A protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati city, Philippines, July 12, 2021 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

On April 21, a suicide bomber struck the four-star Serena Hotel in Quetta, Pakistan, killing five people and wounding 12 more. Initial reports indicated the target was Nong Rong, the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, who was staying at the Serena but was not present at the time. The Tehrik-i-Taliban, or TTP, a jihadi terrorist group active along the Pakistani-Afghan border, later claimed responsibility for the attack, vaguely saying it had targeted “locals and foreigners” staying at the hotel.  A few months later, in mid-July, another suicide attack targeted a convoy of Chinese workers headed to the construction site of a hydroelectric dam […]

Egyptian farmer Makhluf Abu Kassem, center, sits with farmers under the shade of a dried-up palm tree in Fayoum, Egypt, Aug. 5, 2020 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan has long been a hotbed of civil unrest and instability. In 1979, at the height of the Islamic Revolution led by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, segments of the province’s large minority Arab population led a violent push for autonomy. The oil-rich province on the border of Iraq was also at the center of the first major offensive in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. In 2005, a wave of bomb attacks set off by Arab separatists rocked Khuzestan’s provincial capital, Ahvaz. Six years later, in 2011, an Iranian government crackdown on protests inspired by […]

Biafran separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu attends a court hearing at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria, Jan. 29, 2016 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Last month, news emerged that Nnamdi Kanu had been arrested and repatriated to Nigeria to face charges of terrorism and unlawful possession of firearms, among other alleged offenses related to his role as the leader of the separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra, or IPOB. Kanu was first detained […]

Candles lit by activists protesting the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are placed outside Saudi Arabia’s consulate, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 25, 2018 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

When FBI agents first showed up at Masih Alinejad’s Brooklyn home to warn her that she was the target of an Iranian state-backed kidnapping plot, she was incredulous at first. As a journalist and outspoken critic of the regime in Tehran, she is accustomed to threats and harassment. But the brazenness of the plot was startling. “What surprised me is the fact that the regime felt confident enough to resort to kidnapping me here, on American soil,” Alinejad told me in a direct message on Twitter. “I used to think I was safe here.”  According to an indictment unsealed earlier this month, […]

President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House, Washington, July 29, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which uses relevant WPR coverage to provide background and context to the week’s top stories. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Since President Joe Biden took office, one question has become central to assessing his management of U.S. foreign policy: Is the U.S.-China rivalry an ideological contest pitting democracy against authoritarianism, or is it a battle for global primacy involving hard-boiled power politics? The events in Tunisia this week, and Washington’s reaction to them, […]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, April 23, 2021 (pool photo by Francois Walschaerts via AP).

The European Union issued its second annual report on the rule of law in EU member states last week, singling out Hungary and Poland for harsh criticism.  “Risks of clientelism, favouritism and nepotism” are unaddressed in the former, the report reads, while the independence of the judiciary and political pressure on the media are a concern in both. In one sense, this harsh rhetoric only served to underscore the EU’s failure to meaningfully confront these illiberal regimes and prod them to change course.  But recent signs indicate that Brussels is ready to challenge the budding authoritarians in its midst by […]

A protester holds a sign with “Resign, Thief” printed over a portrait of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei outside the National Palace in Guatemala City, July 24, 2021 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

The Biden administration’s strategy to combat mass migration from Central America by tackling its “root causes” just suffered a harsh blow in Guatemala with the ouster of the country’s top anti-corruption official. Juan Francisco Sandoval, the respected chief prosecutor in the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, known by its Spanish acronym FECI, was fired Friday and promptly fled the country, fearing for his life.   Sandoval’s ouster prompted street protests and demands for the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras. Above all, Sandoval’s dismissal, and his belief that he might be killed if he remained in […]

Members of the Lithuanian Police Anti-terrorist Operations Unit ARAS arrive at the refugee camp in the village of Vydeniai, Lithuania, July 10, 2021 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Months after Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko effectively hijacked a plane in order to arrest a Belarusian dissident, and weeks into a crisis in which he is encouraging migrants to cross Belarus’ shared border with the European Union as retaliation for Western sanctions, Brussels still has no plan for how to deescalate tensions with Minsk. Lithuanian […]

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the Mercosur Summit in Santa Fe, Argentina, July 17, 2019 (AP photo by Gustavo Garello).

