The Week's Top Stories in Foreign Affairs:
As the world focuses on the UK elections, the European bailout and its faltering southern economies and financial regulation reform efforts in the West, other political crises continued to brew.
Waiting in the Wings
Iran conducted some rather aggressive war games, launching two medium-range surface to sea cruise missiles from its southern coast while Washington still struggles to find international consensus (read Turkish and Chinese especially) for sanctions against Iran's rogue nuclear program. Elsewhere, a study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London estimates that Iran's conventional, chemical and biological missile capacity could cause temporary damage with its 2-300 Shehab missiles but at present offers no strategic threat. (It's asymmetric warfare capacity is a whole other matter however). Meanwhile, there is evidence that the US is seeking to create regional support for its policies by engaging with smaller players: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will travel to Washington soon ahead of his visit to chair a meeting with the Lebanese rotating presidency on the UN Security Council.
Kyrgyzstan, Thailand and Nepal all teetered on the brink of chaos this week. Supporters of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev violently seized offices in the south of the country, sparking fears that more the risk of civil war has not yet been averted. Hopes were dashed that an end of Thailand's standoff between "red shirt" protesters and the government was at hand, when a rogue general was shot, water and electricity cut off to protesters' temporary housing and violent clashes resumed. Nepal's Maoists however called off their two week long general strike, staving off a brewing political crisis (for now).
Iraq experienced its most violent week of the year as a spate of bombings killed scores across the country. The growing violence added to the feeling of uncertainty surrounding the protracted Shia power struggle that has left Baghdad in a power vacuum and has many speculating that the US will not be able to keep to its withdrawal calendar. Incumbent PM Nuri al-Maliki seems determined to hold onto power as he tries to forge an alliance with the sectarian Shia Iraqi National Alliance (INA), whereas winner of last months elections Iyad Allawi battled Iraqi courts to keep his candidate list valid (and reaching a deal to end de-Baathification) and maintain his very narrow two seat majority. The longer the political crisis endures, the greater risk that the minority Sunni (and Kurd) populations will feel ever more disenfranchised and resort to violence.
As Afghan and coalition troops prepare for a coming offensive in Kandahar, President Karzai visited Washington to discuss how to best buttress the fledgling Afghan state, conduct an amnesty program for low level Taliban and maintain popular support for the war effort there and improve ties between the two countries. Reports emerge that the Taliban are wreaking havoc across the province in preparation for the attack.
Middle East Peace
After 18 months, proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians resumed with America playing principal arbiter.
The Weekly Foreign Affairs Roundup can be read on the Huffington Post World Page and the Simple Intelligence Site every Friday.