French forces patrol in the desert of northern Mali along the border with Niger on the outskirts of Asongo, Mali, June 24, 2015 (AP photo/Maeva Bambuck).

With increasing violence and insecurity in all parts of the country, a government that has elevated political disillusionment to an art form and an international community unable to effect change on the ground, Mali is quickly becoming West Africa’s basket case. Despite continued international military commitments and a recent peace treaty between the government and northern rebels, the situation looks bleak. Mali is currently facing two distinct but connected types of violence: a political conflict over the status of the northern part of the country that is taking on intra-communal dimensions; and a rising tide of jihadi terrorism, committed by […]

Regional candidates of the leftist Podemos party during a campaign rally ahead of local elections, Pamplona, Spain, May 16, 2015 (AP photo by Alvaro Barrientos).

As Spain heads into general elections this fall, all eyes are on two new political parties that threaten to upend the political establishment. On the left is the much talked about Podemos, the fiery left-wing movement so often compared to Greece’s far-left Syriza party. With an eye toward improving its electoral prospects, in recent months Podemos has moderated the radical economic program that first brought attention to the party. Podemos no longer calls for Spain to leave the eurozone; instead, it calls for flexibility in dealing with Spain’s creditors. Gone, too, are demands for a basic universal living wage and […]

Pakistani protesters burn an Indian flag to condemn Indian shelling of Pakistani villages, Peshawar, Pakistan, Aug. 28, 2015 (AP photo by Mohammad Sajjad).

Gunfire broke out on Friday near the disputed Kashmir border between India and Pakistan, leaving nine dead and 62 wounded. Both sides claim that the other started the unprovoked firing and shelling. The attack comes days after four Kashmiri rebels and one Indian army trooper were killed near the border in India-administered Kashmir. Pakistan also accused India of injuring a civilian Sunday after firing on aPakistan Rangers’ station. These are just the most recent incidents along the so-called Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan, in Kashmir, which has seen a significant uptick in violence in […]

Fighters from the Islamic State parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle down a main road at the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, June 23, 2014 (AP photo).

Earlier this month, during a campaign stop in Ottawa ahead of October’s federal elections, incumbent Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper proposed new legislation to prohibit travel to terrorism hot spots like Iraq and Syria. “A re-elected Conservative government will designate travel to places that are ground zero for terrorist activity a criminal offense,” Harper said. This is not a new idea. Australia has already enacted a similar measure this year, listing parts of Iraq and Syria as no-travel zones. Individuals caught violating the law face 10 years in prison. Exemptions exist for journalists, representatives of national governments and the United […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, Aug. 2, 2015 (Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP).

Barring extraordinary circumstances, next month U.S. President Barack Obama will successfully sustain a veto of a congressional resolution against the nuclear agreement between six world powers and Iran, and the deal will be sealed. But in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the agreement continues unabated. What he expects to achieve by fighting the deal to the bitter end is still a mystery. It is, however, already abundantly clear that considerable work is needed to repair the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship, which has been frayed by the negotiations with Iran and Netanyahu’s attempts to derail them. Despite those strains, Israel […]

Protesters against the law on associations and non-governmental organizations march towards the National Assembly, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 13, 2015 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

In a long anticipated move, late last month Cambodia’s Senate passed a controversial law that critics claim severely endangers the autonomy of foreign and local nongovernmental organizations in the country. The pushback from civil society and foreign governments has been strong, but hopes that it might be recalled were extinguished when Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni signed the draft legislation officially into law earlier this month. But the law is merely the latest in an alarming spate of efforts by authoritarian and nationalist governments to reduce the reach of NGOs working across Asia. In China, two proposed draft laws that would […]

Shopping in the Toi Market, Nairobi, Kenya, May 7, 2015 (Flickr photo by ninara licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

More than five years in the making, the ambitious African trade agreement known as the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), officially launched in June, aims to bring together three key African trading blocs—the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)—to create a common market spanning the continent from Cairo to Cape Town. With a huge free trade zone encompassing a region of more than 626 million people and a total gross domestic product of $1.2 trillion—equivalent to 58 percent of the continent’s entire GDP—the deal hopes to […]

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and the Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, Nov. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

During his remaining time in office, U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing hard to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the major free trade deal between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries. The Obama administration is also intent on providing significant new aid to reduce violence, support development and build institutions in Central America. At first blush, the two appear unrelated; the TPP includes no Central American countries. Yet the deal’s final shape may actually play an important part in determining whether the Obama administration will meet its policy and security goals in Central America, since it could unintentionally […]

French police officers patrol the Gare du Nord train station, Paris, France, Aug. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Binta).

