Predicting the course of events in the Middle East is like trying to look into the future of a chess game in which a hundred players make moves over a dozen boards. The number of possible outcomes became even greater after Wednesday’s announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he will resign following his party’s upcoming primaries. Olmert’s words managed to pack emotional drama even though they did not come as a surprise. The Israeli leader has suffered under the growing weight of corruption scandals, with the public’s patience with him having long run out. Israelis might have felt […]

In mid July, the international community renewed its efforts to curb the spread of small arms and light weapons (SALW). After failing to even adopt a report at their last meeting in 2006, this year’s delegates found a way through Iranian procedural objections to vote for modest next steps on a program of action to address the illicit trade of the deadly devices. Watchers of the small arms trade will now be looking to see if successful conclusion of the meeting adds momentum to a separate process examining the possibilities for a broader global arms trade treaty. In 2001, U.N. […]

The U.S. intelligence community recently completed its first National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the implications of global climate change for U.S. security. Although the report remains classified, senior intelligence officials have begun presenting its major findings in Congress and at various think tanks. Most media commentary covered the findings of the NIE, but not the more interesting process by which the conclusions were reached. By the admission of the person in charge of the effort — Thomas Fingar, deputy director of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman of the national Intelligence Council — the climate change topic presents serious methodological […]

WASHINGTON — Sky-high oil prices are keeping Iran’s government flush with revenue. But they are also contributing to Iran’s soaring inflation, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s worst economic woe. Pain at the pump for consumers of oil-importing countries usually translates into political gain for authoritarian leaders in oil-rich countries who use oil rents to buy political support. As Thomas Friedman famously put it, “the price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions.” “Iran is no exception,” said Farideh Farhi, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “But high oil prices […]

Earlier this month, the Philippine government hinted that its four-year ban on Filipinos working in Iraq might be lifted before the year is up. In a July 15 statement, Assistant Foreign Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Jesus Yabes cited the improving conditions in Baghdad as a reason to end the prohibition. The ban was put in place in 2004 by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo following the abduction of a Filipino truck driver who was working in Iraq at the time. Yabes’ statement came just a month after a Filipino was killed and two others injured in a […]

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — These are busy times for Dutch residents who toil in the trenches of international justice and for those who work along side them in this country’s prisons. Since the arrest of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade last week, preparations are moving feverishly in the city of The Hague, home of the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where Karadzic will, at some time in the near future, face the judges and prosecutors who will conduct his trial on charges of genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. Nearby, in the resort town of […]

HISTORICAL NOTE — Many of the 200,000 or so Germans who thronged the Tiergarten in Berlin to listen to Barack Obama may see him as another John F. Kennedy, but Obama didn’t yield to the same temptation of throwing a German phrase into his speech — and getting it slightly wrong. In 1963, when Kennedy spoke at the Berlin Wall, Berliners roared their approval when the president said he identified with them, even if his historic phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” translates as “I am a doughnut.” What Kennedy meant to say was “Ich bin einer Berliner.” Twenty-four years later […]

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ARGENTINEAN COURT CONVICTS ‘DIRTY WAR’ PERPETRATORS — An Argentinean court sentenced eight men, including former army commander Luciano Benjamin Menendez, to long jail terms July 25, finally delivering a measure of justice to the thousands of Argentinean who fell victim to the military government’s murderous 1976-1983 campaign of state-sponsored violence. The court sentenced Menendez to live out the rest of his days behind bars for the kidnapping, torture and murder of activists who were held at the notorious La Perla detention center, a secret facility used by the military dictatorship where only 17 of more than 2,000 detainees survived incarceration. […]

