Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir inspects the honor guard after his arrival in Entebbe, Uganda, Nov. 13, 2017 (AP photo by Ronald Kabuubi).

The people of Sudan are accustomed to volatility, but even for them, the current moment is fraught with uncertainty. A convergence of social, economic and diplomatic unrest has sent Sudan into a state of anxiety, straining society and raising the prospect of new domestic turmoil. On Jan. 16 and 17, protesters in cities from Darfur in the west to Port Sudan in the east took to the streets angry over the rising prices of essential goods. They blamed the government of President Omar al-Bashir for economic mismanagement and corruption. Inflation in Sudan is running at more than 30 percent, partly […]

A woman walks past a poster for Czech presidential candidate Milos Zeman that reads, “Stop migrants and Drahos. This is our land! Vote Zeman!”, Prague, Jan. 24, 2018 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

PRAGUE—Czechs re-elected populist firebrand Milos Zeman in the second round of presidential elections late last week, in a race widely viewed as a referendum on the Czech Republic’s geopolitical orientation. Despite the return of Zeman to Prague Castle, from where he has railed against migrants and Islam, called for a referendum on the Czech Republic’s membership in the European Union and reached out to Russia and China, Czech foreign policy will nevertheless likely remain anchored in the country’s position as an EU and NATO member. While Zeman’s bluster attracts international headlines and enrages critics, the president’s influence on policy is […]

Egyptian human rights lawyer and former presidential candidate  Khaled Ali announces his withdrawal from the race, Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 24, 2018 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

January has been a troubling month for Egyptian politics. In a substantial blow to the pretense of fair elections, the military-backed authorities ramped up efforts to clear the field ahead of the presidential poll slated for March 26 to 28. Five candidates were either forced out of the race by the military or have exited on their own as a result of an intensive campaign of interference and intimidation. Now, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi will run virtually uncontested. He was elected to his first term in 2014 with 97 percent of the vote, a figure that many suspected was inflated. The […]

Vietnam’s defense minister, Ngo Xuan Lich, left, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, second from right, view a photo exhibition on Vietnam-U.S. military cooperation, Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 25, 2018 (Pool photo via AP).

Over the past five years, no country in Southeast Asia has challenged China’s regional strategic ambitions more assertively than Vietnam. Repeatedly standing up to Beijing’s aims in the South China Sea, Vietnam has attempted to allow foreign oil exploration in disputed maritime areas and, like China, built up the submerged reefs, small islets and banks it occupies and added installations, though on a much smaller scale. It has, at times, tried to work with its neighbors, such as the Philippines under former President Benigno Aquino III, to highlight what it sees as China’s illegal behavior in the South China Sea. […]

Turkish army tanks head for the Syrian border town of Afrin, an enclave in northwestern Syria controlled by Kurdish fighters, Hassa, Turkey, Jan. 22, 2018 (AP photo).

On Jan. 20, Turkish forces attacked Afrin, a Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwestern Syria. As airstrikes rain down on Afrin’s mountain towns, the conflict is putting both American and Russian plans for Syria to the test. Most of Afrin’s original inhabitants are Kurds, though the population, now estimated at 323,000, has swelled with civilians displaced from other parts of Syria and also includes Arab towns seized by Kurdish forces. Apart from government-controlled Aleppo to the southeast, Afrin is entirely surrounded by Turkish territory and Turkey-backed rebels. A previous Turkish intervention in October set up military outposts all along Afrin’s southern border. […]

Pakistani police officers stand guard to stop Shiite Muslims from advancing toward the presidency to protest twin bombings in Parachinar, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Islamabad, June 28, 2017 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

Earlier this month, the United States suspended security assistance to Pakistan, following through on a threat from President Donald Trump. The move was meant to signify Washington’s frustration with what it describes as Islamabad’s refusal to crack down on sanctuaries used by terrorists that target American soldiers across the border in Afghanistan. Current tensions in U.S.-Pakistan relations—which flow from the aid freeze and from the Trump administration’s new Afghanistan strategy, and which have spawned increasingly angry rhetoric on both sides—all boil down to a fundamental dispute over this sanctuary issue. It’s a dispute unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. That’s […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah, are greeted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi, Jan. 14 2018 (AP photo).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India last week came at a tense time, or so it seemed. In late December, India voted in favor of a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly rejecting the Trump administration’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Then, in early January, just two weeks before Netanyahu’s trip, India’s Ministry of Defense scrapped a $500 million deal with Israeli defense contractor Rafael to import Spike anti-tank missiles and later produce them under a license in India. But Netanyahu’s government downplayed New Delhi’s vote at the U.N. before his six-day visit, and in […]

People embrace during a vigil to honor those killed during anti-government protests, Caracas, Venezuela, July 13, 2017 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Until recently, the hyperinflations that inflicted staggering economic costs in South America in the 1980s and 1990s seemed like a thing of the past. But that was before Venezuela, where inflation hit triple digits last year, at 652 percent. Without policy changes from the government, the International Monetary Fund forecasts inflation rates accelerating to 2,349 percent this year and 3,474 percent in 2019. Even these forecasts may be conservative, with the price of selected items already increasing by 80 percent in the first week of January. While normal hyperinflations take place through excessive monetary creation—the government printing more and more […]

Residents from Gaza wave Palestinian and Egyptian flags to celebrate the Egypt-backed reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, Gaza City, Oct. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Khalil Hamra).

