Nurses wait in the corridor of a vaccination center where Algerians get the COVID-19 vaccine, Algiers, Feb.3, 2021 (AP photo by Fateh Guidoum).

Many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, or MENA, region have faced critical challenges in ensuring the effective and equitable vaccination of their citizens against COVID-19. With a few exceptions, like Morocco, Israel and several Gulf states, countries in the region have faced difficulties in securing sufficient doses due to logistical constraints, poor planning and vaccine hesitancy. As of mid-August, only 21 percent of the region’s population had received at least one dose, and less than 13 percent were fully vaccinated. This puts the region far behind the developing country average of 36 percent with at least one […]

People demonstrate in defense of media freedom in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In mid-August, Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, or PiS, introduced a bill that would ban non-European ownership of Polish media properties. Detractors saw a blatant attack on TVN, the biggest independent television news source in the country and frequent PiS critic, which is owned by U.S. media conglomerate Discovery. Despite the opposition, PiS pushed the bill through the lower chamber of parliament with the help of some dubious procedural maneuvers and the votes of several MPs from an allied party, sparking widespread—and at times colorful—accusations of political corruption. The resulting political maelstrom leaves Poland with its freedom of […]

A Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles group formation marches to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing, Oct. 1 2019 (Imaginechina photo via AP Images).

Satellite photos recently obtained by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, the Federation of American Scientists, and others appear to show that China is building vast fields of new missile silos in its sparsely populated western region. That has prompted fears that Beijing may be well on its way to possessing a much larger nuclear arsenal than anyone had expected and aspiring to rival the United States and Russia, the two countries that have traditionally dominated the global nuclear order. If this comes to pass, tripolarity will for the first time become the primary feature of that order, with […]

A destroyed tank by the side of the road in western Tigray, Ethiopia, May 1, 2021 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Millions of people in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region are currently at risk of famine, a situation brought on by the government’s invasion of the region last fall after a long-running political dispute, as well as an unofficial blockade imposed on Tigray since June by federal troops, allied Eritrean forces and ethnic militias. Throughout the conflict, reports of unspeakable atrocities have been a near-daily occurrence, and the warring parties appear more resolved than ever to seek victory on the battlefield.  With no end in sight to the fighting, it’s time for the U.S. to accept that its efforts to coax the […]

Protesters hold a rally to mark the March First Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule by a statue symbolizing a wartime “comfort woman” near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, March 1, 2021 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

For East Asia analysts, writing about the long-tortured relationship between Japan and South Korea presents a certain descriptive challenge. How often can stock phrases like “all-time low” or “worst-ever” be re-used? Is it possible to be “at a nadir” more than once? And how, given the protracted downward spiral in ties between the two U.S. allies over the past three years, are we to know when things have truly “hit rock bottom”? If a recent South Korean court ruling is any indication, we may be about to find out. Last week, lawyers representing a group of South Koreans who say […]

Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso holds the “Baston de Mando,” or baton of authority, during an Indigenous ceremony in Tamboloma, Ecuador, May 26, 2021 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

At his swearing-in ceremony as Ecuador’s new president in late May, Guillermo Lasso promised to usher in a new political era in the South American nation ravaged by COVID-19, an economic slump and autocratic hyper-partisanship. “I have not come to satisfy the hate of a few but the hunger of many,” the conservative former banker and Coca-Cola executive told the National Assembly, in a message clearly aimed at healing and unifying the country. “My strength will not come from how much I raise my voice to shout but rather from how much I listen to the people before I speak.” Since then, Lasso, 65, […]

Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye is inaugurated in Gitega, Burundi, June 18, 2020 (AP photo by Berthier Mugiraneza).

On July 1, Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente visited Burundi to mark the country’s Independence Day—the first high-level visit between the two neighbors in years. Apparently seeking to turn the page on years of sometimes violent tensions, Ngirente said, “This is the right time for Burundi and Rwanda to build on our existing strong foundation of historical and cultural linkages in order to achieve prosperity and development.” Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimeye issued a similarly forward-looking statement in response: “Let us leave the past behind, and open a new chapter.”  Only a year ago, few observers of the region would have […]

National Guard soldiers block access to a road in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico, Aug. 30, 2019 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

The United States and Mexico have experienced a significant number of setbacks in their security cooperation over the past year. Although policy differences, mutual accusations of wrongdoing and a degree of distrust have always been inherent aspects of the bilateral relationship, U.S. and Mexican administrations since the late 1990s had generally found ways to work together on the principal issues affecting them. This pragmatic approach was severely tested during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, particularly after the populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, became president of Mexico in December 2018.  With Trump out of office, AMLO […]

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighter, stand guard on their respective sides of the border at a crossing point in Torkham, Khyber district, Pakistan, Aug. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Muhammad Sajjad).

