..CENTER FOR WAR, PEACE, AND THE NEWS MEDIA, February 1 - February 15, 2006
Department of Journalism, College of Communication, Boston University





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Demonstrators torch Denmark's embassy in Damascus. Syria is not known for its tolerance of unauthorized demonstrations, leading many to suspect that the furor was being played to the government's advantage.

A Caricature 'Clash of Civilizations'
The furor over the publication, first by a Danish magazine last September and since then by an ever-growing stream of Western newspapers, of a series of cartoons defaming the Prophet Muhammad, continues to escalate. No longer confined to boycotts of Danish products and the withdrawal of ambassadors, it has mushroomed into a global confrontation as angry crowds from London to Jakarta take to the streets to vent their rage at an attack on Islam. And the protests have turned violent, with embassies torched in Damascus and Beirut, and protestors killed in Afghanistan. Appeals for calm and restraint appear to fall on deaf ears as protest actions escalate, and new newspapers rush to publish the notorious caricatures. Many Western commentators express incredulity at the idea that such a sequenc of events can be spared by nothing more than a cartoon, but clearly the wave of outrage is about far more than a few drawings in an obscure magazine: Plainly, the tinder of outrage has been set by events that long preceded the publication of the cartoons, and the fires have been stoked by those whose agendas are thus served.

The spread of the protest is a tale of the web of instant communication and trade created by globalization, as phone and text messages spread out across the Muslim world from Danish Muslims outraged by the original cartoons, and soon the Arab world was hitting back by refusing to buy Danish dairy products -- a boycott that has cost Denmark some $3 million a day. But the intensity of the outrage is driven not simply by the cartoons, but at the contempt for Muslims they are deemed to represent. The anger surging throughout the Muslim world now has built up over the past five years, as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the perception of a Western world hostile to Islam and to Muslim interests. And that's certainly the spin being put on the cartoons by the radical imams stoking the flames. For governments embroiled in difficult conflicts with the West, it also represents and opportunity. Both Syria and Iran appear to be encouraging the confrontation, hoping that a widespread Muslim hostility to the West will help them win support in their own struggles with the West. At the same time, by restraining the large crowds in Gaza and calling for calm, the Palestinian Hamas movement may be out to show the Europeans that it can be a responsible partner in government worthy of continued financial support. With Western governments unable to satisfy Muslim grievances on the cartoon issue (newspaper editors can't be punished for expressing their views in a democracy, however provocative those views may be) and the wider range of political conflicts that are fueling the anger, the crisis may yet escalate. (Der Spiegel, February 4, 2006).

