Cuban President Raul Castro and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at a joint press conference, Merida, Mexico, Nov. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

With his state visit to Mexico earlier this month, Raul Castro took a major step forward in rebuilding Cuba’s relations with the country in Latin America that is most important to the United States. For Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the summit marked the culmination of his efforts to repair relations with Cuba after a decade of antagonism precipitated by Mexico’s conservative governments led by the National Action Party, or PAN, beginning with the presidency of Vicente Fox from 2000 to 2006. Historically, Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, had maintained friendly relations with Cuba’s revolutionary government after 1959. […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Nov. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could not have anticipated how quickly his threats to end cooperation with Israel would be tested after he declared the Oslo Accords dead in a defiant address at the United Nations in September. With violence spiking in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, the aging Palestinian leader is seeking to constrain attacks against Israel without losing more of his legitimacy among an increasingly angry Palestinian populace. The upsurge in violence and reprisal attacks, with the latest this past Sunday, have left the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a dilemma: how to fulfill its commitments to maintain security […]

Belgian soldiers patrol in the center of Brussels, Nov. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Only hours after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, several politicians in France and elsewhere in Europe, as well as numerous commentators, placed blame on the European Union and its open-border Schengen zone, with some even calling for a breakup of the union or their own country’s withdrawal from it. However, to contain and mitigate terrorism most effectively, France and other European countries need more bilateral and multilateral cooperation, not less, from intelligence sharing to cracking down on arms smuggling. Shortly after the Paris attacks, the head of France’s right-wing National Front party, Marine Le Pen, expressed her “concern” about […]

Flowers are put in a window shattered by a bullet in the Nov. 13 attacks, Paris, France, Nov. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

As observers around the world watched chaos unfold in Paris on Nov. 13, many were struck by the attackers’ use of Kalashnikov assault rifles in the bloodbath. How, given France’s strict gun laws, did the attackers manage to procure military-grade weapons so easily? Where are these heavy weapons coming from? Those same questions were asked in January, when gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher killed 12 at the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and another armed with a submachine gun and an assault rifle killed four at a kosher supermarket. In 2012, Mohamed Merah […]

A woman celebrates in Freetown as Sierra Leone is declared Ebola-free, Nov. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Aurelie Marrier d'Unienvil).

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it seems, is nearly over. On Nov. 6, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Sierra Leone had gone 42 days without any new cases of Ebola and officially declared the country Ebola-free. Two months earlier, on Sept. 3, the WHO made a similar declaration for Liberia—though the disease reappeared there on Nov. 20. Guinea has gone more than two weeks without any new cases, raising hopes that it, too, will soon cross the 42-day threshold to being free of Ebola. When this current Ebola epidemic ends, it will have the dubious distinction of […]

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Jude Celestin, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nov. 11, 2015 (AP photo by Dieu Nalio Chery).

The outcome of the first round of Haiti’s presidential elections, which were held Oct. 25, is still uncertain. According to the Provisional Electoral Council, known by its French acronym CEP, Jovenel Moise of President Michel Martelly’s Haitian Tet Kale Party (PHTK) and Jude Celestin of the opposition League for Progress and Haitian Emancipation (LAPEH) were the top two vote-getters, with 33 and 28 percent of the vote, respectively. They should, therefore, face each other in a runoff. But heated disputes about the accuracy of the CEP’s preliminary results have gotten in the way, endangering the second round, currently scheduled for […]

Opposition presidential candidate Mauricio Macri at a campaign rally in Humahuaca, Argentina, Nov. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

Argentina’s presidential vote this Sunday, Nov. 22, is one of its most consequential elections in recent history. After 12 years of Kirchnerismo, the next president will bring change to a country in need of an economic and political jolt. That much is certain. But how swiftly and how deeply will any transformations take place? That will depend on Sunday’s vote. In the days leading up to the first round of voting on Oct. 25, it seemed a fait accompli that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s electoral alliance, the Front for Victory, or FPV, was in the driver’s seat to hold […]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at a joint news conference, Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 18, 2015 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

In his first visit to Turkey as prime minister, Greece’s Alexis Tsipras arrived in Ankara on Tuesday, with the refugee crisis topping the agenda. Both sides emphasized the need for cooperation on the crisis, as well as for improving relations more generally. Nevertheless, long-standing tensions between the neighbors were on display that evening during a soccer match between the Greek and Turkish national teams, attended by Tsipras and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, when Turkish fans booed the Greek national anthem and interrupted a moment of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The historic animosity between […]

A supporter of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) outside the party headquarters, Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 1, 2015 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

Back in June, Turkish voters put President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s feet to the fire by stripping his Justice and Development Party (AKP) allies of their parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years. Many Turkey-watchers began writing Erdogan’s political obituary. But only five short months after that electoral setback, Erdogan and his AKP allies are back on top, after winning an outright majority in elections Nov. 1. In doing so, they have demonstrated their ability to swiftly and efficiently mobilize their conservative base in strategic urban areas and across the Anatolian heartland, while outmaneuvering their political adversaries at every […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou at the Shangri-la Hotel, Singapore, Nov. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