“If China is winning, the United States must be losing.” That is precisely the principle that many Americans see at work not only in the world, but also in the Middle East. China’s surging manufacturing capacity has contributed to the steep decline in manufacturing jobs in the United States. U.S. businessmen worry about the consequences of Chinese firms taking over U.S. firms such as Unocal and 3Com and scuttle the deals. U.S. bankers agonize over China’s massive current accounts surpluses and its huge dollar holdings. Many perceive China to be a military threat too, expanding its reach in the Pacific […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party has claimed victory in Sunday’s election after soundly defeating opposition efforts to unseat him. Meanwhile, high-level diplomatic talks with Thailand regarding a flaring border dispute got under way. As final vote counting continued, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) seemed assured of winning 90 seats in the 123-seat parliament, easily surpassing the minimum 50-percent-plus-one-seat required to govern outright, while the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) was expecting to win at least 30 seats. The balance would be split between the Human Rights Party (HRP) and the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), while […]

After a brazen Taliban attack killed nine U.S. soldiers in a remote outpost in Afghanistan on July 13, Sens. McCain and Obama seemed to start a competition over who would more rapidly surge U.S. military forces to Afghanistan. Sen. Obama’s trip to Afghanistan and Iraq has further focused attention on the vast disparity in U.S. resources going to the two wars. Americans should welcome the recognition by both presidential contenders that Afghanistan is central to U.S. and international security. But we should remain wary of promises to apply an Iraq-style surge to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is even more complex than Iraq, […]

BERLIN — The dust having settled now following Barack Obama’s history-making, if not perhaps history-defining, speech here, German media today all seem to conclude the same thing: Was that it? After days of newspaper coverage and speculation about what Obama might say, Germans got their answer yesterday: A well-received, though general, address on the past, the present and the importance of unity moving into the future. The speech lasted 28 minutes. Some in attendance could be heard saying, “A little short.” So high were the expectations surrounding his address, and so often were references to the historic Berlin speeches of […]

The runaway war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic has been arrested after eluding the international court for 12 years. Karadzic’s famous self-regard prevented him from accepting the cautious obscurity most would think appropriate for Europe’s most wanted man. Instead, he transformed himself into a striking, long-haired, bearded, mystic healer called “Dr. Dragan Dabic,” making appearances at live events, and on local television, and making regular contributions to a magazine called “Healthy Life.” But professional recognition was not enough. He often went to a cafĂ© around the corner from his home at 5 Yuri Gagarin Street in Novi Belgrade, where he would […]

Today, the Center for a New American Security releases a report, “Strategic Leadership: Framework for a 21st Century National Security Strategy,” that sketches the broad outlines of a recommended U.S. national security strategy for the next president of the United States. The centrist but Democratic-leaning CNAS, founded by two former senior staffers of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has existed for a little more than a year. But the report grew out of a project known as the Phoenix Initiative, which according to CNAS began three years ago as a collective effort of a number of U.S. foreign […]

Sen. Barack Obama’s whirlwind tour of the Middle East and Europe, as everyone knows, has its primary intended audience in the United States. The trip amounts to a high-mileage campaign swing aimed at impressing voters at home. In Israel, however, a local audience without the right to vote in America is paying close attention. And the conclusion that Israelis and their leaders reach about this would-be U.S. commander-in-chief could shape their decision about what to do in the coming months regarding Iran. To put it bluntly, Obama’s behavior in Israel and during the rest of his trip could determine whether […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian authorities have called for a special U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at resolving a border dispute with Thailand as a wave of nationalism sweeps the country ahead of national elections on Sunday. Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Tuesday Cambodia’s ambassador in New York had sought the request, as a troop build-up around a 900-year-old temple in this country’s remote northwest continues. Reports Wednesday indicated that the Security Council would discuss the issue at a Thursday meeting. “Thai troops with artilleries and tanks are building up along the border, constituting a very serious threat not only […]

An ogre of a giant looms to the east of Europe, occasionally in the shape of a country, other times in the shape of a company, the two often indistinguishable. Russia and Gazprom are poised to devour the whole of Europe and its Asian neighbors. OAO Gazprom’s influence has been underestimated and, astonishingly, often ignored. By far the largest owner of natural gas reserves and the largest supplier of gas in the world, six times as big as No. 2, Royal Dutch/Shell, the company currently provides over a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, and is aggressively looking to greatly increase […]

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