  • Rami Khouri mocks the surprise in much of the Western media about the intensity of anger generated by the cartoons, noting that it is not the drawings themselves, but the neocolonial attitudes and habits they are deemed to represent that is driving the outrage. "It is perhaps time that we stopped being surprised by a routine phenomenon," he writes, namely "the affirmation of Islamic identity as the dominant form of national self-assertion in developing societies whose citizens hold major grievances against the quality of their own statehood and governance, as well as against Western and Israeli policies." (Daily Star, February 8 2006)
  • Scott MacLeod warns that too many agendas are being served by the cartoon confrontation to allow for an early resolution . From governments like Iran and Syria to Islamist opposition groups looking to pile pressure on pro-Western Muslim regimes and even local Muslim groups in Europe hoping to raise money from the Gulf Arab states, the offensive cartoons have proven to be a political gold mine. (TIME.com, February 6, 2006)
  • Syed Saleem Shahzad warns that the cartoon furor will intensify in Afghanistan, because the Taliban is gearing up for a new offensive and the firestorm over the cartoons may be an effective recruiting tool in the Afghan refugee camps of Pakistan. (Asia Times, February 8 2006)
  • Al Jazeera explains Islam's taboo on publishing images of the Prophet. (Al Jazeera, February 6, 2006)
  • Paul Reynolds sees a common thread of moderation in the responses of Western governments , proclaiming the right of free speech but condemning its irresponsible abuse in the case of the cartoons of the Prophet. Their aim, says Reynolds, is to encourage moderate Muslims to seize the initiative and prevent the issue being exploited to serve radical agendas. (BBC, February 6, 2006)
  • Simon Jenkins challenges the idea that publishing the cartoons is acceptable because it is an exercise of free speech. "Every inch of published print reflects the views of its writers and the judgment of its editors, he writes. "Every day newspapers decide on the balance of boldness, offence, taste, discretion and recklessness. They must decide who is to be allowed a voice and who not. They are curbed by libel laws, common decency and their own sense of what is acceptable to readers. Speech is free only on a mountain top; all else is editing. Despite Britons’ robust attitude to religion, no newspaper would let a cartoonist depict Jesus Christ dropping cluster bombs, or lampoon the Holocaust. Pictures of bodies are not carried if they are likely to be seen by family members. Privacy and dignity are respected, even if such restraint is usually unknown to readers. Over every page hovers a censor, even if he is graced with the title of editor." (The Sunday Times, February 5, 2006)
  • The Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten has insisted all along that it published the offending cartoons in the interests of free speech. Now, a rival Danish magazine has published evidence that Jyllands-Posten in 2003 turned down caricatures of Jesus Christ on the grounds that these might be offensive to readers. (Der Spiegel, February 8, 2006)
  • Turkey's moderate Islamist government has taken a lead in calls for restraint and dialogue, reports the Daily Star, but the U.S. is looking to Saudi Arabia to do more to douse the fires. Given the domestic pressures on Riyadh, however, that may not be an easy task. (Daily Star, February 7, 2006)
  • Rory McCarthy sees a political agenda at work in the "planned spontaneity" of Sunday's demonstration in Beirut. Syria would certainly be relieved to have the focus shifted away from its confrontation with the West over the Hariri assassination. (The Guardian, February 6, 2006)
  • Tariq Ramadan says the cartoons were an ill-informed provocation that has blown up because laughing at religion, common in the modern West, is alien to Muslim culture. But, he warns, Muslims have to learn to live in a wider world that does not conform to their conventions. The current uproar, he suggests, highlights need for a genuine, thoughtful civilizational dialogue. (International Herald Tribune, February 6, 2006)
  • Iran Raises the Stakes, But Stays at the Table
    By compromising on the timing and nature of the referral -- and agreeing to a version of an Egyptian call to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, a reference to Israel's nuclear capability -- the U.S. and Europe managed to secure a consensus at the IAEA to refer concerns over Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council. The referral is likely to result in a Security Council expression of concern and demand that Iran cooperate with the IAEA and comply with its NPT obligations, rather than finding it in breach of those obligations and threatening sanctions. And, more importantly, the Western powers agreed to postpone Security Council discussion of the matter until after the Russians have held a new round of negotiations with Tehran in search of a compromise on the question of where uranium is to be enriched for Iran's nuclear reactors.

    Tehran responded by raising the stakes, reversing all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA, which will now no longer be allowed to conduct the spot checks and additional monitoring to which Iran had voluntarily agreed in 2003. Iran will also now resume enrichment activities that it had voluntarily suspended during three years of negotiations. The temperature of Iran's political rhetoric rose sharply, too, with President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad boasting, "Our enemies cannot do a damn thing. We do not need you at all. But you are in need of the Iranian nation." At the same time, however, Tehran appears inclined to continue negotiations on the Russian proposal, suggesting that rather than ending diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program, the latest exchanges may simply be an intensification of the diplomatic bargaining as each side attempts to apprise the other of the consequences of failure to achieve a deal. (The Guardian, February 6, 2006)

