A banner in a town square in the French Alps reads “Welcome Refugees,” Chamonix, France, Oct. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Bertrand Combaldieu).

Last month, authorities in Italy requested a formal investigation of five French border patrol agents in the Alps who entered Italy to perform an unauthorized drug test on a Nigerian citizen, in what the authorities say was a violation of Italian sovereignty. It was just the latest episode in months-long tensions at the French-Italian border near Col de l’Echelle, or Colle Della Scala, a high mountain pass in northwestern Italy that has become a popular route for migrants trying to enter into France. In March, a volunteer mountain guide on the French side of the border was charged with facilitating […]

A protest by expatriate Togolese demanding democratic reforms and political change after half a century of rule by the Gnassingbe family, Brussels, Belgium, Aug. 31, 2017 (dpa photo by Wiktor Dabkowski via AP).

LOME, Togo—A pediatric inpatient ward in the Sylvanus Olimpio University Teaching Hospital of Lome, the capital of Togo, sat vacant for much of February. The water had stopped running, and staff were short several supplies: a pair of scissors, a rolling cart, a blood pressure cuff to fit children’s arms. Nurses packed patients into a separate ward, where they could be prepared for discharge before hospital staff went on strike again. The smallest patients lay three to a bed, their mothers waiting on makeshift stools for a doctor. The more desperate wandered the complex in search of help. A woman […]

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at the 9th China Business Conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, May 1, 2018 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

It’s déjà vu all over again. Where’s the beef? And speak loudly, but forget the stick. Those were among the clichés that came to mind during the Trump administration’s China trade policy gyrations over the past few weeks. Almost exactly a year after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the results of a “herculean” effort to get a deal with China to boost U.S. exports of energy and agricultural goods, and six months after Ross announced another set of deals purportedly worth $250 billion in increased American exports of natural gas, soybeans, beef and pork, the White House released a joint […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei listens during a meeting with members of the Iranian government, Tehran, May 23, 2018 (Sipa photo via AP).

Two weeks after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined the parameters of the “new Iran strategy” that he believes would lead to a “better deal” with Iran. It is a laundry list of 12 demands Iran must meet if it is to avoid getting hit by what Pompeo called the “strongest sanctions in history.” But Iran won’t accept these sweeping demands. Would it actually return to the negotiating table? And how could this new strategy shape Iran’s domestic politics? The Trump administration’s move is a huge gamble […]

A rebel with the Kachin Independence Army at an outpost near the armed group’s headquarters in northern Kachin state, Myanmar, March 20, 2018 (AP photo by Esther Htusan).

As global attention remains fixed on the desperate plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, another violent military crackdown has flared almost unnoticed more than 400 miles to the northeast in the remote and mountainous state of Kachin, along the isolated land border with China. Since mid-January, battles between Myanmar’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, and the ethnic rebels of the Kachin Independence Army, or KIA, have intensified in several areas of the resource-rich and historically conflict-wracked region, displacing thousands of civilians. The surge in violence, with military airstrikes and retaliatory insurgent attacks, […]

Malians check voter listings as polling stations come to a close in parliamentary elections, Gao, Mali, Nov. 24, 2013 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

For months, Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, has been hounded by a short, harsh refrain: Boua ka bla. In Bambara, the West African country’s most widely spoken language, the words mean, roughly, “The old man must give up.” In the context of Malian politics, they articulate a clear demand that Keita, who is 73, leave office when his term expires this year. In songs and at rallies, the phrase has been taken up by a host of government critics. The most prominent among them is the activist and radio personality Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, popularly known as “Ras Bath,” who the […]

A protest against Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales at Constitution Square, Guatemala City, April 21, 2018 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

A new attorney general took office in Guatemala last week amid sharp tensions over the role of a United Nations-backed anti-corruption commission that has helped bring high-profile charges against some of the country’s most powerful politicians. Maria Consuelo Porras, a former substitute judge for Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, will run the country’s Public Ministry and direct its criminal, human rights and anti-corruption investigations. The outgoing attorney general, Thelma Aldana, and her predecessor, Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey, showed impressive leadership and independence in investigating and prosecuting these sorts of cases. Now their enemies want those advances reversed. Across Central America, public […]

A burned truck outside al-Rawdah mosque a day after a terrorist attack killed hundreds of worshipers, northern Sinai, Egypt, Nov. 25, 2017 (AP photo by Tarek Samy).

Egypt and Israel have a shared interest in the defeat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate. But when that offshoot—which calls itself Wilayat Sinai, or Sinai Province—is snuffed out, what happens next in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula is unclear, and the interests of these allies of convenience begin to diverge. Since 2011, jihadi militants in Egypt’s North Sinai governorate, who declared their allegiance to the Islamic State in November 2014, have threatened the security of both Egypt and Israel. Before joining the Islamic State, one of the jihadis’ goals was driving a wedge between the two neighboring states. Through […]

Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his wife, Juliana Adawa, arrive for the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 6, 2017 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

Presiding over the Group of 20 seemed like a good idea back in 2016, when Argentina outmaneuvered India for this year’s presidency. The rotating leadership gig was supposed to showcase Argentina’s political and economic transformation after years of international isolation and scandal at home, and offer a chance at global leadership. Instead, largely as a result of jolting policy changes in the United States under President Donald Trump, Argentine President Mauricio Macri landed a burdensome assignment. So far, the G-20 warm-up meetings ahead of the November Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires have not rocked the influential forum, whose members represent […]

Iraqis wait in line to vote next to ruins from the battle to oust Islamic State militants, Mosul, Iraq, May 12, 2018 (AP photo by Maya Alleruzzo).

