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Algeria has taken a series of steps recently to boost cooperation with its neighbors in response to increasing violence from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Algeria and Mauritania agreed to increase security efforts in the Sahel region, while Algeria and Niger announced that they would launch joint border patrols and share intelligence. Algeria also sent troops into Mali to combat the terrorist threat. These countries have long looked to Algeria, the dominant economic and military power in the region, to take the lead on cooperation, according to Stephen Tankel, an assistant professor at American University and scholar at the […]

After a groundswell of anti-government protests enveloped many corners of North Africa a year ago, observers around the world began to wonder how far this democratic contagion would spread. In particular, many wondered whether northern Africa would inspire its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, which share many of the same demographic characteristics found in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including a large percentage of unemployed young people, high food prices and years of oppression and unrealized opportunity at the hand of often-brutal dictators. At the time, political commentators in several corners of Africa seemed optimistic that the Arab Spring […]

Will the Arab Spring finally end the European Union’s lethargic approach to the southern Mediterranean and lead to more serious support for democratization? Don’t hold your breath. There are three key reasons why “business as usual” with only cosmetic changes is likely to remain the norm. First and foremost is the fact that Europe is in deep economic and financial crisis. With growing discord between France, Britain and Germany, not only the future of the euro but the very foundations of the European Union are at stake. Consumed by its own existential crisis, a serious rethinking of foreign policy is […]

The most striking image from last weekend’s demonstrations in Moscow against the regime of former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is that of protesters holding up iPads and iPhones over their heads, broadcasting the momentous events live over the Internet. The sight of young Russians, bundled up against the Moscow cold, speaking out for democracy via social media brings to mind the wave of political protests that have defined 2011 — from the Arab uprisings in the Middle East, to the Occupy movement in developed economies, and now in Russia. And it raises the question of just how […]

This week in the small Western Saharan town of Tifariti, delegations are arriving for the 13th Conference of the Polisario Front, the United Nations-recognized group that has fought since the 1970s for Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco. The gathering, to be held Dec. 15-20, is expected to draw some 1,500 people from the region, as well as from Asia, Europe and Latin America. It will broach a topic that has otherwise gone largely overlooked in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings that have swept the Middle East and North Africa in the name of greater representation and government accountability: […]

The National Transitional Council of Libya has much on its plate, including most notably rebuilding the country in the wake of civil war while also preparing it for constitutional democracy. However, military challenges still beckon. In addition to residual fighting and managing the demands of competing militias, the Transitional Council is faced with the task of centralizing authority over violence and building a new, modern and professional Libyan military. The rump Libyan military is unlikely to be of much help. Although Moammar Gadhafi cultivated conflict with neighbors and distant foes alike, he relied more on Libya’s vast, inhospitable geography than […]

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With the European financial crisis dominating headlines, little attention has been given to the Eueopean Union’s recently announced plan to send a team of police and security experts to North Africa to ramp up counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The development, announced earlier this week, comes after a spate of kidnappings of Westerners by AQIM-affiliated groups, along with mounting concerns that weapons from the conflict in Libya could end up in the organization’s hands. That the EU has decided to focus on police training rather than military assistance can best be explained by the nature of the […]

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In a memorandum issued by President Barack Obama and a speech made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the administration on Tuesday unveiled a plan to “promote and protect” the human rights of gay people around the world. In addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Clinton acknowledged that the “obstacles standing in the way” of protecting gay rights “rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural and religious beliefs.” According to Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, that suggests that Clinton has anticipated the tensions that will surely arise with the promotion of a global gay rights […]