After a period of relative calm, the two recent attacks in the Russian city of Volgograd serve as a reminder that, despite the government’s pre-Olympic crackdown, Russia’s heartland remains vulnerable to militants from the Muslim-majority North Caucasus region. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the bombings of the city’s main train station and a crowded trolleybus, which together killed at least 30 people, Volgograd has suffered from years of bombings, typically carried out by Islamist terrorists from the nearby North Caucasus. Russia’s Muslim militants are especially irritated by President Vladimir Putin’s decision to hold the February Winter Olympics in […]

Nearly two years ago, the leaders of Lebanon’s March 14 coalition assembled at a rally on the Beirut waterfront to commemorate the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and give their beleaguered political movement the shot in the arm it desperately needed. With its festival atmosphere, the rally was the moment many March 14 supporters had been waiting for. The coalition had formed in the wake of Hariri’s assassination as the first major unified movement against Syria, which had long kept troops in Lebanon and controlled its political life. An unprecedented groundswell of public support after Hariri’s killing thrust […]

Earlier this month, U.S. Marshals arrested Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was serving as the deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York City. She was accused of committing visa fraud to bring a domestic worker into the United States and of paying the worker less than the minimum wage. The arrest led to a strong rebuke from the Indian government, which disputed the charges and objected to the way in which the arrest was carried out. Commentators in the Indian media have also reacted harshly. In addition to cancelling certain privileges for U.S. diplomats, the Indian government […]

For months the most debated issue in Central Asia has been the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the many destabilizing forces it might unleash on the region—among them trafficking in drugs, arms and humans, but also Islamic radicalism. Local leaders and many analysts predict that a severe deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan after the U.S. departs would encourage Central Asian jihadists who had fled their home countries to return and destabilize local regimes. But assessing the current role of Islam and Islamism in Central Asia, and the evolution of Central Asian jihadist groups themselves, reveals that the threat has […]

After two weeks of slaughter in South Sudan, UNMISS, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country, faces three possible scenarios: fragile success, prolonged agony and decisive failure. In the first and best scenario, the mission will manage to hold together militarily long enough for more-or-less sincere political talks to end the violence. In the second, it might muddle through in the face of half-hearted negotiations and spasmodic but serious violence, trying to save as many lives as possible. The third, worst-case scenario would involve the fragmentation and rout of UNMISS after repeated attacks on its bases, personnel and convoys. […]

Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Hamas’ government in the Gaza Strip. In an email interview, Robert O. Freedman, Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone professor of political science emeritus at Baltimore Hebrew University and visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, who has written on Russian policy in the Middle East, explained the state of Russia’s ties with Palestine. WPR: What is the status of Russia’s ties with the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls Gaza? Robert Freedman: Currently, Russia […]

Recent developments have led some commentators to worry that China and the United States may stumble into a shooting match. Two events in particular have heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington: Last month, China proclaimed an air defense identification zone covering disputed territories in the East China Sea; then, on Dec. 5, a collision was narrowly avoided between the USS Cowpens and a Chinese naval vessel that was accompanying the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, on its maiden excursion into the South China Sea. Aware of the possibility of a clash that neither country wants, Chinese and American spokesmen have […]

Last weekend, three weeks of anxious waiting came to an end in Germany when the Social Democratic Party (SPD), in an unprecedented internal referendum, approved a coalition agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). With the new German government sworn in on Tuesday, it is now possible to size up its key personnel and review its foreign and domestic policy agenda. After the federal election on Sept. 22, the victorious Merkel lost her preferred coalition partner when the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) failed to make the 5 percent threshold for representation in the Bundestag. As a result, […]

Last night the Senate passed the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 84 to 15. The bill passed the House by a vote of 350 to 69 last week. The NDAA sets spending priorities for the U.S. military and specifies various rules and reporting requirements. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it. Due to the limited time available, the Senate voted on a version of the bill that had been agreed between the House and Senate, and did not have the opportunity to offer additional amendments. NDAA supporters expressed relief at the outcome […]

