MORE MONEY FOR PAKISTAN — There was good news for Pakistan and bad news for India from Washington this week. Pakistan, which has done a poor job of suppressing Taliban and al-Qaida incursions into Afghanistan at a cost of American and NATO lives, is likely to have an extra $5 billion of the U.S. taxpayers’ money lavished on it in extra aid. This one-time grant would be in addition to the $1.5 billion annual package over ten years now awaiting passage through congress. Meanwhile, the Indian media has interpreted a statement in President Obama’s first address to Congress on Tuesday […]

Second of a three-part series. Part I can be found here. Part III can be found here. BAYAMO, Cuba — Tropi Crema isn’t like ice cream parlors found elsewhere in the world. Most days, only a single flavor is available, advertised on a board by the entrance, and there’s often a line to get in. Still, for many residents of this tidy city in eastern Cuba, it’s irresistible. One recent afternoon, two middle-aged women sat at the long, crowded counter. Between them they ordered 12 scoops of chocolate ice cream and two pieces of coconut cake. Here and there, along […]

As I made my way to Iraq in 2003 to cover the unfolding operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein, I spent many hours speaking to pro-democracy and women’s rights activists in Kuwait. Back then, Kuwaiti activists held high hopes for positive change. Kuwaiti women had spent years fighting for the right to vote and run for office. If democracy came to Iraq, they assured me, it would give a push to their own agenda and bring them closer to success. Pro-democracy pioneer Lullwah al-Mullah told me, “Iraq is the country of Arab culture. It is the country of Islamic culture.” A […]

When Thai security forces recently raided the offices of the Working Group on Justice for Peace (WGJP) in the country’s insurgency-torn south, it may have been business-as-usual for a military with a checkered human rights record. But a report released last week by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) shows this is part of a disturbing global trend. The report (.pdf), “Assessing Damage, Urging Actions: Report of the Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights,” argues that the Bush administration’s post-9/11 “war paradigm” has led to a globalization of extraordinary legal measures which result in an unprecedented corrosive […]

Since taking office in 2002, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has not wavered from his campaign promise to use a “firm hand” to eliminate the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). By all indications, Colombia’s counterinsurgency effort has been largely effective in weakening the rebel group, considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union for its involvement in high-profile kidnappings and drug trafficking. But an unintended side effect of Uribe’s tough approach has been the deterioration of Colombia’s bilateral relations with Ecuador and Venezuela. Colombia has accused its neighbors of being sympathetic to the FARC and […]

On Feb. 12, Iraq became the latest country to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The country’s entry was especially important in light of the widespread use of chemical weapons by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against his foreign and domestic enemies. Under Hussein, Iraq developed a major chemical weapons industry. During the 1980s, the regime killed thousands of people by repeatedly employing chemical weapons against both Iranian troops during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War and its domestic opponents, most infamously in the March 1988 mustard gas attacks on the Kurdish village of Halabja. With Iraq’s entry, the CWC (as the Convention […]

As Western financial sectors reeled during 2007 and 2008, Asian and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) offered some succor, administering exotic medicine to banks poisoned by subprime toxins. These White Knights cast a dark shadow, however, as questions — and fears — were raised about the political influence that, for instance, a Chinese government presence on the board of Barclays Bank might represent. The focus has shifted recently. Plummeting oil prices and declining demand for imports by contracting U.S, European and Japanese markets undercut the vast revenue base the SWFs were drawing upon. Now SWFs are writing off untold […]

Of foreign policy’s dirtiest words, which do Americans least like to hear: war or state-building? That is the question the Obama administration now has to ask itself about Afpakia, the most volatile swath of South Asia. Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, is a failed state. Pakistan, chronically unstable, possesses dozens of nuclear weapons. India, the regional power, would typically stabilize all of this, but it has been at war with Pakistan, on and off, for the last six decades. As the new administration in Washington contemplates an Afpakia strategy, at first glance nearly everyone seems to agree on the […]

