ANG KATUPARAN NG MGA HULA NI PROPETA DANIEL NA MAKIKITA SA MGA NAGDAANG PANAHON, SA KASALUKUYAN AT MAGING SA MGA DARATING PANG PANAHON.

Daniel 7

3.  At apat na malaking hayop na magkakaiba ay nagsiahon mula sa dagat,

4.  Ang una’y gaya ng leon, at may mga pakpak ng aguila: aking minasdan hanggang sa ang mga pakpak niyao’y nahugot, at ito’y nataas mula sa lupa, at pinatayo sa dalawang paa na gaya ng isang tao; at puso ng tao ang nabigay sa kaniya.

5.  At, narito, ang ibang hayop, na ikalawa, na gaya ng isang oso; at lumitaw sa isang tagiliran, at tatlong tadyang ang nasa kaniyang bibig sa pagitan ng kaniyang mga ngipin: at sinabi ng mga ito ang ganito sa kaniya, Bumangon ka, manakmal ka ng maraming laman.

6.  Pagkatapos nito’y tumingin ako, at narito ang iba, gaya ng isang leopardo, na mayroon sa likod niyaon na apat na pakpak ng ibon; ang hayop ay mayroon din namang apat na ulo; at binigyan siya ng kapangyarihan.

7.  Pagkatapos nito’y may nakita ako sa pangitain sa gabi, at, narito, ang ikaapat na hayop, kakilakilabot at makapangyarihan, at totoong malakas; at may malaking mga ngiping bakal; nananakmal at lumuluray, at niyuyurakan ng kaniyang mga paa ang nalabi: at kaiba sa lahat na hayop na una sa kaniya; at siya’y may sangpung sungay.

8.  Aking pinagdilidili ang mga sungay, at, narito, sumibol sa gitna ng mga yaon ang ibang sungay, isang munti, na sa harap niyao’y tatlo sa mga unang sungay ay nabunot sa mga ugat: at, narito, sa sungay na ito ay may mga mata na parang mga mata ng tao, at isang bibig na nagsasalita ng mga dakilang bagay.

KAHULUGAN

17.  Ang mga dakilang hayop na ito na apat, ay apat na hari, na magbabangon sa lupa.

23.  Ganito ang sabi niya, Ang ikaapat na hayop ay magiging ikaapat na kaharian sa ibabaw ng lupa, na magiging kaiba sa lahat ng kaharian, at sasakmalin ang buong lupa, at yuyurakan, at pagluluraylurayin.

24.  At tungkol sa sangpung sungay, mula sa kahariang ito ay sangpung hari ang babangon: at ang isa’y babangong kasunod nila; at siya’y magiging kaiba kay sa mga una, at kaniyang ibabagsak ay tatlong hari.

25.  At siya’y magbabadya ng mga salita laban sa Kataastaasan, at lilipulin niya ang mga banal ng Kataastaasan; at kaniyang iisiping baguhin ang panahon at ang kautusan; at sila’y mangabibigay sa kaniyang kamay hanggang sa isang panahon, at mga panahon at kalahati ng isang panahon.

DANIEL 8

3.  Nang magkagayo’y itiningin ko ang aking mga mata, at ako’y may nakita, at narito, tumayo sa harap ng ilog ang isang lalaking tupa na may dalawang sungay: at ang dalawang sungay ay mataas; nguni’t ang isa’y lalong mataas kay sa isa, at ang lalong mataas ay tumaas na huli.

4.  Aking nakita ang lalaking tupa na nanunudlong sa dakong kalunuran, at sa dakong hilagaan, at sa dakong timugan; at walang hayop na makatayo sa harap niya, ni wala sinoman na makapagligtas mula sa kaniyang kamay; kundi kaniyang ginawa ang ayon sa kaniyang kalooban, at nagmalaking mainam.

5.  At habang aking ginugunita, narito, isang kambing na lalake ay nagmula sa kalunuran sa ibabaw ng buong lupa, at hindi sumayad sa lupa: at ang lalaking kambing ay may nakagitaw na sungay sa pagitan ng kaniyang mga mata.

6.  At siya’y naparoon sa lalaking tupa na may dalawang sungay na aking nakitang nakatayo sa harap ng ilog, at tinakbo niya siya sa kabangisan ng kaniyang kapangyarihan.

7.  At aking nakitang siya’y lumapit sa lalaking tupa, at siya’y nakilos ng pagkagalit laban sa kaniya, at sinaktan ang tupa, at binali ang kaniyang dalawang sungay: at ang lalaking tupa ay walang kapangyarihang makatayo sa harap niya; kundi kaniyang ibinuwal sa lupa, at kaniyang niyapakan siya; at walang makapagligtas sa lalaking tupa mula sa kaniyang kamay.

8.  At ang lalaking kambing ay nagmalaking mainam: at nang siya’y lumakas, ang malaking sungay ay nabali; at kahalili niyao’y lumitaw ang apat na marangal na sungay, sa dako ng apat na hangin ng langit.

9.  At mula sa isa sa mga yaon ay lumitaw ang isang maliit na sungay na dumakilang totoo, sa dakong timugan, at sa dakong silanganan, at sa dakong maluwalhating lupain.

10.  At lumaking mainam, hanggang sa hukbo sa langit; at ang ilan sa hukbo at sa mga bituin ay iniwaksi sa lupa, at mga niyapakan yaon.

11.  Oo, nagmalaki, hanggang sa prinsipe ng hukbo; at inalis niya sa kaniya ang palaging handog na susunugin, at ang dako ng kaniyang santuario ay ibinagsak.

KAHULUGAN

20.  Ang lalaking tupa na iyong nakita, na may dalawang sungay, ang mga yaon ang mga hari sa Media at Persia.

21.  At ang may magaspang na balahibo na lalaking kambing ay siyang hari sa Grecia: at ang malaking sungay na nasa pagitan ng kaniyang mga mata ay siyang unang hari.

22.  At tungkol sa nabali, sa dakong tinayuan ng apat, ay apat na kaharian ang magsisibangon mula sa bansa, nguni’t hindi sa pamamagitan ng kaniyang kapangyarihan.

23.  At sa huling panahon ng kanilang kaharian, pagka ang mananalangsang ay nagsidating sa kapuspusan, isang hari ay babangon na may mabagsik na pagmumukha, at nakaunawa ng malabong salita.

24.  At ang kaniyang kapangyarihan ay magiging dakila, nguni’t hindi sa pamamagitan ng kaniyang sariling kapangyarihan; at siya’y lilipol na kamanghamangha, at giginhawa, at gagawa ng kaniyang maibigan; at kaniyang lilipulin ang mga makapangyarihan at ang banal na bayan.

25.  At sa kaniyang paraan ay kaniyang palulusugin ang pagdaraya sa kaniyang kamay; at siya’y magmamalaki ng kaniyang loob, at sa kanilang ikatitiwasay ay papatay ng marami: siya’y tatayo rin laban sa prinsipe ng mga prinsipe; nguni’t siya’y mabubuwal hindi ng kamay.

DANIEL 9

24.  Pitong pung sanglinggo ang ipinasiya sa iyong mga tao at sa iyong banal na bayan, upang tapusin ang pagsalangsang, at upang wakasan ang pagkakasala, at upang linisin sa kasamaan, at upang dalhan ng walang hanggang katuwiran, at upang tatakan ang pangitain at ang panghuhula, at upang pahiran ang kabanalbanalan.

25.  Iyo ngang talastasin at bulayin, na mula sa paglabas ng utos na isauli at itayo ang Jerusalem sa pinahiran na prinsipe, magiging pitong sanglinggo, at anim na pu’t dalawang sanglinggo: ito’y matatayo uli, na may lansangan at kuta, sa makatuwid baga’y sa mga panahong mabagabag.

26.  At pagkatapos ng anim na pu’t dalawang sanglinggo, mahihiwalay ang pinahiran, at mawawalaan ng anoman: at gigibain ang bayan at ang santuario ng mga tao ng prinsipeng darating; at ang wakas niyaon ay sa pamamagitan ng baha, at hanggang sa wakas ay magkakaroon ng digma; mga pagkasira ay ipinasiya na.

27.  At pagtitibayin niya ang tipan sa marami sa isang sanglinggo: at sa kalahati ng sanglinggo ay kaniyang ipatitigil ang hain at ang alay; at sa pakpak ng mga kasuklamsuklam ay paroroon ang isang maninira; at hanggang sa wakas, at pagkapasiya ay mabubuhos ang poot sa maninira.

DANIEL 11

2.  At ngayo’y aking ipatatalastas sa iyo ang katotohanan. Narito, tatayo pa ang tatlong hari sa Persia; at ang ikaapat ay magiging totoong mayaman kay sa kanilang lahat: at pagka siya’y lumakas sa kaniyang mga yaman, ay kaniyang kikilusin ang lahat laban sa kaharian ng Grecia.

3.  At isang makapangyarihang hari ay tatayo, na magpupuno na may malaking kapangyarihan, at gagawa ng ayon sa kaniyang kalooban.

4.  At pagka tatayo siya ay magigiba ang kaniyang kaharian, at mababahagi sa apat na hangin ng langit, nguni’t hindi sa kaniyang anak, ni ayon man sa kaniyang kapangyarihan na kaniyang ipinagpuno; sapagka’t ang kaniyang kaharian ay mabubunot para sa mga iba bukod sa mga ito.

5.  At ang hari sa timugan ay magiging malakas, at ang isa sa kaniyang mga prinsipe; at siya’y magiging malakas kay sa kaniya, at magtataglay ng kapangyarihan; ang kaniyang kapangyarihan ay magiging dakilang kapangyarihan.

6.  At sa katapusan ng mga taon, sila’y magpipipisan; at ang anak na babae ng hari sa timugan ay paroroon sa hari sa hilagaan upang gumawa ng pakikipagkasundo: nguni’t hindi niya mapananatili ang lakas ng kaniyang bisig; o siya ma’y tatayo, o ang bisig man niya; kundi siya’y mabibigay, at yaong mga nangagdala sa kaniya, at ang nanganak sa kaniya, at ang nagpalakas sa kaniya sa mga panahong yaon.

7.  Nguni’t sa suwi ng kaniyang mga ugat ay tatayo ang isa na kahalili niya na paroroon sa hukbo, at papasok sa katibayan ng hari sa hilagaan, at gagawa ng laban sa kanila, at mananaig.

8.  At gayon din ang kanilang mga dios sangpu ng kanilang mga larawang binubo, at ng kanilang mga mainam na sisidlan na pilak at ginto ay dadalhing samsam sa Egipto; at siya’y magluluwat na ilang taon kay sa hari sa hilagaan.

9.  At siya’y paroroon sa kaharian ng hari sa timugan, nguni’t siya’y babalik sa kaniyang sariling lupain.

10.  At ang kaniyang mga anak ay makikipagdigma, at mapipisan ng isang karamihang malaking hukbo, na magpapatuloy, at aabot, at lalagpas; at sila’y magsisibalik at makikipagdigma, hanggang sa kaniyang katibayan.

11.  At ang hari sa timugan ay makikilos ng pagkagalit, at lalabas at makikipaglaban sa kaniya, sa makatuwid baga’y sa hari sa hilagaan; at siya’y maglalabas ng malaking karamihan, at ang karamiha’y mabibigay sa kaniyang kamay.

12.  At ang karamihan ay madadala, at ang kaniyang puso ay magpapalalo; at siya’y magbubuwal ng libo-libo, nguni’t hindi mananaig.

13.  At ang hari sa hilagaan ay babalik, at maglalabas ng isang karamihan na lalong malaki kay sa una; at siya’y magpapatuloy hanggang sa wakas ng mga panahon, ng mga taon, na ma’y malaking hukbo, at maraming kayamanan.

14.  At sa mga panahong yaon ay maraming magsisitayo laban sa hari sa timugan: gayon din ang mga anak na mangdadahas sa gitna ng iyong bayan ay magsisibangon upang itatag ang pangitain; nguni’t sila’y mangabubuwal.

15.  Sa gayo’y paroroon ang hari sa hilagaan, at gagawa ng isang bunton, at sasakop ng isang bayan na nakukutaang mabuti: at ang pulutong ng timugan ay hindi makatatayo ni ang kaniya mang piling bayan, ni magtataglay man sila ng anomang kalakasan, upang tumayo.

16.  Nguni’t ang dumarating laban sa kaniya, ay gagawa ng ayon sa sariling kalooban, at walang tatayo sa harap niya; at siya’y tatayo sa maluwalhating lupain, at sasa kaniyang kamay ang paglipol.

17.  At kaniyang itatanaw ang kaniyang mukha upang pumaroon na kasama ng lakas ng kaniyang buong kaharian, at ng mga tapat na kasama niya; at siya’y gagawa ng mga yaon: at ibibigay niya sa kaniya ang anak na babae ng mga babae, upang hamakin; nguni’t siya’y hindi tatayo, ni siya’y mapapasa kaniya man.

18.  Pagkatapos nito’y kaniyang ipipihit ang kaniyang mukha sa mga pulo, at sasakop ng marami: nguni’t isang prinsipe ay magpapatigil ng pagkutya niya; oo, bukod dito’y kaniyang pababalikin ang kaniyang kakutyaan sa kaniya.

19.  Kung magkagayo’y kaniyang ipipihit ang kaniyang mukha sa dako ng mga kuta ng kaniyang sariling lupain; nguni’t siya’y matitisod at mabubuwal, at hindi masusumpungan.

20.  Kung magkagayo’y tatayo na kahalili niya ang isa na magpaparaan ng maniningil sa kaluwalhatian ng kaharian; nguni’t sa loob ng kaunting araw ay mapapahamak, na hindi sa kagalitan, o sa pagbabaka man.

21.  At kahalili niya na tatayo ang isang hamak na tao, na hindi nila pinagbigyan ng karangalan ng kaharian: nguni’t siya’y darating sa panahong katiwasayan, at magtatamo ng kaharian sa pamamagitan ng mga daya.

22.  At sa pamamagitan ng pulutong na huhugos ay mapapalis sila sa harap niya, at mabubuwal; oo, pati ng prinsipe ng tipan.

23.  At pagkatapos ng pakikipagkasundo sa kaniya, siya’y gagawang may karayaan; sapagka’t siya’y sasampa, at magiging matibay, na kasama ng isang munting bayan.

24.  Sa panahon ng katiwasayan darating siya hanggang sa mga pinakamainam na dako ng lalawigan; at kaniyang gagawin ang hindi ginawa ng kaniyang mga magulang, o ng mga magulang ng kaniyang mga magulang; siya’y magbabahagi sa kanila ng huli, at samsam, at kayamanan: oo, siya’y hahaka ng kaniyang mga haka laban sa mga kuta, hanggang sa takdang panahon.

25.  At kaniyang kikilusin ang kaniyang kapangyarihan at ang kaniyang tapang laban sa hari sa timugan na may malaking hukbo; at ang hari sa timugan ay makikipagdigma sa pakikipagbaka na may totoong malaki at makapangyarihang hukbo; nguni’t hindi siya tatayo, sapagka’t sila’y magsisihaka ng mga panukala laban sa kaniya.

26.  Oo, silang nagsisikain ng kaniyang masarap na pagkain ay siyang magpapahamak sa kaniya, at ang kaniyang hukbo ay mapapalis; at marami ay mabubuwal na patay.

27.  At tungkol sa dalawang haring ito, ang kanilang mga puso ay magtataglay ng kasamaan, at sila’y mangagsasalita ng mga kabulaanan sa isang dulang: nguni’t hindi giginhawa; sapagka’t ang wakas ay magiging sa panahong takda pa.

28.  Kung magkagayo’y babalik siya sa kaniyang lupain na may malaking kayamanan; at ang kaniyang puso ay magiging laban sa banal na tipan; at siya’y gagawa ng kaniyang maibigan, at babalik sa kaniyang sariling lupain.

29.  Sa takdang panahon ay babalik siya, at papasok sa timugan; nguni’t hindi magiging gaya ng una ang huli.

30.  Sapagka’t mga sasakyan sa Chittim ay magsisiparoon laban sa kaniya; kaya’t siya’y mahahapis, at babalik, at magtataglay ng galit laban sa banal na tipan, at gagawa ng kaniyang maibigan: siya nga’y babalik, at lilingapin yaong nangagpabaya ng banal na tipan.

31.  At mga pulutong ay magsisitayo sa kaniyang bahagi, at kanilang lalapastanganin ang santuario, sa makatuwid baga’y ang kuta, at aalisin ang palaging handog na susunugin, at kanilang ilalagay ang kasuklamsuklam na naninira.

32.  At ang gayon na gumagawa na may kasamaan laban sa tipan, ay mahihikayat niya sa pamamagitan ng mga daya; nguni’t ang bayan na nakakakilala ng kanilang dios ay magiging matibay, at gagawa ng kabayanihan.

33.  At silang marunong sa bayan ay magtuturo sa marami; gayon ma’y mangabubuwal sila sa pamamagitan ng tabak at ng liyab, ng pagkabihag at ng samsam, na maraming araw.

34.  Pagka nga sila’y mangabubuwal, sila’y tutulungan ng kaunting tulong; nguni’t marami ay magsisipisan sa kanila na may mga daya.

35.  At ang ilan sa kanila na pantas ay mangabubuwal, upang dalisayin sila, at linisin, at paputiin, hanggang sa panahon ng kawakasan; sapagka’t ukol sa panahon pang takda.

36.  At ang hari ay gagawa ng ayon sa kaniyang kalooban; at siya’y magmamalaki, at magpapakataas ng higit kay sa bawa’t dios, at magsasalita ng mga kagilagilalas na bagay laban sa Dios ng mga dios; at siya’y giginhawa hanggang sa ang galit ay maganap; sapagka’t ang ipinasiya ay gagawin.

41.  Siya’y papasok din naman sa maluwalhating lupain, at maraming lupain ay mababagsak; nguni’t ang mga ito ay mangaliligtas mula sa kaniyang kamay: ang Edom, at ang Moab, at ang puno ng mga anak ni Ammon.

42.  Kaniyang iuunat din naman ang kaniyang kamay sa mga lupain; at ang lupain ng Egipto ay hindi makatatakas.

43.  Nguni’t siya’y magtataglay ng kapangyarihan sa mga kayamanang ginto at pilak, at sa lahat na mahalagang bagay sa Egipto; at ang mga taga Libia at ang mga taga Etiopia ay susunod sa kaniyang mga hakbang.

44.  Nguni’t mga balita na mula sa silanganan at mula sa hilagaan ay babagabag sa kaniya; at siya’y lalabas na may malaking kapusukan upang gumiba at lumipol sa marami.

45.

At kaniyang itatayo ang mga tolda ng kaniyang palasio sa pagitan ng dagat at ng maluwalhating banal na bundok; gayon ma’y darating siya sa kaniyang wakas, at walang tutulong sa kaniya.

GRECIAN EMPIRE HISTORY

From : Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

THE RISE OF THE GREEK EMPIRE

The origins of Greece are shrouded in mystery and date back to the time of Abraham, 18th century BCE, or perhaps even earlier. Historians disagree as to where the Greeks came from. They could have been people migrating down from Asia down through Europe and settling in the Greek Isles, or they could have been seafaring people who settled along the coast.

Whoever they were, the earliest inhabitants of mainland Greece (called Mycenaeans after excavations found at Mycenae) developed an advanced culture. But, around 1100 BCE, the Mycenaeans were invaded by barbarians called Dorians and all their civilization disappeared. Greece went into a “Dark Age” to re-emerge hundreds of years later.

The classical Greek period begins as early as 7th century BCE, though we tend to be more familiar with its history in the 5th century when Greece consists of a group of constantly warring city-states, the most famous being Athens and Sparta. The Greek victory at the Marathon (490 BCE),(1) the destruction of the Persian fleet at Salamis (480 BCE) and the victory at Plataea (479 BCE) brought and end to the Persian Empire’s attempts to conquer Greece. During the last three decades of the 5th century, Athens and Sparta waged a devastating war (Peloponnesian War 431-404 BCE) which culminated in the surrender of Athens. More inter-Greek fighting followed in the 4th century but later in that century all of Greece would succumb to Phillip II of Macedon, who paves way for his son, Alexander the Great, to spread the Greek civilization across the world.

The late 5th and the 4th century are as eventful for the Greeks as it has for the Jews. Despite constant warfare, this is also the golden age of classical Greek culture — the birth of democracy, the time of Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

Alexander, born in 356BCE, was the son of Phillip II (382-336BCE), the King of Macedonia in northern Greece. (And considered a barbarian by the southern Greek city states). Phillip created a powerful, professional army which forcibly united the fractious Greek city-states into one empire. From an early age, Alexander, displayed tremendous military talent and was appointed as a commander in his father’s army at the age of eighteen. Having conquered all of Greece Phillip was about to embark on a campaign to invade Greece’s arch-enemy, the Persian Empire. Before he could invade Persia he was assassinated, possibly by Alexander, who then became king in 336BCE. Two years in 334 BCE he crossed the Hellspont (in modern-day Turkey) with 45,000 men and invaded the Persian Empire.

The backbone of Alexander’s Macedonian army was his infantry. They carried extremely long pikes (spears which may have been as long as 21 feet/ 3 meters.) These pikemen moved in giant squares called a phalanx, shields locked together, 16 men across and 16 deep-the first five rows of pikes pointed straight ahead creating a lethal wall of spear heads.

In three Colossal battles, Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela, that took place between 334 and 331 Alexander brilliantly (and often recklessly) led his army to victory against Persian armies that may have outnumbered his own as much as ten to one. His chief tactics were to always be on the offense and always do the unexpected. In battle he would lead his Campanion Cavalry right at the strongest (rather than the weakest) point of the enemy line. When he fights the Persians, for example, he goes for the most heavily protected point of the Persian force surrounding the Persian Emperor, aiming to destroy the leadership. When the Persian emperor Darius flees at the battle the Persian army collapses. By 331 BCE the Persian Empire was defeated, the Persian Emperor Darius was dead, and Alexander was the undisputed rival of the Mediterranean. His military campaign lasted 12 years and took him and his army 10,000 miles to the Indus River in India. Only the weariness of his men and his untimely death in 323BCE at the age of 32 ended the Greek conquest of the known world. It is said that when Alexander looked at his empire he wept for there was nothing more to conquer.

At its largest, Alexander’s empire stretched from Egypt to India. He built six Greek cities in his empire, named Alexandria. (Today the best known is the city of Alexandria in Egypt at the Nile delta.) These cities and the Greeks who settle in them brought Greek culture to the center of the oldest civilizations of Mesopotamia.

Division of the Empire

Alexander had no obvious or legitimate heir, his son Alexander IV by Roxane being born after Alexander’s death. This left the huge question as to who would rule the newly conquered, and barely pacified Empire.  According to Diodorus, Alexander’s companions asked him when he was on his deathbed to whom he bequeathed his kingdom; his laconic reply was “tôi kratistôi”—”to the strongest”. Given that Arrian and Plutarch have Alexander speechless by this point, it is possible that this is an apocryphal story.  Diodorus, Curtius and Justin also have the more plausible story of Alexander passing his signet ring to Perdiccas, one of his bodyguard and leader of the companion cavalry, in front of witnesses, thereby possibly nominating Perdiccas as his successor.

In any event, Perdiccas initially avoided explicitly claiming power, instead suggesting that Roxane’s baby would be king, if male; with himself, Craterus, Leonnatus and Antipater as guardians. However, the infantry, under the command of Meleager, rejected this arrangement since they had been excluded from the discussion. Instead, they supported Alexander’s half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus. Eventually, the two sides reconciled, and after the birth of Alexander IV, he and Philip III were appointed joint kings of the Empire—albeit in name only.

It was not long, however, before dissension and rivalry began to afflict the Macedonians. The satrapies handed out by Perdiccas at the Partition of Babylon became power bases each general could use to launch his own bid for power. After the assassination of Perdiccas in 321 BC, all semblance of Macedonian unity collapsed, and 40 years of war between “The Successors” (Diadochi) ensued before the Hellenistic world settled into four stable power blocks: the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the east, the Kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor, and Macedon. In the process, both Alexander IV and Philip III were murdered.

