In this undated file photo, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq from Raqqa, Syria (Militant website via AP).

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to intervene militarily in Syria and work with Iran and Iraq to defeat the Islamic State has been met with a rather predictable response among Washington pundits: Putin is strong, and Barack Obama is weak. “Like Iran, Putin is willing to back up his pursuit of his interests with force,” writes Eliot Abrams in the National Review. “U.S. deterrence is dead,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka. The Washington Post editorial page bemoans Obama’s lack of a strategy for Syria and noted that while “shortsighted and cynical . . . at least Mr. Putin […]

Cote d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara waves at reporters after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace, Paris, Dec. 4, 2014 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

A presidential election on Oct. 25 is likely to bring a second term for Cote d’Ivoire’s president, Alassane Ouattara. The economy is booming, with growth rates consistently above 8 percent, and in a region scarred by crises—from the ravages of Ebola to Islamic extremism in the Maghreb and around Lake Chad—Cote d’Ivoire stands out as an attractive proposition for investors. Abidjan has bounced back from the dark days of post-election violence in 2010 and 2011, with life returning even to the poor neighborhoods that saw the worst of the fighting. Ouattara, a smooth, bilingual technocrat, has maintained good external relations. […]

Secretary-General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro presents the Initiative to Combat Corruption and Impunity with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Washington, Sept. 28, 2015 (OAS photo by Juan Manuel Herrera).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of corruption and various countries’ efforts to combat it. This week, the Organization of American States (OAS) announced that it would establish a Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), following protests demanding an anti-corruption body like the one that helped bring down the Guatemalan president. In an email interview, Eric Olson, associate director of the Wilson Center’s Latin America program, discussed Honduras’ fight against corruption. WPR: How big a problem is corruption in Honduras, and in what areas is its […]

Thousands of Lebanese of Armenian descent, holding banners and a giant Armenian flag, march to mark the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, Antelias, Lebanon, April 24, 2015 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

By a fortuitous coincidence I found myself in Japan the week of the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which preceded the Japanese surrender in World War II. A special panel advising the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was divided over the wording of the government’s official statement, which is issued on major anniversaries of the war’s end. Should the words “aggression” and “apology” be used, or was “remorse”—the oft-employed substitute for a stronger expression—enough? Abe’s refusal to apologize for Japan’s colonial past, including its treatment of Koreans and other wartime atrocities, has divided Japanese political elites and […]

A convoy of Azerbaijani army tanks moves in the direction of Agdam, Azerbaijan, Aug. 2, 2014. (AP photo by Abbas Atilay).

Azerbaijan reported that three of its troops and nine Armenian soldiers were killed during clashes Sunday in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenia denies the losses and says more than 10 Azerbaijani troops were killed. This is only the latest incident in a year marked by a dramatic increase in hostilities between the two neighbors. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia began in 1988 when the Armenian majority in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was then an autonomous province of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, started a movement calling for unification with Armenia. Regional violence became a full-fledged war after Armenia and Azerbaijan became […]

Victims of the worst floods to hit Pakistan in several years walk through water-filled streets, Nowshera, Pakistan, Aug. 3, 2010 (U.N. photo by Amjad Jamal).

This past summer, as if on cue, seasonal floods across Pakistan killed more than 67 people and displaced thousands. For the past five years, Pakistan has experienced unusually severe monsoon rains in the summer. In 2010, flash and riverine floods destroyed 1.6 million homes, killed 2,000 people and displaced approximately 20 million. While flooding grabs the headlines, extreme heat actually has a greater impact on long-term population dynamics in Pakistan. A recent Nature study found that flooding has “modest to insignificant impacts” on long-term migration, while heat stress “consistently” increases long-term migration levels. The study combined data from a 21-year […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presents his annual report at the opening of the general debate of the U.N. General Assembly’s seventieth session, New York, Sept. 28, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

As world leaders begin the annual marathon that is the United Nations General Assembly opening session for the 70th time, expect the rhetoric to be both sober and soaring. The institution is caught between honest assessments of its shortcomings and grandiose pronouncements of its future goals that will inspire some and irritate others. At the risk of simplification, one can evaluate the U.N.’s track record over its seven decades in three distinct areas: war and peace, norm-setting on complex transnational issues and responses to humanitarian, environmental and moral crises. On the question of war and peace, the verdict has to […]

Relatives of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa teachers' college students lead a march marking the one-year anniversary of the students' disappearances, Chilpancingo, Mexico, Sept. 26, 2015 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

A year after 43 rural college students were forcibly disappeared in southern Mexico, human rights activists, teachers unions and university students have again taken to the streets to demand justice. For many, the tragedy—known as Ayotzinapa, after the name of the teachers’ college the students attended—has become symbolic of the violence and impunity afflicting Mexico as a whole. Earlier this month, a long-awaited report by the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights cast doubts on the official version of events and pointed to extraordinary deficiencies in the investigation carried out by the federal government. On Sept. 26, […]

Peacekeepers serving with the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrol the town of Pinga, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec. 4, 2013 (U.N. photo by Sylvain Liechti).

