Presidents from Turkmenistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia at the Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, Sept. 29, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service).

As negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries—the U.S., France, U.K., Germany, Russia and China—over Tehran’s nuclear program enter the home stretch before their June 30 deadline, much of the attention in Washington and the media has been focused on the U.S. need to reaffirm its commitment to its Persian Gulf allies, in order to reassure them that an Iran nuclear deal would not compromise their security. In addition, however, the United States also needs to develop a strategy for managing the likely growth of Iranian influence in Central Asia and the South Caucasus that would follow any nuclear agreement. […]

A worker cuts a diamond, reflecting Botswana’s attempt to control stages of diamond production beyond mining, Gaborone, Botswana, March 18, 2008 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

The past year has seen dramatic declines in the prices of global commodities. Between June 2014 and the beginning of this year, crude oil prices fell by 50 percent to around $50 a barrel. Similarly, mineral prices have seen a drastic fall since the peak of the “commodity supercycle” in early 2011. Between then and April of this year, iron ore prices fell by 70 percent, coal prices by 54 percent and copper prices by 40 percent. Many countries dependent on revenues from these commodities have been hit hard. Venezuela is unable to import food and medicine to satisfy the […]

U.S. door gunners in H-21 Shawnee gunships look for a suspected Viet Cong guerrilla who ran to a foxhole from the sampan on the Mekong Delta river bank, Jan. 17, 1964 (AP photo by Horst Faas).

As Iraq devolved into insurgency in 2004, the Washington policy community was filled with ominous warnings of “another Vietnam.” The war in Vietnam was, after all, America’s benchmark for counterinsurgency and hung like a dark cloud over every debate on U.S. national security policy during the height of the Iraq War. But it soon seemed that the Vietnam analogy did not apply to Iraq. After a careful assessment, Jeffrey Record and Andrew Terrill, both widely published national security experts, concluded as early as May 2004 that “the differences between the two conflicts greatly outnumber the similarities.” Soon references to Vietnam […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma at the BRICS summit, Brazil, July 15, 2014 (AP photo by Silvia Izquierdo).

The BRICS grouping must rank as one of the oddest geopolitical blocs in history. It was born in 2001 from the mind of a Wall Street economist as little more than a mnemonic shorthand device to describe the growing importance of developing economies. Ever since, the five countries it comprises—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, a later addition—have been trying to transform their snappy acronym into a global player. Nobody has promoted the ambition to leverage the BRICS bloc into a source of influence more enthusiastically than Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sees the grouping as a potential vehicle […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh after arriving at the Presidential Palace, Djibouti, May 6, 2015 (State Department photo).

China is in negotiations with Djibouti to open a military base in the country, adding to its current roster of French, U.S., Japanese and EU military facilities. In an email interview, David Styan, lecturer in politics at Birkbeck College, University of London and author of the report “Djibouti: Changing Influence in the Horn’s Strategic Hub,” discussed Djibouti’s foreign relations. WPR: Who are Djibouti’s main regional partners? David Styan: The dominant regional partner is Ethiopia. Djibouti’s small economy is essentially a gateway; the vast majority of Addis Ababa’s fast-growing trade flows transit through Djibouti’s new container and oil terminals. China’s reconstruction […]

Chinese People’s Liberation Army cadets take part in a bayonet drills at the PLA’s Armored Forces Engineering Academy Base, Beijing, China, July 22, 2014 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

The latest edition of the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on Chinese military power has once again put the spotlight on China’s massive military modernization program. In addition to upgrading its conventional forces, developing anti-access strategies and increasing its cyber and space warfare capabilities, China is modernizing its nuclear forces. Indeed, China is the only one of the five legally recognized nuclear weapons states whose nuclear arsenal is growing in both size and sophistication. These new developments call into question long-standing assumptions about China’s nuclear posture, with implications for regional and global security. Beijing has long kept the number of […]

Volunteer rural vaccination team members with the Gates Foundation travel to a remote village, Bihar, India, Dec. 20, 2010 (Gates Foundation photo).