  • Israel was deeply unhappy with the final form of the IAEA resolution, reports Yossi Melman, because its linking of the Iranian issue to the goal of achieving "a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction" was an unmistakable reference to the reality that Arab states on whose support the West depended for passing the resolution will not accept the principle of an Israeli nuclear monopoly in the region. While the U.S. struggled to keep that line out of the resolution, the Europeans sided with the developing world in insisting on it. Indeed, the whole question of which states ought to be allowed to maintain nuclear weapons remains an uncomfortable discussion for the West that the Iranians will certainly put on the agenda in the months ahead. (Haaretz, February 6, 2006)
  • Newsweek notes a basic flaw in President Bush's appeal to the Iranian people over the heads of their leaders: Tehran's positions on the nuclear issue enjoy wide popular support across the political spectrum in Iran. The Iranian people won't be won over without an honest reckoning with their strong nationalist sentiments, and the reasons why these translate into a rejection of the West's positions on the nuclear issue. (Newsweek, February 13, 2006)
  • One of the reasons for the strong support for the resolution referring Iran to the Security Council was the introduction of evidence provided by U.S. intelligence that some of Iran's nuclear energy work is done in secret under the administrative umbrella of the military. That evidence has underscored the IAEA position that it cannot vouch with any certainty for the claim that Iran's nuclear program is intended purely for energy purposes. (New York Times, February 1, 2006)
  • Ray Tayekh warns, however, that while getting Iran referred to the Security Council is a diplomatic achievement for Washington, the Council is unlikely to take any action that would constitute significant pressure on Iran to acquiesce. (Council on Foreign Relations, January 31, 2006)
  • Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin suggest that the Russian offer is a trap designed to help Iran get out of harm's way. If it is taken, they say, the West will lose its last opportunity to pressure Iran through the international system. (New York Times, February 1, 2006)
  • Gary Samore suggests that diplomacy remains the best option for preventing a nuclear armed Iran. The critical dimension, however, is maintaining the suspension of uranium enrichment activities by Iran while talks continue. Otherwise, Iran could make progress towards a weapons program while it keeps the West talking. The current breakdown, however, has seen Iran retreat from that undertaking. (Yale Global, January 24, 2006)
  • Iranian analyst Kaveh L Afrasiabi sees the confrontation as a disastrous breakdown in Iranian foreign policy, brought on by the amateurish exertions of a president waging internecine power struggles. (Asia Times, February 3, 2006)
  • Ray Tayekh and Charles Kupchan suggest that the slide to confrontation with Iran, which won't have a positive outcome for the U.S., ought to be reversed by Washington reaching out to Tehran on their mutual interests in Iraq. Certainly a counterintuitive recommendation. (Council on Foreign Relations, January 30, 2006)
  • Diplomacy is not going to stop Iran, says neoconservative columnist Max Boot. Sooner or later, U.S. or Israeli military action will be the only way to slow Iran's progress towards nuclear weapons. Certainly a counterintuitive recommendation. (Council on Foreign Relations, January 25, 2006)
  • Joseph Cirincone, however, says Boot and the other neocons have it wrong. Not only will military strikes rally the population behind the regime, and potentially make the U.S. position in Iraq untenable; their impact would be less likely a slowing down of Iran's march towards nuclear weapons than an acceleration of that march, as happened in Iraq after the Israeli air strikes on Osirak in 1981. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 19, 2006)
  • Richard Beeston assesses the strategic discussion of the military option in responding to Iran's nuclear program, which he says is growing more urgent. The main problem facing the U.S. and any allies on this front, is that the likely response by Iran, directly and by proxy, might easily have the effect of profoundly destabilizing the region -- the exact opposite of the intention in disarming Iran. (The Times, February 6, 2006)
  • Previously on Iran: Russia, China Thwart Iran Sanctions Bid
  • Background Material on Iran

  • Ray Tayekh offers excellent into Iran's strategic thinking. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The International Crisis Group offered a prescient preview of the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and provided some thoughtful prescriptions for dealing with it. (ICG, August 2005)
  • The Heritage Foundation sets out the position of the more hawkish element in the Bush administration, arguing that Iran's nuclear ambitions will not be thwarted by diplomacy, but that pursuing the diplomatic course is essential to setting the stage for more coercive actions that must inevitably follow. (Heritage Foundation, January 2006)
  • Ian Davis and Paul Ingram provide a detailed overview of the problems within the NPT as a backdrop to the Iran crisis. (Foreign Policy in Focus, December 2005)
  • Hamas Sets Out its Peace Terms
    Hamas is prepared to offer Israel a long-term truce if it agrees to withdraw to its 1967 borders. That's according to Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, interviewed by the BBC during a Hamas summit in Cairo to discuss plans for government following the movement's election victory. Israel, of course, is unlikely to take the bait, with acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stressing that if he wins reelection, as expected, next month, he plans to redraw Israel's boundaries in a way that leaves the three major settlement blocs of the West Bank, as well as a security corridor along the Jordan River, in Israeli hands. Israel also rejects the notion of a long-term truce rather than a renunciation of violence. Hamas has no plans to even consider such an idea, although its leaders have now adopted the lawyerly position that because the PLO has recognized Israel and because Hamas will respect the Oslo Accords (in the way that Benjamin Netanyahu's Israeli government had on assuming office in 1996, despite having strenuously opposed the adoption of the Accords), it was not necessary for Hamas to take the formal step of recognizing Israel because the matter had already been dealt with.

