Tolib Ayembekov, a warlord formerly based in eastern Tajikistan, gave himself up earlier this month following a major military offensive by Tajik authorities. In an email interview, Paul Quinn-Judge, deputy director of the International Crisis Group’s Asia Program, discussed Tajikistan’s security situation. WPR: What is the background to the most recent round of violence Tajikistan? Paul Quinn-Judge: The current unrest in Tajikistan, in the mountainous eastern area of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous district, has some local elements — suspicion of central government that dates back to the 1992-1997 civil war and a strong sense on the part of the local inhabitants of […]

TRIPOLI, Lebanon — Conflict is escalating in Syria as the uprising there enters its 18 month. With clashes between government forces and rebels in recent weeks, tens of thousands of Syrians have fled to safety in neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. The United Nations estimates that some 30,000 Syrians have ended up as refugees in Lebanon because of the Syrian uprising. Wadi Khaled, a valley at the border in northern Lebanon, is one of the preferred areas through which Syrian refugees cross illegally into Lebanon. Most cross at night and with the help of cross-border smugglers. They arrive in need […]

For the past year and a half, the Arab Spring has convulsed the Middle East. It has resulted in the overthrow of four leaders who only two years before seemed destined to rule for life, plunged another country into a fratricidal civil war and placed even long-established monarchies under renewed political and economic stress. What triggered this tsunami of political upheaval? And is it localized to the Arab world, or could it spread? It is no secret that authorities in Beijing and Moscow are playing close attention, attempting to ferret out any indications that a prerevolutionary situation may be building […]

On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission narrowly approved reporting rules intended to curb corruption in resource extraction and to combat human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, also called the “conflict minerals provision,” requires that companies determine the origin of the metals they use and disclose whether they contain minerals from conflict zones, including the DRC and neighboring African countries.* “The SEC’s ruling is one more important piece of the puzzle to resolving the conflict in eastern Congo,” Sasha Lezhnev, senior policy analyst at the Washington-based human rights organization Enough, told […]

The kidnapping of two Western journalists in northern Syria last month by foreign jihadists seems to affirm the Obama administration’s worst fears: Radical foreign fighters are entering the fray, bringing the potential to aggravate the conflict and further destabilize the region. With analysts estimating the presence of 200 or more extremist fighters in Syria, Washington has stuck to its policy of not providing arms to the Syrian opposition. In addition, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a secret decree earlier this year authorizing the CIA to help guide weaponry provided by Saudi Arabia and Qatar into the right hands — moderate, […]

When world leaders converge on Tehran next week to attend the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, they will give the Iranian regime a desperately needed opportunity to display competence and confidence, and not a moment too soon. Expect bluster and grandstanding from Iran’s leaders, with a message aimed not only at the international community but also at a restless domestic audience. Behind the over-the-to taunts and frequent bravado, the reality is that the Islamic Republic is being squeezed on all sides. As if Iran’s leaders didn’t have enough on their hands with economic sanctions, talk of war and a besieged […]

Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize is pushing international creditors to agree to a debt restructuring after his government missed a payment this week. In an email interview, Heather Berkman, an analyst at Eurasia Group’s Latin America practice, where she takes the lead on the Caribbean, Central America and Colombia, discussed Belize’s debt problems. WPR: What are the scope and causes of Belize’s current economic difficulties? Heather Berkman: There are a number of factors contributing to Belize’s current financial predicament. First, the economy has struggled to rebound since the global downturn in 2009, and recorded only 2 percent growth in […]

Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez saw a decrease in killings last month, with 48 homicides, 40 of them related to the drug trade, down from more than 300 deaths in many months of 2010, when drug violence was at its peak. While Mexican authorities point to their own efforts as the reason for the decline, the two experts who spoke with Trend Lines emphasized the consolidation of power in the drug cartels, with the Sinaloa drug trafficking cartel gaining control of smuggling routes and the local narcotics trade in Ciudad Juárez, and Los Zetas, the largest crime organization in Mexico, experiencing deep […]