Last month, India canceled the licenses of 9,000 charities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for failing to declare information about foreign donations. In an email interview, Noshir H. Dadrawala, CEO of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, discussed the relationship between foreign NGOs and the Indian government. WPR: What are some of the common methods India has used to restrict or regulate foreign NGOs’ direct and indirect domestic activity, and how has this evolved recently? Noshir H. Dadrawala: The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 is the most common tool used to regulate foreign NGOs in India. The law governs how certain […]

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth conducts routine patrols in international waters of the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the South China Sea territorial disputes and the various claimant countries’ approaches to addressing them. Last week, it was reported that the U.S. is considering sending Navy ships and aircraft to waters surrounding islands claimed by China in the South China Sea to demonstrate freedom of navigation. The reports follow a month-long media campaign calling attention to China’s expansion of the islands to accommodate airstrips and military facilities. China’s reclamation activity around the Spratly Islands also dominated conversations at last month’s ASEAN meeting in Kuala Lumpur, with the […]

Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts, New Delhi, India, April 5, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

In the first few months of 2014, people around the world were united in their condemnation of India’s Supreme Court. At the end of 2013, in a case that became known simply as Koushal, the court refused to strike down Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era provision banning “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” The court argued it was the job of Parliament, not judges, to repeal controversial laws and, in doing so, effectively recriminalized non-heterosexual sex. The decision rolled back decades of small but hard-fought gains by India’s legally, socially and culturally marginalized lesbian, gay, […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II, Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the May 9 Victory Day celebrations in Moscow marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany is how much Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized their two countries’ historical and other ties. Although Russian and Chinese officials no longer profess ideological solidarity based on a shared Marxist-Leninist ideology, their statements have displayed a remarkable harmony of ideas and expression. In practice, their political systems also more closely resemble each other, exposing shared vulnerabilities. Chinese presidents had attended Victory Day parades in 2005 and 2010, but this […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) during the Self-Defense Forces Day at Asaka Base, north of Tokyo, Oct. 27, 2013 (AP photo by Shizuo Kambayashi).

Japan’s postwar constitution, promulgated in 1947 under U.S. occupation, has shaped the country’s international role ever since. But now that may be changing. Since assuming office for the second time in December 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has implemented a rapid succession of security policy reforms. Abe’s efforts to refocus Japan’s attention on its defense needs and adopt policies that have long been seen as taboo have drawn global attention. Japan’s immediate neighbors have decried these reforms, citing their still sensitive World War II-era memories of a very different Japanese military. South Korea has been especially critical of Abe’s […]

An Indian air force Hercules C-130J prepares to land at the Juhu strip on the Arabian Sea coast as part of a terror preparedness exercise, Mumbai, India, March 24, 2015 (AP photo by Rajanish Kakade).

Last month, India announced plans to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, though a final deal has yet to be signed. In an email interview, Iskander Rehman, a nonresident fellow in the South Asia Program at the Atlantic Council, discussed India’s air force. WPR: What are the current size, capabilities and combat readiness of the Indian air force? Iskander Rehman: On paper, the Indian air force is a large, well-balanced and modern service, whose fighter pilots are considered to be some of the most-capable and well-trained in the world. Recently, however, concerns have grown over the air force’s continued […]

Motorists ride past graffiti of the Islamic State flag in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, March 8, 2014 (AP photo).

After a steady decline in Islamist extremism in Southeast Asia over the past decade, during which the region shed its post-9/11 image as a possible second front for al-Qaida, the rise of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) has some governments fearing a new threat. In response, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in particular are acting individually, bilaterally and regionally to stem recruitment, radicalization and the flow of foreign fighters. Over 500 young Southeast Asians are returning home after fighting for IS, as many did during the Afghan mujahedeen’s jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Given that over […]

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif receives Chinese President Xi Jinping, Islamabad, Pakistan, April 20, 2015 (Photo from Pakistan’s Press Information Office).

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan last month to inaugurate the 1,800-mile China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which will stretch from the landlocked western Chinese province of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea port city of Gwadar in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan. The project, which includes investment deals worth up to $46 billion, has the potential to significantly alter the economic geography of the region, spur the next generation of Chinese growth and lift Pakistan out of its economic slumber. But it faces major challenges, including threats from violent ethnic separatists and jihadis, who will seek to play the role of […]