Israel in the Middle

The assumption is very often made that the long-lasting standoff between Israel and the Palestinians is intolerable for Israel, but it continues due to outside pressures.   These pressures include Palestinian refusal to agree to a reasonable two-state solution and international pressure to not take the measures required to completely destroy Hamas and other violent factions.  The fact is that the status quo is not only the best option for Israel, it is the only viable option.

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Ukraine is Just the Beginning

Russia has now proposed an easing of tensions with the West over its ambitions for parts of Ukraine, including Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  But even as relief is in sight there, we must realize that Ukraine is only the beginning of the list of European trouble spots with connections to Russia.

The former Soviet republic of Moldova has a breakaway Russian-speaking region called Transnistria that has 1600 Russian troops stationed within its borders.  There are fears that Russia could invade Western Ukraine in order to reach Transnistria.  Or put another way, Russia could use Transnistria as an excuse to invade much more of Ukraine than simply its Russian-speaking eastern and southern parts.

If fears of Russia reaching across other territories to come to the aid of Russian speakers are to be taken seriously, then Transnistria is small potatoes.  The real problem of Europe is Kaliningrad.

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Saber Rattling in Ukraine

Crimea should be part of Russia, but not this way.  The invasion of Crimea is the perfect occasion to teach Putin a lesson in humility.

The right and International law are on our side.  In fact we have treaty obligations to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine (though you wouldn’t know it from the US media).  So it’s time to act.  But what can we do?  A lot:

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What We Owed Iraq

When the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed at the end of World War II, Britain carved up the empire into nation-sized chunks.  One of those was named “Iraq.”  Iraq contained three major populations: Shiite Muslim Arab, Sunni Muslim Arab, and Kurdish.  (The Kurds are an ethnic group; most of them are Muslim.)  The Kurds actually exist in several different countries and the issue of why an ethnicity of 30 million people does not have its own country will be the subject of a later article.

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

In 2011 after years of civil war, the nation of Sudan was divided into Sudan and South Sudan.  The predominantly Arab Muslim population of northern Sudan had long oppressed the Christian and animist southern Sudanese.  After long years, the international community finally accepted the proposition that it would be better for the southerners to be independent. Now, though border disputes continue and may flare into a border war over a small disputed territory, the region is more peaceful than it has been for years.

But the division of Sudan took 50 years of civil war (with a ten year break) to bring the international community to the conclusion that partition was the answer.  Two million people died and four million were displaced.  When the vote on separation was finally taken in a UN-supervised plebiscite in 2011, southern Sudanese from around the world were allowed to vote because of the size of the refugee diaspora.  In a world where the international community stubbornly resists partition of nations, Sudan is the exception that proves how strong the rule is.

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