Workers at a trading facility for charcoal from Somalia, in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 5, 2013 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

The bitter Arab rivalry in the Persian Gulf is reshaping traditional spheres of influence and exacerbating fault lines farther south, in the Horn of Africa, the continent’s most volatile region. The spat between fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which began a year ago when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led an embargo of neighboring Qatar that shows no sign of ending, has sparked frantic diplomatic and economic activity across the Red Sea, with serious security consequences. Thrust center-stage into these changing political geographies is Somalia, among the world’s poorest and most conflict-prone countries. The fragile nation, […]

Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is greeted by former Haitian President Michel Martelly at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Aug. 13, 2013 (AP photo by Dieu Nalio Chery).

They may be far from East Asia, but Central America and the Caribbean have become important battlegrounds as Taiwan tries to stave off further international isolation. The regions occupy a disproportionately large place in Taiwan’s foreign relations, home to 13 of its 32 technical missions, and 10 of its 18 embassies—more than Asia and Africa combined. Yet in the past year, China has pulled away two of Taiwan’s oldest allies there, Panama and most recently the Dominican Republic, which severed its diplomatic ties to Taiwan this spring, enticed by some $3 billion in Chinese incentives, according to Taipei. Panama’s decision […]

Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika, at a news conference during the U.S.-Africa Summit at the Institute of Peace in Washington, Aug. 6, 2014 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

Malawi’s next presidential election is still nearly a year away, yet the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, is already facing potential challenges from unlikely corners. Recent indications that former President Joyce Banda as well as Saulos Chilima, Mutharika’s own vice president, may mount bids for the country’s top office, combined with a spate of protests against persistent corruption and economic stagnation, underscore widespread disappointment with Mutharika’s record so far. But any opposition candidates will have a tough time defeating the incumbent at the ballot box, which means Malawian voters have every reason to be skeptical that genuine reforms addressing their country’s most […]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, review an honor guard, Moscow, Russia, June 21, 2018 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

South Korean President Moon Jae-in returned from a three-day visit to Russia on Sunday, the first South Korean leader to make a state trip there since 1999. In Moscow, Moon addressed the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, held talks with President Vladimir Putin, and signed agreements to expand economic cooperation. He capped off the visit with a World Cup match between South Korea and Mexico in the southern port city of Rostov-on-Don. Putin’s aims in hosting Moon seem straightforward enough. He wants to mitigate the hostility he faces from the West by reaching out in the other […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Robert Fico, Slovakia’s prime minister at the time, during a meeting in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Aug. 25, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

BRATISLAVA—Slovakia, a NATO member that has called itself part of the “core of the European Union,” may talk positively about its Western orientation, but its actions recently suggest an increasingly closer alignment to Russia and its interests in Europe. Many observers point to the junior partner in its coalition government, the Slovak National Party, or SNS, as the reason why. The party’s nationalist, euroskeptic leader, Andrej Danko, the speaker of the Slovak parliament, has visited Moscow twice in the past eight months. Earlier this month, Slovakia’s Defense Ministry, which is headed by a member of the SNS, postponed a long-awaited […]

Women watch on a big screen lawmakers vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 14, 2018 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

On June 13, members of the lower house of Argentina’s Congress held an all-night debate on a decisive bill that would legalize voluntary abortion through the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy. Over 11 hours into the debate, lawmaker Fernando Iglesias held up a world map color-coded with each country’s stance on abortion. It showed the United States, Australia and most of Europe and Asia in green, signifying pro-choice legislation. South America and Africa were mostly in red, or orange, representing a complete ban or tight restrictions on abortion. “Think about just one other country you want Argentina to look […]

The empty U.S. seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, one day after Washington announced its withdrawal, Geneva, Switzerland, June 20, 2018 (Keystone photo by Martial Trezzini via AP).

For months, the Trump administration has threatened to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Finally, on June 19, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, jointly announced that the United States was leaving the body, charging that it was a “protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias” against Israel. On one level, it should not come as a surprise that President Donald Trump chose to exit yet another U.N. organization—last year, he ditched UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural body, over what his administration also called its “anti-Israel bias.” […]

Greek opponents of the name deal between Greece and Macedonia protest in the village of Pisoderi, near the border with Macedonia in northern Greece, June 17, 2018 (AP photo by Giannis Papanikos).