Relations between the four members of South America’s Mercosur trade bloc—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay—are at their worst since the group’s establishment three decades ago. For months now, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has been blocking a demand by Brazil and Uruguay to reduce Mercosur’s external common tariffs, in an attempt to protect domestic companies and prevent even further disruption to an economy mired in high inflation, currency problems and a prolonged recession. Frustrated, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou announced earlier this month that he would seek trade deals outside of Mercosur, which is prohibited by the bloc’s rules. Uruguay’s decision is not […]

Anti-government protesters march in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021 (AP photo by Eliana Aponte).

When I became a correspondent covering the Caribbean and portions of Latin America—my first overseas job for the New York Times—in the spring of 1990, Cuba’s then-leader Fidel Castro already seemed like an antiquated figure to many observers, a literal greybeard at the age of 63. This impression was accentuated for me in part due to the youthfulness of his country’s population, not to mention my own. It also derived from political history, as well as the geopolitical context of the moment. Castro had already been in power since 1959, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in the world. […]

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet in Tianjin, China, July 26, 2021 (U.S. Department of State photo via AP).

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.  Over the past few months, Beijing’s increasingly uncompromising posture toward policy disagreements with foreign powers has been reflected in the strident rhetoric used by Chinese officials. The latest round of U.S.-China high-level diplomacy was no exception. But several incidents this week demonstrated how this sharp, aggressive tone on the […]

Candles on the graves of people killed during the Syrian war, in the town of Qamishli, Syria, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Baderkhan Ahmad).

Since 2011, Syria has been ravaged by a civil war that has seen numerous atrocities committed against its civilian population, including torture and war crimes. In the face of such abuses, there have repeatedly been calls for accountability. But how can perpetrators be held accountable, and by whom?  In criminal law, including international criminal law, the state is primarily responsible for seeking and carrying out justice. But the idea that the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad would hold credible trials—especially into his regime’s own conduct—is fantastical at best.  Another option, then, might be to seek accountability through the International Criminal […]

A man holds a banner showing the eyes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a protest against the government’s alleged use of powerful spyware to spy on opponents, Budapest, Hungary, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Anna Szilagyi).

Like picking up a rock in the garden, the NSO Pegasus spyware scandal exposes a repulsive world teaming with life in the muck and mire—so much so that it is tempting to put the stone back in place and pretend that world doesn’t exist. There are many layers to the story: the human cost, the murky ethics of selling powerful spy tools to states with poor human rights records, and the complexities of trying to regulate the global market for such software. They all point to a challenge that will be with us for some time, despite the popular outrage […]

Artists and activists pose for photos next to a mural at the United Nations International Commission Against Impunity, CICIG, headquarters in Guatemala City, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

The word corruption tends to evoke images of self-dealing politicians and bureaucrats, and for good reason. In Central America, graft is so endemic among public officials that it constitutes a “root cause” of out-migration from the region, according to U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.  But the private sector can play just as central a role in sustaining corruption. In recent years, traditional business elites in Central America have bankrolled efforts to roll back progress made by prosecutors and civil society groups to strengthen the rule of law.  This poses a key challenge for the Biden administration. While it has shown […]

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, puts goggles over his eyes during a post-launch news briefing from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, July 20, 2021 (AP photo by Tony Gutierrez).

Last week, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, journeyed to the edge of space in a Blue Origin rocket christened the New Shepard. Bezos’ trip came only nine days after his fellow billionaire Richard Branson had done the same in a Virgin Galactic space plane.  So, what else is new? Wealthy industrialists have always enjoyed building themselves expensive toys. Think Howard Hughes and his Spruce Goose. What sets these voyages apart is their techno-utopianism. Bezos and Branson, along with Space X founder Elon Musk, are the modern avatars of Icarus. They believe that humanity’s destiny lies not on terra firma but in the heavens—and that exploring, exploiting […]

Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo attends a mass at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, June 20, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

After being away for a decade while on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, former President Laurent Gbagbo returned home on June 17 to Cote d’Ivoire, where he was greeted by jubilant crowds. A few months earlier, on March 31, ICC judges confirmed the acquittal of Gbagbo and his co-defendant, former Youth Minister Charles Ble Goude. They had faced charges of inciting violence and committing human rights abuses during the electoral violence that took place in the aftermath of Cote d’Ivoire’s disputed 2010 election.  The 76-year-old Gbagbo continued to exercise influence even during his absence, and […]

Soldiers of the Tunisian army guard the entrance of the parliament building during a protest a day after Tunisian President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended the parliament, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Khaled Nasraoui).

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. Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament Sunday night and placed travel bans on opposition politicians. Reports quickly documented the usual authoritarian playbook: raids on journalists, threats to jail those who impugn the state, and a raft of edicts concentrating judicial, legislative and executive power in his own hands. Saied’s decisions […]

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