Demonstrators from Somali anti-government opposition groups burn photographs of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in Mogadishu, Somalia, April 25, 2021 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Somalia stepped back from the brink of widespread violence Wednesday, when incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed abandoned his controversial effort to unilaterally extend his term amid months of electoral turmoil. Mohamed’s about-face came after several weeks of escalating conflict, sparked by his decision on April 14 to sign a law extending his mandate and that of federal lawmakers by two years. While the legislation had been passed by the lower house of Parliament, it had yet to gain approval from the Senate, a required step before a bill can become law in Somalia. Mohamed’s decision to sign it anyway led […]

World leaders virtually attend the opening session of the Leaders Summit on Climate, as seen on a screen at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office in Ankara, Turkey, April 22, 2021 (Photo by Mustafa Kamaci for Turkish Presidency via AP).

This may be, as U.S. President Joe Biden says, the “decisive decade” for acting on climate change. But the U.S. and other rich countries don’t seem ready to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to making sure the Global South isn’t left behind in that effort. Biden and other world leaders made lots of promises at the U.S.-sponsored climate summit last week. Washington’s pledge to cut emissions by more than half by 2030 will likely do a lot to generate more urgency in capitals around the world. Indeed, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement just ahead of […]

President Joe Biden turns from the podium after speaking to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, April 28, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

For those excited by Joe Biden’s campaign promises to restore democracy promotion as a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, the months following last year’s presidential election were hair-raising. As Donald Trump refused to concede defeat and his supporters spread baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud, experts raised alarms that the fraught climate and Republican intransigence were eroding America’s global reputation. The ensuing loss of credibility, they warned, would make it all the more difficult for the U.S. to hold other countries accountable for authoritarian behavior. One insurrection, one inauguration, and 100 days later, the democracy promotion community has found […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the prime minister’s office, in Jerusalem, April 12, 2021 (pool photo by Menahem Kahana via AP).

While tensions between Israel and Iran have been omnipresent in the Middle East for decades, the prospect of open military conflict between the two countries has never seemed closer than it does now. Over the past few months, the two rivals have escalated an undeclared naval war featuring unclaimed attacks on Israeli- and Iranian-owned ships. At the same time, Israel has continued its air strikes on Iranian weapons shipments transiting across Syria, and a damaging explosion on April 11 at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was widely attributed to Israel. All of this comes against the backdrop of U.S. President Joe […]

A Microsoft office in New York, Nov. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Swayne B. Hall).

The U.S. had barely begun its recovery from the SolarWinds compromise, when another large-scale, state-sponsored cyberattack came to light in January. Like the SolarWinds hack, the Microsoft Exchange Server data breach exploited several zero-day vulnerabilities and has been attributed to a nation-state. But unlike SolarWinds, while the Microsoft attack was initially a targeted attack, it went on to create widespread collateral damage, leading some commentators to characterize it as “reckless.” Microsoft has attributed the compromise to a Chinese state-sponsored espionage group called “Hafnium.” Recent U.S. sanctions against Russia, in part motivated by the SolarWinds attack, have given rise to an […]

A diamond miner works in a mine in Mbuji Mayi, Congo, July 31, 2006 (AP photo by Schalk van Zuydam).

In 2017, the United States launched its Global Magnitsky Sanctions program, meant to target human rights abusers and kleptocrats around the world. The very first list of sanctioned entities included one Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire who had been accused by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in consultation with the secretary of state and attorney general, of amassing his fortune through a series of “opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals” in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the next six months, around 30 of Gertler’s companies were further sanctioned, as the Treasury Department forbade him from […]

President Joe Biden speaks to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, from the East Room of the White House, in Washington, April 23, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

U.S. President Joe Biden used last week’s Earth Day summit to reassert U.S. global climate leadership, pledging dramatic reductions in U.S. carbon emissions and encouraging ambitious commitments from other major emitters. After four wasted years under former President Donald Trump, U.S. climate policy is finally headed in the right direction. And not a moment too soon, given the accumulated stock of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. With less than a decade left to avoid a planetary catastrophe, Biden has reenergized hopes that the world can still meet the daunting Paris Agreement target of holding the rise in average global […]

U.S. soldiers, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, patrol west of Kabul, Afghanistan (AP photo by Hoshang Hashimi).

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to fully withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept.11. After 20 years and two generations of American service members fighting there, America’s longest war will come to an end. What will the legacy of that war be for the U.S. military? And will it have a lasting impact on American society? In this week’s big picture Trend Lines interview, Andrew Exum joins WPR editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein to discuss those questions and more. Exum is a partner at Hakluyt & Company, a global advisory firm. He began his career as an officer […]

Marla Ruzicka leads a demonstration calling for U.S. compensation to victims of the U.S. led military campaign in Afghanistan, outside of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, April 7, 2002 (AP photo by Suzanne Plunkett).