The nominal start of the Hellenistic period is usually taken as the 323 BC death of Alexander the Great in Babylon. During the previous decade of campaigning, Alexander had conquered the whole Persian Empire, overthrowing the Persian King Darius III. The conquered lands included Asia Minor, Assyria, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Media, Persia, and parts of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan  and the steppes of central Asia.

Alexander had made no special preparations for his succession in his newly founded empire, dying as he did at a young age, and thus on his death-bed (apocryphally), he willed it to “the strongest”. The result was a state of internecine warfare between his generals (the Diadochi, or ‘Successors’), which lasted for forty years before a more-or-less stable arrangement was established, consisting of four major domains:

1.     The Antigonid dynasty in Macedon and central Greece;

The Antigonid dynasty was a dynasty of Hellenistic kings descended from Alexander the Great’s general Antigonus I Monophthalmus (“the One-eyed”).

Succeeding the Antipatrid dynasty in much of Macedonia, Antigonus ruled mostly over Asia Minor and northern Syria. His attempts to take control of the whole of Alexander’s empire led to his defeat and death at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. Antigonus’s son Demetrius I Poliorcetes survived the battle, and managed to seize control of Macedon itself a few years later, but eventually lost his throne, dying in prison. After a period of confusion, Demetrius’s son Antigonus II Gonatas was able to establish the family’s control over the old Kingdom of Macedon, as well as over most of the Greek city-states, by 276 BC.

It was one of four dynasties established by Alexander’s successors, the others being the Seleucid dynasty, Ptolemaic dynasty and Attalid dynasty. The last scion of the dynasty, Perseus of Macedon, who reigned between 179-168 BCE, was recognized as a champion of Greek freedom against Rome. Nonetheless he proved unable to stop the advancing Roman legions and the Greeks’ defeat at the Battle of Pydna signaled the end of the dynasty.]

2.     The Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt based at Alexandria;

The Ptolemaic dynasty, (Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαῖοι, sometimes also known as the Lagids, Ancient Greek: Λαγίδαι, from the name of Ptolemy I’s father, Lagus) was a Greek  royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC.

Ptolemy, a somatophylax, one of the seven bodyguards who served as Alexander the Great’s generals and deputies, was appointed satrap of Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 BC. In 305 BC, he declared himself King Ptolemy I, later known as “Soter” (saviour). The Egyptians soon accepted the Ptolemies as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt. Ptolemy’s family ruled Egypt until the Roman conquest of 30 BC.

All the male rulers of the dynasty took the name Ptolemy. Ptolemaic queens, some of whom were the sisters of their husbands, were usually called Cleopatra, Arsinoe or Berenice. The most famous member of the line was the last queen, Cleopatra VII, known for her role in the Roman political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and later between Octavian and Mark Antony. Her suicide at the conquest by Rome marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt.

3.     The Seleucid dynasty in Syria and Mesopotamia based at Antioch;

The Seleucid Empire (pronounced /sɨˈluːsɪd/; 312 – 63 BC) was the eastern remnant of the former Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great. The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic empire centered in the Near East in the region of the Asian part of the earlier Achaemenid Persian Empire. At the height of its power it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today’s Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan. It was a major centre of Hellenistic culture which maintained the preeminence of Greek customs and where a Greek-speaking Macedonian elite dominated, mostly in the urban areas.

Partition of Alexander’s empire

Alexander had conquered the Achaemenid Empire within a short time-frame and died young, leaving an expansive empire of partly Hellenised culture without an adult heir. The empire was put under the authority of a regent in the person of Perdiccas in 323 BC, and the territories were divided between Alexander’s generals, who thereby became satraps, at the Partition of Babylon in 323 BC.

Alexander’s generals (the Diadochi) jostled for supremacy over parts of his empire, and Ptolemy, one of his generals and satrap of Egypt, was the first to challenge the new rule, leading to the demise of Perdiccas. His revolt led to a new partition of the empire with the Partition of Triparadisus in 320 BC. Seleucus, who had been “Commander-in-Chief of the camp” under Perdiccas since 323 BC but helped to assassinate him later, received Babylonia, and from that point continued to expand his dominions ruthlessly. Seleucus established himself in Babylon in 312 BC, used as the foundation date of the Seleucid Empire. He ruled over not only Babylonia, but the entire enormous eastern part of Alexander’s empire:

“Always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he [Seleucus] acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, ‘Seleucid’ Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus.”

Seleucus went as far as India, where he reached an agreement with Chandragupta Maurya, in which he exchanged his eastern territories for a considerable force of 500 war elephants, which were to play a decisive role at Ipsus:

“The Indians occupy [in part] some of the countries situated along the Indus, which formerly belonged to the Persians: Alexander deprived the Ariani of them, and established there settlements of his own. But Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus in consequence of a marriage contract, and received in return five hundred elephants.”

Nevertheless, even before Seleucus’ death, it was difficult to assert control over the vast eastern domains of the Seleucids. Seleucus invaded India (modern Punjab  Pakistan) in 305 BC, confronting Chandragupta Maurya (Sandrokottos), founder of the Maurya empire. It is said that Chandragupta fielded an army of 600,000 men and 9,000 war elephants (Pliny, Natural History VI, 22.4).

Mainstream scholarship asserts that Chandragupta received vast territory, sealed in a treaty, west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern day Afghanistan, and the Balochistan province of Pakistan.[5][6] Archaeologically, concrete indications of Mauryan rule, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandhahar in southern Afghanistan.

“He (Seleucus) crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship.”

Revival (223–191 BC)

Empire in 200 BC, (before Antiochus was defeated by the Romans).

But a revival would begin when Seleucus II’s younger son, Antiochus III the Great, took the throne in 223 BC. Although initially unsuccessful in the Fourth Syrian War against Egypt, which led to an embarrassing defeat at the Battle of Raphia (217 BC), Antiochus would prove himself to be the greatest of the Seleucid rulers after Seleucus I himself. Following his defeat at Raphia, he spent the next ten years on his Anabasis through the eastern parts of his domain — restoring rebellious vassals like Parthia and Greco-Bactria to at least nominal obedience, and even emulating Alexander with an expedition into India where he met with king Sophagasenus.

When he returned to the west in 205 BC, Antiochus found that with the death of Ptolemy IV, the situation now looked propitious for another western campaign.

Antiochus and Philip V of Macedon then made a pact to divide the Ptolemaic possessions outside of Egypt, and in the Fifth Syrian War, the Seleucids ousted Ptolemy V from control of Coele-Syria. The Battle of Panium (198 BC) definitively transferred these holdings from the Ptolemies to the Seleucids. Antiochus appeared, at the least, to have restored the Seleucid Kingdom to glory.

But Antiochus’ glory was not to last for long. Following his erstwhile ally Philip’s defeat at the hands of Rome in 197 BC, Antiochus now saw the opportunity for expansion into Greece. Encouraged by the exiled Carthaginian general Hannibal, and making an alliance with the disgruntled Aetolian League, Antiochus invaded Greece. Unfortunately, this decision led to his downfall: he was defeated by the Romans at the Battle of Thermopylae (191 BC) and Magnesia (190 BC), and was forced to make peace with the Romans by the embarrassing Treaty of Apamea (188 BC) —which forced him to abandon all European territories, ceded all of Asia Minor north of the Taurus Mountains to Pergamum, and set a large indemnity to be paid. Antiochus died in 187 BC on another expedition to the east, where he sought to extract money to pay the indemnity.

The reign of his son and successor Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 BC) was largely spent in attempts to pay the large indemnity, and Seleucus was ultimately assassinated by his minister Heliodorus. Seleucus’ younger brother, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, now seized the throne. He attempted to restore Seleucid prestige with a successful war against Egypt; but despite driving the Egyptian army back to Alexandria itself, he was forced to withdraw by the Roman envoy Gaius Popillius Laenas, who famously drew a circle in the sand around the king and told him he had to decide whether or not to withdraw from Egypt before leaving the circle. Antiochus chose to withdraw.

The latter part of his reign saw the further disintegration of the Empire. The Eastern areas remained nearly uncontrollable, as Parthians began to take over the Persian lands; and Antiochus’ aggressive Hellenizing (or de-Judaizing) activities led to armed rebellion in Judea—the Maccabean Revolt (see the story of Chanukah, Shabbat 21b, Babylonian Talmud). Efforts to deal with both the Parthians and the Jews proved fruitless, and Antiochus himself died during an expedition against the Parthians in 164 BC

After the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid Empire became increasingly unstable. Frequent civil wars made central authority tenuous at best. Epiphanes’ young son, Antiochus V Eupator, was first overthrown by Seleucus IV’s son, Demetrius I Soter in 161 BC. Demetrius I attempted to restore Seleucid power in Judea particularly, but was overthrown in 150 BC by Alexander Balas — an impostor who (with Egyptian backing) claimed to be the son of Epiphanes. Alexander Balas reigned until 145 BC, when he was overthrown by Demetrius I’s son, Demetrius II Nicator. Demetrius II proved unable to control the whole of the kingdom, however. While he ruled Babylonia and eastern Syria from Damascus, the remnants of Balas’ supporters — first supporting Balas’ son Antiochus VI, then the usurping general Diodotus Tryphon — held out in Antioch.

Meanwhile, the decay of the Empire’s territorial possessions continued apace. By 143 BC, the Jews in form of the Maccabees had fully established their independence. Parthian expansion continued as well. In 139 BC, Demetrius II was defeated in battle by the Parthians and was captured. By this time, the entire Iranian Plateau had been lost to Parthian control. Demetrius Nicator’s brother, Antiochus VII, was ultimately able to restore a fleeting unity and vigour to the Seleucid domains, but he too proved unequal to the Parthian threat: he was killed in battle with the Parthians in 129 BC, leading to the final collapse of the Seleucid hold on Babylonia. After the death of Antiochus VII, all effective Seleucid rule collapsed, as multiple claimants contested control of what was left of the Seleucid realm in almost unending civil war.

By 100 BC, the once formidable Seleucid Empire encompassed little more than Antioch and some Syrian cities. Despite the clear collapse of their power, and the decline of their kingdom around them, nobles continued to play kingmakers on a regular basis, with occasional intervention from Ptolemaic Egypt and other outside powers. The Seleucids existed solely because no other nation wished to absorb them — seeing as they constituted a useful buffer between their other neighbours. In the wars in Anatolia between Mithridates VI of Pontus and Sulla of Rome, the Seleucids were largely left alone by both major combatants.

Mithridates’ ambitious son-in-law, Tigranes the Great, king of Armenia, however, saw opportunity for expansion in the constant civil strife to the south. In 83 BC, at the invitation of one of the factions in the interminable civil wars, he invaded Syria, and soon established himself as ruler of Syria, putting the Seleucid Empire virtually at an end.

Seleucid rule was not entirely over, however. Following the Roman general Lucullus’ defeat of both Mithridates and Tigranes in 69 BC, a rump Seleucid kingdom was restored under Antiochus XIII. Even now, civil wars could not be prevented, as another Seleucid, Philip II, contested rule with Antiochus. After the Roman conquest of Pontus, the Romans became increasingly alarmed at the constant source of instability in Syria under the Seleucids. Once Mithridates was defeated by Pompey in 63 BC, Pompey set about the task of remaking the Hellenistic East, by creating new client kingdoms and establishing provinces. While client nations like Armenia and Judea were allowed to continue with some degree of autonomy under local kings, Pompey saw the Seleucids as too troublesome to continue; and doing away with both rival Seleucid princes, he made Syria into a Roman province.

The Seleucid empire’s geographic span, from the Aegean Sea to what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan, created a melting pot of various peoples, such as Greeks, Armenians, Persians, Medes, Assyrians, Jews. The immense size of the empire, followed by its encompassing nature, made the Seleucid rulers have a governing interest in implementing a policy of racial unity initiated by Alexander. The Hellenization of the Seleucid empire was achieved by the establishment of Greek cities throughout the empire. Historically significant towns and cities, such as Antioch, were created or renamed with more appropriate Greek names. The creation of new Greek cities and towns was aided by the fact that the Greek mainland was overpopulated and therefore made the vast Seleucid empire ripe for colonization. Colonization was used to further Greek interest while facilitating the assimilation of many native groups. Socially, this led to the adoption of Greek practices and customs by the educated native classes in order to further themselves in public life and the ruling Macedonian class gradually adopted some of the local traditions. By 313 BC, Hellenic ideas had begun their almost 250-year expansion into the Near East, Middle East, and Central Asian cultures. It was the empire’s governmental framework to rule by establishing hundreds of cities for trade and occupational purposes. Many of the existing cities began — or were compelled by force — to adopt Hellenized philosophic thought, religious sentiments, and politics. Synthesizing Hellenic and indigenous cultural, religious, and philosophical ideas met with varying degrees of success — resulting in times of simultaneous peace and rebellion in various parts of the empire. Such was the case with the Jewish population of the Seleucid empire because the Jews posed a significant problem which eventually led to war. Contrary to the accepting nature of the Ptolemaic empire towards native religions and customs, the Seleucids gradually tried to force Hellenization upon the Jewish people in their territory by outlawing Judaism. This eventually led to the revolt of the Jews under Seleucid control, which would later lead to the Jews achieving independence.

4.     The Attalid dynasty in Anatolia based at Pergamum.

The Attalid dynasty was a Hellenistic dynasty that ruled the city of Pergamon  after the death of Lysimachus, a general of Alexander the Great. The Attalid kingdom was the rump state left after the collapse of the Lysimachian Empire. One of Lysimachus’ officers, Philetaerus, took control of the city in 282 BC. The later Attalids were descended from his father, and they expanded the city into a kingdom. Attalus I proclaimed himself King in the 230s BC, following his victories over the Galatians. The Attalids ruled Pergamon until Attalus III bequeathed the kingdom to the Roman Republic in 133 BC to avoid a likely succession crisis.

On the interior of the Pergamon Altar is a frieze depicting the life of Telephos, son of Herakles, whom the ruling Attalid dynasty associated with their city and utilized to claim descendance from the Olympians. Pergamon, having entered the Greek world much later than their counterparts to the west, could not boast the same divine heritage as older city-states, and had to retroactively cultivate their place in Greek mythos.

A further two kingdoms later emerged, the so called Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdom.

Each of these kingdoms had, thereafter, a noticeably individual development and history. For the most part, the latter parts of those histories are of gradual decline, with most ending in absorption by the Republic of Rome. We find numerous cycles of alliances, marriages and wars between these states.[6] However, it is clear that the rulers of these kingdoms still considered themselves Greek, and furthermore, recognized that the other Hellenistic realms were also Greek and not ‘barbarian.’

The end of the Hellenistic period is often considered to be 146 BC, when the Roman Republic conquered most of mainland Greece, and absorbed all of ancient Macedon. By this time the rise of Rome to absolute political prominence in the Mediterranean was complete, and this might therefore mark the start of the ‘Roman period’. An alternative date is 30 BC, when the final Hellenistic kingdom of Ptolemaic Egypt was conquered by Rome (the last remnants of the Seleucid empire having been taken over thirty years earlier). This more obviously represents the absolute end of the power of the Hellenistic civilizations.

Alexander, who was only thirty-three years old when he died, had made no preparations for his succession. He had married a Bactrian princess, Roxane, when he had conquered Bactria; their son, however, was unborn when Alexander died. Alexander also had a brother, but he was both weak and unintelligent. So the generals which had aided him divided the empire among themselves in order to preserve the empire for the future, as yet unborn, king; this would guarantee that Alexander’s empire would remain in the royal line of Macedonian kings. Like all powerful and ambitious men, they soon fell into conflict with one another. In two decades of conflict, several of the original generals were killed, along with Alexander’s son and brother. By 300 BC, all that was left of Alexander’s empire were four smaller empires, each controlled by military generals who declared themselves kings. Greece and Macedonia fell to Antigonus, who founded the Antigonid dynasty of Greek kings; this dynasty would eventually control Asia Minor. Asia Minor original came under the control of Attalid dynasty, but was eventually subsumed under the Antigonids. Mesopotamia and the Middle East came under the control of Seleucus, who crowned himself Seleucus I and began the Seleucus dynasty (every king in this dynasty would be named Seleucus). Egypt came under the control of Ptolemy, who crowned himself Ptolemy I and began the Ptolemid dynasty. The Ptolemids maintained Greek learning and culture, but adopted several Egyptian customs surrounding the kingship, such as inheritance through the maternal line (see the chapter on women in Egyptian history and culture).

These empires periodically fought with one another, for none of these kings ever fully accepted the fact that the empire had fractured into three parts. Each believed that they were the rightful heirs to the entire empire that Alexander had built. Countries, such as Judah, periodically shifted from one empire to another as the fortunes of war went now to the Ptolemies and now to the Seleucids.

Despite the constant conflict, the Hellenistic world was an incredibly prosperous one. Alexander and his successors had liberated an immense amount of wealth from the Persian empire, and with this new wealth in circulation the standard of living rose dramatically. Each of the empires embarked on building projects, on scholarship, on patronage of the arts, and on literature and philosophy. The Ptolemies built an enormous library in their capital city of Alexandria, and sponsored the translation of a host of religious and literary works into Greek.

This period really marked the first international culture in western, middle eastern, and north African history. The Greeks imported their culture: political theory, philosophy, art, and literature all over the known civilized world. This culture would greatly alter the culture and religion of the Mediterannean. But the flow of culture worked in the opposite direction as well; non-Greek ideas and non-Greeks flowed into Greece (and Italy). They took with them their religions, their philosophies, science, and culture; in this environment, eastern religions in particular began to take hold in the Greek city-states both in the east and in Greece. Among these religions was Zoroastrianism and Mithraism; in later years, this international environment would provide the means for the spread of another eastern religion, Christianity.

Hellenistic period

This process of the “hellenization” (“making Greek”) of the world took place largely in the urban centers the Greeks began to zealously build. While the Greeks had for a long time believed that monarchy was a sign of barbarity, they had to come to terms with the reality of their new form of government. So they compromised. While they accepted the monarchy, the set about building somewhat independent poleis that had the structure of the polis without its political independence. The growth of these cities provoked massive migrations from the Greek mainland, as Greeks settled in these new, far-flung poleis to assume lucrative positions in the military and administration.

Spread from Italy to India, from Macedonia to Egypt, Greek culture was the most significant of its times. The mighty empires of the Greeks hung onto this vast amount of territory for almost three centuries. Slowly, however, a new power was rising in the west, steadily building its own, accidental empire. By the time of Christ, the great Greek empires of the Hellenistic world had been replaced and unified once more into a single empire under the control of an Italian people, the Romans.

The nominal start of the Hellenistic period is usually taken as the 323 BC death of Alexander the Great in Babylon. During the previous decade of campaigning, Alexander had conquered the whole Persian Empire, overthrowing the Persian King Darius III. The conquered lands included Asia Minor, Assyria, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Media, Persia, and parts of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan  and the steppes of central Asia.

Alexander had made no special preparations for his succession in his newly founded empire, dying as he did at a young age, and thus on his death-bed (apocryphally), he willed it to “the strongest”. The result was a state of internecine warfare between his generals (the Diadochi, or ‘Successors’), which lasted for forty years before a more-or-less stable arrangement was established, consisting of four major domains:

* The Antigonid dynasty in Macedon and central Greece;

* The Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt based at Alexandria;

* The Seleucid dynasty in Syria and Mesopotamia based at Antioch;

* The Attalid dynasty in Anatolia based at Pergamum.

A further two kingdoms later emerged, the so called Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdom.

Each of these kingdoms had, thereafter, a noticeably individual development and history. For the most part, the latter parts of those histories are of gradual decline, with most ending in absorption by the Republic of Rome. We find numerous cycles of alliances, marriages and wars between these states.[6] However, it is clear that the rulers of these kingdoms still considered themselves Greek, and furthermore, recognized that the other Hellenistic realms were also Greek and not ‘barbarian.’

The end of the Hellenistic period is often considered to be 146 BC, when the Roman Republic conquered most of mainland Greece, and absorbed all of ancient Macedon. By this time the rise of Rome to absolute political prominence in the Mediterranean was complete, and this might therefore mark the start of the ‘Roman period’. An alternative date is 30 BC, when the final Hellenistic kingdom of Ptolemaic Egypt was conquered by Rome (the last remnants of the Seleucid empire having been taken over thirty years earlier). This more obviously represents the absolute end of the power of the Hellenistic civilizations.


The Seleucid Empire (Syria)


The empires of the Diadochi in 283. Design Jona Lendering.

The hellenistic kingdoms in 280 BCE
After the death of Alexander the Great in the afternoon of 11 June 323 BCE, his empire was divided by his generals, the Diadochi. One of them was his friend Seleucus, who became king of the eastern provinces – more or less modern Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, together with parts of Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. His kingdom was to have two capitals, which were founded in c.300: Antioch in Syria and Seleucia in Mesopotamia. Babylon and Seleucia in Pieria were other important citie. The empire was, like the empire of Alexander, actually the continuation of the empires before: the Assyrian, Babylonian, and the Achaemenid Empire. Related
Seleucid kings
Seleucus I Nicator. Bust at the Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Seleucus I Nicator (Louvre)
Seleucus’ reign lasted from 312 to 281 (more…), and he was succeeded by his descendants, who continued to govern this assembly of countries for more than two centuries. However, in the mid-240’s, during a brief interregnum, the Seleucids started to lose territory in the east, where the Parni nomads settled themselves in the satrapy of Parthia in northeastern Iran. At the same time, the satrapy of Bactria (northern Afghanistan) became independent. Later, the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great was able to reconquer these territories, during a series of eastern wars between 209 and 204. In the southwest, the Seleucid kings fought several “Syrian wars” with the Egyptians; in 200, their king was forced to cede Palestine to Antiochus III. Seleucid power had reached its zenith. Yet, Antiochus was also forced to witness the beginning of its demise.
Coin of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins. Antiochus III the Great
(British Museum, London)
In 196, he crossed the Hellespont in order to add Thrace to his empire (which happened in 194). Seleucid influence in Europe, however, was something that the Romans could not allow to happen, and the inevitable war between the two superpowers broke out in 192. (One of our sources, the Syriaca by the Greek historian Appian of Alexandria, can be read here.) Antiochus received support from many Greek towns and help from the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal, but was defeated and forced to pay a tremendous sum of money. Moreover, the Seleucid empire lost its possessions in what is now Turkey.
Bust of Pompey the Great. Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins. Pompey the Great (Louvre) The tide was now turning against the Seleucid monarchy. In the west, Rome became too powerful to resist. Worse, they backed the Jews, who liberated themselves in the years after 165 (the Maccabaean revolt). At the same time, the Parni founded the Parthian empire, which snatched away the eastern provinces. The towns in Babylonia, a.o. Seleucia and Babylon, were captured between April and June 141. New losses followed, civil wars between two rival factions of the Seleucid family were inevitable, and in the second quarter of the first century, the Roman generals Lucullus and Pompey the Great made an end to the Seleucid kingdom. The last king was dethroned in 64.The official name of the kingdom was Asia, but the Romans called it Syria.

After the death of Alexander the Great in the afternoon of 11 June 323 BCE, his empire was divided by his generals, the Diadochi. One of them was his friend Seleucus, who became king of the eastern provinces – more or less modern Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, together with parts of Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. His kingdom was to have two capitals, which were founded in c.300: AntiochSeleucia in Mesopotamia. Babylon and Seleucia in PieriaAssyrian, Babylonian, and the Achaemenid Empire.

The official name of the kingdom was Asia, but the Romans called it Syria.

History of Iran: From Persia to present

For most of history, the tract of land now called Iran was known as Persia. It wasn’t until 1935 that it adopted its present name.

Early Persia was a formidable empire, whose vast plateau rimmed by mountain ranges, was variously invaded by Arabs, Turks and Mongols.

The discovery of oil in the early 20th century generated international interest in the nation, particularly Great Britain and Russia. A 1907 Anglo-Russian agreement divvied up Iran into spheres of influence, though it was later annulled after the First World War.

The United States became increasingly interested in Iran following the Second World War, particularly its oil reserves.

