Simon Tisdall (Continuación)

All the self-righteous huffing and puffing in Washington over Ukraine jars on European and especially Russian ears after the multiple U.S.-led invasions and interventions in other people's countries of recent years. It's difficult to say what is more astonishing: the double standards exhibited by the White House, or the apparent total lack of self-awareness of U.S. officials.

Secretary of State John Kerry risked utter ridicule when he declared it unacceptable to invade another country on a "completely trumped-up pretext", or just because you don't like its current leadership. Iraq in 2003 springs instantly to mind. This is exactly what George W.…  Seguir leyendo »

The horrifying video of a Syrian rebel leader apparently eating the heart of a dead government soldier, which has been circulating this week on the internet, has caused a storm of instantaneous outrage and disgust on social media such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

But the video, which human rights monitors say appears to be genuine and not a regime propaganda "plant", may also inflict long-term political damage on the already challenged reputation and credibility of the Syrian opposition, despite earnest condemnation of the alleged atrocity by the umbrella rebel organization, the Syrian National Coalition.

Human Rights Watch said this week the video "appears to show" a commander of a rebel Syrian brigade called the Independent Omar al-Farouq brigade mutilating the corpse of a regime opponent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Reacting angrily to President Bashar al-Assad's speech on Sunday calling for an end to the rebellion, the US state department said the Syrian leader was "detached from reality". But much the same might be said of the US and of Assad's other western and Arab foes, and with greater justification. After two years of bloody attrition, the unpalatable truth is Assad is still in power, shows no sign of heeding demands to quit and is far from beaten. The evolving reality is that Assad may yet see off his many enemies and claim victory in Syria's civil war.

Explanations for this remarkable feat of survival lie not with Assad's personal abilities, which are limited, nor with the durability of his domestic supporters, who are in the minority, nor with the president's ruthlessness in prosecuting the military campaign.…  Seguir leyendo »

The assassination in Benghazi of the American ambassador to Libya is an appalling act – and one foreseen by his employers. On 27 August,the state department warned US citizens against all but essential travel to Libya, painting a picture of a country beset by increasing instability and fraught with danger.

"The incidence of violent crime, especially carjacking and robbery, has become a serious problem… Political violence, including car bombings in Tripoli and assassinations of military officers and alleged former regime officials in Benghazi, has increased. Inter-militia conflict can erupt at any time or any place in the country," the state department said.…  Seguir leyendo »

The return to Libya of the Lockerbie bomber would mark another stage in the remarkable rehabilitation of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and a regime formerly shunned by Britain and other western countries as a dangerous pariah. But relations with Tripoli remain tentative in other respects, with issues such as the 1984 murder outside the Libyan embassy in London of PC Yvonne Fletcher still unresolved.

Gaddafi can be expected to make political capital out of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's release. September will see celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the army coup – Gaddafi calls it a revolution – that overthrew King Idris. The Libyan leader will also chair an African Union summit and address the UN general assembly next month.…  Seguir leyendo »

A year after their brief but vicious summer war over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, tensions remain painfully high between Russia and Georgia. Moscow this week accused President Mikhail Saakashvili's government of "aggressively rearming" in preparation for a new conflict to regain the territories. Georgia dismissed the claim as a "myth", part of what it calls ongoing Russian intimidation.

After the collapse earlier this year of European mediation, the impasse appears to be deepening. Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia's leader, said the enclave's declaration of independence, recognised only by Nicaragua and Moscow, was irreversible – then added that it might one day merge with Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Barack Obama's decision to send Bill Clinton to North Korea will be seen as a gamble by both fans and critics of the US administration's policy of engagement with "states of concern". While Clinton's primary aim is to secure the release of two American journalists arrested last March, this unexpectedly bold demarche will inevitably be viewed strategically as yet another attempt by Washington to bring the enigmatic panjandrums of Pyongyang in from the cold.

