Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced today that Lt. Gen. Raheel Sharif will succeed Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as Pakistan’s powerful chief of army staff. Kayani, who will retire on Nov. 29 after a six-year tenure, commanded the Pakistani army through a tumultuous time in the country’s history, which included Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s clash with the Supreme Court, imposition of emergency rule and forced ouster; a complex and violent insurgency; antagonism with the U.S.; and economic uncertainty. Kayani was instrumental in transforming the army, enabling it to better cope with current and emerging security threats. He also distanced the army […]

The ink was not dry on the agreement that the United States and its five partners signed with Iran over the weekend before criticism exploded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a historic mistake,” while his economic minister, Naftali Bennett, said, “If five years from now a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal.” Former U.S. diplomat John Bolton called it “abject surrender.” And all of this is just the opening round: During the coming weeks there will be an outpouring of attacks on the agreement. The freshly signed deal is […]

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced today he is seeking to establish a new security dialogue with Indonesia in an effort to repair a bilateral relationship damaged by recent spying revelations. In an email interview, Richard Chauvel, senior lecturer at the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at Victoria University, discussed the security relationship between Australia and Indonesia. WPR: What are the main areas of overlap in security interests between Indonesia and Australia? Richard Chauvel: Indonesia remains Australia’s most important regional relationship. Indonesia shapes Australia’s strategic environment. The air and sea approaches to Australia are through the Indonesian archipelago as […]

If Mozambique has attracted international headlines over the past year, it has been mainly for the return to armed conflict in central Mozambique by the ex-rebels Renamo as well as for new discoveries of world-class gas reserves in the country’s offshore waters. But while the results of Mozambique’s municipal elections, which took place on Nov. 20, have not attracted the same level of international attention, they are an important indicator of the health of political pluralism in a country touted as a post-conflict success story with impressive GDP growth. The election results will influence how the Mozambique government deals with […]

After winning the October 2013 elections, the new Coalition government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott inherited the difficult task of readjusting Australia’s strategic and defense policy. Power shifts in Asia have already begun to challenge fundamental aspects of Australia’s strategic posture. The rise of China and the relative decline of the U.S. position in the Asia-Pacific region potentially put Australia in a difficult position: that of maintaining close relations with both its major ally, the United States, and its most important trading partner, China. If Sino-U.S. relations become even more competitive, Canberra could find itself between a rock and a […]

China’s decision to establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that encompasses its disputed islands with Japan is yet another attempt to expand its territorial claims by presenting neighboring countries with a fait accompli. These power plays aim to augment China’s regional position over time without provoking a major military confrontation or countervailing coalition. But in this case Beijing may have overreached and scored an own goal. Over the past few months, China has engaged in a sustained diplomatic campaign to exploit tensions between Seoul and Tokyo. As part of this effort, Beijing has deftly used its influence over North […]

Over the weekend the U.S.-led international negotiating team and Iran concluded an interim agreement in Geneva intended to verifiably limit Iran’s nuclear program in return for a partial relaxation of international economic pressure. The agreed upon “Joint Plan of Action” covers the next six months while the sides attempt to negotiate a comprehensive final agreement that would resolve the question of Iran’s nuclear status. While President Barack Obama said in a statement following the finalization of the agreement that the Iranian people have a chance at “rejoining the international community,” the nuclear issue is hardly the only obstacle to a […]

The debate about U.S. targeted killing policy has become repetitive and familiar. The policy’s proponents argue that the precision and accuracy of drones keep civilian casualties to a minimum, and that drones are the most viable tool in fighting an asymmetric war, particularly in places that are off-limits to U.S. troops. Opponents of drone strikes argue that civilian casualties are much higher than U.S. government estimates, and that the policy is counterproductive because it leads to the radicalization of a new generation of terrorists. The number of civilian casualties from drone strikes is perhaps the most complicated of these questions, […]

The European Union, most often preoccupied with its economic problems over the past few years, grappled with two strategic challenges last week. The first involved a tug-of-war with Russia over Ukraine. The second centered on Geneva, where the union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, chaired talks on Iran’s nuclear program. The EU appeared to fail the first test, as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych stepped back from approving an association agreement with the bloc under pressure from Moscow. By contrast, the Geneva negotiations culminated in seeming success, as Tehran agreed to temporarily curtail its uranium enrichment in exchange for mild sanctions […]

