Simon Tisdall (Continuación)

The apparent failure of Sudan to block the formal indictment of its president for war crimes is threatening to plunge the country into renewed internal conflict, provoke a break with the UN and end cooperation of African Union countries with the international criminal court.

Tribunal judges are expected to rule within the next two months on a request by the international criminal court chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, for an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur. Although action on the most serious allegation of genocide may be deferred, the other charges are almost certain to go ahead.…  Seguir leyendo »

George Bush and Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, have more in common than one might think. As younger men, both had reputations as playboy hell-raisers. As the current, more sober leaders of their respective countries, both are deeply unpopular with large numbers of fellow citizens. For his part, Bush is on his way out. And if the Islamists who bombed the Islamabad Marriott at the weekend have their way, Zardari, husband of the murdered Benazir Bhutto, will surely follow him – one way or another.

The stakes for this odd couple are high. Zardari is engaged in an increasingly fraught political and military campaign not only to retain power but, more importantly, hold the country together in the teeth of an existential threat to democratic, secular governance.…  Seguir leyendo »

A secret order issued by George Bush giving US special forces carte blanche to mount counter-terrorist operations inside Pakistani territory raised fears last night that escalating conflict was spreading from Afghanistan to Pakistan and could ignite a region-wide war.

The unprecedented executive order, signed by Bush in July after an intense internal administration debate, comes amid western concern that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and its al-Qaida backers based in "safe havens" in western Pakistan's tribal belt is being lost.

Following Bush's decision, US navy Seals commandos, backed by attack helicopters, launched a ground raid into Pakistan last week which the US claimed killed about two dozen insurgents.…  Seguir leyendo »

Seven years after al-Qaida terrorists destroyed the twin towers in New York, the US is stepping up its hunt for the group's leader, Osama bin Laden, and his followers. But the new strategy, involving special forces ground operations and increased aerial attacks inside Pakistan, risks turning the Afghan war into a regional conflict and destroying America's "war on terror" alliance with Pakistan's weak new civilian government.

Reports in Washington today, not challenged by the White House, said President George Bush had secretly issued orders in July authorising US commanders to send forces into Pakistan to attack al-Qaida and Taliban bases there.…  Seguir leyendo »

By common consent Pakistan stands at a critical juncture. The Islamist insurgency in Afghanistan has spread into its western tribal areas, where al-Qaida and Taliban militants are now firmly established. The "war on terror" alliance with the US is under severe strain as Washington noisily criticises the army's failure to curb extremism.

Meanwhile 71% of Pakistanis, according to a recent poll, believe all counter-terrorism cooperation with the US should be halted.

Chronic poverty among an expanding population of about 160 million is being exacerbated by sharply rising food and energy prices that if unchecked, may provoke civil disturbances and further fuel the Islamist fire.…  Seguir leyendo »

The war in Afghanistan spilled over into Pakistani territory for the first time today when heavily armed commandoes, believed to be US special forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses in a village close to a known Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold.

The early morning attack on Jala Khel killed between seven and 20 people, according to a range of reports from the remote Angoor Adda region of South Waziristan. The village is situated less than a mile from the Afghanistan border.

Local residents were quoted as saying most of the dead were civilians and included women and children. It was not known whether any Taliban or al-Qaida militants or western forces were among the dead.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dick Cheney's whirlwind Caucasus tour, which began today, will be interpreted by conspiracy theorists, Kremlin apologists, and by the Russian government, as further "proof" of their contention that the hawkish US vice-president and his neocon buddies deliberately provoked last month's Georgia crisis for American presidential election campaign purposes.

The White House says Cheney will assess Georgia's future needs and study the broader implications of Russia's partitioning of the country when he meets President Mikhail Saakashvili in Tbilisi. The Bush administration was meanwhile due to announce a $1bn bilateral economic aid package to rebuild Georgia, in addition to an emergency $750m stand-by loan arranged via the IMF.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is hard to imagine what life must be like for Aung San Suu Kyi, locked up inside her Rangoon home, separated from her children, denied visitors, her phone line cut, her mail intercepted. Burma's opposition leader, whose 1990 election victory was annulled by the military, is now in her 13th year of detention. She has been held continually since 2003. In June she spent her 63rd birthday alone.