Last week, just two days after U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to withdraw the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the humanitarian community commemorated the death of Marla Ruzicka, a humanitarian hero from the early years of the war there. A college student when the Twin Towers fell, Marla recognized that the U.S. invasion would weigh hard on civilians, and rather than watch from afar, she bought herself a ticket to Afghanistan to do something about it. Landing in Kabul, Marla set about making friends with U.S. soldiers, expatriate aid workers and local Afghans alike. More […]

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide walk from the Oval Office to speak at a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 16, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Last Friday’s summit in Washington between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide was one of the most closely watched diplomatic events of the year, for good reason. It was Biden’s first in-person meeting with a foreign leader since taking office, having conducted most of his engagements virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our commitment to meet in person is indicative of the importance, the value we both place on this relationship,” Biden said at a joint press conference with Suga at the White House. For both leaders, it was a valuable opportunity to restore a sense of […]

President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, April 15, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s hard to deny that Donald Trump is a tough act to follow. As much as the return to calm since he left office—and more importantly, since his Twitter account was suspended—has been welcome, the drama and unpredictability he brought to the American presidency was as transfixing as it was unprecedented. This was perhaps truer in the realm of foreign policy than elsewhere due to the outsized autonomy U.S. presidents enjoy in the conduct of diplomacy, but also because of the impact Trump’s disregard for conventional wisdoms and established protocols had on America’s national interests […]

An array of solar panels in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, northwestern China, Oct. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at a top story as well as a roundup of the rest of the week’s news and commentary from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. The United States and China struck a rare cooperative tone in a joint statement issued after two days of meetings between John Kerry, the Biden administration’s climate envoy, and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in […]

A U.S. Army carry team transports the remains of a Special Forces soldier who died in Afghanistan, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Dec. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

When U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision last week to fully withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, he justified it in part by pointing to an agreement signed by the Trump administration committing the U.S. to withdrawing by May 1. But he spent more time highlighting the disconnect between the original reasons the U.S. deployed its military to Afghanistan and the reasons now being used to justify its continued presence. “War in Afghanistan,” he said, “was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.” And yet, as Biden acknowledged in his speech, that is just what the […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Last week, the Biden administration took the bold step of imposing economic sanctions in response to an act of cyber espionage, namely the SolarWinds attack. It seems that the new U.S. administration is finally getting serious about standing up to Russian aggression in cyberspace. But from the perspective of international law, the move is controversial and could potentially come back to bite the U.S. in the future, given its own cyber capabilities. The release of the Executive Order announcing the sanctions, which also respond to Russian meddling in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections and other actions, coincided with a call […]

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, and NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers at a Senate hearing in Washington, June 7, 2017 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Over the past year, new threats to peace and security have emerged so quickly it is difficult to keep up. The COVID-19 crisis, now well into its second year, will surely continue to rage for some time, and climate change is likely to fuel widespread upheaval in the future. Extremism and polarization, fueled by social media, permit the ancient hatreds of fanaticism, misogyny and racism to inspire terrorism, mass shootings and mob violence. Ever-more sensitive data is being hacked at alarming rates, with rival powers unable or unwilling to agree on enforceable norms to avoid cyber conflict and improve cybersecurity. […]

A girl holds a globe at a climate change protest in Mumbai, India, Sept. 27, 2019 (AP photo by Rafiq Maqbool).

Every few years, the U.S. National Intelligence Council, or NIC, gazes into its crystal ball and imagines the world 20 years hence. The latest installment, released on April 8, is a harrowing read. “Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World” anticipates an era even more chaotic and divided than our own, in which institutions at all levels struggle to adapt to abrupt demographic shifts, economic turbulence, runaway climate change and technological innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has left governments thrashing and multilateral institutions flailing, is the shape of things to come. “Global Trends 2040” is the seventh in a series […]

President Joe Biden visits Arlington National Cemetery after announcing the withdrawal of the remainder of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, in Arlington, Va., April 14, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

After two decades of a war that started out with what he called clear objectives and a just cause, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he would withdraw the last remaining American troops from Afghanistan. In a 15-minute speech from the White House Treaty Room, where then-President George W. Bush informed the nation in October 2001 of the first U.S. airstrikes against al-Qaida training camps, Biden declared, “I’m now the fourth United States President to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.” How he inherited the […]

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