Much ink has been spilled on the meeting earlier this month between Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, and the leader of China, Xi Jinping. The fact that the two got together for a handshake and a grin is no doubt a big deal. But, at least in terms of marking a major milestone along the road to better relations, nothing happened to warrant all this attention. For the most part, despite the pageantry, the meeting changed little. On the other hand, because the gulf between China and Taiwan is as wide as ever, that should have everyone, but especially Chinese policymakers, […]

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the Paris attacks, Molenbeek, Belgium, Nov. 18, 2015 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

As French police and detectives tried to make sense of the coordinated attacks that rocked Paris on Friday, eyewitnesses reported to have seen black-clad men emerging from cars with Belgian license plates. That led detectives to search a car with foreign license plates parked near the Bataclan theater, where at least 89 concertgoers were murdered. Upon searching the car, they found a discarded parking ticket, issued in Molenbeek, an impoverished district of Brussels. That, as part of a larger investigation, led French authorities to identify the alleged organizer of the Paris attacks: Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian who had fought […]

Airmen prepare a MQ-9 Reaper during an exercise at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., May 15, 2014 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nadine Barclay).

Immediately after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande declared the coordinated attacks as “an act of war.” France did not need such a provocation, however. It had already been involved in U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State for six weeks, and in Iraq since September 2014. The question now is where and how it might escalate its involvement militarily. The United States stated that it stands by France and will assist in whatever way necessary. That raises the question of whether U.S. assistance will include arming France’s unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and […]

Indian paramilitary soldiers in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Nov. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Mukhtar Khan).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kashmir earlier this month brought steel barricades, razor wire, a curfew and other tight security measures to the contested territory on India and Pakistan’s border as Pakistan-backed separatists took to the streets in protest. It was just the latest sign of how Kashmir has re-emerged as the most critical issue in India-Pakistan relations. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington last month offered further proof. With an agenda otherwise dominated by U.S. security concerns vis-a-vis Afghanistan, Sharif ensured that the long-running Kashmir conflict remained a priority. In a meeting with senior U.S. […]

Leaders of the BRICS at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The ascent of Narendra Modi to India’s premiership last year was thought to have provided New Delhi with a leader who could propel its rise to great power status. But after nearly a year and a half in power, those expectations have proved to be overly optimistic. Modi has yet to graduate into a statesman and demonstrate an ability to calibrate the use of soft and hard power to realize India’s potential. Both domestically and in foreign policy, Modi has too often favored confrontation and heavy-handed tactics over magnanimity and diplomacy. When Modi has succeeded, it has been when he […]

U.N. Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon, left, walks with Saleh Almkhozom of the General National Congress, Tripoli, Libya, Jan. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Mohammed Ben Khalifa).

United Nations-led talks to resolve Libya’s unrest have been undermined by revelations of extensive links between the outgoing U.N. mediator, Bernardino Leon, and the United Arab Emirates, one of the regional powers that openly backs one side of the civil war. But not everything is lost, provided Leon’s successor, the veteran German and U.N. diplomat Martin Kobler, can overcome three outstanding obstacles. Leon was trying to broker a country-wide cease-fire and a national unity deal between competing factions that have fought each other since the summer of 2014 and split Libya into two rival governments: the internationally recognized one in […]

A counter-narcotics police officer organizes seized packages of cocaine during a presentation to the press, Necocli, Colombia, Feb. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

The latest figures released by the United Nations indicate that Colombia has retaken the title of world’s largest cocaine producer, with some 69,000 hectares of land used for growing coca. After years of declining production, the U.N. estimates cocaine production in Colombia will increase by 52 percent this year. Only two years ago, Peru overtook Colombia as the top producer of coca and processed cocaine, as Bruno Binetti and Ben Raderstorf explained in their WPR feature this week. “Unlike most of its neighbors, Peru lacks a comprehensive strategy to fight drug trafficking, instead preferring to downplay the issue . . […]

Senegalese soldiers practice live fire maneuvers during an AFRICOM training exercise, Senegal, June 19, 2014 (U.S. Army Africa photo by Staff Sgt. Donna Davis).

U.S. military forces are taking a more active role in combating the Boko Haram insurgency that has killed more than 30,000 people since its outbreak in 2009 and spread from northeastern Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad. The move is consistent with the general U.S. approach to security on the African continent, which leans heavily on enabling local forces to combat terrorist groups, but which has failed to stem a rise in Islamist violence in recent years. President Barack Obama notified Congress in mid-October that he had ordered 300 military personnel into northern Cameroon to support reconnaissance flights of […]

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