Candles lit by activists protesting the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are placed outside Saudi Arabia’s consulate, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 25, 2018 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

When FBI agents first showed up at Masih Alinejad’s Brooklyn home to warn her that she was the target of an Iranian state-backed kidnapping plot, she was incredulous at first. As a journalist and outspoken critic of the regime in Tehran, she is accustomed to threats and harassment. But the brazenness of the plot was startling. “What surprised me is the fact that the regime felt confident enough to resort to kidnapping me here, on American soil,” Alinejad told me in a direct message on Twitter. “I used to think I was safe here.”  According to an indictment unsealed earlier this month, […]

President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House, Washington, July 29, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which uses relevant WPR coverage to provide background and context to the week’s top stories. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Since President Joe Biden took office, one question has become central to assessing his management of U.S. foreign policy: Is the U.S.-China rivalry an ideological contest pitting democracy against authoritarianism, or is it a battle for global primacy involving hard-boiled power politics? The events in Tunisia this week, and Washington’s reaction to them, […]

A protester holds a sign with “Resign, Thief” printed over a portrait of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei outside the National Palace in Guatemala City, July 24, 2021 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

The Biden administration’s strategy to combat mass migration from Central America by tackling its “root causes” just suffered a harsh blow in Guatemala with the ouster of the country’s top anti-corruption official. Juan Francisco Sandoval, the respected chief prosecutor in the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, known by its Spanish acronym FECI, was fired Friday and promptly fled the country, fearing for his life.   Sandoval’s ouster prompted street protests and demands for the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras. Above all, Sandoval’s dismissal, and his belief that he might be killed if he remained in […]

Anti-government protesters march in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021 (AP photo by Eliana Aponte).

When I became a correspondent covering the Caribbean and portions of Latin America—my first overseas job for the New York Times—in the spring of 1990, Cuba’s then-leader Fidel Castro already seemed like an antiquated figure to many observers, a literal greybeard at the age of 63. This impression was accentuated for me in part due to the youthfulness of his country’s population, not to mention my own. It also derived from political history, as well as the geopolitical context of the moment. Castro had already been in power since 1959, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in the world. […]

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet in Tianjin, China, July 26, 2021 (U.S. Department of State photo via AP).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads 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.  Over the past few months, Beijing’s increasingly uncompromising posture toward policy disagreements with foreign powers has been reflected in the strident rhetoric used by Chinese officials. The latest round of U.S.-China high-level diplomacy was no exception. But several incidents this week demonstrated how this sharp, aggressive tone on the […]

A man holds a banner showing the eyes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a protest against the government’s alleged use of powerful spyware to spy on opponents, Budapest, Hungary, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Anna Szilagyi).

Like picking up a rock in the garden, the NSO Pegasus spyware scandal exposes a repulsive world teaming with life in the muck and mire—so much so that it is tempting to put the stone back in place and pretend that world doesn’t exist. There are many layers to the story: the human cost, the murky ethics of selling powerful spy tools to states with poor human rights records, and the complexities of trying to regulate the global market for such software. They all point to a challenge that will be with us for some time, despite the popular outrage […]

Artists and activists pose for photos next to a mural at the United Nations International Commission Against Impunity, CICIG, headquarters in Guatemala City, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

The word corruption tends to evoke images of self-dealing politicians and bureaucrats, and for good reason. In Central America, graft is so endemic among public officials that it constitutes a “root cause” of out-migration from the region, according to U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.  But the private sector can play just as central a role in sustaining corruption. In recent years, traditional business elites in Central America have bankrolled efforts to roll back progress made by prosecutors and civil society groups to strengthen the rule of law.  This poses a key challenge for the Biden administration. While it has shown […]

Candles on the graves of people killed during the Syrian war, in the town of Qamishli, Syria, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Baderkhan Ahmad).

Since 2011, Syria has been ravaged by a civil war that has seen numerous atrocities committed against its civilian population, including torture and war crimes. In the face of such abuses, there have repeatedly been calls for accountability. But how can perpetrators be held accountable, and by whom?  In criminal law, including international criminal law, the state is primarily responsible for seeking and carrying out justice. But the idea that the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad would hold credible trials—especially into his regime’s own conduct—is fantastical at best.  Another option, then, might be to seek accountability through the International Criminal […]

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, puts goggles over his eyes during a post-launch news briefing from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, July 20, 2021 (AP photo by Tony Gutierrez).

