In November the U.S. State Department took the unusual step of issuing a statement of "Worldwide Caution" to American citizens traveling or living abroad. Normally confining public warnings to countries in turmoil, the department's concern about "the possibility of random acts of anti-American violence" in all parts of the globe reflects this dichotomy: The growth of the economy and peace at home are no bulwark against rumblings of trouble abroad.
The warning for Americans "to exercise greater than usual caution" came after four American businessmen were gunned down in Karachi, Pakistan. Their deaths were in "retaliation" for the lawful convictions of two Muslim terrorists in the United States. A Virginia jury recommended the death penalty for Mir Aimal Kasi, a Pakistani, after finding him guilty of killing two CIA workers in 1993. A federal jury in New York on Nov. 12 convicted Ramzi Yousef of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Those incidents coincided with the year's largest attack by terrorists, in Luxor, Egypt. Six Islamic Group militants shot or knifed to death 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians on Nov. 17 outside a 3,400-year-old temple.
When terrorists weren't leading the news in November, Saddam Hussein was. The Iraqi leader held UN weapons inspectors at bay, turning them away from key installations eight times in nine days. Separate intelligence reports-from the United States, the British Foreign Office, and the UN inspectors-indicate that the means for delivering a deadly arsenal of chemical and biological weapons still exist in Iraq, and that hundreds of tons of the materials themselves are still unaccounted for. Still, Mr. Hussein was winning the public-relations war, too, deflecting attention from the weapons build-up to the deprivation among Iraqis and a plea for increasing oil exports to refuel the country's depleted economy.
Less reported was trouble in Iran, where two leading Muslim clerics-both opposed to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei-disappeared from Iran's holy city of Qom. Hussein Ali Montazeri was taken away by security police in November and is believed to be in prison. Another ayatollah, Mohammad Rouhani, was found dead earlier this year and is believed to have been poisoned. Both had been possible successors to the late Ayatollah Khomeini and had failed to endorse his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The silencing of the clerics followed a May election in which Iranian voters chose for president moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami, who promised reforms under the strict Islamic regime. He beat Mr. Khamenei's hand-picked candidate by a 70-30 margin.
In September Iranian war planes struck two outposts for Iranian opposition groups located inside Iraq, violating the U.S.-enforced "no-fly zone" over southern Iraq. Iran Brief publisher Kenneth Timmerman calls the recent events either "the beginning of a newly violent and aggressive Islamic Republic" or "the first hesitant rays of democracy in Iran."
Iran continued to be the chief sponsor of international terrorism, according to an annual State Department report released in April. The report said terrorists have increasing access to weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological, and nuclear materials.
Terror kept pace in the disputed territories of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In January Israel began a long-awaited withdrawal from Hebron, the last major West Bank city to come under Palestinian control. But in February Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed plans for a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. Israeli construction in the traditionally Arab sector angered Palestinians and prompted new waves of terrorism. By September the death toll from four suicide bombs in Jerusalem markets alone was 20. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was photographed embracing the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who claimed responsibility for the bombings, further alienating both sides.
At year's end the Clinton administration was pressing Mr. Netanyahu to announce further withdrawals from the West Bank, a move seen in part as garnering more support within the Arab world for the U.S. position against Iraq.
On another continent, terrorist tactics met their match in Alberto Fujimori. The president of Peru brought an end to a 126-day hostage crisis in April when he ordered Peruvian commandos into the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, seized by Tupac Amaru rebels during a diplomatic reception.
Anti-government forces held 72 hostages at the time of the raid, including Mr. Fujimori's brother, the Japanese ambassador; the Bolivian ambassador; and Peru's foreign minister. All 14 rebels were killed in the raid, which was launched via underground tunnels during the rebels' daily indoor soccer game. One hostage was wounded and died of a heart attack en route to the hospital. Two Peruvian soldiers involved in the surprise rescue were also killed. One American became a casualty of the hostage-taking: Lori Berenson, a 27-year-old New York native serving a life sentence for complicity with Peruvian rebels. She lost hope of parole when Mr. Fujimori announced an end to amnesties for terrorists in prison.
