Over the weekend, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was airlifted out of the country for treatment after suffering a mini-stroke. But while Bouteflika’s doctors said the damage to his health was reversible, their reassurance has not put an end to speculation about a potentially abrupt end to his presidency. “[This news] reminds everyone of Bouteflika’s already questionable health and so reinforces doubt concerning the appropriateness of his rumored candidacy in 2014 for a fourth term,” Hugh Roberts, Edward Keller professor of North African and Middle Eastern history at Tufts University, told Trend Lines in an email interview. “It also raises the […]

Colombia’s long armed conflict against leftist guerrilla groups may be entering its final stages as peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) proceed. The possibility of peace comes after a decade-long military buildup and a series of offensives left both the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) weakened, but not defeated. Colombia, a distant third in population among Latin American countries, now has the region’s second-largest armed forces and its largest army. This buildup turned the tide in the conflict. But it has also altered the Colombian military’s relationship with its civilian leaders. The president […]

The traditional understanding of China’s civil-military relations is that the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was historically symbiotic, without functional differentiation or institutional boundaries based on technical specialization. This kind of symbiosis, according to political scientists Amos Perlmutter and William LeoGrande, can be attributed to the legacy of the communists’ guerrilla war in China, which was “a form of politico-military combat in which the fusion of political and military elites is virtually inevitable, and in which the governing of liberated territories is a function performed largely by the guerrilla army itself.” Also […]

While details remain uncertain about who started the fighting and exactly who did what to whom, last week saw a marked escalation in rhetoric and violence between mostly Sunni Arab protesters and Iraqi government forces under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s control. Peaceful protests turned into armed camps. Dozens were killed in the most intense clashes with security forces since Iraq’s virtual civil war in 2006-2007. The Iraqi state is today much better equipped to hold its own against armed adversaries than it was six or seven years ago, when the U.S. played a crucial role in ending sectarian fighting, not […]

The recent review conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which took place April 8-19, addressed many important issues, including the need to completely eliminate the Russian and U.S. Cold War-era arsenals; states of proliferation concern that have refused to join the CWC; suspected chemical weapons use in Syria; tensions over technology-sharing and export controls; and the growing financial resource constraints on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has the lead responsibility for administering and verifying the convention. But overshadowing all these issues are revolutionary and interrelated changes in chemistry, biology and nano and information technologies. […]

With the introduction of multiparty politics, and in particular with the adoption of the 1961 constitution, civil-military relations in Turkey came to be characterized by a duality of governance: a powerful military with an autonomous influence over politics alongside a weak civilian government, reduced to a virtual facade by the presence of the military. The military, and the small civilian elite that worked closely with it, basically called the final shots on major issues. Matters of high politics, such as foreign policy, national security and overall strategic vision, were managed by the military-centric “state,” while issues of low politics, such […]

Australia last sat on the Security Council in 1985-1986, and there was no great enthusiasm when the current Labor government announced it would seek one of the council’s rotating, nonpermanent seats for the current period. The opposition and much of the media claimed it would involve unnecessary expense, require concessions on policy to win over uncommitted votes and be unlikely to succeed. In something of a geographic absurdity, Australia has to compete with Western European states for a Security Council seat, and Finland and Luxembourg were already vying for the 2013-2014 seats at the time Australia tossed its hat into […]

There was a small but striking increase in the chances of a Western intervention in Syria last week. The Obama administration not only confirmed that it is “very likely” that the Syrian military has “used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria” but also added that “the United States and international community have a number of potential responses available, and no option is off the table.” Secretary of State John Kerry privately briefed Congress on options ranging from diplomatic actions to a no-fly zone. All this has been in line with previous U.S. warnings to the Syrian government against […]

