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Showing posts from January 2, 2014

Iraq PM to deploy more troops to Anbar

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reversed a decision to withdraw soldiers from Anbar cities and ordered reinforcements to the mainly Sunni Arab province to tackle attacks by armed groups.

Clashes continued on Thursday morning in Anbar, west of Baghdad, between the military and Sunni tribesmen, Al Jazeera's correspondent reported.

The fighting broke out earlier this week, when security forces tore down a year-old Sunni Arab protest camp outside the provincial capital Ramadi.

"We will not withdraw the army" and "we will send additional forces," Iraqiya state television quoted Maliki as saying on Wednesday in response to what it said were requests from residents and the provincial government.

Maliki had announced on Tuesday that the army would withdraw from Anbar cities and hand over control to police, in an apparent bid to calm tensions that spiked after the protest camp's removal.

The deadliest fighting took place on Monday, when 10 people were killed in …

France and Saudi Arabia Join Forces in the Levant

A convergence of Saudi and French interests in the Levant is leading to a tighter alignment between the two countries. This partnership is important for both sides, but more so for Riyadh, which is trying to compensate for the loss of U.S. support for Saudi efforts toward regime change in Syria. From the kingdom's point of view, Paris' historical relations with Syria and Lebanon and France's lesser role on the global stage than the United States support the Saudi pursuit of foreign policy independence and leadership of the Arab world.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman announced Sunday that Saudi Arabia had pledged $3 billion in assistance to the Lebanese military, effectively doubling its annual budget and allowing it to purchase arms from France. The same day, Saudi King Abdullah met with French President Francois Hollande in Saudi Arabia to discuss a joint strategy for Syria and Lebanon. These developments came two days after a prominent moderate Sunni politician from Le…

An Unsuccessful Coup in the Congo

Congolese military police are deployed to the National Congolese Radio and Television headquarters on Dec. 30. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


A small group of insurgents attempted a coup Dec. 30 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but state security forces have quelled the violence, dispelling the possibility that the rebellion will bring further instability to the central African country. The coup appears to have been orchestrated by Paul Joseph Mukungubila, who ran for president in 2006. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is no stranger to coups, but previous attempts succeeded because they were more popular and more orderly, involving factions of the country's military or larger rebel militias. Mukungubila's attempt failed because it had little popular support and because the military still largely supports Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

Analysis


Gunfire was heard in Kinshasa as early as 9 a.m. Armed men took control of the National Congolese Radio and Television …

Outside Interest in Uzbekistan

With clan struggles continuing to define the power players and sectors in Uzbekistan, powers outside of the country will try to take advantage of the divisions, as they have in the past. Uzbekistan has a propensity for remaining relatively independent from any other power, unlike many of its neighbors. However, if outsiders can exploit Uzbekistan's internal divisions effectively, they could increase their influence in the important Central Asian state when Islam Karimov's presidency ends.

Analysis


Two major players are interested in shaping Uzbek politics (and thus the rest of the country): Russia and China. Both see Uzbekistan as the key to influencing Central Asia as a whole. As mentioned in Part 1, Uzbekistan holds nearly half of Central Asia's population, borders all the other Central Asian states and contains the region's heartland of the Fergana Valley, which overlaps into southern Kyrgyzstan, western Tajikistan and southern Kazakhstan. The other Central Asian cou…

The Geopolitics of the Gregorian Calendar

Analysis


When England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, some 170 years after it was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "It is pleasant for an old man to be able to go to bed on Sept. 2, and not have to get up until Sept. 14." Indeed, nearly two weeks evaporated into thin air in England when it transitioned from the Julian calendar, which had left the country 11 days behind much of Europe. Such calendrical acrobatics are not unusual. The year 46 B.C., a year before Julius Caesar implemented his namesake system, lasted 445 days and later became known as the "final year of confusion."

In other words, the systems used by mankind to track, organize and manipulate time have often been arbitrary, uneven and disruptive, especially when designed poorly or foisted upon an unwilling society. The history of calendrical reform has been shaped by the egos of emperors, disputes among churches, the insights of astronomers and mathematicians, and immutab…