President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House, Washington, Jan. 28, 2020 (Photo by Oliver Contreras for Sipa via AP Images).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the Trump administration’s long-anticipated Israel-Palestine peace plan, which after numerous delays was rolled out this week, and why it is a gift to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right. They also discuss how the deal reflects the shifting dynamics of regional geopolitics, and the options available to the Palestinian leadership moving forward. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered […]

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a sermon during Friday prayers at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 17, 2020 (Photo by the Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP Images).

In three weeks, Iranians will go to the polls to choose a new parliament. For President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate and ardent supporter of the now-moribund international agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear program, the parliamentary vote on Feb. 21 could be the first note in his political swan song. With some 90 percent of Iran’s reform candidates disqualified in a decision issued by the hard-line Guardian Council this week and reformists threatening an election boycott, it seems highly unlikely that Iran’s pro-reform bloc will be able to stitch together much of a showing at the polls. That’s bad news for […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, center, and Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich review an honor guard in Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Hau Dinh).

With China-Vietnam relations deteriorating as a result of Beijing's provocations, Hanoi has signaled a possible shift in alliances. Whether Vietnam actually follows through, though, likely depends on who takes over the ruling Communist Party during next year's National Congress. In a major new defense white paper, its first in 10 years, Vietnam has begun signaling that it could abandon its long-standing foreign policy strategy of hedging between major powers like China and the United States and move more definitively into Washington’s orbit. These documents are generally full of turgid jargon, but this one, released late last year, is unusually blunt, […]

The British headquarters of Huawei in Reading, United Kingdom, June 12, 2018 (Photo by Steve 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. The European Union on Wednesday recommended its member states limit the involvement of “high-risk” 5G vendors like Huawei in their telecommunications infrastructure, but it did not suggest banning the Chinese company outright. The EU’s new guidelines come a day after the United Kingdom announced it would not ban Huawei from its 5G network, a serious blow to the U.S. pressure campaign against China’s telecom giant. In a package of recommendations it refers to as its “5G toolbox,” the European […]

President Donald Trump listens as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He speaks during a press conference at the White House, in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (SIPA photo by Oliver Contreras via AP Images).

Two weeks after it was signed, President Donald Trump’s phase-one trade deal with China, which the White House typically hyped as a “landmark” and “historic agreement,” is looking more suspect. There were always questions about what was left out of the deal—especially industrial subsidies in China and continued tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in imports from China. But now there is growing skepticism about the value of what is actually in the deal. What happened to the $40 billion to $50 billion in additional sales that Trump promised American farmers? Can Beijing really deliver on its commitment to […]

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at a campaign rally in Sioux City, Iowa, Jan. 26, 2020 (AP photo by John Locher).

Bernie Sanders’ remarkable staying power in the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries—including narrow leads in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, and now a slight edge over former Vice President Joe Biden in a recent national poll—has unsettled the U.S. political establishment. His revived presidential campaign increases the possibility that Democrats will select, and Americans elect, a left-wing nominee who could upend America’s global role, but in a very different way than President Donald Trump. In contrast to his 2016 presidential run, which treated foreign policy as an afterthought, the Vermont senator’s 2020 campaign has been actively challenging longstanding shibboleths of […]

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 18, 2019 (Pool photo by Mandel Ngan via AP).

The stunning allegation this week that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hacked the phone of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, according to a report by United Nations investigators, may come as a shock to some. But for most people tracking the rise of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler over the past five years, it’s business as usual. From his disastrous proxy war in Yemen to the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, the young crown prince, known as MBS, has demonstrated time and again his hubristic belief that there are no limits […]

Pages from the Senate Intelligence Committee report that details Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, photographed in Washington, July 26, 2019 (AP photo by Jon Elswick).

As the United States girds for highly contentious and consequential elections later this year, federal agencies and local officials remain woefully unprepared to deal with the high likelihood of foreign interference. The House of Representatives has passed three bills to address election-related vulnerabilities, but none has been taken up by the Senate, leaving gaping deficiencies in election infrastructure and the balloting process. A congressional appropriation of $425 million for election security, enacted last month as part of a broader spending package, will help local officials with urgent needs, but it comes late in the cycle and fails to create a […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Sept. 25, 2019 (Pool photo by Sergei Chirikov via AP).

