Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, left, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, pose for a photo before a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

Now that the tide in the Syrian civil war appears to have definitely turned in favor of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, one of the key factors that will shape Syria’s future is the precise nature and durability of the relationship between the two countries that saved Assad from collapse: Iran and Russia. Tehran and Moscow worked together to bolster Assad, but the character of their ad hoc alliance has always remained a bit of a mystery. They each, for their own purposes, wanted the regime in Damascus to survive. Beyond that, it has never been clear just how committed Russian […]

A banner in a town square in the French Alps reads “Welcome Refugees,” Chamonix, France, Oct. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Bertrand Combaldieu).

Last month, authorities in Italy requested a formal investigation of five French border patrol agents in the Alps who entered Italy to perform an unauthorized drug test on a Nigerian citizen, in what the authorities say was a violation of Italian sovereignty. It was just the latest episode in months-long tensions at the French-Italian border near Col de l’Echelle, or Colle Della Scala, a high mountain pass in northwestern Italy that has become a popular route for migrants trying to enter into France. In March, a volunteer mountain guide on the French side of the border was charged with facilitating […]

Members of an Indian delegation headed by junior Foreign Minister V. K. Singh, third left, meet North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, third right, Pyongyang, North Korea, May 16, 2018 (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service photo via AP).

In mid-May, India sent a junior foreign minister to Pyongyang for an official visit, the first such visit by an Indian government minister to North Korea in almost 20 years. The trip took place against the backdrop of intense diplomatic engagement between Washington and Pyongyang that could ease North Korea’s economic isolation. In an email interview, Balbina Hwang, an adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University, discusses North Korea’s economic and diplomatic ties with South and Southeast Asian countries, and the implications of the potential thaw on the Korean Peninsula for these relationships. World Politics Review: What has been the nature […]

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, Nashville, Tenn., May 29, 2018 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

There’s little reason to believe that U.S. President Donald Trump will successfully achieve his foreign policy objectives. But as a thought experiment and for the sake of argument, what would America and the world look like if he did? Trump’s “America First” agenda is predicated on a number of notions, explicit and implicit, regarding how to promote strength at home and abroad. First, the U.S. should maintain balanced accounts, and where possible net surpluses, in its trade relationships. Second, America’s alliances and security partnerships should be as close to cost-neutral as possible. Third, the U.S. should not shrink from leveraging […]

A protest by expatriate Togolese demanding democratic reforms and political change after half a century of rule by the Gnassingbe family, Brussels, Belgium, Aug. 31, 2017 (dpa photo by Wiktor Dabkowski via AP).

LOME, Togo—A pediatric inpatient ward in the Sylvanus Olimpio University Teaching Hospital of Lome, the capital of Togo, sat vacant for much of February. The water had stopped running, and staff were short several supplies: a pair of scissors, a rolling cart, a blood pressure cuff to fit children’s arms. Nurses packed patients into a separate ward, where they could be prepared for discharge before hospital staff went on strike again. The smallest patients lay three to a bed, their mothers waiting on makeshift stools for a doctor. The more desperate wandered the complex in search of help. A woman […]

A rally supporting U.S. policy of putting pressure on North Korea, Seoul, South Korea, May 18, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

SEOUL—Without knowing how many plot twists are left in U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to engage with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it’s hard to know if the play will end up being a tragedy, a comedy or a satirical farce. The audacity of Trump’s belief that he can transform the Korean Peninsula into a denuclearized zone of peace in mere weeks is matched by his inability or unwillingness to master the historical issues and complex constraints that have so far kept the parties from achieving the breakthrough he seeks. One of the reasons the plot keeps changing is […]

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at the 9th China Business Conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, May 1, 2018 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

It’s déjà vu all over again. Where’s the beef? And speak loudly, but forget the stick. Those were among the clichés that came to mind during the Trump administration’s China trade policy gyrations over the past few weeks. Almost exactly a year after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the results of a “herculean” effort to get a deal with China to boost U.S. exports of energy and agricultural goods, and six months after Ross announced another set of deals purportedly worth $250 billion in increased American exports of natural gas, soybeans, beef and pork, the White House released a joint […]

A masked police officer stands with a suspect in handcuffs in front of Brazilian marines during a surprise security operation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

Thieves mugged tourists in front of their swanky, beachfront hotels. Gang members traded gunfire with police, sending partygoers into a panic. A police officer was assaulted by multiple people right outside his home. This year’s celebrations for Carnival, which marks the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar, brought global attention to mounting insecurity in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s iconic coastal city that boasts a population of around 6 million. Fogo Cruzado, or Cross Fire, an app created by Amnesty International Brazil to monitor crime in Rio, recorded 24 deaths by guns during the seven-day period, as well as a […]

Kay Kimsong, the editor-in-chief of the Phnom Penh Post, in glasses, speaks to reporters after being fired by the newspaper’s new owner, who has links to Cambodia’s government, Phnom Penh, May 7, 2018 (AP photo).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. May has been a tough month for press freedom in Cambodia. On May 5, the Phnom Penh Post, an independent newspaper often critical of the Cambodian government, was sold to a Malaysian investor with links to Prime Minister Hun Sen. And on May 18, a court refused to release two Radio Free Asia reporters who have been held in pretrial detention for six months on charges of espionage. In an email interview, Sebastian Strangio, a journalist focusing on Southeast […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei listens during a meeting with members of the Iranian government, Tehran, May 23, 2018 (Sipa photo via AP).

