Protesters from the Answer Coalition gather in front of the White House, Washington, April 14, 2018 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

As the tragic civil war in Syria grinds through its eighth year, it is impossible to make sense of the Trump administration’s strategy as it moves in one direction and then shifts in another, again and again. American policy is utterly incoherent, and there is no sign that will change. President Donald Trump’s position on Syria, expressed more often in tweets than in formal policy statements, vacillated wildly even before he was elected president. In June 2013, for instance, he contended that the United States should “stay the hell out of Syria.” But two months later, after Syrian President Bashar […]

Soldiers examine burnt-out cars outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, after it was attacked by al-Qaida-linked extremists, Jan. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

The Islamist militants came on motorbikes, arriving before dawn in two villages in eastern Burkina Faso. In the first village, Diabiga, they struck a mosque, killing a local Muslim leader and four other worshipers; a sixth person later died of his injuries. In the second village, Kompienbiga, they killed three members of the same family. The dual attacks, which occurred on Sept. 15, did not come as a total surprise. In the weeks leading up to them, a series of similar incidents in the east claimed around 20 lives. Analysts suspect the violence is the work of the Islamic State […]

A memorial is set up to mark the second anniversary of fighting in Ilovaysk between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Ukraine paramilitaries and pro-Russia insurgents, Kiev, Ukraine, Aug. 29, 2016 (Sipa photo via AP).

Under the cover of darkness, eight cargo trucks from Russia rumbled down a dirt road just inside the Ukrainian border. A breeze cooled the early August night, drifting over the Russian countryside into this swath of coal-mining country in Donetsk, before being caught in the swells of the Black Sea. It was clear. A perfect night for a drone from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has been monitoring a shaky cease-fire in eastern Ukraine for the past four years, to record video of the convoys of KamAZ-4310s, the green army trucks once called the “workhorse of […]

Pro-government protesters hold both the Hong Kong flag, left, and the Chinese national flag outside the convention center, Hong Kong, May 18, 2016 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, WPR’s newsletter and engagement editor, Benjamin Wilhelm, curates the top news and analysis from China written by the experts who follow it. Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday banned the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, which reportedly has “at most a few dozen” members, on the grounds that it threatened national security and public order. In justifying the decision, the government invoked the city’s colonial-era security ordinance, which has mostly been used to combat organized crime. Though the move was without precedent, it came as no surprise. Under President Xi Jinping, China has consistently restricted efforts […]

Syrian authorities distribute bread, vegetables and pasta near the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, Douma, Syria, April 16, 2018 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is close to military victory over the rebels that he has been fighting since 2011. The largest remaining area of opposition control is Idlib province, and the regime is gearing up to retake it. Turkey and Russia developed a cease-fire plan last week to try and prevent further large-scale fighting, but it may not work. The future looks grim for the people of Idlib. Like Assad’s other offensives, if this one takes place it will be brutal, with civilians suffering as much as rebel fighters. And if past patterns hold, Syrian government forces will use whatever […]

Rwandan President Paul Kagame attends a roundtable event at the EU-Africa summit held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Nov. 29, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. “It took me by surprise, but I hope this is the start of the opening of the political space in Rwanda.” That was Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a Rwandan opposition politician who was incarcerated for six years before her surprise release over the weekend. More than 2,100 other people were also freed in a move for which the government provided little explanation. Ingabire returned to Rwanda from the Netherlands in 2010 and announced her plan to challenge President Paul Kagame […]

Afghan security personnel walk past the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 23, 2018 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the latest escalation in the U.S.-China trade war and new developments in North Korean nuclear diplomacy. For the Report, Michael Semple talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and life on the ground in territories under their control. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article […]

The carriage of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima during the celebration of Prinsjesdag (Budget Day) at the Binnenhof in The Hague, Netherlands, Sept. 18, 2018 (Photo by Mischa Schoemaker for Sipa USA via AP Images).

AMSTERDAM—If you think the annual rundown of a government’s policy plans has to be a droll, soporific affair, perhaps you should look at the Netherlands. Its version of the State of the Union is a carnival of color, pageantry and whimsy, cleverly concealing the arcane necessity of a national budget, and the delicate state of negotiations over politically charged policy choices. Tuesday was Prinsjesdag in the Netherlands—the Princes’ Day, also known as Budget Day. It happens every year on the third Tuesday in September, when the Dutch monarch, now King Willem-Alexander, formally opens the new parliamentary year, reading a speech […]

Heavily armed soldiers escort the caravan of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to a ceremony to inaugurate a soccer field, Mixco, Guatemala, Sept. 17, 2018 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

GUATEMALA CITY—It looked like a modern-day re-enactment of the 1982 photograph of Gen. Efrain Rios Montt and other military officers at a press conference following their coup. On Aug. 31, military, police and special forces officers lined up several rows deep behind Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who announced the government’s decision not to renew the mandate of a United Nations-backed anti-corruption body, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG. Although it has been widely praised internationally for exposing deep-seated networks of corruption within the highest levels of the Guatemalan government, bringing down several politicians […]

Chinese Bishop Joseph Li Shan, center, walks down the aisle during a mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a government-sanctioned Catholic church in Beijing, March 31, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR’s newsletter and engagement editor, Benjamin Wilhelm, curates the top news and analysis from China written by the experts who follow it. A report that China is nearing an agreement with the Vatican on Catholic bishop appointments has raised eyebrows given the Communist Party’s ongoing crackdown on religion. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that momentum is building for an agreement between China and the Vatican that would see Beijing recognize the pope’s authority over the Catholic Church in China. In return, Pope Francis would recognize seven excommunicated Chinese bishops who were appointed by the […]

Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016 (AP photo by Allauddin Khan).

