The four-day ceasefire that went into effect on Friday should have been the first good news from Syria for several months. The initiative came from Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League’s special envoy, and was accepted by Bashar al-Assad’s government as well as several opposition commanders.
Two Islamist groups rejected it outright and both sides put conditions on it. The government said it would respond to rebel attacks and the rebels said the government should not resupply its troops. The rebels seemed to be particularly sceptical of any ceasefire since they appear to believe the military momentum is with them, and they have always been wary of political negotiations unless Assad first resigns.… Seguir leyendo »
Almost hidden from outsiders, the US is engaged in a new war in the Middle East which is growing in intensity and running out of American control. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has hugely extended its reach across southern Yemen in recent months after driving government forces out of several towns. “For the first time in history al-Qaida controls territory,” an Arab diplomat in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, told me. “A year ago they were numbered in the dozens, armed with light weapons and scattered here and there. Now they are in their thousands with tanks and heavy weapons.”
The movement’s new armaments come from over-running government troops and bases.… Seguir leyendo »
A las siete en punto de la tarde, miembros de las mismas familias y desconocidos se cogieron de las manos entre ellos e invadieron la carretera principal, algunos con banderas, otros con chapas en las solapas en las que se veía la cruz gamada al lado de la hoz y el martillo. Los organizadores aseguraron que había tomado parte en la manifestación un millón y medio de personas aunque, desde donde yo me encontraba situado, en medio de un campo de Lituania, en un atardecer bañado por el sol del que el pasado domingo se cumplieron 20 años, el ambiente era tan impresionante como la muchedumbre.… Seguir leyendo »
So anxious was Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili for support from the fledgling Obama administration that even though he had not been invited to make a speech he raced to the annual Munich security conference in February to try to meet the key guest, Vice-President Joe Biden. Witnesses reported Obama’s deputy initially sought to avoid a handshake or even eye contact. But the Georgian’s bullying won through, obliging Biden to arrange a chat the following day.
Saakashvili followed this forced encounter by telling journalists: “It is obvious that during all types of negotiations between the United States and Russia, Georgia will be high on the agenda.” Not so.… Seguir leyendo »
Was it coincidence that Barack Obama scheduled his speech to Muslims last week on the eve of two closely fought regional elections – in Lebanon last Sunday and Iran this Friday? Now the “pro-western” coalition has won a narrow victory in Lebanon, some of the US president’s supporters are suggesting his timing was indeed calculated.
If so, it was disingenuous. Under Lebanon’s complex constitution the seats reserved for Sunnis and Shias were fixed, and Sunday’s result turned on the way Christians rather than Muslims voted. A majority showed their disappointment and anger with the senior Christian politician, General Michel Aoun, who aligned himself with the Shias.… Seguir leyendo »
History is littered with the ruined reputations of national leaders who thought they had won a great military victory only to squander it by self-congratulation and stupidity. Whether Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapakse, joins their number has yet to be seen, but the triumphant speech he will shortly make to his fellow citizens will be an important signal of the path he is choosing.
There has to be relief that the worst suffering of the quarter of a million Tamils who were trapped on the island’s northern beaches is over. Cowering under government artillery fire, and shot by Tamil Tiger troops if they tried to flee, they have lived for four months in infinitely worse conditions than the people of Gaza during Israel’s invasion in December.… Seguir leyendo »
The toughest meeting of Barack Obama’s young presidency is approaching. In the next few weeks, he will have to sit down with Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu. The difficulty is not just that the prime minister refuses to accept the right of a Palestinian state to exist and thereby shows the Palestinians have no partner for peace.
Far more burdensome are the ghosts of US policies past. If Obama is sincere in wanting to break the stalemate of the Middle East’s core conflict, he will have to launch the US relationship with Israel on to radically new lines. Israel must be treated as a normal country.… Seguir leyendo »