The story reads like a spy novel. The setting is Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. government pays billions of dollars to a mysterious American businessman known to the public only as the owner of a burger-and-beer joint. His mission: grease the right wheels in order to purchase and transport large volumes of fuel for the U.S. military. Accusations that the Kyrgyz government took kickbacks from these shady deals lead to the toppling of its leader. The Russians, as top fuel suppliers in the region, get involved, followed by the Chinese. Relations among governments grow strained. Meanwhile, dogged journalists find that the mysterious […]

More on a Military Intervention in Libya

To be clearer about what I had in mind when I wrote yesterday that the U.S. should be preparing military options for Libya, I think the no-fly zone is a red herring. It’s essentially shorthand for, “Do something, but make sure it’s sanitized so there are no messy consequences.” The problem is that it won’t be sanitized, and it’s unlikely to have a significant impact. It also requires an ongoing operation and commitment of resources. If we are going to make that kind of extended commitment, it should be in terms of logistical support — humanitarian, organizational and military — […]

When Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi reacted to popular demonstrations by shooting protesters, he triggered a torrent of international condemnation. Gadhafi and his harsh crackdown became the target of pointed denunciations by the international community and by top government officials on every continent. There was, however, one region where Gadhafi found words of support from a number of powerful leaders: Latin America. The reaction to events in Libya and other Middle Eastern country from leftist leaders in Latin America says much about their worldview, about the way they define themselves and about their commitment to their political principles. Consider Nicaraguan President […]

Gadhafi Forces Hit Central Libya Oil Facilities

Fighting continued in Libya Wednesday near the oil port Ras Lanouf, as rocket and artillery exchanges highlighted the closely-fought battle between Moammar Gadhafi loyalists and rebel forces, who have struggled for control of the oil port city in recent days.

Who is ready to talk to Moammar Gadhafi? Last week, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela announced that his Libyan counterpart and longtime ally would accept an international “Committee of Peace” to end the rebellion that threatens to destroy him. Rebel leaders in Benghazi dismissed the proposal out of hand. Yet there is a good chance that outside mediators — if not necessarily Chávez — will eventually play a part in ending the Libyan civil war. A negotiated end could in fact come quite soon if the rebels regain their early momentum and push on to Tripoli. Although Gadhafi says he […]

The battle against piracy off the coast of Somalia is not going well, with pirates continuing to attack and seize vessels and, in some cases, becoming more violent. The recent deaths of four American missionaries at the hands of pirates served to highlight the helplessness of the world navies gathered in the Gulf of Aden: Four American warships, including the USS Enterprise, monitored the situation, but none were able to prevent the tragedy. While the multinational naval flotilla — primarily CTF-151, but including some other navies — off Somalia has seen some notable successes, it has not defeated the pirates […]

Changing Business as Usual in Libya and at Home

I have to admit that I have been very tempted by the argument — best expressed, to my mind, by Thomas P.M. Barnett, here and here — that the U.S. should take some sort of military action to make sure that Moammar Gadhafi does not hold onto power in Libya. The idea that there are no American interests at stake is based on such a narrow definition of American interests that I find it not very compelling at all. And the calls for restraint, while sound as a guide to U.S. policy in general, seem strikingly out of place here. […]

Global Insider: Brazil-Venezuela Relations

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota recently paid his country’s first high-level visit to Venezuela since the inauguration of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in January. In an e-mail interview, Kurt Weyland, professor of Latin American politics at the University of Texas at Austin, discussed Brazil-Venezuela relations. WPR: What is the recent history of Brazil-Venezuela relations? Kurt Weyland: Economic exchange between Brazil and Venezuela has intensified greatly in recent years, and political relations have been officially close, despite a divergence of interests beneath the surface. Brazil has taken great advantage of the oil-fueled boom that Venezuela experienced in the 2000s, selling increasing […]

