Demonstrators from Somali anti-government opposition groups burn photographs of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in Mogadishu, Somalia, April 25, 2021 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Somalia stepped back from the brink of widespread violence Wednesday, when incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed abandoned his controversial effort to unilaterally extend his term amid months of electoral turmoil. Mohamed’s about-face came after several weeks of escalating conflict, sparked by his decision on April 14 to sign a law extending his mandate and that of federal lawmakers by two years. While the legislation had been passed by the lower house of Parliament, it had yet to gain approval from the Senate, a required step before a bill can become law in Somalia. Mohamed’s decision to sign it anyway led […]

World leaders virtually attend the opening session of the Leaders Summit on Climate, as seen on a screen at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office in Ankara, Turkey, April 22, 2021 (Photo by Mustafa Kamaci for Turkish Presidency via AP).

This may be, as U.S. President Joe Biden says, the “decisive decade” for acting on climate change. But the U.S. and other rich countries don’t seem ready to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to making sure the Global South isn’t left behind in that effort. Biden and other world leaders made lots of promises at the U.S.-sponsored climate summit last week. Washington’s pledge to cut emissions by more than half by 2030 will likely do a lot to generate more urgency in capitals around the world. Indeed, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement just ahead of […]

Cooling towers of the Dukovany nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, Sept. 27, 2011 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

A fight over nuclear power is heating up in the European Union. While the Czech Republic and other Central and Eastern European states insist that the technology is vital to their transition from coal-generated energy, others in the bloc want to cut it out of the equation. The outcome of the debate could also help determine the fate of a stalled tender to build a new reactor at Dukovany, one of the country’s two existing nuclear power plants. Hopes in Prague were boosted in March when the Joint Research Center, an expert group for the European Commission, delivered a report […]

The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, after being sworn in at the National Assembly in Kuwait, Sept. 30, 2021 (AP Photo by Jaber Abdulkhaleg).

Since legislative elections were held in December, Kuwait has seen continued infighting between the National Assembly—where opposition lawmakers are heavily represented—and members of the Cabinet, who are appointed by the emir and also have parliamentary seats. The prolonged standoff has ground the legislative process nearly to a halt, preventing the government from passing measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, including a law that would allow the state to borrow badly needed funds on international markets. Kuwait is unique among Gulf Arab monarchies in that it has relatively free elections and an active legislature that can […]

President Joe Biden turns from the podium after speaking to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, April 28, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

For those excited by Joe Biden’s campaign promises to restore democracy promotion as a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, the months following last year’s presidential election were hair-raising. As Donald Trump refused to concede defeat and his supporters spread baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud, experts raised alarms that the fraught climate and Republican intransigence were eroding America’s global reputation. The ensuing loss of credibility, they warned, would make it all the more difficult for the U.S. to hold other countries accountable for authoritarian behavior. One insurrection, one inauguration, and 100 days later, the democracy promotion community has found […]

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, left, and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, right, during a meeting in Maputo, Mozambique to discuss the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, April 8, 2021 (AP photo by Ferhat Momade).

On March 24, Ansar al-Sunna, a militant group linked to the Islamic State, launched a bloody attack on the coastal town of Palma, in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, leaving at least 61 dead and scores more unaccounted for. The assault, which lasted more than a week and took place near a major liquefied natural gas plant under construction by the French energy giant Total, made global headlines and shined a spotlight on a fast-growing insurgency. Though the group has since been pushed out of Palma by Mozambican security forces, the attack highlights the danger should the insurgents expand their […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the prime minister’s office, in Jerusalem, April 12, 2021 (pool photo by Menahem Kahana via AP).

While tensions between Israel and Iran have been omnipresent in the Middle East for decades, the prospect of open military conflict between the two countries has never seemed closer than it does now. Over the past few months, the two rivals have escalated an undeclared naval war featuring unclaimed attacks on Israeli- and Iranian-owned ships. At the same time, Israel has continued its air strikes on Iranian weapons shipments transiting across Syria, and a damaging explosion on April 11 at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was widely attributed to Israel. All of this comes against the backdrop of U.S. President Joe […]

Venezuelan commandos patrol the Antimano neighborhood of Caracas, Jan. 29, 2019 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Venezuela’s authoritarian president, Nicolas Maduro, has managed to stay in power for eight years despite remaining profoundly unpopular, overseeing a spectacular economic collapse and facing years of opposition efforts to dislodge him. There’s little doubt Maduro has outplayed his opponents, and yet, his hold on the country is more tenuous than it seems. The democratic opposition has indeed failed to remove him. But under Maduro, Venezuela is increasingly becoming a land of militias, warlords and criminal gangs. As they gradually divide the country into fiefdoms, the state’s footprint is steadily shrinking. The government’s sway beyond the capital city is significantly […]

A mobile phone screen showing the drawing of the red packets of the digital currency issued by China’s central bank, in Beijing, China, Feb. 16, 2021 (Photo by Jason Fan for FeatureChina via AP Images).

