South Sudan is unable to function as a state because it lacks the basic ingredients needed for nation-building.
South Sudan is a textbook case of a failed state. Pictured: the village of Yei. (Photo: Creedence67 / Flickr Commons)
Four years have passed since South Sudan seceded from Sudan, and the only thing it has earned so far is violence and internal crisis that seems to have no end in sight. The international community has stood by South Sudan’s side, but the new country has repeatedly let everyone down.
The ongoing violence and civil war in South Sudan has killed and displaced millions of innocent civilians. This young country, carved forcibly out of Africa’s largest nation (erstwhile undivided Sudan), is a living example of a failed state.
Exciting news for the Islamic world, but may make Islamist extremists feel all the more justified in promulgating their unreconstructed brand of Islam.
An illuminated manuscript of the Koran. (Photo: Walters Art Museum / Flickr Commons)
Irregularities were recently discovered in a manuscript found in Iraq in the 1920s and currently residing in the University of Birmingham (UK) library. Subsequent radiocarbon dating has revealed that the manuscript may be 1,370 years old. The implications are startling. In the New York Times, Dan Bilefsky explains.
… the fragments appeared to be part of what could be the world’s oldest copy of the Quran, and researchers say it may have been transcribed by a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad.
A smaller, more accurate bomb can contribute to the longevity of the U.S. nuclear weapons program.
The yield (explosive power) of the B-61-12 nuclear weapon can be adjusted. (Photo: Visokio.com)
The comparatively low yield of the modernized (for all intents and purposes, new) B-61-12 nuclear weapon, combined with its precision guidance system make it tempting to take off the shelf as a deterrent and actually use it like a conventional weapon. At National Interest, Zachary Keck writes:
… the bomb has a maximum yield of 50 kilotons. However, this yield can be lowered as needed for any particular mission. In fact, the bomb’s explosive force can be reduced electronically through a dial-a-yield system.
This combination of accuracy and low-yield make the B61-12 the most usable nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal. That’s because accuracy is the most important determinate of a nuclear weapon’s lethality … the more accurate the bomb, the lower the yield that is needed to destroy any specific target. A lower-yield and more accurate bomb can therefore be used without having to fear the mass, indiscriminate killing of civilians through explosive force or radioactive fallout.
… a U.S. counterforce strike against China’s ICBM silos using high-yield weapons [would] kill anywhere between 3-4 million people. Using low-yield weapons and airbursts, this figure drops to as little as 700 fatalities!
The Islamic State has two advantages over the chaotic violence of Iraq and the murderous Assad regime in Syria: services and justice.
Apparently, the Islamic State is almost completely devoid of corruption. Pictured: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)
Is there an upside to being a subject of the Islamic State? In the New York Times, Tim Arango explains:
The Islamic State uses terror to force obedience and frighten enemies. It has seized territory, destroyed antiquities, slaughtered minorities, forced women into sexual slavery and turned children into killers.
But its officials are apparently resistant to bribes, and in that way, at least, it has outdone the corrupt Syrian and Iraqi governments it routed, residents and experts say.
“You can travel from Raqqa to Mosul and no one will dare to stop you even if you carry $1 million,” said [a man] who lives in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, and insisted out of fear on [sic] being identified only by his first name. “No one would dare to take even one dollar.”
Those expecting the Iran nuclear deal to lead to regional security cooperation between the United States and Iran may be disappointed.
Iran may only wish to contain the Islamic State, not defeat it. Pictured: Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)
In a National Interest piece titled Sorry, America: Iran Won’t Defeat ISIS for You, Andrew J. Bowen and J. Matthew McInnis write that, especially with the Iran nuclear deal negotiated, “Iran has been touted in Washington in some policy circles as the best partner in fighting ISIS.”
Potential common interests between Washington and Tehran—as well as Iran’s military capabilities—could make Tehran an effective ally in rolling back ISIS at a time when the United States is wary to commit to another ground war in the Middle East.
