While details remain uncertain about who started the fighting and exactly who did what to whom, last week saw a marked escalation in rhetoric and violence between mostly Sunni Arab protesters and Iraqi government forces under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s control. Peaceful protests turned into armed camps. Dozens were killed in the most intense clashes with security forces since Iraq’s virtual civil war in 2006-2007. The Iraqi state is today much better equipped to hold its own against armed adversaries than it was six or seven years ago, when the U.S. played a crucial role in ending sectarian fighting, not […]

Australia last sat on the Security Council in 1985-1986, and there was no great enthusiasm when the current Labor government announced it would seek one of the council’s rotating, nonpermanent seats for the current period. The opposition and much of the media claimed it would involve unnecessary expense, require concessions on policy to win over uncommitted votes and be unlikely to succeed. In something of a geographic absurdity, Australia has to compete with Western European states for a Security Council seat, and Finland and Luxembourg were already vying for the 2013-2014 seats at the time Australia tossed its hat into […]

Guess who: I’m a G-20 country, ranked 25th out of 139 countries for macroeconomic stability. I’ve got the world’s 16th-largest economy, and analysts think I could crack the top seven by 2030. I’ve averaged 4-6 percent GDP growth over the past decade despite the global economic crisis, and I’ve got the demographics to keep this all on track. If you guessed Indonesia, you’d be right. With stats like these and a population of 240 million to boot, it’s little wonder that corporate executives and governments the world over have begun to take a closer look at the opportunities on offer […]

The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August 2012 marked the end of an era in contemporary Ethiopian politics. After defeating the brutal Derg regime in 1991, Meles headed the powerful ruling party that led the country of more than 80 million through a massive transformation. But it is a mistake to think of his tenure as a period of one-man rule or his death as creating either a political vacuum or an opportunity for liberal reform, as power, authority and resources never rested in Meles’ hands alone. Meles’ Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) created an Ethiopia based […]

Friday’s ministerial meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, of the Istanbul Process will bring together representatives of 14 regional countries and 16 others to discuss efforts to stabilize Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 2014 withdrawal of Western forces from the country. As the drawdown nears, regional powers are growing increasingly worried. Russia, India, Pakistan and China recognize that the departure of Western forces could allow a resurgence of the Taliban, threatening Afghanistan’s economic and political development and spreading ripples of insecurity throughout the region. Unfortunately, the Istanbul Process is focused on vague confidence-building measures, rather than concrete proposals for Afghan reconciliation. […]

In responding to the growing security crisis emanating from Syria, Jordan finds itself caught between the positions of the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with the U.S. insisting on restraint and gradualism in Syria and the six-member GCC pushing hard to tip the military balance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Jordan’s King Abdullah must negotiate these competing forces to manage what he sees as an imminent threat in Syria. Seen from Jordan’s perspective, that threat can be explained in terms of three concentric rings of security. The first ring is the growing influx of Syrian refugees, who […]

The Obama administration’s response to the steady drumbeat of threats issuing from North Korea in recent weeks could not have been clearer. “The United States will, if needed, defend our allies and defend ourselves,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during his April 12 visit to South Korea. The American F-22 stealth fighter jets and nuclear-capable B-2 bombers that flew drills over South Korea in March and the two missile-defense ships that sidled up to South Korea earlier this month undoubtedly sent the same message. As a crisis management policy, that message was exactly right. As a strategic signal […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on Cuba’s economic reforms. Part I looked at the reforms to date. Part II examines the challenges facing future efforts. Cuba’s economic reform — or “updating” of the economy, as the Cubans prefer to call it — is aimed at introducing market mechanisms to boost Cuba’s anemic productivity. “We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world in which people can live without working,” President Raul Castro told the National Assembly in August 2010. So far, the changes being carried out in the […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on Cuba’s economic reforms. Part I looks at the reforms to date. Part II will examine the challenges facing future efforts. Since assuming office in July 2006, Cuban President Raul Castro has been on a crusade to bring the Cuban economy into the 21st century. The hyper-centralized model imported from the Soviet Union in the 1960s “doesn’t even work for us anymore,” Fidel Castro admitted. When Raul took over, the Cuban economy had yet to fully recover from the “Special Period” — the deep depression that followed the Soviet Union’s […]

