Kimg Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, meets with then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, July 26, 2007 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Even before he became president of the United States, Donald Trump had reserved some of his most lavish praise for Egypt’s strongman, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. That’s why it came as no small surprise when news emerged last week that the U.S. had decided to withhold almost $300 million in aid for Egypt. The principal reason for the move, according to Trump administration officials, was Cairo’s continuing crackdown on human rights. But another issue also surfaced as a point of friction: Egypt’s ties to North Korea. Given what we know about the current U.S. administration, it seems likely that North Korea […]

Mukhtar Robow, left, the then-deputy leader of al-Shabab, with the American-born Islamist militant Omar Hammami in southern Mogadishu, Somalia, May 11, 2011 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

On Aug. 13, Somalia’s government won a perceived victory in its fight against al-Shabab when Mukhtar Robow, the former deputy leader of the militant group, surrendered. Also known as “Abu Mansur,” Robow was one of the group’s founding leaders, and the only one still living who had trained with the Taliban in Afghanistan. His decision to stop fighting invited speculation that other militants might also lay down their arms. Yet as has been the case with a series of recent high-level defections, the specific circumstances of Robow’s surrender suggest it may not represent a major turning point in the battle […]

Bangladeshi border guards keep watch over Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar as they stop them from crossing into Bangladesh, Ghumdhum, Bangladesh, Aug. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Mushfiqul Alam).

YANGON, Myanmar — Violence has again engulfed Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine state, killing scores of people and stoking fears that the long-running crisis there has grown more intractable and more likely to foster radicalization. Many had hoped that Myanmar’s democratically elected government, which took over 18 months ago amid a transition from military rule, could take steps to alleviate the conflict and end the underlying human rights abuses of the Rohingya minority. But the rapidly deteriorating security situation, called predictable and preventable by the United Nations, has emerged as a key stumbling bloc for Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration, […]

Members of the Togolese diaspora stage an anti-government protest, Brussels, Belgium, Aug. 31, 2017 (Photo by Wiktor Dabkowski via AP).

As the world celebrated the fall of Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh earlier this year, which was seen as another sign of strengthening democratic rule in West Africa, Togolese activist Farida Nabourema couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. While other regions on the continent, especially Central Africa, grapple with incumbent power grabs including “constitutional coups,” the story in West Africa has been more positive in recent years. In addition to Jammeh, the longtime president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, was forced to leave office in 2014 following a popular uprising, and more orderly transfers of power have occurred in countries […]

Myanmarese migrant workers push through a metal barrier to meet Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 23, 2016 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about workers’ rights in various countries around the world. Thailand’s military junta, which came to power in 2014, has faced significant pressure from the United States and European Union to regulate the country’s immense migrant labor force and reduce the exploitation of workers. But the junta’s efforts have been ham-handed and brought an element of uncertainty to workers and employers alike. In an email interview, Kevin Hewison, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Contemporary Asia and Weldon E. Thornton Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Asian Studies at the University of North […]

Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and New Zealand Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee hold a press conference, Sydney, Australia, May 4, 2017 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

A rarely invoked section of Australia’s constitution barring dual nationals from holding seats in parliament is suddenly playing a major role in the country’s domestic politics, leading to the resignation of one senator and threatening many more members of parliament, including at the highest levels of the Turnbull government. In an email interview, the Lowy Institute’s Alastair Davis explains the origins of the unexpected saga, what it means for Australia’s relations with New Zealand, and how a country as diverse as Australia will cope with it all. WPR: Why has the question of dual nationality suddenly become an issue in […]

Stephen Bannon, the then-chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, walks from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, May 13, 2017 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

The ouster of Stephen Bannon as White House senior strategist has removed the most visible link between President Donald Trump and his populist base. But the nationalist worldview that candidate Trump ran on and Bannon promoted is alive and well. And the core of that agenda is the defense and promotion of U.S. national sovereignty, which Trump’s followers believe is under assault from relentless globalization, encroaching international organizations and uncontrolled immigration. American sovereigntists, led by the president himself, are determined to defend U.S. independence and reassert control over the nation’s destiny, in their minds, by rejecting “globalism” and placing “America […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaves parliament after speaking as part of a debate over his proposed Cabinet, Tehran, Aug. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Judah Grunstein, who will return next week. The Trump administration should take heed of the potential economic pitfalls of its impending showdown with Iran over the 2015 nuclear agreement. A failure by the United States to recertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal would mean the reimposition of sanctions, a move that will only end up isolating the U.S. internationally. If Trump declares Tehran in breach of the nuclear agreement, Washington must be prepared to go it alone, because Iran, and its oil industry, will fight a U.S. snapback of […]

An effigy of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hangs from a mock gallows set up by protesting farmers at the foot of the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Aug. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Gustavo Martinez Contreras).

