Iraqi children play foot ball on empty streets barred to potential car bombers on Iraq's election day
A VOTER TURNOUT BETTER THAN EXPECTED
With a nearly 60% turnout, and only around 44 people killed in a rash of nine car bombs, Iraq's elections actually turned out to be more promising than many people expected. For some Iraqis, it was a major watershed event in history, both for themselves and for their country. Juan Cole provides a comprehensive index of election reporting covering the country. (Juan Cole, Informed Comment, January 31, 2005)
JONATHAN STEELE COMMENTS IN THE GUARDIAN
" The crucial issue for Iraq over the coming months will be the process of writing Iraq's first democratic constitution...
Will the new constitution enshrine Sharia law? Will it protect women's property and divorce rights? Will it maintain the system of federalism that was written into Iraq's temporary constitution by the Americans a year ago? If it does not, will this provoke the Kurds in northern Iraq to break away?" (Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, January 31, 2005)
BBC: U.S. TROOPS COULD PULL OUT IN 18 MONTHS
Falah al-Naqib, Iraq's interim interior minister, speaking on British television, said he thought that by that time Iraqis would be able to depend on themselves. "Exit strategy" is a term everyone in Washington is thinking about and no one quite likes to use in public. But the question of how and when US and other foreign troops can start leaving Iraq is one of growing political significance for the Bush administration. A Zogby poll in Iraq found that between 60% and 80% of Iraqis want foreign troops to leave when an elected government takes office.But the Americans' policy is that US troop levels will only start being drawn down when the newly built Iraqi security forces are able to cope by themselves in the face of the insurgency...(BBC, January 31, 2005)
DAR AL HAYAT, AN ARAB VIEW
In an analysis that is at times difficult to follow, Dar Al Hayat notes that the real issue in Iraq is not elections, but eventual sovereignty. Occupying powers often structure elections to produce the results that fit their specific interests. Thus, the U.S. military occupation of Italy after World War II permitted Italians to vote for anyone they wanted, as long as it wasn't a communist, who were probably in the majority at the time. The real political opposition in that kind of situation may opt to create anarchy, as insurgents in Iraq are doing. Anarchy is usually followed by tyranny, which justifies itself by promising a return to stability and order. (Dar al Hayat, January 31, 2005)
BEIRUT'S DAILY STAR: WORTH IT?
"The absurdity of the violence - especially that stemming from the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - is matched only by its tragedy," notes the Star. "In particular, Zarqawi's 'war against democracy' only distorts the tenets of Islam and makes a mockery of his own warped 'principles.' His agenda appears to be only one of hate and murder with nothing constructive to offer in the aftermath of the wanton destruction and loss of life for which he is responsible. Was it all worth it - the elections, the effort, the financial cost, the human sacrifice? ...The ultimate test of the value of the sacrifice will be whether the months ahead will see recognition on the part of the country's Shiites and Kurds, principally, that Sunnis were mostly not part of Sunday's election process. Whatever the reasons were for a significant Sunni absence, the fact remains that they are still Iraqis and that the outcome of Sunday's vote is not 100 percent legitimate without them." (Beirut Daily Star, January 31, 2005)
CSIS:IRAQ PRE-ELECTION ANALYSIS
Jon Alterman, director of the CSIS Middle East Program, Bathsheba Crocker, codirector of the CSIS Post Conflict Reconstruction Project, and Anthony Cordesman, CSIS Arleigh Burke Chair in Strategy, previewed Iraq elections at a CSIS panel discussion on Jan. 26. They explored challenges related to potential violence, public support, and regional repercussions. (CSIS, January 26, 2005)
INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP ON WAR AND DRUGS IN COLUMBIA
Drugs finance the left-wing insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the far-right United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) to a large degree, and thus are an integral part of Colombia's conflict. But while the state must confront drug trafficking forcefully, President Alvaro Uribe's claim that the conflict pits a democracy against merely "narco-terrorists" who must be met by all-out war does not do justice to the complexity of the decades-old struggle. Fighting drugs and drug trafficking is a necessary but not sufficient condition for moving Colombia toward peace. The view that anti-drug and anti-insurgency policies are indistinguishable reduces the chances either will succeed and hinders the search for a sustainable peace. (ICG, January 27, 2005)
NICK TURSE ON THE BURGEONING HOMELAND SECURITY STATE