The Afghan Taliban are experiencing a revival. Today, they find themselves in control of much of the territory they claimed before 9/11, a new version of the Islamic Emirate that the U.S. intended to eliminate. Instead of focusing on public statements, policymakers trying to assess the Taliban’s motives must closely examine what life in Taliban-controlled territory looks like. In 1992, after groups of guerrilla fighters known as mujahideen succeeded in toppling Afghanistan’s communist government, which had been backed by the Soviet Union, they quickly turned on each other, kicking off a civil war. In response, a group of young clerics […]

Angolan President Joao Lourenco, center, arrives for an event at the EU-Africa summit, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Nov. 29, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. When Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who served as president of Angola for nearly four decades, confirmed last year that he would not run for another term, many expected him to continue wielding power behind the scenes. This was especially true after he announced he would stay on as head of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, which has been the ruling party since the oil-rich southern African country attained independence from Portugal in 1975. “He […]

Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, left, listens to Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, before a working session of the African Union in Nouakchott, Mauritania, July 3, 2018 (AP photo by Ludovic Marin).

About a month ago, a fresh wave of violence kicked off in northern Chad when rebels crossed over from neighboring Libya and staged an attack on a border post in the region of Kouri Bougri. According to one report, the rebels, who arrived on vehicles equipped with machine guns, managed to kill at least three soldiers while possibly kidnapping others. A security source, speaking to Radio France Internationale, initially downplayed the significance of the incursion, saying it had been perpetrated by common criminals. But the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic, or CCMSR, a Chadian rebel group […]

Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Alibaba, leaves a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, April 19, 2018 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, WPR’s newsletter and engagement editor, Benjamin Wilhelm, curates the top news and analysis from China written by the experts who follow it. Chinese internet and e-commerce goliath Alibaba announced on Monday that Jack Ma, its founder and chairman of the board, will step down next September. Ma, who was an English teacher when he launched Alibaba with 17 of his students and friends, has become one of China’s most famous entrepreneurs and its richest. Ma’s replacement will be Daniel Zhang, who became CEO in 2013 as part of what Ma said was a long-planned succession. Zhang’s […]

Chinese servicemen and military equipment arrive at the Zabaikalsk unloading station to participate in the Vostok military exercises, Aug. 26, 2018 (Photo by Evgeny Yepanchintsev for Sputnik via AP Images).

In the largest Russian military exercise since the height of the Cold War, Moscow this week is deploying 300,000 troops, 900 tanks and 1,000 aircraft in central and eastern Russia. The military demonstration, called “Vostok 2018,” or East Exercise 2018, is expected to last from Sept. 11 to 15. This year, for the first time ever, Chinese military forces will participate, sending 3,200 troops and 30 aircraft over the border into eastern Russia. Similar Cold War-era drills only included states that were part of the Soviet sphere. The Vostok exercise highlights two important, seemingly contradictory things about the relationship between […]

A member of the German armed forces wears a helmet that features the United Nations logo at Camp Castor in Gao, Mali, April 5, 2016 (Photo by Michael Kappeler for DPA via AP Images).

Seventeen years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the “war on terror” is still stumbling along. From the Sahel to the Philippines, governments and international coalitions continue to battle jihadi groups. In an era of mounting international competition, political leaders, generals and spies continue to agree that transnational terrorism is a common threat. Global organizations like the United Nations cannot insulate themselves from this tendency. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made consolidating the institution’s counterterrorist activities a priority. Last week, World Politics Review ran a trenchant piece by Larry Attree and Jordan Street of Saferworld, warning that […]

Senegalese Gen. Amadou Kane, deputy force commander of the U.N. mission in Mali, sits for an interview, Bamako, Mali, June 23, 2018 (Photo by Sean Kilpatrick for Canadian Press via AP Images).

From Bosnia to Rwanda, United Nations peacekeepers have always faced tough choices that come with operating in complex, dangerous environments. Today, the climate is no less challenging. Record fatalities and injuries for U.N. personnel have increased pressure from some quarters to embolden U.N. peacekeeping and political missions with stronger, more aggressive mandates. But recent decisions made by the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, such as a mandate to support a regional, non-U.N. counterterrorism unit in Mali, the G5 Sahel Joint Force, risk plunging blue helmets into the quicksand of unwinnable wars. This short-term thinking poses considerable long-term risks […]

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