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The phase one agreement signed in Geneva over the weekend by the P5+1 powers and Iran, though temporary, conditional and fraught with uncertainty, is inarguably good news: It is the first time that Iran has explicitly agreed to freeze or limit parts of its nuclear program, and roll back other parts of it, since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president in 2005. If the deal holds, the next six months will be the first time in eight years that Iran’s nuclear program has been slowed for reasons other than technical difficulties and outside sabotage. It bears noting that the […]

For many in Washington, last month’s two-week shutdown of the federal government is already ancient history, replaced by a focus on the travails of the Obamacare website and feverish speculation about Hillary Clinton’s prospects as a presidential candidate in 2016. But the aftershocks of the shutdown continue to reverberate around the world. In particular, there is concern that President Barack Obama will have difficulty getting Congress, particularly a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, to vote in favor of giving his administration the flexibility it will need to conduct delicate negotiations, both with foes as well as with friends. The continuing negotiations […]

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Voters in the West African nation of Mali will go to the polls this weekend for legislative elections that may offer insight into the country’s uncertain political trajectory. Mali descended into chaos last year, when a coup d’etat in the country’s south paved the way for Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida to take over the northern two-thirds of the country. In late-July, Malians turned out in record numbers for a presidential election that the international community—particularly, France and the U.S.—had been calling for as a condition for unlocking nearly $4 billion in pledged assistance. That election came just six months […]

Last week, Serbia signed a military cooperation agreement with Russia. In an email interview, Jim Seroka, professor at Auburn University and former visiting professor of national security studies at the U.S. Air War College who has written extensively on the Western Balkans, explained the state of Serbia’s armed forces. WPR: What is the current state of Serbia’s defense forces? Jim Seroka: The Serbian armed forces today have shrunk considerably in size and capabilities since 2000 and no longer represent a security threat to Serbia’s neighbors. In 2000, Serbia-Montenegro had more than 100,000 military personnel, 1,500 main battle tanks and 192 […]

Fans of the television drama “Homeland” might have been surprised when in a recent episode one of the protagonists surfaced in Venezuela as a guest/prisoner of a sinister gang living in a crowded and dilapidated half-built Caracas high-rise. The espionage show normally focuses on Middle East terrorists and the CIA agents chasing them. But Venezuela’s strife and the sheer strangeness it produces proved hard to resist. The depiction, with its post-apocalyptic overtones was, of course, fictional, even though thousands of squatters do live in unfinished buildings in Venezuela, and crime levels are a growing threat. But there is no escaping […]

On Nov. 17, Georgian and Israeli officials signed an agreement to lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens traveling to Israel, reciprocating Georgia’s visa-free policy for Israelis in place since mid-2005. Although subject to approval from their respective legislatures, the deal represents a major diplomatic accomplishment for Tbilisi and a stunning turnaround in bilateral relations. As recently as a year ago, Georgia-Israel ties were at their modern nadir under Georgia’s now-opposition United National Movement (UNM). Despite a once-close relationship, the two countries rapidly fell out due to Georgian accusations over an arms purchase gone bad, Georgia’s seemingly retributive jailing of Israeli […]

On Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines. The storm, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, was one of the largest typhoons on record, with estimates of the dead in the thousands and of the displaced in the millions. The United States acted quickly to help its ally, but some senior lawmakers and military officials worry that in the age of sequestration U.S. capabilities to carry out such operations in the future may deteriorate. The U.S. response in the Philippines has been “rapid and decisive,” according to Renato DeCastro of De La Salle University in Manila. He explained […]

Hondurans will vote Sunday, Nov. 24, in a presidential election that polls suggest is too close to call. U.S. interests are plainly at stake, but this has less to do with the individual who may end up being elected than with the legitimacy of the election itself and how the new president, once in office, chooses to govern. In what should be a clarifying and unifying election, the electorate instead is polarized, and at least three of the leading candidates are each convinced they will win. Official results may not be known for a week or more after the election; […]

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