Chinese students listen to a speech at Chongqing University, Dec. 20, 2007 (Photo by Andrew Parsons for Press Association via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Two incidents at Canadian universities earlier this month have renewed concerns that Chinese students based overseas are being used as tools in Beijing’s soft-power influence campaign. On Feb. 11, a group of Chinese students at McMaster University in Ontario documented an on-campus presentation about China’s mass internment of Uighurs and reported it to the Chinese Consulate in Toronto. The presentation was given by Uighur-Canadian activist Rukiye Turdush, who later said a Chinese student “ostentatiously recorded the entire presentation” and […]

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, center, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, right, talk to the press at the Pentagon in Washington, Feb. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Kevin Wolf).

During the first two years of the Trump administration, the Department of Defense has curtailed the release of public information about its spending and operations overseas, as reporters have complained of declining access to senior leaders. In an interview with WPR, Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, explains how increasing secrecy at the Pentagon undermines democratic accountability and impairs national security policy. World Politics Review: How do the Defense Department’s transparency and reporting practices under President Trump compare with those of previous administrations? Mandy Smithberger: Each administration seems to increase secrecy, […]

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, a past proponent of striking Iran, speaks at the United Against Nuclear Iran summit, New York, Sept. 25, 2018 (Photo by Michael Brochstein for Sipa via AP Images).

The idea of a pre-emptive American attack on Iran periodically resurfaces in Washington, despite the absence of any strategic logic. After abating following the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program, the war drums are beating again, with the Trump administration ratcheting up the pressure. Is striking Iran an option? Iran is a longstanding and steadfast opponent of the United States. It promotes terrorism, extremism and instability in the Middle East, with brutal allies like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Iranian regime continues to develop advanced weaponry while repressing internal dissent. There is no question that the […]

French soldiers at a military outpost on the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 2, 2017 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

The prospect of an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, first announced by President Donald Trump last December, sparked fear and uncertainty for the other countries participating in the U.S.-led international coalition fighting the last remnants of the Islamic State there. Trump’s decision has affected France in particular, putting the presence of French forces in Syria, until now somewhat overlooked, in the spotlight. France’s military operations in Syria grew out of its involvement in Iraq, where it initially joined in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS, at the request of the Iraqi government in September 2014. At […]

A man reads a copy of a newspaper leading with the news that the general election was postponed, Kano, northern Nigeria, Feb. 16, 2019 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. The delay came at the last possible moment. On the night of Feb. 15, after many Nigerians had already traveled in order to vote in a general election planned for the following day, officials announced it would be pushed back to Feb. 23 because of logistical problems. Specifically, the election commission cited fires at three of its offices and said it had been unable to transport voting materials to their destinations. While the extra time may help the commission […]

United Nations peacekeepers from Senegal attend the ceremony marking the end of operations in Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Oct. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Dieu Nalio Chery).

With U.N. peacekeeping open to attacks by those who call it “unproductive” and push for further cuts to its already diminished budget, peacekeeping must make a case for its own utility, using data already at its fingertips. Does international peacekeeping protect civilians caught up in civil wars? Do the 16,000 United Nations peacekeepers deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo actually save lives, and if so how many? Did the 9,000 patrols conducted by the U.N. Mission in South Sudan in the past three months protect civilians there? [marketing]blockbuster[/marketing] The answer is a dissatisfying “maybe.” Without a convincing story […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes U.S. Vice President Mike Pence for a bilateral meeting during the Munich Security Conference, Munich, Germany, Feb. 16, 2019 (AP photo by Matthias Schrader).

The Munich Security Conference, which just wrapped up Monday, is like the Davos of trans-Atlantic security policy, replete with hollow pronouncements, cost-free posturing and, of course, gossip. But every once in a while, amid the conference’s bromides, real news happens. In 2007, for instance, Russian President Vladimir Putin used his speech in Munich to publicly declare the return of Cold War-style geopolitical competition. This year, too, something newsworthy happened at the conference, but newsworthy in the odd sense that something that has been obvious and apparent to everyone was suddenly acknowledged publicly. Like a couple that, after having slowly drifted […]

Protesters try to stick photos of missing booksellers, one of which shows Gui Minhai, during a protest outside the Liaison of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong, Jan. 3, 2016 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Sweden’s ambassador to China was recalled to Stockholm last Thursday and is under investigation for allegedly brokering a meeting between two mysterious businessmen and Angela Gui, the daughter of a Hong Kong-based Swedish bookseller who has been in Chinese custody for three years. It is the latest in a string of puzzling episodes involving foreign diplomats in China. The story can be traced back to 2015, when Gui’s father, who published politically sensitive books about top Communist Party leaders, […]

Chinese navy officers stand on deck upon arrival at Thilawa International Port, Yangon, Myanmar, Sept. 30, 2016 (AP photo by Thein Zaw).

