Lebanese President Michel Aoun during an official reception, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 10, 2017 (Saudi Press Agency photo via AP)

On Oct. 31, Michel Aoun, a former Lebanese army general, was elected president of Lebanon, ending a 29-month-long crisis in which the country had no president, its institutions were paralyzed, and its economy risked collapse. After being voted into office with the support of 83 lawmakers—well over the 65 needed to win—the Christian leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement was shown smiling in his seat in televised broadcasts of parliament, as fireworks crackled across Beirut in celebration. But the significance of Aoun’s election was not limited to the seat of the presidency. It marked the start of a […]

Libyan forces affiliated with government in Tripoli during combat against Islamic State militants, Sirte, Libya, Sept. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Manu Brabo).

With the self-proclaimed Islamic State besieged in Mosul and on the defensive in parts of Syria, the future of the group’s network beyond its core territory has been thrown into question. At its peak in 2014 and early 2015, the Islamic State established affiliates across the Middle East and North Africa that it labeled “provinces,” or wilayat, rapidly increasing its operational reach and influence. But with its senior leadership now facing considerable pressure in both Iraq and Syria, it is unclear whether the Islamic State will be able to maintain communications and organizational ties with these affiliates abroad. Moreover, as […]

Gambian President Adama Barrow after arriving at Banjul airport, Gambia, Jan. 26, 2017 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, finally returned to the country yesterday, his arrival formally marking the end of a six-week political crisis. Barrow was elected president on Dec. 1. He initially received a concession call from his opponent, Yahya Jammeh. But Jammeh, in power since 1994, reversed course within days. Refusing to step down, he instead attempted to use various forms of intimidation and legal maneuvering—a state of emergency, a parliamentary extension of his powers and a legal suit—to block the transition. West Africa’s regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), responded quickly and forcefully. Demanding that […]

Soldiers from the United Arab Emirates march alongside Indian troops during the Republic Day parade, New Delhi, Jan. 26, 2017 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

When five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates were killed in a bombing in Kandahar earlier this month, Afghan authorities quickly blamed the Haqqani network, which many suspect of having ties to Pakistani intelligence. That triggered speculation that the attack—the first on diplomats from a Gulf state in Afghanistan—was meant to send a message to the UAE about its growing counterterrorism cooperation with India. The timing of the blast was seen as especially significant since it came just weeks before Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the […]

French President Francois Hollande and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signing bilateral agreements, Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 23, 2017 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

While Donald Trump spent his first week as president of the United States rapidly upending ties with Mexico, undermining major free trade deals, and flaunting his protectionist ambitions, outgoing French President Francois Hollande visited Latin America, where he signed a host of bilateral agreements with Chile and Colombia. In Chile on Sunday, he warned against creeping protectionism, which he called the “worst response” that “impedes trade, hinders growth and even affects employment, including in countries that advocate for it and implement it.” The comment was an indirect jab at Trump and other populists on the rise, not least Marine Le […]

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace, Bogor, West Java, Indonesia,  Jan. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Achmad Ibrahim).

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, began the year with a weeklong tour of Southeast Asia and Australia earlier this month. The trip, which was planned in relative haste following the stunning election of Donald Trump as president of the United States last November, was an opportunity for Abe to try and impress upon Southeast Asian countries the importance of maintaining and defending international norms and laws, especially in the disputed waters around Southeast Asia. Abe visited the Philippines and Vietnam, two states with the most contested territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Abe also visited Indonesia, the […]

Israeli border police officers next to a supporter of Sgt. Elor Azaria during a demonstration by hardline nationalists outside the Israeli military court, Tel Aviv,  Jan. 4, 2017 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have long enjoyed a unique role in Israeli life, unlike that in any other liberal democracy. The IDF is the most influential force in the national security decision-making process, the one “neutral” player that Israel’s fractious politicians are usually willing to heed. The IDF has also contributed significantly to the development of Israeli society and its national identity, helping forge Israel’s disparate immigrant communities into a still discordant, but fundamentally united whole. As Israel enters its 70th year, public trust in the IDF remains remarkably high, to the point that it has been referred to […]

The session hall of the Polish parliament during the month-long opposition sit-in, Warsaw, Jan. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Alik Keplicz).

The Polish opposition’s month-long occupation of parliament may have come to an end earlier this month, but the deep political divisions behind Poland’s latest political crisis remain. The sit-in began in mid-December, when a lawmaker from the main opposition party, Civic Platform, was expelled from the chamber for using a budget debate to protest the government’s plans to limit media access to parliament and ignoring the speaker’s orders to leave the chamber. That the opposition had to resort to an occupation of the legislature is indicative of its political weakness, and sure enough the controversial populist government led by the […]

Special Operations Battalion Police enter the Alcacuz prison amid tension between rival gangs, Nisia Floresta, near Natal, Brazil, Jan. 21, 2017 (AP photo by Felipe Dana).

Brazil’s president is having a kind of homecoming, but not the one he wanted. Long before ascending to the presidency last summer after the impeachment and removal of Dilma Rousseff, Michel Temer served in the 1980s as the top security official for the state of Sao Paulo, overseeing its prison system. He is now struggling to contain an unprecedented nationwide crisis in Brazil’s jails. On Jan. 1, the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex in Manaus, capital of the remote state of Amazonas, erupted into violence; inmates took hostages and set to work killing their rivals, throwing their mutilated corpses outside the […]

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir speaks at the India-Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

One of the more unexpected decisions to emerge in the waning days of Barack Obama’s presidency was his move last week to ease U.S. sanctions against Sudan that have been in place for nearly two decades. His administration initiated the shift after what it described as six months of “positive actions” by the government in Khartoum, including a reduction in internal conflicts, the opening of the country to aid operations and Sudan’s assistance in global counterterrorism efforts. If the “change in behavior” continues for another six months, Washington promised to reauthorize trade between the United States and Sudan and unblock […]

French President Francois Hollande speaks alongside leaders and officials from Africa at the Paris Summit for security in Nigeria, Paris, May 17, 2014 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

“It’s the same fight, the same stakes,” French President Francois Hollande said of the battle against extremism in France and Africa while meeting with Malian troops in the northern city of Gao last week. “The terrorists who attack our land, who commit acts on our soil, are allied with those who are in the Levant, in Iraq and Syria, but here as well, in the Sahel.” Just days later, a suicide attack killed dozens at an army base there. Hollande was in Mali for the final Africa-France Summit of his presidency, which took place in the capital, Bamako, amid tight […]

U.S. President Barack Obama during a welcome ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Nov. 12, 2014 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

As Donald Trump prepares to assume the presidency of the United States, the contest with China for influence in Asia continues apace. Since President Barack Obama announced the rebalance or “pivot” to Asia initiative in an address to Australia’s parliament in 2011, the U.S. has carried out a number of measures designed to bolster its influence in a region that is projected to play an increasingly central role in driving global economic growth. In addition to increases in force presence and posture, U.S. forces have fielded numerous advanced systems. Complementing the military moves, Washington has stepped up bilateral and multilateral […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 17, 2017 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

That China is an export powerhouse is well established—“Made in China” products can be found in markets from Addis Ababa and Istanbul to Rome and New York. Despite a slowing economy, Chinese export of goods in 2015 totaled over $2.1 trillion, more than Italy’s GDP. But less remarked upon is the rise of China’s newest export: capital. In fact, during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this week—the first by a Chinese president—President Xi Jinping not only vigorously defended free trade and globalization but also touted China’s efforts in facilitating global economic development. More than a formidable […]

A protest against a gasoline price hike, outside the National Palace, Mexico City, Jan. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

A perfect storm is gathering in Mexico as the dawn of Donald Trump’s presidency north of the border coincides with domestic upheaval. While Trump’s threats on trade, immigration and border security have received the most attention, Mexico’s deeply unpopular president, Enrique Pena Nieto, also faces social unrest and a potential recession ahead of a presidential election in 2018—one in which, much as in the U.S., a populist underdog will look to capitalize on public anger. Since Jan. 1, headlines from Mexico have been dominated not by Trump, but by the so-called “gasolinazo,” a controversial yet inevitable decision by the Pena […]

Ivorian troops during an election rally for President Alassane Ouattara, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Oct. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Schalk van Zuydam).

On Jan. 6, soldiers in Bouake—Cote d’Ivoire’s second-largest city and the former rebel capital during the country’s civil war in the 2000s—left their barracks, firing their weapons into the air. They quickly seized control of Bouake’s main streets and announced a mutiny, the latest in a string of them in recent years in Cote d’Ivoire. Within a day, soldiers throughout the country joined the mutineers, including in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire’s largest city and commercial capital, where gunfire was reported at the army headquarters. Although the government and soldiers claim to have reached a deal to end it, the standoff proved […]

A refinery of the state-owned oil company Petrotrin in Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad and Tobago, Sept. 5, 2005 (AP photo by Shirley Bahadur).

Resource booms and busts are a sad reality for most commodity-based developing countries, and Trinidad and Tobago is no exception. While by far the wealthiest of the Caribbean economies, thanks to its oil and gas resources, the country is currently mired in a severe recession after the collapse of world oil prices beginning in 2014. The economy contracted by 1 percent that year, followed by further declines of 2.1 percent in 2015 and 2.8 percent in 2016, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. Oil and gas, which make up about 40 percent of gross domestic product and 80 […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, October 10, 2016 (Sputnik photo by Alexei Druzhinin via AP).

Venezuelans endured a particularly difficult year in 2016. Inflation skyrocketed; scarcities lingered; crime continued to soar; and the Venezuelan currency plummeted, albeit with a bit of a December rebound as OPEC cut oil production levels and the government eliminated its 100-bolivar note, its largest and most-used bill. The year offered little respite for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, too. The opposition, which has controlled the National Assembly for the past year, continued to press for a recall referendum, while many political actors abandoned the dialogue mediated by the Vatican. Beyond the country’s borders, conservative governments replaced leftist ones in Argentina and […]

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