When the writ was dropped a few weeks ago for Canada’s third election in five years, the conventional wisdom was that it would be a dull affair. Canada has weathered the Great Recession better than almost any other advanced industrial nation, and the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper have maintained consistent, if unspectacular leads over the opposition Liberals. The only questions seemed to be whether Harper, who has led a minority government in parliament since 2006, would achieve his long-coveted majority, and who would replace Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff after what was certain to be the third straight defeat […]

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China has signed a series of currency swap agreements since 2008, most recently with New Zealand and Uzbekistan. In an email interview, Daniel McDowell, a doctoral candidate in International Relations at the University of Virginia specializing in International Political Economy, discussed China’s currency swap agreements. WPR: Why is China pursuing currency swap agreements? Daniel McDowell: There are two reasons for these agreements. First, China is concerned about dependence on the U.S. dollar, which is used to settle about half of the world’s international trade transactions. When China accepts payment in dollars, it uses some to buy foreign goods and invests […]

The run-up to the Libya operation created a great deal of buzz in the foreign policy community about the emergence of a new “Obama Doctrine,” one that provides a rationale for the use of U.S. military force to achieve humanitarian ends. But President Barack Obama himself recognizes that he cannot completely dispense with the old Obama Doctrine, which he articulated when he was a candidate for office. The initial view propounded by the then-junior senator from Illinois was one of “restrained engagement” with the rest of the world: liquidating costly overseas military ventures; finding diplomacy-based compromises with other states, rather […]

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Predictably, Israel and the U.S. have reacted to the news of a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal using an outdated lens, whereby the inclusion of Hamas in any Palestinian government rules out the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution. That is most likely true, but it is also irrelevant. The real impact for Israel of the Hamas-Fatah deal, assuming it holds up, is not in its effect on the short-term possibilities, where no peace deal was forthcoming regardless. The impact is on the long-term choices Israel faces. Before the deal, the alternative to a two-state solution was a one-state apartheid system that […]

The Saudi intervention in Bahrain has upped the ante in the Saudi-Iranian cold war, crystallizing it into a wider Sunni-Shiite schism in the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia has reportedly invoked a treaty with Sunni-dominated Pakistan to secure troops to stabilize both Bahrain and its own oil-rich eastern provinces. Riyadh has also asked Turkey to make it clear to Iran that interference in the Gulf states will not be tolerated. At the other end of the spectrum, Shiites worldwide are enraged at what they see as Western duplicity in not stopping Saudi heavy-handedness in Bahrain, while showing solidarity with anti-regime protestors […]

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Under pressure from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Arab League has indefinitely postponed a planned summit meeting in Baghdad. In an email interview, Sean Foley, a Fulbright scholar at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in Kuala Lumpur and author of “The Arab Gulf States: Beyond Oil and Islam,” discussed Iraq-GCC relations. WPR: What has been the state of relations between post-Saddam Iraq and the GCC? Sean Foley: While both Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are energy-producing states allied with Washington, they have poor diplomatic relations. Shiite Arabs dominate Iraq and have close ties […]

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Fierce fighting between rebel groups in South Sudan has prompted some to wonder whether the territory is at risk of becoming a failed state upon achieving its independence from Khartoum this July. With the South slated to take control of 75 percent of Sudan’s oil fields upon secession, observers say the bloodshed is the result of a widening power vacuum in which Southern tribes and local warlordsare jockeying for influence in theterritory’s nascent government. “The main violence is South-on-South, and it has to do with who is going to benefit under the new state and how the money is going […]

The worsening crisis battering Syria threatens more than the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It also carries with it the potential to recast the balance of power in the Middle East, with damaging results for Iran and conceivably disastrous consequences for its allies — Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Given the magnitude of the stakes for these players, one can argue that it would make strategic sense from their perspective to try to lure Israel into a more intense armed conflict: not an all-out war, but clashes powerful enough to garner headlines and capture the attention and emotions […]