China’s military modernization is expanding to the open ocean, and the U.S. Navy is worried. Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). While the United States Navy struggles to figure out if, how and when it can expand the size of its combat fleet by 47 ships—a 15 percent increase—China’s military modernization efforts are cranking out around a dozen new large warships a year. Recently, the busy shipyard in the port city Dalian put to sea China’s second aircraft carrier, following up on that milestone two months later by simultaneously launching two Type 055-class cruisers. With […]

Members of the Muslim community demonstrate, calling for the disarmament of Anti Balaka factions and for peace in the PK5 district of Bangui, Central African Republic, May 31, 2014 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

After seven years of war, the Central African Republic has taken a shaky step toward peace. The United Nations announced in early February that the Central African government and 14 armed groups had agreed to a draft peace accord after 10 days of negotiations in Khartoum. The deal is a promising first step, but the drivers of conflict in CAR need to be addressed for a lasting peace to take hold, as competition for natural resources, ongoing ethnic disputes and, to some extent, religious cleavages, have all complicated past peace efforts. The agreement, provisionally signed on Feb. 6, calls for […]

A man walks past a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Aleppo, Syria, Dec. 24, 2018 (Photo by Mikhail Voskresenskiy for Sputnik via AP).

As the Syrian civil war grinds to an end, the government in Damascus, propped up by Iran and Russia, is regaining its footing, with important implications for the balance of power in the Middle East. Syria’s neighbors and powers outside the region are now attempting to determine the appropriate level of engagement, if any, to have with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. While Assad’s main foreign patrons will no doubt continue to deepen their military, political and economic ties, it is countries that stood against him over the past seven years that now have the most difficult decisions to make. If […]

Eritreans shout slogans during a protest in Brussels, Belgium, Sept. 28, 2018 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

Much has been written about the significance of the peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea for the Horn of Africa. Less attention has been paid to what it means for ordinary Eritreans. So far peace has sparked hope that the Eritrean economy will improve, but there are few signs of the political opening that many citizens dearly hope for. Back in July 2016, I was invited to a gathering late one night at a popular bar in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. The gathering was a traditional and quite elaborate coffee ceremony, the kind typically held in the afternoon in […]

An AH-64 Apache attack helicopter provides security from above while CH-47 Chinooks drop off supplies to U.S. soldiers at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan, June 10, 2017 (Photo by Sgt. Justin Updegraff for U.S. Marine Corps via AP Images).

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” President Donald Trump said in his recent State of the Union address—one of the few lines that may have appealed to both ends of the political spectrum. Debate is raging in the United States over how quickly to disengage from Syria and Afghanistan, as frustration with these seemingly interminable conflicts has grown on the political right and left. Trump grasps this frustration and seems inclined to pull American forces out of both places. But every time Trump mentions military withdrawal, security experts, political leaders and military commanders push back. Trump’s statement about not […]

Police guard the scene of a murder after a man was shot to death in Acapulco, Mexico, Jan. 2, 2019 (AP photo by Bernardino Hernandez).

Murders in Mexico rose by 33 percent in 2018, shattering the previous record for the second year in a row, according to an official tally released last month. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he is known in Mexico, campaigned on a new approach to the country’s spiraling security crisis, promising to de-militarize law enforcement efforts and address the social issues that he says are the root causes of violence. But in an interview with WPR, Eric Olson, a global fellow and security expert with the Mexico Institute at The Wilson Center in Washington, says a closer look […]

U.S. soldiers leave Al Faw palace at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2011 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

The culture of speaking truth to power is alive and well in the United States, despite the toxic environment in which analysts and other truth-tellers in the federal government operate these days. That is the main lesson of an important new history of the Iraq War released last month by the U.S. Army. The study takes on some of the established narratives about the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and its violent aftermath, while offering refreshingly honest assessments of the performances of both civilian and military leaders. America’s tragic engagement in Iraq is well-trodden terrain, with formidable and critical […]

Russia’s Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile blasts off during a test launch from the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia, March 30, 2018 (Russian government photo via AP Images).

On Feb. 2, the United States formally declared its intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty. The official declaration, which had been signaled by the Trump administration well in advance, set the clock ticking: Unless Russia unexpectedly returns to full and verifiable compliance with the treaty through the destruction of all its INF-violating missile systems, the U.S. withdrawal will become effective in early August. The formal termination of the treaty will have wide-ranging implications for European security, the U.S. military force posture in Europe, NATO deterrence and defense policy, and arms control. For over 30 years, […]

Russian flags in front of the ancient ruins of Palmyra, Syria, April 8, 2016 (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP).

Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war was never meant to be long-term. Now that Russia has been successful in saving the regime of Bashar al-Assad, what’s next for Russia’s Middle East strategy? Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). Russia’s decision to intervene in the Syrian civil war in September 2015 was consistent with its belief that the Syrian state represents the only viable and legitimate actor in the country, and its forces are the only ones worth supporting. Moscow has always been willing to pay a political and military price to prevent a Syrian […]

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