As Iraq plunges towards civil war, it is worth remembering the dreams of those who thought they were building a better place.
Emma Sky was one of them. Although opposed to the 2003 invasion, the British academic decided to put her experience of the region to use in the country’s reconstruction, serving first in the Coalition Provisional Authority, the temporary governing body installed following the US-led invasion, and then as governor of Kirkuk, one of the towns at the heart of the present rebellion by the rampant Sunni militia.
“Iraqis had suffered for a decade under sanctions,” she told me a year ago for a radio programme marking the 10th anniversary of the war.… Seguir leyendo »
At 7.30pm on December 25 1991, the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin and the white, red and blue tricolour of Russia was raised in its place. There was no ceremony, only a mix of bewilderment, excitement for some and alarm for others. I drove from Red Square a few miles down the road to the home of Lev Kerbel, the USSR’s most decorated sculptor. Just about every giant Lenin or Marx worth its marble around the world was his creation. I had got to know him well, and it seemed appropriate that, on the day the Soviet Union died, I should go and see a man born on the day of the Bolshevik revolution.… Seguir leyendo »
I remember in the late 1990s driving around the “bad lands” of south Armagh. The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic was porous. I had read enough about the gun-running and the terrorist groups operating in the area, but what struck me most were the houses, the cars and the satellite dishes.
Back in Belfast, a UK government minister explained. Part of the tactic over the years, he said, was to make the warring sides more comfortable. The more they had to lose personally, the less they would be prone to fight.
Many around the world cite Northern Ireland as the model attempt at conflict resolution.… Seguir leyendo »
As Turkey threatens reprisals for bombings that have left up to 50 dead, Syria’s war is already sucking in the wider Middle East. But the one country on which all sides would previously rely for leadership is paralysed with indecision.
The most striking aspect of the Syrian imbroglio, as I have discovered on a visit to neighbouring Lebanon, is that this may be the first conflict of the post-superpower era. The United States does not know what it wants. And even if it did, it seems fearful to use the means at its disposal to engineer it.
A year ago, when I was last in Beirut, people said Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, had, perhaps, three months to hang on; now he looks much more entrenched.… Seguir leyendo »
In horror movies, the scariest moments usually come from the monster you can’t see. So the same goes for real life, or at least online life. Over the past few years, largely out of sight, governments have been clawing back freedoms on the internet, turning an invention that was designed to emancipate the individual into a tool for surveillance and control. In the next few months, this process is set to be enshrined internationally, amid plans to put cyberspace under the authority of a largely secretive and obscure UN agency.
If this succeeds, this will be an important boost to states’ plans to censor the web and to use it to monitor citizens.… Seguir leyendo »