In the Jan/Feb issue of Foreign Policy, I have a broad-ranging piece on quasi-states — countries that haven’t yet achieved recognition (and in most cases never will).
UPDATE: French speakers can read the same piece at Slate.fr.
The forlorn seaside resort where Soviet rulers once frolicked.
The Republic of Abkhazia is one of the few countries, if you can call it that, where every tourist who shows up gets a handshake and a friendly chat with the deputy foreign minister. Or rather, it would be such a country, if it were a country at all. A wee seaside strip in the Republic of Georgia, Abkhazia hasn’t yet persuaded anyone to recognize its independence, even though it boasts many of the trappings of nationhood — a president, a parliament, and an army that guards the border in case the government in Tbilisi wants to invade again.
QANDIL, Iraq—The very large potential bombs being built in Iran, as well as the somewhat smaller real bombs detonating in Baghdad, have distracted attention from the pitiless barrage of medium-sized ones that Iran lobbed into Iraq last month. In the first week of May, the Iranian military sent hundreds of artillery shells and Katyusha rockets whistling over the mountaintops into Iraq’s Qandil region. As soon as the blasts began, most of the local villagers jumped into Land Cruisers, pickups, and tractors and fled for the nearby cities of Qala’at-Diza and Raniya. They came back a week later and found many of their sheep blown up or starving to death.
Iran had little interest in the sheep, or, for that matter, in the Iraqi Kurds whose villages they destroyed. Tehran was aiming at the Iranian Kurdish guerrillas who during the last two years have become Tehran’s most noisome domestic pest and who openly seek ways to become an international irritant as well. The Iranian Kurds hate the conservative, ethnically Persian government, and they want federal autonomy in Iran to match their Iraqi Kurdish cousins’ arrangement next door. To prove they’re serious, the Kurds have rioted nonstop in Iran’s Kurdistan province since 2005, and snipers from the Kurdistan Free Life Party (known as PJAK), the Iranian Kurdish guerrilla movement, have even been taking potshots at Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, killing dozens.