People in protective clothing walk past rows of beds at a temporary 2,000-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients in Tehran, Iran, March 26, 2020 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Iran is one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus. As of March 30, it was behind only the United States, China, Italy, Spain, Germany and France in the number of confirmed cases, with more than 40,000. Its death rate is also one of the world’s highest, at around 7 percent, though it is well behind Italy’s staggering 11.4 percent. Yet in the face of this public health crisis, President Donald Trump is continuing his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran with crippling U.S. economic sanctions that were imposed after Trump unilaterally abandoned the international nuclear agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear […]

The “Wall of Welcome” in front of European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Sept. 14, 2015 (Photo by Wiktor Dabkowski for dpa via AP Images).

In 2015, more than 1 million people, mostly from Syria but also Eritrea, Sudan and other countries wracked by conflict and economic turmoil, found their way to Europe in search of asylum, where they struggled to rebuild their lives, often in the face of xenophobia and exclusion. Those were the lucky ones. Thousands of other refugees and migrants died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, a tragic waste of human life that was symbolized in a photograph of the lifeless body of a four-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, which washed up on the shore of a beach […]

The United Nations Headquarters in New York, which is closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, March 10, 2020 (Photo by Anthony Behar for Sipa via AP Images).

On Dec. 30, 2019, the world first learned that a dangerous new coronavirus had emerged weeks before in China’s Wuhan province. Three months, nearly 740,000 infections and 34,000 deaths later, as of this writing, it’s well past time for the United Nations Security Council to declare COVID-19 a threat to international security. Such a designation would carry immediate symbolic and practical weight, signaling to anxious populations around the world that U.N. member states are united in confronting this plague and determined to deploy their entire multilateral arsenal against it. It would also carry the binding force of international law, as […]

People wear masks as they walk over Millennium Bridge near St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, March 22, 2020 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Editor’s Note: WPR has made this article, as well as a selection of others from our COVID-19 coverage that we consider to be in the public interest, freely available. You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here. Bruce Mann is one of the most experienced emergency planners in the world. As the former director of the British Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat, he was in charge of Britain’s planning for and response to emergencies and disasters. He coordinated […]

Streets and sidewalks are mostly empty near the New York Stock Exchange, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and the responses so far by governments and central banks in the U.S. and Europe. They also discuss the difficult balance policymakers must strike between containing the spread of the pandemic and mitigating the economic impact of the public health measures needed to do so. 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 […]

A member of a Chinese honor guard wears a face mask at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Feb. 4, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The war of words between Chinese officials and President Donald Trump has been furious in recent days, as each side tries to push its own agenda amid the coronavirus pandemic. It would be a mistake, however, to view this crossfire as mutually retaliatory. These are two separate messaging campaigns, each pursuing different, self-interested objectives. China, where the novel coronavirus outbreak started months ago and spread rapidly before it turned into a global pandemic, is engaged in a multiprong effort to rewrite history and emerge empowered from this global crisis. Draconian lockdown measures in Wuhan and its surrounding province appear to […]

From left, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov, Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Uzbek Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Feb. 3, 2020 (AP photo).

The State Department released its updated strategy for Central Asia last month—a relatively short document that is mostly taken up with reiterating traditional U.S. priorities in the region. While it lacks the grand ambitions that fueled earlier U.S. approaches to Central Asia, particularly the aim to reshape its strategic geography through U.S.-backed infrastructure initiatives, the Trump administration’s new approach isn’t without its own ambitions. Given the past gap between aims and results in U.S. policy toward Central Asia, more realism about American capabilities might be welcome. But the policy outlined by the Trump administration is still problematic. It is based […]

President Donald Trump speaks on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House in Washington, March 24, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

With the rapid growth of coronavirus infections in recent days, and likely for the foreseeable future, the United States finds itself in a grave predicament entirely of its own making. No amount of finger-pointing toward China about its lack of transparency early in the outbreak, or the time lost before Beijing finally alerted others about the nature of its epidemic—although both true—can change this harsh reality. The country that seldom tires of reminding others that it is the richest and most powerful nation in the world has completely squandered whatever lead time it had before the virus took firm hold […]

A sign at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia warning of the spread of the “Spanish Influenza,” Oct. 19, 1918 (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo via AP Images).

