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Showing posts from November 13, 2013

Crying “Wolf”: Why Turkish Fears Need Not Block Kurdish Reform


Negotiations underway since late 2012 between Turkey’s government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are stalling. A ceasefire announced on 23 March 2013 remains precarious, as maximalist rhetoric gains renewed traction on both sides. While the PKK should be doing more to persuade Ankara that it wants a compromise peace, the government has a critical responsibility to fully address the longstanding democratic grievances of Turkey’s Kurds. One reason it frequently gives for its hesitation is fear of a nationalist backlash. In fact, the peace process has already demonstrated how willing mainstream Turks would be to accept steps towards democratisation. A much bigger risk for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as it heads into a two-year cycle of local, presidential and parliamentary elections, would be if the three-decade-old conflict plunges into a new cycle of violence.

While the nationalist political opposition, including the Repub…

South Africa's International Investment Deals

South Africa has signed 42 bilateral investment agreements since its transition from apartheid in 1994. Its first was with the United Kingdom in 1994. Over the course of the first several years of rule by Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, the government reached preliminary deals with dozens of global trade partners. On Oct. 28, Pretoria announced it would annul its bilateral investment treaty with Germany signed in September 1995 and ratified in 1998. In fact, the German agreement is the fourth such treaty Pretoria has canceled, all of them with European trading partners -- Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain being the others.

Annulling the treaty with Germany is a legal provision to prevent its automatic renewal. The original agreement, like others Pretoria has negotiated, had a mandate of 10 years followed by renewals every two years. The agreement would automatically renew unless either party stated its intent to terminate it. It is important to note that investments made …

Balancing Shia and Sunni Radicalisms

By Robert D. Kaplan and Kamran Bokhari

Don't defeat Iran. Shi'ism is not America's enemy. It is not in the long-term interest of the United States to side with the Sunni Arab states against Iran or vice versa. Doing so produces an imbalance of power in the region as we learned with the collapse of the Iraqi state in the aftermath of the American invasion of 2003. Iran was then able to establish a contiguous sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean -- something that was only averted by the Arab Spring reaching Syria.

The two-year-old Syrian crisis has now come to a point where Iran is on the defensive, as its positions in Lebanon and Iraq come under threat. But Washington's talks with Moscow in an effort to reach a negotiated settlement on the Syria crisis may indicate that the United States is not interested in allowing the pendulum to swing in the other direction this time around.

Remember that the United States had a bad, decadeslong …

East African Infrastructure Development, Part 2: The Northern Corridor


Editor's Note: This is a four-part series on the development of transport infrastructure in East Africa. The region is looking to expand its economy and increase international trade as it becomes a seemingly attractive destination for low-end manufacturing. Part 2 examines how such economic growth will necessitate the expansion and improvement of the Northern Corridor transport route. Read more in Part 1.

East African countries naturally compete for foreign investment and economic development. Transport capabilities attract such investments, but cooperation to further develop capabilities and guarantee a certain degree of efficiency has proved necessary to continue to entice critical investments. The region's Northern Corridor continues to draw greater development financing than its Central Corridor because of its heavier traffic. Moreover, the Northern Corridor has always been the most active and reliable corridor in the region, even if it is not terribly efficient. Th…

Syria: Pro-Regime Groups Exchange Fire in Damascus


In a country that has become accustomed to violence, a gunfight between two Shiite entities backing Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime marks an unusual occurrence in the conflict. Though it would seem that infighting among the loyalist forces would be a sign of fracturing loyalties, such minor disputes -- no matter how uncommon -- will do little to undermine the broader goals of Damascus.

Saudi Arabia's Al Watan newspaper recently reported clashes near Damascus between Hezbollah forces and fighters from the Abu al-Fadl Abbas Brigade that resulted in the death of several militants. Disputes among Syria's pro-regime Shiite fighters are less common than conflicts between the country's rebel groups. If the report is accurate, it is most likely indicative of organizational rather than fundamental differences between the associated factions.

It is important to note the source of the report: an anti-regime Saudi daily that has been eager in the past to expose di…

China: The Next Phase of Reform


The commitment and ability of China's leaders to follow through on new policies and to meet rising expectations will be tested as they strive to balance competing social, economic, political and security challenges. Three decades ago, China embarked on a new path, creating a framework that encouraged the country's rapid economic rise. The successes of those policies have transformed China, and the country's leadership now faces another set of strategic choices to address China's new economic and international position.

The much-anticipated Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee concluded Nov. 12 after four days of closed-door deliberations among top political elites. The full document containing the policy proposals will not be released for days or even a week, but the initial information suggests China's leaders are seeking more significant changes in their policies to try to stay ahead of the challenges the country fac…