In 1953, the U.S. and Britain helped orchestrate a coup d’etat to oust Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq, bringing the pro-Western monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, back to power.

In the years that followed, Iran forged closer ties with Washington, receiving large amounts of military and economic aid from America until the late 1960s. Iran began ramping up its defence budget, and with the help of American and British defence programs, it became one of the region’s strongest military powers.

The country also saw increased Westernization, much to the dismay of the clergy who denounced the pro-Western policies and secularization.

Rising discord with the hereditary monarch, known as the shah, marked the early 1960s.

During the 1970s, Shah Reza Pahlavi faced growing opposition led by exiled spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

After years of tenuously holding onto power with the backing of the U.S., Pahlavi was ousted during the 1979 Islamic revolution and Khomeini came to power after returning from years in exile in France.

With that, the pro-West regime of the shah gave way to an official anti-American stance that was openly encouraged by the mullahs and Iran became an Islamic republic.

Under a new constitution, a popularly elected president served as head of government but the highest state authority became the Supreme Leader, a powerful post filled by a cleric and empowered to name leaders of the armed forces, the chief judge and other high ranking officials.

When the deposed Shah was temporarily let into the U.S. for medical treatment for cancer, Islamic students back home demanded he be extradited to stand trial in Iran. Furious by a lack of action, the students and militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, holding more than 50 people hostage.Iran become engulfed in a bloody, eight-year war with Iraq in 1980.Iran become engulfed in a bloody, eight-year war with Iraq in 1980. (CBC)

The hostage taking lasted 444 days, and included a failed rescue attempt. The situation strained relations between the two countries. Resolution came only when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as U.S. president on Jan. 20, 1981, and the hostages were let go.

Meanwhile, even as Iran was occupied with the hostage-taking, tensions with its neighbour, Iraq, were escalating.

Iraq invaded Iran in the fall of 1980 over a conflict sparked in part by a disagreement over the border in the Shatt-al-Arab waterway area.

The bloody, eight-year conflict would end up resolving little but took a toll on the nation. Reliable casualty counts are hard to come by, but estimates range from 300,000 to two million.

Over the years, the leadership of the Islamic republic has remained overwhelmingly conservative — true to the roots of the revolution, which came from the conservative countryside and the seminaries of the holy city of Qum.

Efforts by moderates to modernize some of Iran’s institutions in the late 1990s were consistently derailed and undermined by more conservative elements. And the conservatives remain firmly in power even now.

Tensions over nuclear plans

Iran’s nuclear installations and lack of disclosure during international inspections have triggered fears that the country is developing nuclear weapons. Tehran claims its efforts are peaceful and aimed at building an atomic power station.

In 1995, the U.S. suspended all trade with Iran over its nuclear ambitions and alleged support of terrorist groups.

Over the years, the U.S. increasingly denounced Iran for pursuing nuclear weapons and in a 2002 speech by then U.S. president George W. Bush he grouped Iran among the “axis of evil.” Tensions with the U.S. also ramped up after the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust and made anti-Israel comments.

When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former hardline mayor of Tehran, won the 2005 presidential election, he vowed to press on with the country’s nuclear agenda.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly riled the world with his controversial remarks, denouncing the Holocaust as a deception and issuing biting anti-Israel comments.

In 2006, Iran announced it had successfully produced enriched uranium. Calls for Iran to halt its nuclear plans did little and sanctions were imposed.

With a worsening economic situation, due in part to sanctions and falling oil prices, support for Ahmadinejad has diminished in recent years.

Reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, hoped to capitalize on that in the June 2009 presidential elections, but Ahmadinejad announced a landslide victory.

Mousavi’s representatives alleged electoral fraud, and in the days that followed, tens of thousands of supporters from both sides took to the street in deadly protests.

One of those killed in the demonstrations and security crackdown was an apparent innocent bystander, Neda Agha-Soltan, whose final seconds on June 20 were captured on amateur video and viewed around the world.

Neda, as she was known, became in death an icon for opposition protesters. Ahmadinejad has called for an investigation of her death, allegedly at the hands government militia.

Even if answers are found, however, the undercurrent of public discontent could last for some time.

About Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud

Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud (mämOOd’ ämädēnezhäd’) [key], 1956–, Iranian politician. From a humble background, he supported the Islamic revolution (1979) while working toward his civil engineering doctorate and was a founder of the student union that occupied the U.S. embassy. He joined (1980) the Revolutionary Guards and served against Iraq, becoming a senior officer. He was governor of Arbadil prov. from 1993 to 1997, and then taught at Univ. of Science and Industry, Tehran. An ultraconservative shaped by his experience in the Iran-Iraq War, he was appointed mayor of Tehran in 2003, and reversed or restricted many moderate reforms in the city. Running as an anticorruption populist and regarded as a dark horse, he was elected president in 2005, becoming the first non-cleric to hold the office since 1981. As president he has gained notoriety internationally for provocative comments calling for an end to Israel and denying the Holocaust happened, but he has also unexpectedly taken somewhat liberal positions on some domestic social issues. His failure to address Iran’s economic problems, however, was widely regarded as the cause of the losses suffered by his supporters and allies in the Dec., 2006, elections for local councils and the Assembly of Experts.

MORE OF  IRAN’S HISTORY

The region now called Iran was occupied by the Medes and the Persians in the 1500s B.C. , until the Persian king Cyrus the Great overthrew the Medes and became ruler of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire, which reached from the Indus to the Nile at its zenith in 525 B.C.  Persia fell to Alexander in 331–330 B.C.  and a succession of other rulers: the Seleucids (312–302 B.C. ), the Greek-speaking Parthians (247 B.C. – A.D.  226), the Sasanians (224–c. 640), and the Arab Muslims (in 641). By the mid-800s Persia had become an international scientific and cultural center. In the 12th century it was invaded by the Mongols. The Safavid dynasty (1501–1722), under whom the dominant religion became Shiite Islam, followed, and was then replaced by the Qajar dynasty (1794–1925).

During the Qajar dynasty, the Russians and the British fought for economic control of the area, and during World War I, Iran’s neutrality did not stop it from becoming a battlefield for Russian and British troops. A coup in 1921 brought Reza Kahn to power. In 1925, he became shah and changed his name to Reza Shah Pahlavi. He subsequently did much to modernize the country and abolished all foreign extraterritorial rights.

Iran Becomes a Theocracy with Islamic Revolution

The country’s pro-Axis allegiance in World War II led to Anglo-Russian occupation of Iran in 1941 and deposition of the shah in favor of his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Pahlavi’s Westernization programs alienated the clergy, and his authoritarian rule led to massive demonstrations during the 1970s, to which the shah responded with the imposition of martial law in Sept. 1978. The shah and his family fled Iran on Jan. 16, 1979, and the exiled cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to establish an Islamic theocracy. Khomeini proceeded with his plans for revitalizing Islamic traditions. He urged women to return to wearing the veil; banned alcohol, Western music, and mixed bathing; shut down the media; closed universities; and eliminated political parties.

U.S. and Iran Sever Ties Amid Hostage Crisis

Revolutionary militants invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, seized staff members as hostages, and precipitated an international crisis. Khomeini refused all appeals, even a unanimous vote by the UN Security Council demanding immediate release of the hostages. Iranian hostility toward Washington was reinforced by the Carter administration’s economic boycott and deportation order against Iranian students in the U.S., the break in diplomatic relations, and ultimately an aborted U.S. raid in April 1980 aimed at rescuing the hostages.

As the first anniversary of the embassy seizure neared, Khomeini and his followers insisted on their original conditions: guarantee by the U.S. not to interfere in Iran’s affairs, cancellation of U.S. damage claims against Iran, release of $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets, an apology, and the return of the assets held by the former imperial family. These conditions were largely met and the 52 American hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981, ending 444 days in captivity.

The sporadic war with Iraq regained momentum in 1982, as Iran launched an offensive in March and regained much of the border area occupied by Iraq in late 1980. The stalemated war dragged on well into 1988. Although Iraq expressed its willingness to stop fighting, Iran stated that it would not end the war until Iraq agreed to pay for war damages and to punish the Iraqi government leaders involved in the conflict. On July 20, 1988, Khomeini, after a series of Iranian military reverses, agreed to cease-fire negotiations with Iraq. A cease-fire went into effect on Aug. 20, 1988. Khomeini died in June 1989 and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei succeeded him as the supreme leader.

Khatami Attempts to Liberalize Nation

By early 1991, the Islamic revolution appeared to have lost much of its militancy. Attempting to revive a stagnant economy, President Rafsanjani took measures to decentralize the command system and introduce free-market mechanisms.

Mohammed Khatami, a little-known moderate cleric, former newspaperman, and national librarian, won the presidential election with 70% of the vote on May 23, 1997, a stunning victory over the conservative ruling elite. Khatami supported greater social and political freedoms, but his steps toward liberalizing the strict clerical rule governing the country put him at odds with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Signaling a seismic change in Iran’s political environment, reform candidates won the overwhelming majority of seats in Feb. 2000 parliamentary elections, thereby wresting control from hard-liners, who had dominated the parliament since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The parliament’s reformist transformation greatly buttressed the efforts of Khatami in constructing a nation of “lasting pluralism and Islamic democracy.” Khatami walked a jittery tightrope between student groups and other liberals pressuring him to introduce bolder freedoms and Iran’s military and conservative clerical elite (including Khamenei), who expressed growing impatience with the president’s liberalizing measures. In June 2001 presidential elections, Khatami won reelection with a stunning 77% of the vote.

In Jan. 2002, President Bush announced that Iran was part of an “axis of evil,” calling it one of the most active state sponsors of international terrorism.

Iran Taunts World With Nuclear Ambitions

By 2003, Iran was fanning much of the world’s suspicions that it had illegal nuclear ambitions. In June 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) criticized Iran’s concealment of much of its nuclear facilities and called on the country to permit more rigorous inspections of its nuclear sites. Under intense international pressure, Iran reluctantly agreed in December to suspend its uranium enrichment program and allow for thorough IAEA inspections.

On Dec. 26, the most destructive earthquake of 2003 devastated the historic city of Bam, killing an estimated 28,000 to 30,000 of its 80,000 residents.

In Feb. 2004, conservatives won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, a setback for Iran’s reformist movement. The hard-line Guardian Council had disqualified more than 2,500 reformist candidates, including more than 80 who were already members of the 290-seat parliament. The IAEA again censured the country in June 2004 for failing to fully cooperate with nuclear inspections. Neither U.S. threats nor Europe’s coaxing managed to overcome Iran’s alarming defiance.

Ahmadinejad Elected President

In June 2005, former Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-line conservative and a devout follower of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, won the presidential election with 62% of the vote. Ahmadinejad was highly popular among Iran’s rural poor, who responded to his pledge to fight corruption among the country’s elite. In Aug. 2005, he rejected an EU disarmament plan that was backed by the U.S. and had been in negotiation for two years. Ahmadinejad has been defiantly anti-Western and venomously anti-Israeli, announcing that Israel was a “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the map.”

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was reelected as president of Iran on June 12, 2009, with over 62% of the vote. Disputes arose over the election’s validity, with rival candidates claiming it was rigged. Protests and riots ensued in the streets of Tehran, resulting in at least 17 deaths and hundreds of arrests.

Iran Continues Progress on Nuclear Technology

In Jan. 2006, Iran removed UN seals on uranium enrichment equipment and resumed nuclear research. France, Britain, and Germany called off nuclear talks with Iran, and along with the U.S. States, threatened to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, a step avoided thus far. Russia and China, both of whom have strong economic ties to Iran, refused to endorse sanctions. In April, Iran announced it had successfully enriched uranium. In July, a Security Council resolution was finally passed, demanding that Iran halt its nuclear activities by the end of August or face possible sanctions.

In May 2007, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran is using about 1,300 centrifuges and producing fuel for nuclear reactors, evidence that the country has flouted another deadline to stop enriching uranium. The fuel would have to be further enriched to make it weapons grade, however. In September, Iran followed the IAEA’s finding with the announcement that it had reached its goal of developing 3,000 active centrifuges.

A National Intelligence Estimate, released in Dec. 2007 and compiled by the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, reported “with high confidence” that Iran had frozen its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The report contradicted one written in 2005 that stated Iran was determined to continue developing such weapons. The report put the brakes on any plans by the Bush administration to preemptively attack Iran’s weapons facilities and to impose another round of sanctions against Iran. The report suggests that Iran has bowed to international pressure to end its pursuit of an atomic bomb. President Bush remained skeptical, saying Iran remains a threat and can not be trusted to pursue enriching uranium for civilian use: “Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous, if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon,” he said. “What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program?”

In May 2008, Parliament overwhelmingly elected former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Larijani as speaker. Larijani, a rival to Ahmadinejad, though conservative and a proponent of the country’s nuclear program, is considered a pragmatist who is open to talking to the West.

Iran continued to taunt the U.S. and Israel in July when it test fired nine long- and medium-range missiles, which could reach parts of Israel. A commander of the Revolutionary Guard said, “The aim of these war games is to show we are ready to defend the integrity of the Iranian nation.” The U.S. and Israel both condemned the action. Just days later, Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, met with representatives from the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China to discuss the country’s nuclear program. Iran, however, refused to accept a proposal that called on the country to freeze its nuclear program, in exchange for a pledge by the six nations not to seek further sanctions against Iran.

Iran launched a satellite into orbit in Jan. 2009. The launch was timed to coincide with Iran’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The U.S. expressed “great concern” about the move, fearing it could lead to the development of longer-range ballistic missiles.

Presidential Election Thrusts Iran into Crisis

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won his reelection campaign on June 12 by a landslide victory, taking almost 63% of the vote, while main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, received just under 34%. Accusations of ballot tampering and fraud led to wide-scale protests in Tehran. Moussavi’s campaign promises, which included plans for improved human rights and a reversal of Ahmadinejad’s hard-line policies, were supported by many of the younger and less conservative generations in Iran. Ahmadinejad’s victory was announced just two hours after the polls closed, an amazingly short period of time since Iran’s paper ballots must be hand counted. The protests, the largest since the 1979 revolution, continued after the election. Protesters relied on social networking sites and text messaging to communicate with others around the world about Moussavi, the election, and the demonstrations. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, called the election “fair” and ruled out a recount or an annulment of the election. As many as 1,000 people were arrested during the protests and 20 were killed. There were widespread reports that prisoners were abused and some raped while in custody. In August, mass trial of 100 government critics began. The defendants, who were reportedly charged with inciting a “velvet coup,” were denied access to lawyers and contact with family members.

The diplomatic situation between Iran and the West further deteriorated in September, when U.S. president Barack Obama revealed at the New York UN General Assembly meeting that American, British, and French spies have evidence that Iran has built a uranium-enrichment plant near Qum. Iranian officials acknowledged existence of the facility, but maintained it is for peaceful purposes. Then, Iran test fired medium-range missiles that are capable of hitting Israel and U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf. At talks in Geneva in early October between Iran, the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany, Iran agreed to open the plant to UN inspectors in the coming weeks and export the enriched uranium it has declared for processing into fuel. If Iran follows through with this promise, it would significantly reduce Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons. However, Ahmadinejad quickly reneged on his offer and faced the possibility of stricter UN sanctions.

NEWS ABOUT IRAN

Iran

Most recent

Latest comment

Osama bin Laden ‘living in luxury in Iran’

Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, is living in the lap of luxury in an apartment in Iran and spends his time falconing, according to a new documentary.

Published: 7:07AM BST 05 May 2010

Far from huddling in a cave in Afghanistan fearing for his life, the al-Qaeda leader has been enjoying the protection of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard with his wife and children since 2003, the film Feathered Cocaine asserts.

The documentary features Alan Parrot, one of the world’s foremost falconers, who claims that bin Laden, an avid falcon hunter, has been taking part in the sport relatively freely in Teheran, Fox News reports.

Mr Parrot, who was once the chief falconer for the Shah of Iran and who has worked for the royal families of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, used his contacts in Iran to talk about bin Laden’s life there.

He took two Icelandic filmmakers, Om Marino Arnarson and Thorkell S. Hardarson, into the secretive world of falconers where some birds can sell for over $1 million, and in which the elite of the Middle East conduct business and politics in remote desert camps.

One contact, said to be a warlord from the country’s north, claims to have met bin Laden on hunting trips six times since 2003.

He said that the terrorist leader was calm, healthy and so comfortable that “he travels with only four bodyguards.”

Mr Parrot told Fox News that the warlord, who supplies the falcon camps bin Laden visits on hunting forays, agreed to talk only because one of Mr Parrot’s men had saved his life.

“This was the repayment,” Mr Parrot said. “He was asked to talk. He wasn’t happy about it.”

The last confirmed meeting between bin Laden and the warlord was in 2008, Mr Parrot said.

“There may have been more since then, but I haven’t talked to my source since we left Iran,” he said.

Parrot’s story is supported in the documentary by former CIA agent Robert Baer, an outspoken critic of US policy in the Middle East on whom the film Syriana is based.

NEW YORK TIMES

Updated: Feb. 11, 2010

Iran has had a quasi theocracy since the ouster of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In June 2009, widespread protests over the results of a presidential election grew into the greatest challenge to its authority that the Shiite regime has faced. Thousands took to the streets before the demonstrations were suppressed through violence and mass arrests. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in for a second term, but he faces a defiant opposition movement, and deep rifts within the conservative ruling elite.

Violent clashes between opposition protesters and government security forces erupted in late December 2009, on the Shiite holy day of Ashura.  The protests were the bloodiest and among the largest since the uprisings that followed the disputed presidential election.

On Feb. 11, 2010, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Mr. Admadinejad declared that Iran was a “nuclear state,” capable of processing uranium to a level of 20 percent enrichment. Although the claims could not be independently verified, the announcement came at a time of deep crisis in the country.

Overview

Since 2006, Iran has faced international pressure to shut down its nuclear program, which it insists is for peaceful purposes, defying a series of resolutions by the United Nations Security Council calling for the program’s suspension. Instead, Mr. Ahmadinejad sought to make it a rallying point for national pride. The confidence of the country’s rulers in 2007 and 2008 seemed to reflect its enhanced position in the region and the economic boost it received from soaring oil prices. Iran’s archenemy, Saddam Hussein, had been replaced by a friendly, Shiite-led regime in Iraq, and Hamas and Hezbollah, militant groups supported by Iran, gained stature in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

In 2009, however, oil prices were sharply lower, Hamas and Hezbollah were on the defensive, and the growing opposition movement showed a deeply divided country. In late September, President Obama, joined by Gordon Brown of Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy of France trumpeted news of a previously undisclosed nuclear facility that Iran had been construction in apparent violation of its treaty commitments. In talks with the United States and other major powers the next week, Iran agreed to have the plant visited by international inspectors and to send most of its openly declared enrich uranium to another country for enrichment. American officials, however, remained skeptical about whether those promises would be carried out.

The Nuclear Challenge

In 2003, under President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate, Iran admitted that it had been clandestinely pursuing an atomic program and agreed to suspend it. In 2006, under President Ahmadinejad, the country restarted a nuclear research program that it insisted was purely for peaceful purposes.

Iran defied a series of Security Council resolutions calling for a halt, and rebuffed diplomatic overtures from Europe and the United States. In May 2007 international inspectors reported that the country’s scientists had mastered the process of enrichment, in which uranium is concentrated to the levels needed for power generation or, eventually, for an atomic bomb.

Late that year, American intelligence agencies issued a new National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that the weapons portion of the Iranian nuclear program remained on hold. Contradicting the assessment made in 2005, the report stated that the Iranian government did not appear determined to obtain nuclear weapons, although it said Iran’s intentions were unclear, and that the country probably could not produce a bomb until the middle of the next decade.

American officials and international inspectors are concerned that Iran seems to have made significant progress in the three technologies necessary to field an effective nuclear weapon: enriching uranium to weapons grade; developing a missile capable of reaching Israel and parts of Western Europe; and designing a warhead that will fit on the missile. And in late September 2009, Iran said that its Revolutionary Guards test-fired missiles with sufficient range to strike Israel, parts of Europe and American bases in the Persian Gulf.

President Obama broke with President George W. Bush’s policy by offering to negotiate directly with Tehran, but he continued to call the program a threat to the region. And like Mr. Bush, he found it difficult to persuade Russia and China to consider imposing tough sanctions on Iran if the talks failed.

On Sept. 25, 2009, President Obama and leaders of Britain and France accused Iran of building a secret underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, saying the country has hidden the covert operation from international weapons inspectors for years.

In talks with the United States and other major powers on Oct.1, the first such discussions in which the United States has participated fully, Iran agreed to open the newly revealed plant to international inspection within two weeks. It also agreed to send most of its openly declared enriched uranium outside Iran to be turned into fuel for a small reactor that produces medical isotopes. The West accepted the idea because it would have delayed, by about a year, Iran’s ability to make a bomb.

However, the agreement is now in doubt as a result of the political struggle among Iran’s elite, which has upended previous assessments about Iran’s decision-making process, silenced more pragmatic voices and made it nearly impossible for anyone to support nuclear cooperation without being accused of capitulating to the West.

This move toward a harder line has stymied President Obama’s attempts to open a new channel of communication with the Iranian leadership. Having set a year-end deadline for Iran to cooperate, the United States and its Western allies seem likely to seek to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, a step that some analysts fear could enable the more radical forces to monopolize power, at least in the short term.

Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered his atomic scientists on Feb. 7, 2010, to begin enriching their stockpile of uranium in order to power a medical reactor. The move came a few days after Mr. Ahmadinejad appeared to revive hope that Iran might accept a Western deal to swap much of its uranium for medical-reactor fuel that cannot be weaponized, a deal the Iranians had rejected.

Days later, on the anniversary of the overthrow of the shah, he announced that Iran was a “nuclear state,” capable of processing uranium to a level of 20 percent enrichment. It was unclear whether Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments represented gamesmanship or a step toward acknowledging suspicions that it is pursuing a weapons program. The thrust of his remarks, and the timing of his nationally broadcast speech, reflected the central role played by Iran’s nuclear program in domestic politics as Tehran confronts its worst political crisis since 1979.

Relations with the U.S. and Israel

Mr. Ahmadinejad has often denounced Israel. In 2008, President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran — which go back many decades, from Washington’s participation in the 1953 coup that installed the shah, to the seizure of American diplomats in 1979 after the shah fell to an Islamic revolution — also rose in 2007 and 2008 over Iran’s involvement in Iraq. American military officials accused elements of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard of supplying Shiite militants in Iraq with powerful roadside bombs to use against American forces.

During the 2008 American presidential campaign, Barack Obama was the only candidate to say he favored unconditional talks with Iran, though he condemned its nuclear program. In his first interview after taking office, on Al Arabiya television, an Arabic-language channel based in Dubai, Mr. Obama said that “if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”

President Ahmadinejad responded by calling for an apology for decades of American misdeeds, but did not explicitly reject the overture. The move signaled the start of a long-delayed war-or-peace drama that may help define the Obama administration’s plans to remake America’s approach to diplomacy, but could cause problems between the U.S. and Israel.

During the protests that followed the disputed 2009 election, Mr. Obama called violence against demonstrators “outrageous” and “appalling,” but stressed that the United States would still seek to engage Iran’s new government in talks over the nuclear program. On July 6, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the United States “cannot dictate” to Israel whether or not it should take action against Iran’s nuclear sites.

The 2009 Presidential Campaign

The major candidates in the hotly disputed 2009 presidential election were the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Mir Hussein Moussavi, a former prime minister.

Mr. Moussavi served as prime minister from 1980 to 1988. He is well remembered by many Iranians for managing the country during its eight-year war with Iraq, and for introducing food rationing. An architect and painter, he has not held a government post since the Constitution was amended to eliminate the position of prime minister in 1989.

Mr. Ahmadinejad was elected president of Iran in June 2005 on a mandate to distribute the country’s growing oil income among the poor. The son of a blacksmith, he was an unknown figure in the country’s politics who had only served as Tehran’s mayor for two years and earlier as a provincial governor for four years. But with the support of the country’s religious and military circles — who had been frustrated with the policies of Mr. Khatami, his moderate predecessor, Mr. Ahmadinejad appealed to a large rural constituency who voted for him in hope for economic change.