Two weeks after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined the parameters of the “new Iran strategy” that he believes would lead to a “better deal” with Iran. It is a laundry list of 12 demands Iran must meet if it is to avoid getting hit by what Pompeo called the “strongest sanctions in history.” But Iran won’t accept these sweeping demands. Would it actually return to the negotiating table? And how could this new strategy shape Iran’s domestic politics? The Trump administration’s move is a huge gamble […]

A military parade is held to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army at the Zhurihe training base, Xilingol, China, July 30, 2017 (TopPhoto photo via AP).

Say you had just awoken from a long slumber and glanced at today’s headlines. You would conclude, no doubt, that Iran and North Korea are America’s greatest security threats. The attention those admittedly malign nations receive from the Trump administration surpasses all other adversaries or potential adversaries. In reality, though, Iran and North Korea are second-tier challenges, unlikely to strike directly at vital U.S. national interests. Russia is more worrisome, given its recent and continuing political meddling against the United States and President Donald Trump’s perplexing lack of concern with its attacks on American elections. Ultimately, though, Russia is devious […]

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, center, arrives for the celebration of the country’s 38th independence anniversary at the National Sports Stadium, Harare, April, 18, 2018 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to cancel his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. They also weigh in on Italy’s new populist government. For the Report, Simon Allison talks with Robbie about Zimbabwe, which is gearing up for elections later this year, the first in the post-Mugabe era. New leaders from both the government and opposition are finding their feet, though they’re haunted by familiar problems. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read […]

Rwandan President Paul Kagame after signing the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement during the 10th Extraordinary Session of the African Union, Kigali, Rwanda, March 21, 2018 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. In many respects, the Africa policy of French President Emmanuel Macron has looked similar to that of his predecessor, Francois Hollande. Both men have overseen large-scale military deployments on the continent while stressing the need for African governments to, eventually, provide for their own security in combating terrorism and other threats. Both men have also talked about the potential of economic development to curb the migration of Africans to Europe. But in his management of one relationship that has […]

Argentinians protest the government’s decision to begin negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 14, 2018 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

Last Friday, the International Monetary Fund formally opened negotiations with Argentina for a financial bailout, after a run on the Argentine peso drove its value down by roughly 20 percent against the dollar between January and the beginning of May. The financial crisis comes against the backdrop of Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s unpopular economic reforms, which have so far struggled to deliver promised results. In an email interview, Bruno Binetti, a Buenos Aires-based nonresident fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, discusses the causes of the financial crisis, and the economic and political implications of an IMF bailout for Argentina and Macri. […]

Malians check voter listings as polling stations come to a close in parliamentary elections, Gao, Mali, Nov. 24, 2013 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

For months, Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, has been hounded by a short, harsh refrain: Boua ka bla. In Bambara, the West African country’s most widely spoken language, the words mean, roughly, “The old man must give up.” In the context of Malian politics, they articulate a clear demand that Keita, who is 73, leave office when his term expires this year. In songs and at rallies, the phrase has been taken up by a host of government critics. The most prominent among them is the activist and radio personality Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, popularly known as “Ras Bath,” who the […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro before addressing supporters after his re-election, Caracas, Venezuela, May 20, 2018 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

There was never any doubt about who would win Sunday’s presidential election in Venezuela. The lead-up was so patently undemocratic that even before the vote took place, the results were rejected as illegitimate by a large number of countries, including the United States, Canada, the entire European Union and a dozen of Venezuela’s neighbors in Latin America. That, however, was hardly the end of the challenge for the international community and, more crucially, for Latin American countries growing more worried about the impact of Venezuela’s social and economic collapse on them. The aftermath of the election has unleashed a torrent […]

A rebel with the Kachin Independence Army at an outpost near the armed group’s headquarters in northern Kachin state, Myanmar, March 20, 2018 (AP photo by Esther Htusan).

As global attention remains fixed on the desperate plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, another violent military crackdown has flared almost unnoticed more than 400 miles to the northeast in the remote and mountainous state of Kachin, along the isolated land border with China. Since mid-January, battles between Myanmar’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, and the ethnic rebels of the Kachin Independence Army, or KIA, have intensified in several areas of the resource-rich and historically conflict-wracked region, displacing thousands of civilians. The surge in violence, with military airstrikes and retaliatory insurgent attacks, […]

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