Russian President Vladimir Putin with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, Tehran, Iran, Nov. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

For years, many Western and even Russian analysts expected that a resolution of Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West would weaken ties between Tehran and Moscow. However, in the months since July’s nuclear deal, relations between Iran and Russia have strengthened, while Tehran’s ties with the West have stagnated. The Syrian war, as well as skillful Russian diplomacy, have short-circuited, at least for now, any anticipated Iranian geopolitical reversal after the nuclear deal. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran in late November, the first visit by a Russian president since 2007, was the latest indication of healthy ties. Although […]

Yemenis condemning airstrikes by the the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Keeping weapons out of the wrong hands is good policy. In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, heightened attention has been paid to the illegal black-market networks that often arm terror groups and stoke conflict around the world. But the international community is not helpless to prevent this uncontrolled arms trade. A year ago on Christmas Eve, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) entered into force, with 130 countries signing on and, at the time, 61 of them ratifying it. One year later, 76 states are party to the treaty. The ATT is the only global, legally binding […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with the National Assembly’s president, Disodado Cabello, at a ceremony for the anniversary of the death of Simon Bolivar, Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 17, 2015 (AP photo by Fernando Llano).

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro walks and talks with the swagger of a man who just dealt the country’s opposition a crushing victory in the country’s recent legislative elections. But Maduro’s bravado ignores one telling fact: It was Venezuela’s opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition—known by its Spanish acronym, the MUD—that was the victor in the Dec. 6 vote, securing a super-majority of 112 of the National Assembly’s 167 seats. Rather than accepting those results, Maduro talks as if he and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, received a mandate to deepen and broaden Hugo Chavez’s leftist platform, the self-proclaimed […]

Nepalese policemen disperse ethnic Madhesi protesters in Gaur, on the Indian border, Nepal, Dec. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Gautham Shreshta).

Nepal stands on the brink of an economic crisis, after what it alleges is an India-imposed blockade of its borders for the past three months. Pushing back, Nepali leaders are vowing to work toward economic self-reliance and ease their dependence on India, to the advantage of New Delhi’s rival, China. “Nepal-India relations are at their lowest ebb right now,” says Yubaraj Ghimire, a Kathmandu-based commentator. The blockade of this landlocked nation began on Sept. 23, three days after Nepal officially adopted its new constitution. Critics argue the charter does not give fair political representation to two ethnic groups, the Indian-origin […]

Spain's acting prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, left, with Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez before a meeting at the Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Spain, Dec. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Paul White).

Spaniards went to the polls last Sunday to cap an electoral campaign dominated by the economy, corruption charges and a stand-off between Madrid and the separatist region of Catalonia. The results broadly confirmed what many had predicted: a win for the incumbent government of Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party (PP), but uncertainty over whether Rajoy will be able to form a government. Despite being the clear winner with 28.7 percent of the vote—enough to score 123 out of 350 parliamentary seats—the PP lost its absolute majority. The social democratic Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) came in second with 22 […]

Burkina Faso's now President-elect Roch Marc Christian Kabore during a campaign rally, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 27, 2015 (AP photo by Theo Renaut).

According to virtually all participants and observers, Burkina Faso’s election on Nov. 29 was the most democratic and competitive in its history. The crowds of voters and party workers who celebrated in the streets cheered the winner, President-elect Roch Marc Christian Kabore. But they also applauded the electoral process itself, coming as it did after nearly three decades of former President Blaise Compaore’s autocratic rule and a year and a half of exceptional turbulence that saw both his ouster in a popular insurrection and a failed coup attempt by his military supporters. For many Burkinabe, the advent of a freely […]

Tribal fighters prepare to take their positions during fighting with the Houthis, Taiz, Yemen, Nov. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Abdulnasser Alseddik).

Five days of peace talks in Switzerland between Yemen’s warring parties wrapped up Sunday with no breakthroughs, making it increasingly clear that the Arab world’s poorest country is teetering on the brink of semi-permanent chaos. With the deeply polarizing civil war rumbling on, the local branches of both al-Qaida and the self-proclaimed Islamic State are gaining territory and influence. The war has seen the country fragment, with divisive sectarian rhetoric, hitherto minimal in Yemen, playing an increasingly prominent role. As the Houthis—Zaydi Shiites from the northwest—have advanced in the south and east of the country, areas where the population is […]

Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries' delegates at the Heart of Asia conference, Islamabad, Pakistan, Dec. 9, 2015 (Pool photo via AP by Aamir Quresh).

Over two days last week, senior diplomatic officials gathered in Islamabad to participate in the Heart of Asia conference, a forum of Afghanistan’s neighbors and major international supporters that has been held annually since 2011. Despite domestic criticism over his outreach to Pakistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attended the meeting, where participants, including Pakistan, China and the United States, voiced their support for the resumption of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Also in attendance was India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, marking the highest-level visit by an Indian diplomatic official to Pakistan since Indian Prime Minister Narendra […]

Hundreds of demonstrators at a protest, Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Denis Farrell).