There are a lot of smug policy wonks in New York right now. As this year’s high-level General Assembly session kicks off at the United Nations, the media is focused on what the meeting could mean for Syria. It may achieve very little on that front. But analysts who take a longer view of multilateral affairs still see some reasons for optimism elsewhere. The most obvious is the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a sprawling but impressively ambitious list of global targets for 2030. Academics and activists have been celebrating this success all weekend. A special summit […]

A member of the Liberia National Police Anti-Drug Squad reviews the municipal dump where they are burning 880 lbs of drugs that were confiscated between 2011 and 2012, Monrovia, Liberia, March 1, 2013 (U.N. photo by Staton Winter).

This summer, Reuters reported on the rise in illegal drug trafficking and production in West Africa. In an email interview, Joanne Csete, an expert on health and human rights issues, discussed West Africa’s growing role in the global drug market. WPR: What role has West Africa played in the global drug market in the past decade? Joanne Csete: There is some evidence that significant transit routes have been established through West Africa for cocaine from Latin America destined for Europe, though the volume may have diminished in the past few years. It is hard to judge trends with seizure data, […]

Islamic State fighters wave an Islamic State flag as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle, Fallujah, Iraq, March 20, 2014 (AP photo).

Russia’s deployment of military equipment and personnel to Syria, combined with revelations about failed U.S. efforts to train and equip Syrian rebels, has rekindled criticisms of the Obama administration’s strategy against the self-declared Islamic State. The U.S. approach has been attacked from both sides of the political aisle, characterized as mission creep by some and weak incrementalism by others. During last week’s presidential debate, in particular, most of the Republican presidential candidates vied to burnish their national security credentials by vowing to expand U.S. military operations to defeat the Islamic State. However, the urge to “do something” in Iraq and […]

Syrians gather amid the rubble of damaged buildings in the predominantly Christian and Armenian neighborhood of Suleimaniyeh, Aleppo, Syria, April 11, 2015 (AP photo/SANA).

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the United States has rejected deep involvement, hoping that the conflict would work itself out or at least remain limited to Syria itself. These hopes are now bankrupt. Syria’s humanitarian disaster and refugee crisis is only growing, with tragic consequences for the Syrian people. It is destabilizing neighboring nations and threatening Europe. Containment of the conflict has failed. Yet there is no movement toward a resolution that reflects American interests. There is only stalemate and chaos. From the American perspective, the core problem is that U.S. strategy has been based on three […]

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, left, and Moroccan Minister of Religious Affairs Ahmed Toufik, right, sign documents as part of a bilateral agreement on the training of French imams, Tangier, Morocco, Sept. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Alain

Last weekend, French President Francois Hollande met with Moroccan King Mohammed VI and signed an initiative to send French imams to the Mohammed VI Institute in Rabat, a center opened in March with the stated mission of promoting religious moderation and tolerance to combat radical Islam. The visit was an attempt to mend relations, which Morocco suspended last February for nearly a year following French allegations of human rights abuses. Although the France-Morocco initiative on imams is new, international religious training exchanges are part of an established phenomenon that Jonathan Laurence, a professor of political science at Boston College, calls […]

A rubber boat carrying around 50 migrants and refugees arrives from Bodrum in Turkey to the Greek island of Kos, Sept. 2, 2015 (International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent photo by Christopher Jahn).

There is still much that is unknown about how the refugee crisis in Europe will unfold and the impact it will have. But one thing is certain: The massive wave of immigration onto European shores will usher in a powerful backlash that will benefit right-wing anti-immigrant parties. The phenomenon is already becoming visible, but it will continue to build, creating new friction and challenges for moderate and leftist parties. The intensity of the backlash will depend on how many more refugees ultimately enter Europe and how the process of integrating them into existing social structures proceeds. In addition, the political […]

Tanzania's public works minister John Pombe Magufuli speaks at an internal party poll to decide the ruling party's presidential candidate, Dodoma, Tanzania, July 11, 2015 (AP photo by Khalfan Said).

With President Jakaya Kikwete due to step down next month after his constitutionally limited two terms, all eyes in Tanzania have been on the succession. For the past 18 months, two front-runners representing opposing factions within the ever-fractious ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, or CCM, have dominated headlines: former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and former Foreign Minister Bernard Membe. But in a surprise in July, the CCM, which has ruled Tanzania since its independence in 1961, selected Minister of Public Works John Magufuli as its official presidential candidate. Lowassa, who had attracted the ire of CCM bigwigs for starting his […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is interviewed by the Associated Press at Blair House in Washington, July 21, 2015 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, spent three days last week in France, on his second major trip out of Africa since taking office on May 29. The items topping Buhari’s agenda in Paris—economic investment and security cooperation—reflected his main challenges at home: an economy in turmoil and the persistent threat of the jihadi movement Boko Haram. The visit also demonstrated Buhari’s patient, long-term thinking about Nigeria’s problems, which includes a greater willingness to work with neighbors and international partners than his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan. At the same time, demands within Nigeria for immediate change confront Buhari with an imperative to demonstrate […]

The tower of the the Centenario deep-water drilling platform rises off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico, Nov. 22, 2013 (AP photo by Dario Lopez-Mills).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of falling oil and commodities prices on resource-exporting countries. Earlier this month, the Mexican government submitted a budget to cut spending in 2016, including reduced investment in the state oil company Pemex, given the drop in global oil prices. In an email interview, Amb. Antonio Garza, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and currently counsel in the Mexico City office of White & Case LLP, discussed Mexico’s economy and the impact of the oil shock. WPR: How have declining oil revenues affected Mexico’s budget and spending power? […]

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