But Mr. Ahmadinejad soon became known on the international stage as the face of Iran’s defiance over its nuclear program and hostility towards Israel. He shocked the world when he called the Holocaust a “myth’ and repeated an old slogan from the early days of the 1979 revolution, saying “Israel must be wiped off the map.”

In the course of the campaign, the candidates exchanged accusations that were extraordinarily strong for Iranian politics

A Disputed Election and Its Violent Aftermath

Before the voting, supporters of Mr. Moussavi were hopeful, given the large and energetic crowds that had been turning out at his rallies. But early on the morning of  June 13, only two hours after polls had closed from the previous day’s voting, Mr. Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, with 63 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Mr. Moussavi.

Mr. Moussavi and a number of other losing candidates denounced the results and rallies were held in cities across the country. Ayatollah Khamenei initially swung between statements in support of Mr. Ahmadinejad and conciliatory gestures. But after a week of large protests and skirmishes between demonstrators and security forces, he gave an angry sermon in which he warned of violence if dissent continued. Over the weekend the police and the Basiji militia moved more aggressively to break up rallies, using guns, clubs, tear gas and water cannons.

Details of the street clashes, the number of deaths and the number of political opponents were sketchy, as the regime cracked down on journalists and moved to block as much cell-phone, text-messaging and Internet traffic as possible, though word filtered out, often through posts on Twitter.

The Guardian Council acknowledged that the number of votes cast in 50 cities exceeded the actual number of voters by three million, but insisted that the discrepancies did not violate Iranian law or affect the outcome of the election.

Opponents maintained their defiance, calling for continued protests and the release of detainees.  A few conservatives have expressed revulsion at the sight of unarmed protesters being beaten, even shot, by government forces. Only 105 out of the 290 members of Parliament took part in a victory celebration for Mr. Ahmadinejad on June 23, newspapers reported two days later. The absence of so many lawmakers, including the speaker, Ali Larijani, a powerful conservative, was striking. In early July, an influential clerical association based in the city of Qum, the center of the country’s spiritual life, called the new government illegitimate.

With a mass trial of more than 100 alleged dissidents under way, Mr. Ahmadinejad was formally endorsed as Iran‘s leader for a second term by Mr. Khameni. But prominent opponents stayed away from the event, news reports said, and did so again when Mr. Ahmadinejad was sworn in on Aug. 6 for a second term.

The endorsement ceremony came one day after state television broadcast a chilling segment of the mass trial in which two defendants — both prominent reform figures — said they had “changed” since being arrested and disputed widespread claims that their publicized confessions had been coerced through torture.

A top judiciary official later acknowledged that some detainees arrested after post-election protests had been tortured, the first such acknowledgment by a senior Iranian official.

A reformist cleric and presidential candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, reported in a letter that several women and men arrested amid violent demonstrations had been repeatedly raped and abused by their jailers at one detention center. The accusations of rape — usually a taboo subject in Iran — multiplied, provoking strong reactions in Iran’s clerical leadership.

The Ashura Protests and Government Crackdown

The authorities’ use of deadly force on the Dec. 27 Ashura holiday drew a fierce rebuke from Mr. Karroubi, who noted that even the shah had honored the holiday’s ban on violence. Thirteen people were reported to have been killed and many more wounded in street battles in cities across the country between security forces and protesters.

All told, more than 1,500 people have been arrested nationwide since Ashura, including 1,110 in Tehran and 400 in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, the pro-opposition Jaras Web site reported. Among those detained was the sister of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

President Obama condemned the violence and called for the release of those “unjustly detained.” “For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days.”

Government supporters blamed opposition members for the violence and called for their prosecution. The Revolutionary Guards issued a statement calling violence by the protesters a “horrible insult to Ashura” and called for “firm punishment of those behind this obvious insult,” the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.

Iranian authorities also accused the United States and Britain of orchestrating the violent demonstrations that rocked the capital and other cities on Dec. 27.

History of SYRIA

A Brief History of Modern Syria

Syria fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1516 and remained a part of their Ottoman Empire for four centuries. During this period, Syria witnessed great deterioration in economic, social, and political fields. In 1916, the Arabs took the opportunity of World War I to revolt against the Turkish rule. Arabs received British military help and promises that after the War ends, Arab countries will be granted full independence. On 6 May 1916, the Ottoman authorities hanged tens of Syrian national leaders in Damascus and Beirut. This day is still celebrated in Syria and Lebanon as the Martyrs’ Day. The Arab armies under leadership of Sharif Hussein of Mecca soon achieved victory over the Turks, and in early 1918, Arab and British armies entered Damascus ending 400 years of Ottoman occupation.

Later in 1918, Syria was declared an independent kingdom under King Faisal I, son of Sharif Hussein. However, France and Britain had their own plans in mind. In an agreement known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, they decided to divide the Middle East into French and British ‘spheres of influence’. Syria was to be put under French mandate. In early 1920, French troops landed on the Syrian coast, after several battles with poorly equipped Syrian rebels, they managed to get the country under their control. In 1923, the League of Nation officially recognized French mandate over Syria.

Syrians decided to resist the new invaders. In 1925, they revolted against the mandate. Several battles took place in Jabal al-Arab region and in Damascus. The capital was severely damaged during French air raids in retaliation for the city’s support for rebels. It was until 1936 when France finally accepted to give Syria partial independence according to the Franco-Syrian treaty signed in Paris, but French troops remained on the Syrian soil and continued to influence the Syrian policies. During World War II, Syria witnessed military confrontations between French troops loyal to the Vichy government, allied with the Germans, and Free French troops allied with the British. In 1941, the British army, along with its French allies, occupied the country, and promised full independence after the end of the war.

Again, the French did not live up to their promises. Syrians protested again, and in 29 May 1945, French troops attacked the Syrian Parliament building in Damascus, sparking more anger and demonstrations. The matter was discussed in the United Nations Security Council, which came up with a resolution demanding France’s withdrawal from Syria. The French had to comply; their last soldier left Syria on 17 April 1946, which was chosen to be Syria’s National Day.

The early years of independence were marked by political instability. In 1948, the Syrian army was sent to Palestine to fight along with other Arab armies against the newly created State of Israel. The Arabs lost the war, and Israel occupied 78 percent of the area of historical Palestine. In July 1949, Syria was the last Arab country to sign an armistice agreement with Israel. However, It was only the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In 1949, Syria’s national government was overthrown by a military coup d’etat led by Hussni al-Zaim. Later that year Zaim was overthrown by his colleague Sami al-Hinnawi. Few months later, Hinnawi was overthrown by Colonel Adib al-Sheeshakli. The latter continued to rule the country until 1954, when growing public opposition forced him to resign and leave the country. The national government was restored, but again to face instability, this time coming from abroad. In the mid 1950s, Syria’s relation with the West witnessed some tension with the improving Syrian-Soviet relations. In 1957, Turkey, a close ally of the US and a member of the NATO, massed its troops on the Syrian borders threatening to invade the country.

The western threat was also one of the reasons that helped achieve Syria’s union with Egypt under the United Arab Republic (UAR) in February 1958, with Egyptian Gamal Abdel Nasser as president. Nasser’s condition to accept union with Syria was dissolving all Syrian political parties. This was one of many reasons that led to the collapse in of the UAR on September 28, 1961, with a bloodless military coup in Damascus.

In 8 March 1963, the Baath Arab Socialist Party came to power in a coup known in Syria as the March Revolution. The Baathists dissolved the Parliament and introduced a one-party regime that was destablized by conflicts within the Baath itself. In February 1966, the right wing of Baath assumed leadership of the party, establishing radical Salah Jadid as the strongman of the country.

In the spring of 1967, severe clashes erupted on the borders between Syria and Israel. In April, Israeli officials publicly threatened to invade Syria. Those threats were among other major events that led to the Six Days War between Israel and its neighboring Arab countries. On 5 June 1967, Israel started its war against the Arabs, first by invading the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank of Jordan and then on June 10, the Syrian Golan Heights. Within two days of fighting, Syria had lost the strategic region including its main city of Quneitra. On June 11, the warring parties accepted the UN’s call for cease-fire. Later in 1967, the UN security council issued its famous 242 resolution calling for complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the Six Day War, in exchange for peace talks and Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

November 16, 1970; Hafez al-Assad, then the defense minister, led the Correction Movement that finally brought Syria long-lasting stability after years of political disturbance. Assad, elected president in 1971, started to get the nation ready to fight for its occupied land. He mobilized the major political powers in Syria under the National Progressive Front, and got the People’s Council (Parliament) back to work.

The Syrians did not wait too long. On October, 6th 1973, Syria and Egypt launched a surprising attack against the Israeli forces in the occupied Sinai and Golan Heights. Within few days, Syrian troops had almost liberated all the land occupied in 1967, but Israeli forces managed to recover after a massive US airlift. Syria soon found itself fighting US and Israel together; and with the fighting on the Egyptian front ceased, the Syrians were forced to accepted the UN call for a cease-fire. The UN Security Council issued another resolution, 338, calling for Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories and for peace talks to achieve a just peace in the Middle East.

Obviously, the Syrians did not want the war to end this way. In early 1974 they launched a war of attrition against the Israeli forces in the Golan. The continuous fighting and the Arab moral victory pushed the US into mediating a settlement between Syria and Israel. The US secretary of state Henry Kissinger succeeded in reaching an agreement to disengage Syrian and Israeli troops in the Golan. According to the agreement, Syria regained control over a strip of territory in the Golan including the major city of Quneitra. President Assad raised the Syrian flag over the liberated land on June 26, 1974, but the Syrians were surprised to find that Quneitra and many other towns and villages in the Golan were deliberately destroyed by the Israelis. The city was never rebuilt. UN troops were deployed in the liberated area to prevent any violations of the cease-fire.

In 1975, Civil War broke out in Lebanon. In 1976, Syrian troops were deployed in Lebanon upon request from the Lebanese Government. The troops in Lebanon stood against the invading Israeli army in 1982, and full-scale land and air battles took place between the two sides. In 1990, Syria and its allies in Lebanon succeeded in putting an end to the 15-year-old civil war, and Syrian troops remained in Lebanon to maintain security and stability.

In 1978, Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat signed a separate peace agreement with Israel, which was a serious blow to Arab solidarity. Syria was among other Arab nations that opposed Sadat’s move. If Israelis really wants peace, Syria proposed, they should simply withdraw from all the territories occupied in 1967.

In 1980, Iraq launched a war against Iran. Earlier in 1979, the Islamic revolution in Iran had ended its alliance with the west and declared its support for the Palestinian cause. Syria thought this was a wrong war, at a wrong time and against the wrong enemy. Very few Arab countries supported the Syrian position. Only two years after his war against Iran ended with nothing but heave losses and causalities, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded the small Arabian Gulf state of Kuwait in August 1990, sparking wide spread international condemnation. Syria participated in the US-led international coalition that was formed to defend Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait. The Gulf War that followed resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi and imposing harsh international sanctions on Iraq. Another major Arab power was now practically out of the conflict with Israel.

After the Gulf War, Syria accepted the US invitation for an international peace conference on the Middle East. The conference, held in Madrid in November 1991, marked the launch of bilateral Arab-Israeli peace talks that were supposedly based on the UN resolutions calling for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, and on the so-called ‘land for peace’ principle. However, they were stalled for years because of Israel’s continuous refusal to give back any Arab territory.

The Arab position was more weakened when the Palestinians and the Jordanians signed separate peace agreements with Israel in 1993 and 1994. Syria and Lebanon, however, vowed to sign peace together or sign not. Syria continued to support the Lebanese resistance fighters led by Hizbollah against the Israeli occupation forces in South Lebanon. In May 2000, Hizbollah succeeded in driving Israel out of Southern Lebanon after 22 years of occupation.

Syrian-Israeli peace talks reached a dead end in 1996 with Israel refusing to discuss the complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights. But in late 1999, Israel signaled its will to accept such move, and the talks were resumed in the US, this time at a high level between Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sahara’a and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The talks were again stalled in early 2000 when Barak tried to exclude the northeastern shore of the Lake Tiberias from the proposed Israeli withdrawal plan. Syria made it clear that no single inch of the Syrian soil will be given away.

On June 10th 2000, President Assad died of a heart attack. His son, Bashar al-Assad was elected President on July 10th.

Syria News

Syria news, all the latest and breaking Syria news.

Barack Obama renews sanctions on Syria for a yearPresident Barack Obama has renewed US sanctions on Syria for a year, accusing Damascus of supporting “terrorist” groups and pursuing missile programs and weapons of mass destruction.

04 May 2010

Hezbollah ‘armed with new missiles by Iran’

US Defence Secretary says Hezbollah armed with increasingly sophisticated weapons from Iran and Syria.
28 Apr 2010

US officials doubt Syrian scud transfer
US officials doubt Syrian scud transfer

Doubts are growing within the US intelligence community about allegations long-range Scud missiles from Syria have been shipped to Hizbollah in Lebanon, according to US officials.

22 Apr 2010

US warns Syria over Hizbollah Scud missile ‘deal’
The US has formally warned Syria over its “provocative behaviour” after allegations that it supplied Hizbollah with Scud missiles.
20 Apr 2010

US summons Syria over Hizbollah missiles
Senior diplomat in Washington summoned to address “provocative behaviour” which could cast doubt on Obama’s strategy.
20 Apr 2010

Syria: a new level of threat
Telegraph View: Washington must focus on diverting Syria from its dangerous course.
15 Apr 2010

Fears that war between Israel and Hizbollah is ‘imminent’

King Abdullah of Jordan has warned the US that there were fears in Lebanon that a war between Israel and Hizbollah was “imminent” amid high tensions in the region.

15 Apr 2010

Israel accuses Syria of providing Scud missiles to Hizbollah

Israel’s president has accused Syria of double-dealing amid allegations that Damascus has handed over an arsenal of Scud missiles to the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hizbollah.

13 Apr 2010

Omar bin Laden speaks out

Osama bin Laden’s son Omar has turned his back on jihadism. But is he really the agent of peace he claims to be?

31 Mar 2010

Israelis race to the slopes for 48-hour ski season

Mandi Shkhuri, an Israeli snowboarder, was on the slopes for this year’s entire season. All two days of it.

18 Feb 2010

US holds ‘candid talks’ with Syria

The highest-ranking American official to visit Syria in five years has held “candid” talks with the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, as President Barack Obama announced plans to restore an ambassador to Damascus.

17 Feb 2010

Barack Obama nominates Robert Ford as first US ambassador to Syria in five years

President Barack Obama has nominated Robert Ford as the first US ambassador to Syria in five years, as he seeks to engage Damascus as part of a wider Middle East peace push.

17 Feb 2010

Expect modest US gains from thaw with Syria

The Obama team may get modest benefits from ending a five-year chill with Damascus but will find it hard, if not impossible to peel Syria way from its hardline ally, Iran, and break the Arab-Israeli stalemate, analysts said.

08 Feb 2010

Detroit terror attack: no let-up in the terrorist threatTelegraph View The close call on Flight 253 to Detroit was a warning that we in the West have to raise our game.26 Dec 2009

UN delivers food aid by text message to Iraqi refugees in SyriaIraqi refugees living in Syria are to receive food aid by text message in an effort to use modern technology to tackle an intractable social problem.28 Oct 2009

Syria calls for Facebook boycott

Syria is reportedly planning to block access to Facebook after the social networking website agreed to give its members in the occupied Golan Heights the opportunity to list their home towns as part of Israel.

16 Sep 2009

Syrian NHS doctor ‘abducts his two British children’

An NHS doctor has abducted his two British children and flown them to his native Syria, their devastated mother has alleged.

19 Aug 2009

Saddam’s Ba’ath Party engages with US

Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party is moving towards rapprochement with the US after waging a bloody six-year struggle in Iraq.

14 Aug 2009

Syria is key to peace

Telegraph View: Barack Obama’s search for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East has slipped into a higher gear.

27 Jul 2009

US begins Middle East peace offensive

US launches diplomatic offensive aimed at reaching “truly comprehensive” deal between Israel and Arab neighbours.

26 Jul 2009

British talks with Syria offer hope of reconciliationSyria has taken a step towards a historic reconciliation with the West after David Miliband held a day of talks with the country’s foreign minister.24 Jul 2009

Syria accused of covering up deaths of 25 prisonersSyria has been accused of carrying out a massacre of dozens of political prisoners and concealing it by burying the bodies in mass graves in the middle of the night.30 Apr 2009

Officials refused access to Britons held in Syria

British officials have been refused access to two Britons who were apparently abducted by Syrian officials in mysterious circumstances in recent weeks.

01 Apr 2009

Lebanon approves first Syrian ambassador to BeirutLebanon’s official news agency has said the country has approved the appointment of Syria’s first ever ambassador to Beirut.24 Mar 2009

Hamas and Fatah meet for talks

Palestinian leaders including Mahmoud Abbas are attempting to  negotiate the terms of a unity government

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have held talks on forming a unified government to oversee new elections.

10 Mar 2009

NEW YORK TIMES   (Updated: July 29, 2009)

Only a year ago, Syria was being vilified as a dangerous pariah. The United States and its Arab allies mounted a vigorous campaign to isolate Damascus, which they accused of sowing chaos and violence throughout the region through its support for militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

In 2009, Syria seemed to be coming in from the cold. A flurry of diplomatic openings with the West and Arab neighbors has raised hopes of a chastened and newly flexible Syrian leadership that could help stabilize the region. But Syria has its own priorities, and a series of upheavals in the region, including Israel’s winter war in Gaza, and Iran’s post-election turmoil — make it difficult to say where this new dialogue will lead.

It is not just a matter of the Obama administration’s new policy of engagement. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France led the way with a visit here in September 2008. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was said to be furious at the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, welcomed him warmly in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in March 2009.

At the root of these changes is Syria’s alliance with Iran. Saudi Arabia and the other major Sunni Arab nations once hoped to push Syria away from Iran through isolation, and now — like President Obama — they appear to be trying sweeter tactics.

For the Syrians, the turnabout is proof that their ties with Iran are useful, and accord them an indispensable role as a regional broker. At the same time, the uncertainty surrounding Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his political strength in the wake of violently suppressed protests over his re-election, have raised questions about whether now might be a good time to cash in those chips in return for a better relationship with the West. On July 4, Mr. Assad issued an invitation to Mr. Obama to visit Damascus, something no president has done since Bill Clinton met with Mr. Assad’s father in 1994. Three weeks later, the Obama administration said that it would take new steps to ease American sanctions against Syria on a case-by-case basis.

Iran aside, there may be real opportunities for diplomatic progress, in part because some of the issues that divided Syria and the United States in recent years appear to have subsided. Last year’s Doha accord resolved the political crisis, at least for now, in Lebanon, where the United States long accused Syria of playing a destabilizing role. Syria and Saudi Arabia are also said to have reached an agreement not to interfere in the Lebanese parliamentary elections in June, and Syria and Lebanon have established formal diplomatic ties.

In Iraq, Syria’s goals are now similar to those of the United States, analysts say. Despite its history of enabling jihadists to fight American troops in Iraq, Syria is contemplating an imminent American withdrawal and is keenly aware that it might itself become a jihadist target, especially if it concludes any sort of peace deal with Israel.

The top priority for the Syrians is a peace deal that would return to them the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967. In spring 2009, Mr. Assad reaffirmed his desire to see the United States sponsor direct peace talks between Israel and Syria, which held indirect talks via Turkey over several months in 2009. That is a tall order, and any resulting peace deal would require Syria to cut off its support for Hamas and Hezbollah, among other things. Starting such talks may be more difficult after the ascent of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister.

But the Syrians do not seem to be in any hurry. For the moment, they are happy enough with their changed circumstances.

HISTORY OF AFGHANISTAN

SOURCE: http://www.infoplease.com/

Early History

The location of Afghanistan astride the land routes between the Indian subcontinent, Iran, and central Asia has enticed conquerors throughout history. Its high mountains, although hindering unity, helped the hill tribes to preserve their independence. It is probable that there were well-developed civilizations in S Afghanistan in prehistoric times, but the archaeological record is not clear. Certainly cultures had flourished in the north and east before the Persian king Darius I (c.500 B.C.) conquered these areas. Later, Alexander the Great conquered (329–327 B.C.) them on his way to India.

After Alexander’s death (323 B.C.) the region at first was part of the Seleucid empire. In the north, Bactria became independent, and the south was acquired by the Maurya dynasty. Bactria expanded southward but fell (mid-2d cent. B.C.) to the Parthians and rebellious tribes (notably the Saka). Buddhism was introduced from the east by the Yüechi, who founded the Kushan dynasty (early 2d cent. B.C.). Their capital was Peshawar. The Kushans declined (3d cent. A.D.) and were supplanted by the Sassanids, the Ephthalites, and the Turkish Tu-Kuie.

The Muslim conquest of Afghanistan began in the 7th cent. Several short-lived Muslim dynasties were founded, the most powerful of them having its capital at Ghazna (see Ghazni). Mahmud of Ghazna, who conquered the lands from Khorasan in Iran to the Punjab in India early in the 11th cent., was the greatest of Afghanistan’s rulers. Jenghiz Khan (c.1220) and Timur (late 14th cent.) were subsequent conquerors of renown. Babur, a descendant of Timur, used Kabul as the base for his conquest of India and the establishment of the Mughal empire in the 16th cent. In the 18th cent. the Persian Nadir Shah extended his rule to N of the Hindu Kush. After his death (1747) his lieutenant, Ahmad Shah, an Afghan tribal leader, established a united state covering most of present-day Afghanistan. His dynasty, the Durrani, gave the Afghans the name (Durrani) that they themselves frequently use.

The Afghan Wars and Independence

The reign of the Durrani line ended in 1818, and no predominant ruler emerged until Dost Muhammad became emir in 1826. During his rule the status of Afghanistan became an international problem, as Britain and Russia contested for influence in central Asia. Aiming to control access to the northern approaches to India, the British tried to replace Dost Muhammad with a former emir, subordinate to them. This policy caused the first Afghan War (1838–42) between the British and the Afghans. Dost Muhammad was at first deposed but, after an Afghan revolt in Kabul, was restored. In 1857, Dost Muhammad signed an alliance with the British. He died in 1863 and was succeeded, after familial fighting, by his third son, Sher Ali.

As the Russians acquired territory bordering on the Amu Darya, Sher Ali and the British quarreled, and the second Afghan War began (1878). Sher Ali died in 1879. His successor, Yakub Khan, ceded the Khyber Pass and other areas to the British, and after a British envoy was murdered the British occupied Kabul. Eventually Abd ar-Rahman Khan was recognized (1880) as emir. In the following years Afghanistan’s borders were more precisely defined. Border agreements were reached with Russia (1885 and 1895), British India (the Durand Agreement, 1893), and Persia (1905). The Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907 guaranteed the independence of Afghanistan under British influence in foreign affairs. Abd ar-Rahman Khan died in 1901 and was succeeded by his son Habibullah. Despite British pressure, Afghanistan remained neutral in World War I. Habibullah was assassinated in 1919. His successor, Amanullah, attempting to free himself of British influence, invaded India (1919). This third Afghan War was ended by the Treaty of Rawalpindi, which gave Afghanistan full control over its foreign relations.

Attempts at Modernization and Reform

The attempts of Amanullah (who, after 1926, styled himself king) at Westernization—including reducing the power of the country’s religious leaders and increasing the freedom of its women—provoked opposition that led to his deposition in 1929. A tribal leader, Bacha-i Saqao, held Kabul for a few months until defeated by Amanullah’s cousin, Muhammad Nadir Khan, who became King Nadir Shah. The new king pursued cautious modernization efforts until he was assassinated in 1933. His son Muhammad Zahir Shah succeeded him. Afghanistan was neutral in World War II; it joined the United Nations in 1946.