    The gulf between the two sides' on where to draw the boundaries between the two peoples is not dissimilar to the one that existed even when Fatah ruled the Palestinian Authority. After all, the 1967 borders was the basis of President Mahmoud Abbas's view of a settlement, too. But for Hamas it represents a moderation of its positions, designed to calm Western donors over the intent of the party in government, and also a move to reinforce its efforts to build up a broad Arab consensus in support of Hamas. Meshal's positions appear to be a response to the call by the Arab League for Hamas to embrace the "Beirut Principles" adopted by the League three years ago at the behest of Saudi Arabia, in which Israel would be granted recognition and an end to Arab claims against it in exchange for withdrawing to its 1967 borders. The fact that Israel won't accept these positions may not be important, right now; if they draw support from the Arab League countries and calm European anxieties then Hamas's ascent will be less likely to see the Palestinian Authority isolated and pauperized. (BBC, February 8, 2006)

  • Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog asks, can Hamas be tamed? And he concludes that the view that "political participation will coopt" Hamas is overly optimistic. Then again, presumably the Palestinians didn't vote for Hamas in order that it could be "tamed" or "coopted" by Israel. (Foreign Affairs, March-April 2006)
  • Nathan Brown suggests that if the U.S. and Israel demand too much, too soon of Hamas, and makes engagement conditional on the movement symbolically repudiating some of its core positions, the resulting breakdown will be bad not only for Hamas and the Palestinians, but for the West and Israel, too. (Foreign Policy, February 2006)
  • Jon B. Alterman stresses that that dialogue with Hamas is essential, and shouldn't be based on any preconditions. "The (Hamas) charter must be changed, but such change must come as the consequence of a process, not as a precondition to it," he writes. "After Oslo collapsed, Palestinians regard most processes with suspicion at the outset, anyway, and they are unlikely to give up much in order to start a new one. A wiser course would be to bar contact with members directly connected to violence, but be open to limited engagement with others.(Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 29, 2006)
  • Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann find that Israeli public opinion is far less alarmist about the Hamas victory than that of the U.S. government. A majority of survey respondents believe Hamas is the legitimate winner of the Palestinian election, and as such that Israel should be prepared to negotiate with a government led by the movement. But they don't hold out much optimism for the outcome of such negotiations, and a majority believe that Israel should continue to take unilateral steps to redraw boundaries between Israel and the Palestinians. (Haaretz, February 7, 2006)
  • Previously on the Hamas victory: Hamas and the Prospects for Peace
  • Background on Hamas's Electoral Win

  • Hamas leader Khaled Meshal explains the movement's decision to enter the Palestinian political institutions created by the Oslo Accords. (Al Ahram, 2006)
  • At almost 9,000 words, the Hamas Charter dense and lengthy read. It not only calls for Israel's destruction and the reestablishment of Palestinian control over all of historic Palestine, it also claims that Israel's intentions can be gleaned from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a conspiratorial propaganda tract authored by the security police of the the last Russian Czar. (The Palestine Center)
  • Having lost almost its entire founding leadership to Israeli assassinations, Hamas's leaders are not exactly high profile, and its decision making is collective and by consensus. Still, a couple of figures have emerged in the course of the election , foremost among them Ismail Haniya and Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar. The BBC offers useful profiles of both men. (BBC)
  • Arab Democracy Empowers the Islamists, What Will the U.S. Do?
    President Bush, in his first attempts to make sense of the Hamas election victory, described it as "a wake-up call for Fatah." A wake-up call, perhaps, but not for Fatah -- instead, the alarm has sounded for the Bush administration's own strategy of promoting democracy in the Middle East. Washington has worked on the assumption that democracy will bring to power the small secular liberal groups whose outlook it prefers to those of the current generation of autocrats, but as the most recent wave of elections in Egypt, Iraq and the Palestinian territories show, democracy in the Middle East frees voters to exercise their preference, which in all three cases has clearly been for Islamist parties that the U.S. prefers to ignore. In Iraq, the practical reality of forging an exit strategy has necessitated practical relationships with the Shiite religious parties who are closer to Iran than to the U.S. But elsewhere, Washington has not yet begun to deal with the fact that democracy will most likely put the Islamists in power. The administration's position of promoting democracy and at the same time hoping to marginalize the Islamists has simply proved untenable. The Hamas victory underscores the challenge facing Washington of developing a modus vivendi with popularly elected Islamist governments in the Middle East. (Dilip Hiro, Tom Dispatch, January 23, 2006)