Last week, thousands of protesters took to the streets of South Africa’s major cities, demanding that President Jacob Zuma step down. Controversy has mounted over his Dec. 9 decision to sack the country’s widely respected finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, who he subsequently replaced with an unpopular former mayor. The shakeup immediately sent shockwaves through South Africa’s economy and the rand, the country’s currency, falling. That prompted Zuma to rescind the initial nomination and instead appoint Pravin Gordhan, a well-regarded former finance minister who served from 2009-2014, assuaging some fears. Many saw Zuma’s decision to remove Nene as strategically shortsighted, but […]

Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, greeting supporters, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

The politically motivated prosecution last month of opposition leader Sam Rainsy was a rude interruption to Cambodia’s so-called culture of dialogue, the name for the political settlement Cambodia’s government and the opposition reached in 2014 after contested elections. The interruption to this rapprochement was not very surprising: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is Asia’s longest-serving ruler, and he has not achieved this feat by acting benignly toward his political opponents. As Stephanie Giry documented in Foreign Affairs, over the course of his 30 years in power, Hun Sen has “coaxed or cowed, corrupted or co-opted, defanged, sidelined, or otherwise neutralized […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during a ceremony, Doha, Qatar, Dec. 2, 2015 (AP/Presidential Press Service photo by Yasin Bulbul).

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trip to Qatar two weeks ago was his second to the tiny oil- and gas-rich Arab state since he was elected Turkey’s president last year. The visit was significant because it inaugurated the first High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting between the two countries, a mechanism created last year to deepen bilateral cooperation in strategic sectors. During Erdogan’s visit, 16 separate agreements were signed for everything from education and maritime affairs to travel and energy. Some of the agreements—such as cooperation on archives, credential recognition in the maritime industry and public finance management—were technical in nature. Others, such […]

Hundreds of migrants wait in line at the central registration center for refugees and asylum seekers, Berlin, Dec. 14, 2015 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

European leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for the final European Union summit of 2015. Dominating the agenda is the refugee crisis. As of Dec. 17, more than 956,000 migrants, including refugees, have arrived in Europe by sea this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. The EU and its member states are still struggling to develop a common response. The latest idea, proposed by Germany and France earlier this month, is to create a standing, 2,000-member strong EU border and coast guard force. But like every other EU response to the refugee crisis, that has […]

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the U.S. illegally board a bus after being released from a family detention center in Texas, July 7, 2015 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

In June 2014, headlines sounded the alarm over an influx of unaccompanied minors clandestinely entering the U.S. from Central America. While the story has largely receded from view, the crisis continues. In recent years, more than 100,000 Central American children have undertaken the perilous 3,000-mile journey to the United States, exposing themselves to extortion, kidnapping, rape and murder along the way. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 68,000 unaccompanied minors, ranging in ages from less than 1 to 17 years old, were apprehended at the Southwest border between October 2013 and September 2014. Among them were more […]

French military personnel after liberating the city of Timbuktu from Islamist militants, Mali, Jan. 31, 2013 (AP Photo by Harouna Traore).

More than any other outside power, France is currently investing the most military and political resources to combat terrorist groups in West Africa and the wider Sahel. Driven by a perception of a clear and present danger, French security policy in the region has undergone a fundamental shift in recent years, but not in the direction that many policymakers in Paris had hoped at the beginning of the century. Instead of slowly decreasing its military presence and political involvement in its former colonies’ internal affairs, France has stepped up both amid new realities and interests. Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian […]

Supporters of an oil nationalization bill outside Congress, Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 25, 2012 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

The energy world has been abuzz since Mauricio Macri won a surprise victory in Argentina’s presidential elections on Nov. 22. The former mayor of Buenos Aires’ pro-business platform has raised expectations at home and abroad among investors and analysts anxious for change. Argentina has the potential to be both a regional and global energy leader, but after 12 years of Kirchnerismo, Macri has a long road ahead. Still, the prospects for an economic and energy turnaround have never been brighter, and Argentina’s energy sector has the potential to become a significant driver of future economic growth. Macri, who was sworn […]

Frontex border guards pull a dinghy with migrants to Skala Sikaminias village on the Greek island of Lesbos, Oct. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Santi Palacios).

Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, announced yesterday that it would deploy a so-called Rapid Border Intervention Team to help manage the large number of refugees arriving on the Greek islands. The announcement followed one last week that the agency will send staff to Greece’s northern border with Macedonia to help register migrants there, and will supplement the 195 Frontex staff already working in the Greek islands in the Aegean that have been most affected by the refugee crisis. The moves come after officials from the EU and several member states accused Greece of not doing enough to protect its […]

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and Algerian Speaker of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah, Algiers, Algeria, March 22, 2015 (AP photo by Sidali Djarboub).

In recent years, Algeria has focused more of its foreign policy on its immediate neighborhood, both in North Africa and farther south in the Sahel. Its busy foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra, has been active in mediation efforts in Mali, Libya and Tunisia, earning plaudits from Western partners. Some officials and observers have seized on this foreign policy outreach as a purported “awakening” of Algerian diplomacy in Africa, a revitalization of the country’s historically strong role in continental affairs. Lamamra himself highlighted Algeria’s important regional efforts in an interview in October with the French daily Le Monde. But has Algeria’s Africa […]

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