When British India was partitioned (1947), Afghanistan wanted the Pathans of the North-West Frontier Province, who had been separated from Afghan’s Pashtuns by the Durand Agreement of 1893, to be able to choose whether to join Afghanistan, join Pakistan, or be independent. The Pathans were only offered the choice of joining Pakistan or joining India; they chose the former. In 1955, Afghanistan urged the creation of an autonomous Pathan state, Pushtunistan (Pakhtunistan). The issue subsided in the late 1960s but was revived by Afghanistan in 1972 when Pakistan was weakened by the loss of its eastern wing (now Bangladesh) and the war with India.

In great-power relations, Afghanistan was neutral until the late 1970s, receiving aid from both the United States and the Soviet Union. In the early 1970s the country was beset by serious economic problems, particularly a severe long-term drought in the center and north. Maintaining that King Muhammad Zahir Shah had mishandled the economic crisis and in addition was stifling political reform, a group of young military officers deposed (July, 1973) the king and proclaimed a republic. Lt. Gen. Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan, the king’s cousin, became president and prime minister. In 1978, Daud was deposed by a group led by Noor Mohammed Taraki, who instituted Marxist reforms and aligned the country more closely with the Soviet Union. In Sept., 1979, Taraki was killed and Hafizullah Amin took power. Shortly thereafter, the USSR sent troops into Afghanistan, Amin was executed, and the Soviet-supported Babrak Karmal became president.

The Afghanistan War and Islamic Fundamentalism

In the late 1970s the government faced increasing popular opposition to its social policies. By 1979 guerrilla opposition forces, popularly called mujahidin (“Islamic warriors”), were active in much of the country, fighting both Soviet forces and the Soviet-backed Afghan government. In 1986, Karmal resigned and was replaced by Mohammad Najibullah. The country was devastated by the Afghanistan War (1979–89), which took an enormous human and economic toll. After the Soviet withdrawal, the government steadily lost ground to the guerrilla forces. In early 1992, Kabul was captured, and the guerrilla alliance set up a new government consisting of a 50-member ruling council. Burhanuddin Rabbani was named interim president.

The victorious guerrillas proved unable to unite, however, and the forces of guerrilla leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar launched attacks on the new government. As fighting among various factions continued, Afghanistan was in effect divided into several independent zones, each with its own ruler. Beginning in late 1994 a militia of Pashtun Islamic fundamentalist students, the Taliban, emerged as an increasingly powerful force. In early 1996, as the Taliban continued its attempt to gain control of Afghanistan, Rabbani and Hekmatyar signed a power-sharing accord that made Hekmatyar premier. In September, however, the Taliban captured Kabul and declared themselves the legitimate government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan; they imposed a particularly puritanical form of Islamic law in the two thirds of the country they controlled.

In Aug., 1998, as the Taliban appeared on the verge of taking over the whole country, U.S. missiles destroyed what was described by the Pentagon as an extensive terrorist training complex near Kabul run by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born militant accused of masterminding the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In Mar., 1999, a UN-brokered peace agreement was reached between the Taliban and their major remaining foe, the forces of the Northern Alliance, under Ahmed Shah Massoud, an ethnic Tajik and former mujahidin leader, but fighting broke out again in July. In November, the United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Afghanistan; this action and the 1998 U.S. missile attacks were related to the Afghani refusal to turn over bin Laden. Additional UN sanctions, including a ban on arms sales to Taliban forces, were imposed in Dec., 2000.

The Taliban controlled some 90% of the country by 2000, but their government was not generally recognized by the international community (the United Nations recognized President Burhanuddin Rabbani and the Northern Alliance). Continued warfare had caused over a million deaths, while 3 million Afghans remained in Pakistan and Iran as refugees. Adding to the nation’s woe, a drought in W and central Asia that began in the late 1990s was most severe in Afghanistan.

In early 2001 the Taliban militia destroyed all statues in the nation, including two ancient giant Buddhas in Bamian, outside Kabul. The destruction was ordered by religious leaders, who regarded the figures as idolatrous and un-Islamic; the action was met with widespread international dismay and condemnation, even from other Islamic nations. In September, in a severe blow to the Northern Alliance, Massoud died as a result of a suicide bomb attack by assassins posing as Arab journalists. Two days after that attack, devastating terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which bin Laden was apparently involved in planning, prompted new demands by U.S. President Bush for his arrest.

When the Taliban refused to hand bin Laden over, the United States launched (Oct., 2001) attacks against Taliban and Al Qaeda (bin Laden’s organization) positions and forces. The United States also began providing financial aid and other assistance to the Northern Alliance and other opposition groups. Assisted by U.S. air strikes, opposition forces ousted Taliban and Al Qaeda forces from Afghanistan’s major urban areas in November and December, often aided by the defection of forces allied with the Taliban. Several thousand U.S. troops began entering the country in November, mainly to concentrate on the search for bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and to deal with the remaining pockets of their forces.

In early December a pan-Afghan conference in Bonn, Germany, appointed Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun with ties to the former king, as the nation’s interim leader, replacing President Rabbani. By Jan., 2002, the Taliban and Al Qaeda were largely defeated, although most of their leaders and unknown numbers of their forces remained at large. Fighting continued on a sporadic basis, with occasional real battles, as occurred near Gardez in Mar., 2002. The country itself largely reverted to the control of the regional warlords who held power before the Taliban. Britain, Canada, and other NATO nations provided forces for various military, peacekeeping, and humanitarian operations. Many other nations also agreed to contribute humanitarian aid; the United Nations estimated that $15 billion would be needed over the next 10 years to rebuild Afghanistan.

The former king, Muhammad Zahir Shah, returned to the country from exile to convene (June, 2002) a loya jirga (a traditional Afghan grand council) to establish a transitional government. Karzai was elected president (for a two-year term), and the king was declared the “father of the nation.” That Karzai and his cabinet faced many challenges was confirmed violently in the following months when one of his vice presidents was assassinated and an attempt was made on Karzai’s life. Nonetheless, by the end of 2002 the country had achieved a measure of stability.

Sporadic, generally small-scale fighting with various guerrillas has continued, particularly in the southeast, with the Taliban regaining some strength and even control in certain districts. There also has been fighting between rival factions in various parts of the country. Reconstruction has proceeded slowly, and central governmental control outside Kabul remained almost nonexistent. A return to economic health also was hindered by a persistent drought that continued through 2004.

In Aug., 2003, NATO assumed command of the international security force in the Kabul area. A new constitution was approved in Jan., 2004, by a loya jirga. It provides for a strong executive presidency and contains some concessions to minorities, but tensions between the dominant Pashtuns and other ethnic groups were evident during the loya jirga. In early 2004 the United States and NATO both announced increases in the number of troops deployed in the country. The U.S. move coincided with new operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, while the NATO forces were slated to be used to provide security and in reconstruction efforts. Further increases in NATO forces, to nearly 9,000, were announced in early 2005.

By mid-2004 little of the aid that the United Nations had estimated the country would need had reached Afghanistan, while a new, Afghani-proposed development plan called for $28.5 billion over seven years. Although foreign nations pledged to provide substantial monies for three years, sufficient forces and funding for Afghan security were not included.

Karzai was elected to the presidency in Oct., 2004, in the country’s first democratic elections. The vote, which generally split along ethnic lines, was peaceful, but it was marred by some minor difficulties. Several losing candidates accused Karzai of fraud, but an international review panel said the irregularities that had occurred were not significant enough to have affected the outcome. Karzai’s new cabinet consisted largely of technocrats and was ethnically balanced, although Pashtuns generally held the more important posts.

The spring of 2005 was marked by an increase in attacks by the Taliban and their allies. Reports of the possible desecration of the Qur’an by U.S. interregators at Guantanamo, when Afghan prisoners were held by the United States, provoked protests and riots in a number of Afghan cities and towns in May, 2005. The protests were largely in the country’s south and east, where U.S. forces were operating, and were believed to reflect frustration with the U.S. presence there as much as anger over the alleged desecration.

National and provincial legislative elections were held in Sept., 2005; in some locales the balloting was marred by fraud. Supporters of Karzai won a substantial number of seats in the lower house (Wolesi Jirga); religious conservatives, former mujahidin and Taliban, women, and Pashtuns (which are overlapping groups) were all elected in significant numbers to the body. Tensions with Pakistan increased in early 2006, as members of the Afghan government increasingly accused Pakistan of failing to control Taliban and Al Qaeda camps in areas bordering Afghanistan; by the end of the year President Karzai had accused elements of the Pakistani government of directly supporting the Taliban. In Jan., 2006, a U.S. airstrike destroyed several houses in E Pakistan where Al Qaeda leaders were believed to be meeting.

May, 2006, saw the U.S.-led coalition launch its largest campaign against Taliban forces since 2001; some 11,000 troops undertook a summer offensive in four S Afghan provinces, where the Taliban had become increasingly stronger and entrenched. Also in May a deadly traffic accident in Kabul involving a U.S. convoy sparked anti-American and antigovernment demonstrations and riots in the city. In July, NATO assumed responsibility for peacekeeping in S Afghanistan, taking over from the coalition. NATO troops subsequently found themselves engaged in significant battles with the Taliban, particularly in Kandahar prov. NATO took command of all peacekeeping forces in the country, including some 11,000 U.S. troops, in October; some 8,000 U.S. troops remained part of Operation Enduring Freedom, assigned to fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in mountainous areas bordering Pakistan.

In the second half of 2006, as casualties mounted, NATO commanders encountered difficulties when their call for reinforcements failed to raise the necessary number of troops and matériel. NATO leaders also joined Afghan leaders in criticizing Pakistan for failing to end the Taliban’s use of areas bordering Afghanistan, especially in Baluchistan, as safe havens. In Mar., 2007, NATO forces launched a new offensive in Helmand prov. against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The same month the National Assembly passed a law granting many Afghans amnesty for human-rights violations committed during the past two-and-a-half decades of civil war.

In the spring of 2007, Pakistan’s construction of a fence along the border with Afghanistan led to protests from Afghanistan, and sparked several border clashes between the forces of the two countries. (Afghanistan does not officially recognize the modern Pakistan-Afghanistan border.) In May NATO forces killed the top Taliban field commander, Mullah Dadullah, but Taliban forces mounted some guerrilla attacks on the outskirts of the capital and in the north during 2007. Significant, if sporadic, fighting with insurgents continued into 2008. Also in 2007, Afghan civilian casualties during military operations became a source of anger and concern among Afghans, and those concerns also continued into 2008. In Apr., 2008, President Karzai escaped an assassination attempt unhurt. In July, Karzai accused Pakistani agents of being behind insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, among them a suicide bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Although the majority of the Afghan refugees abroad have repatriated since the overthrow of the Taliban, at the beginning of 2007 it was estimated that some 2.1 million Afghanis were still refugees, with most of those in Pakistan and Iran. Afghanistan continues to suffer from a weak central government and weak economy, which have exacerbated the insurgency and led to an increase in illegal drug production. The weak government contributed to shortfalls in international development aid to Afghanistan. By early 2008, some $25 billion had been pledged, and three fifths of that actually spent. The effectiveness of the aid was greatly reduced by government corruption, spending on foreign consultants and companies (sometimes required under the terms of the aid), wasteful spending practices, and sharp imbalances nationally in the distribution of the aid.

About Osama  bin Laden

bin Laden, Osama or Usama (ōsä’mu bin läd’un, ŭsä’mu) [key], 1957?–, Saudi-born leader of Al Qaeda [Arab.,=the base], a terrorist organization devoted to uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state. The youngest son of a wealthy Yemeni-born businessman, bin Laden was trained as a civil engineer (grad. 1979, King Abdul Aziz Univ., Jidda), but following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (see Afghanistan War) he went to Pakistan where he helped to finance the mujahidin and to found Makhtab al Khadimat [services office] (MAK), which recruited and trained non-Afghani Muslims to fight in the war.

In 1987 he split with MAK to begin a jihad [holy war] against Israel and Western influence in Islamic countries; he founded Al Qaeda the next year. Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, he returned to his family’s construction business in Saudi Arabia. When U.S. troops were stationed (1990) on Saudi soil during Persian Gulf War he became violently opposed to the Saudi monarchy and the United States. After he was caught smuggling arms in 1991, he went to Sudan, where he began financing terrorist training camps while investing in businesses and increasing his fortune. His Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994.

After the attempted assassination (1995) of Egyptian president Mubarak, to which bin Laden was linked, he was expelled (1996) from Sudan and reestablished himself in Afghanistan, where the extreme Islamic fundamentalist Taliban had come to power. That same year he issued a “declaration of war” against the United States. In its camps in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda trained a decentralized network of international terrorists that have been linked to the 1996 car bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Bin Laden also was reported to have financed or trained Islamic guerrillas operating in Kosovo, Kashmir, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

He has been indicted in the United States for the embassy bombings, and the United States launched retaliatory cruise missile attacks against his Afghanistan camps in 1998. Following the 2001 attacks the United States demanded the Taliban hand over bin Laden. When the Afghanis refused, U.S. forces began military action against Afghanistan, and in conjunction with opposition forces there largely defeated Taliban and Al Qaeda forces by Jan., 2002. Bin Laden, however, was not captured. He is believed to be in hiding in the Pashtun-dominated region that straddles the central Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Al Qaeda, now based mainly in parts of W Pakistan, has continued to function and launch terror attacks on a more limited scale while gradually rebuilding its capabilities, and also has provided support to and inspiration for other groups committed to a militant Islamic insurgency.

NEWS ABOUT AFGHANISTAN

SOURCE: http://www.infoplease.com/news/year-in-review/2009/

Presidential Election Marred by Fraud

The situation in Afghanistan deteriorated markedly throughout 2009, with a sharp increase in American deaths; escalating attacks by al-Qaeda militants; a resurgence of the Taliban, particularly in the Pashtun regions in the southeast; and diminished support for the war both at home and abroad. Many pundits wondered if U.S. involvement in Afghanistan might become President Barack Obama’s Vietnam. Indeed, the word “quagmire” began popping up in descriptions of the U.S.-led war.

When President Barack Obama announced his strategy for Afghanistan in early December, he directly addressed this comparison.

“Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists. To abandon this area now—and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance—would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.”

Obama Is Circumspect in Developing a New Strategy

Obama’s speech was a long time coming. For more than three months, as conditions continued to erode in Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai failed to stem the rampant corruption in the government and poppy production, which fuels the drug trade, Obama worked with his national security team to devise—and revise—a strategy that would satisfy those who argue against an escalation, citing the limited prospects for success there and the cost of maintaining the war, especially given the weak economy and ballooning deficits, and proponents of the war who contend that withdrawal from Afghanistan or failure to increase troops there would compromise American security.

Obama’s strategy seems to be an attempt to placate both sides. About 30,000 troops will be deployed to Afghanistan—some before the end of 2009—to thwart a resurgent Taliban, help train Afghan troops, and bring security to population centers. For those wary of the escalation, Obama said he plans to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011. The number of troops is less than the 40,000 requested by Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who took over as top commander of American forces in May 2009. In a confidential report leaked to the press in October, McChrystal said that without the troops, the mission in Afghanistan would will “likely result in failure.”

Obama was clear about the cost of war, saying the escalation will likely have a price tag of $30 billion. Government estimates indicate it costs about $1 million per year for every U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan.

The speech, of course, elicited both praise and condemnation. “Setting a draw-down date before this surge has even begun is a mistake, and it sends a mixed message to both our friends and our enemies regarding our long-term commitment to success,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas. Criticism, in fact, was bipartisan. “I see no good reason for us to send another 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan when we have so many pressing issues–like our economy–to deal with in this country,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat.

Election Morass Complicates U.S. Plan for Afghanistan

Obama had hoped a smooth presidential election process in August would offer assurances to the U.S. public that Afghanistan was on a course toward stabilization and would in turn bolster support for the deployment of more troops. The election, however, proved to be an abject failure. Some 40 candidates challenged incumbent Hamid Karzai, with Abdullah Abdullah as the most formidable contender. Abdullah, who served under Karzai as minister of foreign affairs until 2006, ran as head of the United National Front. Early results put Karzai well ahead of Abdullah, but allegations of widespread and blatant fraud surfaced immediately. In September, the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission announced it had “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” and called for a partial recount. Complaints of fraud were particularly egregious in southern regions of Afghanistan, where Karzai drew most of his support.

Election results released in October indicated that Karzai failed to garner 50% of the vote, necessitating a second-round election. Karzai agreed to participate in a runoff against Abdullah. About a week before the Nov. 7 second-round election, however, Abdullah withdrew from the race in protest of the Karzai administration’s refusal to dismiss election officials who had been accused of taking part in the rampant fraud that marred the first round. Karzai was declared the winner on Nov. 5 and began his second five-year term as president.

NEW YORK TIMES – Updated: May 13, 2010

OVERVIEW

Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country north and west of Pakistan and east of Iran. Its strategic location has long granted it a pivotal role in the region, while its hostile terrain and pugnacious inhabitants have stymied would-be conquerors for centuries. The country’s population is 34 million. Its capital is Kabul.

The United States has been militarily involved in Afghanistan since 2001 when it led an invasion after the Sept 11 attacks by Al Qaeda. The group had been given safe haven in the country by the Taliban, the extremist Islamic group that had seized control in 1996 after years of civil war. The 2001 invasion succeeded in dislodging Al Qaeda and removing the Taliban from power, but not in eradicating either group. Fueled by profits from the opium trade and dissatisfaction with the weak and often corrupt new Afghan government, the Taliban has made a steady comeback, particularly in the Pashtun regions of the south and east where the group originated.

In February 2009, President Obama ordered 17,000 additional troops sent to Afghanistan. On Dec. 1, after a lengthy policy review, he announced that another 30,000 American troops would deploy in 2010, and laid out a strategy meant to blunt the Taliban’s resurgence. Mr. Obama said that by safeguarding Afghanistan’s population centers and speeding the training of Afghan security forces, the troops would create the stability needed for the country’s central government to take hold. Saying that the deployment was not an open-ended commitment, Mr. Obama declared that a troop withdrawal would begin in 2011.

The largest obstacle to the success of the plan was widely held to be the weakness of the goverment led by President Hamid Karzai, who had won re-election in August in a vote marred by widespread fraud on his behalf. A week after Mr. Obama’s announcement of a troop increase, Mr. Karzai said Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own security until at least 2024.

THE SOVIET INVASION

Three decades ago, Afghanistan was a stable, relatively prosperous and relatively secular country. The turmoil and extremism that have dominated its history since then can be traced to the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union and the reaction both by Afghans and by their allies in the United States and Pakistan.

In the 19th century, the imperial Russian government vied with Britain for influence in Central Asia in the Great Game – a web of diplomatic intrigue and espionage. But it was almost a century later that Moscow’s role in Afghan affairs reached its peak, when the Soviet invasion descended into a prolonged and bloody occupation that was in many ways comparable to the American experience in Vietnam.

The first Soviet troops parachuted into Kabul on Dec. 27, 1979, to assist Babrak Karmal, who had become president in a coup within the Afghan Communist leadership. Moscow insisted that the troops came in response to a plea for help from a legitimately constituted Karmal Government. But most Western analysts say the Soviets engineered the coup as a pretext to replace Hafizullah Amin, the Afghan leader, who had lost their trust.

The next day, four motorized Soviet rifle divisions crossed the Amu Darya River on pontoon bridges, and Moscow announced that its “limited military contingent” would remain as long as necessary to repel outside aggression. Soviet troops stayed for more than nine years, fighting a conflict that cost them roughly 15,000 lives and undisclosed billions of rubles, while undermining the cherished image of an invincible Soviet Army.

The Soviet-backed Kabul Government generally kept a firm grip on the cities, but throughout the war was unable to rout the rebels in the countryside, where the conservative populace was antagonized at the outset by changes in social and land policies that offended Muslim tradition. After 1986, the Soviet Air Force was also rendered largely useless by advanced Stinger antiaircraft missiles supplied by the United States to the rebels.

Eventually, after peace talks moderated by the United Nations, the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan in February 1989, in what was in effect a unilateral withdrawal. They left behind a country that was not only devastated by the war but that had become a beacon to Islamic extremists from across the globe who had come to assist in the fighting, including Osama bin Laden and the group he helped found, Al Qaeda.

THE TALIBAN TAKEOVER

After Soviet forces departed, Afghanistan descended into vicious internecine strife, and by the summer of 1994 power was anarchically divided among competing warlords and individual fiefdoms. But one group would eventually gain control.

The Taliban grew out of a student movement dedicated to purifying the country, based in the southeast, the home of the dominant ethnic group, the Pashtun. In a story that is now part of Afghan folklore, the group’s first action occurred when Mullah Omar, a Pashtun who had lost an eye fighting the Soviets, gathered a small band of men and attacked a group of warlords who had raped a girl and and shaved her head.

By the end of 1994 Mullah Omar had nearly 12,000 followers and was rolling up the warlords to the north and east. With his promise of restoring the centrality of Islam to daily life, he created a genuinely  popular movement in a country weary of corruption and brutality.

Yet even with popular support, the Taliban might have withered were it not for the intervention of Pakistan, the neighbor to the east. As early as 1994, Pakistani intelligence officers began funneling arms, money and supplies to Mullah Omar’s men, as well as military advisers to help guide them in battle.

Buoyed by Pakistani aid, the Taliban by 1996 had taken control of Afghanistan, imposing strict enforcement of fundamentalist Islamic law, banning movies and music and forcing women out of schools and into all-enveloping burqa clothing.

The Taliban also provided a haven for Mr. bin Laden, who arrived by chartered jet at Jalalabad Airport in May 1996, and for Al Qaeda. Western diplomats say Al Qaeda helped persuade Mullah Omar to order the destruction of the 800-year-old Buddha statues at Bamiyan, an act condemned around the world. International criticism of the Taliban’s harsh measures had little effect on the regime, which seemed almost to welcome pariah status.

POST 9/11 INVASION

After the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush gave the Taliban an ultimatum to hand over Mr. bin Laden. When it refused, the United States joined forces with rebel groups that had never accepted Taliban rule, notably the Northern Alliance, which represented minority tribes. An air and ground campaign began that drove the Taliban out of the major Afghan cities by the end of the year.

Remnants of Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership retreated to Tora Bora in the mountains along the Pakistan border and eventually escaped after a battle there, primarily involving Afghan forces allied with the United States.

THE KARZAI GOVERNMENT

In December 2001, Hamid Karzai, a supporter and relative of Mohammad Zahir Shah, the exiled former king of Afghanistan, was named chairman of an interim government that replaced the defeated Taliban, making him the leader of the country.

Mr. Karzai took office as interim president in June 2002, saying he hoped to secure peace for Afghanistan and win the country much-needed international aid; he was elected to a five-year term as president in 2004.

During the Bush administration, Mr. Karzai — a celebrity in flowing cape and dark gray karakul cap — was also a White House favorite. His popularity, though, has subsequently plunged, at home as well as abroad. In Afghanistan Mr. Karzai now faces a population that blames him for the manifest lack of economic progress and the corrupt officials who seem to stand at every doorway of his government. In Washington, President Obama has said he is unreliable.

THE TALIBAN RESURGENCE

Despite their defeat at the hands of the West in 2001, the Taliban continued to exist, living as a guerrilla warfare operation based in the mountainous and largely lawless tribal area on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. As time passed, and the American military focus was diverted to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Taliban regrouped and began to extend its influence in the southern part of Afghanistan. Their rise was assisted by a resurgent opium trade, which helped to fill the group’s coffers.

Dealing with vast areas and limited manpower, the American-led coalition continued to hold the cities and highways, but, faced with an increasingly vigorous insurgency, was forced to cede large parts of the countryside to the Taliban.

As casualties among coalition forces mounted and conditions on the ground deteriorated, and the Taliban began to spill over into Pakistan, raising concerns about its stability, Afghanistan became once more a top foreign policy priority for the Western Allies.

NATO: RESISTANCE TO TROOP INCREASES

NATO took command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in August 2003. But NATO operations in Afghanistan have been bedeviled by arguments among alliance members about troop deployments.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the United States could never send enough troops to pacify and protect the sprawling country on its own and must rely on the help of international partners — including NATO in the short run and the Afghans’ own forces in the long term. But America’s European allies have remained noncommittal about sending additional troops to Afghanistan. France and Germany in particular have continued to limit their combat role, with both countries refusing to deploy troops in the south of the country, where Taliban forces are strongest.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION POLICY

Mr. Obama’s plan to widen United States involvement in Afghanistan was shaped by a debate in which Vice President Biden warned against getting into a political and military quagmire, while military advisers argued that the Afghanistan war effort could be imperiled without even more troops.