The DHS is, not surprisingly, the poster-child for the emerging Homeland Security State. But the DHS itself is just the tip of the iceberg -- an archetype for a brave new nation where the lines between what the intelligence community and the military do abroad and what they do in the U.S.A. are increasingly blurred beyond recognition...Recently, it was disclosed that the Department of Homeland Security had deployed an x-ray van, previously used in cargo searches at America's borders, in a test run -- taking X-ray pictures of parked cars in Cape May, New Jersey. (Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com, January 31, 2005)
CRICHTON AND GLOBAL WARMING
"How do people learn about global warming?" the Brookings Institution's David Sanadalow asks. "That--more than the merits of any scientific argument--is the most interesting question posed by Michael Crichton's State of Fear .The plot of Crichton's 14th novel is notable mainly for its nuttiness--an MIT professor fights a well funded network of eco-terrorists trying to kill thousands by creating spectacular "natural" disasters. But Crichton uses his book as a vehicle for making two substantive arguments. In light of Crichton's high profile and ability to command media attention, these arguments deserve scrutiny... "(David B. Sandalow, Brookings Institution, January 28, 2005)
IN FACT, GLOBAL WARMING MAY BE TWICE AS BAD AS EXPECTED
The latest study from Britain concerning Global warming suggests that the danger may be twice as catastrophic as previously thought. Flooding settlements on the British coast and turning the interior into an unrecognizable tropical landscape, are just some of the likely after effects, the world's biggest study of climate change shows.(The Independent, January 27, 2005)
RUSSIAN SECURITY FORCES AND CHECHEN MILITANTS BATTLE IT OUT
Russian special forces backed by armored personnel carriers battled for more than five hours on January 27 with suspected Islamic militants holed up in two apartments in a building in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria. Seven people, including three women, died in the shoot-out, which followed a two-day standoff. Russian Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev told reporters after the operation was over that commandos had moved to storm the apartments after learning that the militants planned to attempt to break out of the encirclement using home-made mines and bombs (Itar-Tass, January 27).
DUBAI'S PROJECTED MANHATTAN-SIZED ARTIFICIAL ISLAND
The term "real estate bubble" doesn't begin to describe the construction frenzy that has hit Dubai lately. The latest innovation is a plan to build a massive new waterfront complex, jutting into the Persian Gulf, and including an island designed as a palm tree.(Beirut Daily Star, January 31, 2005)
Ukraine's new president, Viktor Yuschenko, addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
WHAT WAS DAVOS REALLYABOUT?
Essentially a four-day brainstorming session with some of the world's current and past political and business leaders.The World Economic Forum welcomed the Ukraine's Viktor Yuschenko, both confirming his recent election victory and extending an invitation to closer ties between the Ukraine and the west. Bill Clinton chatted with Charlie Rose. Bill Gates, George Soros, Britain's Tony Blair also attended along with around 2500 other heavy hitters, as well as Sharon Stone, Richard Gere and Angelina Jolie. The BBC's Tim Webber sums up the meeting, and the BBC provides comprehensive links to other developments. (BBC, January 31, 2005)
CELEBRITY POWER AT DAVOS
Sharon Stone raised an estimated $1 million at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to buy mosquito nets to fight malaria in Tanzania. The mosquito nets and the amount didn't really matter. What counted was the use of celebrity power at a business conference to usher in a new age of caring...Larry Elliott comments in the Guardian (January 31, 2005)
Business Week on Davos
New Straits Times
South Africa's Moneyweb on Davos
MICHAEL LIND: THE DISPENSABLE NATION
Michael Lind's article circulated through the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and throughout Europe. Lind contends that "The US is being sidelined even in the area that Mr Bush identified in last week's address as America's mission: the promotion of democracy and human rights. The EU has devoted far more resources to consolidating democracy in post-communist Europe than has the US. By contrast, under Mr Bush, the US hypocritically uses the promotion of democracy as the rationale for campaigns against states it opposes for strategic reasons. Washington denounces tyranny in Iran but tolerates it in Pakistan. In Iraq, the goal of democratization was invoked only after the invasion, which was justified earlier by claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was collaborating with al-Qaeda." (Michael Lind, Financial Times, January 28, 2005)
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