On March 15, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the Obama administration would shift tactics on ballistic missile defense (BMD). Specifically, the U.S. will shift its focus from overseas, regional ballistic missile defense toward greater protection of the homeland. However, while the political symbolism of this switch may be positive, the strategic and military consequences may well be counterproductive. As a result, the move looks more like short-term politicking than a new approach to strategic thinking. To some observers, Hagel’s announcement was a significant and welcome change in policy. Under the new plan, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency […]

Experts in national security law watched with interest when France intervened militarily against Islamic extremists in Mali earlier this year. Would France detain individuals that it and Malian forces had seized and, if so, how would it treat them? Would it follow the lead of the United States by holding the prisoners as enemy combatants? If not, how would France, or its Malian partners, treat those captured during the fighting? France has thus far shown no desire to employ a Guantanamo-style solution. But it remains unclear whether prisoners will be prosecuted under Malian criminal law or handled in some other […]

Last Friday, as the extraordinary session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly stretched well into the night, Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS Roy Chaderton announced that the balance of power in the hemisphere had shifted. “We’re in rebellion against this corrupt and pusillanimous system,” he said, referring to the Inter-American human rights system, whose fate was — and remains — under discussion. “Spring,” Chaderton declared, “is coming to the OAS.” The rebellion Chaderton referred to has been underway for some time, with Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia pushing for reforms to a human rights system that they […]

Over the weekend, the Séléka rebel alliance seized Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). This most recent offensive was the latest development in a rebellion that commenced in December 2012 over President François Bozizé’s failure to implement the 2007 Birao Peace Agreement (.pdf) and the 2008 Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement (.pdf). In those deals, Bozizé’s government had agreed to provide amnesty for former combatants; to pursue the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of the rebel forces; to provide compensation for those demobilized and the integration of some former rebels into the official armed forces of the Central African […]

On March 26, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will gather in Durban, South Africa, for the BRICS grouping’s fifth summit. This collection of non-Western powers has cast itself as a new force in world affairs and a potential alternative to the global order that America and its European and Asian allies have traditionally supported. In reality, though, BRICS is less than the sum of its parts, and the real danger to today’s international order lies elsewhere. The BRICS summit has an unusual origin story. The group’s membership reflects an acronym coined by Goldman Sachs economist […]

Sudan has been pursuing some eye-catching regional diplomacy in recent weeks. In late-February, Sudan’s ICC-indicted defense minister was in Riyadh, while its oil czar was in Tehran. These visits followed a meeting between Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Cairo in January, and Bashir’s attendance at the Arab Economic Development Summit in Riyadh earlier in February. Combined, the moves suggest a shift in Sudan’s tactical approach to relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, one guided by Khartoum’s pragmatic concerns for regime survival. Sudan has had difficult […]

During Mexico’s 2012 presidential election, opponents of then-candidate Enrique Peña Nieto warned that the young governor’s election would spell the return of the old-guard cronyism of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Yet as president, Peña Nieto has taken nearly the opposite course, assembling a cabinet of young PRI technocrats and members of rival parties. And in recent weeks he has mustered his centrist government into mounting an assault against Mexico’s entrenched monopolies. In February, Peña Nieto signed into law a bill to give the state more control over the hiring and firing of teachers. Days later, Elba Esther Gordillo, the […]

Hot on the heels of January’s record-shattering air pollution levels in Beijing, China’s commercial capital of Shanghai has witnessed its own environmental crisis, with thousands of dead pigs turning up in the city’s waterways. China’s major cities have long been notorious for their high levels of air and water pollution, but such visible signs of threats to human health are thrusting environmental hazards into the public eye like never before. The Chinese government has taken some steps to address public concern at these hazards, but if either history or the experience of other countries is any guide, Beijing needs to […]