  • The International Crisis Group predicts that Hamas will now see a protracted internal struggle between more pragmatic and more ideological elements, and the outcome of the struggle to moderate the organization will depend in large part on the reactions of Israel and the West to its electoral triumph. (International Crisis Group, January 18, 2006)
  • Anton La Guardia argues that the West has no option but to accept and engage the Islamists in power, conditioning its own response on their behavior in government rather than on their ideology and past practices. (Daily Telegraph, January 27, 2006)
  • Lebanon's Daily Star, one of the foremost voice of secular liberal democracy in the region, editorializes that the West will be judged in the Arab world by its response to the Hamas election. If it seeks to punish the Palestinians for their democratic choice, Western attempts to promote democracy in the region will be thoroughly discredited. (Daily Star, January 27, 2006)
  • Aluf Benn explains that the outcomes of democratic votes in the Middle East has complicated Israel's diplomatic situation, because it has traditionally worked best with Arab autocrats who have no accountability to their public. Indeed, he writes, "The Israelis warned the Americans that that unsupervised Arab democracy will bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power, not pro-Western liberals. But Washington refused to listen." But the new situation is irreversible, and will force Israel to begin to forge a pragmatic coexistence not just with Arab autocrats, but with the Arab street. (Haaretz, January 28, 2006)
  • Iraq on a Downward Slide
    Despite the best efforts of the White House to put the most optimistic spin on progress in Iraq, the big-picture accounting provided by different arms of government can't hide the obvious: The situation in Iraq is actually declining. Last week, the U.S. military released a report showing that the total number of insurgent attacks for 2005 was 34,131, an average of around 94 a day. More importantly, that figure was a 30 percent increase over the previous year's total. In other words, in the third year since Saddam's fall, in which Iraqis went to the polls three times, the security situation became substantially worse. The government's own reports on reconstruction find spectacular waste and the failure to complete many projects, and oil output right now is about 1 million barrels a day lower than it was at the end of the Saddam era. The mainstays of the U.S. exit strategy are the creation through elections of a representative and inclusive national government and national army. But the election results and the composition of the army point to a deepening sectarian rift. In short, conditions for a successful exit strategy are deteriorating. (USA Today, January 22, 2006)

  • Newsweek reports that the U.S. has opened direct talks with the insurgent leadership. And they have some common ground, principally an antagonism to the Iranian influence that democracy has brought to Iraq, via the Shiite religious parties that have dominated elections. (Newsweek, February 6)
  • David Ignatius reveals that the U.S. is alarmed at the reluctance of the winners of Iraq's elections, the Shiite religious parties, to accommodate the Sunnis, whose community forms the base of the insurgency. In response, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has warned the Shiites that failure to heed the U.S. suggestions could result in the U.S. cutting back on its training of Iraqi security forces.. (Daily Star, January 25, 2006)
  • But Juan Cole points out that the Shiites would have no trouble replacing U.S. training and support for Iraq's armed forces; Iran would be more than ready to step into the breach. (Informed Comment, January 25, 2006)
  • Gareth Porter shows why the army that is being "stood up" in Iraq is actually largely a sectarian force representing one side of a civil war. (Tom Dispatch, January 23, 2006)
  • Alistair Crooke warns that the sectarian composition of the new Iraqi security forces makes it preferable for the U.S. to withdraw sooner rather than later: Rather than a new national army representing a national consensus, the U.S. is helping build forces that are sectarian partisans in a low-key civil war. If the U.S. departed now, he argues, the Shiites lack the strength to prevail and would be forced to negotiate with the Sunni insurgents. But if the U.S. continues to build the strength of forces that are loyal to their Shiite parties rather than to a national idea, they will feel less need to compromise. (Bitterlemons.org, January 26, 2006)
  • Ian Bremmer argues that the centrifugal nature of Iraq's sectarian politics will weaken the new government in the course of the next year. Power will increasingly devolve on a regional and sectarian lines, in the worst possible way. (Daily Star, January 27, 2006)
  • Previously on Iraq: Election Results Challenge U.S. Exit Strategy

  • Kim Jong Il visits China

    China and North Korea: Comrades Forever?
    U.S. strategy for dealing with the challenge of North Korea's nuclear weapons program is premised largely on the willingness and ability of China to hold Pyongyang's feet to the fire, using its status as North Korea's major trading partner to deliver good behavior. But, warns the International Crisis Group, China's position vis-a-vis North Korea is often misunderstood in Washington.

