- Richard Poplak
The IS explosion onto the Iraqi scene has crumpled the last remaining supports of Iraq’s fragile state and revealed the total fragmentation of Iraq’s political system. This fragmentation, militarisation and militia-isation have all opened the door to foreign intervention, which is empowering actors along partisan lines. Then there is Iraqi Kurdistan’s inter-party history. A complex interplay of factors in the region has made the future a questionable one. But ultimately, Iraqi Kurdistan must put its own house in order. By the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
For three decades, travelling around, into and out of Southeast Asia, J. BROOKS SPECTOR and his family passed through Singapore numerous times. One of his children was even born there. This gave him a chance to see Singapore’s evolution under the guidance of its redoubtable, and very long-lived leader, Lee Kuan Yew.
There are two competing visions of how to promote peace and justice in situations of violent political conflict. One vision reifies the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the ethical and political successor to the Nuremberg trials, the famed series of Allied tribunals that prosecuted leading Nazis in the aftermath of the Second World War. The other contrasting vision places politics at the core of conflict management and resolution, with all the messy compromises that entails. By MARTIN KIMANI.
It is easy to think of the US presidential race as starting sometime in September 2016 when the official fight between two major parties finally begins in earnest. But, the respective jockeying for the nomination in the two parties starts long before that. This year, Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz has already put his cards on the table. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look.
Lee Kuan Yew, who died on Sunday aged 91, was an autocrat who favoured harsh punishment over the softly-softly approach. He also, nearly single-handedly, turned a tatty colonial outpost into an economic powerhouse – and kept it his family’s preserve. In his honour, we're republishing here our 2007 story by ANDY DAVIS, first published in Maverick magazine.
In the aftermath of the most recent Israeli election, commentary about where Binyamin Netanyahu plans to take his nation (and to goad its neighbours and allies) in the future has already reached a near-riotous uproar. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a first look at some of those responses to Bibi’s victory in that election, even as the victor still has to conclude all the negotiations needed to complete a coalition with various right wing and religiously inspired parties.
The Israeli parliamentary election results are coming in and it looks like that country’s electorate remains deeply divided about what it wants from its politicians – and what issues it sees as the critical ones. J. BROOKS SPECTOR summarises the just-ended election – and the likely way forward for Israel’s politicians.
South Africa’s nuclear munificence is stockpiled in the Pelindaba Nuclear Research Centre, just west of Pretoria. Within a secure vault smoulders almost a quarter of a tonne of highly enriched uranium, enough to make about ten cities go boom. Using diplomacy by other means—AKA an expose by an outfit called the Centre of Public Integrity, published in the Washington Post—the Americans have announced that they believe Pelindaba to be one of the world’s great security threats. How afraid should we be? RICHARD POPLAK dons a nuclear protection radiation suit and wades in.
Last week, inspired by a public decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to take a pay cut, CNN put out a list of world leaders' salaries. While no one was really surprised that Barack Obama came first, there was some anger at our president’s fourth place. That has led to the usual criticism one sees when Zuma is involved in anything. But the list is a nonsense; it doesn’t actually measure anything and it is just another example of creating news where there's none. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
Depending on which rumour one believes, Russian President has been deposed, is gravely ill, has had the flu, is undergoing some restorative plastic surgery to shave years off the bags under his eyes – or is even in Switzerland attending to the birth of his child with his girlfriend, a champion gymnast. Does it matter? J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look.
Washington has been twitching with two political snit-fights. The first is a letter by 47 Republican senators castigating the president and warning Iran to tread carefully in its negotiations. The second is the startling revelation former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to use a private email server rather than send her notes to family, friends and colleagues via the State Department’s email servers. J. BROOKS SPECTOR looks at how these two issues intersect – and what this may mean for the future.
Somewhere in Athens is a little mound of earth, beneath which Loukanikos, or the legendary Riot Dog of Syntagma Square, is playing “roll over.” Policy has been banished from politics, and only spin remains. In the short term, a major shock to the system appears to have been avoided, but the long term prospects look bleak. By TIMON WAPENAAR.
This is a story about an escape from the secret Colombian jungle ranch of the infamous narco-baron Pablo Escobar. But the escapees were not exactly prisoners; it happened after Escobar had been gunned down and his hideout had fallen to pieces. The result of the escape, however, could have huge environmental implications. It involves four hippos. By DON PINNOCK.
On 7 March, negotiators for the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that they would embark on a joint demining effort. After two-and-a-half years of negotiations in the Cuban capital of Havana, and outline agreements on three agenda points, this is the first accord that will have a direct impact on the ground, delivering long overdue humanitarian relief and bringing Colombia a big step closer to ending five decades of bloodshed. By CHRISTIAN VOELKEL for the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
Selma, Alabama was – and remains – a small southern town. One day in 1965, however, it became a global buzzword for repression against the just struggle for the right to vote by black American citizens. This past weekend, President Obama took part in commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of that march on 7 March - and the police brutality that had ended it. Obama used his moment to offer a vision of the nature of American exceptionalism - and the country’s continuing efforts to meet its own standards. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look both at the commemorations and the events that gave birth to them.
Words fail us in the face of Islamic State’s (IS) destruction of ancient treasures in Syria and Iraq, captured in their own videos last week and released to an uncomprehending world. We are on surer ground with their clips of beheadings and mass executions; all but the most fanatical adherents to IS’ extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam have been united in revulsion at their grisly spectacle. But on the violent end of things much more permanent than us – things built to last for hundreds even thousands of years, importing meaning to the myths and narratives we create about ourselves – we grasp for an appropriate response, writes TERENCE MCNAMEE.
Amnesty International released its annual report on Wednesday, noting a pattern of abuse and force being used to crush dissent in Southern Africa. There were positives, but as 2015 has already seen a rise in the activity of armed groups and state force on the continent, the pattern is worrying. By GREG NICOLSON.
The recent disclosure by the Al Jazeera broadcast network and the UK’s Guardian newspaper of espionage and intelligence shenanigans, mostly connected to South Africa in some way, has triggered the author’s recollection of some nearly forgotten memories of his encounters with those in the shadow world, back in the depths of the Cold War. Ian Fleming’s world it most definitely was not. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
The shocking 19 February arrest on coup charges of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, marks a sharp new drop in the downward spiral of Venezuela since protests and harsh repression erupted in its main cities nearly one year ago. To find stability, Venezuela needs urgent help from its friends to build political consensus. So far mostly silent, regional states and organisations, as well as the international community at large, must act firmly, not with unilateral sanctions, but with pressure for dialogue between the two sides. By JAVIER CIURLIZZA, Latin America Programme Director at the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
One day—many moons from now—our descendants, if they are free men, will build great monuments in honour of the humble flash drive. A day after Laura Poitras’ Edward Snowden picture Citizenfour won best documentary at the Academy Awards ceremony, another data dump is upon us. This time, the files seem culled from a South African State Security Agency’s (SSA) archives. Who jacked the docs? No one knows yet. But we do know that they’re heavy on Iran and Israel, only days before Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Washington to make a speech before a Republican-led Congress. RICHARD POPLAK spoke to ex-spymaster Ronnie Kasrils in order to figure things out.
A very different European economic landscape beckons after the victory by Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza and the decision by the European Central Bank to begin a programme of quantitative easing in a desperate effort to goose the snoozing European economy. J. BROOKS SPECTOR tries to put these developments into perspective.