South Sudanese President Salva Kiir signs a peace deal, Juba, South Sudan, Aug. 26, 2015 (AP photo by Jason Patinkin).

How much clout does the U.S. wield over African leaders? Over the past month, the Obama administration has turned up the heat on South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, pressuring him to commit to a deal to end his country’s 20-month-old civil war. Kiir did all he could to avoid signing the agreement, which involves a power-sharing arrangement with rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar. He backed out of a ceremony to sign it in the middle of last month and only gave in last week after the U.S. threatened him with United Nations sanctions. Last week, the Security […]

Fighters from the Islamic State parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle down a main road at the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, June 23, 2014 (AP photo).

Earlier this month, during a campaign stop in Ottawa ahead of October’s federal elections, incumbent Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper proposed new legislation to prohibit travel to terrorism hot spots like Iraq and Syria. “A re-elected Conservative government will designate travel to places that are ground zero for terrorist activity a criminal offense,” Harper said. This is not a new idea. Australia has already enacted a similar measure this year, listing parts of Iraq and Syria as no-travel zones. Individuals caught violating the law face 10 years in prison. Exemptions exist for journalists, representatives of national governments and the United […]

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and the Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, Nov. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

During his remaining time in office, U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing hard to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the major free trade deal between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries. The Obama administration is also intent on providing significant new aid to reduce violence, support development and build institutions in Central America. At first blush, the two appear unrelated; the TPP includes no Central American countries. Yet the deal’s final shape may actually play an important part in determining whether the Obama administration will meet its policy and security goals in Central America, since it could unintentionally […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro before casting his ballot in his party's primary elections in Caracas, Venezuela, June 28, 2015 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

On July 3, shortly before Venezuela’s Independence Day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sent a positive message to the Venezuelan people heralding improved relations and looking forward to “further cooperation between our people and governments.” But just a month later, the State Department released a statement criticizing the government’s disqualification of several opposition candidates from scheduled parliamentary elections, suggesting the moves “clearly have the intention of complicating the ability of the opposition to run candidates for the legislative elections.” In reaction, on Aug. 5, President Nicolas Maduro’s government vigorously rejected the American criticism, calling it interventionist. Yet three days […]

The CIA Original Headquarters Building at Langley, Virginia (CIA photo).

The summer’s headlines—from how to verify the Iran deal to combating the self-declared Islamic State to, most recently, new revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) and the telecom giant AT&T—all have something in common: the role of intelligence in keeping the United States safe. For better or worse, since the release of diplomatic cables from Wikileaks and classified NSA documents from former government contractor Edward Snowden, the American public has a deeper understanding of at least some of the ways that intelligence contributes to U.S. national security. The NSA documents were the source of The New York Times’ recent […]

Fox News moderators Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier speak before Republican presidential candidates take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate Cleveland, Oh. Aug. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

A glance at the most popular sources of political news today—whether websites, television, radio or, for the old-fashioned consumers, print—provides a stark reminder that in the United States, politics and celebrity have merged. For superstar pundits, television and radio “infotainers,” and would-be office-holders, celebrity status equals political influence. This affects all aspects of American politics but is particularly powerful in the realm of security policy, where the public has little direct expertise and so must lean heavily on opinion-shapers. It wasn’t always this way. Once the public tended to defer to national security authorities who had earned their influence through […]

Police prevent demonstrators marking Teacher's Day from approaching the Zocalo plaza in Mexico City, May 15, 2015 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

The ongoing fight over education reform in Mexico has often resembled a popular uprising rather than a labor dispute. Over the past two years, members of a powerful teachers’ union from the south of the country have occupied plazas, hijacked local radio stations and disrupted elections in their bid to have a controversial 2013 bill restructuring Mexico’s public school system revoked. The clash between union leaders and the federal government has defined much of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s time in office, as he has pursued an ambitious reform agenda that has stalled under corruption allegations and popular unrest, mostly over […]

President Barack Obama speaks about the nuclear deal with Iran at American University, Washington, Aug. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Last week at American University, Barack Obama gave one of the most important foreign policy speeches of his presidency. In it, he laid out his detailed argument for supporting the Iran nuclear deal. The president offered a veritable legal brief on why the deal makes the most sense for U.S. national security interests, why it’s better than any alternative, why its critics are wrong and why the agreement builds on a “tradition of strong, principled diplomacy” in U.S. foreign policy. But beyond that, Obama’s speech did something with even greater implications. It highlighted the widening dividing line between Democrats and […]

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro during their historic meeting at the Summit of the Americas, Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

On July 20, an honor guard of three Cuban soldiers in full dress uniform raised the island country’s flag over the embassy in Washington for the first time since January 1961. The re-establishment of diplomatic relations concluded “the first stage” of the dialogue between the United States and Cuba, said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, but a “complex and certainly long process” of negotiations still lay ahead before the two countries would have truly normal relations. “The challenge is huge,” he added, “because there have never been normal relations between the United States of America and Cuba.” Indeed, myriad issues still […]

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare for a demonstration, Beijing, China, July 12, 2011 (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley).

One of the hottest reads among Washington national security experts this summer is not the latest White House policy document or a big report from an influential think tank, but a novel by two of the national security community’s own: Peter Singer and August Cole. Their book, “Ghost Fleet,” is a riveting thriller in the Tom Clancy tradition. Much of the attention it is getting is due to its explanation of cutting-edge military technology, but it is also captivating—and important—because its core scenario is one that every policymaker and policy expert fears: a major war between the United States and […]

A bulldozer works on the new section of the Suez Canal, Ismailia, Egypt, July 29, 2015 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Billboards in New York’s Times Square advertise it as “Egypt’s gift to the world.” An expansion of the Suez Canal, completed in just a year—at President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s request—is set to formally open Thursday, with a party estimated to cost $30 million and full of foreign dignitaries. Those ads in Times Square, which have also appeared in London and, curiously, in a special cover wrap of some editions of The Economist, claim that “Egypt boosts the world economy.” How? By allowing two-way shipping traffic that, the Suez Canal Authority says, will cut transit time by seven hours. But plenty […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Washington, D.C., Aug. 4, 2015 (U.N. photo by Mark Garten).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Michael Cohen, who will return next week. On Monday, President Barack Obama unveiled the final version of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) rules. The new regulations, a tweak to initial rules that had been released in June 2014, are meant to provide the framework for individual U.S. states in meeting emissions-reduction goals in their electricity sectors. In forecasting a 32 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, the plan relies on incentivizing the adoption of low-carbon energy sources nationwide, especially solar and wind power. As […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters with Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah after briefing members of the Gulf Cooperation Council about the Iran nuclear deal, Doha, Qatar, Aug. 3, 2015 (State Department photo).

Editor’s note: This will be Richard Weitz’s final “Global Insights” column at World Politics Review. We’d like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude for all the support he has shown for WPR since its inception, and we look forward to working with him regularly in the future. One of the main goals of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest Middle East trip is to reassure U.S. partners there that the recent Iran nuclear deal will not jeopardize their security. The Obama administration is using several instruments to achieve this goal, including helping the Persian Gulf states […]