After he stepped down as the U.N. special envoy for Syria in May, Lakhdar Brahimi was asked what he thought would become of the country. “It will become another Somalia,” he replied. “It will not be divided, as many have predicted. It’s going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place.” As early as 2012, Brahimi began issuing warnings of the “Somalization” of Syria. While analysts following Syria acknowledge it may not yet be Somalia, “Brahimi’s warning is timely and appropriate,” according to Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at the Department of War Studies at King’s […]

In his inaugural address on May 24, South African President Jacob Zuma identified “rapid economic transformation” and “inclusive growth” as the policy centerpieces of his second and final term in office. This emphasis on transformation reflects an underlying post-election unease within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and represents a tacit recognition that Zuma’s first term was largely squandered due to scandals, managerial incompetence at all levels of government and internecine strife within the ruling party. The ANC hierarchy is aware that another five years of drift and underachievement will lead to a hemorrhage of votes in the 2016 municipal […]

When Raul Castro became president of Cuba in his own right in 2008, he replaced most of his brother Fidel’s cabinet with ministers of his own choosing. In March 2009, he announced a sweeping reorganization of the government bureaucracy, replacing nine veteran ministers and firing Fidel’s proteges, Carlos Lage, the de facto prime minister, and Felipe Perez-Roque, the foreign minister. By 2012, across 26 ministries, only three of Fidel’s appointees were still in office. Raul’s new ministers came from the ranks of experienced professionals, a number of them from the armed forces. Today, eight ministries are led by career military […]

On June 18, Lebanese parliamentarians met for the seventh time to elect a new president but failed to do so. Speaker Nabih Berri had to postpone the session to July 2, cautioning against a prolonged presidential vacuum reminiscent of 2007-2008, when it took 20 sessions to settle on Michel Suleiman as a compromise choice. The immediate cause of the failure to choose a successor to Suleiman, whose term expired on May 25, is the boycott of the majority of parliamentarians belonging to the pro-Hezbollah March 8 alliance. But the root causes of the crisis are external. They are linked to […]

With insurgents from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) taking the country’s second biggest city, Mosul, and advancing on the capital, Baghdad, Iraq finds itself in the worst political and military crisis since the height of the civil war in 2006-2007; the very survival of Iraq as a state is in doubt. Its political and military institutions are discredited beyond repair, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s divisive, sectarian leadership is widely blamed for fueling the unrest that feeds the ISIS advance through the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces of central Iraq. Little surprise, then, that many observers in the West, […]

The race for European Commission president got a bit more interesting over the weekend as leaders from Europe’s left, including French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, reportedly backed Jean-Claude Juncker’s candidacy, setting up a showdown with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who opposes Juncker. It is a high-stakes dispute, given that the European Commission presidency is one of the most important institutions in the European Union, empowered with proposing legislation and representing the EU abroad. A meeting in Paris on Saturday among leaders from France, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, […]

As the top judicial body in the American justice system, the U.S. Supreme Court is no stranger to setting legal precedents that reverberate for generations. However, more often than not, those rulings have little impact outside of U.S. borders. Last Monday, however, the high court reached a decision that might very well change the face of international finance for years to come. By ruling that Argentina must repay $1.3 billion to a group of persistent creditors, the nine justices potentially delivered a blow to emerging market economies dependent on international debt markets and put America’s global financial power on display […]

Nearly two months ago gunmen launched a brazen attack on Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s most famous and trusted journalists, riddling his car with bullets. Mir survived the assassination attempt, but soon plunged into a storm of controversy after he and his brother accused the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) of the crime. Mir’s employer, Geo television, broadcast the allegation immediately and provided it hours of coverage. Geo subsequently apologized for its unsubstantiated accusations, but the standoff worsened as the military forced cable providers to block Geo, began campaigning against the network and requested that PEMRA, Pakistan’s media regulator, […]

Colombians re-elected President Juan Manuel Santos for a second term on June 15, in what is being described as a referendum on his government’s peace negotiations to end the half-century-long guerrilla war with the FARC. The election was close until the very end, with pre-election polls predicting differing results. In the end, Santos won a little more than 50 percent of the votes while his challenger, former Finance Minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, gained a little over 45 percent, providing a close yet nonetheless decisive mandate for the incumbent president to continue with the peace process. With this in mind, some […]

