Houthi rebels hold up their weapons as they chant slogans at the residence of a military commander of the Houthi militant group destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike, Sanaa, Yemen, April 28, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Since the first Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen in late March, aimed at dislodging the Zaydi Shiite Houthi movement from the towns and cities they hold across the country, a number of competing and contradictory narratives have emerged. Who, exactly, is fighting whom? What are their aims? And who is winning on the ground? Thanks to sporadic coverage of the ongoing military offensive and a lack of substantive reporting from the ground, these questions have remained largely unanswered. Yet several things have become clearer. First, the bombing campaign alone will not allow the Saudis to meet their strategic goals in Yemen […]

Mexican state police stand guard near the entrance of Rancho del Sol, near Vista Hermosa, Mexico, May 22, 2015 (AP photo by Refugio Ruiz).

On May 1, the first day of a military-led operation meant to restore peace in a region wracked by recent drug-related violence, Mexico’s western state of Jalisco suffered one of the deadliest days in its recent history. Across the region, a bold new criminal gang known as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel reportedly shot down a military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, set 11 banks and 19 gas stations on fire and used flaming vehicles to put up at least 39 roadblocks. The attacks, apparently carried out by the group to prevent the capture of its leader, killed 15 people, […]

Opposition candidate Andrzej Duda celebrates his victory with supporters, as the first exit polls in the presidential runoff voting are announced, Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

The surprise election of Andrzej Duda, a charming, relatively unknown, conservative 43-year-old lawyer, to the Polish presidency Sunday over the popular but low-key incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, has sent shock waves through Europe, raising fears of a radical change in the politics, economics and foreign policy of an increasingly important European Union member. The Duda revolution may take months to materialize, since the Polish presidency is not particularly strong and parliamentary elections in the autumn will reveal whether voters return his Law and Justice Party to power for the first time since 2006. Yet the depth of change Duda represents has […]

Filipe Nyusi is sworn in as the newly elected Mozambican president, Maputo, Mozambique, Jan. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Ferhat Momade).

Earlier this month, fears of Mozambique sliding back into civil war receded after Afonso Dhlakama—the leader of the rebel group turned political party, the Mozambican National Resistance, known as Renamo—toned down his bellicose rhetoric over last year’s contested election. Dhlakama had disputed the October 2014 results, claiming electoral fraud, and Renamo refused to take up its seats in Parliament, demanding a share of power in the provinces where it won majorities over the longtime ruling Frelimo party. Dhlakama threatened to seize control of the provinces by force. To end the boycott, newly elected President Filipe Nyusi, a member of Frelimo, […]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addresses the media, Berlin, Germany, Dec. 3, 2014 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

There are few political posters to be found on the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, ahead of Sunday’s general elections. Print media coverage is remarkably cryptic. The few debates held on TV have been derided by some Ethiopians as boring and even embarrassing for the opposition, which today is weaker and more divided than it has ever been. Election results seem like a forgone conclusion, with good reason. In 2010, the longtime ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), won 546 out of 547 seats in Parliament. The country’s political context has not changed in the five […]

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet attends a ceremony announcing new Cabinet members at the presidential palace La Moneda, Santiago, Chile, May 11, 2015 (AP photo by Luis Hidalgo).

Images on television and social media of students rampaging through Santiago and Valparaiso and reports of injuries and even deaths were not what Chilean President Michelle Bachelet anticipated when she began her second, nonconsecutive term in office early last year. Elected in a landslide on a platform to institute social reforms, most of all on education, Bachelet has instead faced increasing political turbulence: The left demands rapid, far-reaching action, and the right is growing anxious about her political course. On May 6, she announced that she had asked her entire Cabinet to resign in order to breathe new life into […]

French President Francois Hollande with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council before the opening of its summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 5, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

French President Francois Hollande made a triumphal visit to the oil- and gas-rich kingdoms of the Persian Gulf earlier this month, touching down in Qatar to oversee the signing of a contract for the sale of 24 Rafale fighter jets, then continuing on to Saudi Arabia to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit as the guest of honor, a first for a Western head of state. Hollande’s Gulf tour was in part the product of shrewd French diplomacy, which took advantage of Arab displeasure at current U.S. policies in the region, most of all a framework agreement with Iran on […]

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at a press conference, Mexico City, Mexico, April 27, 2015 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

As part of its historic overhaul of Mexico’s energy sector, President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government has touted the potential for unprecedented levels of oil, gas and renewable energy investment. Yet Mexico should heed the lessons from other countries in Latin America about the need to engage indigenous communities as it develops and expands its energy sector. Across the region, when that has not happened, ensuing social conflict has disrupted the economy and often irrevocably damaged the relationship among communities, the government and the private sector. In Mexico, a failure to learn from others’ mistakes could put Pena Nieto’s ambitious economic […]

A Repsol plant before a ceremony to inaugurate the completion of a new phase at the Margarita-Huacaya gas refinery in the region of Chaco, southeastern Bolivia, Oct. 1, 2013 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

Latin America faces difficult choices over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as the region looks to expand its nascent shale gas and oil industry. To date, the United States and Canada have outpaced their southern neighbors in unconventional energy production. But Latin America, which holds approximately one-fourth of the world’s recoverable shale oil and gas reserves, appears poised to reap the benefits of the North American shale revolution in the coming decade. The urgency to start drilling might have eased in the short term, with lower energy prices making shale less competitive outside the United States. In the meantime, delays afforded […]

Demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they wave the group’s flags in front of the provincial government headquarters, Mosul, Iraq, June 16, 2014 (AP photo).