After a long and complicated legal battle, Colombian authorities have decided to extradite Venezuelan national Walid Makled to Venezuela to face murder and drug-trafficking charges in his native country, rather than in a U.S. court in Manhattan, where he is also wanted on drug-trafficking charges. Though the decision to send Makled to Venezuela appears to be final, the political implications of his extradition from Colombia — where he was arrested in August 2010 — have just begun to ripple around the region and in Washington. The controversy surrounding Makled, suspected of being one of the region’s most powerful brokers in […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Since the morning of April 22, Thai and Cambodian troops have waged a series of heated firefights along sections of their shared border. The two sides have now traded artillery and small-arms fire for a week, leaving at least 13 soldiers dead on both sides and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from border areas. The initial skirmishes were confined to areas close to Ta Krabey and Ta Moan, two Angkorian temple ruins lying close to the border, but the fighting quickly spread to Preah Vihear, a cliff-top temple some 93 miles to […]

What do policymakers have to read in order to be “informed” on international affairs — or just to be thought of as informed? The question, which Daniel Drezner posed yesterday, is more than just a theoretical exercise, as every summer the Patterson School assigns a list of seven or eight books on international affairs to its new and returning students. Summer reading lists are not uncommon in academia, in both graduate and undergraduate programs. Many universities assign one or more books to give faculty and new students a common intellectual foundation. The Patterson list has a twofold purpose. The first […]

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Earlier this month, voters in Iceland rejected for the second time a referendum that would have implemented a plan to repay the U.K. and the Netherlands for losses stemming from the collapse of Iceland’s banking industry. In an email interview, Fridrik Mar Baldursson, professor of economics at the Reykjavik University School of Business, discussed the Icesave crisis. WPR: What is the background of the Icesave crisis? Fridrik Mar Baldursson: Before the financial crisis, foreign branches of Landsbanki, one of Iceland’s failed banks, collected deposits in Internet savings accounts in the U.K. and the Netherlands marketed under the “Icesave” brand. When […]

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s April 15-16 visit to Kazakhstan marked an important step forward in India’s ties with the rising Central Asian nation. Relations between the two countries have gained momentum since January 2009, when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations. India and Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations in February 1992, with then-Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao paying a visit to Kazakhstan in 1993. Prior to his 2009 visit, Nazarbayev had visited India in 1996 and 2002. In a positive development, Singh and Nazarbayev signed a “Joint Action Plan” on furthering the strategic […]

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With drone attacks, CIA activities and a lack of progress in Afghanistan widening the rift between the United States and Pakistan, the delicate counterterrorism alliance forged between the two after Sept. 11 is coming under increasing scrutiny. “It’s a mistake to presume the U.S. and Pakistan were ever entirely on the same page,” says Stephen Tankel a visiting scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Tankel, who spoke with Trend Lines this morning, explains that, initially, the U.S. was rather narrowly focused on targeting al-Qaida, and was careful not to push then-Pakistani […]

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Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov recently met with Chinese Premier Hu Jintao in Beijing, where the two pledged to increase trade and strategic cooperation. In an email interview, Florent Parmentier, an academic adviser and lecturer at Sciences Po, discussed China-Ukraine relations. WPR: What is the extent of diplomatic and trade relations between China and Ukraine? Florent Parmentier: Ukraine’s interest in China is relatively new, and vice versa: The boom in trade dates back only to 2008. Yulia Tymoshenko, then prime minister of Ukraine, was the first to develop connections with Chinese leaders and notably met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang […]

Currently, the most urgent issue in relations between the United States and Iraq is how many American troops will remain in that country after the end of this year and what roles they will perform. In an effort to galvanize progress on this issue, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Iraq on April 22 bearing a warning: Decision time is now. Since it entered into force at the beginning of 2009, the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, also known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), has governed the U.S. military presence in Iraq. In addition […]

Representing around 40 percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its economic output, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called BRICS countries — came together last week for a leaders summit to show off their growing global heft. The joint statement produced by the one-day meeting on China’s southern resort island of Hainan underscored the need for a realignment of the post-World War II global order based on the untrammelled supremacy of the U.S. The governing structure of international financial institutions, the statement said, “should reflect the changes in the world economy, increasing the […]

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