The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

What is Sharia?

IslamSharia, or Islamic law, influences the legal code in most Muslim countries. A movement to allow sharia to govern personal status law, a set of regulations that pertain to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and custody, is even expanding into the West. “There are so many varying interpretations of what sharia actually means that in some places it can be incorporated into political systems relatively easily,” says Steven A. Cook, CFR senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies. Sharia’s influence on both personal status law and criminal law is highly controversial, though. Some interpretations are used to justify cruel punishments such as amputation and stoning as well as unequal treatment of women in inheritance, dress, and independence. The debate is growing as to whether sharia can coexist with secularism, democracy, or even modernity.

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Iran unlikely to give up its Nuclear Enrichment Program

IranLeslie H. Gelb, who worked as a high official in two administrations before serving as CFR’s president for ten years, says the United States should focus on “attainable objectives” in talks with Iran. In order to prevent Tehran from building nuclear weapons, Washington must accept that the country’s uranium enrichment program is not reversible. Gelb, now CFR’s president emeritus, says “Within ten years, if we take our time and do these negotiations right, Iran will be our closest ally in that part of the world.” Gelb also notes that the United States should develop a “power extrication strategy” for Afghanistan based on containment and deterrence.

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Tibet’s Tense Anniversary

ChinaFifty years after the failed Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule, prospects for resolving the dispute over the Himalayan region remain remote. China treats Tibet as an inalienable part of the country and vilifies the region’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as a “splittist.” The Tibetan government in exile in India, under the leadership of the Dalai Lama, refuses to give up its demand for “genuine autonomy” for the Tibetan people. At the same time, China’s growing global influence makes many states reluctant to offer more than lip service to the Tibetan cause. Now, uncertainties surrounding the succession of the 73-year-old Dalai Lama are fueling fears about the future for Tibetan autonomy as well as China’s stability. The fate of about 120,000 Tibetans exiled in neighboring India also remains uncertain, experts say, as India looks to better relations with China.

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The Malady of Islam

IslamSince 9/11, the West, and the United States in particular, has been wrestling with the problem of how to deal with the pathology, or what Abdelwahab Meddeb, the Paris-based Tunisian writer, calls the “malady of Islam.” There seems to be no relevant past experience that the West might draw upon in confronting this malady.

The pathologies of German-Italian fascism and Japanese militarism were eventually severely dealt with by the Allied powers, and their defeat followed by reform of those societies made the world more secure and prosperous. Similarly, a combination of diplomacy and military force by the West contained the pathology of the former Soviet Union until the communist system collapsed. But presently, there is great reluctance in the West — especially from the new Obama administration in Washington — to learn from the past and to tackle the challenges the Arab-Muslim world will continue to pose in the years ahead if the malady remains uncured.

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U.S. diplomatic overture to Syria

SyriaHillary Clinton has just concluded her first trip to the Middle East as secretary of state. She also announced that Jeffrey Feltman, acting secretary of state for the Near East, and Daniel Shapiro, the National Security Council staff director for the Middle East, would be going to Syria for talks. The Bush administration had not done much business with Syria in the last several years. What do you think will come of this new initiative?

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A Costly Exit from Iraq

U.S. forcesMeasured in blood, the price tag in Iraq is absolute: 4,238 Americans have died during America’s six-year war. For Iraqis, the toll is far greater. Icasualties.org, which tracks body counts reported by the media, notes nearly 45,000 civilians have been killed since Iraq’s Shiite-led government was formed in April 2005; another website puts the tally since 2003 close to 100,000. Yet as the Pentagon prepares its exit strategy in line with President Barack Obama’s announced plans to end the war by 2012, a wholly different calculus is emerging. With the end of combat rhetorically on the horizon, the cost of leaving is now measured in financial, logistical, and, above all, political terms.

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Sri Lanka: can a divided nation heal?

Sri LankaThe long, bloody civil war never came to this market town, deep in the tea-growing highlands. No suicide bombings. No Army massacres.

But the anger and alienation that fed a generation of revolt by Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority still burn here, far from the battlefields of the north. Everyday hassles, not the struggle for self-rule, are largely to blame: racial profiling by abusive police; few Tamil-speaking bureaucrats; official documents issued only in Sinhalese, the language of the majority.

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Iraq and Afghanistan: Tough balancing act for Obama

Barack ObamaStephen Biddle, a senior defense and counterterrorism analyst, says that President Obama’s schedule for reducing and then ending the U.S. deployment in Iraq “is a reasonable compromise between several conflicting demands.” Biddle argues that to keep the peace in these difficult political times in Iraq, more and not less U.S. forces are needed. Even though it is important to boost the force level in Afghanistan, he believes it is not so crucial to do it now.

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A Palestinian State: Why Netanyahu and Livni can’t get along

Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi LivniIf nothing is certain but death and taxes, all the rest is even less certain in Israeli coalition negotiations. Still, in prime minister-designate Bibi Netanyahu’s second attempt on Friday to woo Tzipi Livni — current foreign minister and head of the Kadima Party — into his coalition, he took a second strong rebuff.

Netanyahu’s center-right Likud Party won 27 Knesset mandates (out of 120) in the February 14 elections, one mandate less than center-left Kadima. But with the six center-right parties winning decisively as a bloc, it’s Netanyahu who’s been tasked with forming the next government.

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The Palestinian Problem

Israel palestine flagIsrael’s war against Hamas brings up the old quandary: What to do about the Palestinians? Western states, including Israel, need to set goals to figure out their policy toward the West Bank and Gaza.

Let’s first review what we know does not and cannot work:

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