    "China's influence on North Korea is more than it is willing to admit but far less than outsiders tend to believe," the ICG writes. "Although it shares the international community's denuclearisation goal, it has its own concept of how to achieve it. It will not tolerate erratic and dangerous behaviour if it poses a risk of conflict but neither will it endorse or implement policies that it believes will create instability or threaten its influence in both Pyongyang and Seoul."

    China's priorities with regard to North Korea are not the same as Washington's. They include maintaining economic and social stability, preventing the U.S. from dominating a united Korea, and using its role in mediating the standoff to enhance its diplomatic prestige, while avoiding triggering a regional arms race. Although its almost $2 billion in trade and investment is the lifeblood of North Korea's economy, "there is virtually no circumstance under which China would use it to force North Korea's compliance on the nuclear issue." It fears that sanctions would do more harm than good, and also set a precedent that could prove uncomfortable for Beijing on other fronts. Its fear of a flood of refugees crossing the border also gives it a greater stake in maintaining the status quo on the Korean peninsula, or altering it very gradually through market reforms.

    "Although it cannot deliver a rapid end to Pyongyang's weapons program, China must still be an integral component of any strategy with a chance of reducing the threat of a nuclear North Korea," the ICG writes. "No other country has the interest and political position in North Korea to facilitate and mediate negotiations. It is also the key to preventing transfers of the North's nuclear materials and other illicit goods, although its ability to do this is limited by logistical and intelligence weaknesses, and unwillingness to curb border trade. Over the long-term, Chinese economic interaction with the North may be the best hope for sparking deeper systemic reform and liberalisation there." (International Crisis Group, January 31, 2006)

    Quadrennial Defense Review

    Reshaping the Military
    The Pentagon has released its Quadrennial Defense Review, which sets combating terrorism as a major long-term focus. The Project for Defense Alternatives offers an ongoing assessment of the discussion around the QDR, which appears to scale back Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's plans for overhauling the military, focusing instead on more familiar patterns of deployment and action that have proven effective in recent years. (Project for Defense Alternatives, February 2006)

  • Dr. Cindy Williams argues that America's best defense against the prospect of new terrorist attacks in the long run is to increase spending on conflict-avoidance strategies, including non-military foreign aid, focusing assistance on states in danger of failing, expanding the State Department's diplomatic corps and placing more emphasis on conflict prevention strategies than on war fighting.

    Has the State Department's arms-control division been remade in the image of its former chief?

    Bolton's Legacy at State
    A Knight-Ridder investigation based on documents and extensive interviews reveals that a number of key arms-control experts have quit the State Department or been forced out, and have been replaced by "less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon's distrust of international negotiations and treaties." The restructuring process that the news agency's sources say has politicized the arms-control wing of the State Department was overseen by Frederick Fleitz, a CIA officer who had been a top adviser to former Undersecretary of State for Non-Proliferation John Bolton, who has since moved on to become Washington's UN ambassador. The personnel changes could have an important impact on the assessments presented to and by the U.S. government of the key non-proliferation challenges, such as Iran, in the months ahead. (Knight Ridder Newspapers, February 7, 2006)

    Jill Carroll, kidnapped while on assignment in Iraq for the Christian Science Monitor

    'Our Jill'
    Freelance journalist Jill Carroll remains, at the time of writing, in the captivity of unknown kidnappers, who have threatened to kill her unless the U.S. military releases women prisoners in Iraq. One of her former employers, the Jordan Times, where she worked for a year, wrote a moving tribute to Carroll as an exemplary bridge between the West and the Arab world, and appealed to her captors to free her. We reproduce it below in full:

    "Jill Carroll worked at The Jordan Times for one year — long enough for anyone who would come across her to be convinced beyond any doubt of her genuine interest in the Middle East, her sincere admiration for Arab culture and utmost respect for the Arab people. From a professional point of view, her journalistic skills, enthusiasm and competence have been assets from which we would have loved to benefit much longer. But Jill belongs to that special category of people who feel their lives should serve a purpose, and who are gifted with the determination and strength to fulfil their calling.

    "This is why, a few months after the US invasion, she left Jordan for Iraq, prompted by the desire to show to as vast an audience as possible the human tragedies caused by the war and the hardships of the Iraqi people.