Last Sunday night, a Lebanese soldier opened fire, killing a 31-year-old Israeli sergeant who was driving along the Israeli side of the border that separates the two countries. The initial reports of an exchange of fire in that area immediately brought to mind the events of 2006, which started with a cross-border raid and turned into an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah. That conflict started after Hezbollah’s Lebanese Shiite militias cut through the border fence, killing three Israelis and taking two others as hostages into Lebanon. The incident this week, as it quickly became apparent, was not a Hezbollah […]

Never again. That was the sentiment I remember hearing over and over from developing country officials following the tumultuous completion of the Uruguay Round negotiations in 1993 that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) two years later. Once again, most of them believed, the United States and the European Union had dictated the final terms of a global trade agreement and forced it down the throats of the rest of the world. These countries were determined to have far more say in the shape of any future deals. For the past two decades, until this month’s […]

Early this month, Colombia’s inspector general said that if the Colombian government grants impunity to FARC guerillas as part of a peace deal, the International Criminal Court (ICC) should intervene. In an email interview, Alejandro Chehtman, an assistant professor at the Law School of the Torcuato Di Tella University specializing in international criminal law and international humanitarian law, explained the ICC’s involvement in Colombia. WPR: What is the extent of the International Criminal Court’s involvement in Colombia at present? Alejandro Chehtman: The relevance of the ICC in Colombia has slightly decreased since it first announced that Colombia was a situation […]

The Dec. 9 demonstrations that saw more than 100,000 protesters flood the streets of Bangkok represent the latest episode in a long-running saga. Thailand’s current political turmoil is, sadly, nothing new. Since becoming a democracy in 1932, it has seen 18 attempted or successful coups d’etat, the most recent of which removed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, from power in 2006. The latest protests were propelled by anger over Yingluck’s push to fast-track an amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return from self-exile. It was an ill-conceived move that drew […]

Last week’s execution of Jang Song Thaek, who was widely seen as offering a modicum of adult supervision to North Korea’s impetuous young ruler, Kim Jong Un, was an ominous turn in a dangerous place. Kim Jong Un, already “the most dangerous man in the most precarious nuclear state in the world,” as Patrick Cronin put it, just became even more menacing. While purges are nothing new in North Korea, executions of someone as senior and well-connected as Jang are unusual. Married to Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Jang was often seen as the state’s second most powerful official. North Korea’s […]

Over the past few decades, the shifting dynamics of the nature of war, combined with a maturing field of peace process support, have led to parallel shifts in the nature of mediation in peace processes. There has been a significant increase in the number of ongoing civil wars, as opposed to interstate wars, and the field of conflict transformation has changed accordingly. Under the leadership of Kofi Annan, the United Nations began the process of mainstreaming the inclusion of civil society and other actors into the fields of peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Now, more actors, using more-advanced support mechanisms, are […]

Crisis management and long-term strategy: French president Francois Hollande must juggle both priorities right now as he seeks to develop a sustainable approach to engagement south of the Sahara even as 1,600 French troops are deployed on an emergency intervention in the Central African Republic. The French public and political world are mostly supportive of the mission in the CAR, which seeks to halt a spiral of conflict between Christians and Muslims. Yet Hollande still has to overcome the skepticism of critics who see this latest military intervention as redolent of the post-colonial era, when Paris would send in its […]

Conflict settlement is a process rather than a singular act. At its most basic, a peace process comprises three phases: the negotiation, implementation and operation of an agreement meant to enable the conflict parties to resolve their disputes by nonviolent, political means. Yet the successful conclusion of a peace process is by no means a foregone conclusion—they can, and do, fail. Sometimes negotiations break down and no agreements are concluded, leading conflict parties back to violence. In other cases, disagreements about the meaning of particular provisions arise after an agreement has been reached. In the absence of effective dispute resolution […]

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