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don’t need no education

June 27th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

The New York Times has an upbeat [story](http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/06/26/news/schools.php) about education in Iraq, claiming that between 2002 and 2005 primary school enrolment rose 7.4%, and middle/high school enrolment by 27%.
So, a cautious cheer. But the article claims that “direct attacks on schools have been relatively rare”. I don’t see how that can be true when the Ministry of Education [reports](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/06/05/wirq05.xml) 417 attacks on schools since November.
I’m sure I’ve also seen reports that, while school enrolment may be up, attendance is noticeably down, as frightened parents keep their children at home.

Planes and pipedreams: India in Central Asia

June 27th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

In a [Eurasianet commentary](http://eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav062606a.shtml), Stephen Blank asks what impact India’s Central Asian expansion will have on its relations with Pakistan.
On the one hand, India is moving into Ayni air-base in Tajikistan, where they will station 12-14 MiG-29 planes. That’ll let them threaten Pakistan from the rear, which won’t do much to build up confidence.
On the other hand, they’re getting involved in several energy projects which might bind South Asia closer together. Two potential pipelines from Iran and Turkmenistan will both pass through Afghanistan and Pakistan, and India is also keen on [America’s REMAP plan](http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/business/articles/eav050406.shtml), which will build energy links between Central and South Asia, while excluding Russia and China. So in the future a war with Pakistan might require India to throw away its energy security, and hence a chunk of its economy.
Or at least, that’s the argument. No doubt there is somewhere an academic literature on whether pipeline-building really does improve peace prospects; I’d be interested to track it down one day.

June 26th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

That was a reasonably enjoyable and interesting May Week, in many ways. Of course, now I’m getting back to livejournal the sociable fun is over, everyone is leaving Cambridge, and I’m spending an evening moping at home. But that’s just the traditional “only updating livejournal when you’re down” syndrome, and it’ll pass in a couple of hours.

Meanwhile, I have at last ended up with something to worry about, in that I’ve volunteered to do a set of “idealistic metal” at WUS in a fortnight. This could be interesting, given my very limited selection of metal CDs and the Kambar decks’ inability to reliably play anything home-burned. Looks like play.com and fopp will be getting some money off me soon, at least.

On that topic, does anybody know much about Christian metal? last.fm keeps on feeding me stuff that is neither christian nor metal, this chart seems to mostly contain defunct and/or cringeworthily bad groups, and presumably it isn’t an area that appeals much to many of you.

Still, it’s been fun delving into that corner of self-hating Americana, and no doubt I’ll turn out a couple of listenable tracks eventually.

Read all about it

June 26th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

This is a post that’s going to grow over time, as I find more things to add to it. It’s a list of useful places to pick up news and analysis of Eurasian politics:
South Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus, China and Russia.
##General
[Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty](http://rferl.org/) is the bomb. So is [EurasiaNet](http://eurasianet.org/)
[YaleGlobal](http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/ca/) doesn’t have much volume, but does have the ivy-league smarts.
[Eurasia Daily Monitor](http://jamestown.org/edm): a firehose, but a good one.
Russian-language newspapers:[Kavkazweb](http://www.kavkazweb.net/), [Day.AZ](http://day.az) (Azerbaijan), [Yandex](http://news.yandex.ru), [Izvestia](http://izvestia.ru), [Redtram](http://redtram.com) (in English, French, Russian)
Others: [Power and Interest News Report](http://www.pinr.com)
##Think Tanks
[Institute for Public Policy](http://www.ipp.kg/) (Kyrgyzstan)
[SIPRI](http://www.sipri.org/), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,
##Central Asia general
[Ferghana.ru](http://eurasianet.org/) naturally enough centers on the Ferghana Valley.
[Central Asia – Caucasus Analyst](http://www.cacianalyst.org/) – has been [criticised](http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/06/05/starr) in several places, and I don’t know nearly enough to judge for myself.
##News by country
###Kyrgyzstan
[New Eurasia](http://kyrgyzstan.neweurasia.net/) has a list of news sites in the sidebar:
###Uzbekistan
[UzReport](http://news.uzreport.com/) – business-oriented news from Uzbekistan.
###China
[China.org.cn](http://china.org.cn) is ‘China’s official gateway to news and information’. Then there is [Xinhua](www.xinhuanet.com/english/), the state news agency.
###US
[Institute for the Analysis of Global Security](http://www.iags.org/reports.htm) Neo-con writings on energy geopolitics, from a US-centric perspective. Include several reports on the former Soviet Union.

Formica report

June 24th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

More details emerge about what American interrogators have been doing to jailed Iraqis. The [New York Times](http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/16/washington/16cnd-formica.html?ei=5090&en=16abbc9ea6fb543a&ex=1308110400&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all) has some details:

One prisoner was fed only bread and water for 17 days. Other detainees were locked up for as many as seven days in cells so small they could neither stand up nor lie down, while interrogators played loud music that disrupted their sleep.