In February 2009, President Obama said that he would send an additional 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan in spring and summer. The order added nearly 50 percent to the 36,000 American troops already there.

In addition to the troop increases, Mr. Obama appointed Richard C. Holbrooke, a former United Nations ambassador, as special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr. Holbrooke has more than 45 years of foreign policy and diplomatic experience, including brokering an agreement between warring factions in Bosnia that led to the 1995 Dayton peace accords.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the Iraq commander who received much of the credit for the success of the surge there, had taken charge of U.S. Central Command in October 2008, with responsibility for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the region. General Petraeus’s original field commander in Afghanistan was Gen. David D. McKiernan, a traditional armor officer. General McKiernan was forced out in May 2009 in an abrupt shake-up intended to bring a more aggressive and innovative approach to a worsening eight-year war. Mr. Gates replaced General McKiernan with General McChrystal, an expert in counterinsurgency warfare who for years has viewed the violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a particularly thorny problem.

The emerging position of Congressional Democrats in late 2009 was opposition to sending more troops to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, General McChrystal’s strategic assessments and troop requests were paraded across front pages, including his contention that the task would require 40,000 or more troops if Mr. Obama wants to create true security in the country’s major population centers.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

The Aug. 20 Afghan election was the second in the nearly eight years since an American-led invasion ousted the Taliban, but security in the country had deteriorated so sharply, and the credibility of the Afghan leadership had sunk so low, that the ability of the government to hold the election at all was in doubt.

American officials were quick to declare the poll a success — worth the expanding commitment of troops and money to an increasingly unpopular and corruption-plagued government. But the low turnout was compounded by evidence that a large number of ballots were fraudulent, and that the tampering was almost entirely in favor of Mr. Karzai. After heavy pressure from American officials, Mr. Karzai agreed to a runoff with his most serious challenger, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, but the runoff was scrapped when Dr. Abdullah withdrew from the race.

With Mr. Karzai’s reelection, Mr. Obama faced a new complication: enabling a badly tarnished partner to regain enough legitimacy to help the United States find the way out of the war.  Administration officials argued that Mr. Karzai will have to regain that legitimacy by changing the way he governs, at a moment when he is politically weaker than at any time since 2001.

THE OBAMA PLAN

In a speech delivered Dec. 1, 2009 at West Point, Mr. Obama announced his plan to deploy 30,000 additional troops. He vowed to start bringing American forces home from Afghanistan in the middle of 2011, saying the United States could not afford and should not have to shoulder an open-ended commitment.

Promising that he could “bring this war to a successful conclusion,” Mr. Obama set out a strategy that would seek to reverse Taliban gains in large parts of Afghanistan, better protect the Afghan people, increase the pressure on Afghanistan to build its own military capacity and a more effective government and step up attacks on Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

In his 33-minute address, he sought to convince an increasingly skeptical nation that the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the continued existence of Al Qaeda across the border in Pakistan — what he called a “cancer” on the region — were direct threats to the United States, and that he could achieve the seemingly contradictory goals of expanding American involvement in the war even as he sought to bring it to a close.

He delivered a pointed message to President Karzai, saying, “The days of providing a blank check are over.” But he did not spell out what his administration would do if the Karzai government failed to deliver on its promise to change its ways.

The deadliest year on record in Afghanistan for American troops was 2009, and in 2010 there was no sign the conflict was easing. In the dense fog of war, the only certainty remained the complexity of the situation for policy makers, soldiers and the Afghan people.

THE MARJA OFFENSIVE

Military operations continued to be the primary tool to further the goal of a stable Afghan state. For much of the past eight years, American and NATO forces had mounted large operations to clear towns and cities of insurgents. And then after they had swept the area, they seldom, if ever, stationed enough soldiers or police officers to hold the place on their own. And so the Taliban returned – and, after a time, so did the allied forces, to clear the place all over again.

With much fanfare, American and NATO military commanders began their largest offensive since 2001 in the Marja section of southern Afghanistan in mid-February 2010. The move was the prototype for a new type of operation based on the counterinsurgency thinking propounded by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal in the prelude to Mr. Obama’s decision to increase troop strength to nearly 100,000 in December 2009.

In Marja, which is a large Taliban stronghold, American and Afghan commanders said they would do something they have never done before: bring in an Afghan government and police force behind them. American and British troops will stay on to support them. “We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in,” said General McChrystal.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, said the battle being fought in Marja was the “initial salvo” in a military campaign that could last 12 to 18 months.

Nearly a year into a Mr. Obama’s new war strategy, the hardest fighting was still ahead, but already it was clear that the biggest challenge lies not on the battlefield but in the governing of Afghanistan itself.

In Marja, for instance, most Taliban insurgents either were beaten back or drifted away by May, 2010. Still, Americans and Afghans were struggling to establish a local government that could win the loyalty of the Afghan people, something that was essential to keeping the Taliban at bay.

A LACK OF TRUST

The success of the far larger 2010 offensive expected in Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, may well depend on whether Afghans can overcome their corrosive distrust of President Karzai’s government.

Mr. Karzai was confronted with that issue when he met with American officials, including President Obama, on May 12th, a little more than a year before Mr. Obama plans to begin withdrawing American forces.

If the timetable is not daunting enough, an April, 2010 report by the Pentagon to Congress found that by most measures, Afghanistan is, at best, only a little better off than it was in 2009, and progress appears well off pace to meet the American goals.

Even as American troops clear areas of militants, they find either no government to fill the vacuum, as in Marja, or entrenched power brokers, like President Karzai’s brother in Kandahar, who monopolize NATO contracts and other development projects and are resented by large portions of the population.

In still other places, government officials rarely show up at work and do little to help local people, and in most places the Afghan police are incapable of providing security. Corruption, big and small, remains an overwhelming complaint.

Diplomats who have spent years in the country working with Afghans give the Americans credit for trying, but they warn that it is easy to underestimate the complexity of Afghan tribal relationships and the profound antipathy Afghanis feel for their government.

HISTORY OF IRAQ

From earliest times Iraq was known as Mesopotamia—the land between the rivers—for it embraces a large part of the alluvial plains of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

An advanced civilization existed in this area by 4000 B.C. Sometime after 2000 B.C. , the land became the center of the ancient Babylonian and Assyrian empires. Mesopotamia was conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia in 538 B.C. and by Alexander in 331 B.C. After an Arab conquest in 637–640, Baghdad became the capital of the ruling caliphate. The country was pillaged by the Mongols in 1258, and during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries was the object of Turkish and Persian competition.

Iraq Gains Independence

Nominal Turkish suzerainty imposed in 1638 was replaced by direct Turkish rule in 1831. In World War I, Britain occupied most of Mesopotamia and was given a mandate over the area in 1920. The British renamed the area Iraq and recognized it as a kingdom in 1922. In 1932, the monarchy achieved full independence. Britain again occupied Iraq during World War II because of its pro-Axis stance in the initial years of the war.

Iraq became a charter member of the Arab League in 1945, and Iraqi troops took part in the Arab invasion of Palestine in 1948.

At age 3, King Faisal II succeeded his father, Ghazi I, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1939. Faisal and his uncle, Crown Prince Abdul-Illah, were assassinated in July 1958 in a coup that ended the monarchy and brought to power a military junta headed by Abdul Karem Kassim. Kassim reversed the monarchy’s pro-Western policies, attempted to rectify the economic disparities between rich and poor, and began to form alliances with Communist countries.

Rise of the Baath Party

Kassim was overthrown and killed in a coup staged on March 8, 1963, by the military and the Baath Socialist Party. The Baath Party advocated secularism, pan-Arabism, and socialism. The following year, the new leader, Abdel Salam Arif, consolidated his power by driving out the Baath Party. He adopted a new constitution in 1964. In 1966, he died in a helicopter crash. His brother, Gen. Abdel Rahman Arif, assumed the presidency, crushed the opposition, and won an indefinite extension of his term in 1967.

Arif’s regime was ousted in July 1968 by a junta led by Maj. Gen. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr of the Baath Party. Bakr and his second in command, Saddam Hussein, imposed authoritarian rule in an effort to end the decades of political instability that followed World War II. A leading producer of oil in the world, Iraq used its oil revenues to develop one of the strongest military forces in the region.

Saddam Hussein’s Ascendancy Brings Series of Wars

On July 16, 1979, President Bakr was succeeded by Saddam Hussein, whose regime steadily developed an international reputation for repression, human rights abuses, and terrorism.

A long-standing territorial dispute over control of the Shatt-al-Arab waterway between Iraq and Iran broke into full-scale war on Sept. 20, 1980, when Iraq invaded western Iran. The eight-year war cost the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people and finally ended in a UN-brokered cease-fire in 1988. Poison gas was used by both Iran and Iraq.

In July 1990, President Hussein asserted spurious territorial claims on Kuwaiti land. A mediation attempt by Arab leaders failed, and on Aug. 2, 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait and set up a puppet government. The UN unsuccessfully imposed trade sanctions against Iraq to compel withdrawl. On Jan. 18, 1991, UN forces, under the leadership of U.S. general Norman Schwarzkopf, launched the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), liberating Kuwait in less than a week.

The war did little to thwart Iraq’s resilient dictator. Rebellions by both Shiites and Kurds, encouraged by the U.S., were brutally crushed. In 1991, the UN set up a northern no-fly zone to protect Iraq’s Kurdish population; in 1992 a southern no-fly zone was established as a buffer between Iraq and Kuwait and to protect Shiites.

The UN Steps In With Sanctions and Weapons Inspections

Beginning in 1990, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions that barred Iraq from selling oil except in exchange for food and medicine. The sanctions against Iraq failed to subdue its leader, instead causing catastrophic suffering among its people—the country’s infrastructure was in ruins, and disease, malnutrition, and the infant mortality rate skyrocketed.

The UN weapons inspections team mandated to ascertain that Iraq had destroyed all its nuclear, chemical, biological, and ballistic arms after the war was continually thwarted by Saddam Hussein. In Nov. 1997, he expelled the American members of the UN inspections team, a standoff that stretched on until Feb. 1998. In Aug. 1998, Hussein again put a halt to the inspections. On Dec. 16, the U.S. and Britain began Operation Desert Fox, four days of intensive air strikes. From then on, the U.S. and Britain conducted hundreds of air strikes on Iraqi targets within the no-fly zones. The sustained low-level warfare continued unabated into 2003.

The U.S. Launches War in Iraq

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President Bush began calling for a “regime change” in Iraq, describing the nation as part of an “axis of evil.” The alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction, the thwarting of UN weapons inspectors, Iraq’s alleged links to terrorism, and Saddam Hussein’s despotism and human rights abuses were the major reasons cited for necessitating a preemptive strike against the country. The Arab world and much of Europe condemned the hawkish and unilateral U.S. stance. The UK, however, declared its intention to support the U.S. in military action. On Sept. 12, 2002, Bush addressed the UN, challenging the organization to swiftly enforce its own resolutions against Iraq, or else the U.S. would act on its own. On Nov. 8, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution imposing tough new arms inspections on Iraq. On Nov. 26, new inspections of Iraq’s military holdings began.

The UN’s formal report at the end of Jan. 2003 was not promising, with chief weapons inspector Hans Blix lamenting that “Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it.” While the Bush administration felt the report cemented its claim that a military solution was imperative, several permanent members of the UN Security Council—France, Russia, and China—urged that the UN inspectors be given more time to complete their task. Bush and Blair continued to call for war, insisting that they would go ahead with a “coalition of the willing,” if not with UN support. All diplomatic efforts ceased by March 17, when President Bush delivered an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave the country within 48 hours or face war.

On March 20, the war against Iraq began at 5:30 A.M. Baghdad time (9:30 P.M. EST , March 19) with the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom. By April 9, U.S. forces had taken control of the capital, signaling the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Although the war had been officially declared over on May 1, 2003, Iraq remained enveloped in violence and chaos. Iraqis began protesting almost immediately against the delay in self-rule and the absence of a timetable to end the U.S. occupation. In July, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, appointed an Iraqi governing council.

NEWS ABOUT IRAQ

SOURCE: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/iraq/index.html

Iraq

The New York Times

Updated: May 12, 2010

By STEVEN LEE MYERS

Seven years after the American invasion of Iraq, the country has been plunged into a new round of political turmoil in the wake of what appear to be the most open and competitive elections in the nation’s long history of colonial rule, dictatorship and war. The vote and its chaotic aftermath present a snapshot of both how far the country has come and how far it has to go in its hoped-for transformation into a stable, secure democracy.

The nationwide parliamentary elections on March 7 went relatively smoothly, if smoothly can include a wave of violence meant to disrupt the vote, with 100 attacks in Baghdad alone. At least 38 people died, but the turnout was higher than expected. Sunnis who largely boycotted previous elections voted in force, and an intense competition for Shiite votes drove up participation in Baghdad and the south.

The results showed the coalition led by a secular candidate, Ayad Allawi, taking a slim lead over the slate of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, with 91 seats to 89. The results set off political turmoil, as Mr. Maliki challenged the tally on a number of fronts and opened a period of maneuvering expected to last months. Neither Mr. Allawi nor Mr. Maliki can reach the 163 votes in parliament needed to be named prime minister without forming an alliance with another bloc.

Mr. Maliki responded to the results with bareknuckle tactics that made full use of his sway over the judiciary. First he persuaded the Supreme Court to issue a ruling that gave him, rather than Mr. Allawi, the first shot at forming a government. Then he won a court ruling that ordered a recount of the results from Baghdad, where one-fifth of the nationwide total number of votes were cast. Mr. Allawi has warned that the overturning of his apparent victory could lead to violence. And members of both parties concede that the exact number of seats won will be less important than each leader’s success at finding new allies.

On May 4, Mr. Maliki’s coalition forged an alliance with the other major Shiite bloc, a move that cleared the way for a Shiite-dominated government for the next four years. Together they are only four votes short of a majority, leading many here to expect that a deal will be reached with Kurdish parties, once the Kurds extract new promises of expanded autonomy. That would recreate the coalition that ruled for the last four years, and could leave Sunnis feeling left out in the cold once again.

The Shiite alliance had not agreed on a candidate for prime minister, as many of its members strongly oppose giving Mr. Maliki a second term.

The maneuvering could well delay the formation of a new government through the months when the Obama administration planned to withdraw its combat troops, leaving a force of only 50,000 by September. The machinations over the results have cast also doubt on the ultimate fairness of an election that was seen as a test of Iraq’s nascent democracy and the United States’ ability to withdraw. And the political impasse and the decision of the Shiite parties to band together has revived sectarian tensions that are never far from the surface and has raised the specter of even more violence.

THE INVASION OF IRAQ

Almost immediately after ousting the Taliban from power in Afghanistan following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — some argue, even before — President George W. Bush began to press the case for an American-led invasion of Iraq. He cited the possibility that Saddam Hussein still sought nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in defiance of United Nations restrictions and sanctions. Mr. Bush and other senior American officials also sought to link Iraq to Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. Both claims have since been largely discredited, though some officials and analysts continue to argue otherwise, saying that Mr. Hussein’s Iraq posed a real and imminent threat to the region and to the United States.

In his State of the Union address in 2002 , Mr. Bush linked Iraq with Iran and North Korea as an ” axis of evil. ” In his 2003 address , Mr. Bush made it clear the United States would use force to disarm Mr. Hussein, despite the continuing work of United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, and despite growing international protests, even from some allies. A week later Secretary of State Colin L. Powell made the administration’s case before the United Nations Security Council with photographs, intercepted messages and other props, including a vial that, he said, could hold enough anthrax to shut down the United States Senate.

The invasion of Iraq began on March 19, 2003—the early hours of March 20 in Iraq—when Mr. Bush ordered missiles fired at a bunker in Baghdad where he believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding. Within weeks, with a “coalition of the willing” and disputed legal authority , the United States quickly toppled Mr. Hussein’s government, despite fierce fighting by some paramilitary groups. The Iraqi leader himself reportedly narrowly avoided being killed in the war’s first air strikes. The Army’s Third Infantry Division entered Baghdad on April 5, seizing what was once called Saddam Hussein International Airport. On April 9, a statue of Mr. Hussein in Firdos Square was pulled down with the help of the Marines. That effectively sealed the capture of Baghdad, but began a new war.

CHAOS AND INSURGENCY

The fall of Iraq’s brutal, powerful dictator unleashed a wave of celebration, then chaos, looting, violence and ultimately insurgency. Rather than quickly return power to the Iraqis, including political and religious leaders returning from exile, the United States created an occupation authority that took steps widely blamed for alienating many Iraqis and igniting Sunni-led resistance. They included disbanding the Iraqi Army and purging members of the former ruling Baath Party from government and public life, both with consequences felt to this day. On May 1, 2003, Mr. Bush appeared on an American aircraft carrier that carried a banner declaring ” Mission Accomplished ,” a theatrical touch that even the president years later acknowledged sent the wrong message.

In the security and political vacuum that followed the invasion, violence erupted against the American-led occupation forces and against the United Nations headquarters, which was bombed in August 2003, killing the body’s special representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003—the former leader was found unshaven and disheveled in a spider hole north of Baghdad—did nothing to halt the bloodshed. Nor did the formal transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people in June 200, which took place a few months after the publication of photographs showing the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib had further fueled anger and anti-American sentiment.

In January 2005, the Americans orchestrated Iraq’s first multi-party elections in five decades, a moment symbolized by Iraqis waving fingers marked in purple ink after they voted. The elections for a Transitional National Assembly reversed the historic political domination of the Sunnis, who had largely boycotted the vote. A Shiite coalition supported by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful Shiite cleric, won a plurality, and put Shiites in power, along with the Kurds. Saddam Hussein stood trial, remaining defiant and unrepentant as he faced charges of massacring Shiites in Dujail in 1982.

A new constitution followed by the end of the year, and new elections in January 2006 cemented the new balance of power, but also exposed simmering sectarian tensions, as many Sunnis boycotted. In February 2006, the bombing of the Askariya Mosque in Samarra, one of the most revered Shiite shrines, set off a convulsion of violence against both Sunnis and Shiites that amounted to a civil war. In Baghdad, it soon was not unusual for 30 bodies or more to be found on the streets every day, as Shiite death squads operated without hindrance and Sunnis retaliated. That steady toll was punctuated by spikes from bomb blasts, usually aimed at Shiites. Even more families fled, as neighborhoods and entire cities were ethnically cleansed. Ultimately, more than 2 million people were displaced in Iraq, and many of them are still abroad to this day, unable or too afraid to return.

Arab and Kurdish tensions also ran high. In Mosul, a disputed city in the north, Sunni militants attacked Kurdish and Christian enclaves. The fate of Kirkuk, populated by Arabs, Kurds and smaller minority groups, remains disputed territory, punctured routinely by killings and bombings. After a political impasse that reflected the chaos in the country, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a little-known Shiite politician previously known as Jawad al-Maliki, became Iraq’s first permanent prime minister in April 2006.

AT HOME

The messy aftermath of a swift military victory made the war in Iraq increasingly unpopular at home, but not enough to derail Mr. Bush’s re-election in November 2004. Almost immediately afterwards, though, his approval rating dropped as the war dragged on. It never recovered. By 2006, Democrats regained control of Congress. Their victory rested in large part on the growing sentiment against the war, which rose with the toll of American deaths, which reached 3,000 by the end of the year, and its ever spiraling costs. Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death just before the Congressional elections, and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld resigned the day after the vote, widely blamed for having mismanaged the war.

In the face of rising unpopularity and against the advice of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan group of prominent Americans, Mr. Bush ordered a large increase in American forces, then totaling roughly 130,000 troops. He decided to do so after meeting with his advisers over the New Year’s holiday weekend, even as Mr. Hussein was hanged in a gruesome execution surreptitiously filmed with a cell phone.

The “surge,” as the increase became known, eventually raised the number of troops to more than 170,000. It coincided with a new counterinsurgency strategy that had been introduced by a new American commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and the flowering of a once-unlikely alliance with Sunnis in Anbar province and elsewhere. Moktada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American Shiite cleric, whose followers in the Mahdi Army militia had been responsible for some of the worst brutality in Baghdad, declared a cease-fire in September. These factors came together in the fall of 2007 to produce a sharp decline in violence.

Political progress and ethnic reconciliation were halting, though, fueling calls by Democrats to begin a withdrawal of American forces, though they lacked sufficient votes in Congress to force one. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, an early opponent of the war, rose to prominence in the Democratic race for the nomination in large part by capitalizing on the war’s unpopularity. But by the time Mr. Obama defeated Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination in 2008 and then the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, Iraq hardly loomed as an issue as it once had, both because of the drop in violence there and because of the rising economic turmoil in the United States and later the world.

BUSH REACHES AN AGREEMENT

At the end of 2007, Mr. Bush and General Petraeus had succeeded in maintaining the level of American forces in Iraq above what it was before the “surge” began. Mr. Maliki’s government, increasingly confident of its growing military might, expanded operations against insurgents and other militants that had once been the exclusive fight of the Americans. The militias loyal to Mr. Sadr, who had gone into exile, were routed in a government-led offensive in southern Iraq, though significant assistance from American forces and firepower was needed for the Iraqis to succeed. By May, the offensive extended to Sadr City in Baghdad, a densely populated neighborhood that had been largely outside of the government’s control.

In December 2008, Mr. Bush made a valedictory visit to Iraq, his fourth trip to the country he liberated from Saddam Hussein’s rule and then plunged into bloodshed. The visit, intended to celebrate the new security agreements and the newly confident Iraqi sovereignty implicit in them, was instead overshadowed by an Iraqi journalist during Mr. Bush’s press conference with Mr. Maliki. Muntader al-Zaidi, a television correspondent, hurled first one shoe, then a second, at Mr. Bush, who ducked and narrowly averted being struck. Hurling a shoe is insult enough, but Mr. Zaidi also shouted: “This is a farewell kiss, you dog.” The correspondent, who was beaten, arrested and, his relatives and lawyer said, later tortured, became a folk hero of sorts in the Arab world, though not universally. He was initially sentenced to three years in jail, but Iraq’s highest court reduced the sentence to one year. He was released in September 2009 and fled the country after claiming he had been tortured in jail.

American and Iraqi officials spent most of 2008 negotiating a new security agreement to replace the United Nations mandate authorizing the presence of foreign troops. Negotiations proceeded haltingly for months, but Mr. Bush, who for years railed against those calling for timetables for withdrawal, agreed in July 2008 to a “general time horizon.” That ultimately became a firm pledge to remove all American combat forces from Iraqi cities by the end of June 2009 and from the whole country by 2011. He also agreed to give Iraq significant control over combat operations, detentions of prisoners and even prosecutions of American soldiers for grave crimes, though with enough caveats to make charges unlikely.

THE MALIKI GOVERNMENT

According to political advisers, Mr. Maliki is intent on changing the nature of Baghdad’s relationship with Washington, shifting Iraq’s role from a client state to a more equal partner. But internally, the transition from insurgency to politics to governance—a key to stabilizing the country after six years of war—was proving to be anything but steady and sure. Iraq’s provincial elections on Jan. 31, 2009, passed with strikingly little mayhem, raising hopes that democracy might take hold.

Mr. Maliki’s Dawa party, running as the leader of a coalition called State of Law, was the overwhelming winner, but the bloc fell short of being able to operate without coalition-building. Over all, the results remained divided along sectarian lines, with Shiite-majority provinces choosing Shiite parties and Sunni-majority provinces choosing Sunni parties. The election outcome conveyed a dual message: many Iraqis want a strong central government, rather than one where regions hold more power than the center, but they do not want all the power in the hands of one party.

On the ground in the provinces, however, what happened in the months after the election was something all too familiar to Iraqis: threats, intrigue, back-room deal-making, protests, political paralysis and, increasingly, popular discontent. Almost immediately the campaign for the parliamentary elections began, at least unofficially. Political jockeying and a weakened economy due to oil prices largely stalled progress on most legislative issues.

