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One could almost hear a collective gasp across the Middle East when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri made a most astonishing statement earlier this month. After vehemently accusing Syria of orchestrating his father’s murder in 2005, after leading a revolt that pushed Syrian troops out of Lebanon on the strength of that accusation, after galvanizing what seemed an unstoppable political movement on the power of those charges, Hariri said it had all been just one big mistake. The reversal marked the passing of a short-lived era in Lebanese history and of Western influence in Lebanon, a country that serves as […]

President Barack Obama’s July 2011 deadline for a drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has raised concerns among Central Asian analysts, who worry that links between the Taliban, al-Qaida and Islamist militants in Central Asia could result in a negative spillover effect following the U.S. withdrawal. As if to highlight their fears, the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) claimed responsibility for a Sept. 19 attack on a military convoy in Tajikistan, which left 25 military personnel dead. And according to Baktybek Abdrisaev, former Kyrgyz ambassador to the United States and Canada and currently a visiting professor at Utah Valley […]

Editor’s note: This will be David Axe’s final “War is Boring” column at World Politics Review. However, we look forward to featuring David’s reporting on our front page, including an upcoming series on sexual violence in eastern Congo. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for his contributions to WPR and to wish him success in all his many endeavors. DUNGU, Democratic Republic of Congo — When the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, attacked the town of Duru in eastern Congo two years ago, it took a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers and humanitarian workers 10 days […]

An increasingly vicious battle that has broken out between pro- and anti-Syrian factions in Lebanon is likely to determine the country’s ability to resist Syrian interference in its internal politics. Also at stake in the conflict is the future of a United Nations investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The assassination sparked a protest movement that blamed Syria for Hariri’s killing and forced Damascus to withdraw its troops after a nearly 30-year presence in Lebanon. The anti-Syrian groundswell paved the way for Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son, to become prime minister. Syria and its […]

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There’s a conventional wisdom forming that in releasing the detained Chinese trawler captain, Japan backed down to Chinese pressure and as a result “lost” the confrontation. This is probably true from a short-term perspective, but the proof of the pudding will be whether Japan, in future, concedes on both the issue at hand — sovereignty over the disputed islands — and the broader issue that is China’s reach for regional dominance. I don’t think either of those are likely. And I think John McCreary sums up nicely why that is: The Chinese have overreached in their dealings with Japan, Southeast […]

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The excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s Wars, have raised the question of whether President Barack Obama inappropriately let domestic political concerns determine or guide his military strategy in Afghanistan. I wanted to comment on that yesterday, but didn’t have time to. In the meantime, Stephen Biddle got there first, and covered some of the ground I had in mind. Biddle argues that in a democracy, popular support is necessary for waging war, so considering whether a strategy will enjoy that support is perfectly legitimate. Biddle frames the argument by reminding us that strategy is “the art of the possible,” […]

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Russia and India recently agreed to jointly manufacture a military transport plane. In an e-mail interview, Seema Desai, a London-based analyst in Eurasia Group’s Asia practice, discusses India-Russia defense relations. WPR: Historically, what kind of defense relationship have India and Russia shared? Seema Desai: India and Russia have traditionally shared a very strong defense relationship, with past purchases including fighter aircraft, missiles, submarines, and aircraft carriers, in addition to other equipment such as radars and tanks. Although India still buys the bulk of its military hardware from Russia (around 60 percent), Russia is a less-dominant player than it has been […]

On Sept. 12, after months of negotiations, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a historically low-profile international institution, announced that its participants had agreed to new international minimum capital standards for banks. Scheduled to be phased in carefully over the next eight years, the new agreement — informally referred to as Basel III — represents the most significant set of international financial regulations to emerge since the onset of the global financial crisis. Yet, to succeed, Basel III depends entirely on national governments voluntarily following through on implementing and maintaining the new standards. As a result, distributional consequences across countries […]

Last week, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin told an informal meeting of European Union defense ministers in Ghent that if they did not pool their defense capabilities more effectively, Europe risked becoming a protectorate. “Fifty years from now we’ll become a pawn in the balance between the new powers,” Morin said, “and we’ll be under a Sino-America condominium.” Morin’s provocative remarks were triggered by recent cuts in European defense budgets, which reinforce longstanding downward trends in military spending on the continent. The question facing the EU is whether the cuts will finally impel European governments to cooperate more closely in […]