On April 24, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a committee charged with opening negotiations with militant group Boko Haram and preparing for a possible amnesty deal. In an email interview, Jennifer Giroux, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich who specializes in conflict in energy-producing and transit regions, explained what the process might entail as well as the obstacles it faces. WPR: What would the amnesty proposal currently under consideration for Boko Haram involve? Jennifer Giroux: At the moment there is not an amnesty deal but rather the organization of resources to develop an amnesty […]

Guess who: I’m a G-20 country, ranked 25th out of 139 countries for macroeconomic stability. I’ve got the world’s 16th-largest economy, and analysts think I could crack the top seven by 2030. I’ve averaged 4-6 percent GDP growth over the past decade despite the global economic crisis, and I’ve got the demographics to keep this all on track. If you guessed Indonesia, you’d be right. With stats like these and a population of 240 million to boot, it’s little wonder that corporate executives and governments the world over have begun to take a closer look at the opportunities on offer […]

In his recommendations for the United States to become more actively involved in determining the outcome of the Syrian civil war, Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has fallen victim to one of the more seductive temptations that regularly befall American policymakers: that with enough aggressive leadership and a healthy application of technological acumen, Washington can get other actors to align themselves with and then execute U.S. policy objectives. Summed up, Corker’s policy strategy is to locate the elusive Syrian moderates who, once armed, trained and equipped by the United States, will in […]

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano designated Enrico Letta the country’s new prime minister Wednesday, tasking him with forming a government after months of stalemate. Letta “knows he has a very difficult task ahead of him,” Silvia Francescon, head of the Rome office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Trend Lines. “He said, ‘I feel the weight on my shoulders,’ and he is not sure if he can bear this weight, if his shoulders are strong enough.” But as Francescon wrote in a blog post the day Letta was named, there is no alternative for a country so “hampered by […]

When authorities revealed the identity of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, the news that the two men, Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, were of Chechen origin might have put a smile of satisfaction on Vladimir Putin’s face. After all, the Russian president might have concluded, a terrorist attack by Chechens in America would go some way in vindicating his hard-line approach to Chechen rebels. The fact, however, is that the evidence so far does not support that view. Judging by what we know at this point, while the Tsarnaev brothers came from a Chechen family, their ideology had little […]

Last month, the agricultural ministers of the European Union agreed to significant reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy governing member states. In an email interview, Wyn Grant, a political scientist with research interests in agricultural policy and the European Union, explained the main reforms and how they will be implemented. WPR: What are the main reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy included in the proposal adopted by the Council of the European Union last month? Wyn Grant: It is important to note that the CAP budget proposed for 2014-2020 will be about $20 billion below what the European Commission wanted, […]

The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August 2012 marked the end of an era in contemporary Ethiopian politics. After defeating the brutal Derg regime in 1991, Meles headed the powerful ruling party that led the country of more than 80 million through a massive transformation. But it is a mistake to think of his tenure as a period of one-man rule or his death as creating either a political vacuum or an opportunity for liberal reform, as power, authority and resources never rested in Meles’ hands alone. Meles’ Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) created an Ethiopia based […]

Friday’s ministerial meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, of the Istanbul Process will bring together representatives of 14 regional countries and 16 others to discuss efforts to stabilize Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 2014 withdrawal of Western forces from the country. As the drawdown nears, regional powers are growing increasingly worried. Russia, India, Pakistan and China recognize that the departure of Western forces could allow a resurgence of the Taliban, threatening Afghanistan’s economic and political development and spreading ripples of insecurity throughout the region. Unfortunately, the Istanbul Process is focused on vague confidence-building measures, rather than concrete proposals for Afghan reconciliation. […]

Before the modern era, most nations didn’t spend much time speculating about where their next war would be or who it would involve. Geography largely determined who would fight whom. With the rare exception of invaders from afar, enemies often remained at each other’s throats for decades, even centuries. States knew who they would fight — the only question was when. But the United States is different. With no major enemies nearby, America’s wars have been fought around the world against a wide range of opponents. This meant that U.S. policymakers and military leaders needed to anticipate the location and […]

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