Bosnia votes for unity and division

I’ll be speaking twice this week about Bosnia, once this afternoon via Skype to the conference in Dayton commemorating the 15th anniversary of the accords that ended the war but have failed to build the peace. Then at Johns Hopkins with Mike Haltzel, Kemal Kurspahic and Vedran Dzihic (2:30 pm Nov 10 in room 500 at 1717 MA, see

What is there to say about the October 3 election results?  There was a big vote (participation up from 55% in 2006 to 57% this time, 274,000 more people voted), most of which went to leaders and parties who favor a more united Bosnia:  Social Democrat Zlatko Lagumdzija and moderate nationalist Bakir Izetbegovic among the Bosniaks (“Muslims” to the American press), with provocative nationalist Haris Silajdzic the big loser.

But in Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb-dominated 49% of the country, Milorad Dodik’s increasingly nationalist party won the presidency (as well as the Serb seat in the state presidency in Sarajevo, by a small margin) and lost only four seats in the RS parliament. Dodik has made no secret of his desire to divide Bosnia by making the RS independent.

This puts Zlatko in the driver’s seat, with Milorad riding the brake.  Since Dodik wants to prove that the Sarajevo government is dysfunctional and useless, all he has to do is spoil.  Lagumdzija needs to fill his tank to the majority (23) with a motley assemblage of Bosniak, Croat and Serb parties.

And he has to somehow get that assemblage to agree on a serious program of constitutional reform, including elimination of discriminatory provisions denounced by the European Court of Human Rights and adoption of a strong “EU clause” that gives the Sarajevo government all the authority it needs to negotiate NATO and EU membership.

This is going to require strong support from the EU and the US, which need to worry what happens if Dodik succeeds in spoiling formation of the Sarajevo government.  Especially troubling is the EU’s penchant for traipsing off to Banja Luka, the RS capital, to see Dodik.  If the Commission starts a de facto negotiation of EU accession with Dodik, Bosnia will come apart, and it isn’t likely to be peaceful.

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Where, oh where, is the QDDR?

Announced with fanfare in July 2009 (The Department of State’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review) and rumored for many dates since, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review has now been hyped ( and applauded (  But where is it?  Best to reserve judgment until we can read the devilish details!

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Kurdish unity frays

The reform-minded Gorran (Change) movement has defected with its eight seats from the broader 58-seat Kurdish coalition in the Iraqi parliament.  This will weaken the Kurdish position only marginally for the moment, but it introduces one more moving part in an already complicated government formation process.

Not clear yet whether Gorran is moving towards Allawi or towards Maliki–the defection was caused by controversy over Kurdistan’s electoral law, not over who should be prime minister in Baghdad.  But I’ll bet the Americans are pushing hard for Change to move towards Allawi.

Rudaw in English….The Happening: Latest News and Multimedia about Kurdistan, Iraq and the World – A Major Party Breaks Away From Kurdish Alliance.

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What does the R-tsunami mean for peace?

Hard to tell of course, but money is going to be tight.  Aaron David Miller has already argued on the merits that the President should “go small and stay home” ( The Republican House is likely to make limited engagement abroad a financial necessity.  The Tea Partiers aren’t likely to align with John McCain on the war in Afghanistan any more than with Hillary Clinton on enhancing American diplomacy and international development.  Better duck:  this is one more pendulum swinging to the (isolationist) right.

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Is anyone really talking with the Taliban?

It is always difficult to get a fix on negotiations that necessarily occur behind the scenes, even if “secret” is a category that rarely holds tight these days.  Talks, or non-talks, or talks about talks, held while fighting is still going on are particularly hard to fathom.

Afghanistan Analysts Network offers a blog blow by blow of recent action:

Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit takes a hard look at Kabul’s latest program and finds it lacking:  Peace At All Costs?  Reintegration and Reconciliation in Afghanistan, see

Crisis States Research Centre offers a UN-eyed perspective, but one that fails to cover events past 2008, even though it was published recently:

Best on the meaning of “reconciliation” in the Afghanistan context is still Michael Semple’s Reconciliation in Afghanistan:

The key question to ask about all of this is not the journalistic “who what where when why?”  More important is what the Americans might be offering as incentives for reconciliation.  Control over territory?  Positions in the Kabul government, or governors’ positions in the provinces?  A license to trade poppy?  Promises on withdrawal?

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Sudan is losing its race against time

Sudan’s two referenda–in the South and in Abyei–on January 9 are in the Rift Valley Institute’s words “the most critical events in the contemporary history of Sudan.”

Get ready for a rough ride as Southern Sudan looks to independence without having settled the many issues that threaten to disrupt the process laid out five years ago in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  No better primer than this one:

Race Against Time – Aly Verjee – 30 Oct 2010.pdf (application/pdf Object).

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