BOOKS

An Eloquent Homage to Syria’s Past, in Case It Has No Future

As one of the world’s oldest areas of human settlement, Syria has seen it all: glory and irrelevance, conflict and calm, dynamism and stagnation, tyranny and tolerance. While it has gone through long periods of international obscurity — pretty much ignored by the Roman and Ottoman Empires, for example — it has at times also … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

Why Syria Will Need a UN Peacekeeping Force (Called Unshams)

After seven years of horrific fighting, it appears that the Syrian civil war is inching toward a conclusion. In the wake of recent alleged chemical attacks unleashed in Eastern Ghouta, Bashar al-Assad’s regime is squeezing remaining rebel forces, largely herding them — and thousands of civilians — into the northwest in Idlib Province, where an … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

The Syrian War and the Refugee Crisis: Spawning the Rise of the Far Right

The butterfly effect teaches us that seemingly insignificant actions can have enormous future consequences. A tiny pair of fluttering wings can disturb the air in a way that helps trigger a hurricane halfway around the world. Witness Syria, where the Arab Spring made its debut in 2011 in the form of a tame wave of … Read more

Ban Ki-moon’s Turbulent UN Years, in His Own Words

Ban Ki-moon receives the Seoul Peace Prize in South Korea on Oct. 29, 2012, with his wife, Yoo Soon-taek.

With a cease-fire in Syria collapsing around him and bombs destroying precious relief supplies intended for the hungry, traumatized survivors of relentless government attacks on the once grand city of Aleppo, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used his last speech to open a UN General Assembly debating season to lash out at the government of … Read more

 

WORLDVIEWS

International Tactics to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism Miss the Real Problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Terrorism and violent extremism are the most dramatic threats in the 21st century to state monopoly on the use of force, a cornerstone of the international system. In recent years, the failure of early counterterrorism efforts to stop the multiplication and geographic expansion of terrorist groups has shifted attention to countering violent extremism, … Read more

There Is No Military Solution for Syria

Only close cooperation between the United States and Russia can end the “terrible tragedy” in Syria, says Lakhdar Brahimi, the highly respected international mediator in the Middle East for more than two decades. Brahimi, who led United Nations missions in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq before becoming the special joint envoy of the Arab League and … Read more

BOOKS

Falling Flat in Syria: How Not to Fight Jihad

Sun Tzu’s classic work on the art of war advises would-be warriors to “know your enemy.” What were Western powers and the United Nations thinking when they first pondered ways to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from beating, torturing, bombing and even gassing his own people after the first hesitant protests against his rigid rule? … Read more

As Syrian Peace Talks Take Shape, How Will Women Take Part?

When the United Nations Security Council recently approved timelines to begin peace talks and institute a national cease-fire in Syria, the language in the resolution gave no hint of the magnitude of such undertakings, nor did the congratulatory speeches afterward by diplomats delve into the details. That means the nitty-gritty work is left to the … Read more

 

More Refugees Destined for Europe, Further Testing Its Ability to Respond

With an astounding 12 million people in Syria displaced from their homes in a population that numbered about 23 million before its civil war began in full fledge in 2012, the questions that inevitably arise are: Why isn’t the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees more actively involved on the ground in Europe, the destination … Read more

Europe Pushes Ahead for More Aid to Syrians and to Disrupt Human Smuggling

Seizing a chance to respond more coherently to the deadly situation in Syria, the European Union and Jordan are proposing a “resilience plan” to alleviate the humanitarian emergency while pushing for a political course to stop the Syrian government from killing what’s left of its people. The European Union is also moving ahead in October … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

How Do Early-Modern Christian Conflicts Differ From Muslim Ones Now?

Is the conflict in the contemporary Muslim world so unusual, given that Christians were doing similar things 400 to 500 years ago? Is it really a phenomenon that involves “Muslims,” or is it more a matter of conflicts peculiar to a particular region? To what extent are the stakes in the conflict “religious,” as opposed … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

The OPCW Should Recommend Sanctions Against Syria for Missing Deadline

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has removed more than 80 percent of the world’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons through its oversight of the Chemical Weapons Convention, but the Syrian case has posed a serious challenge to the organization’s effectiveness on compliance and enforcement. Since Syria will most likely not complete its … Read more

 

GOINGS-ON

Lakhdar Brahimi, UN Special Envoy for Syria, Quits in Despair

Lakhdar Brahimi

Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations-Arab League special envoy on the Syrian crisis, has resigned as of May 31, ending many months of speculation on his leaving, particularly after the peace talks held this winter in Geneva between the Syrian government and the opposition failed. At that point, Brahimi blamed the collapse on the Syrian regime. … Read more

UN Security Council Votes a Surprising ‘Yes’ on Syria

Valerie Amos

The United Nations Security Council approved a breakthrough resolution to demand humanitarian-aid access in Syria, after debating the language of the text for at least a week, as Russia lobbied hard for changes to soften wording or delete passages as well as tried to postpone the vote while the Olympics are taking place in Sochi … Read more

Syrian Women’s Groups Push for Equal Role at Geneva II Talks

Recognizing that women in the Middle East and North Africa must play an active role in their countries’ political processes, especially amid the regional backdrop of upheavals and conflicts, the Netherlands government is providing money for a new program, Women on the Frontline, to help women-run initiatives organize themselves better to assert their rights to … Read more

The Times Picks a UN Bureau Chief as Syria Arms Destruction Begins

OPCW team arriving in Damascus 1-10-13

The New York Times has assigned Somini Sengupta to be its new full-time bureau chief at the United Nations. Sengupta replaces Neil MacFarquhar, who left the position this summer after five years and will be based in Moscow for the newspaper. The announcement regarding Sengupta has not been formally made yet by the paper because she … Read more

 

US to Increase Military Aid to Syrian Rebels, in Response to Chemical Weapons Use

Sellstrom and Ban Ki-moon

The United States will be increasing the “scope and scale” of its help to the main opposition group fighting in Syria against the country’s regime, based on recent assessments that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on several occasions in the last two months against the rebels and others. After a “confident” assessment made by … Read more

When Intervention by Foreign Powers Is Justified

David Phillips

One of the most complicated dynamics in international relations is whether foreign powers should intervene when a government is creating a humanitarian crisis among its own people. David L. Phillips, a former a senior adviser to the United States Department of State and to the United Nations, has repeatedly dealt with this problem, and in … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

For Syria, a Way Out That Still Involves the UN

Kofi Annan

CANBERRA — Syria is tearing itself apart. The minority Allawite-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad remains determined to crush the opposition, which despises the regime so much it will not bow out. The Kofi Annan peace plan has seemingly failed, and the international community, or more specifically the United Nations Security Council, has found itself in … Read more

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