Al-Jazeera is promoting itself as the Balkans only regional broadcaster
Egypt‘s ruling generals may claim the ballot has been a success, but the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square know different.
BY MOHAMED EL DAHSHAN NOVEMBER 29, 2011
Egypt’s elections weren’t supposed to be this way.
Our first “post-revolution” (sigh…) elections were supposed to be free. The overwhelmingly young people who led the January and February uprising would lead the nation into a future of freedom and justice, a nation for all its citizens, equal before the law. People would work together to eradicate corruption, poverty, sexual harassment, discrimination, petty crime — traffic, even. The sky seemed to be the limit. Today is the Icarian crash landing.
I wasn’t supposed to hear a candidate talk about “courting the Christian lobby’s vote” or some acquaintances talk about voting for the Muslim Brotherhood because they want someone “who can stand up to the Christians who want to take over the country.”
These elections weren’t supposed to occur as we suffer under the military boot — one that even the most committed revolutionaries among us have no clear idea how to remove. One that has handpicked a 78-year old former Mubarak-era prime minister who, as I write, is reported to be mulling the re-appointment of a number of ministers who were in office when the January 25th revolution began.
They shouldn’t be taking place as families bury children who died over the course of the past week, when clashes with the army-backed police forces killed over 40 and injured more than 1,000 protesters who have demanded the end of the military rule and an immediate transfer of power to a civilian government. Continue reading
UN Kosovo mission chief Farid Zarif spoke to the UN Security Council on November 29 — one day after clashes between ethnic Serbs and NATO-led peacekeepers left 30 NATO soldiers and some 100 Serbs injured.
The violence occurred as NATO sought to remove roadblocks set up by the Serbs.
The UN envoy described the northern part of Kosovo, where Serbs reject rule by Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians, as “extremely volatile.”
He said the “combined factors of frustration, fear, and mistrust could easily and quickly provide the spark that could ignite violence.”
The envoy said the heightened tensions were partly caused by the politics of elections in Serbia due next spring, as well as what he called the “current political dynamics” of the ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo government. Continue reading
A new wave of anti-Putin sentiment is sweeping Russia, but with the once-and-future president still loved by more than two-thirds of the population, there’s little hope for change.
BY JULIA IOFFE NOVEMBER 29, 2011
MOSCOW – With a week to go until Russia’s parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took the stage on Sunday, Nov. 27, in front of 11,000 hooting, flag-waving United Russia delegates. He delivered a vigorous, nebulous speech about how long he has served his country (his whole life) and led a few cheers (when I say “Russia,” you say “Hoorah!”). Then he formally accepted the party’s nomination to represent it in the March presidential elections, which he will win in a landslide. It was both a formality and a preemptory victory lap, as well as a strange repetition of the September party congress, at which he and still-president Dmitry Medvedev agreed, essentially, to swap places. But if September’s convention — held at the same Moscow sports arena as the one yesterday — was a curve ball, yesterday’s festival of triumphalism was both expected and bizarre.
“This optimistic tone does not correspond to the depressive, anxious mood of many in the country right now, and it was unclear who it was aimed at,” says political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky, who helped Putin win his first presidential election, in 2000. Pavlosvky pointed out that Sunday’s fanfare smacked of the “pre-crisis” era — that is, the end of Putin’s first, petroleum-fueled run as president. That chest-thumping tone was fine then, says Pavlovsky, but “today, it just looks anachronistic.” Continue reading
Is Georgia’s elfin billionaire and new political phenomenon big enough to take down President Mikheil Saakashvili?
I am standing in the foyer of my hotel in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. An unshaven young man with an enquiring expression comes up to me and asks, “Thomas?” I nod and he says the one word, “Bidzina.”
My assignation with the most talked-about man in Georgia is about to begin.
We climb into a Toyota Landcruiser, ascend to the top of a hill in Tbilisi, and then enter a small private drive. Electronic gates slide open and we are soon outside a soaring glass-and-steel construction, a futurist castle constructed by the Japanese architect Shin Takamatsu, surrounded by a small forest of modern sculpture.
I am ushered into the presence of the man himself. Bidzina Ivanishvili is quite small, a little elfin, immaculately dressed, and smiling. I have never interviewed a billionaire before but his manner is easy. He starts by showing me the pictures on the wall: Egon Schiele, Claude Monet, Lucian Freud. He admits that they are, in fact, high-quality copies; the originals are in London. There is a chatty simplicity about him but also huge self-confidence and self-control.
We sit down, he under a Lucien Freud portrait, and I ask a variation on the same question he has been asked 100 times in the last month: “What motivated you to go into Georgian politics?”
In one month, it is no exaggeration to say, Ivanishvili has turned the politics of his country upside down. Georgia has had a turbulent decade. First, the peaceful Rose Revolution of 2003 swept aside Eduard Shevardnadze‘s tired old regime. Then, Mikheil Saakashvili became Europe’s youngest head of state at the age of 36 and embarked on a series of hair-raising modernizing reforms. The volatile Saakashvili also went head-to-head with Russia over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a confrontation that burst out into full conflict in 2008. After defeat in the war, Saakashvili’s popularity plummeted, but he clung to power. He and his governing party slowly recovered the initiative and, as the next elections approached in 2012-13, they found themselves again in a commanding position, with a virtual monopoly over the executive, parliament, local government, and the media. Continue reading
What’s the value of a nuclear warhead today? Not the monetary value, but as a deterrent?
Nuclear explosions are frightfully destructive, and that’s the point: to inspire fear, to deter an adversary. Atomic bombs still appeal to some nations and terrorists, making proliferation a constant risk. Fortunately, there are fewer nuclear warheads in the world than during the Cold War; down from about 60,000 to about 22,000 today, most of which remain in the United States and Russia. But the deterrent value of the arsenals isn’t what it used to be. Both the U.S. and Russia face new threats — terrorism, proliferation, economic competition, pandemics — for which these long-range or strategic nuclear weapons are of little value.
Another group of bombs which have lost their purpose are the battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons, originally created during the Cold War to deter a massive land invasion in Europe. NATO has between 150 and 200 B-61 gravity bombs in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey, fewer than the thousands of weapons based in Europe during the superpower confrontation. Today, Russia has an estimated 2,000 useable tactical nuclear weapons, although it is not clear precisely how many nor where they are located.
Why are they still deployed? Russia has its own calculus; more about that below. But for NATO, the argument made by some is that these weapons have symbolic value, showing that non-nuclear members are sharing in the alliance defense burden.
Yet by many accounts, these nuclear bombs have no military utility. Where would they be dropped? The war plans of the Cold War are defunct. Our modern nuclear-tipped missiles are plenty accurate and sufficient for any future contingency or target. Continue reading