Unconfirmed reports suggest Suu Kyi, who has suffered health problems in the past, is unwell again. Her lawyer, Kyi Win, who was allowed to see her last month, quoted her as saying: "I am tired and I need some rest."…  Seguir leyendo »

If one man stands between the EU and a lasting resolution of the Caucasus crisis, that man is Vladimir Putin. As Europe's leaders struggled to agree a response to Georgia's enforced partition ahead of today's emergency summit in Brussels, Russia's gun-toting prime minister was pictured strutting across the Siberian taiga, wearing camouflage and a tough expression, doing his familiar "Action Man" impersonation.

Putin's controlling hand has been in evidence since fighting erupted last month. He flew immediately from Beijing to visit Russian invasion troops at staging areas on the Georgian border. It was Putin who muddied the waters with talk of legitimate Russian peacekeeping operations and unsubstantiated claims of genocide and "ethnic cleansing".…  Seguir leyendo »

Robert Fox to Simon Tisdall

I am always sceptical about the success of specific ground operations, heralded from Washington and London in the terribly tangled mess of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. General David Petraeus launched his "surge" with some 35,000 extra troops in the spring of last year. Now, some of the extra troops are being brought home. Instead of victory, Washington talks about "success". Violence against US forces is down, it is claimed – and this is undoubtedly true. The government in Baghdad under Nouri al-Maliki is stronger and the Iraq army has been growing in numbers and capability, and performing creditably in several areas, most notably in Basra.…  Seguir leyendo »

The turbulent prospect of direct US intervention against al-Qaida and Taliban jihadi bases in Pakistani territory adjoining Afghanistan appears to have moved closer following last week's visit to Washington by Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousef Raza Gilani.

Far from reassuring his hosts that Islamabad is on top of the situation in the so-called tribal areas, Gilani's uncertain performance seems to have convinced US officials of the need to move quickly. A sub-text to this dangerously fast-moving drama is George Bush's desire to catch or kill his 9/11 nemesis, Osama bin Laden, before he leaves office in January.

Bin Laden and senior al-Qaida leaders are believed to be in the lawless, former princely state of Swat, in North-West Frontier province, or in areas such as Waziristan in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia's bullish plans, unveiled this week, to build up to six aircraft carrier battlegroups and upgrade its nuclear submarine fleet are part of a worrying trend. They provide further evidence that Moscow's military revival, initiated by Vladimir Putin and continued by his presidential successor, Dmitri Medvedev, may in time pose some unwelcome challenges for Europeans determined to believe the days of east-west confrontation are over.

Parallel Russian proposals for inclusive new European security structures that could in theory supplant Nato and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe are the political window-dressing for Moscow's burgeoning ambition. And physical pressure on unfavoured neighbours, such as Nato aspirant Georgia or Baltic breakaways Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, is a reminder that the "Bear is back", or thinks he is.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turkey stepped back from the brink today, having thoroughly frightened itself and its friends. The constitutional court's narrow decision to fine rather than ban Recep Tayyip Erodgan and his ruling AKP is a defeat for attempts to manipulate the legal system for political ends. It represents a score-draw in the long-running, unfinished struggle between secular and religious forces. But most of all, it is a vicarious victory for Turkish democracy.

Modern Turkey has a history of half scaring itself to death, only to scrape by. Elected governments have been temporarily forced aside three times since 1960 by the military, acting out its self-appointed role as guardian of Ataturk's elastic legacy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sudan's ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, offered an arresting description of the international criminal court's chief prosecutor during testy exchanges at the security council this week. Luis Moreno-Ocampo had unfairly singled out the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir by accusing him of genocide, Abdalhaleem said, adding: "He is a screwdriver in the workshop of double standards."

