Earlier this week, South Korea made the surprising announcement that it intended to sign a landmark military pact with Japan today. But faced with domestic criticism over the potential partnership, South Korea postponed signing the General Security of Military Information Agreement. As historical tensions between the two countries continue to hamper their attempts to develop a closer relationship, the fate of the treaty remains unclear. “There is just an overriding common interest on the part of South Korea and Japan to share some critical information, especially about North Korea,” Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the […]

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently convened a meeting of Arab leaders in Baghdad to discuss cooperation on water issues. In an email interview, Annika Kramer, a senior project manager at the German think tank Adelphi, discussed the state of cooperation on water in the Middle East. WPR: What is the current state of water management cooperation in the Middle East? Annika Kramer: Cooperation in water resources management only takes place to a very limited extent in the Middle East. None of the main transboundary river basins in the region — the Euphrates-Tigris, the Jordan and the Nile basin — […]

The verdict is in: There will be no honeymoon for Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Many analysts were struck by the nonverbal cues in the two leaders’ body language after their first meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, earlier this month. The era of close, warm interpersonal relations between Russian and American presidents, dating back to “Boris and Bill” in the 1990s, has officially come to a close. With both Putin and Obama disinclined to even parrot the motions of friendship before the television cameras, an opportunity beckons to sweep away the “feel good” […]

The rule of law remains fragile in Latin America, and, once undermined, it is difficult to re-establish. That has been the painful lesson learned by Honduras since the legally dubious 2009 ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, an event that U.S. diplomats, at least in leaked cables, have referred to as a coup d’état. And it is one that Paraguay might learn after the abrupt removal of President Fernando Lugo via congressional impeachment last weekend. Ever since the 2009 crisis, Honduras has been dogged by rapidly growing governance deficits and rising lawlessness, driving ever-deeper involvement by U.S. counternarcotics forces in the […]

A confidential report by a United Nations group of experts that was leaked to the media has led to rising tensions between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. The report follows recent allegations of Rwandan backing for a mutiny by elements of the Congolese army in April, when soldiers in eastern Congo defected and formed the March 23 Movement rebel group. The U.N. group of experts found that Rwanda has played a pivotal role by providing direct support not only to M23, but also to other armed groups in the area. “Apparently Rwanda has been involved in […]

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a warning to Syrian forces Tuesday to stay away from the border after Syria shot down an unarmed Turkish RF-4E reconnaissance plane last week. In an email interview, Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based writer and analyst, discussed the state of Turkey’s air force. WPR: What is the current state of the Turkish air force? Gareth Jenkins: Turkey has one of the largest and best-equipped air forces in the greater Middle East. Its main strike force consists of F-16s together with F-4s and F-5s. In recent years, the air force has received a disproportionately large […]

The latest round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries came to a stalemate in Moscow last week, as the two sides once again failed to bridge their differences. Although the previous meeting in Istanbul generated some optimism that a mutually satisfactory solution to Iran’s nuclear program could be within reach, these hopes turned out to be premature in light of the negotiating positions the parties have taken over the past several months. It is now obvious that Western powers were wrong to expect that increased unilateral economic sanctions on Iran could effect some change in Iran’s negotiating […]

Just hours after Mohammed Morsi delivered his conciliatory first speech as Egypt’s president-elect, Iran dropped a bombshell: According to a report on Fars, Iran’s semi-official news agency, the new Egyptian leader had told an Iranian reporter that he planned to transform the political landscape of the Middle East. Morsi, Fars reported, was “enthusiastic” about expanding ties with Tehran, aiming to create “a strategic balance” in the region. In addition, the report said, Morsi would “reconsider” the Camp David Accord, Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. The news threatened to puncture Washington’s hopes for a constructive, cooperative relationship with a democratic Egypt […]

Syria shot down a Turkish warplane last week, raising tensions between the neighbors to an all-time high. In an email interview, Sean O’Connor, a contributor to IHS Jane’s and an expert in air defenses, reviewed the state of Syria’s air defenses. WPR: What are Syria’s current air defenses, and what are their particular strengths and vulnerabilities? Sean O’Connor: A comprehensive analysis of available commercial imagery indicates that Syrian strategic air defenses primarily consist of Soviet-era surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems occupying a total of 76 fixed-site locations. A further 101 fixed-site locations are present to serve as either defensive improvements employing […]

After Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley met for the first time on the sidelines of the U.N. Rio+20 Conference in Brazil on June 21, Beijing announced that the two leaders had expressed their willingness to establish diplomatic relations between the neighboring countries. But Thimphu promptly disputed the report, saying Thinley and Wen had only discussed bilateral issues and multilateral cooperation, not diplomatic ties. The statement by China’s Foreign Ministry concerning the meeting reveals Beijing’s desperation to establish formal ties with the Kingdom of Bhutan, a tiny nation of about 700,000 people tucked between China […]

On Sunday, an old Army friend sent me a note to let me know that an officer with whom we both served had died in Afghanistan. I first fought in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, so the fact that friends are still fighting and dying there more than 10 years later gave me pause. Despite President Barack Obama’s promise to reverse the neglect of the Afghanistan War that had marked his predecessor’s time in office, most of the United States is eager to forget the war. So it will be interesting to see the reception that greets Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s […]

Former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was ousted from power Friday, after an impeachment trial found him guilty of mishandling a deadly clash between land reform protesters and police in the north of the country. Vice President Federico Franco was quickly sworn in as president, with Lugo calling the entire process a “parliamentary coup.” Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy at the Washington Office on Latin America, told Trend Lines, “This is not a coup in the traditional sense, because obviously they did not pull out the armed forces, and they at least stayed within the definition of the […]

Kurdistan beat Northern Cyprus earlier this month to claim victory in the 2012 VIVA World Cup, a soccer championship for unrecognized nations. In an email interview, Nina Caspersen a lecturer in politics at the Lancaster University and the author of “Unrecognized States: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Modern International System,” discussed cooperation and coordination between unrecognized states. WPR: What are the main forums unrecognized countries use to press their causes? Nina Caspersen: Very few forums are open to unrecognized states. Their lack of recognition means that they are generally barred from membership of international organizations — not just from […]

Yesterday’s NATO meeting on Syria’s downing of a Turkish RF-4 Phantom reconnaissance jet Friday underscores the growing importance of Turkey and NATO for each other. Syria claims that the shooting occurred when an unidentified jet made a low and threatening overflight deep in Syrian territory, while Turkey insists that Syria knew the plane was Turkish, and that it had already left Syrian air space when it was shot down. The Turkish government decided to invoke Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides for urgent consultations if a member state considers its security interests threatened. It did not call […]

Robust economic growth proved to be elusive in the U.S. and Europe over the past decade, but that certainly was not the case across Asia, Africa and Latin America. From 2003 to 2007, developing countries averaged 7.2 percent in annual economic growth. Further indications that developing economies had effectively delinked from the West came in 2010, when dozens of developing countries recovered to near-record rates of growth while the United States and Europe remained hamstrung by financial and debt crises. China’s rapid industrialization triggered much of this expansion by driving up global commodity prices. In sourcing commodities from other developing […]

The sudden death last week of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Nayyif, the heir apparent to King Abdullah, caught many by surprise. But the latest royal shuffle, which sees Prince Salman becoming the new crown prince, and the even bigger transition expected to occur in the near future given the poor health of the 88-year-old king will likely feature far greater continuity and stability than the political transformations occurring in Egypt and other Arab countries. The purported ideological tug-of-war taking place inside the royal family is a central theme of much of the commentary on Saudi succession scenarios, with the “reactionaries” […]

India is currently finalizing a $500 million contract with South Korean arms manufacturer Kangnam for eight minesweeper vessels. In an email interview, Rajaram Panda, an expert on East Asia and former senior fellow at the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, discussed ties between India and South Korea. WPR: What is the current state of trade and defense ties between India and South Korea, and how have they evolved over the past several years? Rajaram Panda: India-South Korea relations have been developing based on three important pillars. First, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, signed in 2009 and […]

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