RAQQA, Syria — This dusty, nondescript provincial capital in eastern Syria has all the hallmarks of a city recently captured by rebel forces. A statue of former President Hafez Assad has been pulled down from its plinth, its lips painted red and a pair of horns fixed to its head. Nearby, houses have been reduced to rubble by government air raids, while many that remain standing are pockmarked by small-arms and heavy-weapons fire. One feature, however, sets Raqqa apart from other towns captured by Syria’s rebels: The Syrian rebellion’s traditional flag — green, white and black with three red stars, […]

Chadian President Idriss Deby announced Sunday that the country would withdraw its troops from northern Mali, after a suicide attack killed three Chadian troops Friday. The announcement reflects the uncertainties that surround Chad’s increasingly prominent role in efforts toward regional stability. In January, Chad deployed soldiers to assist the French military offensive in northern Mali. Chadian forces there, which currently number around 2,400, have seen some of the heaviest fighting in the war. Although French, Chadian, and Malian forces quickly conquered territory after the intervention began, the ensuing months have seen regular bombings and raids by Malian Islamists, as well […]

Zimbabwe’s political and economic decline since 2000 has been a major preoccupation for South African policymakers, severely testing Pretoria’s ability to juggle often contradictory narratives in its foreign policy discourse: on one hand, a commitment to democracy and human rights, and on the other, liberation solidarity, the promotion of an African consensus and a residual anti-Western sentiment in the ruling African National Congress (ANC). With Zimbabwe now on the cusp of fresh elections, this issue is set to return to the top of the South African agenda. The elections will take place under a new constitution overwhelmingly endorsed by Zimbabwean […]

Colombians under 65 cannot remember living in a country at peace. Internal armed conflict has raged almost continuously in the South American nation since 1948. With talks ongoing between the government and the larger of the country’s two leftist guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombians may soon discover what peace is like. But they may find it only a bit more peaceful or secure than what came before. The talks taking place in Havana, Cuba, which are the fourth peace process attempted with the FARC since 1982, have a better-than-even chance of resulting in an accord. […]

In December, if only for a brief moment, the prospects of a brighter future for Venezuela-U.S. relations appeared on the horizon. With Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s firebrand socialist president, having just returned to Cuba to undergo what would be his final cancer treatment, his vice president and anointed successor, Nicolas Maduro, announced that Caracas would engage in a dialogue with Washington to examine and possibly improve bilateral relations. Five months later, Chavez is dead, and this Sunday Venezuelans will vote in a snap election for a new president. The election will decide whether Chavez’s so-called Bolivarian revolution, a policy of social […]

A small sea of ink has been spilled lately over the “rise of Africa” as an exciting frontier market for investors from both advanced economies and other emerging markets. Africa’s relatively rapid growth rates, improved fiscal and debt management and improving political stability are painting a picture of the kind of robust economic prospects usually associated with India, China, Brazil and other middle-income economies. And despite remaining high risks associated with African markets, global investors increasingly find Africa’s potential returns compelling. For example, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, a hypothetical $100 investment in Africa’s 40 largest […]

Georgia’s recent announcement of its intention to contribute to the European Union military training mission in Mali signals not only Tbilisi’s continued role as a reliable supplier of forces for Euro-Atlantic security missions, but also the Georgian military’s ambitions as a niche counterterrorism force. Under the new Georgian Dream coalition government, the Defense Ministry is embarking on a series of reforms to fit its force structure to this mission set. After the surprise victory of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition in Georgia’s October 2012 parliamentary elections, the new government was quick to reaffirm the country’s Western orientation. This included carrying […]

Since 1998, a major element of India’s nuclear doctrine has been the development of a nuclear triad: the ability to fire nuclear weapons from land, air and sea. Recent years have seen India concentrating on the sea-based element of its nuclear deterrent, in particular through efforts to develop a ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). All the major nuclear powers have placed their faith in SSBNs, primarily because they are extremely hard to detect and destroy, hence assuring a state’s retaliatory capability. The fear of a second strike, in turn, helps maintain effective deterrence between nuclear adversaries. This same logic motivates India’s […]

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