When the writ was dropped a few weeks ago for Canada’s third election in five years, the conventional wisdom was that it would be a dull affair. Canada has weathered the Great Recession better than almost any other advanced industrial nation, and the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper have maintained consistent, if unspectacular leads over the opposition Liberals. The only questions seemed to be whether Harper, who has led a minority government in parliament since 2006, would achieve his long-coveted majority, and who would replace Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff after what was certain to be the third straight defeat […]

The Saudi intervention in Bahrain has upped the ante in the Saudi-Iranian cold war, crystallizing it into a wider Sunni-Shiite schism in the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia has reportedly invoked a treaty with Sunni-dominated Pakistan to secure troops to stabilize both Bahrain and its own oil-rich eastern provinces. Riyadh has also asked Turkey to make it clear to Iran that interference in the Gulf states will not be tolerated. At the other end of the spectrum, Shiites worldwide are enraged at what they see as Western duplicity in not stopping Saudi heavy-handedness in Bahrain, while showing solidarity with anti-regime protestors […]

After a long and complicated legal battle, Colombian authorities have decided to extradite Venezuelan national Walid Makled to Venezuela to face murder and drug-trafficking charges in his native country, rather than in a U.S. court in Manhattan, where he is also wanted on drug-trafficking charges. Though the decision to send Makled to Venezuela appears to be final, the political implications of his extradition from Colombia — where he was arrested in August 2010 — have just begun to ripple around the region and in Washington. The controversy surrounding Makled, suspected of being one of the region’s most powerful brokers in […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Since the morning of April 22, Thai and Cambodian troops have waged a series of heated firefights along sections of their shared border. The two sides have now traded artillery and small-arms fire for a week, leaving at least 13 soldiers dead on both sides and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from border areas. The initial skirmishes were confined to areas close to Ta Krabey and Ta Moan, two Angkorian temple ruins lying close to the border, but the fighting quickly spread to Preah Vihear, a cliff-top temple some 93 miles to […]

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s April 15-16 visit to Kazakhstan marked an important step forward in India’s ties with the rising Central Asian nation. Relations between the two countries have gained momentum since January 2009, when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations. India and Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations in February 1992, with then-Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao paying a visit to Kazakhstan in 1993. Prior to his 2009 visit, Nazarbayev had visited India in 1996 and 2002. In a positive development, Singh and Nazarbayev signed a “Joint Action Plan” on furthering the strategic […]

Representing around 40 percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its economic output, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called BRICS countries — came together last week for a leaders summit to show off their growing global heft. The joint statement produced by the one-day meeting on China’s southern resort island of Hainan underscored the need for a realignment of the post-World War II global order based on the untrammelled supremacy of the U.S. The governing structure of international financial institutions, the statement said, “should reflect the changes in the world economy, increasing the […]

The Obama administration has been criticized in recent weeks for its soft response to the suppression of the uprising in Bahrain. The mild diplomatic protest by the U.S. to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s violent crackdown on Shiite pro-democracy protesters stands in sharp contrast to U.S. reactions to Arab uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. The Obama administration has justified its tolerance of the Bahraini crackdown in the context of Iran-U.S. rivalries in the Persian Gulf. The argument made directly or indirectly by American diplomats is that if Bahrain’s Shiite majority ousts the ruling family, Iran will gain […]

In the glare of global anticipation, and despite a botched first attempt, Nigeria conducted presidential and national assembly elections that have been largely viewed by domestic and international observers as fair and free. This is a significant achievement compared to the last three marred attempts. But deadly post-election riots in the north have cast a shadow over the balloting. Late on Monday, Attahiru Jega, head of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), declared incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan the winner after he received 22.5 million votes and more than 25 percent of the vote in more than 24 of the country’s […]

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The Libyan intervention is now reaching an inflection point, with the limited initial commitment of force apparently incapable of achieving the expressed — and universally desired — strategic outcome of driving Moammar Gadhafi from power. As a result, Britain and France will send small teams of military advisers in an effort to improve the rebels’ fighting capability, and the U.S. has decided to commit UAV drones to the intervention. But neither measure is likely to have a rapidly decisive impact on the fighting, which has now devolved into a war of attrition that neither side seems poised to win, which […]