Crises, whatever their nature, have a way of putting a mirror up to the face of societies. They throw our angels and our demons into sharp relief, and pandemics are no different. All across the world, throughout history, outbreaks of new and mysterious diseases have spurred the creation of narratives that cast blame on a foreign source of the epidemic by persecuting and stigmatizing immigrants, minorities and other vulnerable groups. So it is with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which President Donald Trump and his supporters gleefully refer to as the “Chinese virus.” Given the scale of the current […]

China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, speaks at the White House in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Rare public discord between Chinese officials spilled into the open this week when Cui Tiankai, Beijing’s ambassador to the United States, rebuked Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, for peddling conspiracies on Twitter about the origins of COVID-19. Chinese officials normally adhere closely to the Communist Party line in public remarks, so observers are questioning whether the spat is a sign of disagreements in Beijing over the party’s messaging. Zhao has gained notoriety in recent weeks […]

A pump jack operates in an oil field in the Permian Basin in Texas, June 11, 2019 (Photo by Jacob Ford for Odessa American via AP Images).

Saudi Arabia’s decision to launch a price war in oil markets earlier this month could not have been more poorly timed, coming amid plummeting global demand for oil due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saudi announcement sunk oil prices to an 18-year low, near $20 per barrel, after five years at more than double that price, putting further downward pressure on already troubled financial markets. Saudi Arabia had gambled that by flooding the market and pushing down prices, it could punish Russia for refusing to cut its output, while recouping market share that had been ceded to U.S. shale oil […]

A man works on a production line in a factory that produces medical gloves, in Suixi, China, Aug. 14, 2019 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

Trade is way down on the list of priorities in a public health crisis, but it is still important to make sure that policies don’t actually make the situation worse. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of governments are, unfortunately, doing just that. Many countries, for example, are shortsightedly enacting export bans on critical medical supplies and worsening shortages in places that may have the greatest need, like Italy. In the United States, President Donald Trump’s trade policies seem to be on autopilot, with tariffs continuing more or less as before, even though those tariffs are complicating […]

Traders at the New York Stock Exchange watch President Donald Trump’s televised White House news conference, March 18, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

Editor’s Note: You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here. In 1873, Walter Bagehot, a prominent businessman in British high society and a journalist who served for 16 years as editor-in-chief of The Economist, wrote a treatise on banking and finance in which he left his most enduring mark on the world. In “Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market,” he laid out a playbook for policymakers facing an unfolding economic and financial crisis. When up against […]

Face masks being manufactured at a factory in Shanghai, China, Jan. 31, 2020 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

There is no drug or vaccine against COVID-19, and it will be at least 12 to 18 months before those remedies could be available. Face masks are next to impossible to find for most consumers, even as public health officials caution that they are not terribly effective against this coronavirus. There is a shortage of ventilators, and President Donald Trump has told America’s governors that they should not rely on the federal government to provide them—even though they are the most effective tool for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients. In addition to the political, economic and social impacts of the coronavirus […]

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2020 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

President Donald Trump has been pilloried for jeopardizing thousands of American lives through his delayed domestic response to COVID-19. His failure of global leadership, however, has been equally glaring. Rather than rallying other nations in a collective effort, he has doubled down on his “America First” instincts, as if a purely national approach could defeat a global pandemic. The contrast with his immediate predecessors is stark. In the depths of the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama both spearheaded a multilateral response that helped rescue the world economy. Trump’s disastrous unilateralism, […]

A sign urging commuters to avoid gatherings, reduce crowding and to wash hands in the Brooklyn borough of New York, March 19, 2020 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the transformation of daily life in countries facing lockdowns to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. They also discuss the longer-term political and societal impacts the pandemic is likely to have in Western democracies. 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 offers a free preview article every day of the week, plus three more complimentary articles in our […]

A collection of Instagram posts, which Facebook, its owner, removed from the site in October 2019 after concluding that they originated from Russia and had links to the Internet Research Agency, (AP photo by Jon Elswick).

One of the enduring mysteries in the U.S. federal court case against Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch charged for his alleged involvement in the Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to interfere in America’s 2016 presidential elections, is Prigozhin’s decision to respond to the charges at all. Since Russian law prohibits the extradition of its citizens when they are accused of crimes committed abroad, Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg restaurateur close to President Vladimir Putin, had little reason to fear the long arm of U.S. law. Indeed, given his Kremlin ties, Prigozhin would have been well within his rights to believe that his friends in […]

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