The deadly conflict in South Sudan, itself the culmination of a long-running power struggle within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, is increasingly drawing in neighboring countries driven by disparate security and economic interests, further complicating the crisis and efforts to reach a resolution. The U.N. has accused both sides of South Sudan’s split of committing human rights abuses in the conflict, which has so far claimed an unknown number of lives, displaced an estimated 900,000 people both inside and outside the country and shows no signs of letting up. An agreement to cease hostilities was violated even before its […]

More than anything else, grand strategy is about balancing risk. In a world of limited resources, countries cannot have everything they might like to have, or achieve everything they might like to achieve. They cannot defend perfectly against every threat, or spend robustly on every priority at home and abroad. This is why grand strategy requires policymakers to choose—to make judgments about what risks a country can accept, and what risks it cannot. This is precisely the dilemma illustrated by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s speech on the defense budget on Feb. 24. As Hagel made clear, the armed forces […]

On Feb. 16, the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of Syria’s Western-backed rebel grouping, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), expelled its chief of staff, Gen. Salim Idris. Idris, who had long been seen as ineffective, was replaced by Brig. Gen. Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, a Syrian army defector and head of the FSA’s Quneitra military council. His deputy is to be Col. Heitham Afeisi, co-founder and deputy commander of the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, a large FSA outfit mainly active in the northwest. The move capped a difficult six months for Syria’s rebels. Plagued by divisions and infighting, as well as indecision among their […]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent proposal for a NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Palestine is not a novel idea. Similar proposals were floated by both the Clinton and Bush administrations as well as in NATO’s 2010 “Albright report.” But Abbas’ plan, which calls for NATO troops to be indefinitely deployed to protect the West Bank and Gaza as well as checkpoints within East Jerusalem, is worth considering. There are several reasons why NATO should take the idea seriously. First, and most obviously, NATO could make a significant contribution toward facilitating peace between Israel and Palestine. Without doubt, NATO would offer […]

When he took office in 2010, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos trumpeted mining as a “locomotive” that would drive the economy forward. Recently though, the Santos administration dealt a series of harsh blows to the country’s No. 2 coal exporter, Alabama-based Drummond Co., in response to a series of legal blunders committed in 2013. Coming down this hard on a company like Drummond is an unprecedented move for Colombia’s government, signaling that from here on out, multinationals that come to mine the country’s natural resources could face a new, hard-line stance when they don’t play by the rules. The Drummond […]

This year started on a particularly pessimistic note in Cyprus. In December 2013, the latest attempt by the United Nations to bring the island’s Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders back to the negotiating table had foundered. The two sides had been unable to reach an agreement on the wording of a joint statement that would have laid down the parameters for a renewed attempt to reunify the island. At the core of the dispute was a disagreement on the nature of sovereignty in any settlement. While the two sides have long agreed that any solution would see the creation of […]

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina—Ignoring social protests, leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s ruling parties have rejected the latest and final attempt of the European Commission’s enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fule, to find a compromise for the country’s disputed constitutional reform. At the end of a two-day visit, Fule told a press conference Tuesday that leaders of seven main local parties were unable or unwilling to address a 2009 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that found that certain provisions of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s constitution violated minority rights. “Bosnia and Herzegovina will remain, at least for the time being, in breach of its international commitments. It […]

Expectations are high for Nepal’s new prime minister, Sushil Koirala, who was elected to head the government by more than two-thirds of lawmakers’ votes last week and whose centrist party has many more potential allies in the recently elected legislature than it did in the previous assembly. However, challenges to bringing stability to the country and writing the nation’s new constitution remain daunting. Members of the second Constituent Assembly, elected in November, chose Koirala of the Nepali Congress (NC) party on Feb. 10 as the fifth prime minister since Nepal held its first democratic elections six years ago. The first […]

Earlier this month, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi announced on state television that the country would be partitioned into six regions and renamed the Federal Republic of Yemen. The move came at the end of Yemen’s 10-month National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a process that was intended to help overcome ongoing tensions and grievances in the aftermath of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forced resignation in November 2011. Saleh left office after 33 years in power, the first 12 in North Yemen and the last 21 in the combined North and South. He was finally pushed out after anti-government protests […]