What many have long viewed as one of the most ridiculous disputes in international politics may finally come to an end, thanks to an agreement reached last week. Following months of quiet negotiations with neighboring Greece, Macedonia announced it will change its name. If all goes to plan, by the end of the year, the country will cease to be the Republic of Macedonia or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as it is officially known at the United Nations. Instead, it will become the Republic of North Macedonia. The name issue emerged with the collapse of Yugoslavia in the […]

Ivan Duque celebrates his victory in the presidential runoff election, Bogota, Colombia, June 17, 2018 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Bogota—Colombia’s new president-elect, Ivan Duque, has promised to unite a divided country behind his plans to toughen the landmark peace accord with the former FARC guerrillas when he takes office later this year. The right-wing former senator comfortably won Sunday’s run-off election with 54 percent of the vote against his leftist rival, Gustavo Petro, who garnered 42 percent. Duque, who will turn 42 just before taking office on Aug. 8, will be the youngest elected head of state in Colombia’s 132-year history as a republic. His running mate, Martha Lucia Ramirez, who is a former minister of defense, will be […]

Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, greets the crowd upon his arrival at the National Sports Stadium for celebrations marking the country’s independence anniversary, Harare, Zimbabwe, April 18, 2018 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Since his elevation to the presidency following the November 2017 military intervention that removed Zimbabwe’s longtime ruler Robert Mugabe from power, Emmerson Mnangagwa has embarked upon a global charm offensive. This has been designed to restore the country’s reputation, which was badly battered by the turmoil triggered by Mugabe’s violent land seizures; repression of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC; and a series of rigged elections. In stark contrast to the belligerent anti-imperialist rhetoric of Mugabe, Mnangagwa has adopted the vocabulary of “reform” while seeking to build bridges to previous adversaries such as Britain and […]

People from Pakistan’s tribal areas participate in a rally demanding the release of suspects being held because of their alleged links to militants, Karachi, Pakistan, April 8, 2018 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

Last month, Pakistan made one of the most important political moves in its 70-year history. Parliament passed legislation, officially the 25th Constitutional Amendment Bill, which paves the way for the merger of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas with the neighboring province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. On May 31, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain signed the bill into law. Pakistan’s tribal belt will now come under the writ of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial government. North Waziristan, South Waziristan and the rest of Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies will become districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. No longer will they be loosely administered by national government representatives known as political […]

Pedro Deschamps helps workers hired by FEMA install a temporary awning roof at his house, which suffered damage during Hurricane Maria, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Carlos Giusti).

As the Caribbean prepares to face another hurricane season, its islands are still confronting the toll of last year’s disasters. Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which tore through the Caribbean last September, led to many deaths, possibly up to 5,000 in Puerto Rico alone, and caused upwards of $100 billion in damage. In the typical way of natural disasters, many islands were spared, while others nearby were devastated. Although much of the attention has focused on the plight of Puerto Rico, other severely affected islands include Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, Antigua and […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, hold talks, United Arab Emirates, April 30, 2018 (Kyodo photo via AP).

Japan has been telegraphing its concerns to the United States about the potential impacts of the Trump administration’s decision last month to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. One Japanese official recently acknowledged Tokyo’s anxieties that it may be forced to cut off Iranian oil imports, which have resumed after the nuclear agreement was inked in 2015 and currently total some 170,000 barrels per day. An official from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recently indicated Tokyo does not want that to change and hopes for an exemption from sanctions the U.S. is preparing to impose again on […]

Kenyans take part in an anti-corruption demonstration in downtown Nairobi, May 31, 2018 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

It seemed, at first glance, like a fairly humdrum story about bilateral cooperation among African officials. Earlier this week, The Star, a Kenyan newspaper, reported that lawmakers from Zambia had traveled to Kenya to meet with members of the government’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission at their offices in Nairobi. The Zambians’ goal, the report said, was “to learn how to effectively fight corruption.” In the current political environment in Kenya, however, the story prompted immediate expressions of derision and exasperation. As it made the rounds on social media, a number of Kenyans made clear their conviction that if Zambian officials […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a meeting during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Qingdao, China, June 10, 2018 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

On his five-nation swing through Asia last November, U.S. President Donald Trump touted his administration’s vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The idea of focusing attention and resources on the world’s most populous region, where America’s economic future lies, struck most observers as smart and strategic, although the details remained vague and were difficult to square with his moves to dismantle his predecessor’s trade policies in Asia. But now Trump’s emerging Middle East strategy, marked most of all by his withdrawal last month from the Iran nuclear deal, may derail whatever goals he has in Asia before they get […]

A protest against judicial reforms proposed by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 1, 2017 (AP photo by Alik Keplicz).

With well over a trillion dollars at stake, the next European Union budget has the potential either to strengthen a detente between Poland and Brussels, or become another issue dividing the bloc’s west and east. Further division would undermine Poland’s new prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, whose supposedly technocratic approach has held out the promise of better ties with the EU. Last month, Poland’s minister for European affairs, Konrad Szymanski, called EU plans to link the bloc’s central budgetary payments to the rule of law in member states a “massive power grab.” Earlier in May, the European Commission, the EU’s executive […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen greets garment workers on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 23, 2017 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

In the run-up to Cambodia’s national elections next month, long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power since 1985, has taken no chances of a political shocker similar to the opposition win in nearby Malaysia in early May. To ensure that he and his party triumph again, Hun Sen has in the past year overseen the dissolution of the major opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP; harassed many opposition politicians into exile or tossed them in jail; and torn apart a vibrant and independent Cambodian media. Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, will now […]

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