China’s central bank is currently conducting trials for its digital currency, which it hopes to have available for widespread use by the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. But many privacy advocates are alarmed at the amount of data that Chinese authorities will be able to collect through the new digital yuan, and the resulting potential for abuse. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, WPR’s Elliot Waldman discussed the implications of China’s new digital currency with Yaya Fanusie, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Listen to the full interview with Yaya Fanusie here: If you […]

Nationalists and loyalists clash at the peace wall on Lanark Way in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 7, 2021 (AP photo by Peter Morrison).

BELFAST, Northern Ireland—For more than a week earlier this month, Northern Ireland was rocked by riots in pro-British unionist communities, with frequent outbursts of violence in areas bordering on pro-Irish nationalist neighborhoods. Thankfully, no one was killed, but almost 90 police officers were injured in efforts to quell the unrest and keep youths on either side of the “peace walls”—effectively enhanced security barriers separating the two communities—from attacking one another. The main trigger for the disorder was the recent decision by local authorities not to prosecute leaders of the staunchly nationalist Sinn Fein party for attending the funeral last summer […]

Displaced women and children wait for assistance after fleeing attacks in Palma, in Pemba, Mozambique, April 19, 2021 (Photo by AP Images).

When an obscure rebel group briefly laid siege to a hotel in Palma—a tiny enclave of the global energy industry in northern Mozambique—in late March, the story briefly became one of those one- or two-day wonders common to the Western media’s coverage of Africa. This typically means momentary headlines from a place that most readers have never heard of, and that most mainstream editors traditionally exhibit little interest in delving into more deeply. As is so often the case with the coverage of violence from outposts like these, what made this particular news “newsworthy” was the fate of a small […]

A press center in China’s southern island province of Hainan shows Xi Jinping giving an online speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, April 20, 2021 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. In his keynote address to the annual Boao Forum last Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered one of the clearest statements to date of China’s ambitions on the global stage, rejecting hegemony, whether for China or any other power, and calling for an international order […]

A bank window panel displaying the security markers on the latest 100 Yuan notes in Beijing, China, Feb. 18, 2019 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Since last year, authorities in China have been conducting pilot programs for the country’s new digital currency. The project, which Beijing has been researching since 2014, is an example of what’s known as a central bank digital currency, which a number of other countries are experimenting with, but few of them are at as advanced a stage as China. A top official at China’s central bank recently expressed hope that the digital yuan would be ready for testing with foreign visitors and athletes during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Beijing’s progress on its digital currency has led some commentators […]

Bogazici University students hold an LGBT flag and a placard that reads “the youth will win” at a protest in support of their detained friends in Istanbul, Feb. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

For more than three months, Turkey has been rocked by rolling protests centered in Istanbul. Following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s controversial appointment of businessman Melih Bulu as the new rector of Bogazici University in January, students and professors began holding rallies to denounce the pick. They see Bulu as an outsider and lackey for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish abbreviation AKP, and argue that his unilateral appointment is an unacceptable attempt to undermine the independence of one of Turkey’s most prestigious academic institutions. The scope of the demonstrations widened rapidly, as participants vented their frustrations with […]

A diamond miner works in a mine in Mbuji Mayi, Congo, July 31, 2006 (AP photo by Schalk van Zuydam).

In 2017, the United States launched its Global Magnitsky Sanctions program, meant to target human rights abusers and kleptocrats around the world. The very first list of sanctioned entities included one Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire who had been accused by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in consultation with the secretary of state and attorney general, of amassing his fortune through a series of “opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals” in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the next six months, around 30 of Gertler’s companies were further sanctioned, as the Treasury Department forbade him from […]

A Microsoft office in New York, Nov. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Swayne B. Hall).

The U.S. had barely begun its recovery from the SolarWinds compromise, when another large-scale, state-sponsored cyberattack came to light in January. Like the SolarWinds hack, the Microsoft Exchange Server data breach exploited several zero-day vulnerabilities and has been attributed to a nation-state. But unlike SolarWinds, while the Microsoft attack was initially a targeted attack, it went on to create widespread collateral damage, leading some commentators to characterize it as “reckless.” Microsoft has attributed the compromise to a Chinese state-sponsored espionage group called “Hafnium.” Recent U.S. sanctions against Russia, in part motivated by the SolarWinds attack, have given rise to an […]

Chelsea fans protest outside Stamford Bridge stadium in London, against Chelsea’s decision to be included among the clubs attempting to form a new European Super League, April 20, 2021 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. What does the Middle East have to do with the spectacular launch, crash and burn of the European Super League? Though indirect, the influence of Gulf Arab state backers’ financial largesse on European soccer played a major role in the shifts that gave birth to the […]

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