Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

It may take years to unravel the tangled web surrounding “Project Opus,” the bungled 2019 mercenary operation to prop up Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, which allegedly included efforts to deploy a special hit squad to Libya. Few observers tracking the burgeoning global market for privatized armies, however, were likely surprised by reports last week that U.N. investigators suspect the involvement of former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince. The recently leaked U.N. report makes only glancing mention of Prince’s alleged ties to the operation, but it marks the second time since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that Prince’s company, Hong Kong-based Frontier […]

Then-Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit in Los Angeles, Sept. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Kelvin Kuo).

One of former President Donald Trump’s principal legacies was to elevate the attention that U.S. foreign policy accords to China. His administration argued that America’s erstwhile “engage but hedge” approach had failed and that it was time to take a tougher line. The results of his policies, though, suggest that adopting an overly China-centric U.S. foreign policy is mistaken. Listen to this article: [soundcloud]993031504[/soundcloud] Pursuant to its more confrontational approach, the Trump administration imposed steep tariffs on Chinese exports and, having concluded that Beijing’s technological progress posed a particularly pressing threat to U.S. national security, took a number of steps […]

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, attends a videoconference meeting as U.S. President Joe Biden appears on a screen, Paris, Feb. 19, 2021 (pool photo by Benoit Tessier via AP Images).

“First thing I’m going to have to do, and I’m not joking,” candidate Joe Biden said last September in a campaign interview about America’s European allies. “If elected I’m going to … get on the phone with the heads of state and say America’s back, you can count on us.” In the end, he delivered his franchise tag line not by phone, but in a video address to a “special edition” of the Munich Security Conference during his first round of trans-Atlantic diplomacy last week. And he added a slight twist: “America is back. The trans-Atlantic alliance is back.” The […]

President Joe Biden signs an executive order on climate change in the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington, Jan. 27, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

This is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for international cooperation on biodiversity, though you might not know it. American news outlets have focused most if not all of their recent environmental reporting on climate change. On one level, of course, this makes sense. Climate change is the most daunting collective challenge that humanity has ever faced, and nations have fallen far behind the emissions reduction targets they set in Paris in 2015. Given these stakes, it’s certainly front-page news that President Joe Biden has called climate change a top-tier U.S. national security threat. What’s more, he has also […]

From left, Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Hungarian President Janos Ader and Czech President Milos Zeman, during a summit in the Hel Peninsula, Poland, Feb. 9, 2021 (Photo by Jakub Szymczuk for KPRP via AP Images).

Today, the United States’ relations with Central Europe are at an inflection point. Much of the recent media coverage in the region has focused on how Washington’s influence might wane if President Joe Biden picks a fight with the governments of Hungary and Poland, whose leaders had cultivated close ties with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. On the campaign trail, Biden bemoaned the recent trajectory of democratic decline and the erosion of checks and balances on executive power in those countries. Meanwhile, illiberal leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski are suspicious of Biden’s pledges to make human rights […]

People watch then-President Donald Trump, on left of video screen, and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speak during a presidential debate watch party, San Francisco, Oct. 22, 2020 (AP photo by Jeff Chiu).

The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump presents a dilemma for Joe Biden, who wants to make democracy promotion a central plank of his foreign policy. How can the United States claim to embody, much less promote, democratic values when one of its two major political parties is gripped by an emergent, homegrown fascism? Unless and until the Republican Party or its successor unequivocally repudiates the authoritarian cult of Trumpism and the conspiratorial mindset that fuels it, the United States will remain a house divided, lacking credibility to advance the cause of democracy and the institutions of free societies abroad. […]

Israeli troops clash with Palestinian demonstrators following a weekly demonstration against Israeli Jewish settlements, in the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, Sept. 4, 2020 (AP photo by Majdi Mohammed).

Harun Abu Aram was shot in the neck on the first day of the New Year. In a confrontation captured on film, the 24-year-old Palestinian, along with several other men, can be seen tussling with Israeli soldiers who had been trying to seize a village generator in the West Bank’s South Hebron hills—before a single shot rings out. Over a month later, Abu Aram remains in critical condition in a Hebron hospital, paralyzed from the neck down. In the aftermath of the shooting, the Israeli Defense Forces claimed that there had been a “violent disturbance” involving “around 150 Palestinians” who […]

Then-Vice President Joe Biden at the U.S. Africa Summit in Washington, Aug. 4, 2014 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

America’s democracy, once seen as a shining light and inspiration to democrats across the world, was pushed to the brink by Donald Trump’s presidency. In the aftermath of last month’s storming of the Capitol by right-wing extremists, some commentators declared that the United States’ own troubles mean it must now back away from promoting liberal values in the rest of the world. But in fact, the opposite is true: Having repelled a major challenge to its own democracy, America is now better positioned to promote democratic norms and values abroad. Listen to this article: [soundcloud]988339474[/soundcloud] Recent events in the U.S. […]