What I find most depressing is what the report finds acceptable:

three detainees were held in cells four feet high , four feet deep, and 20 inches wide, except to go to the bathroom, to be washed or to be interrogated. He concluded that two days in such confinement “would be reasonable; five to seven days would not.”

I’ve spent a few minutes looking unsuccessfully for the text of the report – I suspect it will be linked [here](http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/etn/gov_rep/gov_reports.htm) in due course.

Yes, you should talk to terrrorists

June 24th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

How do you expect to manage negotiations if you won’t talk to the people attacking you?
[This](http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/20/washington/20cnd-cong.html?ei=5090&en=09b84bc82f790b49&ex=1308456000&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all) is a perfect case of pride, thoughtlessness and ill-considered patriotism making peace harder to achieve.

The Senate’s debate over the war in Iraq turned highly emotional this afternoon, as the lawmakers reacted to reports of the killing of two American soldiers by adopting two measures opposing amnesty for Iraqis who attack United States troops.
By a vote of 79 to 19, the Senate voted to declare that it objects to any such amnesty. By 64 to 34, the lawmakers voted to commend the new Iraqi government for not granting amnesty.

Also, does nobody (*) think it might be worth encouraging the Iraqi government to make decisions on its own, without undermining it even further by making it look like an American puppet
* OK, apparently Senator John W Warner does think this. Yay for him!

Uzbekistan Roundup

June 24th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

A second roundup for today, and probably the last one I’ll be doing now. I feel as though I now have enough background knowledge to be able to start blathering about things as they happen, rather than always looking backwards.
Same pattern as usual for Uzbekistan: first the international angle, then the domestic.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Kyrgyzstan roundup

June 24th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Another day, another country. Kyrgyzstan feels particularly fascinating today, for some reason.

» Read the rest of this entry «

International organisations in the former Soviet Union

June 22nd, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Enough of going through country by country. Time to prod the regional organisations. For once these seem to be acting as more than talking shops, and the tectonic plates of regional politics are moving in time with the rise and fall of the three major groupings.
These three are the declinging CIS, the grouping of post-Soviet states which is inexorably declining to a talking-shop, as Russia tries to take advantage of smaller states without having the financial or military power to back up its arrogance.
Then there are the rising powers filling the gap filled by the collapse of CIS. These are the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with China as the driving force, the five Central Asian states as members, and Russia, inside the club but apparently quite weak within it. It seems fairly likely that Iran – currently an observer – will be granted membership in due course.
Then there is GUAM – the name a simple acronym for the four member-states Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. It may be smaller, but it has backing from America and to some extent from the EU, and the members are both converging in their political systems and moving ever-further out of Russia’s sphere of influence.
So what we have is the Western sphere of influence expanding to include the Caucasus, the Chinese sphere of influence extending to cover everything East of the Caspian, and Russia scrabbling to keep its claws in wherever it can.
More details of all three groups is below the cut

» Read the rest of this entry «

Kazakh roundup

June 22nd, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

First roundup since Tuesday, but at least I’m gradually making my way through the region. Today, the news from Kazakhstan, international, domestic, and fluffy.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Georgia roundup

June 20th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Another roundup of news over the past month or two, this time devoted to Georgia, and marginally more successful than my attempts with Azerbaijan.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Azerbaijan

June 20th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

In which I try to find interesting news from Azerbaijan, and fail.

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June 16th, 2006 § Enter your password to view comments. § permalink

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Ramadi besieged

June 16th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Dahr Jamail claimed that a major Coalition assault on Ramadi is beginning:

the US military has been assaulting the city for months with tactics like cutting water, electricity and medical aid, imposing curfews, and attacking by means of snipers and random air strikes. This time, Iraqis there are right to fear the worst – an all out attack on the city, similar to what was done to nearby Fallujah.

It looks as though he’s right. Granted, there has been almost no mention of this in the British press. The US military have given the kind of semi-denial which all but confirms something is happening. According to a Pentagon spokesman discussions of large-scle offensive “may be somewhere off the mark” – but when George Bush himself has spoken of an offensive in Ramadi, “off the mark” likely means little more that that there will be more focus on putting Iraqi rather than American troops in the front line. The Americans, with 1500 troops recently brought from Kuwait to Anbar, will simply be “helping them do that with our own military forces and our forces that operate as embedded trainers and in other ways”.
However it is spun, the offensive has already dramatically affected Ramadi for the worse. By one rport some 300,000 Ramadi residents have fled their homes this past week. And we’re seeing use of the same tactics which were widely condemned when they were used in Fallujah, Tal Afar and elsewhere.
The city is now virtually cut off, with Al-Jazeera reporting that the roads are blocked, and .”a giant wall of sand has been piled up around the perimiter”
As we have documented in previous campaigns water and electricity supplies have been cut off, possibly as part of an illegal US tactic of denying essential amenities to besieged cities. One report talks of “outages in the water, electricity and phone networks”. Dahr Jamail has been told that “Ramadi has been deprived of water, electricity, telephones and all services for about two months now”, and former governer of Anbar province has said that:

“The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water”

So, all in all it seems we’re going back through the same m