US policy towards North Korea is more circular than linear, resembling a not so jolly merry-go-round that sooner or later carries the diplomatic traveller back to the place he started.…  Seguir leyendo »

Diplomats say Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's neophyte president, is gradually emerging from the dark shadow cast by his predecessor and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin, and becoming his own man. His international reputation was reinforced at this month's Moscow summit when Barack Obama described him as a "professional" and promised a new start in bilateral relations. "President Medvedev and I are committed to leaving behind the suspicion and rivalry of the past," Obama said, the presidential charm machine set to rapid fire.

Medvedev's domestic stock is rising, too. His poll ratings soared last autumn after Russia's war with Georgia and his condemnation of Stalin's labour camp gulag as a "tragic page in our country's history" – and have remained consistently high despite the economic downturn.…  Seguir leyendo »

A leading political rival of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's embattled president, is to hold talks with President George Bush in Washington today, in what will be seen by ruling circles in Khartoum as further evidence of US attempts to foment regime change in Sudan.

Salva Kiir, a former rebel leader in the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)who is now president of semi-autonomous southern Sudan, will discuss implementation of the 2005 north-south Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and other issues during a White House meeting, officials said.

Kiir, who also serves as vice-president in Khartoum's national unity government, is widely expected to run against Bashir for the presidency in CPA-mandated national elections scheduled for later this year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pressure is building on all sides for positive movement to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. The transition in Washington, February's Israeli elections, and possible power shifts among the Palestinians are encouraging perceptions of a new "window of opportunity". But while the view through the glass may be clearer, the window frame remains firmly locked and bolted.

Filling the temporary gap between George Bush and Barack Obama, Britain has presumed to lead and is busy twisting arms. Gordon Brown's talks today with Israel's caretaker leader, Ehud Olmert, followed a gee-up session with the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, at a London conference on investment in the Palestinian economy.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Abdullahi Yusuf's admission that Somalia's transitional government is close to collapse puts the international community, and principally permanent UN security council members like Britain, on the spot. Decades of diplomatic neglect, ill-advised interventions, and half-hearted peace plans are now resulting in not so much a failed state as a state of anarchy.

The latest act of piracy involving an oil tanker off Somalia's coast, reported yesterday, reflects the desperate straits facing many in the country. It's a shame that leading countries and their navies seem more exercised about safeguarding sea lanes than saving the 3.25 million Somalis – 43% of the total population – who are dependent on food aid.…  Seguir leyendo »

Some may express reservations about George Bush's Middle East policies over the past eight years but Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, is not among them. Speaking during what was probably Condoleezza Rice's farewell visit to the region as US secretary of state, Livni applauded a bilateral relationship "which has been truly strengthened under the leadership and vision of President Bush ... His contribution will never be forgotten".

Livni is absolutely correct, though not perhaps in the sense that she intended. Bush's declaration of a "war on terror" in the wake of the 9/11 attacks fired a confrontation between the western and Muslim worlds unprecedented in modern times.…  Seguir leyendo »

Talk of sending British forces to the eastern Congo is a diplomatic fantasy – and one that could quickly turn into a nightmare. Even if well-prepared, well-equipped troops were available (which is not the case given Britain's other involvements), a deployment would be neither sensible nor responsible without major commitments by other EU countries. As the French presidency has discovered, there is zero appetite across Europe for more African adventurism of this kind. Given the history, that is no surprise.

The highly public weekend effort by Britain's David Miliband, France's Bernard Kouchner, the US state department's Jendayi Frazer, and the EU's Louis Michel to bang regional heads together is also unlikely to amount to very much in the longer term – except, perhaps, increased resentment at western hectoring.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia's efforts to control oil and gas supplies to Europe from the Caspian basin and central Asia could advance significantly at the weekend when the Kremlin hosts a summit meeting of the leaders of long-time south Caucasus rivals Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The talks, convened by President Dmitri Medvedev, are primarily aimed at settling the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, one of the region's so-called frozen conflicts. In the early 1990s the two neighbours went to war over the enclave, which Azerbaijan regards as sovereign territory and which is currently controlled by ethnic Armenian forces.

