August 23, 2013

Last week Tunisia seemed to be heading for the whirlpool that has sucked Egypt down. The secular opposition had taken to the streets to demand that the Islamist government resign. The National Constituent Assembly, charged with writing a constitution, had been shut down. The state was paralyzed. This week, all the warring parties are talking to each other. The spirit of compromise could evaporate, but my impression, from talking to people on all sides over the last few days, is that Tunisia has a decent chance of avoiding catastrophe. Why is that?

August 22, 2013

A few months ago Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was on a roll. Two out of three Colombians approved of the Santos government—a rock-star standing by the bruising political standards of the Andes. The country’s $370 billion economy was soaring, overtaking Argentina as the fifth largest in Latin America. Foreign investors lined up as prospectors found oil, gas, and coal practically everywhere they dug. Crime, once a national scourge, was plunging. The only thing missing was peace.

August 4, 2013

For a little under a year, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been holding peace talks in Havana -- the first since the round conducted by the Pastrana administration from 1998 to 2002. Those were plagued by delays, accusations from the FARC that the Colombian government was planning to assassinate its top leaders, accusations from the Colombian government that the FARC was planning to kidnap officials, and ongoing violence.

The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), Islamabad, has recently launched a mega-project titled ‘SALAM: Innovating Means to Resolve Radical Extremism in Pakistan’. The aim of the project is to introduce measures for large scale de-radicalisation initiatives in Pakistan by suggesting viable policy options to all stakeholders. The project is particularly focused on devising non-military tools (soft power) to fight this menace. It will be carried out in 3 phases.

The chief peace negotiator for Colombia’s Farc guerrilla movement has given the clearest signal yet that the group’s near half-century left-wing insurgency is drawing to a close. In his radio interview Mr Márquez said that as part of its peace strategy the group had been looking at other peace processes, including Northern Ireland’s. “We have met with the Irish, with the IRA, and they there found a formula which has to be analysed very closely,” he said.

Syria cannot be allowed to fester indefinitely. Even decimated Al Qaeda and Hezbollah forces will regenerate and resume their murderous ways. Further, the economies of states in the region, already unsettled by the uprisings of 2011, will need massive outside assistance if they are to be revived.

The problem is not just the fundamental differences in the approaches of the two sides to the key issues ‏(Jerusalem, borders, refugees‏), but developments on the ground − and, above all, the expansion of the settlements. The question, then, is whether the newest American effort has come too late.

DOHA, Qatar --- News from the Middle East is dominated by conflict, whether the stories come from Syria, Libya, Iraq, or other states in the region. Blood is plentiful; hope is scarce. But beyond the lurid viciousness that dominates daily journalism are long-term challenges to the region’s future that are impervious to solutions that rely on the weaponry of conflict. The resolve and creativity with which Arab leaders and publics address these matters, as well as their local wars, will shape the lives of coming generations.