Last week, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, journeyed to the edge of space in a Blue Origin rocket christened the New Shepard. Bezos’ trip came only nine days after his fellow billionaire Richard Branson had done the same in a Virgin Galactic space plane.  So, what else is new? Wealthy industrialists have always enjoyed building themselves expensive toys. Think Howard Hughes and his Spruce Goose. What sets these voyages apart is their techno-utopianism. Bezos and Branson, along with Space X founder Elon Musk, are the modern avatars of Icarus. They believe that humanity’s destiny lies not on terra firma but in the heavens—and that exploring, exploiting […]

Soldiers of the Tunisian army guard the entrance of the parliament building during a protest a day after Tunisian President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended the parliament, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Khaled Nasraoui).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament Sunday night and placed travel bans on opposition politicians. Reports quickly documented the usual authoritarian playbook: raids on journalists, threats to jail those who impugn the state, and a raft of edicts concentrating judicial, legislative and executive power in his own hands. Saied’s decisions […]

Young minors lie inside a pod at a detention center for unaccompanied children run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Donna, Texas, March 30, 2021 (AP photo by Dario Lopez-Mills).

Over the past few weeks, activists led by former border patrol agent turned refugee advocate Jenn Budd gathered at Fort Bliss military base outside El Paso, Texas, to protest the continued detention of children, many of them unaccompanied, in crowded conditions while they await asylum hearings. The protests are a continuation of direct action sparked off two summers ago by then-President Donald Trump’s draconian immigration policies, which included forcing immigrants to await asylum hearings in the dangerous city of Juarez, Mexico, rather than in El Paso; separating children from their parents or guardians upon detention, while deporting 1,400 parents back to their […]

President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington, July 19, 2021 (AP photo Andrew Harnik).

In early June, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum “establishing the fight against corruption as a core United States national security interest” and ordering a significant mobilization of government resources to address this issue. The move comes amid heightened public awareness of the threats to democracy and security posed by transnational corruption, mainly due to the Panama Papers leaks that began in 2016 as well as the various investigations into allegations of malfeasance against former President Donald Trump and his associates.  Yet while some federal agencies and departments have taken steps to turn Biden’s laudable rhetoric into reality, it still […]

Activists wearing masks depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden hold signs reading “Free the vaccine” and “Waive the patents,” in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, Germany, July 14, 2021 (AP photo by Fabian Sommer).

For just about anyone who spends time thinking about the future of the world, the fast-unfolding competition between the United States and China looms as one of the most important issues shaping both expectations and uncertainty over the near and medium term. The rivalry between these two countries, which boast the biggest economies and most powerful militaries in the world, is ostensibly over global leadership. The international crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, however, has revealed another darker reality: Where it counts most—meaning for the well-being of the largest numbers of people in the world—there is no real leadership competition. […]

Riot police stand guard in front of an American flag near the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, July 4, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads 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.  Washington imposed new sanctions on seven deputy directors in the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong last week. They are the latest addition to a list of 24 officials who have been blacklisted by the U.S. over their roles in undermining the city’s autonomy.  Separately, […]

Indians watch a rocket carrying communication satellite GSAT-29 lift off from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, Nov. 14, 2018 (AP Photo/R. Parthibhan).

Over the past several months, as China began building its own space station in low-Earth orbit and collaborating with Russia on an asteroid mission and new lunar base, some in the United States have expressed concerns that a new space race is on. Cold War-style rhetoric has cropped up in media reports and government statements alike—and not for the first time. The establishment of the U.S. Space Force in 2019, for example, was largely justified as a response to the alleged weaponization of space by China and Russia, both of which in turn saw the new American military branch as […]

Soldiers patrol during a military operation in Macarena, southern Colombia, Feb. 20, 2010 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

BOGOTA, Colombia—Carlos Martinez joined the Colombian military at the age of 17, a minor who had to obtain his parents’ written permission to enlist. “I didn’t have many options. There aren’t a lot of opportunities in this country for someone like me who grew up poor,” he said, “but war will always be profitable.” Martinez spent almost 10 years on active duty in the army, eventually joining an elite special forces unit that fought armed groups and drug traffickers in the Andean countryside. Colombia, which currently boasts some 250,000 active-duty armed forces personnel, produced millions of soldiers like Martínez during […]

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks via video conference during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 29, 2020 (AP photo by Graeme Jennings).

There are a few things Facebook executives don’t want you to know. They don’t want you to know that some of its engineers have breached company rules about accessing users’ personal details to stalk women online. They don’t want you to know that members of their security team watched Russian hackers game Facebook’s algorithms and fleece its users for months before the FBI announced its investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They would prefer that you not think about the fact that it has failed to appoint a single computer science expert to its Oversight Board, […]

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