Editor’s note: This will be Andrew Exum’s final “Abu Muqawama” column at World Politics Review. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Andrew for his engaging analysis and to wish him continued success in his many endeavors. Green-on-blue violence — attacks on U.S. and allied forces by their Afghan partners — is the most serious tactical challenge to the NATO coalition since the war in Afghanistan began almost 11 years ago. The name “green-on-blue” derives from U.S. military war games in which “blue” forces are friendly, “red” forces are enemy and “green” forces represent those of the host nation. […]

After last week’s spike in naval bombardments on Kismayo, the southern Somali port city critical to the funding of al-Shabab, a heavily anticipated, large-scale military mobilization appears to be edging irrevocably closer. The looming confrontation comes at a critical time for Somalia as the country wraps up an eight-year transitional governance period and prepares to seat a new president. In a statement released on Aug. 14, the U.N. claimed, “fighting for control of the town appears imminent.” The bombardments from an unidentified ship, which reportedly claimed the lives of residents, are fuelling an exodus from the city. “That sort of […]

Police in Greece conducted a massive immigration operation earlier this month that resulted in thousands of arrests. In an email interview, Gabriella Lazaridis, a senior lecturer in the department of politics and international relations at the University of Leicester, discussed Greece’s immigration crackdown. WPR: What is the current situation in terms of trends in legal and illegal immigration to Greece as well as Greek immigration policy? Gabriella Lazaridis: Since the beginning of the 1990s, Greece has changed from an emigration to an immigration country. In the first quarter of 2012, some 64 percent of all irregular migrants in the European […]

Following a series of activist protests, tensions are once again rising in East Asia over the ownership of a small, uninhabited archipelago that lies between Taiwan and Japan. The specifics of this recent episode highlight the depth of nationalist sentiments held among the peoples of China, Japan and even Taiwan when it comes to matters of national territory. This is not merely a dispute over fishing grounds and potential oil and gas deposits; it is a matter of historical grievances and national pride. On Aug. 15, the anniversary of the Japanese surrender in World War II, a group of activists […]

Amid Syria’s widespread civil disorder, ongoing since March 2011, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pressed on with its policy of rapprochement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Political disputes, border tensions, demographic differences and personal animosities between their political leaders have troubled relations between Syria and Iraq for many years. For decades, relations were also strained due to the two neighbors’ traditional rivalry for pre-eminence in the Arab world, allegations of interference in each other’s internal affairs, disputes over oil transit fees and their stances on Israel, and suspicions that each side was aiding the opponents […]

Nabeel Rajab, a prominent opposition activist who founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to three years in jail last week for his participation in protests. The protests, led mostly by members of the Shiite Muslim majority who are calling for democracy, began last year and continued even as the government imposed martial law and responded with what many call excessive use of force. Explaining that he was disappointed but not surprised to read the news, Toby C. Jones, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, told Trend Lines the verdict represents the end of any pretense […]

Editor’s note: Ulrike Guérot is on a break. Guest columnist Richard Gowan will be writing the Continentalist while she is gone. A malaise has settled over diplomatic discussions of the Syrian civil war at the United Nations. Last week, there was confusion over whether the U.N. had a replacement for Kofi Annan as envoy to Damascus. Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi had been offered the post, but it was unclear whether he would accept it. While Brahimi eventually agreed to take the job, an anonymous U.N. source briefed that he wanted to get away from the “failed approach” tried by Annan. […]

BEIJING — For China, diversification away from the dollar is a strategic priority that implies more than simply adjusting the currency composition of its foreign reserves. It also involves a wide range of measures aimed at side-stepping the U.S. currency and promoting the use of renminbi (RMB) in trade and investment. Nowhere is this shift more strategically significant than in commodities markets, where Beijing is building out the physical and financial infrastructure required to establish the RMB as the dominant currency for commodities in Asia. China’s efforts to diversify away from the dollar have been multifaceted. It is buying proportionately […]

Late last month, China and South Korea agreed to establish a hotline between their respective defense chiefs. In an email interview, Jaeho Hwang, dean of the Division of International Studies at Hankuk University in South Korea, discussed the South Korea-China military relationship. WPR: What is the extent of the current military relationship between China and South Korea? Jaeho Hwang: Usually military relations are classified into three levels: military exchange, military cooperation and military alliance. The exchange level is the lowest level of military relations and includes the exchange of personnel, mutual exercises, aircraft and naval vessel visits and other less […]

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