    "When she took the courageous step to relocate to Baghdad, she was moved by the belief that the ultimate duty of a journalist is to expose injustice and cruelty. She wanted to be a "real" journalist.

    "We will not hide the fact that many of her colleagues here tried to dissuade her.

    "The kidnappers who abducted her could not have chosen a more wrong target. True, Jill is a US citizen. But she is also more critical of US policies towards the Middle East than many Arabs.

    "Though as a reporter she always complies with the strictest requirements of objectivity and impartiality, Jill has been from day one opposed to the war, to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

    "More than just being sympathetic with average Iraqis under war and occupation, Jill is a true believer in Arab causes.

    "From Arabic food to the Arabic language, Jill has always wanted to know and experience as much as possible about Arab identity, and she is keen on absorbing it, learning, understanding and respecting it.

    "She doesn't just 'like' Arab culture, she loves it.

    "An open-minded, sharp, intelligent, dedicated and highly appreciated professional, Jill makes one of the best ambassadors Arabs could ever hope for. It is simply unconscionable for any Arab to want to harm a person like her.

    "It is simply unconscionable for any human being to even think of remotely hurting such a loyal, noble and unselfish person.

    "News of her current ordeal has left us both shocked and outraged.

    "We pray for her safety and appeal to her kidnappers for her immediate release."

    (Jordan Times, January 15, 2006)

  • The Baghdad Blogger known as "Riverbend" provides a moving tribute to Carroll's translator, Alan Enwiyah, murdered during her kidnapping. "Riverbend" knew him well from the days when he ran her favorite music store, keeping cosmpolitan Baghdadis supplied with tapes of everything from Abba to Marilyn Manson.

    Didier Drogba, star striker of Cote d'Ivoire's national soccer squad, is well aware of his team's power to serve as a symbol of unity to a nation in the throes of a blood civil conflict

    Can Soccer Stop a War?
    Soccer once started a war between El Salvador and Honduras (who briefly clashed after their teams met in a World Cup qualifier in 1969), but today the stars of Cote d'Ivoire are hoping they can prevent one -- at home. The highly rated "Elephants" are currently at the African Nations Cup in Egypt, which will be their warmup for this summer's World Cup in Germany. Many are tipping them to win the honors in Africa, and cause a few upsets in Germany. But the country they represent is in the throes of a crisis deteriorating towards civil war, with violent protests against the presence of the UN coinciding with the team's travel to Cairo. The players are drawn from both sides of the north-south frontline dividing government forces from rebel formations, and they took a moment out of their training this week to conduct a high-profile "prayer for peace" at home.

    "Ivorians, we ask for your forgiveness," they said. "Let us come together and put this war behind us." The national team certainly carry the support of partisans on both sides of the political divide, and protests against the UN began winding down towards the end of the week in preparation for Saturday's match against Morocco. "We stopped so we can watch the Elephants at the Nations Cup," one protester told the BBC. "When they get knocked out, we will be on the streets again!" (BBC, January 21, 2006)

    Cost of Iraq Could Top $2 Trillion
    Properly calculating the cost to the U.S. of the Iraq war requires tabulating not only the weekly budget expenditure on maintaining the U.S. force in Iraq, but also the long-term costs such as those of providing health care to wounded Americans, rebuilding an over-stretched military and other unforeseen expenditures. Using this broader approach, economist Joseph Stiglitz has calculated that the total long-term cost of the Iraq war to the U.S. could top $2 trillion. Stiglitz presented his findings on a panel hosted by Economists for Peace and Security at the American Economic Association/Allied Social Sciences Association annual conference in Boston. "Predicting overall costs when no one knows how long the war will last, or how many US troops will remain deployed and for how long, is an imprecise exercise," writes the Boston Globe on Stiglitz's findings. "But the range of some future expenses can be assessed, such as the likely medical bills and disability payments for the soldiers who have been wounded in the conflict. Twenty percent of them, for example, have serious brain or spinal injuries that will require life-long care. The cost of death benefits to military families and bonuses being paid to soldiers to reenlist and to sign up new recruits can also be tallied. So can secondary costs such as the interest on the rising budget deficit as a result of war spending." On the basis of those and other expenses, Stiglitz suggests $2 trillion may be a conservative estimate. (Boston Globe, January 8, 2006)

  • U.S. Central Command's website and Newsletter
    Updating Info on Iraq, Afghanistan. the Middle East and the Horn of Africa