PLANS FOR WITHDRAWAL

The election is the last major political milestone in Iraq that will be overseen by tens of thousands of American troops, albeit in a largely advisory role. Under the security agreement, the American military returned control of military operations to Iraq’s military and police on Jan. 1, 2009.

President Obama, who campaigned on a promise to end the war, entered office that month indicating that he did not intend to waver from his goal. As a senator and candidate, Mr. Obama did not oppose the security agreement negotiated by Mr. Bush’s administration, largely because it left him considerable flexibility to carry out his campaign pledges. What was initially unclear was how quickly his administration would move to withdraw American forces, particularly in light of advice from General Petraeus’s successor, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who had developed a plan for a slower withdrawal – two brigades over six months, compared with one brigade a month. On his first full day in office, he told Pentagon officials and military commanders ” to engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq. ” A month later, he announced a plan to withdraw all combat troops by August 2010, leaving only 35,000 to 50,000, who would then leave Iraq by December 2011. The timetable was only slightly longer than he had pledged during the campaign.

At the end of June 2009, also in keeping with the security agreement, the vast majority of American troops withdrew from Iraq’s cities, garrisoning themselves on vast bases outside. Mr. Maliki declared June 30 a national holiday, positioning himself as a proud leader who ended the foreign occupation of Iraq. By the end of July, there were no longer any other nations with troops in Iraq – no “multi” in the Multi-National Force. As Iraqi forces have increasingly taken the lead, the United States became the last of the “coalition of the willing” that the Bush administration first assembled in 2003. The withdrawal from the cities – and the reduction in active combat roles – showed in declining American casualties. In December 2009, for the first time since the war began, no American soldier died in a hostile act.

Mr. Maliki’s fanfare about ending the occupation rang hollow for Iraqis who feared that their country’s security forces were not yet ready to stand alone. A series of catastrophic attacks in August, October, December and January 2010 – striking government ministries, universities, hotels – only heightened anxiety and suspicion among Iraqis.

THE 2010 CAMPAIGN

Mr. Maliki, hoping to build on his success in the 2009 provincial elections, sought to form a broader, cross-sectarian coalition that would include Sunnis, Kurds and other minority groups. Other parties followed suit, appealing for “national unity” in a country where it has rarely before existed, and only then a unity ruled by an iron hand. Mr. Maliki refused to join another, largely Shiite coalition, called the Iraqi National Alliance, which included many of those with whom he formed the country’s first parliamentary majority.

They faced a formidable challenge from a coalition led by Ayad Allawi, a Shiite who served as interim prime minister before the 2005 elections. Mr. Allawi’s alliance, called Iraqiya, drew broader support across the country’s sectarian lines, attracting Mr. Hashimi, the Sunni vice president, and Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni lawmaker who was the most prominent candidate barred from running in March’s election. Jawad al-Bolani, the interior minister, formed a similar coalition with one of Anbar’s most prominent sheiks.

The election was originally scheduled for January, but was delayed for months by political bickering. A fight over the election rules prompted a veto by one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, who said Sunni Arabs inside and outside the country faced disadvantages. Then in January a parliamentary commission with disputed legal standing disqualified more than 500 candidates on the grounds they were former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party or remained sympathetic to it.

The disqualifications — on grounds that have even now not been made public — reignited sectarian tensions that are never far from the surface, and the turmoil raised questions about the strength of Iraq’s democratic institutions. The murky process was orchestrated by two candidates in the election, including Ahmad Chalabi, a former exile who was warmly embraced by American officials who lobbied to overthrow Mr. Hussein’s regime. That glaring conflict of interest provoked outrage but did not derail the process.

A special appeals court initially reversed the disqualifications, then after Mr. Maliki and other political leaders met with the head of the country’s Supreme Judicial Council, the court reversed itself. In the end, only 26 candidates were returned to the ballot. Many accused Mr. Maliki’s party and another largely Shiite electoral coalition of using the process to target their main challengers in the elections, largely secular coalitions led by a former prime minister, Ayad Allawi and the serving interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani.

The pre-election turmoil unfolded against a backdrop of violence and intimidation, and a steady withdrawal of American troops. At least one candidate has been assassinated, another kidnapped; several party headquarters were bombed. On February 12, the Islamic State of Iraq, the insurgent group that now includes the remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, vowed to disrupt the elections. While the level of violence has plunged from the shocking carnage of 2006 and 2007, suicide bombers continue to attack, seemingly at will, plunging Baghdad into chaos on a regular basis and undercutting Mr. Maliki’s claims to have restored security. Political disputes between Arabs and Kurds in the north continue to fester, prompting the Americans to intervene. Mr. Maliki’s use of the military and security forces to settle political disputes have also raised alarms, and put the Americans in the awkward middle.

Election Day on March 7 was marked by violence that left at least 38 dead, but that did not dissuade voters from turning out in large numbers. The vote counting process proved to be more chaotic than expected, with accusations of fraud by leading parties, divisions among highly politicized electoral officials and chaos in disclosing the results.

Mr. Allawi, a secular Shiite, put together a coalition that included many Sunni parties, and his list won heavily in their parts of the country. Mr. Maliki, whose Dawa Party broke with other Shiite religious parties, ended up splitting the vote of the Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the population. Neither candidate, however, won anywhere near the 163 seats needed for a majority in Parliament. In the days leading to the announcement of results of the March 7 poll, it was widely assumed that the candidate who won the most seats would be given the advantage of the first attempt at forming a government, and be given 30 days to do so.

However, the day before the results were announced, the prime minister’s office asked the Supreme Federal Court for “a definition of the term, ‘the parliamentary bloc with the most members’ ” in Article 76 of the Iraqi Constitution. With little explanation, the court ruled that the leader of the bloc with the most followers once Parliament convenes – probably in June – would be the one who forms a government.

Mr. Maliki won yet another procedural victory on April 19, when a court ordered a partial recount. While the recount is limited, so far, to the province that includes Baghdad, it could upend the narrow two-seat national victory of Mr. Allawi. The region accounts for more than one-fifth of the 12 million Iraqis who voted in March and 70 of the 325 lawmakers who will serve in the new Parliament, meaning that any significant change in the count could prove decisive.

The special election court handling the de-Baathification process disqualified nine winning candidates and ordered the votes of dozens of losing candidates thrown out as well, almost all of whom had run on Mr. Allawi’s slate. Then in May the court just as abruptly reversed itself, as the result of a frantically negotiated backroom deal.

The agreement seemed to give Mr. Allawi some cause for hope, although the decision by Mr. Maliki’s party and the other Shiite bloc to work together meant he faced an uphill climb in his effort to form a new government.

The two Shiite blocs together won 159 seats, according to preliminary tabulations, only four seats short of a majority in the new Parliament. It is widely expected that the Kurds, who won 57 seats, will now join them, though only after trying to extract concessions on greater sovereignty and territorial claims in the north. The question of who will lead the alliance – and thus serve as prime minister – remains a matter of dispute among the Shiite parties.

The Iraqi National Alliance is led by another former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, who represents the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The bloc led by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has made it clear that it opposes Mr. Maliki’s candidacy, while Mr. Maliki has shown no signs of stepping aside. There has been much speculation about compromise candidates, including Muhammad Jaffar al-Sadr, the cleric’s cousin, who ran with Mr. Maliki’s alliance. In merging, the Shiite parties essentially agreed to put off a decision that could fray the alliance and allow Mr. Allawi an opening to cobble together an alternative coalition.

A Brief History of Pakistan

Taken from Us Depratment of State website www.state.gov

Archeological explorations have revealed impressive ruins of a 4,500-year old urban civilization in Pakistan’s Indus River valley. The reason for the collapse of this highly developed culture is unknown. A major theory is that it was crushed by successive invasions (circa 2000 B.C. and 1400 B.C.) of Aryans, Indo-European warrior tribes from the Caucasus region in what is now Russia. The Aryans were followed in 500 B.C. by Persians and, in 326 B.C., by Alexander the Great. The “Gandhara culture” flourished in much of present-day Pakistan.

The Indo-Greek descendants of Alexander the Great saw the most creative period of the Gandhara (Buddhist) culture. For 200 years after the Kushan Dynasty was established in A.D. 50, Taxila (near Islamabad) became a renowned center of learning, philosophy, and art.

Pakistan’s Islamic history began with the arrival of Muslim traders in the 8th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Mogul Empire dominated most of South Asia, including much of present-day Pakistan.

British traders arrived in South Asia in 1601, but the British Empire did not consolidate control of the region until the latter half of the 18th century. After 1850, the British or those influenced by them governed virtually the entire subcontinent.

In the early 20th century, South Asian leaders began to agitate for a greater degree of autonomy. Growing concern about Hindu domination of the Indian National Congress Party, the movement’s foremost organization, led Muslim leaders to form the all-India Muslim League in 1906. In 1913, the League formally adopted the same objective as the Congress — self-government for India within the British Empire — but Congress and the League were unable to agree on a formula that would ensure the protection of Muslim religious, economic, and political rights.

Pakistan and Partition
The idea of a separate Muslim state emerged in the 1930s. On March 23, 1940, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, formally endorsed the “Lahore Resolution,” calling for the creation of an independent state in regions where Muslims constituted a majority. At the end of World War II, the United Kingdom moved with increasing urgency to grant India independence. However, the Congress Party and the Muslim League could not agree on the terms for a constitution or establishing an interim government. In June 1947, the British Government declared that it would bestow full dominion status upon two successor states — India and Pakistan. Under this arrangement, the various princely states could freely join either India or Pakistan. Consequently, a bifurcated Muslim nation separated by more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 mi.) of Indian territory emerged when Pakistan became a self-governing dominion within the Commonwealth on August 14, 1947. West Pakistan comprised the contiguous Muslim-majority districts of present-day Pakistan; East Pakistan consisted of a single province, which is now Bangladesh.

The Maharaja of Kashmir was reluctant to make a decision on accession to either Pakistan or India. However, armed incursions into the state by tribesman from the NWFP led him to seek military assistance from India. The Maharaja signed accession papers in October 1947 and allowed Indian troops into much of the state. The Government of Pakistan, however, refused to recognize the accession and campaigned to reverse the decision. The status of Kashmir has remained in dispute.

After Independence
With the death in 1948 of its first head of state, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the assassination in 1951 of its first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, political instability and economic difficulty became prominent features of post-independence Pakistan. On October 7, 1958, President Iskander Mirza, with the support of the army, suspended the 1956 constitution, imposed martial law, and canceled the elections scheduled for January 1959. Twenty days later the military sent Mirza into exile in Britain and Gen. Mohammad Ayub Khan assumed control of a military dictatorship. After Pakistan’s loss in the 1965 war against India, Ayub Khan’s power declined. Subsequent political and economic grievances inspired agitation movements that compelled his resignation in March 1969. He handed over responsibility for governing to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, who became President and Chief Martial Law Administrator.

General elections held in December 1970 polarized relations between the eastern and western sections of Pakistan. The Awami League, which advocated autonomy for the more populous East Pakistan, swept the East Pakistan seats to gain a majority in Pakistan as a whole. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), founded and led by Ayub Khan’s former Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, won a majority of the seats in West Pakistan, but the country was completely split with neither major party having any support in the other area. Negotiations to form a coalition government broke down and a civil war ensued. India attacked East Pakistan and captured Dhaka in December 1971, when the eastern section declared itself the independent nation of Bangladesh. Yahya Khan then resigned the presidency and handed over leadership of the western part of Pakistan to Bhutto, who became President and the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.

Bhutto moved decisively to restore national confidence and pursued an active foreign policy, taking a leading role in Islamic and Third World forums. Although Pakistan did not formally join the non-aligned movement until 1979, the position of the Bhutto government coincided largely with that of the non-aligned nations. Domestically, Bhutto pursued a populist agenda and nationalized major industries and the banking system. In 1973, he promulgated a new constitution accepted by most political elements and relinquished the presidency to become Prime Minister. Although Bhutto continued his populist and socialist rhetoric, he increasingly relied on Pakistan’s urban industrialists and rural landlords. Over time the economy stagnated, largely as a result of the dislocation and uncertainty produced by Bhutto’s frequently changing economic policies. When Bhutto proclaimed his own victory in the March 1977 national elections, the opposition Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) denounced the results as fraudulent and demanded new elections. Bhutto resisted and later arrested the PNA leadership.

1977-1985 Martial Law
With increasing anti-government unrest, the army grew restive. On July 5, 1977, the military removed Bhutto from power and arrested him, declared martial law, and suspended portions of the 1973 constitution. Chief of Army Staff Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq became Chief Martial Law Administrator and promised to hold new elections within three months.

Zia released Bhutto and asserted that he could contest new elections scheduled for October 1977. However, after it became clear that Bhutto’s popularity had survived his government, Zia postponed the elections and began criminal investigations of the senior PPP leadership. Subsequently, Bhutto was convicted and sentenced to death for alleged conspiracy to murder a political opponent. Despite international appeals on his behalf, Bhutto was hanged on April 6, 1979.

Zia assumed the Presidency and called for elections in November. However, fearful of a PPP victory, Zia banned political activity in October 1979 and postponed national elections.

In 1980, most center and left parties, led by the PPP, formed the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). The MRD demanded Zia’s resignation, an end to martial law, new elections, and restoration of the constitution as it existed before Zia’s takeover. In early December 1984, President Zia proclaimed a national referendum for December 19 on his “Islamization” program. He implicitly linked approval of “Islamization” with a mandate for his continued presidency. Zia’s opponents, led by the MRD, boycotted the elections. When the government claimed a 63% turnout, with more than 90% approving the referendum, many observers questioned these figures.

On March 3, 1985, President Zia proclaimed constitutional changes designed to increase the power of the President vis-a-vis the Prime Minister (under the 1973 constitution the President had been mainly a figurehead). Subsequently, Zia nominated Muhammad Khan Junejo, a Muslim League member, as Prime Minister. The new National Assembly unanimously endorsed Junejo as Prime Minister and, in October 1985, passed Zia’s proposed eighth amendment to the constitution, legitimizing the actions of the martial law government, exempting them from judicial review (including decisions of the military courts), and enhancing the powers of the President.

The Democratic Interregnum
On December 30, 1985, President Zia removed martial law and restored the fundamental rights safeguarded under the constitution. He also lifted the Bhutto government’s declaration of emergency powers. The first months of 1986 witnessed a rebirth of political activity throughout Pakistan. All parties — including those continuing to deny the legitimacy of the Zia/Junejo government — were permitted to organize and hold rallies. In April 1986, PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, returned to Pakistan from exile in Europe.

Following the lifting of martial law, the increasing political independence of Prime Minister Junejo and his differences with Zia over Afghan policy resulted in tensions between them. On May 29, 1988, President Zia dismissed the Junejo government and called for November elections. In June, Zia proclaimed the supremacy in Pakistan of Shari’a (Islamic law), by which all civil law had to conform to traditional Muslim edicts.

On August 17, a plane carrying President Zia, American Ambassador Arnold Raphel, U.S. Brig. General Herbert Wassom, and 28 Pakistani military officers crashed on a return flight from a military equipment trial near Bahawalpur, killing all of its occupants. In accordance with the constitution, Chairman of the Senate Ghulam Ishaq Khan became Acting President and announced that elections scheduled for November 1988 would take place.

After winning 93 of the 205 National Assembly seats contested, the PPP, under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto, formed a coalition government with several smaller parties, including the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM). The Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI), a multi-party coalition led by the PML and including religious right parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), won 55 National Assembly seats.

Differing interpretations of constitutional authority, debates over the powers of the central government relative to those of the provinces, and the antagonistic relationship between the Bhutto Administration and opposition governments in Punjab and Balochistan seriously impeded social and economic reform programs. Ethnic conflict, primarily in Sindh province, exacerbated these problems. A fragmentation in the governing coalition and the military’s reluctance to support an apparently ineffectual and corrupt government were accompanied by a significant deterioration in law and order.

In August 1990, President Khan, citing his powers under the eighth amendment to the constitution, dismissed the Bhutto government and dissolved the national and provincial assemblies. New elections, held in October of 1990, confirmed the political ascendancy of the IJI. In addition to a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, the alliance acquired control of all four provincial parliaments and enjoyed the support of the military and of President Khan. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, as leader of the PML, the most prominent Party in the IJI, was elected Prime Minister by the National Assembly.

Sharif emerged as the most secure and powerful Pakistani Prime Minister since the mid-1970s. Under his rule, the IJI achieved several important political victories. The implementation of Sharif’s economic reform program, involving privatization, deregulation, and encouragement of private sector economic growth, greatly improved Pakistan’s economic performance and business climate. The passage into law in May 1991 of a Shari’a bill, providing for widespread Islamization, legitimized the IJI government among much of Pakistani society.

After PML President Junejo’s death in March 1993, Sharif loyalists unilaterally nominated him as the next party leader. Consequently, the PML divided into the PML Nawaz (PML/N) group, loyal to the Prime Minister, and the PML Junejo group (PML/J), supportive of Hamid Nasir Chatta, the President of the PML/J group.

However, Nawaz Sharif was not able to reconcile the different objectives of the IJI’s constituent parties. The largest religious party, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), abandoned the alliance because of its perception of PML hegemony. The regime was weakened further by the military’s suppression of the MQM, which had entered into a coalition with the IJI to contain PPP influence, and allegations of corruption directed at Nawaz Sharif. In April 1993, President Khan, citing “maladministration, corruption, and nepotism” and espousal of political violence, dismissed the Sharif government, but the following month the Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated the National Assembly and the Nawaz Sharif government. Continued tensions between Sharif and Khan resulted in governmental gridlock and the Chief of Army Staff brokered an arrangement under which both the President and the Prime Minister resigned their offices in July 1993.

An interim government, headed by Moeen Qureshi, a former World Bank Vice President, took office with a mandate to hold national and provincial parliamentary elections in October. Despite its brief term, the Qureshi government adopted political, economic, and social reforms that generated considerable domestic support and foreign admiration.

In the October 1993 elections, the PPP won a plurality of seats in the National Assembly and Benazir Bhutto was asked to form a government. However, because it did not acquire a majority in the National Assembly, the PPP’s control of the government depended upon the continued support of numerous independent parties, particularly the PML/J. The unfavorable circumstances surrounding PPP rule — the imperative of preserving a coalition government, the formidable opposition of Nawaz Sharif’s PML/N movement, and the insecure provincial administrations — presented significant difficulties for the government of Prime Minister Bhutto. However, the election of Prime Minister Bhutto’s close associate, Farooq Leghari, as President in November 1993 gave her a stronger power base.

In November 1996, President Leghari dismissed the Bhutto government, charging it with corruption, mismanagement of the economy, and implication in extra-judicial killings in Karachi. Elections in February 1997 resulted in an overwhelming victory for the PML/Nawaz, and President Leghari called upon Nawaz Sharif to form a government. In March 1997, with the unanimous support of the National Assembly, Sharif amended the constitution, stripping the President of the power to dismiss the government and making his power to appoint military service chiefs and provincial governors contingent on the “advice” of the Prime Minister. Another amendment prohibited elected members from “floor crossing” or voting against party lines. The Sharif government engaged in a protracted dispute with the judiciary, culminating in the storming of the Supreme Court by ruling party loyalists and the engineered dismissal of the Chief Justice and the resignation of President Leghari in December 1997. The new President elected by Parliament, Rafiq Tarar, was a close associate of the Prime Minister. A one-sided accountability campaign was used to target opposition politicians and critics of the regime. Similarly, the government moved to restrict press criticism and ordered the arrest and beating of prominent journalists. As domestic criticism of Sharif’s administration intensified, Sharif attempted to replace Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999, with a family loyalist, Director General ISI Lt. Gen. Ziauddin. Although General Musharraf was out of the country at the time, the Army moved quickly to depose Sharif.

On October 14, 1999, General Musharraf declared a state of emergency and issued the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), which suspended the federal and provincial parliaments, held the constitution in abeyance, and designated Musharraf as Chief Executive. While delivering an ambitious seven-point reform agenda, Musharraf has not yet provided a timeline for a return to civilian, democratic rule, although local elections are anticipated at the end of calendar year 2000. Musharraf has appointed a National Security Council, with mixed military/civilian appointees, a civilian Cabinet, and a National Reconstruction Bureau (think tank) to formulate structural reforms. A National Accountability Bureau (NAB), headed by an active duty military officer, is prosecuting those accused of willful default on bank loans and corrupt practices, whose conviction can result in disqualification from political office for twenty-one years. The NAB Ordinance has attracted criticism for holding the accused without charge and, in some instances, access to legal counsel. While military trial courts were not established, on January 26, 2000, the government stipulated that Supreme, High, and Shari’a Court justices should swear allegiance to the Provisional Constitutional Order and the Chief Executive. Approximately 85 percent of justices acquiesced, but a handful of justices were not invited to take the oath and were forcibly retired. Political parties have not been banned, but a couple of dozen ruling party members remain detained, with Sharif and five colleagues facing charges of attempted hijacking.

NEWS ABOUT PAKISTAN

NEW YORK TIMES : OVERVIEW | Updated: April 21, 2010

Pakistan was born as an explicitly Muslim state, and the wrestling between its secular and Islamic natures has never been so pronounced as in recent years. The country’s other troubling traditions are the military’s role as the arbiter of power – there have been four coups in its 60 years of independence – and its rampant corruption and waves of economic and political unrest.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the country entered into an alliance with the United States that it later claimed was the result of coercion. In 2002, Pakistan came to the brink of war with India after Islamic members of a Pakistani militant group attacked India’s Parliament.

The following years were tumultuous even by Pakistan’s standards, as its military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was forced from office and a combination of the Taliban and home-grown Islamic militants spread their control from country’s mountainous western border ever further toward the capital.

By 2009, the insurgency appeared to pose a threat to the very existence of the state, and the nation’s military, which had stayed focused primarily on its tense border with India, decided to initiate a head-on fight to take back the regions seized by the militants. With strong public support – many Pakistanis who had previously seen the “war on terror” as an American import expressed revulsion against extremist acts by the Taliban – the army unleashed air and ground forces in tribal areas along the country’s western border with Afghanistan and areas like the Swat Valley and South Waziristan from the militants.

The military campaign produced massive refugee flows out of contested areas. While President Asif Ali Zardari sought to preserve American support and funding, many of Pakistan’s 173 million people remained furious over American drone airplane attacks, which were seen as breaches of national sovereignty. Anger at the Taliban, however, seemed to outweigh frustration with the military campaign.

Continuing attacks against important targets, including the United States Consulate in Peshawar, demonstrated that the Taliban, Al Qaeda and militant groups are still able to strike. While the Pakistani military is thought to have gained the upper hand in the tribal regions, militants have continued to target civil and military installations.

THE END OF THE MUSHARRAF ERA

In 2007, Pakistan’s military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was forced from power. He was replaced by neither of his longtime rivals, Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto, who was killed by a bomb at a campaign rally. A tide of strong emotion swept Bhutto’s party into power in parliamentary elections in 2008, and her widower, Mr. Zardari, became president.

General Musharraf’s tenure was dominated by the aftermath of the Sept. 11th attacks, by political instability and the rise of Islamic extremist groups. Pakistan’s intelligence services and portions of the military had been backers of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. After 9/11, the United States demanded that Pakistan turn against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Mr. Musharraf agreed, but then walked a tightrope between satisfying the Bush administration without inflaming Islamic groups that strongly support al Qaeda. The mountains of western Pakistan became haven for Al Qaeda and the Taliban and a launching pad for increasing numbers of extremist attacks in Afghanistan and within Pakistan.

Mr. Musharraf’s downfall began with his attempt to force out the chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, in the spring of 2007, which was widely protested. Mr. Musharraf was forced to backtrack. Under pressure from the Bush administration, he began negotiations with Ms. Bhutto, a former prime minister then in exile, about a power sharing agreement.

