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Western officials are trying to avert the next war in Iraq

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AS THE jihadists of the so-called Islamic State (IS) retreat, the Arab and Kurdish forces allied against it in Iraq are turning their arms towards each other. Rather than celebrate victory, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, called a referendum on independence for September 25th, not just in his constitutionally recognised autonomous zone but in the vast tracts that his forces seized from IS. Protesting against this threat to Iraq’s integrity, Haider al-Abadi, the country’s president, gathered his commanders at Makhmour, opposite the Kurdish front lines. If the referendum went ahead, Kurdistan “might disappear”, he warned. Hoping to prevent their allies from sparring, Western mediators have stepped in. But as The Economist went to press, Mr Barzani remained committed to h

Africa is a smugglers’ paradise for North Korean diplomats

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THE face that stares from Kim Jong Su’s passport shows a rather woebegone man in suit and tie. In fact, Mr Kim is a taekwondo master and, allegedly, a North Korean spy. In 2015 he was detained in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, along with a counsellor in North Korea’s embassy in South Africa after their vehicle was stopped by police. Inside was almost $100,000 in cash and 4.5 kilos of rhino horn. They were released after the North Korean ambassador to South Africa intervened. In 2016, Mr Kim slipped out of South Africa. This and other such stories are contained in a new report published by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, a Geneva-based lobby. The author, Julian Rademeyer, found that North Koreans were implicated in 18 of the 29 rhino-horn- and ivory-smugg

Muhammad bin Salman cracks down on his perceived opponents

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Prince Muhammad spots a critic THESE are jittery times in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that prefers to script its political changes many years in advance. Over the past two weeks, police have arrested dozens of public figures who seem to have little in common. The most prominent is Salman al-Ouda, a popular cleric who dispenses religious advice to his 14m followers on Twitter. But the list also reportedly includes writers, human-rights activists and even officials from the justice ministry. On September 11th Mr Ouda’s brother, Khalid, criticised his arrest on Twitter: “It has revealed the size of the demagoguery we enjoy.” The authorities soon rounded him up, too. The kingdom’s motives, as ever, are opaque. The arrests came ahead of September 15th, when a loose coalition of activi

The president of Togo is under pressure to resign

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They’re not flagging ASSOUGEY, a technician from Lomé, the capital of Togo, was arrested on September 7th. His crime: participating in one of the anti-government protests that have rocked the country in recent weeks. A policeman beat him with the butt of his gun, he says. His left leg is covered in bruises. Like many of his fellow protesters, Assougey says he joined the demonstrations because the same corrupt people have been in power for too long. Faure Gnassingbé, Togo’s president, has ruled the small west African country for 12 years. In 2002 his late predecessor and father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, lowered the legal age limit for a president to make way for his son. Eyadéma had seized power in a military coup in 1967. Fifty years later, the family has been in power longer than any other