Not even two weeks after being appointed as the new head of Saudi Arabia’s foreign intelligence agency, Prince Bandar bin Sultan is again in the news, this time because of unconfirmed rumors that he has been assassinated. Bandar, who served as the Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, largely disappeared from the world stage since being recalled from that post. His return to the spotlight through his promotion this month is seen as part of a shift toward a more hawkish Saudi Arabian foreign policy as the kingdom faces major challenges in the region, including but […]

Turkey’s defense procurements to date have focused heavily on defensive systems aimed at the former Soviet Union and offensive systems designed to attack the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Backed by the safety and security offered by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s collective security guarantee, as well as between 60 and 70 American tactical nuclear weapons stationed on Turkish soil, Ankara revamped its national security strategy in October 2010. In a sharp departure from the past, Ankara announced that it was removing old foes Iran, Iraq, Greece and Russia from the list of countries considered to be a threat and embarking […]

Last week, when the head of the Russian navy, Vice Adm. Viktor Chirkov, was quoted saying that Russia was seeking access to naval maintenance and supply facilities in Cuba, Vietnam and the Seychelles, the Russian government quickly denied the reports. The Russian navy abandoned almost all such overseas facilities more than a decade ago to save money and because it no longer had a global mission. Significantly, however, the government has not challenged Chirkov’s statement that Russia would construct new aircraft carriers starting after 2020. “At the moment,” Chirkov told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, “the construction bureau has […]

Zimbabwe recently announced it was moving ahead with plans to require foreign-owned banks to give 51 percent ownership to locals. In an email interview, Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, a professor in the department of development studies at the University of South Africa, discussed Zimbabwe’s indigenization program. WPR: What is the political and economic strategy behind Zimbabwe’s move to indigenize ownership in various sectors over the past few years? Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni: Over the past 10 years, Zimbabwe has consolidated itself into a typical nationalist state as opposed to a neo-colonial state. The leitmotif of this nationalist state has been the ideology […]

Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi officially green-lighted construction of its first nuclear power plant, under the stewardship of the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), at the Braka site located just west of the Emirati capital. The historic construction marks the first nuclear power plant on the Arabian Peninsula and highlights how the oil-flush region has been forced to recalibrate its energy strategy in light of soaring demand for electricity. The move also acts as a soft hedge against the potential weaponization of Iran’s nuclear program, which is a primary security concern for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its neighbors […]

The downgrade warning issued to Germany by the credit rating agency Moody’s last week has shaken German public opinion and raised the question of whether Berlin can bear the costs of extricating the eurozone from its ongoing sovereign debt crisis. The question of what Germany can bear has two components: One involves the financial costs, while the other has to do with what German public opinion can support. Of the two, the answer to the latter question is easier to determine: According to recent polls, 70 percent of Germans are fed up with the euro crisis and increasingly convinced that […]

In “The Imperial Presidency: Drone Power and Congressional Oversight,” Michael Cohen argues persuasively that the U.S. Congress has abdicated its constitutional and statutory responsibility to reign in the executive branch in matters of national security policy. Then again, few who have been paying attention this past decade — some would say, the past several decades — need much convincing on that point. Yet, while I agree with Cohen that we desperately need Congress to do its job here as a matter of principle, it’s far from clear that it would change our policy. Cohen cites the extraordinary decision to kill […]

With his grip over Syria apparently loosening, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has abandoned the border area between Syria and Turkey, allowing Kurdish militants to take control of several towns in northern Syria. The development heightens the possibility of involvement by Iraqi Kurds as well as by Turkey, introducing new tensions to the Syrian conflict. “Syria is fragmenting, and for the first time in recent history Kurds are taking matters into their own hands,” said Hugh Pope, Turkey and Cyprus project director for the International Crisis Group. Pope explained that it is still unclear whether Syrian Kurds will unite to push […]