Sudan's politicians and diplomats have had a lot of other things to say, more or less angry, since Moreno-Ocampo, using highly emotive language, asked the ICC earlier this month to formally indict Bashir for war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur. Foremost among them is the assertion that the court, all of whose current cases concern African countries, is visiting two-faced "white man's justice" on Khartoum.…  Seguir leyendo »

In official-speak, it's about "one world, one dream". But as the waves of patriotic pride build, next month's Beijing Olympics are beginning to look like a globally televised, heavily choreographed celebration of advancing, muscular Chinese nationhood. One country, one team.

Using the event to showcase China's emergence as a potentially dominant world power was always part of the Communist party's game plan. In this sense, the medals table, which China expects to dominate, is a metaphor for broader international competition for resources and influence.

After centuries of humiliations at western hands, few could fairly deny China a self-glorifying day in the sun.…  Seguir leyendo »

Consensus is not a word usually associated with Iraq, but as security improves in the wake of the US troop surge, interested parties – the Bush administration, Iraq's Shia-led government, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, the Arab Gulf states and Iran – all agree, to varying degrees and for different reasons, that the time has come to start planning the withdrawal of US combat troops.

The corollary of this proposition is that additional US and Nato forces should be sent to Afghanistan where, in contrast, security is deteriorating. Again, there is a surprising amount of agreement. Democrat Barack Obama argues Afghanistan, not Iraq, is the "central front in the war on terror".…  Seguir leyendo »

Radovan Karadzic's arrest will inject fresh momentum into efforts to capture General Ratko Mladic, said Serb officials, political observers and Balkan experts yesterday.

But cornering Mladic, wanted for his role in the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, could prove more hazardous than Karadzic's detention.

That arrest was "a courageous decision by the government", said a Serbian official, pointing out that Zoran Djindjic, a former pro-western prime minister, was assassinated in 2003 for handing Slobodan Milosevic over to The Hague. "Getting Mladic could be more dangerous than getting Karadzic. Probably he still has a friend or two," said the official.…  Seguir leyendo »

The election this month of a pro-western coalition government in Belgrade went largely unremarked across the EU despite memories of what happened when Serbian nationalists turned their back on Europe in the 1990s and plunged headlong into the horror of the Bosnian war. Following the arrest by the Serbian authorities of the notoriously elusive war crimes suspect, Radovan Karadzic, it is a safe bet that Britain and its partners will be paying a lot more attention to Serbia from now on.

It seems a long time ago, but the convulsions that shook the Balkans as the late Slobodan Milosevic pursued his vision of a "greater Serbia" transfixed western Europeans.…  Seguir leyendo »

It may be too early to proclaim an end to the "Cheney era", but Washington's decision to participate in Saturday's nuclear talks with Iran and send diplomats back to Tehran is a very significant shift. It marks a nadir for the gun-toting neoconservatives who dominated the first Bush term and for their unofficial champion, vice-president Dick Cheney, the stealthy advice-giver also known as "whispering grass".

Noisy sabre-rattling and a crescendo of shouted threats exchanged by Iran and Israel in recent weeks convinced many observers that the Middle East was on the brink of a new conflagration. They feared a "second Iraq" was in the making, again triggered by worries about real or imagined weapons of mass destruction.…  Seguir leyendo »

Serbia seems suddenly to have become what Americans call a "normal country". After more than 15 years spent fighting itself, its neighbours and much of Europe, a democratically-elected, pro-western government came to power in Belgrade last week, pledged to the non-violent resolution of disputes.

This development deserves more attention than it has so far received. The death throes of Yugoslavia, the rise of Slobodan Milosevic, the Bosnian conflict, horrendous war crimes, and the battle for Kosovo profoundly changed Europe's view of itself. These dread events accelerated EU enlargement and foreshadowed a bigger, impending collision of Christian and Muslim worlds.

Serbian governments have come and gone with confusing rapidity since Milosevic fell, often against a backdrop of gangsterism and assassination.…  Seguir leyendo »