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International Relations Security Foreign policy

Iran’s Last Chance?

Satellite imagery of suspected Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility under construction north of Qom, Iran. Image by wapster / Flickr.

MADRID – The latest round of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and the so-called “5+1” group (the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China – plus Germany) has now begun. Following more than a year of deadlock, after negotiations in January 2011 led nowhere, this dialogue is for many the last chance to find a peaceful solution to a nearly decade-long conflict (in which I participated closely from 2006 to 2009 as the West’s main negotiator with Iran).

The objective of the talks, chaired by the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, is still to persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment and to comply with Security Council resolutions and its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But several factors heighten the current negotiations’ strategic importance.

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Religion Human Rights Conflict

Christianity’s Via Dolorosa

Protesters on Qasr el-Nil Bridge, chanting for national unity between Muslims and Christians
Protesters in Egypt chanting for national unity between Muslims and Christians (Photo: Hossam el-Hamalawy حسام الحملاوي/flickr)

BRUSSELS – Recently, the human-rights activist, former Dutch politician, and Somali exile Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote about a global war on Christians in Muslim countries. She discussed at length the appalling phenomenon of violent intolerance towards Christian communities, and cast blame on the international community and prominent NGOs for failing to address this problem.

In almost every part of the world, reports emerge on a daily basis of Christian communities falling victim to harassment and persecution. In Nigeria, on February 26, three Christians were killed and dozens wounded after a car bomb exploded close to a church in the northern town of Jos. At least 500 people have died during the last year in attacks attributed to the violent Islamist group Boko Haram, which has called for all Christians to leave northern Nigeria.

In East African states such as Sudan, Christians have been given an April 8 deadline to leave the north. The ultimatum will affect up to 700,000 Christians who were born in South Sudan before it became independent last year. In Eritrea, it is reported that 2,000-3,000 Christians are in detention, and that many have been tortured.

Categories
Security Internet Defense

Cyber War and Peace

Survival in the digital age
Cyber security is becoming increasingly important for governments (Photo: TTC Press Images/flickr)

CAMBRIDGE – Two years ago, a piece of faulty computer code infected Iran’s nuclear program and destroyed many of the centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Some observers declared this apparent sabotage to be the harbinger of a new form of warfare, and United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned Americans of the danger of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack on the US. But what do we really know about cyber conflict?

The cyber domain of computers and related electronic activities is a complex man-made environment, and human adversaries are purposeful and intelligent. Mountains and oceans are hard to move, but portions of cyberspace can be turned on and off by throwing a switch. It is far cheaper and quicker to move electrons across the globe than to move large ships long distances.

The costs of developing those vessels – multiple carrier task forces and submarine fleets – create enormous barriers to entry, enabling US naval dominance. But the barriers to entry in the cyber domain are so low that non-state actors and small states can play a significant role at low cost.

Categories
International Relations Foreign policy Finance Development

What Should the World Bank Do?

 Robert B. Zoellick
Who will replace Robert Zoellick as World Bank President? (Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr)

NEW YORK – I have been honored by World Bank directors representing developing countries and Russia to be selected as one of two developing-country candidates to become the Bank’s next president. So I want to make known to the global community the principles that will guide my actions if I am elected – principles based on lessons learned from development experience.

That experience has taught me that successful development is always the result of a judicious mix of market, state, and society. Trying to suppress markets leads to gross inefficiencies and loss of dynamism. Trying to do without the state leads to unstable and/or inequitable outcomes. And trying to ignore social actors that play an essential role at the national and local levels precludes the popular legitimacy that successful policymaking requires.

Indeed, the specific mix of markets, state, and society should be the subject of national decisions adopted by representative authorities. This means that it is not the role of any international institution to impose a particular model of development on any country – a mistake that the World Bank made in the past, and that it has been working to correct. Because no “one-size-fits-all” strategy exists, the Bank must include among its staff the global diversity of approaches to development issues.