The plight of the Indian freighter MV Asphalt Venture has added a new dimension to India’s fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean. In a first, a spokesperson for pirates based in Harardhere, Somalia, announced last week that they had reached a “consensus” decision to retain seven Indian sailors as hostages — even though the pirates had released the ship itself after receiving the full ransom from its Mumbai-based owners. The move is an attempt to achieve the release of about 120 Somali pirates currently held in Indian prisons following a series of Indian naval actions in the Indian Ocean […]

BEIJING — Much has been written about China’s huge investment in alternative energy sources. China spends twice as much as the U.S. on clean energy, and critics of U.S. energy policy have claimed that Beijing is “steaming ahead” in the field. Beneath the headline figures, however, a more complex picture emerges, in which China is struggling to translate capital investment into tangible benefits. To begin with, it is worth noting that the reason for China’s superior spending on alternative energy is that its energy needs are far more acute than those of the U.S. and other major economies. China is […]

The signals emanating from the mini-summit between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao, held on the sidelines of the recently concluded BRICS conference in Hainan, China, were largely positive. The leaders both showed an interest in arresting the downward slide in bilateral relations that had lately touched a low. Ties between the two Asian neighbors have been bedeviled by the infiltration of Chinese soldiers into Arunachal Pradesh, China’s intrusion into some areas of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Beijing’s issuance of stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir entering China. Piqued by these developments, India had suspended […]

In March, a few international media outlets quietly reported that Mongolia and the U.S. had been holding informal discussions on a proposal that would have Mongolia serve as a regional depository of spent nuclear fuel. The arrangement would allow South Korea and Taiwan, which the U.S. supplies with nuclear rods, to dispose of their spent fuel, resolving what has become an increasingly thorny problem for the U.S. News of the story spread quickly in the Mongolian press, and public opinion came out decidedly against the proposal. The Japanese nuclear crisis in Fukushima has compounded opposition in Mongolia to nuclear energy. […]

One of the main causes of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt was the frustration that millions of Tunisians and Egyptians felt with the state of their economies. Among their many grievances, citizens of both countries were especially fed up with inequality, high unemployment and corruption. Yet the uprisings have led to a further deterioration of economic conditions in both countries. International tourists are staying away, and tourist facilities have laid off thousands of workers. Increased economic uncertainty has also led international investors to stay away for now. To make matters worse, some labor unions have taken advantage of the […]

With last month’s approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of a safeguards plan, China is set to construct the Chasma-3 and Chasma-4 nuclear reactors in Pakistan. By supplying the two new nuclear power plants, however, China will be in direct contravention of its nonproliferation commitments. Under the 1992 revised guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a global export-control body that China joined in 2004, transfer of nuclear technology and material from a NSG member state can only take place under the provisions of full-scope safeguards. These safeguards require that all nuclear facilities in the state receiving nuclear […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — The recent spate of popular uprisings in the Middle East has surprised and captivated public attention. It is now widely expected that policymakers in Washington, Brussels and the U.N., among others, will draft pro-democracy aid packages for the region, many of which will focus on security sector reform (SSR). This is a welcome development, but in the rush to support Egypt, Tunisia and possibly Yemen and Libya, aid donors should not forget countries that are already going through a similar process. Indonesia is a case in point. The archipelago nation, with its 240 million inhabitants, happens to […]

The United States faces a serious but silent intellectual crisis: U.S. national security elites have separated into two tribes of specialists, technical and nontechnical, who are incapable of communicating with each other. The implications of the divide between experts in science and technology on one hand and experts in politics on the other are dangerous and far-reaching. If the United States policymaking community cannot bridge the gap between these communities, we risk making mistakes with repercussions running all the way from wasting scarce resources to war. While hardly a golden age of national security policy decision-making, the Cold War set […]

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