WASHINGTON — The Iranian government formally charged three American citizens as spies and propagandists this week, prompting vigorous reactions in Washington, first from the Bush administration, then the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where one of the Americans heads the Middle East program. Calling the detention of Haleh Esfandiari “an affront to the rule of law and common decency,” Lee H. Hamilton, the Wilson Center’s president and director, said the “message to the Iranian government is simple: Let Haleh go.” The Bush administration responded as well, with State Department spokesman Sean McCormack telling reporters that the chargers were “utter […]

“Majorities want U.S. forces out of Islamic countries,” declares a survey on Muslim public opinion just released by WorldPublicOpinion.org. Its lead researcher, Stephen Kull, informed Congress on May 17 that “very large majorities believe the United States seeks to undermine Islam” (an average 8 in 10), and “spread Christianity in the region” (an average two-thirds of Muslims). That’s the bad news, which therefore dominated the headlines. But there was plenty of good news in the report as well. Overwhelming majorities throughout the Muslim world endorse globalization as “a good thing” — no fewer than 92 percent do so in Egypt. […]

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported once again that Iran had defied U.N. Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium. And in response, the United States once again demanded that international sanctions against Iran be made more severe. This call for sanctions — which has become routine by now — would be a lot more credible if it were not for a one embarrassing fact: The United States now lags many other countries in enforcing sanctions that the U.N. Security Council has already approved. One of the few real penalties to survive previous rounds of council negotiation over […]

Suspended between an uncertain Muslim world and a democratic Europe, a battle is brewing between Islamists and secularists in Turkey. Under a sea of red-and-white Turkish flags, tens of thousands of Turks took to the streets in the Black Sea coastal town of Samsun in late May in a series of rallies against the pro-Islamic government led by AKP, which they fear is conspiring to force its religious values on society. “No to Sharia,” “Turkey is secular and will remain secular,” the protesters, predominantly women and youth, recited in a growing chorus of demonstrations. This latest display of secular strength […]

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, under new pressure from congressional budget-cutters, continues to draw criticism that its underlying concept is flawed. The massive, ambitious FCS program would unite a large number of Army vehicles and weapons systems through a common computerized network, in theory allowing for better interoperability and coordination of troops in the field. The problem: “The whole concept doesn’t work,” according to Winslow Wheeler, a defense analyst at the Center for Defense Information in Washington. The Army heartily disagrees with this viewpoint, as does The Boeing Co., which is one of two main […]

LAHORE, Pakistan — “The only time I wore a burka was at a fancy-dress ball,” says Unver, a Pakistani painter hailing from an upper class Pakistani family. Speaking to a group of friends, he recounts sending his driver to the market to buy him the cheap, all-enveloping veil sealed with a face grill that many of Pakistan’s most conservative women wear on sorties outside the house. “After forty minutes of wearing that thing, I was drenched in sweat. Next time I saw my driver, I asked him how his wife can wear that thing all the time. He just looked […]

From May 16-17, Shanghai hosted an annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB). The Bank’s decision to meet in Asia for the first time in its history testifies to China’s growing hold over the African continent. During the past decade, China’s political, economic, and military presence on the continent has surged. Notwithstanding Africa’s declining share in world commerce, trade between Africa and China rose approximately 30 percent during each of the past five years. It now exceeds $50 billion annually, making China Africa’s third-largest trading partner. Sub-Saharan Africa currently supplies about 30 percent of […]

Editor’s note: Corridors of Power is written by World Politics Review Editor-at-Large Roland Flamini and appears every Monday. This week’s edition appears Tuesday due to Monday’s Memorial Day holiday in the United States. A GHOST AT THE COMMITTEE — Randall Tobias will not be present when the U.S. Congress takes up foreign aid appropriations after Memorial Day, but he will certainly be there in spirit. Tobias resigned as head of USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, following that rather bizarre Washington madam scandal, in which he was the only publicly identified alleged high-profile client. But it is largely the […]

