Foreign Affairs Roundup

This Week's Top Stories in Foreign Affairs:

Nigerian Violence and Leadership Crisis
Army and police roadblocks were deployed throughout northern Nigeria to curb the spread of sectarian violence from the region of Jos where as many as 400 people have been killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims. This is the latest in a series of violence episodes over the past decade. Underlying these tensions is longstanding poverty, poor security (including a low intensity insurgency in the oil-rich South) and ineffectual governance, making Nigeria's current leadership crisis seem ever more acute: The calls for President Umaru Yar'Adua to step down -- following his long absence from Nigeria due to serious illness -- are gaining momentum and support for Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to assume power continues to grow.

When Google Became a Foreign Policy Issue
Google announced last week that following repeated attempts in China to hack its servers and break into gmail accounts, that it is no longer complying with Chinese censorship guidelines and considering withdrawing from China. The US expressed support for openness on the Internet and made calls on China to investigate the breaches. China then responded coldly saying essentially that it is very displeased with the public nature of this dispute and that it will handle the issue as it sees fit. The Google debate has now become a proxy for a whole host of underlying issues between China and the US including limits of freedom of expression, support for the Human Rights movement in China, freedom of access to the Internet, censorship, international involvement in domestic affairs, free competition of foreign companies within China, etc...

War Reports:

US and Iraqi authorities are struggling to quell outrage and accusations of unfair election tampering after the Accountability and Justice Commission (originally created to oversee de-Baathization in the Iraqi government) disqualified over 511 candidates from standing in the 7 March Parliamentary elections. Sunnis and rivals of PM Nuri al-Maliki say that the disqualifications are politically motivated and many fear that they will stoke Shia-Sunni tensions and possibly spark violence.

The Taliban launched a coordinated and bold attack on Kabul. However, Afghan security forces were able to effectively thwart the main momentum of the attack and ward off major damage. Analyst debate whether this show of force from the Taliban would detract from the political campaign to woo low level insurgents away from the Taliban. Meanwhile, some of President Hamid Karzai's nominations for his Cabinet were rebuffed by Parliament for a second time. Corruption and inexperience were the most often cited objections to the nominees. Corruption is on everyone's mind after a survey conducted by the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime found that 50% of respondents had paid bribe in the previous year. Afghans in general are more concerned about corruption than insecurity, the opium trade or unemployment. Elsewhere, Karzai and international leaders prepare for an international donor's conference in London to raise money for Afghanistan.
The political crisis in Pakistan appeared to deepen when the Supreme Court confirmed a repeal of immunity of current President Zardari for corruption and made formal requests to repatriate his fortune from Switzerland.

Under the Radar:

A Turn Towards Moscow Regardless
Orange Revolution and Western ally Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko did not garner enough votes to stand in the Presidential Runoff election. Rather Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, both discernably more open to Russian influence than Yushchenko (who was poisoned by unidentified assailants on the occasion of his last run for President), will face each other in the runoff.

Chile's Return to the Right
Entrepreneur and economist Sebastián Piñera is elected President of Chile, the first right-wing victor in 20 years. He defeated the long-ruling leftist party Concertación's Eduardo Frei. Pundits are quick to note that though Piñera's party is often associated with Pinochet's dictatorship, his political ambitions are centrist and democratic; moreover, his victory as seen as Chile's repudiation of a tired and ineffectual Concertación.

New Leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood
Muhammad Badeea is named the eighth "supreme guide" of the Muslim Brotherhood. Badeea's tempered and soft-spoken demeanor makes him an odd choice, suggesting perhaps that the Brotherhood intends to keep a low profile presently both in Egypt and internationally.

Honduras Update
The incoming government proposed a deal to ousted President Zelaya that would allow him safe passage out of the country and drawdown the months-standing political crisis.

Blow to Al Qaeda in Turkey
In a country-wide raid, Turkey says it has apprehended at least 120 members of Al-Qaeda operating in the country there.

Reported Victories in Yemeni Crackdown on Insurgents and Rebels
Yemeni authorities say that they have apprehended the number two of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Said Ali al-Shihri after his botched attempt to bypass a security checkpoint. Al-Shihri was released to Saudi Arabia from Guantanamo in 2007 before relocating to Yemen. Elsewhere, Yemen authorities say that Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis rebels in the North was been killed following a government attack.

This Roundup can be read on the Simple Intelligence Site and on the Huffington Post World Page.