When a wave of popular protests erupted across South America last year, a number of officials in the region claimed the unrest was being promoted by a “foreign hand.” No one argued that the protest movements, from Chile to Colombia, were created entirely or even ignited by outside powers, but leaders like Chilean President Sebastian Pinera suggested the possibility that someone outside the region was pouring fuel on the fire. Now, analysts at the U.S. State Department say they have reviewed the evidence and found that Russia was engaging in an incendiary and divisive disinformation campaign in Latin America waged […]

17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers a speech after a climate protest in Lausanne, Switzerland, Jan. 17, 2020 (Keystone photo by Gabriel Monnet via AP Images).

Once again, Greta Thunberg has addressed a high-profile international event, excoriating the world’s leaders and global elites for their inaction in the face of the climate crisis. Once again, the responses to her speech ranged from hero-worship to character assassination. Whether at the United Nations General Assembly in September or the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday, the cycle has become a familiar one by now. Greta speaks. Greta is lauded and attacked. Wash, rinse, repeat. The sense of déjà-vu all over again is reinforced by the fact that neither Thunberg nor her admirers and critics ever stray far from […]

A protest against President Jimmy Morales' decision to end the work of a U.N. anti-corruption commission, Guatemala City, Sept. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

The Trump administration is due to soon formally release its findings from a review of U.S. foreign assistance programs, aimed at “realigning” them for “a new era of great-power competition,” which critics have described as an effort to curb foreign aid overall. Given this context, aid and development organizations must be prepared to show how their work serves America’s strategic interests. Anti-corruption efforts do just that by striking at the heart of what keeps leaders of adversaries like China and Russia in power. Both countries are increasingly weaponizing corruption by using flows of illicit money and opaque deals to gain […]

A man works in a metal workshop in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Jan. 17, 2020 (FeatureChina photo by Long Wei via AP Images).

Trade disruptions and sluggish investment helped drive global economic growth last year to its lowest level since the Great Recession. Even with the recent cease-fire in the U.S.-China trade war, the World Bank expects only a modest uptick in growth globally in 2020—if trade tensions don’t flare back up and spook investors again. These are among the key conclusions of the Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report. Among the reasons for pessimism is that the “phase one” deal signed last week between the U.S. and China will not remove the tariffs on most U.S. imports from China. Meanwhile, continued weakness […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He shake hands after signing the “phase one” trade agreement in the East Room of the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the “phase one” trade deal signed by the U.S. and China this week, and whether it lives up to President Donald Trump’s pronouncements. They also discuss what the surprise resignation of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reveals about President Vladimir Putin’s plans after his current term expires in 2024. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter […]

U.S. and Nigerien flags raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, April 16, 2018 (AP photo by Carley Petesch).

Last month, The New York Times reported that the U.S. Department of Defense was considering “a major reduction—or even a complete pullout—of American forces from West Africa.” The proposal is part of a worldwide review of overseas U.S. deployments, based on the Trump administration’s strategic framework of refocusing resources away from counterterrorism missions and toward competition with adversarial great powers like China and Russia. But for many observers, it was just the latest troubling sign of American disengagement from Africa. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, journalist Peter Tinti joins WPR’s Elliot Waldman for a conversation about the on-the-ground […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He hold up the signed “phase one” trade deal in the East Room of the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. With the signing of a “phase one” trade deal Wednesday, the United States and China have finally pressed pause on their protracted trade war. At a White House signing ceremony that was attended by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, President Donald Trump called the pact a “sea change in international trade.” But what does it actually accomplish? At the center of the agreement are commitments from China to purchase an additional $200 billion in American goods and services over […]

Lebanese marine special forces soldiers march during a military parade to mark the 76th anniversary of Lebanon's independence, at the Lebanese Defense Ministry, Beirut, Nov. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

The Trump administration created yet another stir in Washington last fall when it mysteriously froze $105 million in military aid to Lebanon for several months. While the hold was quietly lifted on Dec. 2 after pressure from members of Congress, it ignited a debate over how the United States should engage with Lebanon amid an ongoing revolutionary protest movement that has already forced one prime minister in Beirut to resign. There are also signs that Lebanon views the U.S. as an increasingly unreliable security partner, allowing Russia to gain influence in this small but strategically important country in the Middle […]

A worker walks past cranes at the container port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, Jan. 14, 2020 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

Unless President Donald Trump decides to blow things up, a “phase one” trade deal between the United States and China will finally be signed this week. The agreement has remained somewhat up in the air because its text still hasn’t been released and Chinese officials have been unwilling to confirm key elements that the White House asserts are in it. Assuming that things do go as planned, though, this is far from the end of the story. Trump and his advisers insist there will be a “phase two” deal that addresses the big, structural issues in China’s economic policies, from […]

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