Compared to their predecessors of three or four decades ago, U.S. national security officials are thinking in new terms, about new categories of threats. To an unprecedented degree, they must monitor the social, political, economic and psychological trends and processes that will determine the security environment in the years ahead. The kinds of things they are likely to worry about include the factors that will encourage Pakistan to take more aggressive action against militants or impede it from doing so; the conditions under which narco-violence could threaten the stability of Mexico; the likely lifespan of Tehran’s theocracy; the causes and […]

The U.S. government is making significant progress in its understanding of the cyber threat to U.S. national security, as demonstrated by a recent article in Foreign Affairs magazine by the deputy secretary of defense, William J. Lynn. The article also provides useful insights into government programs and capabilities to counter this threat, as well as the role of U.S. intelligence in helping the public and private sectors step up to this emerging national security challenge. More is needed, however, in terms of understanding what’s at stake in cybersecurity, improving intelligence regarding adversaries’ capabilities, intentions and activities, and creating the mechanisms […]

The changes to the U.S. intelligence community (IC) effected after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States were the most comprehensive in decades. Intelligence reformers sought to restructure the IC to make it more flexible and integrated, to improve the sharing of information both horizontally between federal agencies and vertically between Washington and state and local bodies, and to expand the capabilities at the IC’s disposal. The reforms have achieved important progress in some areas. But a series of high-profile incidents and revelations — including repeated turnover in the position of director of national intelligence, media exposés by […]

According to virtually all global warming projections, humanity faces significantly more conflict in the decades ahead as we fight over dwindling resources in climate-stressed lands. However, those reports typically overlook one likely outcome that could counterbalance the more negative impacts of global warming — that of northern territories becoming significantly milder, more accessible, and, most intriguingly, more hospitable to immigration. This is the essential good news to be found in Laurence C. Smith’s fascinating new book, “The World in 2050.” The ambitious title is perhaps a bit misleading, for where Smith really delivers is on the subtitle: “Four Forces Shaping […]

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Despite some typically incendiary remarks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attendance at the U.N. General Assembly’s 65th session in New York was marked by a low-key tone noted by many. The change in tone, including a reported willingness to resume talks with the U.S. and its allies, reflects the impact of Iran’s domestic politics. For increasingly, Ahmadinejad’s real battle is at home, against the mullahs who brought him to power. And in that struggle, Ahmadinejad and his allies are increasingly embracing Iran’s venerable 2,500-year-old national heritage to attack its recent three-decade Islamist experiment. The latest salvo, via a Web site called […]

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When Bob Woodward’s book, “Obama’s Wars,” is released on Monday, the denizens of Washington’s Beltway will eagerly skip to the index to see whether they are mentioned — and if not, who is. But as they digest the stories of infighting, rivalry and catty comments among the president’s national security team, excerpts of which have already begun to circulate, the larger question is whether the revelations in the latest Woodward tome will have an impact on the Obama administration’s Afghan policy. Woodward seems to confirm what many have suspected ever since President Barack Obama’s speech at West Point announcing the […]

On Sep. 6, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Financial Corporation (a branch of the World Bank Group) signed a mandate letter with the consortium behind the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, marking the start of an appraisal process that will eventually secure a €4 billion financing package for the project. The three international financial institutions committed €2 billion, €1.2 billion and €800 million, respectively. Along with the more modest €200 million grant provided by the European Commission last March, the contributions will certainly boost confidence in the project among private investors, who […]

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The title refers to a recurring thought I’ve been having since Brazil announced it was unilaterally extending its offshore sovereignty to cover the sea-bed oil reserves it recently discovered, despite the fact that its previous proposal to that effect had been rejected by the U.N., and its re-application has not yet been decided upon. That was soon followed by the news that Brasilia would further expand its naval capabilities — beyond the four Scorpene-class subs as well as a nuclear-powered one it has already contracted with France — to back up its claim. Everyone loves a soft, cuddly Middle Power […]

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