In seeking to explain the recruiting success of the so-called Islamic State (IS), Western analysts tend to view the group through the lens of its most provocative acts: staged executions, destruction of heritage sites and calls to bring about the “End of Days.” Yet while its Western enemies are preoccupied parsing the allure of its spectacular savagery and zealous apocalyptic ideology, IS is carefully cultivating a parallel appeal to its core Arab constituency, not through shock and awe but through routine and accomplishment. The brand that IS media most regularly markets to inhabitants of IS-controlled territory and supporters is that […]

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth conducts routine patrols in international waters of the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the South China Sea territorial disputes and the various claimant countries’ approaches to addressing them. Last week, it was reported that the U.S. is considering sending Navy ships and aircraft to waters surrounding islands claimed by China in the South China Sea to demonstrate freedom of navigation. The reports follow a month-long media campaign calling attention to China’s expansion of the islands to accommodate airstrips and military facilities. China’s reclamation activity around the Spratly Islands also dominated conversations at last month’s ASEAN meeting in Kuala Lumpur, with the […]

A worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran, Oct. 26, 2010 (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour).

In the run-up to the June 30 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran, alarmists in Washington, Tel Aviv and elsewhere are again warning of an imminent race to nuclear weapons capabilities in the Middle East—one that will occur in the guise of peaceful nuclear programs, as countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey all rush to construct their first nuclear power plants. But the logic of chain-reaction proliferation in the Middle East is critically flawed. Equally flawed are assumptions that the region’s nuclear power aspirants are anywhere near having operational programs. Ambitious rhetoric aside, including Saudi Arabia’s […]

Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts, New Delhi, India, April 5, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

In the first few months of 2014, people around the world were united in their condemnation of India’s Supreme Court. At the end of 2013, in a case that became known simply as Koushal, the court refused to strike down Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era provision banning “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” The court argued it was the job of Parliament, not judges, to repeal controversial laws and, in doing so, effectively recriminalized non-heterosexual sex. The decision rolled back decades of small but hard-fought gains by India’s legally, socially and culturally marginalized lesbian, gay, […]

Egypt’s ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt, May 8, 2014 (AP photo by Tarek el-Gabbas).

When a democratically elected president is forcibly removed from power and sentenced to prison less than two years later, the optics alone are troubling. Thus, when Egypt’s former President Mohammed Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in prison last month, along with dozens of other former Morsi regime officials, some of whom received the death penalty, Egyptian and international legal experts rightfully questioned the impartiality of the judges presiding over the cases. Such concerns are corroborated by the recent sentencing of deposed President Hosni Mubarak to a mere three years in prison—roughly equivalent to his time already served—for embezzling over […]

Motorists ride past graffiti of the Islamic State flag in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, March 8, 2014 (AP photo).

After a steady decline in Islamist extremism in Southeast Asia over the past decade, during which the region shed its post-9/11 image as a possible second front for al-Qaida, the rise of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) has some governments fearing a new threat. In response, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in particular are acting individually, bilaterally and regionally to stem recruitment, radicalization and the flow of foreign fighters. Over 500 young Southeast Asians are returning home after fighting for IS, as many did during the Afghan mujahedeen’s jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Given that over […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman at the Royal Court, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 7, 2015 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s new monarch, King Salman, replaced Crown Prince Muqrin—who had been chosen by Salman’s predecessor, the late King Abdullah—with 55-year-old Mohamed bin Nayef as next in line to the throne. He also installed his own 29-year-old son, Mohamed bin Salman, as deputy crown prince. The royal shuffle was presented by palace loyalists as an attempt to stabilize Saudi succession for the next few decades, consolidate power and inject what King Salman seems to believe is a greater sense of stability in the kingdom’s internal affairs. But it also marks an important shift in the monarchy’s trajectory. Although […]

Honduran President Juan Hernandez Alvarado speaks at the National Palace in Mexico City, March 13, 2015 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

Last month’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Honduras throwing out a constitutional ban on the re-election of presidents is far from an innocent opening up of democratic possibilities. Rather, the court’s decision is another step in the ongoing, methodical destruction of the rule of law and constitutional order in Honduras, which began with the 2009 military coup that deposed the country’s democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya. Most ominously, given his record so far, the court’s decision paves the way for President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s continued hold on power, even as the United States is shoring him up as a […]

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