WPR on France 24: The World Last Week

I had the pleasure of taking part in France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, on Friday. The other guests were Matthew Saltmarsh of the IHT, Billie O’Kadameri of Radio France International and Simon Kuper of Financial Times. The discussion focused on events in Libya, but we also covered Ivory Coast and the resignations of former French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodore zu Guttenberg. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here. I recommend the discussion on Libya in particular, because Billie O’Kadameri offered some very useful insights into […]

With Indian newspapers still carrying obituaries of the country’s strategic doyen, K. Subhramanyam, who passed away in February after almost a half-century at the forefront of New Delhi’s strategic debates, it is worth considering the object of Subhramanyam’s concern during his final days: the implications for India of a proposed U.S.-China grand strategy agreement hammered out by a group of policy experts in Washington and Beijing. The document proposed a series of strategic compromises between China and the U.S., including a massive Chinese investment in the U.S. economy in return for an informal nonaggression pact, particularly with regard to the […]

Last month, the Philippines deported 14 Taiwanese citizens suspected of fraud to China, a move largely seen in the international community as legally justified but diplomatically tone-deaf. The Philippines justified the decision by claiming that the 14 were Chinese, not Taiwanese, in a de facto denial of Taiwan’s separate sovereignty from the mainland. Manila’s snub of Taipei, its longtime friend and partner, speaks to an Asian region increasingly willing to accede to Beijing on issues touching on Taiwan’s sovereignty. Legal issues aside, the row has exposed how much the self-ruled island’s already minimal global leverage has dwindled beside that of […]

When this article was commissioned back in December, its aim was to provide readers with an understanding of the players and scenarios for a leadership succession in Egypt. Just who would rule the country when President Hosni Mubarak eventually relinquished power had been a central question in Egyptian politics for the better part of the last decade. The most oft-mentioned contenders were Mubarak’s second son, Gamal, and his close adviser, Lt. Gen. Omar Suleiman, then the chief of the General Intelligence Service. Rumors of Gamal Mubarak’s ascendance began in earnest around 1999 when, after a stint at Bank of America […]

Who’s in charge in North Korea? Contrary to what some news coverage has suggested in recent months, the answer is obvious: Kim Jong Il. Ever since the North Korean leader suffered a stroke in the summer of 2008, media reports have been rife with speculation that he would soon give way to a successor, or else that a struggle for power was raging in Pyongyang. Much of that speculation was idle, little of it informed, and some of it motivated. North Korea may be opaque, but this much is clear to close observers of its hermetic ruling circles: In January […]

One of the mysteries of Iran’s nuclear program is the fact that, despite periodic warnings about how close Tehran is to acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, the Iranian nuclear program is proceeding at a slower speed than that of earlier nuclear weapons states. Whereas Pakistan and North Korea needed only some 10 years to develop atomic bombs, Iran has had a nuclear program for almost three decades without producing a weapon. Various explanations could explain this deliberate pace. Iranian leaders might still be debating their nuclear weapons options and not yet committed to pursuing a nuclear weapon or capability. Iran’s […]

In November 2010, the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, traveled to the United States for medical treatment, touching off rounds of fevered speculation about the prospects for succession in Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz’s own frail health and recent convalescence in Morocco gave the speculation further life. Of course, due to the royal family’s opaque approach to the issue, discussions of the internal rivalries that are reputed to divide the royal family are often based on mere conjecture. With little concrete information upon which to ground analysis, each decision of the royal family is then […]

Ordinary Ivorians Feel Pinch of Sanctions Aimed at Incumbent President

Fighting in Ivory Coast between two political factons has expanded — causing more Ivorians to flee their homes and exacerbating the country’s economic crisis. With President Laurent Gbagbo clinging to power, the humanitarian situation is worsening.

Philippines Asks China to Explain Ship Confrontation

A tense encounter on the South China Sea found a Philippine survey ship approached by two Chinese vessels, threatening to ram the survey ship. The area where the conflict happened contains large oil and mineral deposits and is claimed by many countries as their own. The Philippines is demanding an explanation from China over an incident.

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