MEXICO CITY—When President Donald Trump announced his willingness to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement in May, having previously vowed to withdraw the United States from the pact, officials in Mexico and Canada scrambled to rescue a deal that advocates argue has produced overwhelmingly positive benefits for all three members. Indeed, many believe that the talks, which began in Washington in August and will continue through the end of the year, represent a historic opportunity to not only save NAFTA, but also revamp the agreement for the 21st century. Yet on the same day that the negotiations began earlier […]

Afghan army commandos train at Camp Shorab in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Massoud Hossaini).

President Donald Trump’s advisers have touted his strategy in Afghanistan, unveiled last week, as taking a regional approach to America’s longest war. But Trump’s speech contained only the briefest reference to the roles and responsibilities of two of Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, India and Pakistan, which are so critical to the long-term fortunes of that beleaguered land. Trump’s call for a bigger role for India and his warning to Pakistan about its cross-border dealings were nothing new, and they failed to acknowledge the larger strategic tradeoffs and complexities in the region. A true regional approach would look quite different and would […]

Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil women cry at the graves of relatives who died in fighting between the army and Tamil Tiger rebels, Mullivaikkal, Sri Lanka, May 18, 2015 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—In June 2009, one month after Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war ended, a Tamil mechanic named Sri was abducted while he was walking home from work in the country’s eastern Batticaloa District. His wife, Jaya, heard the news from neighbors, who watched as two men on a motorcycle grabbed Sri and forced him between them on their bike before speeding off. Jaya, who was seven months pregnant at the time, searched all over Batticaloa for Sri, including in various military camps, but could not find him. She tried to lodge a complaint—known as a first information report, or […]

National flags representing Canada, Mexico, and the United States fly outside a meeting between the leaders of the NAFTA countries, New Orleans, April 21, 2008 (AP photo by Judi Bottoni).

While free trade with the United States was the main impetus behind Canada and Mexico’s participation in NAFTA, both sides have benefited from their own bilateral trade relations as part of the deal. Now all three parties are back at the negotiation table, revisiting the agreement that has transformed their economies in so many ways. In an email interview, Dan Ciuriak, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and former deputy chief economist at the Canadian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, explains what NAFTA has meant to the Canada-Mexico trade relationship and whether their […]

An anti-government demonstrator wearing a Russian military hat protests the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Wil Riera).

The United States issued a new batch of sanctions against Venezuela last Friday, targeting high-ranking members of President Nicolas Maduro’s regime and setting up a “financial blockade” against the state-owned institutions that fund them. Cutting off Maduro’s revenue may be the key to his ouster, U.S. officials have said, but restoring democracy in Venezuela after he’s gone looks to be a more complex, internal issue. Much of the pressure on Maduro still originates inside Venezuela, from politicians at all levels of government who oppose his dictatorship and hope to one day regain control of the country’s political future. The opposition […]

A Belgian special forces soldier looks through binoculars east of Tal Afar, Iraq, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Balint Szlanko).

The beginning of every academic year presents professors with a small cavalcade of perplexities and irritants. Universities use the summer break to come up with innovative administrative guidance and supposedly improved computer systems that inevitably backfire on first contact with students or teachers. It normally takes just a few weeks to fix these glitches. But occasionally an academic will encounter a rather more significant challenge at the start of a semester: A creeping fear that their discipline is doomed. As someone who teaches International Conflict Resolution, or ICR, I currently feel something like that. This is not because there is […]

An Iranian oil worker rides his bicycle at the Tehran oil refinery south of Tehran, Iran, Dec. 22, 2014 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

When Iran signed the international agreement in 2015 to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration believed the deal would usher in badly needed foreign direct investment to relieve Iran’s economic woes. Two years on, the promise of an economic renaissance has not fully panned out. In an email interview, Sanam Vakil, professorial lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe in Bologna and associate fellow at Chatham House in London, discusses what Iran has achieved since the sanctions were lifted, the ongoing political wrangling between reformers and hard-liners, and whether or […]

Indian gay rights activists and their supporters march during a gay pride parade in New Delhi, Nov. 27, 2016 (AP photo by Tsering Topgyal).

India’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that people have a fundamental right to privacy, curtailing the Indian government’s efforts to implement the world’s biggest biometric database. But the court also recognized, for the first time, that sexual orientation is an essential part of privacy and dignity, paving the way for LGBT equality in India and beyond. The ruling comes after years of both advances and setbacks for LGBT people in India. The country’s so-called sodomy law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with up to life in prison. The law had been […]

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses an audience of soldiers about his new Afghanistan policy, Fort Meyers, Virginia, Aug. 21, 2017 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editors, Robbie Corey-Boulet and Omar Rahman, discuss the new U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan announced by President Donald Trump and what it reveals about Trump’s foreign policy agenda so far. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen on WPR, please think about supporting our work by subscribing. We’re currently offering a 25 percent discount on the first year of an annual subscription to our podcast listeners. To take advantage of it, just enter the word “PODCAST” in […]

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