On Feb. 16, the Pakistani government announced a truce with insurgents in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). In the agreement, the government agreed to promulgate Islamic law in one-third of NWFP. Pakistani officials are arguing that Islamic law is a popular demand, and that the creation of state-led Islamic courts will reduce support for extremism. However, rather than vitiating jihadism, the accord will legitimize radical ideology and demonstrate the efficacy of violence in its realization. NWFP’s citizens have not been agitating for the establishment of Islamic law. True, the province was governed from 2002 to February 2008, by the Muttahida […]

CHILDREN APPEAL FOR END TO CHILD SOLDIER USE — Children from more than 100 countries recently appealed to world leaders to do more to end to the use of children as combatants in armed conflicts. Despite international protocols preventing the practice, an estimated 250,000 children around the globe are fighting as soldiers. Former child soldiers and young activists personally delivered their plea in the form of a petition featuring 250,000 red handprints to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Feb. 12, the fifth anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child soldiers are still […]

First of a three-part series. Part II can be found here. Part III can be found here. HAVANA, Cuba — Arriving in Cuba this time felt different straight away. The airport, where I arrived on a flight from Cancún crammed with Cubans and their purchases, was hassle-free. No tour operators solicited me; no cabbies assailed me. It was the same in touristy Old Havana. Ten years before, on my last visit, I couldn’t walk a few steps without having cigars or a lobster dinner pressed on me. This time, whether in the leafy, mansion-studded Vedado section, the shopping arcades near […]

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The IAEA just released its latest report on Iran’s nuclear program (available here for download as a .pdf file via Arms Control Wonk), and if the past is any indication, expect the accompanying spin and analysis to be a bit misleading. According to the actual report, the IAEA essentially determined that Iran has continued running the centrifuges it already has online and has added some more, and that the efficiency of the centrifuges already online has improved. The Iranians, meanwhile, once again refused to allow the more rigorous and transparent inspections mandated by the Additional Protocol, used a loophole to […]

The results of Israel’s recent elections, combined with the 22-day offensive against Gaza, have led many to wonder about the future of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. But the jockeying for power in Israel between the centrist Kadima party and the right-wing Likud overshadows another significant obstacle standing in the way of any future peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians: namely, determining who, between the more secular Fatah leaders in the West Bank and the Islamist Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, represents the Palestinian people. “No matter the outcome [of negotiations to form an Israeli government], the fact […]

CARACAS, Venezuela — The margin of victory in Sunday’s Venezuelan referendum on lifting term limits — 55 to 45 percent — succinctly reflects both President Hugo Chávez’s continued strength and the opposition’s rise. The government has been spinning the comfortable victory, which allows Chávez to run again in 2012, into a resounding show of support for the president’s socialist project and a rejection of the opposition, which it paints as a carry-over from the corrupt liberal democracy of old. The opposition, for its part, argues that it has essentially broken even with Chávez, earning credibility and putting it within striking […]

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Last week’s parliamentary elections in Israel saw the country take a collective step to the right, but it is incorrect to conclude, as conventional wisdom seems to be doing, that the vote marks the end of peace efforts. Instead, the elections could take those efforts in a different — and possibly even fruitful — direction: Israel’s next government could end up playing down the Palestinian track in favor of a major push to reach a peace agreement with Syria. Negotiations to form a new government are just getting started, and there is no certainty about how they will conclude. The […]

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Those sneaky French. Just when you think you can trust them, they turn around and stab you in the back and do exactly what they’ve been saying they’d do. Okay, cheap shot, because Judy Dempsey’s piece on Sarkozy’s NATO-EU defense grand bargain doesn’t exhibit any of the paranoia usually on display in American analysis of France’s EU defense ambitions. Two things, though. This isn’t quite true: But most of Europe has no stomach for tough missions like Afghanistan. It has not supported France in playing a bigger role in Africa. The Europeans do not want to spend more on defense, […]

Many Americans believe that Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress will lower defense spending and restrain the militaristic foreign policy it underwrites. The coming years should destroy that myth. America’s overly aggressive and fiscally reckless defense policy will survive the Democratic majority. The Obama administration inherits runaway defense spending and leadership of a military that wants more. Non-war or base defense spending will be more than $515 billion in fiscal year 2009. Adjusting for inflation, that’s 40 percent higher than the defense budget when George W. Bush took office. Add the wars, nuclear weapons research, veterans, and homeland […]

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