In an address to the nation in early July, President Joe Biden suggested that one of the factors leading him to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan was the “need to focus on shoring up America’s core strengths to meet the strategic competition with China and other nations that is really going to determine our future.” For the past several years, the zeitgeist in Washington has been all about great power competition, or the need to prepare for potential conflict with countries the United States considers “near-peer” adversaries—namely Russia and China, but to a lesser extent, Iran and North Korea as well. The […]

Indian soldiers patrol along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan  in Poonch, about 156 miles from Jammu, India, Dec. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Channi Anand).

Two years ago this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government repealed the special autonomous status of India-administered Kashmir, stripping the region of its statehood and incorporating it into the country as a union territory. The move was denounced by Pakistan, which also claims the disputed region. Bilateral relations—already tense from an escalation of military tensions earlier in 2019—plunged into deep crisis. India-Pakistan ties remained deeply strained until February 2021, when the two rivals signed a cease-fire that pledged to end violence along the de facto border that divides India- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The truce, which came as a major surprise to many observers, […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a military parade, in Nicosia, Cyprus, July 20, 2021 (Turkish Presidency pool photo via AP Images).

Like other foreign powers, Turkey was caught off-guard by the speed of the Taliban’s recent blitz across the country, which has greatly complicated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans. While most NATO countries were happy to wash their hands of the conflict after a grueling 20-year counterinsurgency and nation-building effort, Erdogan was proposing that Turkey continue to provide security for Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.  Erdogan had discussed this idea with U.S. President Joe Biden during their meeting on the margins of the NATO Summit last month, and negotiations with Washington were reportedly ongoing until last week, despite the Taliban’s fervent […]

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi after addressing a media conference at an EU summit in Porto, Portugal, May 8, 2021 (pool photo by Francisco Seco via AP).

During his first six months in office, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has notched several key accomplishments. In June, he secured the European Union’s approval for Italy’s COVID-19 rescue package, totaling 191.5 billion euros, or roughly $224 billion, giving it the largest share of the bloc’s 750-billion-euro pandemic recovery fund. Then, in late July, Draghi’s Cabinet signed off on a contentious overhaul of the Italian justice system, a goal that had eluded many previous governments.  His success might come as a surprise given Italy’s reputation for political tumult. The previous coalition had collapsed at the beginning of the year after months […]

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint that was previously manned by American troops near the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021 (AP photo).

A full accounting of the costs of the United States’ failed intervention in Afghanistan will take years or even decades. But judging from the reactions from overseas to the past week’s events, the debacle has already taken a significant toll on America’s credibility. Justifiably or not, President Joe Biden’s insistence on a complete military drawdown, despite the growing warning signs throughout the summer of a Taliban takeover, has prompted U.S. allies and partners to question whether Washington will uphold its security commitments elsewhere in the world.  From Europe to East Asia to the Middle East, a key takeaway from the […]

A German military aircraft prepares to land at the German camp in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2008 (AP photo by Anja Niedringhaus).

The collapse of the Afghan government over the weekend, culminating in the Taliban’s entry into Kabul and declaration of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, stunned most observers with its rapidity, even if the outcome itself was not a surprise. Ever since it became clear that U.S. President Joe Biden would withdraw U.S. military forces from the country whether or not a peace deal and power-sharing agreement had been reached, the prospect of a Taliban military victory seemed likely, if not necessarily guaranteed. The speed with which the Afghan security forces unraveled, provincial leaders swapped allegiance and the national government dissolved, […]

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar speaks with then-Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Iran’s newly minted president, Ebrahim Raisi, declared during a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar earlier this month that “Iran and India can play a constructive and useful role in ensuring security in the region, especially Afghanistan.” Raisi went on to claim that “Tehran welcomes New Delhi’s role in establishment of security in Afghanistan.” Jaishankar’s two-day visit to Iran to attend Raisi’s inauguration ceremony on Aug. 5  underscored New Delhi’s recent push to deepen engagement with Tehran. This was Jaishankar’s second visit to the country in less than a month. In between the two trips, he also held telephone […]

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Qatar will hold elections for its national legislative body, the Shura Council, for the first time in October. However, rare public demonstrations erupted this week in response to restrictive electoral eligibility requirements, demonstrating that the planned polls entail a degree of risk for the country’s rulers. While the provision for national elections was included in Qatar’s 2003 constitution, they had been repeatedly postponed until this year, partly due to concerns about the prospect of social unrest.  Under the election law that was approved last week by Emir Tamim Bin al Thani, certain Qataris will be able to elect 30 of the 45 members […]

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center left, with Argentine President Alberto Fernandez in Iguala, Mexico, Feb. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Eduardo Verdugo).

Last month, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for the Organization of American States to be replaced “by a body that is truly autonomous, not anybody’s lackey.” AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is popularly known, delivered the remarks during a meeting in Mexico of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, a regional grouping that excludes the United States and Canada. His comments underscored the long-standing perception among many Latin American leaders that the OAS is too closely aligned with Washington, spurring many leaders to try to find alternatives over the years. Persistent mistrust of the OAS has also […]

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