Since hosting a meeting last September to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the start of Six-Party Talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, China has stepped up shuttle diplomacy with the aim of resuming those negotiations. The result so far has been a virtual merry-go-round of periodic consultations among the respective chief delegates to the talks in Pyongyang, Beijing, Washington, Tokyo, Moscow and Seoul, but there has been no discernible progress toward resumption of the multilateral talks. On the contrary, rather than forging the consensus necessary to draw North Korea back into substantive multilateral negotiations, the process appears to […]

China has agreed to deploy additional peacekeepers to South Sudan, significantly raising its security profile in the war-torn country. With the failure of two cease-fires in South Sudan’s six-month-long conflict, China has committed a brigade of 850 soldiers to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), bringing the force’s total deployment to roughly 20,000 in the coming months. The move reinforces a shift in tactics for China, from noninvolvement toward forging peace. China’s decision comes after months of turmoil that has impacted every facet of South Sudanese society. Since December, interethnic conflict between Dinkas supported by President Salva Kiir […]

In a surprise move in late May, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala fired Peru’s top drug official, Carmen Macias, replacing her with a longtime confidant, former Defense Minister Luis Alberto Otarola. Humala also backed away from a controversial coca eradication campaign about to get under way in the Apurimac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) that faced strong local opposition. The government is sending mixed messages, however, regarding how these actions will impact Peru’s broader drug control strategy and the role that Peru’s government will play in regional drug policy debates, where it has strongly resisted any move toward drug policy reform. Ironically, Macias’ […]

Rising tensions in Asia, as highlighted at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue, have brought to the surface fault lines between Australia’s foreign affairs and defense strategies. With a foreign affairs focus on “economic diplomacy,” Australia has struggled to reassure its largest trading partner, China, that the deeper military ties it forged with Japan and the U.S. this week in no way represent a threat. The Shangri-La Dialogue was notable this year for heated exchanges between China, Japan and the United States. The 28-nation Asia Security Summit, hosted annually in Singapore by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is usually carefully scripted […]

When Catherine Ashton was appointed the European Union’s first high representative for foreign and security policy in 2009, many met her arrival with disappointment. She was not the first choice for the role, and her foreign policy experience was limited to a short stint as commissioner for trade. The new position of high representative, which included a dual role as vice president of the European Commission, was created by the Lisbon Treaty and intended to strengthen the EU’s collective foreign policy. The British baroness’s appointment, for some, reflected a lack of ambition. Indeed, for those suspicious of an expanded EU […]

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After months of sharp disagreement about the conflict in Syria, Turkey is eager to compartmentalize its relationship with Iran and focus on areas where the two countries can cooperate. Yet, despite the attempts to brand the recent meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “turning point” for the two countries’ relationship, the two sides continue to have serious disagreements about the price of natural gas, the Syrian civil war and the future of the region. Nevertheless, there are areas in which the two sides can work together to deepen trade and political […]

Swedish, Dutch, German and U.K. leaders held a mini-summit Monday in Sweden to discuss, among other topics, the selection of the next European Commission president. The term of the current commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, runs out by Oct. 31, but his replacement could be selected as early as this summer. But even after Monday’s meeting, it remains an open question not only who the next commission president will be, but how that candidate will be selected. German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month announced her support for former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, while British Prime Minister David Cameron has […]

Lax oversight. Deregulation. “Shadow banking.” These are some likely responses an expert might give if asked what caused the 2008 financial crisis. In the years since the meltdown, there has consolidated in the public consciousness an image of the pre-crisis global financial system as a sort of Wild West, where greedy bankers, rather than reckless outlaws, operated with impunity, causing irreparable social harm. But there is now a new sheriff in town, with the letters “U.S.A.” boldly emblazoned on its badge. Determined to impose order on a once “lawless” system, the U.S. Federal Reserve and Justice Department are unilaterally playing […]

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