U.S. Army tanks during joint U.S.-South Korea military drills near the border with North Korea, Pocheon, South Korea, April 26, 2017 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Since 1986 every U.S. president has been required by law to prepare an annual National Security Strategy. This report is intended to explain to Congress and the American public what the president plans to do to promote U.S. national interests, and to provide guidance for the government agencies that implement security policy. While the requirement to produce an annual National Security Strategy was well-intentioned, the results have been uneven. Few presidents have produced the report every year. Most of them have simply recapitulated presidential talking points and listed what the administration considered its major accomplishments. In practice the National Security […]

Soldiers attempt to stop a group of demonstrators running toward a cordon of police in the Musaga neighborhood of Bujumbura, Burundi, May 20, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Two years after a political crisis erupted in Burundi when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, the country remains stuck at an impasse, facing low-intensity violence, political oppression and an increasingly desperate economic situation. As the trouble began in 2015, local, regional and international actors tried to facilitate negotiations and a peaceful solution to a crisis that threatened to transform into a new civil war and spill over Burundi’s borders. But then Burundi left the spotlight after Nkurunziza managed to nip regional and international interventions in the bud, and events such as Brexit and Donald Trump’s […]

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse questions EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during his confirmation hearing, Washington D.C., Jan. 18, 2017 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the major takeaways and implications of Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. For the Report, James Dyke talks with Peter Dörrie about the dangers posed by the Trump administration’s consistent bucking of scientific consensus. If you’d like to support our free podcast through patron pledges, Patreon is an online service that will allow you to do so. To find out about the benefits you can get through pledging as little as $1 per month, click through to WPR’s Trend Lines Patreon page. Listen: […]

Fishermen stand on the Indian Ocean beach in the former pirate village of Eyl, Somalia, March 6, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

After a steep reduction, piracy seems to be on the rise again off the coast of Somalia, with “five or six” incidents occurring in the past two months, according to U.S. military officials. These have included the hijacking of a Comoros-flagged tanker that was later released, as well as the seizing of a fishing trawler and the brief boarding of a cargo ship. In an email interview, John Steed, regional manager for the Horn of Africa at Oceans Beyond Piracy, explains the recent surge and the factors giving rise to it. WPR: Why has piracy declined off the coast of […]

King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of the opening of a Gulf Cooperation Council summit, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 14, 2012 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

One of the most dramatic socio-economic experiments in the world is unfolding in Saudi Arabia, where exactly one year ago, a young prince launched an ambitious plan to transform his conservative, oil-rich kingdom. The reform program, named Vision 2030, seeks to wean the country from its near-total reliance on oil revenue and government largesse, turning it into one that is more balanced, more modern and more sustainable by the year 2030. But last week, near the anniversary of the modernization plan’s unveiling last April, the kingdom announced it was rolling back some of its key austerity measures. The reversal raises […]

Houthi rebels secure a road as Yemenis take part in a march denouncing plans by the Saudi-led coalition to attack the port of Hodeida, Sanaa, Yemen, April 19, 2017 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

As the fate of Yemen hangs in the balance, the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that supports the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is about to escalate its two-year-old war by launching a new offensive in the key Red Sea port of Hodeida. The move aims to throttle Hadi’s enemies, Houthi rebels aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but it is more likely to choke the country’s population, tipping it from hunger and starvation into outright famine. Hodeida, the country’s busiest and most important port, is responsible for 80 percent of northern Yemen’s imports. If […]

Congo soldiers and civilians cast their ballots at a polling station, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, March 20, 2016 (AP photo by John Bompengo).

In 2015 and 2016, Denis Sassou Nguesso—who has served as president of the Republic of Congo for two stints totaling more than 30 years—orchestrated a constitutional referendum and election that allowed him to stay in office. However, his latest term has been marred by more than a year of instability in the southeastern Pool region and elsewhere. The International Federation for Human Rights released a report this month denouncing “massive human rights violations” in the region, including arbitrary arrests and torture. In an email interview, Brett Carter, a Central Africa expert at the University of Southern California, explains what’s fueling […]

Burkinabe protest against longtime President Blaise Compaore, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Oct. 30, 2014 (AP photo by Theo Renault).

On Thursday, more than two dozen ministers from the government of former President Blaise Compaore appeared in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, for the opening of a trial over the events that precipitated their ouster two and a half years ago. Though Compaore’s legal team successfully obtained a one-week postponement, Burkinabe got to see their once-untouchable leadership answering to a court that could potentially hold them accountable for at least some of the crimes committed by the old regime. The case is no doubt symbolically important for a country that endured nearly three decades of Compaore’s inefficient and corrupt rule, followed […]

Workers prepare elevation fixtures on a building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about workers’ rights in various countries around the world. Like in other Gulf countries, the United Arab Emirates’ small population leaves it dependent on migrant labor to execute an ambitious development program. In order to address criticism of how migrant laborers are treated there, authorities have adopted a series of reforms in recent years. In an email interview, Zahra Babar, associate director for research with the Center for International and Regional Studies at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, explains the specific problems these reforms were […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari during a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, England, May 12, 2016 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