No agreement was reached, and Mr. Musharraf declared a state of emergency. Hundreds of political opponents were arrested and a majority of the Supreme Court was forced to resign. On Nov. 28, 2007, Mr. Musharraf gave up his military rank, and two weeks later ended emergency rule. By that time, Ms. Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister Mr. Musharraf had deposed, were vigorously campaigning against Mr. Musharraf in the run up to parliamentary elections.

THE ZARDARI PRESIDENCY

On Dec. 27, 2007 Ms. Bhutto was killed by a bomb detonated as she left a large rally, throwing the country into deep mourning. A parliamentary election was postponed until February 2008, when Mr. Musharraf’s party was routed. Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif formed a governing coalition, which declared that it would seek the impeachment of Mr. Musharraf, who soon after announced his resignation.

In September 2008 Mr. Zardari was elected president, completing a remarkable swing from prisoner to exile to marginal political player to the country’s central figure.

In November 2008, tensions with India returned to the forefront after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which were quickly linked to a Pakistani militant group, Lakshar e-Taiba. The country soon faced a financial crisis as well, as the global financial crisis cut Pakistan off from credit it desperately needed. The government reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $7 billion loan.

In February 2009, the rivalry between the president and Mr. Sharif boiled over when the Supreme Court barred Mr. Sharif and his brother, the governor of Punjab, from holding office. The move was widely seen in Pakistan as a raw political maneuver engineered by Mr. Zardari to diminish the power of the two popular opposition figures. Mr. Zardari followed up by appointing an ally as the new governor of Punjab, the country’s most populous region and the heart of Mr. Sharif’s support.

As protests increased, the government banned a national protest march and arrested hundreds of political workers. As Mr. Sharif led a huge convoy toward the capital for a mass protest, Mr. Zardari capitulated and reinstated Mr. Chaudhry, but the episode left him weakened.

After the Supreme Court reversed its ban on Mr. Sharif, he emerged as the most popular politician in the country. Mr. Zardari has seen his popularity ratings plummet, largely because of concerns about Pakistan’s faltering economy and a general sense that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE TALIBAN

Pakistanis long supported the Taliban and other militant groups as allies to exert influence in neighboring Afghanistan and as a hedge against India. Unlike Afghans, they never lived under Taliban rule, and were slow to absorb its dangers.

After Mr. Zaradari took office, he agreed to launch an aggressive campaign against the Taliban in the western provinces. But American officials soon began to doubt whether he had made a real commitment to the project. In many ways, Mr. Zardari appeared to be walking the same tightrope as had Mr. Musharraf, seeking to appease both the United States, a military with close ties to militants and a populace angry at what was widely seen as American interference in the country’s government.

Through 2008 and early 2009 the influence of the Taliban spread from the remote mountains along the Afghanistan border. The region of Swat, formerly a lure for tourists not far from the capital, became the scene of infiltration, intimidation and constant fighting, and in early 2009 the government reached a truce agreement with militants there. Mr. Zardari signed a measure that would impose Islamic law in the valley. Taliban militants, most of them under the leadership of Mullah Fazlullah, continued usurping and attacking the government anyway. They used the let-up to press their hard line crackdown on morals even further, alienating many residents.

Soon afterward the Taliban took over Buner, an adjoining district only 60 miles from Islamabad. The conquest shook the central government, as well as the middle and upper classes across the country. It also caused American officials to apply enormous pressure on Pakistan to act.

The ensuing military campaign, begun in May 2009, seemed to be prosecuted with a new resolve, in what appeared to be a change of heart in the Pakistani Army, which had supported the militants for many years. Unaccustomed to urban guerrilla warfare, the military first concentrated on fighting in the rural and mountainous areas of Swat. The ensuing exodus of 1.3 million refugees was the largest mass migration of Pakistanis since the country was partitioned from India more than 60 years ago.

As the battle in Swat died down, the army’s mission turned to the rugged Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, home to Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan’s enemy No. 1. Mr. Mehsud was killed in August 2009 in a United States drone strike, but thousands of fighters remained entrenched in mountain terrain that is nearly impossible for conventional armies to navigate.

TERRORISM IN THE PAKISTANI HEARTLAND

One factor that turned public opinion in Pakistan against the Taliban was a string of deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities.

Units of the Taliban have linked up with militants in the province of Punjab, home to half of the country’s population. The deadly assault in March 2009 in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, against the Sri Lankan cricket team, and the bombing in September 2008 of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the national capital, were only the most spectacular examples of the joint campaign. Intelligence officials said the Taliban’s effort to move into the country’s heartland was motivated partly by the need to find new safe havens, as bombing by American drone aircraft increased in the tribal areas. But it also represented a decision by Punjabi militants to make common cause with the Taliban after the government’s siege of Islamic hard-liners at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, in mid-2007. The siege became a rallying cry.

As the military prepared the assault on South Waziristan in October 2009, a wave of attacks against top security installations underscored the closer ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda and what are known as jihadi groups, which operate out of southern Punjab.

Tolerated by the government for years, the Punjabi groups have entrenched domestic and political constituencies, as well as shadowy ties to former military officials and their families. Many Pakistanis consider them allies in just causes, including fighting India, the United States and Shiite Muslims.

NEWS ABOUT ISRAEL

Obama opens peace talks

By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer Robert Burns, Ap National Security Writer 1 hr 26 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is welcoming the leaders of Israeli and the Palestinians to dinner to kick off the first direct talks between the two countries in nearly two years.

Obama told the gathering the central question was: “Do we have the wisdom and the courage to walk the path of peace?”

He shared a podium with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before hosting a working dinner for the them, joined by the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Struggling to break decades of hostility, President Barack Obama convened an ambitious new round of Mideast peace talks Wednesday and told Israeli and Palestinian leaders they faced a fleeting chance to settle deep differences.

“This moment of opportunity may not soon come again,” Obama said at the White House before hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the first face-to-face peace talks in nearly two years. “They cannot afford to let it slip away.”

Obama sought to temper expectations, noting that it had taken his administration this long just to get the two sides back to the bargaining table for talks aimed at creating a sovereign Palestinian state beside a secure Israel.

“The hard work is only beginning,” Obama said, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell at his side. “Neither success nor failure is inevitable. But this much we know: If we do not make the attempt, then failure is guaranteed. If both sides do not commit to these talks in earnest, then long-standing conflict will only continue to fester and consume another generation, and this we simply cannot allow.”

He made clear that the stakes are high.

“Too much blood has already been shed. Too many lives have already been lost. Too many hearts have already been broken,” he said. “And despite what the cynics say, history teaches us that there is a different path. It is the path of resolve and determination, where compromise is possible and old conflicts at long last can end.”

In a carefully arranged series of talks designed to lay the final groundwork for negotiations, Obama met separately with Netanyahu and Abbas as well as with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Later they all gathered for dinner, a private prelude to Thursday’s scheduled start of formal negotiations at the State Department.

In his Rose Garden remarks, Obama noted that many are skeptical or opposed — a view underlined by two days of Palestinian attacks on Israelis in the disputed West Bank.

“We are under no illusions,” Obama said. “Passions run deep. Years of mistrust will not disappear overnight.”

In earlier remarks after his meeting with Netanyahu, Obama assailed those responsible for the killings of four Israelis near the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday. The militant Hamas movement, which rejects Israel’s right to exist and opposes peace talks, claimed responsibility.

Netanyahu said the killings were carried out by people who “trample human rights into the dust and butcher everything they oppose.”

On Wednesday, Israeli police reported still another attack, saying Palestinian militants wounded two Israelis driving in the West Bank. Two people were reported injured, their car riddled with bullets.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations broke off nearly two years ago, in December 2008, and the Obama administration spent its first 20 months in office coaxing the two sides back to negotiations. Obama was adamant Wednesday that extremist violence would not derail the process.

“There are going to be extremists and rejectionists who, rather than seeking peace, are going to be seeking destruction,” he said. “The United States is going to be unwavering in its support of Israel’s security. And we are going to push back against these kinds of terrorist attacks. And so the message should go out to Hamas and everyone else who is taking credit for these heinous crimes that this is not going to stop us.”

Expectations for the Washington talks are low, yet the consequences of failure are high. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a constant source of grievance and unrest in the Muslim world. The failure of past peace efforts has left both sides with rigid demands and public ambivalence about the value of a negotiated settlement.

Under a so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the West Bank is supposed to make up the bulk of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, with precise borders to be drawn at the peace table. Expansion of Jewish housing makes those borders ever more complicated.

Beyond the settlements, Israel and the Palestinians face numerous hurdles in resolving other contentious issues, notably the borders of a future Palestinian state, the political status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

Also complicating the outlook are internal Palestinian divisions that have led to a split between Abbas’ West Bank-based administration and Hamas, which is in control of Gaza. Hamas is not part of the negotiations and has asserted that talks will be futile.

In a statement to be delivered prior to Wednesday’s White House dinner, Netanyahu framed Israel’s ambitions for the peace process.

“Our goal is to forge a secure and durable peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said, according to an advance copy of his remarks. “We do not seek an interlude between two wars. We do not seek a temporary respite between outbursts of terror.”

Netanyahu stressed the central importance of security assurances for the Jewish state as part of any land-for-peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“We left Lebanon, we got terror. We left Gaza, we got terror. We want to ensure that territory we concede will not be turned into a third Iranian-sponsored terror enclave aimed at the heart of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

5770 in Israel: Diplomatic crises, but economic prosperity

By Leslie Susser · September 1, 2010

JERUSALEM (JTA) — For Israel, the Jewish year 5770 was characterized by ups and downs in relations with the United States, a virtual stalemate in Middle East peacemaking and growing international alienation.

Last November, after months of intense U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a temporary freeze on new construction building in West Bank settlements — a move designed to create conditions for a renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians. But the freeze was only for 10 months, did not include some 3,000 units already started and did not apply to construction in eastern Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, convinced that President Obama would exert even heavier pressure on Israel on the core issues of dispute — borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and the nature of a future Palestinian state — without their having to negotiate, highlighted the lacunae and rejected calls to return to the peace table.

As a compromise, special U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell proposed indirect negotiations under U.S. auspices. By early March, both sides had agreed to “proximity talks,” with Mitchell shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to the region to announce the breakthrough, but during his visit an Israeli Interior Ministry planning committee approved plans for 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem on the east side of the pre-1967 border — what most of the world still considers the West Bank.

The move prompted the Palestinians to retract their agreement to participate in proximity talks and infuriated the Obama administration. U.S. officials blamed Israel for what they saw as a deliberate slight calculated to torpedo their peace efforts.

In an angry 43-minute telephone conversation, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reprimanded Netanyahu, insisting that Israel freeze the Ramat Shlomo project and agree to discuss all the core issues in the proximity talks. Netanyahu explained that the planning committee’s announcement had taken his government by surprise as much as it had the Americans, made it clear that there would be no building in Ramat Shlomo for at least two years, and agreed to put the core issues on the table.

Parallel to the U.S.-led peacemaking endeavor, the Palestinians stepped up unilateral efforts to create a framework for statehood, focusing on law and order, economic viability and institution building. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made no secret of his intention to have “a well-functioning state in just about every facet of activity” by mid-2011, irrespective of whether any peace agreement with Israel had been reached.

After weeks of bickering, the proximity talks finally were launched in early May, after the Palestinians received the go-ahead from the Arab League. Neither side expected to achieve much. It seemed both had agreed primarily to engage to avoid American censure.

With ties strained between Washington and Jerusalem, Obama invited Netanyahu to the White House for a meeting that was to patch up the strains in the relationship and provide a positive image in contrast with an earlier, low-profile meeting in March that included no public component or photo op.

The meeting was delayed several weeks due to Israel’s commando raid aboard a Gaza-bound aid flotilla from Turkey on May 31. But when the two leaders finally met on July 6, the two projected a public display of warmth. The meeting resulted in no new pressure on Israel. Rather, the Americans exhorted the Palestinians to move from proximity talks, which were not making headway, to direct negotiations between the parties — the position favored by Israel.

The meeting also cleared up earlier tensions over Israel’s presumed nuclear weapons’ program. In late May, the United States had backed the final communique of a monthlong Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference calling for a nuclear-free Middle East and calling specifically on Israel to sign the NPT.

In their meeting, Obama assured Netanyahu that despite his long-term vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, the United States would continue to back Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity under which Israel does not confirm or deny possession of nuclear weapons or sign the NPT.

Although Israel and the United States were in agreement that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, Israel was skeptical about the international community’s will to take significant action to prevent it. In mid-February, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, came to Israel to underline Washington’s opposition to a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran.

“I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences” of an attack against Iran, Mullen said. The prospect of an Israeli strike, however, significantly diminished following the adoption in early June of new, tougher sanctions against Iran by the U.N. Security Council.

Perhaps the year’s most prominent development was a major erosion of Israel’s international standing. The downward trend began with the Goldstone report on the Gaza war, released in September 2009, which accused Israel of possible “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” in its war with Hamas in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

Although the report was widely dismissed as biased and deeply flawed, the damage to Israel’s image was devastating, and critics of Israel used the Goldstone report to hammer away at its reputation.

The Israeli military refuted some of the report’s central accusations, but the perception that Israel used disproportionate force to quell the rocket fire from Gaza remained embedded in international public opinion.

An early manifestation of new boldness among Israel’s European critics came last December, when Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt led an initiative to have the EU recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state — a move eventually quashed by Israel’s European allies, with France, Germany and the Czech Republic playing dominant roles.

Israel suffered another major PR setback when agents believed to be from the Mossad intelligence agency were accused of using forged foreign passports in the January assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official involved in arms smuggling. Several countries expelled Israeli diplomats. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in the assassination.

The year’s worst PR disaster for Israel came in the May 31 flotilla incident: Nine Turkish citizens were killed when Israel intercepted a ship carrying aid material bound for Hamas-controlled Gaza, which was under Israeli blockade. Though Israel released videos showing its soldiers were attacked when they boarded the ship, a worldwide storm of protest erupted. The anger against Israel resulted in the first-ever Israeli commission of inquiry with an international presence and the easing of Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

The main diplomatic casualty of the flotilla affair was Israel’s already strained strategic relationship with Turkey. In 2008, the two countries had been close enough for Ankara to mediate between Israel and Syria. But since the war with Hamas in Gaza, Turkey, a key regional power broker with an Islamist government, had been vehemently critical of Israel while ostensibly moving away from the West and edging closer to Iran.

Relations between Israel and Syria, Iran’s closest ally, oscillated between hopes for a resumption of peace talks and fears of war. French President Nicolas Sarkozy tried his hand at mediation, hosting both Netanyahu and Syrian President Bashar Assad at a multinational conference last November. But the two never met, and by early April Sarkozy had given up, complaining to Israeli President Shimon Peres about Netanyahu’s lack of cooperation.

The Syrians had insisted that Netanyahu first commit to Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights as a basis for negotiations, a demand the Israeli prime minister rejected. Tensions flared in early February, with Assad accusing Israel of leading the region into war, and then again in May, with Netanyahu charging that Iran was trying to drag Israel into war with Syria.

Despite Assad’s talk about “strategic” readiness for peace with Israel, the Syrians continued to transfer sophisticated weapons to the Shiite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Of particular concern to Israeli military planners was the supply of GPS-guided M-600 missiles, which for the first time gave Hezbollah the capacity to pinpoint specific targets in Israel as far away as Tel Aviv.

Iran also tried to supply Hezbollah by sea. On Nov. 3, 2009, Israeli naval commandos intercepted a cargo of more than 3,000 Iranian-made rockets destined for Hezbollah on the Francop, an Antigua and Barbuda-flagged vessel sailing from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

In the face of the growing threat from the Iranian axis — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas — Israel significantly augmented its missile and rocket defenses. In January, the Iron Dome system designed to intercept short-range projectiles passed final tests, and in June Israel launched the Ofek 9 spy satellite, enhancing intelligence gathering over Iran.

Moreover, despite the political differences, Israeli-American defense ties remained strong and intimate. For example, in late October 2009, the two armies jointly tested the interoperability of their highly sophisticated defense systems against incoming ballistic missiles.

Despite its diplomatic difficulties and strategic challenges, Israel’s economy prospered, with the most dramatic development the discovery in June of a huge natural gas reserve off the Israeli coast. The field, called Leviathan, is estimated to contain about 15 trillion cubic feet of gas, nearly twice as much as the adjacent Tamar field discovered the year before.

According to Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, Israel now has enough gas to supply all its needs “for the next 50 to 70 years.” Experts have described the finds, which could contain as much as one-fifth of America’s known gas reserves or twice that of Britain’s, as a potential geopolitical game-changer.

As a mark of its increasing economic power, Israel was admitted in May to the OECD, which incorporates the world’s most developed nations. Netanyahu described Israel’s admittance as a “seal of approval” that would attract investors.

And despite the continued aftershocks of the international economic crisis, Israel’s economic performance remained robust, with growth of 3.4 percent in the first quarter of 2010 following the 4.4 percent growth of the last quarter of 2009.

U.S., Israel Lobby Against Missile Sales to Syria, Lebanon

August 30, 2010

Washington
JTA Wire Service

Israel and the United States reportedly are attempting to prevent missile sales to Lebanon and Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, in a bid to persuade Putin not to sell P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles to Syria, Haaretz reported last Friday. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is set to make the same case in Moscow this week.

Israel’s case is that Hezbollah used Chinese-manufactured missiles purchased by Syria to target Israeli ships during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Meanwhile, Israel and the United States want to keep France from selling the Lebanese military HOT anti-tank missiles, the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported.

In a Paris-datelined story, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat quoted French officials as saying that they had rebuffed such pressure, and that the delay in the delivery of the missiles was caused by the confusion arising out of Lebanon’s current political crisis arising from tensions over Hezbollah’s role.

Western powers want to prop up the Lebanese military as a means of containing the influence of Hezbollah, a terrorist group, but Israel’s wariness of Hezbollah influence into the military intensified after a Lebanese officer shot over the border and killed an Israeli officer on Aug. 9.

The United Nations and the United States determined that the Israelis under fire were on the Israeli side of the border trimming a tree that could serve as cover for an attack.

A Lebanese newspaper, al Liwa, reported last Friday that U.S. officials warned Lebanon that Israel would destroy Lebanon’s military within four hours should another such incident occur.

Jewish Leaders: German Official Espousing Nazi Racial Ideology

The German official in his new doomsday book on the future of Germany appears to endorse Nazi racial ideology, Jewish leaders said.

Thilo Sarrazin, a board member of the German central bank since May 2009 and a former finance minister for the state of Berlin, in “Germany Abolishes Itself” writes that Muslims are to blame for dumbing down German culture. Jews and others possess superior genes, he suggested in the book, which is to hit stands today.

His racial ideology puts Sarrazin firmly in the far-right extremist camp, according to Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Sarrazin, a member of the left-of-center Social Democratic Party, should consider joining the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany, Kramer told the Handelsblatt Online newspaper last week.

“At least that would make the battle lines more obvious,” Kramer said, and it would free the Social Democrats from having to kick him out.

In an excerpt of “Germany Abolishes Itself” in this week’s Der Spiegel magazine, Sarrazin writes, “I do not want the land of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be predominantly Muslim, where Turkish and Arabic are spoken in broad sections of the country, where women wear a headscarf and where the daily rhythm of life is determined by the call of the muezzins.”

In a pre-publication interview, Sarrazin said that all Jews “share a particular gene,” as do Basques and other peoples. His remarks drew harsh criticism from German political leaders.

Sarrazin’s comments have caused a ruckus in the past. Last October he said that Turks and Arabs were taking over Germany due to a high birthrate, and that he would be happier if it were “Eastern European Jews” who were reproducing so fast, “since their IQs are 15 percent higher than that of the German people.” He later apologized for the remarks.

At the time, the National Democratic Party credited Sarrazin with “hitting the nail on the head” when it came to Germany’s current course.

Some Social Democratic leaders suggested at the time that he be ousted from the party.

Glasgow Stores Boycotting Israeli Products

About 30 stores in Muslim communities in Glasgow, Scotland, are refusing to stock Israeli products.

The stores, owned by Muslim and Asian shopkeepers, are displaying signs stating that “No Israeli produce sold here,” The Herald Scotland newspaper reported Sunday.

The campaign, which is focusing on Israeli produce, especially dates, is being led by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Al Aksa Glasgow.

Supporters are distributing flyers to shoppers saying that stores continuing to stock Israeli goods will be “named and shamed,” according to the Herald.

The campaign is expected to go national.

This story reprinted courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Syria, Lebanon team up against Israel
Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:18PM
Share | Email | Print

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Damascus.
The Syrian army and Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah would fully cooperate, should Israel launch a military aggression in the region, a report says.

The two sides have formed a joint headquarters in order to orchestrate the coordination between the two military forces, unnamed sources told the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai.

The report came after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Damascus earlier on Monday.

Syrian military officials would set up a joint situation room with Hezbollah to pool the intelligence resources from the battlefield, according to the report.

Syrian intelligence units are focusing their efforts on gathering information on the Israeli Air Force, including its flight patterns, the newspaper said.

The report said if a war broke out, Syria would benefit greatly from Turkey’s move to close its airspace to Israeli military aircrafts.

In case of a possible Israeli attack, Hezbollah would target Israeli military and civilian airports, destroy its military aircraft fleets and damage its airborne capabilities, the report said.

Israel waged a 33-day war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 to destroy the military power of the Lebanese resistance, killing about 1,200 Lebanese — mostly civilians.

Tel Aviv eventually suffered a crushing defeat and was forced to leave the region without achieving any of its objectives.

AGB/PKH/MB

Related Stories:

‘Cautiously hopeful’ Mideast peace talks begin

By Associated Press
Wednesday, September 1, 2010 – Added 5 minutes ago

// a > span > span
// If we get the wrapping span to “have layout” by applying a width and height, will this fix the problem?
// ]]>

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama convened the first direct Israeli-Palestinian talks in two years Wednesday, challenging Mideast leaders to seize a fleeting opportunity to settle their differences and deliver peace to a region haunted by decades of hostility.

“I am hopeful, cautiously hopeful, but hopeful,” Obama said with the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians beside him in the crowded East Room of the White House. Earlier Obama had met with each individually, and they gathered afterward for dinner.

Shadowed by fresh violence in the region, the leaders solemnly commenced the talks aimed at creating a sovereign Palestinian state beside a secure Israel.

“Do we have the wisdom and the courage to walk the path of peace?” Obama asked.

In turn, each of the leaders answered positively but with qualifications. And they spoke of hopes for a breakthrough within the one-year timeframe prescribed by Obama.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his nation desires a lasting peace, not an interlude between wars. He called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “my partner in peace,” and said, “Everybody loses if there is no peace.”

Abbas urged Israel to freeze settlement construction in areas the Palestinians want as part of their new state, and to end its blockade of Gaza, which is controlled by the militant Hamas movement. The settlements issue is a central obstacle to achieving a permanent peace.

“We will spare no effort and we will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure these negotiations achieve their cause,” Abbas said, as translated into English.

With the Israelis and Palestinians far apart on key issues, expectations for the Washington talks are low, yet the stakes are high.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a constant source of grievance and unrest in the Muslim world. The failure of past peace efforts has left both sides with rigid demands and public ambivalence about the value of a negotiated settlement.

American officials are hopeful they can at least get the two sides this week to agree to a second round of talks, likely to be held in the second week of September. That could be followed by another meeting between Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly near the end of the month in New York.

Said Jordan’s King Abdullah II: “Mr. President, we need your support as a mediator, honest broker and a partner. If hopes are disappointed again, the price of failure will be too high for all.”

Each of the leaders pledged to work diligently toward peace, but they also made plain that their own national interests must be satisfied.

“We do not seek a temporary respite between outbursts of terror,” said Netanyahu. And he stressed the central importance of security assurances for the Jewish state as part of any land-for-peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“We left Lebanon, we got terror. We left Gaza, we got terror. We want to ensure that territory we concede will not be turned into a third Iranian-sponsored terror enclave aimed at the heart of Israel,” Netanyahu said. Peace, he added, must “end the conflict between us once and for all.”

Mag-iwan ng Tugon

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Palitan )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Palitan )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Palitan )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Palitan )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: