Mukhtar Robow, left, the then-deputy leader of al-Shabab, with the American-born Islamist militant Omar Hammami in southern Mogadishu, Somalia, May 11, 2011 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

On Aug. 13, Somalia’s government won a perceived victory in its fight against al-Shabab when Mukhtar Robow, the former deputy leader of the militant group, surrendered. Also known as “Abu Mansur,” Robow was one of the group’s founding leaders, and the only one still living who had trained with the Taliban in Afghanistan. His decision to stop fighting invited speculation that other militants might also lay down their arms. Yet as has been the case with a series of recent high-level defections, the specific circumstances of Robow’s surrender suggest it may not represent a major turning point in the battle […]

Bangladeshi border guards keep watch over Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar as they stop them from crossing into Bangladesh, Ghumdhum, Bangladesh, Aug. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Mushfiqul Alam).

YANGON, Myanmar — Violence has again engulfed Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine state, killing scores of people and stoking fears that the long-running crisis there has grown more intractable and more likely to foster radicalization. Many had hoped that Myanmar’s democratically elected government, which took over 18 months ago amid a transition from military rule, could take steps to alleviate the conflict and end the underlying human rights abuses of the Rohingya minority. But the rapidly deteriorating security situation, called predictable and preventable by the United Nations, has emerged as a key stumbling bloc for Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration, […]

Stephen Bannon, the then-chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, walks from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, May 13, 2017 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

The ouster of Stephen Bannon as White House senior strategist has removed the most visible link between President Donald Trump and his populist base. But the nationalist worldview that candidate Trump ran on and Bannon promoted is alive and well. And the core of that agenda is the defense and promotion of U.S. national sovereignty, which Trump’s followers believe is under assault from relentless globalization, encroaching international organizations and uncontrolled immigration. American sovereigntists, led by the president himself, are determined to defend U.S. independence and reassert control over the nation’s destiny, in their minds, by rejecting “globalism” and placing “America […]

An effigy of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hangs from a mock gallows set up by protesting farmers at the foot of the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Aug. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Gustavo Martinez Contreras).

MEXICO CITY—When President Donald Trump announced his willingness to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement in May, having previously vowed to withdraw the United States from the pact, officials in Mexico and Canada scrambled to rescue a deal that advocates argue has produced overwhelmingly positive benefits for all three members. Indeed, many believe that the talks, which began in Washington in August and will continue through the end of the year, represent a historic opportunity to not only save NAFTA, but also revamp the agreement for the 21st century. Yet on the same day that the negotiations began earlier […]

An anti-government demonstrator wearing a Russian military hat protests the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Wil Riera).

The United States issued a new batch of sanctions against Venezuela last Friday, targeting high-ranking members of President Nicolas Maduro’s regime and setting up a “financial blockade” against the state-owned institutions that fund them. Cutting off Maduro’s revenue may be the key to his ouster, U.S. officials have said, but restoring democracy in Venezuela after he’s gone looks to be a more complex, internal issue. Much of the pressure on Maduro still originates inside Venezuela, from politicians at all levels of government who oppose his dictatorship and hope to one day regain control of the country’s political future. The opposition […]

Indian gay rights activists and their supporters march during a gay pride parade in New Delhi, Nov. 27, 2016 (AP photo by Tsering Topgyal).

India’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that people have a fundamental right to privacy, curtailing the Indian government’s efforts to implement the world’s biggest biometric database. But the court also recognized, for the first time, that sexual orientation is an essential part of privacy and dignity, paving the way for LGBT equality in India and beyond. The ruling comes after years of both advances and setbacks for LGBT people in India. The country’s so-called sodomy law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with up to life in prison. The law had been […]

U.S. President Donald Trump meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aboard the USS Intrepid in New York, May 4, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

To understand the state of Australia’s relations with its closest ally, the United States, seven months into Donald Trump’s presidency, begin by putting aside the most dramatic and well-publicized event so far: the infamous January phone call between Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It was an uncomfortable moment, and the awkwardness only deepened when the full transcript of the call leaked in early August. But Trump and Turnbull later made up at a one-on-one meeting in New York, and the U.S. and Australia have agreed on the refugee resettlement deal that the two leaders argued about, so the phone […]

Volunteers search for bodies from the scene of heavy flooding and mudslides in Regent, on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Aug. 15 , 2017, (AP photo by Manika Kamara).

The death toll from last week’s devastating mudslide in Sierra Leone is likely to pass 500, with several thousand more people made homeless by the destruction left in its wake. The scale of the disaster was unparalleled, but flooding in the capital, Freetown, happens every year during the August rainy season. In 2015, at least 10 people were killed in the city by rising water; Kroo Town, one of Freetown’s largest unplanned neighborhoods, or informal settlements, has flooded every year since 2008. The major cause of the mudslides and flooding, according to Joseph Macarthy of the Sierra Leone Urban Research […]

Soldiers of the NATO enhanced forward presence battalion in a German Leopard 2 tank take part in NATO military exercises at the Rukla military base, west of Vilnius, Lithuania, Aug. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

While President Donald Trump was issuing bombastic threats toward North Korea and Venezuela earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis quietly met with his Dutch counterpart, Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, at the Pentagon on Aug. 15. They discussed the ongoing crises in North Korea and Venezuela and continued their talks on NATO defense spending. But, to the surprise of many, they also touched on a more esoteric topic: the idea of introducing a “military Schengen zone” on the European continent, freeing up the movement of troops and materiel between EU member states. Under current laws, the movement of […]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, center, links arms with ASEAN foreign ministers during their annual meeting in Manila, Philippines, Aug. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

Earlier this month, following a foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Philippines, China and its Southeast Asian neighbors announced that they had agreed on a framework, or broad outline, for negotiating a code of conduct in the contested South China Sea. In theory, a code of conduct, or a set of accepted norms, could set guidelines on activities allowed in the sea, including militarization and land reclamation. Any code would not resolve territorial disputes, though. Both Philippine and Chinese leaders touted the adoption of a framework as a step toward reducing tensions in […]

Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, during a military ceremony marking Independence Day, Quito, Aug. 10, 2017 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

It didn’t take long for Ecuador’s new president, Lenin Moreno, who assumed office less than three months ago, to distance himself from his predecessor, Rafael Correa. Correa, whose highly personalized rule dominated Ecuadorean politics for more than a decade, had handpicked Moreno, his vice president from 2007 to 2013, to run to succeed him earlier this year. Correa’s prominent place in Latin America’s leftist tide has receded as the commodity boom turned into a bust. But he trusted that, as he headed for semi-retirement in Europe, Moreno would faithfully carry on his “citizens’ revolution.” That Correa’s second vice president since […]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas receives Jordan's King Abdullah II, Ramallah, West Bank, Aug. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Nasser Nasser).

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has been quietly busy. On July 7, after months of meticulous negotiations in Amman and elsewhere, the U.S., Russia and Jordan concluded a cease-fire agreement in southern Syria that, in addition to quelling the violence in its target area, brought an interim calm to Jordan’s northern border and helped stem the flow of refugees entering the country. Weeks later, as Jerusalem lurched toward the brink of a religious conflagration, Abdullah stepped in and used his position as the custodian of Muslim holy places in the city to negotiate with Israelis and Palestinians and restore calm. All […]

A traditional Omani dagger and a scarf bearing images of Sultan Qaboos, Muscat, November 5, 2016 (Press Association photo by John Stillwell via AP).

Three years ago, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, Oman’s 76-year-old ruler, left for an eight-month stint of medical treatment in Germany. It wouldn’t be his last. Since then, the sultan’s continued deteriorating health and lack of a clear heir—he has no children and has kept any plans for a successor vague—have fueled a succession debate both within Oman and among its neighbors. Now, amid the significant rift in the Gulf resulting from the Saudi- and Emirati-led blockade of Qatar, the potential for a looming succession crisis in Oman could affect not just domestic stability in the Gulf’s quietest state, […]

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga announces plans to challenge the results of last week’s election in court, Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 16, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Kenyans breathed a sigh of relief this week. Despite a bitter presidential election, including isolated violence, their worst fears were not realized. Although friction still lingers, Kenya’s election on Aug. 8 went relatively smoothly and was praised by teams of election monitors from the African Union, the United States and the European Union. Memories of the 2007 elections, when widespread electoral fraud and a disputed outcome led to chaos, are still fresh in the minds of Kenyans. More than 1,000 people died in that post-election violence; hundreds of thousands were displaced. There was no repeat this year, despite a few […]

Pro-independence activists during a march in Hong Kong on the 20th anniversary of the territory’s handover from Britain to China, July 1, 2017 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Earlier this summer, on July 1, Hong Kong commemorated 20 years since the transfer of its sovereignty from Britain to China. The anniversary reignited the debate over the constitutional principle of “one country, two systems,” which was agreed to by the British and Chinese governments as part of the handover and is meant to guarantee Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing until 2047. Most coverage last month understandably focused on Hong Kong and China, especially since pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, galvanized by mass protests there three years ago, have continued to criticize China’s interference in the territory’s affairs. But while […]

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves to supporters gathered on a highway outside Islamabad, Aug. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

On July 28, Pakistan’s highest court ruled that corruption allegations disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from serving in office, forcing him to resign. The ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), quickly announced a succession plan: Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a close Sharif ally, would be appointed prime minister until a successor was found to serve out Sharif’s term, which ends next year. After winning a parliamentary by-election—a formality in a PML-N-dominated legislature—Abbasi took office on Aug. 1. Soon after, the government announced that Abbasi himself would serve out Sharif’s term. Initially, all seemed to be going swimmingly with the transition. […]

Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, July 24, 2017 (AP photo by Alik Keplicz).

“There is a question mark over Poland’s European future today,” former Polish Prime Minister and current European Council President Donald Tusk said earlier this month in a remarkable statement for someone intimately connected with both Warsaw and Brussels. His comments came as Poland’s conservative government, which regards Tusk as its archenemy, showed little sign of backing off its populist drive to overhaul the country, despite international pressure and vocal domestic opposition. Last month, tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets to protest deeply controversial reforms to the judiciary that critics say would have handed power over the system […]

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