before a scheduled meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which approved new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, demanding yet again the suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. There are […]

A quality common to any good story has become characteristic of Kremlin succession struggles — suspense. After Vladimir Lenin died, Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky vied for the leadership of the Soviet Union. After exile and assassination, Stalin emerged victorious. After Stalin, Lavrenti Beria and Nikita Khrushchev struggled for power. Again, after much backstabbing and another assassination, Khrushchev beat out Beria. While the political system has changed in name since those political tales played out, suspense is still relevant to Russia’s succession struggle leading up to 2008 elections. The main difference today (besides, hopefully, the lack of political assassination), however, […]

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — The murderers of Norbert Zongo, editor of the weekly L’Indépendant, demonstrated particular cruelty in December 1998 when they shot up his body, and those of three companions, and then burned it. But they failed to eliminate memories of his journalism and the effect it had on people here. “We consider Mr. Norbert Zongo as our defender because he used to depict the government’s wrongs,” said Mandé Ousséni, an English teacher who was a student in 1998. Germain Nama, publisher of the fortnightly L’Evénement newspaper, described Zongo as Burkina Faso’s premier investigative journalist, full of passion, whose […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — While most of the world has discarded the idea of communism, the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is still fighting for a “people’s dictatorship” in the Philippines, arguably Southeast Asia’s most westernized country. As the 38th anniversary of the NPA draws nearer, analysts agree that there is no end in sight for the war that has killed over 40,000. “For the foreseeable future, it looks like a pattern of protracted people’s war and counterinsurgency going on and on inconclusively,” said Soliman Santos, Asia coordinator of the […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every Sunday. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. NEVER GIVE UP — Pope Benedict XVI has marked the 50th anniversary of the European Union by reviving the Vatican’s campaign to have a reference to Europe’s Christian roots included in the draft constitution. Speaking in the Vatican Saturday, Pope Benedict called on Catholic politicians to challenge “the secularists who want to keep quiet about the Christian culture in Europe and in the world.” Elaborating on one of his top concerns, he […]

VALENCIA, Spain — An outsize effigy of George Bush was burned here in the annual Fallas festival Tuesday, reflecting the president’s unpopularity in Spain, and the country’s continued preoccupation with its past involvement in the Iraq war. Every year in this Spanish coastal city, Valencia artists make hundreds of large, Carnival-type figures for the ancient three-day spring festival. But it’s hardly a carnival atmosphere, as the long Fallas weekend culminates with the figures being set on fire. Satirical themes abound, but the satire is even-handed: Pope Benedict XVI and Spanish Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero were also featured […]

On Feb. 23, senior officials from Canada, Mexico, and the United States met to discuss ways to counter cross-border security threats while enhancing continental commerce as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP). U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay, and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa also made further preparations for a third summit among their heads of government later this year. Since the SPP began in March 2005, its core implementation element has consisted of trilateral working groups. Those engaged in the “Security Dialogue” address such issues as common transnational threats, […]

BRUSSELS — A man with tattered trousers, tousled hair and a blood-stained T-shirt wanders through a post-nuclear landscape. “Where am I?” he asks a veiled woman. “Belgium,” replies the Muslim lady. “What are those sand dunes over there?” “The Ardennes,” she replies, insinuating that climate change has turned this rain-soaked country into a desert. “And what’s this heap of rubble I’m standing on?” “The remains of the Berlaymont” (the European Commission’s star-shaped headquarters.) Welcome to Europe 2057 — the centenary of the EU’s birth — seen through the eyes of a troupe of Brussels-based correspondents. If last month’s annual EU […]

The indisputable father of modern-day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, accomplished great deeds in a short period of time. The greatest of these was the ease with which he weaved secularism into the fabric of a Muslim society. With his tantalizing and audacious reforms, he marched post-Ottoman Turkey unwaveringly toward the West and away from its Eastern neighbors. Among other reforms, Ataturk replaced the strict Islamic Shariah law with Swiss civil code, abolished state religion, secularized school curricula, and discouraged the use of the veil among women. Turkey’s republican constitution, modeled after the French constitution, enshrined the country’s commitment to secularism, […]

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