Last week, after the United Nations Security Council again deadlocked on the Syrian issue, calls were heard for Western and Middle Eastern powers to pursue a Kosovo-style intervention that would bypass the council altogether to bring about regime change in Damascus. At the beginning of this week, a spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Jihad Makdissi, declared that while the Syrian government would never unleash its previously unconfirmed stockpiles of chemical weapons to suppress the rebellion, it might use them in the event that “Syria faces external aggression.” Just as Syria’s downing of a Turkish RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft in late-June […]

Among countries that exemplify poorly managed economies, Afghanistan figures prominently. Many factors currently weigh down the Afghan economy, including negative current account balances, unrestrained government spending, low productivity, negligible income taxes, years of cheap and fraudulent lending and widespread graft. The prospects for the future are no more optimistic. The impending international troop drawdown combined with inadequate security and looming uncertainty beyond 2014 have made the country a financial no-go zone for foreign investors. Afghanistan is beginning to suffer from the departure of the large sums of foreign capital and investment it has largely depended on for years. Reportedly, every […]

Ghanaian President John Atta Mills died Tuesday, three days after turning 68 years old and five-and-a-half months before the end of his first term in office. In other African countries, the death of political leaders has often led to political crises, including coups, such as Togo in 2005 and Guinea in 2008. But in Ghana, which has long been held up as a model of democracy for Africa, the peaceful transfer of power following the death of the president has only improved its reputation. “That John Dramani Mahama, Mills’ vice president, would be sworn in within hours of Mills’ death […]

The recent national elections in Libya have drawn attention to the country’s postconflict transition. But overshadowed by the international community’s ongoing failure to contain the crisis in Syria, the positive international role in Libya has gone largely overlooked. The success of Libya’s elections for a National Congress is in part due to the deep engagement of the international community, led by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Bucking the trend of many recent postwar interventions, however, this assistance has not come in the form of a large-scale operation. As such, it may present a new model for postconflict […]

Since the wave of uprisings started rolling across the Middle East some 19 months ago, Israel has looked like the relatively quiet eye of a giant, fast-moving storm. The region’s raging winds of revolution have not battered Israel’s territory with great intensity, but as they whip furiously from one country to another, they are transforming the landscape, demolishing long-standing structures, igniting fires and creating a new level of anxious uncertainty. Israel rightly sees itself as a strong country, but one facing numerous enemies and a growing list of threats. That perception could have major implications. Israel continues to possess on […]

The British government revealed plans in early July to restructure the British army, including cutting the number of regular soldiers from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020. In an email interview, Michael Codner, the director of the military sciences department at the Royal United Services Institute in London, discussed the U.K.’s defense cuts. WPR: What are the concrete consequences, in terms of force size and capabilities, of the defense cuts the U.K. has announced? Michael Codner: The cuts in the army, as well as to the Royal Marines, who were affected through the earlier 18 percent cuts to the navy, are […]

In the month since Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran published “Little America,” his brutal review of the U.S. and allied war effort in Afghanistan, it has been interesting to observe the reactions from the various tribes of the Beltway. No one escapes criticism in Chandrasekaran’s narrative, this columnist included, but the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Marine Corps come under especially heavy fire. The reaction from the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. military as a whole has been to add the book and its criticisms to the list of lessons that need […]

A remarkable transformation is underway in a country where most people were nomadic herders a generation ago. Mongolia has the fastest-growing economy in the world, with GDP increasing by more than 17 percent last year. It sits on vast precious metal and mineral resources: The 10 biggest deposits alone are estimated to be worth almost $1.5 trillion. Given all this wealth in a country of only 3 million people, Mongolia has the potential to become an Asian version of Norway. However, popular anger is growing as fast as the economy. Despite the “gold rush,” the poverty rate increased between 2008 […]

Prior to the disruptions that have swept the Middle East and North Africa since 2011, Algeria had achieved a comfortable balance between its internal and external strategic priorities. Now it faces the challenge of repositioning itself both within a region in flux and in relation to its main international alliances with France, the U.S. and — as its main supplier of arms — Russia. On the plus side, Algeria has weathered the storms of regional change well since early 2011, even if this has come at the expense of looking increasingly out of sync with the rapidity and depth of […]

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