Earlier this month, the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt released a 22-minute video showing the execution of a man it identified as a Hamas collaborator. The video, characteristic of the group’s macabre propaganda, put the spotlight on the budding conflict between the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since 2007. That conflict has its roots in the changing dynamics on the ground between Hamas and Egypt’s government. Despite years of acrimony, Hamas and Egypt have forged an increasingly cooperative relationship in the past year, driven by the desperate situations both sides are facing. […]

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

South America’s biggest political surprise recently has come from one of its smallest countries, Ecuador, where President Lenin Moreno has maneuvered to break with his predecessor and a legacy tinged with authoritarianism and corruption. Narrowly elected in April, Moreno had been vice president and the anointed successor of Rafael Correa, the populist, left-leaning, U.S.-trained economist who governed for a decade and centralized control over government, the economy and the media. Analysts speculated Moreno could be a timid caretaker put in place to allow Correa to skirt term limits and then sweep back into office in 2021—in the mold of Dmitry […]

People watch a TV news program showing the Twitter post in which U.S. President Donald Trump boasted about the size of his  “nuclear button,” Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 3, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

In the coming weeks, President Donald Trump is expected to unveil the latest Nuclear Posture Review, outlining his administration’s thinking about U.S. nuclear policy and detailing plans for the future of the American arsenal. According to a draft leaked to The Huffington Post last week, the review, which reportedly has been sent to Trump for his approval, will mark a considerable shift in policy, overturning much of the thinking that has underpinned American nuclear strategy since the end of the Cold War. The Trump administration may well be ushering in a more dangerous, more expensive and more worrying nuclear era. […]

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Moscow, Russia, April 5, 2017 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Last week, Abdulla Aripov, the prime minister of Uzbekistan, and Emomali Rahmon, the president of Tajikistan, agreed to allow their citizens to visit each other’s countries without a visa for up to 30 days, removing restrictions put in place between the adversarial regimes back in 2001. The move is the latest sign that Uzbekistan, one of the world’s most closed countries, is slowly opening up. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has spearheaded this opening since he replaced Islam Karimov, who ruled the country for 27 years before he died in September 2016. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York […]

Sebastian Pinera greets supporters as they celebrate his victory in the presidential election runoff, Santiago, Chile, Dec. 17, 2017 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

Sebastian Pinera put in an underwhelming performance in the first round of Chile’s presidential elections on Nov. 19, winning just 36.6 percent of the vote. Most polls had predicted that the conservative billionaire and former president, running for the center-right Chile Vamos coalition, would take over 40 percent of the vote, and even pass the 50-percent threshold necessary to win outright and return straight to the Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, which he left in 2014. Yet following a bitter campaign, Pinera romped to victory on Dec. 22 by a wide, 9-point margin over his second-round opponent, Alejandro Guillier, who failed […]

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to French troops at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Dec. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Fay Abuelgasim).

On Dec. 7, French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Qatar for a short yet very profitable visit. It took place in the wake of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s own trip to Paris in September. During his eight-hour stay in Doha, Macron visited al-Udeid Air Base—the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East—where France also has a contingent of soldiers. He was then received at Sheikh Tamim’s administrative office, the Emiri Diwan, to discuss several matters of bilateral interest, as well as the diplomatic standoff in the Gulf, before flying back to Paris. Macron and Sheikh […]

Georgian President Georgy Margvelashvili addresses servicemen participating in the Noble Partner 2017 joint multinational military exercises outside Tbilisi, Georgia, Aug. 1, 2017 (AP photo by Shakh Aivazov).

In late November, the U.S. State Department gave its seal of approval for the sale of advanced Javelin anti-tank missiles to Georgia. Long coveted by the aspiring NATO member, the weapons appear to offer a boon to Tbilisi’s defense capabilities. Yet any added military value is still modest compared to the overwhelming military superiority of Russia, Georgia’s chief external threat. Since fighting a brief war with Russia in 2008, Georgia has faced a security dilemma in how it should deal with Moscow, balancing diplomacy and talks with military reforms and defense spending. How Georgia deploys the new weapons—and how that […]

LGBT rights activists celebrate a Constitutional Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, Bogota, Colombia, April 7, 2016 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Courts and legislatures have taken decisive steps to protect LGBT rights in Latin America. But there is a stark difference between the law and day-to-day realities. On Tuesday, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights urged Latin American countries to legalize same-sex marriages and unions, responding to a 2016 petition by Costa Rica’s president, Luis Guillermo Solis, who has championed gay rights. The decision, one of the most sweeping court statements on same-sex marriage in history, appeared to be the latest sign that Latin America is becoming one of the safest regions in the world for LGBT people, at least legally. […]

A demonstrator shouts slogans near the flag of the former Imperial State of Iran as he gathers with opposition supporters outside the Iranian embassy in Rome, Italy, Jan. 2, 2018 (AP photo by Gregorio Borgia).

The popular demonstrations that erupted in Iran in late December, the largest since the Green Movement protests in 2009, have created a pretext for the Trump administration to renege on the nuclear deal, which it has tried to nix throughout its first year in office. But breaking the 2015 agreement by piling on sanctions pressure would likely have only a minor economic effect on Tehran, especially in the short term, while undermining the very protesters the administration has vocally supported. The threat of new U.S. sanctions would also limit American leverage in pursuing regional stability and nonproliferation. Media coverage has […]

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