In early February, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency discovered a cache of $9.8 million stashed in the house of Andrew Yakubu, the former managing director of Nigeria’s state-run oil firm, NNPC. Nigerians on Twitter and Facebook quickly expressed their amazement at the magnitude of the amount and speculated over how Yakubu had gotten the money. Before the cash discovery, Nigerians had been preoccupied with the news of President Muhammadu Buhari’s extended medical vacation, which lasted through March. But their attention was swiftly diverted by the news of Yakubu’s cash stockpile, which was hidden in a fireproof safe inside his home in northern […]

Protesters chant slogans against the government during a march in Bishoftu, in the region of Oromia, Ethiopia, Oct. 2, 2016 (AP photo).

Ostensibly intended to quell unrest perpetrated by “anti-peace” forces, Ethiopia’s extension of a state of emergency in March signals a continued crackdown on the country’s restive and aggrieved population. This repression disproportionately affects 65 million Ethiopian youth, who make up more than two-thirds of the country’s total population. Such brutality has increasingly left these young people—Ethiopia’s greatest asset or, conversely, a massive liability—a choice between two dangerous options: escape or rebel. As is the case elsewhere in Africa, Ethiopia’s youth bulge is a double-edged sword. It strains scant natural resources and limited infrastructure, but, if harnessed, could be a boon […]

Electoral posters of French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, Saint Jean de Luz, southwestern France, April 26, 2017 (AP photo by Bob Edme).

PARIS—The widespread narrative surrounding the first-round results of France’s presidential election, which sent centrist independent Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen into the second-round runoff, goes something like this: Macron was the candidate most capable of barring Le Pen’s route to the presidency; his victory Sunday—and, in all likelihood, in the May 7 runoff—saved France from self-destruction and the European Union from a death blow. The populist tide has been turned back in Europe, and disaster averted. While there is nothing actually wrong in this narrative, it obscures as much as it reveals. A closer look at the […]

Iranian troops march during a parade marking National Army Day in front of the mausoleum of the country's first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2017 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

The sudden return to tough talk about Iran by the Trump administration makes one wonder if it has a deeper strategy to realize Trump’s campaign promises about the nuclear deal, as well as to address Iran’s destabilizing regional activities. The signals about Iran can be read several ways: pressure to deliver on that national security priority as the 100-day milestone approaches; discomfort with the routine bureaucratic declaration that Iran is actually complying with the nuclear agreement; or a more ambitious and disturbing goal of provoking Iran into a more open confrontation. For many weeks, it looked like Iran was on […]

An anti-government protester in front of a burning barricade, Caracas, Venezuela, April 24, 2017 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

The protests and unrest that have wracked Venezuela over the past month, resulting in the deaths of at least 22 people, represent a sudden change from the malaise and passivity that had settled over the Venezuelan opposition from December to March. Through mid-March, there was a heavy sense of pessimism and fatalism on the streets of Caracas and other cities. President Nicolas Maduro’s government seemed to be consolidating its power; people were disillusioned with the opposition leadership; and the international community seemed unable to act. A few things are behind this recent surge in opposition activity. First, Latin American countries […]

China's president, Xi Jinping, reviews an honor guard during a welcome ceremony, Astana, Kazakhstan, May 7, 2015 (AP photo by Alexei Filippov).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Traditionally, China has preferred to pursue bilateral deals when investing in Central Asia, but its ambitious plans for the One Belt, One Road initiative will require a more integrated approach. In an email interview, David Lewis, a Central Asia expert and senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, describes the political and other challenges China will need to grapple with to make this phase of the […]

Members of the scientific community and environmental advocates hold a rally, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston (AP photo by Steven Senne).

On Dec. 17, 1972, American astronaut Eugene Cernan paused to look up at Earth. At over 240,000 miles away it was small enough to be blotted out by an outstretched thumb. A few moments later he would enter the lunar lander, close the hatch and blast off to begin Apollo 17’s journey back to Earth. Cernan was the last person to leave footprints on the moon. Since then, humans have never ventured farther than 240 miles from Earth’s surface, let alone return to its only natural satellite. History has come to judge the Apollo program as a freak alignment of […]

A letter bomb presumably containing handmade explosives went off after being opened at the offices of the International Monetary Fund in Paris, March 16, 2017 (Sipa via AP Images).

On March 16, a letter bomb addressed to Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, was intercepted in the ministry’s building before it could go off. Its sender, according to the return address, was Adonis Georgiadis, the deputy leader of New Democracy, Greece’s right-wing opposition party. At the same time, a similar letter-bomb actually exploded at the offices of the International Monetary Fund in Paris, slightly injuring a staff member. This one, too, had been posted under the name of a New Democracy politician. The attacks were covered in the international press, but their significance and meaning has perhaps been obscured by […]

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