Two years after the end of Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election crisis, which saw more than 3,000 people killed, much uncertainty remains over the direction the country will take. The crisis, triggered by former President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to leave office after losing the November 2010 presidential election to current President Alassane Ouattara, was itself the last chapter of a decade-long conflict that had profoundly divided the country and its people. Though some steps toward normalization have been taken, they have not led to a broader national reconciliation. On one hand, Ouattara has already achieved a great deal, restarting the Ivorian economy […]

On March 5, 2013, the pro-Western government coalition in Moldova collapsed, compounding the significant difficulties already facing the settlement of the conflict over the separatist region of Transnistria, one of the so-called frozen conflicts dating back to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Moldova’s current political crisis further diminishes the opportunities to revive the positive momentum that clearly existed after fall 2011, when official talks between the conflicting parties resumed through a multilateral settlement process. This momentum had been triggered by the so-called Meseberg memorandum (.pdf) of June 2010, in which Germany’s Angela Merkel and Russia’s Dmitri Medvedev pledged in […]

The month-long crisis in Sabah, which has seen an incursion of rebel fighters from the Philippine island of Sulu into Malaysia’s northern-most state on the island of Borneo, is a stark reminder that Southeast Asia remains engulfed in unresolved territorial disputes and conflicts. Malaysia has been deeply involved in several of these conflicts as both a stakeholder and a mediator. The Sabah crisis now presents Malaysia with a thorny domestic security challenge that also has implications for its regional role. As a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia has so far subscribed actively to the ASEAN […]

On March 8, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain appointed Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa to serve as deputy prime minister, a move that was widely lauded as injecting new momentum into the national dialogue process between the ruling monarchy and the opposition and sending a positive signal to a long-disheartened opposition. So far the national dialogue has moved forward with high hopes, but much of the discussion has centered on its scope, participation and logistics. The real test of success will be whether the process can resolve the crucial issues of an empowered parliament, electoral gerrymandering and […]

The U.S.-European Union “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” negotiations, which were launched last month, are the biggest consolation prize in the history of international trade liberalization. Since the end of World War II, the United States and Europe, as the world’s two economic superpowers, have led successive rounds of global negotiations that slashed import tariffs, removed quotas and greased the wheels of international commerce. The last and biggest round, which created the World Trade Organization in 1994, was, like the seven others before it, essentially a U.S.-EU agreement with the rest of the world along for the ride. Few at […]

A key component of Iran’s Middle East policy is the deployment of unconventional actors to achieve political ends. Tehran has seen successes in this regard: Its client Hezbollah has become a major political party and militia in Lebanon, and, through the use of other such groups, Iran managed to increase its influence in Baghdad while diminishing that of the United States during the American war in Iraq. But Iran has now taken on considerable risk by intervening in a similar fashion in the Syrian conflict, where its mission is fundamentally different than it was in Lebanon or Iraq. In Syria, […]

Speaking in Tehran at a forum on human rights in February 2012, Iranian Chief Justice Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani called Iran’s ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948 a “mistake.” Larijani was reacting to reports by the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, on Iran’s systematic violations of the declaration. Larijani went on to deny the incidents documented in the reports and assert that the U.N.’s evidence was false. But Iran is indeed expanding its crackdown on political, religious and social freedoms in advance of the June 14 election to select a successor […]

Southeast Asia’s largest state and the de facto leader of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesia has long served as a linchpin of regional order. More recently, Jakarta’s status has risen even higher as concern over China leads countries such as the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Australia to strengthen ties with Indonesia. Yet China’s attempts to stake its own claims to regional leadership pose a direct challenge to Indonesia, while China’s development of a blue-water navy and its claims to virtually the entire South China Sea directly threaten Indonesian interests. As a result, Indonesia has found it […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the outlook for Mali after the initial phase of the military intervention. Part I looked at the military challenges ahead. Part II examines the political and economic challenges ahead. Much of the domestic and international attention on Mali is focused on the fierce fighting going on in the north between French and Chadian troops and elements of the Islamist militant groups the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. But both the Malian government and the international community would do well to […]

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