Four men, including three Americans on vacation, tackled and disarmed a man who opened fire with an AK-47 on a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris on Friday. On Monday French President Francois Hollande awarded the men the Legion of Honor at a ceremony in Paris. French authorities are treating the attack as the act of a radical Islamist. The suspect, Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani, has denied that he intended to commit an act of terrorism and told French authorities he found the AK-47 and other weapons in a bag abandoned in a park in Brussels. His lawyer claims […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stands with German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, center, at his office in Tehran, Iran, July 20, 2015 (AP photo/Ebrahim Noroozi).

Over the last two years, the notion that the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program could be solved has gone from being a theoretical possibility to becoming a reality, with the landmark agreement between Tehran and six world powers. The potential lifting of Western economic sanctions on Iran has, in turn, quickly boosted interest in the Iranian economy, especially in Europe, which sees a market re-emerging with significant potential, ready for international investments, technology and goods. But in a somewhat contradictory way, the Iranian economy has both been underestimated during the last five years of sanctions, and now runs the risk […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro before casting his ballot in his party's primary elections in Caracas, Venezuela, June 28, 2015 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

On July 3, shortly before Venezuela’s Independence Day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sent a positive message to the Venezuelan people heralding improved relations and looking forward to “further cooperation between our people and governments.” But just a month later, the State Department released a statement criticizing the government’s disqualification of several opposition candidates from scheduled parliamentary elections, suggesting the moves “clearly have the intention of complicating the ability of the opposition to run candidates for the legislative elections.” In reaction, on Aug. 5, President Nicolas Maduro’s government vigorously rejected the American criticism, calling it interventionist. Yet three days […]

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a ceremony to mark the 68th anniversary of Martyrs' Day at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy Party, Yangon, Myanmar, July 19, 2015 (AP photo by Khin Maung Win).

After months of deliberation and conflicting public statements, it’s finally official: Myanmar’s principal opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), will contest elections set for Nov. 8. Party leader and venerated pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi made the announcement last month, despite expressed reservations that the election will not be completely fair. Those sentiments have grown this month, after deadly floods in much of the country killed nearly 100 people and displaced more than 250,000. Suu Kyi and other opposition members worry that Myanmar’s generals may use the floods as an excuse to delay or interfere in the […]

The Vladivostok Mistral-class helicopter carrier docks at Saint-Nazaire harbor, France, Nov. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Laetitia Notarianni).

After reports last week that France and Russia reached a deal on compensation for France’s decision to cancel the sale of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in an interview Friday that the exact amount France will pay Russia will be announced when the deal is approved by Parliament. It was first reported that France would repay Russia $1.3 billion for the nixed deal, which would include compensation for the training of 400 Russian sailors and updated port infrastructure in Vladivostok. Reports later surfaced that the price tag would be closer to $2.2 billion. But […]

Police prevent demonstrators marking Teacher's Day from approaching the Zocalo plaza in Mexico City, May 15, 2015 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

The ongoing fight over education reform in Mexico has often resembled a popular uprising rather than a labor dispute. Over the past two years, members of a powerful teachers’ union from the south of the country have occupied plazas, hijacked local radio stations and disrupted elections in their bid to have a controversial 2013 bill restructuring Mexico’s public school system revoked. The clash between union leaders and the federal government has defined much of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s time in office, as he has pursued an ambitious reform agenda that has stalled under corruption allegations and popular unrest, mostly over […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at a government event, Putrajaya, Malaysia, July 8, 2015 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

Since early July, when The Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report, an investigative website, reported that companies linked to the embattled, indebted Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB had allegedly transferred up to $700 million into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak, Malaysia’s normally placid politics have exploded. The allegations came amid an ongoing battle within the ruling coalition between Najib and supporters of longtime former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. On Monday, Mahathir declared in a statement that democracy in Malaysia was dead, “because an elected leader chooses to subvert the institutions of government and make them his […]

Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 26, 2014 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

On Tuesday, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo, removed two ministers who had recently opposed constitutional amendments he proposed to facilitate his candidacy for a third presidential term in 2016. Sassou, as he is referred to in Congo, is among Africa’s longest-serving dictators and has held power almost continuously since his military appointment in 1979. After losing power in the country’s first multiparty elections in 1992, he emerged victorious in 1997—backed by Angolan troops—following a bloody civil war. He has retained power since. His push, then, to amend the constitution to extend his rule came as no surprise. […]

Fighters against Shiite Houthi rebels stand on their armored vehicles on a road leading to Al-Anad base near Aden in the southern province of Lahej, Yemen, Aug. 3, 2015 (AP photo by Wael Qubady).

Soon after the initial shock of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels and military units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh had subsided, an important question arose. Would Riyadh, reorienting itself as an aggressive regional military force to be reckoned with—and no longer willing to ride on the coattails of the United States—put boots on the ground in Yemen? The new Saudi monarch, King Salman, and his son Mohammed bin Salman, the young defense minister and deputy crown prince, signaled their willingness to send troops into Yemen—just not their own. But they had trouble enlisting help […]

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