On Oct. 18, the foreign ministers of Niger and Nigeria signed a defense pact in Niger’s capital, Niamey, establishing joint border patrols along their 930-mile border. The pact also envisions infrastructure projects, including road construction and potential rail links to connect the two countries, as well as renewed efforts to re-demarcate the border. President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger announced the deal in a French-language Twitter post on Oct. 24, declaring that, from now on, “whoever attacks Niger, attacks Nigeria.” In the communiqué launching the pact, both countries’ heads of state, Issoufou and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, expressed their concern about […]

In the most recent presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney attempted to tap into a deep-rooted fear among the American public of instability in the Middle East, and in particular the concern that any resulting oil supply disruption would spike oil prices and trigger a recession. The concern is historically based: Past recessions have been caused or accelerated by such crises, including the 1973 oil embargo, the 1979 Iranian revolution and the 1980 outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war. Contrary to received wisdom, however, the chance of an oil crisis caused by a hard-to-manage oil disruption has decreased substantially since the […]

Critical assessments of Mexico’s oil industry in general and of its state-owned oil company, Pemex, in particular are commonplace, often with good reason: Both face many challenges in overcoming the historical legacies that have long undermined their performance. Nevertheless, when President Felipe Calderon’s term in office ends on Dec. 1, he will be leaving both in better shape than when his presidency began six years ago. True, there have been strategic misfires under his administration. Pemex’s opaque expenditure of almost $2 billion for an increased stake in Spanish oil company Repsol stands out, both for the lack of strategic oversight […]

Since it was founded in 1982, in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution and in reaction to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah has been many things: a terrorist group, a sectarian militia and, most recently, a legitimate political actor in Lebanon. Today, the so-called Party of God faces challenges on all sides. Its archenemy and raison d’être, Israel, is as strong as ever; its Syrian and Iranian patrons are struggling; and a regional Sunni ascendancy threatens its regional popularity and domestic legitimacy. At near-peak strength just a few years ago, Hezbollah now finds itself in dangerously uncertain waters. Hezbollah has […]

Following considerable speculation that it would be postponed or even cancelled, the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will convene in Beijing on Nov. 8. The meeting marks the beginning of the final leg of China’s extended leadership transition process and should give greater clarity on China’s direction in the coming decade. Over the past two years, China’s intricate and opaque leadership structure has been shaken to the core by a series of high-profile political scandals amid elevated economic uncertainty. Major disagreements on how to respond to these challenges have riven elite groups, and the factional coalition […]

Having already overseen a spectacular warming of ties with mainland China, with 18 signed cross-strait agreements to show for it, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took the latest step in his National Day speech on Oct. 10, approving a plan to allow both sides to set up representative offices on each other’s soil. But permitting Chinese officials to have a permanent presence on the de facto independent island is a controversial step, drawing inevitable comparisons to Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, which is widely seen as meddling in politics there. On Sunday, Lin Join-sane, the new chairman of the Straits […]

In late-September, Sen. Joe Lieberman detailed a significant and sustained Iranian attack on U.S. banks in retaliation for the Stuxnet virus, which the U.S. all but admitted had been used to attack Iran’s nuclear program. In October, Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke circumspectly about a new cyberthreat from an “unusual source.” Then, on Oct. 11, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned of America’s unpreparedness for a major cyberattack, raising the specter of a cyber Pearl Harbor. The message was clear: The United States is engaged in a cyber conflict. Alarmingly, however, the […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the implications of the African National Congress’ decline for South Africa’s political landscape. Part I examined the factors contributing to the ANC’s decline. Part II examines the prospects for the opposition Democratic Alliance to become an alternative governing party. The African National Congress (ANC) is trapped in a systemic crisis from which it cannot extricate itself. Consequently, the wellbeing of South African democracy requires a shift from the current one-party dominant system to a more competitive multiparty system. One route to this outcome is through the fragmentation of the […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the implications of the African National Congress’ decline for South Africa’s political landscape. Part I examines the factors contributing to the ANC’s decline. Part II will examine the prospects for the opposition Democratic Alliance to become an alternative governing party. Despite President Jacob Zuma’s claim that the African National Congress (ANC) will rule South Africa “until Jesus comes again,” the party, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, is on an irreversible downward electoral trajectory. Its support fell for the first time in a general election in 2009 and […]

