President Ashraf Ghani took over from President Hamid Karzai in Kabul today in an historic transition. A long dispute over the election result was resolved with a rare compromise that brought Dr. Ghaniâ€™s opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, into government in a new position, as â€śchief executive,â€ť that is shaped as a kind of prime ministership. The flood of commentary that preceded this inauguration was marked by extreme views, divided between those who saw the Afghan glass as half full and those who saw it emptying fast.
Continued Attacks Show Kremlin May Be Preparing Drive Toward Crimea, Analysts Say
Distracted US and European policymakers may feel grateful that this monthâ€™s truce has slowed the Russia-Ukraine war. The Obama administration is seized with the Syria-Iraq crisis and Congress has gone home to campaign for the November 4 election. Europe faces an internal battle this week as its newly Euro-skeptic parliament grills nominees for the next European Commission.
But the relative calm in Ukraine may be short-lived, according to Ukrainian analysts who say that approach of winter is sharpening Russiaâ€™s strategic interest in launching a new invasionâ€”this time to establish a badly needed overland corridor to supply food, fuel and even water to its newly annexed territory of Crimea. Russiaâ€™s combine of regular and proxy forces is poised for such an assault along the 225 miles (375 kilometers) of Ukraineâ€™s southern coast.
Four Key Lessons for the Rest of the Obama Term
President Barack Obama's tough speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday struck a very different tone from his past foreign policy speeches, which often highlighted the drawdown of US military forces from overseas conflicts.
Instead, this time, and before a global audience, President Obama emphasized the importance of using military force.
Early Voter Surveys Reflect Anti-Russian, Pro-Independence Mood
Ukrainians will elect a new parliament in exactly thirty days, completing the electoral portion of the political revolution triggered by last winterâ€™s Maidan movement. As the campaign began in recent weeks, two Ukrainian polling organizations conducted surveys that yielded similar numbers on the early mindset of Ukraineâ€™s electorate. The table below averages the results of these two polls to show that President Petro Poroshenkoâ€™s political alliance, which includes the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) of Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko, held an overwhelming lead of 41 percent in the surveys, which were conducted from August 23 to September 10.
Kyiv Feels Little Supported by the West, Hopes to Survive an Unequal Ceasefire With Russia
A junction of war and politics dominates public life in Ukraine as autumn settles firmly in Kyiv. An unequal cease-fire this month in southeast Ukraine will let Moscow maintain there a core of the invasion force it sent in last month. This has Ukraineâ€™s political elite, feeling too-little-supported by the West, searching in disparate directions for a way to avoid the countryâ€™s further dismemberment.
But a deep distraction to that problem is domestic politics, specifically the sharpening campaign for parliamentary elections to be held in just thirty days. The obligatory patriotic rhetoric of national unity is not preventing politicians from seeking votes by working to marginalize even their like-minded rivals.
As the United States conducts missile and air strikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) in Syria, it could reap the additional strategic benefit of tilting the war there away from the Assad regime and jihadist forces, and in favor of the mainstream rebel groups to which it has given some support. An opening toward that outcome may have appeared in the geographic pattern of the first US strikes last night, according to the Atlantic Councilâ€™s Faysal Itani. But the long-term effects will depend on whether the United States can quickly provide other critical support to non-jihadist rebel factions, Itani writes today on the Council's MENASource blog.
Police, Masked Thugs Bar Tatar, Other Ethnic Leaders From Attending UN Conference Today
Russian authorities in Crimea have moved since last week to silence and isolate the peninsulaâ€™s main ethnic Tatar community and political organization, the Mejlis. Russiaâ€™s government has shut down the groupâ€™s headquarters in Crimea and tried to prevent Tatar representatives from attending a United Nations conference in New York on indigenous peoples.
But it may be a long, slow turn, unless the candidates' followers also support the idea that a mixed government can dovetail the various factions. Secretary of State John Kerry can take pride in having pulled off a near-miracle after making nearly thirty phone calls to both sides and two visits to Afghanistan since the bitterly disputed runoff election in June.
Like Poroshenkoâ€™s Reception in Congress, Itâ€™s a Morale Boostâ€”But Ukraine Is Fighting on Its Own
Yesterday's images from Moscow could hardly be more welcome for Ukrainians: thousands of Russians marching in their capital to condemn their governmentâ€™s war against Ukraine. The protest was fueled partly by the spreading news in Russia that scores, perhaps hundreds, of Russian infantry, armored and artillery troops have been killed in Russiaâ€™s invasion of Ukraine, and secretively buried.