Myanmar took on the chairmanship of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Jan. 1, assuming this high-profile role at an important time for the regional bloc. Its ambitious integration program is gathering steam, though political turmoil—particularly in Thailand—and internal divisions over how to deal with China’s economic influence present formidable challenges to the group’s cohesion. Not surprisingly, then, the theme of Myanmar’s chairmanship is “moving forward in unity toward a peaceful and prosperous community.” But Myanmar’s chairmanship also comes at a critical time for the country itself, having only recently emerged from international isolation. Domestically, much attention […]

Since the early 2000s, Algerian politics have been generally understood as a behind-the-scenes struggle between, on one hand, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his regional and administrative allies and, on the other, the military intelligence service chief, Mohammed “Tewfik” Mediene. Over the past several months, however, Algeria’s deep politics have risen to the surface, exposing the main fault lines between the country’s most powerful political camps. With the April presidential election approaching, Algeria’s elite appears locked in dispute at the highest levels. Proponents of a fourth term for the aging and ailing Bouteflika are charging ahead, while his institutional rivals are […]

In theory, South Africa’s national and provincial elections, to be held on May 7, should give the opposition its best opportunity to date to erode support for the African National Congress (ANC) and to advance a realignment of South African politics. The ANC has had a difficult and unsuccessful period in government since the 2009 election, beset by problems of leadership, internecine strife, countless corruption scandals, confusion over economic policy and daily “service delivery” protests. The country’s post-1994 nadir came in August 2012 with the killing by police of 34 striking miners, a tipping point for many who had previously […]

On Jan. 31, British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted French President Francois Hollande for the third bilateral summit since the signature of the Lancaster House treaties on bilateral defense and security cooperation in November 2010. Although the two leaders have met on several occasions, this was the first official summit since Hollande’s election in May 2012. The year that followed the French presidential election was qualified by a senior British official as a “long strategic pause,” marked by uncertainty over what Hollande’s defense policy would look like as well as delays over both nominations of senior French defense officials and […]

The recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision on the Chilean-Peruvian maritime boundary dispute closed one chapter of a trilateral territorial dispute that has festered among Chile, Peru and Bolivia for more than a century. But while Chile and Peru mend fences, similar progress between Chile and Bolivia has not materialized. Less than a decade ago, geopolitical tensions surrounding the dispute played a part in blocking Bolivia from participating in a clear market solution to Chile’s natural gas crisis. Today, that dynamic has deteriorated for Bolivia: The region’s shifting energy market realities have removed what leverage Bolivia had in its […]

Late last year, the European Union and the Russian Federation ushered in a new period of intense geopolitical rivalry, driven largely by pressure from the escalating disorder in Ukraine and the possible collapse of that country’s government. Despite assurances by top leaders of continued dialogue, the rhetoric from politicians, the press and expert communities on both sides is now disturbingly reminiscent of rivalry from Europe’s bloody past, including the run-up to World War I, exactly 100 years ago. The root causes of Russia-West confrontation over the post-Soviet space have been consistent for the past two decades. First, there is not […]

With 63 percent of all eligible voters turning out to the polls in El Salvador’s presidential elections on Feb. 2, former guerilla commander Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) captured 49 percent of the national vote.* Since the country’s electoral rules require the winner to surpass 50 percent, Sanchez Ceren will advance to a March 9 runoff against the second place finisher, Norman Quijano of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), who secured 39 percent of the vote. Sanchez Ceren’s incumbent FMLN party has roots dating back to the country’s 1980s civil war. After competing in […]

What was widely expected to be an electoral victory last July for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has turned into a prolonged political impasse, as the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has refused to recognize the election results due to what it calls massive fraud. While continuing to boycott the National Assembly, the CNRP—which won 44.4 percent of votes and 55 seats, compared to the CPP’s 48.8 percent and 68 seats—has led a series of mass protests with three demands: an independent investigation into the alleged electoral fraud with the participation of the United Nations and civil society […]

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