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — It is too early to measure the social effects of tighter restrictions on alcohol sales introduced early this month by Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov’s government. However, beyond their purported social function, the laws appear politically motivated, aimed at depriving the country’s opposition from gaining funding from major alcohol producers in what, until very recently, was a largely unregulated local industry. Among other things, the new regulations ban the sale of alcohol near schools, and in health care and sports facilities, railway stations, bus stops and airports. Political analysts contend that while one motivation of Uzbek authorities may […]

VILLA CARDAL, Uruguay — The 1,200 inhabitants of this isolated rural town could not care less about a feud between U.S. tech companies Intel and AMD. But recently it began a social experiment that could impact not only its development but also the fortunes of several U.S. corporate giants. Eight-year-old Nahuel Lema and his 135 classmates at Number 24: Italia, the only primary school here, took home new laptops May 10 thanks to a partnership between the Uruguayan government and One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a United States’ non-profit born out of the MIT Media Lab. Nahuel’s mother, Grisela, sat […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a new occasional feature covering the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff. FOMENTING FEAR — Amnesty International released its annual report Wednesday with cautions over the growing influence of the “politics of fear” and the increasing participation of established democracies in widespread human rights abuses, and called on countries to invest in human rights institutions. “In 2006, short-sighted, fear-mongering policies undermined the rule of law and human rights, fed racism and xenophobia, fueled discrimination, suppressed dissent, intensified conflict and sowed the seeds of more violence,” Amnesty’s […]

On May 9, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands officially unveiled a Memorial in The Hague for all those who have perished from chemical weapons. The International Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Weapons falls annually on April 29. This year’s date was also the 10th anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Governments and security experts used the occasion to laud the CWC as well as suggest ways to improve it. The CWC bans the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical weapons (CW). Its provisions are of indefinite duration and apply to all […]

WARRI, Nigeria — It takes two hours by boat to get to Deibu, an isolated outpost of about 17,000 people in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The town is cut off from civilization by the River Nun and a thick mangrove forest, and first-time visitors who make the journey are struck by the poverty they find — a stretch of rickety mud houses, with canoes lying by the riverside. Deibu is trapped in another age. Children and adults bath naked in the Nun. There is no electricity service or plumbing. The village’s only sign of modernity is a battered health center, a […]

If you had never looked at the Middle East, you might find it strange that a bank robbery spiraled into a raging battle between Lebanese government forces and a radical Islamic band of fighters based in a Palestinian refugee camp, leaving at least 100 dead and countless injured. The fighting, of course, has very little to do with the robbery that spawned the furious clashes. The battle between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army offers a look at the deadly kaleidoscope of Middle Eastern conflicts, some of them local on the surface, but all deeply interrelated. Among the many pieces […]

In late April, Dr. Kamal al-Labwani signed on to a letter from political and human rights activists that had been smuggled out of Damascus Central Prison. The letter urged Syria’s embattled activist community, particularly hundreds of detainees awaiting judgments, not to despair, for “they are not alone” and “there is hope for a peaceful resolution of the crisis of freedoms and human rights in Syria.” Two weeks later, on May 10, al-Labwani stood in a Damascus courtroom to hear a guilty verdict passed down upon him; three days later, two more pro-reform advocates received jail sentences. One-by-one, non-violent Syrian advocates […]

PARIS — Last Tuesday night, on the eve of handing over power to his successor Nicolas Sarkozy, Jacques Chirac bid an emotional “farewell” to the French people in a televised address. “I want to tell you how strong the bond is that from the bottom of my heart ties me to each and every one of you,” Chirac said, “This bond is that of affection, that of respect, that of admiration for the French people.” It is clear that by the end of his second term in office these warm feelings were not much reciprocated by Chirac’s compatriots. Over the […]

WASHINGTON — Reparing and strengthening commercial ties between the U.S. and European defense industries requires more U.S. action and less talk, says Thomas Enders, chief executive of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., Europe’s largest defense contractor. “Concrete steps,” rather than mere talk, should be the order of the day, Enders last week told a Washington audience that included many U.S. government officials and European diplomats. High on the action agenda, Enders said, should be reform of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), a set of U.S. government regulations that controls the import and export of defense-related articles and […]

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