But, caution Bowen and McInnis, don’t get your hopes up. Iran may not be as committed to rolling back the Islamic State as the United States (professes to be, anyway). They write:
… Tehran’s strategy in Syria and Iraq has been focused more on containing and managing ISIS than defeating it. … In Syria, ISIS is seen as an effective tool in both weakening the U.S.- and [Gulf Cooperation Council]-backed opposition militias and buttressing the argument that President Assad is a most amenable alternative in Syria. Iraq, on the other hand, presents a difficult balancing act.
In the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins writes about Argentine prosecutor Albert Nisman's doomed attempts to prosecute the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina bombing.
Did Argentine President Cristina Kirchner attempt to derail the investigation of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina bombing? (Photo: Pro.Cre.Ar / Flickr Commons)
In the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins piece on the suspicious death of Argentine prosecutor Albert Nisman, whose mission in life was to investigate and prosecute Iran. He believed its operatives plotted and carried out the 1994 suicide bombing of a Jewish organization, the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, which killed 85 and wounded than 300. Filkins writes:
In 2006, [Nisman] indicted seven officials from the government of Iran, including its former President and Foreign Minister, whom he accused of planning and directing the attack, along with a senior leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Months later, Nisman secured international arrest warrants for five officials, effectively preventing them from leaving Iran.
Hamas fears recent attacks in Gaza may be the responsibility of militants affiliated with the Islamic State.
Militants professing allegiance to the Islamic State have also launched rockets at Israel during a ceasefire. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Explosions destroyed six cars belonging to members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups in Gaza City on Sunday, witnesses said, injuring no one but drawing threats of a response.
… The targeted groups issued a joint statement condemning the attackers as “traitors” – suggesting they thought the perpetrators were fellow Palestinians – and promising that they would be “found and punished”.
No one claimed responsibility, but Hamas, which dominates the coastal enclave, has in recent months faced violent challenges from Palestinians sympathetic to Islamic State or al Qaeda, and who seek stringent religious rule in Gaza and open war with Israel.
It was a foregone conclusion that Middle Eastern states would seek to adjust national boundaries set by the West.
Similar to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, ethno-sectarian fights will inevitably remold the Middle East and reshape the boundaries for new nation-states. Pictured: the Middle East in the 1600s. (Photo: Paolo Porsia / Flickr Commons)
Take a look at the map of the Middle East and North Africa. You can see many straight lines labeled as the ‘national’ boundaries of countries like Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sudan and so on. These unnatural political borders which were arbitrarily sliced by several men during the de-colonization era had foretold you that that the flesh and blood peoples living there would, once sufficiently armed, endeavor to reset the fences for their clans after having suffered from all kinds of ethnic-sectarian clashes with their neighbors. What has been more frustrating is that, Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt under the American ‘administration’ have failed to exemplify that democratic elections, no matter how genuine they are, can resolve the sectarian conflicts inside these state. In Iraq, for instance, since the Sunnis as a forever minority have no opportunity of winning this head-count game to gain the mandate at Baghdad, so why not join the jihadists to establish a new state of their own?
Resentment towards Ralph Nader blinds us to what a good president he would have made.
Ralph Nader has often been unfairly blamed for the election of George W. Bush. (Photo: Troy Page / Truthout / Flickr Commons)
Ralph Nader has caught a lot of heat for his presidential campaign in 2000 being a key factor leading to the election of George W. Bush. Or, more accurately, to better position Bush for the Supreme Court to hand him the election.
As Politico magazine reports, Ralph Nader has just published a book titled Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015. Among those sent to George W. Bush is one from 2006 that, between well-deserved insults, contains some trenchant advice in the wake of Israel bombing Lebanon.
Deficiencies in dealing with parliament and the judicial and education systems hobbled Solidarity and Poland.
The Gdansk shipyards, where the Solidarity trade union began. (Photo: Trojan Llama / Flickr Commons)
Start with a failing economy. Throw in a team of inexperienced politicians, people in fact who had spent their careers deliberately avoiding official politics. Add a population with the highest possible expectations. And, as a wild card, introduce an international community that was not offering very much in the way of financial assistance.
This was the situation in Poland in September 1989 when Tadeusz Mazowiecki became the first non-Communist prime minister in the region in more than 40 years. Considering the odds against Poland at that time, it’s remarkable that the country survived and, eventually, prospered.