President Joe Biden signs an executive order on immigration at the White House, Washington, Feb. 2, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

President Joe Biden inherited an immigration system in shambles. After four years of efforts by Donald Trump’s administration to put up as many barriers as possible for migrants and asylum-seekers hoping to enter the United States, Biden’s team must now reopen America’s doors while avoiding a political backlash in Washington. The new administration has also pledged to work closely with Central American leaders to address the root causes of the migrant crisis, though that will be a longer-term undertaking. This week on the Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s Elliot Waldman was joined by Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin […]

A Houthi supporter holds up his rifle during a demonstration against the United States over its decision to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 25, 2021 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

For U.S. officials who worked under former President Barack Obama, many of whom are now beginning or contemplating jobs in Joe Biden’s administration, the war in Yemen casts a long shadow. What started on their watch as a primarily internal power struggle has since metastasized into a messy and multilayered conflict. It is the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis, involving alleged violations of international law—many of them perpetrated with American-made arms—and has become a potential trigger for a region-wide conflagration. For much of Biden’s foreign policy team, then, Yemen represents both unfinished business and, potentially, a small but significant piece […]

Crews construct a section of the border wall in San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, Douglas, Arizona, Dec. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Matt York).

Since he took office last month, President Joe Biden has moved quickly to overhaul Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Among other measures, the new administration has moved to rebuild the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which had been gutted under Trump; ended the “safe third country” agreements that aimed to force asylum-seekers to first register their claims in other nations before traveling to the United States; stopped construction of the wall along parts of the U.S. border with Mexico; and issued a 100-day pause on deportations, although that order has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge. Adam Isacson, a longtime WPR […]

A woman holds up a sign that reads, in Spanish, “Cubans with Biden,” as then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks in Miramar, Florida, Oct. 13, 2020 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Few countries suffered more from former President Donald Trump’s policies than Cuba. The Trump administration imposed sanctions and restrictions designed to blow up the historic detente between Washington and Havana forged by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. These measures—as well as sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, which cut off a much-needed source of subsidized energy—battered Cuba’s state-run economy, which has also been hard-hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s critical tourism sector. As a result, in a moment of political transition and quickening market reforms, Cuba is now experiencing its worst economic crisis since the “Special Period,” […]

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on foreign policy at the State Department, in Washington, Feb. 4, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In his first foreign policy address as president, delivered last week at the State Department, Joe Biden drew the curtain on the disastrous Trump era, rededicating the United States to repairing its tattered alliances, reengaging the world and defending freedom. “We are ready to take up the mantle of global leadership yet again,” he declared. “America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.” The most novel aspect of Biden’s plainspoken speech was how he erased any clear distinction between foreign and domestic policy. The nation’s strength at home determines its success abroad—and vice versa. But […]

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels in Sanaa, Yemen, Aug. 22, 2020 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Managing Editor Frederick Deknatel highlights a major unfolding story in the Middle East, while curating some of the best news and analysis from the region. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Middle East Memo by email every week. “This war has to end,” Joe Biden declared in his first foreign policy address as president last week, when he announced a halt to “all American support for offensive operations” in the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels. But cutting off U.S. arms for the disastrous Saudi air war, which Biden also called a […]

A man holds a poster in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny that reads, “One for all and all for one,” during a protest against the Navalny’s arrest, St. Petersburg, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

During his 21 years in power, President Vladimir Putin has made a number of strategic missteps, but few will prove more consequential for him, his inner circle or indeed Russia itself than the jailing this week of anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny. As evidenced by wave after wave of protests across Russia since Navalny’s arrest upon his return to Moscow last month, the Kremlin’s harsh response has only provoked more Russians to take to the streets. It has also united the United States and its NATO allies after years of policy disarray on dealing with Moscow. Yet even now that minds […]

A Customs and Border Control agent patrolling on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico, east of Nogales, Arizona, March 2, 2019 (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

For anyone looking out on the world from the new Biden White House, America’s challenges can only seem extraordinarily daunting. Even if it could be taken in isolation, the public health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic would gravely test any administration. But, of course, the coronavirus challenge cannot be resolved in isolation. Beyond its immediate public health dimensions, the pandemic has created an enormous economic crisis for a United States whose status as a global leader has never looked so compromised in the postwar period. For Washington, the pandemic has also spawned a fiscal crisis, with the Treasury […]

Director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attend a meeting in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 25, 2020 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

In the four decades since Iran’s Islamic Revolution, relations between Tehran and Washington have seen deep enmity offset by brief periods of rapprochement and tactical cooperation. As a new U.S. administration settles into office and asserts its intent to, in President Joe Biden’s words, “offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy,” one of those periods may be on the horizon again. The Obama administration pursued diplomatic engagement with the Islamic Republic, holding direct as well as multilateral talks that culminated in the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Under […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 201 2 Last