Russia's altruism should obviously be applauded. But Moscow's peacemakers are probably more concerned with increasing their political and economic influence in the crucial energy corridor connecting Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, with Georgia, Turkey and the west.…  Seguir leyendo »

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, spent a couple of days last week reassuring the Baltic republics – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – that fellow Nato members would stand with them, shoulder to shoulder, should they face Georgia-style aggression from close neighbour Russia. His pledge, undoubtedly sincere, was not entirely convincing.

Mullen does not speak for key European states such as France, Germany and Italy, whose leaders have been notably weak-kneed about punishing Moscow for its August incursions into South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, led efforts to block a US-backed Nato membership plan for Georgia and Ukraine earlier this year.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is 2.30pm on a weekday afternoon. Sunlight filters through the willow oaks and beech, descending from a perfect blue sky. Beneath the trees, rows of marble headstones stretch away, seemingly without end, rising up green, closely cropped slopes towards the house of perhaps the American civil war's most famous general, Robert E Lee. There is a stillness here that envelops everything, a silence that demands respect.

Then suddenly, without warning, a rifle volley thunders out, then another, and another. A bugle sound Taps, the US army's equivalent of the Last Post. In a separate part of the vast Arlington National Cemetery, another American hero is being laid to rest with full military honours.…  Seguir leyendo »

John McCain talks a lot about victory. But his personal experience of military action encompasses only defeat. McCain's war was Vietnam, where he served courageously as a US navy pilot. Even so, he spent most of his time there in a prisoner of war camp. And as the world well knows, America's south-east Asian adventure ended in calamity.

A generation or two later, the lessons of history stubbornly unlearnt, the US is drifting into another Asian quagmire, this time in Afghanistan. Like Vietnam, the conflict is ideological – confronting communism then, confronting radical Salafi or Wahhabi Islam now.

This latest American war is also being fought asymmetrically; that is to say, highly-trained troops using the very latest military technology against highly-motivated irregular guerrilla bands.…  Seguir leyendo »

China cancelled a visit to Washington by a senior general, slapped an indefinite ban on port calls by US naval vessels, and cancelled low-level diplomatic exchanges with the US today, in angry retaliation to a US plan to sell $6.5bn in advanced weaponry to Taiwan.

A spokesman for China's foreign ministry in Beijing, Qin Gang, said the US move broke international law and would cast a shadow over bilateral relations. The proposed sale "has contaminated the sound atmosphere for our military relations and gravely jeopardised China's national security", Qin said.

China regards Taiwan, which has enjoyed de facto independence since 1949, as a renegade province.…  Seguir leyendo »

India's Congress party leadership and the Bush administration were celebrating yesterday after the US Senate finally approved a nuclear cooperation agreement that opens the way for a $14bn investment in new Indian reactors and nuclear plants over the next year alone. The deal also has wider strategic significance, bolstering US-India ties at a time of rising Chinese influence.

President George Bush said the agreement, which took three years to negotiate, would "strengthen our global nuclear non-proliferation efforts, protect the environment, create jobs, and assist India in meeting its growing energy needs responsibly". A spokesman for India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who like Bush views the deal as a legacy issue, described it as "historic and unprecedented".…  Seguir leyendo »

Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan believes the US strategy there is failing, Nato reinforcements would be counter-productive and that it would be better if "an acceptable dictator" came to power in Kabul in the next few years, a French satirical weekly reported yesterday.

The comments attributed to Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles were included in a diplomatic dispatch from a French diplomat in Kabul published by the French weekly, Le Canard Enchaîné, which combines investigative journalism and satire.

Reporting on a meeting on September 2, the French diplomat, Jean-François Fitou, quoted Cowper-Coles as saying: "The American strategy is destined to fail.

"The coalition presence - particularly the military presence - is part of the problem, not the solution," Cowper-Coles is quoted as saying.…  Seguir leyendo »