In the Far East, the forces of finance ruled over a devastating year for Asian markets. The financial crisis began in the summer, when Thailand devalued its currency, the baht. Countries around the Pacific followed, with weakened currencies uncovering weak banking systems and poor financial management. Thailand suspended licenses for 58 finance companies in August. South Korea's currency, the won, lost half its value by year's end. Still in possession of 30 percent of the world's economy, Asian countries were looking to Big Brother-in this case, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank-for a bailout.
Only China and Hong Kong appeared unscathed by the crisis, although leaders are plainly worried that financial mistakes could present political challenges to the ruling Communist Party. Panic selling and sporadic losses in Hong Kong's stock market did not keep a key index, published by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, from declaring Hong Kong the freest economy in the world.
Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control July 1 after 150 years as a British protectorate. Beijing pledged to keep its hands off Hong Kong's way of doing business, promising "one country, two systems," but quickly moved in to appoint its own legislators to replace a democratically elected assembly and curtail Hong Kong's Bill of Rights.
President Clinton accused Chinese President Jiang Zemin of "being on the wrong side of history" when it came to human rights in China. But the reference from former President Reagan's hawkish "Evil Empire" speech was lost on human-rights advocates dismayed by the pomp accompanying the Chinese leader's October summit with Mr. Clinton. A 21-gun salute greeted the Communist leader on the White House lawn, a ceremony preceded by tours of shrines to democracy like Williamsburg and followed by a state dinner.
Mr. Clinton continued his policy of "constructive engagement" with China even after the U.S. State Department ripped Beijing in a human-rights report issued last January. It concluded that no political dissidents were left free in China; all had been sent to prison or into exile. After the Clinton-Jiang summit, however, China abruptly released Wei Jingsheng, a Beijing Zoo electrician who became the country's leading dissident. Mr. Wei, 48, was in the second year of his second sentence, a 14-year term for "counterrevolutionary activities," and suffering from poor health and beatings, when he was released.
Mr. Jiang maintained that the principles behind human rights are "relative," but it was clear China and the United States wanted to agree on trade issues. Vice President Al Gore presided over the signing of a $2 billion business deal between American and Chinese companies and toasted Premier Li Peng during a March visit to China. Mr. Li is known as the "Butcher of Beijing" for ordering tanks to roll over unarmed civilians during the Tiananmen Square confrontation in 1989.
The Chinese government continued its crackdown on Christian house churches, sentencing in October the leader of one of the largest, Xu Yongze, to 10 years in a labor camp for "disrupting public order." Internal documents obtained by Compass Direct "show conclusively," the Christian news service said, that the central Chinese government is pressing a drive to register all unofficial places of worship and to shut down those that don't comply.
The freedom to worship came under attack in Russia also. Holdover Communists and ultra-nationalists joined forces with an entrenched Orthodox hierarchy to curtail religious activity for any organizations that had been active in the country less than 15 years. The "Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," passed Sept. 27, subjects all recent missionary activity and emerging evangelical churches to strict monitoring and registration requirements. Authorities quickly moved to cancel registration for a Lutheran church in Siberia and to deny places of worship to Orthodox groups that had split from the Moscow Patriarchate. While the law will limit the work of missions, Western observers also acknowledged that it may have a silver lining if it propels Russians into leadership in recently established churches.
In Africa, a revolution proved that even tyrants are never safe from surprises. One year ago Laurent Kabila launched a David-versus-Goliath rebellion against Zaire's longtime ruler, Mobutu Sese Seko. By May his campaign had moved from the jungle outposts along Zaire's eastern border to the capital city, Kinshasa. Backed by neighboring powers, Mr. Kabila ousted Mr. Mobutu and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sea-change did not bring an immediate end to ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis that has swept the region, nor did it signal a more democratic regime than the despotic Mobutu rule. Mr. Kabila promised presidential and legislative elections by 1999 but said, "We're not in a hurry."