Trudy Rubin

  • Safe respite for Afghan women

    At a time when most foreign news is unremittingly grim, I have a good-news story to tell — about the first women-only restaurant in western Afghanistan, called the Scranton Restaurant. That name reflects the fact that the restaurant is a joint project of a noted woman activist in Herat, Afghanistan, and her counterparts in Scranton, Pa., who raised $20,000 to get the restaurant started. The Scranton Restaurant is a rare place where Afghan women, young and old, can socialize outside their homes in safety.
  • Obama’s line in the sand

    At the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, President Obama challenged world leaders to join together “to reject the cancer of violent extremism.” I believe his speech will be remembered as one of the most important of his career. His message was tough — without any of his trademark ambivalence. He urged Muslim leaders to unify against a new breed of terrorists such as the Islamic State, which can use modern technology to wreak worldwide havoc. He said the United States would “work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death” and was asking “the world to join in this effort.”
  • Strengthening Abbas offers best hope for peace

    As the Gaza war drags on and the terrible civilian death toll keeps rising, it's necessary to look to the past to find a way to stop the killing. It's particularly vital to revisit the moment in 2005 when Israel made a strategic error by unilaterally withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. I wrote then that Israel should have negotiated its withdrawal with the moderate Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and let him take the credit. The failure to do so undercut Abbas: Hamas claimed violence, not negotiations, forced Israel to exit.
  • U.S. should take aim at all political jailings in Egypt

    This week, American Secretary of State John Kerry rightly criticized an Egyptian court's conviction of three international journalists with Al Jazeera English on blatantly fake charges cooked up for political reasons. But Kerry failed to mention the equally grim case of an idealistic young American held without trial for nearly a year in Cairo's horrendous jails. Mohamed Soltan was arrested in August for trying to document the Egyptian military's undemocratic crackdown on dissent after last summer's coup.
  • Kerry not the first to use the A-word

    In February 2010, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned failure to make peace with the Palestinians would cause Israel either to lose its Jewish majority or to become an "apartheid state." He meant that without a two-state solution, Israel would face two impossible choices: Either give citizenship to millions of Palestinians, who would soon become a majority in Israel, or continue to control the lives of millions of Arabs who lack basic rights.
  • Syrians dying from 'diplomacy'

    There's growing evidence the Syrian regime has been gassing civilians again, sending helicopters to unload barrel bombs filled with canisters of chlorine on women and children. Chlorine gas, used to brutal effect in the First World War, turns to hydrochloric acid in the lungs, which can lead to internal burning and drowning. But the gas was not on the list of chemical weapons banned by a U.S.-Russian accord in 2013.
  • Nudging ahead on Iran weapons deal

    Hamid Aboutalebi looked like the ideal candidate to become Tehran’s ambassador to the United Nations. He speaks fluent English and French, has served as ambassador to Italy, Australia, Belgium, and the European Union, and — in an ecumenical twist — got his Ph.D. from a Catholic university. There was only one catch. As a 22-year-old, he occasionally served as an interpreter for the students who took U.S. embassy staff hostage in Tehran in 1979. That ordeal remains so vivid in Washington memory that Congress voted unanimously to deny him a visa.
  • Where will Afghan women be when troops leave the country?

    What do Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton agree on? They, like many other prominent Americans, talk effusively about helping Afghan women. The fate of Afghan women is also a subject that grabs the attention of Americans who have otherwise lost interest in that country. When Afghans voted last week, much of the U.S. media coverage focused on lines of burka-clad female voters at the polls.
  • West needs strategy when Crimea's lost

    It will take cool heads to deal with Vladimir Putin after he dismembers Ukraine. And that moment is coming soon. Even as U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Ukraine's acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, to the White House, the Russian leader moved toward annexation of Crimea. Putin continues to deny what the world sees -- that Russian troops have invaded Crimea -- while hinting he might send forces to eastern Ukraine to "protect" ethnic Russians.
  • When Syrian, Russian eyes are smiling

    They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. That’s certainly the case with the photo of beaming Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem clasping hands with grinning Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week in Moscow — as though in a victory salute. The two men’s smiles reflect how well Moscow and Damascus (along with Tehran) have outflanked the United States and Syrian rebels before peace talks on Syria that are scheduled to start Wednesday. Those talks, in Switzerland, are at the core of the U.S. “strategy” to unseat the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But, as Muallem and Lavrov well know, the American policy has failed badly.
  • Iraq too important to ignore

    The last time Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House -- in late 2011 -- he and U.S. President Barack Obama touted Iraq's political and security progress. On Friday, al-Maliki arrived again, this time in search of help to fight a stunning resurgence of al-Qaida violence that has claimed 7,000 Iraqi deaths in 2013 -- nearly 1,000 in October. It will be a hard sell.
  • Operation Desert Farce

    If U.S. President Barack Obama ever does get around to targeting Syria, with congressional approval, it will be the strangest U.S. military strike in recent memory. The administration has made a convincing case that the Syrian regime gassed 1,400 of its own people to death last month, including 426 children. And yes, the use of poison gas violates longstanding international norms.
  • Frustration over inaction on Syria grows

    BRUSSELS, Belgium -- France and Britain are pressing the European Union to end its embargo on arms for the Syrian opposition in the hope they can encourage President Barack Obama to follow their lead. French and British leaders' frustration with U.S. waffling on Syria is palpable in Brussels. As the flood of refugees from Syria grew to tsunami levels, threatening to destabilize much of the region, French President Francois Hollande declared bluntly, "The biggest risk is inaction."
  • Netanyahu's crucial next step

    Here's a pop quiz for those who have been too busy to notice the surprising results of Tuesday's Israeli election: Was the key issue (1) Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's testy relationship with U.S. President Obama; (2) whether Israel should bomb Iran's nuclear sites; or (3) whether to revive the mummified peace process? Answer: None of the above. Issues of war and peace had little to do with the sliding support for Netanyahu's right-wing coalition. (He'll still be prime minister, but will have to work hard to woo new coalition partners.) Nor did these issues propel the rise of the new centrist star, Yair Lapid, a young, attractive TV personality whose new party came in an unexpected second.
  • Arab Spring turns cold

    As Libyan rebels seize Tripoli, it's a ripe moment to reconsider the mythology of the Arab Spring. The Libyan rebels, like those in Tunisia and Egypt, have shown the rule of Mideast despots will no longer go uncontested. But this cri de coeur by discontented youth doesn't guarantee that new democracies will emerge.
  • Karzai was adamant -- Pakistan is the spoiler

    PHILADELPHIA -- Ahmed Wali Karzai's life and death sum up perfectly the Afghan trap in which America is caught. When I interviewed him in his Kandahar home in May, after being ushered in by armed guards, there was already a queue waiting to see him. His cellphone never stopped ringing, nor did his fingers ever stop moving his worry beads, as he sat, legs crossed and feet bare, on one of the plush couches that lined his receiving room.
  • U.S. risks Iraq falling to Tehran

    Does anyone remember Iraq? As the United States moves toward withdrawing its last 46,000 troops from that country by the end of 2011, Iraq has become a black hole. It is the place Americans want to forget and the media hardly cover.


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