Iraqis and outside observers alike are still making sense of the surprise results of last weekend’s elections, the country’s first since the violent rise and fall of the Islamic State. In the biggest shock, the populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s political coalition—a nationalist, non-sectarian alliance between his political movement, secular activists and the Iraqi Communist Party, known as Sairoon—won the most seats in parliament. Trailing just a few seats behind were the pre-election favorite, the Nasr Alliance of incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the Fateh Alliance led by Hadi al-Ameri, whose list represents a majority of paramilitary groups associated […]

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivers his opening address during the 32nd ASEAN Summit, Singapore, April 28, 2018, (AP photo by Yong Teck Lim).

The announcement last week that Singapore will be the site of the summit on June 12 between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un—just a week after it will host the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier security forum—once again put the city-state in the international spotlight. But within its own region of Southeast Asia, Singapore already faced a year of heightened attention and expectations. It holds the annual rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations amid a series of domestic, regional and global challenges, and has recently become a more vocal defender of the […]

A protest against the inauguration of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 14, 2018 (AP photo by Nasser Nasser).

Overturning seven decades of U.S. policy and international consensus, President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital marked a turning point in the prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement based on the principle of two independent states. Trump once insisted that his decision should not translate into an official American position on any of the so-called final status issues for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Yet, contradicting his own statements, he also stressed that by “taking Jerusalem off the table,” Palestinians and Israelis would somehow get past Jerusalem and “don’t have to talk about it anymore,” even though the city’s […]

Riot police try to keep protesters away from migrants during clashes at the port of Mytilene, on the Greek island of Lesbos, April 22, 2018 (Eurokinissi photo via AP).

ATHENS—“Burn them alive!” The sinister shouts of far-right thugs to migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos last month made news all over the world. The thugs had attacked and injured hundreds of refugees camping in the central square of Mytilene, the island’s capital. The police didn’t intervene. While many hoped it was a one-off, the scenes were repeated two weeks ago, when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited the island. The same far-right groups attacked activists, journalists and even police officers. Again, no arrests were made. For those following Greek politics, this might sound all too familiar. […]

Newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad leaving the National Mosque of Malaysia after Friday prayers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 11, 2018 (AP photo by Sadiq Asyraf).

In a result few pollsters and analysts predicted, including myself, last week Malaysia’s opposition coalition, led by 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, defeated the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Najib Razak in national elections that marked the first transfer of power in Malaysia’s modern history. The long-dominant United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, and the coalition it leads, Barisan Nasional, have governed Malaysia since its independence in 1957. To the Najib government’s credit, despite rumors on election night and the following morning that it would take measures to defraud the voters, or prevent a change of government, the transition […]

A Chinese Wing Loong 2 reconnaissance and combat drone on display at the Dubai Airshow, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 12, 2017 (Sputnik photo by Sergey Mamontov via AP).

In another move meant to break with his predecessor, President Donald Trump last month announced new export policies for U.S. drones. In presenting Trump’s policy shift, Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy, said it “will level the playing field by enabling U.S. firms to increase their direct sales to authorized allies and partners.” The media reaction was hyperbolic, with one outlet asking whether the policy now meant Trump could “sell deadly drones to dictators,” and another stating in its headline that “Trump offers deadly U.S. drones to more countries.” But does the move simply harken […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at their recent summit, Wuhan, China, April 27, 2018 (Photo by India’s Ministry of External Affairs via AP).

The historic inter-Korean summit on April 27 drew global attention, but it overshadowed another important meeting that began the same day between two other neighbors in Asia with their own fraught history. Billed as an “informal summit” between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, China, it was a welcome development in their strained relationship that revealed the domestic priorities driving both countries in the short term, as well as the strategic undercurrents that are shaping the Asia-Pacific. Modi’s visit to the central Chinese city of Wuhan was seen by some as an effort to […]

Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo, is sworn in for a second term, Libreville, Gabon, Sept. 27, 2016 (AP photo by Jeremi Mba).

Last week, a significant number of Gabon’s top politicians suddenly found themselves out of work. On April 30, the country’s Constitutional Court delivered a surprise ruling that dissolved the National Assembly, the lower house of Gabon’s parliament, and called for the government to step down. Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet complied the next day, issuing a letter of resignation on behalf of himself and his ministers. At first glance, the ruling appeared to be a straightforward rebuke of the government’s failure to hold legislative elections, which are now nearly 18 months overdue. “It is clear that the government has not been […]

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