Christopher Dickey

Race for the Muddle

Will she? could she? What is she? As anyone not living under a stone knows by now, Ségolène Royal is the new darling of French politics. With a stratospheric approval rating of 73 percent, she has displaced all comers as the front runner to replace Jacques Chirac in next year's presidential election, and the country is buzzing with speculation: Will her own party, the Socialists, tap her as their candidate?

Mirages Within Mirages

Sheik Zaidan al-Awad of the Abu Jaber tribe, dressed in a traditional robe and checkered headdress, put on his reading glasses to check a text message. He comes from Iraq's war-torn Anbar province, but when the sheik met with me in Jordan last week, he was staying in touch with his people by cell phone.

Face of the Enemy

When Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi did time in a Jordanian prison during the 1990s, he spent a lot of long days reading the Qur'an, but no one much respected him for his faith.

K Is for Vendetta

When the not-altogether-unexpected announcement came this week that the Bush administration was taking Libya off the list of states supporting terrorism and the United States would renew full diplomatic ties for the first time in 34 years, I asked a Saudi friend what he thought.I figured he'd be interested because, well, the Saudis accused Libyan agents of plotting to murder Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah bin Abdelaziz in Mecca with a rocket-propelled grenade in November 2003.

Depth in Venice

Beneath a storm of enormous orange raindrops (or are they blood drops?) on the landing of a marble staircase, hangs a portrait of French magnate François Pinault, or rather, of his skull and crossed bones, like some CAT-scanned symbol for poison.

The Global War on Tourists

The Sinai, since Moses led the exodus from Egypt, has been a wilderness where people are few and laws are handed down by God. For millennia, only a handful of monks and mystics and Bedouin tribesmen lived among bone-dry mountains or along the edges of the seas.

The Demise of the Don

Since the days of Al Capone and the Chicago mob, government investigators have "followed the money" to nail the bosses of La Cosa Nostra. But in Sicily last week, near the legendary town of Corleone, Italian cops captured 73-year-old Bernardo (The Tractor) Provenzano, the boss of bosses, by tracking a parcel of freshly laundered socks and underwear.The arrest, announced the day after hard-fought Italian elections that ended the prime ministry of billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, was hailed as a...

The West is Red Again

The hammer and sickle quivered on wind-blown red flags as young men and women, shouting old slogans of revolution, marched through Paris to defeat the modest economic-reform program of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Pumping Irony

When your heart starts racing faster than the digital numbers on the gas pump, you know there's a problem with the price. And if you haven't had that shock already, you will soon.

The Mechanics of Democracy

Every time there's a messy election somewhere, pundits drag Winston Churchill out of his grave to tell us, "Democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." But is that any excuse for the disappointments and debacles we've seen so far this 21st century?

The Rise and Fall of Berlusconi

ItalyThe Rise and Fall of BerlusconiIs Italy's flamboyant leader going down in flames?The lights were set up, the camera was ready. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stood in front of the Italian and European Union flags, ready for a portrait, but he stopped for a second to chat with an American reporter. "You know," he said, practicing a line he would use before a joint session of the U.S. Congress a few days later. "When I see the American flag, I don't see just a symbol of a country,...

Rising Barriers

Like his hero Charles de Gaulle, Dominique de Villepin sees himself as a man of action. When France's prime minister mulls tough decisions in Matignon, his official palace on the Left Bank, he casts an aristocratic eye on the general's famous fighting words, ceremoniously framed: France has lost a battle.

Italy's 'Povero Cristo'

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 69, is one of the Bush administration's most faithful--and flamboyant--friends in Europe. The self-made billionaire and media magnate supports a close transatlantic alliance and sent thousands of Italian troops to Iraq as part of the post-invasion Coalition in 2003.

Age of Anxiety

The shrill electronic scream at the end of  "Fail-Safe" is the sound of the phone lines burning up as Moscow is hit with a nuclear weapon. Both New York and the Russian capital have just been sacrificed in a grim pact between the United States and the Soviets to avoid an all-out nuclear holocaust.

What Price Xenophobia?

Back in the 1980s, everybody's favorite Dubai bar was a Tex-Mex joint called Pancho Villa's. A little guy from the Indian province of Kerala greeted you at the door decked out like a diminutive mariachi.

Pointing the Finger

When Hamas called for the Muslim world to calm down last week, European officials hoped they'd turned a corner. They'd been looking frantically for a way out of the clash of civilizations sparked by the publication of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad.

Dead Man Waiting?

"Valentine" is not a word that comes readily to mind in connection with Walid Jumblatt. "Warlord" has been a more common description since the 1970s, and more recently one hears the phrase "dead man walking" uttered in the streets of Beirut.

Battleground of Ideas

Prime time in the United States falls in the darkest hours before dawn in the Middle East--prayer time, in fact, for the Muslim faithful, the moment when the muezzin calls out (most often on a cassette tape over loudspeakers) that prayers are better than sleep.

Target Practice

Murdering someone with a missile or a bomb is a little like surgery with a chain-saw. You can target the operation very precisely, but once you let it rip the thing's going to make a mess, it'll take a while to figure out if the procedure was a success, and almost always it isn't.The American record on killing ostensible enemies with precision-guided munitions, whether JDAMs dropped from planes or Hellfire missiles from Predator drones, is absolutely dismal.

Confidence Game

Lest we forget amid all the second-guessed accusations and explanations in the air these days, the Bush administration did not launch its invasion of Iraq some 2,200 dead Americans ago because it knew Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Terror vs. Justice

We ended 2005 in a time of trials--show trials, in fact. Saddam Hussein was in the dock for allegedly ordering massacres in an Iraqi Shiite village. Libya (our new friend) expediently ordered the "retrial" of six foreign medical workers sentenced to death by firing squad for plotting to infect patients with AIDS from bad blood; this in a country where bad hygiene is pervasive and so is paranoia.

'Mafia State'

The cold blue eyes of Abdel Halim Khaddam shed no tears for Ariel Sharon this afternoon. For more three decades, Khaddam was the right-hand man of Syrian dictator Hafez Assad in open wars and diplomatic showdowns with Israel, often turning Lebanon into the main battleground.

Fiddling After Paris Burned

Kids in football uniforms run laps around a lit field in the early December twilight. They are specks in a vast cityscape of massive gray housing projects on the far fringe of the Paris sprawl. "Don't cut corners!" their coach calls out, breath steaming in the frost and his voice harsh amid the neighborhood's silence.

Women of Al Qaeda

Jihad used to have a gender: male. The men who dominated the movement exploited traditional attitudes about sex and the sexes to build their ranks. They still do that, but with a difference: even Al Qaeda is using female killers now, and goading the men.