Friday, September 24, 2010

Somalia: The Next Afghanistan?

Somalia has not had an effective government for almost 20 years. The Somali government has struggled to gain relevancy, but it has been plagued by corruption and has been battling warlords and militant groups such as the al-Qaeda- linked al-Shabab.

Recently, al-Shabab fighters disguised in Somali military uniforms stormed a hotel favored by lawmakers in the capital Mogadishu, firing indiscriminately and killing 32 people, including six parliamentarians. The attack came after a warning was issued by al-Shabab that a new "massive war" is about to be launched against the government. The militant group wants to establish a Taliban-style Islamic Sharia law in the country.

In a similar attack in December 2009, a suicide bomber detonated himself at a university graduation ceremony about 1.5 miles from the recent hotel attack, killing 24 people, including three government ministers, medical students and doctors.

These attacks show that al-Shabab, which controls wide areas of Somalia, can penetrate even the few blocks of the capital under the control of the government and African Union troops. The situation is reminiscent of Afghanistan before the entire country was overrun by the Taliban.

Is Somalia the next Afghanistan?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Grinch Who Stole Eid

Today, 1.5 billion Muslims across the globe celebrate Eid al-Fiter, a three-day holiday marking the end of Ramadan, however; one renegade pastor of a church, Rev. Terry Jones, with fewer than 50 members has cast a shadow on their festivities. For the past several weeks, the media has treated us to live theater of the absurd by amplifying a statement made by an unknown preacher from Gainesville, Florida proposing to burn Qurans on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.

Jones has garnered worldwide news media attention these past few days and become an overnight influence on American foreign policy and public image abroad, even receiving a call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and many pleas from world leaders and celebrities asking him not to go ahead with his plans. The President of the United States urged him to listen to "those better angels," and military leaders warned that his actions would endanger U.S. troops and give Islamic terrorists a recruiting tool.

Read More

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Direct Talks: Five Myths

Direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis are scheduled to commence in Washington on September 2, a decade after the last real final-status talks, and nearly two years after the last direct talks. Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu will come face to face for dinner and talks in Washington as guests of President Obama after 18 months of shuttle diplomacy and indirect "proximity talks" headed by Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell.

President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan, along with Tony Blair, the special representative of the Middle East Quartet are also due to join the inaugural session in Washington.

While much hope has been placed on these talks culminating in an agreement within a year, most Palestinians and Israelis remain skeptical of their success. More importantly, hopes and expectations have been inflated in some media reports, adding confusion and creating myths about what might turn up only to be yet another photo op in DC.

Read More on the Huffington Post