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Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s recent address to the Business Executives for National Security conference in New York revisited an old metaphor of the cybersecurity game: a Pearl Harbor-esque surprise attack on the nation’s computer systems. Though the fears that Panetta invoked of a massive cyber attack on the United States may be overblown, there are valid reasons for concern. As Panetta highlighted, foreign powers are increasingly going on the offensive in cyberspace, with two of the world’s most important industries, energy and banking, recently coming under assault. His speech signals that, for the Department of Defense, cyberattacks have likely […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — Following months of heated exchanges between international observers and Rwandan officials, a United Nations investigative body leveled its most detailed and controversial accusations over alleged Rwandan support for the Congolese M23 rebels in a 44-page report leaked late Tuesday. The document claims that Rwandan Defense Minister Gen. James Kabarebe exercises direct command over the rebel group. Formerly integrated into the Congolese army, M23 launched a mutiny in April, carving a significant swathe of territory out of the volatile, crisis-prone eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo ever since. The Ugandan government is also implicated in […]

The United Nations General Assembly meets today to elect five new nonpermanent members of the Security Council. Although the winners will not begin their terms until January, the U.N. is approaching the end of two turbulent years in which three major powers — Germany, India and South Africa — have held temporary seats in the council, playing prominent roles in its debates over Libya and Syria. All three aspire to permanent seats in the forum, but have no choice but to head for the exit. (Colombia and Portugal are also off.) When the trio of powers won seats on the […]

Until recently a pariah state and the bête noire of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myanmar is now poised to outshine the organization and its members if the liberalizing nation can steadily advance its reforms. Since March 2011, when President Thein Sein’s reformist government was formed, Myanmar has witnessed a series of dramatic changes. One of these was the free and fair by-election in April, which resulted in pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy winning representation in parliament. Another remarkable development was Myanmar’s decision in August to abolish media censorship. As Kyaw Zwa Moe, […]

As India continues to grow, the recent slowdown notwithstanding, its need for natural resources shows no signs of ebbing. With New Delhi increasingly turning to resource-rich developed countries for energy and food security, Canada’s profile in particular seems to have grown considerably. Significant unconventional hydrocarbon resources, high-quality uranium deposits, abundant land and a lack of geopolitical risk all make Canada a natural partner to feed India’s rise. However, there are still some issues that need to be resolved before an even deeper relationship can take root. The outlook was not always so rosy. Canada was the first country to withdraw […]

With increasing tensions on display in the East and South China Sea, much attention has been given to the growing military capabilities of the People’s Republic of China. The attention is understandable: China recently commissioned its first aircraft carrier and is developing anti-ship ballistic missiles dubbed “carrier-killers.” But while China’s military build-up is in many ways being geared toward challenging America, no matter how unlikely a conflict between the two powers might be, an assessment of Chinese power must also gauge the prowess of Chinese forces against other possible challengers, especially the regional armed forces it could face in combat. […]

Recent years have witnessed a significant increase in both labor disputes and regulatory burden in the resources sector across the world. The ongoing mining sector unrest in South Africa, marked by widespread wildcat action and shocking levels of violence, suggests that these pressures continue to mount and that previous policy responses may prove insufficient. Moreover, there is a risk that the disorder seen in South Africa may presage a new, even more contentious phase of global resource exploitation characterized by a higher incidence of resource nationalism in both developing and developed economies. Resource nationalism can take many forms (.pdf). At […]

The debate over U.S. drone strikes against militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has risen in intensity over the past few weeks, following a highly critical report on the strikes’ impact on the region’s civilian population as well as last week’s anti-drone “peace march” to the FATA. However, the focus on drones is unhelpful and legitimizes a narrative that mischaracterizes the real problems in Pakistan. The use of drones is a reaction to militancy that is the product of historical and systemic failures in governance in Pakistan. By making drones the focus of attention, Pakistani institutions can evade […]

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