Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks duringing a parliamentary session to confirm the new government, in Beirut, Sept. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

BEIRUT—After 13 months of political paralysis, Lebanon finally has a new government, the first since former Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned along with his entire Cabinet after the Beirut port explosion of August 2020, which killed over 200 and devastated the capital city.  The new administration is led by Lebanon’s richest man, billionaire Najib Mikati, who previously served as prime minister from 2011 to 2014, and for several months on an interim basis in 2005. He was sworn in earlier this month, and his government received a vote of confidence in Parliament on Monday.  His government is technocratic, its ministers […]

President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron during a bilateral meeting at the G-7 summit in Carbis Bay, England, June 12, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

As evidenced by the wall-to-wall coverage this week in this publication and countless others, French President Emmanuel Macron’s recall of France’s ambassadors from Washington and Canberra over the trilateral security pact between the U.S., Australia and the U.K. has naturally raised anew worries about the stability of the trans-Atlantic partnership and the cohesiveness of NATO. U.S. President Joe Biden’s hard pivot to the Indo-Pacific is clearly giving France specifically, and the EU and the world more generally, a bad case of whiplash.  But perhaps overshadowed by Paris’ fit of pique over Australia’s cancellation of its multibillion-dollar deal with France to build attack-class submarines in favor of […]

Candidates in the LDP leadership election-from left, Kono Taro, Kishida Fumio, Takaichi Sanae and Noda Seiko-pose before a debate hosted by the Japan National Press Club, in Tokyo, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP pool photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

Leadership elections in Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party are generally predictable, even dull affairs. The head of the LDP is chosen through a nominally democratic process, but the real action traditionally unfolds behind closed doors, with factional bosses picking their favored candidate well in advance of the vote. Once a candidate gains a critical mass of support, the rest of the party tends to fall in line in a kind of bandwagon effect, lest they miss out on any of the political benefits that come with having bet on the winning horse.  In a refreshing change of pace, however, the […]

Australian Minister of Defense Peter Dutton, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attend a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Sept. 16, 2021 (AP photo

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. 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. The aftershocks from last week’s bombshell announcement by the U.S., Australia and the U.K. that they would be forming a new security partnership whose pilot project would be to assist Australia in building a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines continued to be felt well into this week. The deal signaled a major shift in the strategic landscape of […]

Col. Assimi Goita, left, head of Mali’s military junta, and retired Col. Maj. Bah N’Daw, right, as N’Daw is sworn into the office of transitional president, Bamako, Mali, Sept. 25, 2020 (AP file photo).

With rising communal and interethnic violence gripping swaths of the country, two coups in less than a year and a deadlocked transition to civilian rule, Mali is arguably facing its most uncertain moment since the 1991 March Revolution, which paved the way for the country’s return to civilian government nearly 30 years ago. Throw in a peace accord with northern insurgent groups on life support, a drawdown of Operation Barkhane—France’s massive counterinsurgency mission across the Sahel—and a rumored deal to deploy Russian private military contractors from the Wagner Group to the country, and it’s fair to say Mali’s immediate and […]

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid gives a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

The Taliban’s announcement earlier this month that it had formed an all-male “interim” Cabinet in Afghanistan comprising only the movement’s members—many of them veterans of the Taliban’s last stint in power in the 1990s—took many observers by surprise. Members of the notorious Haqqani network, which controls southeastern Afghanistan, were placed in influential positions. While the Taliban appointed several outsiders and members of ethnic minorities to some additional Cabinet positions this week, none of them were given important portfolios.  The announcement of the main Cabinet lineup on Sept. 7 followed a trip to Kabul by Faiz Hameed, chief of Pakistan’s powerful […]

Argentine president Alberto Fernandez sits next to Vice President Cristina Fernandez as he opens the 2020 session of Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 1, 2020 (AP photo by Marcos Brindicci).

High drama has always been a mainstay of Argentina’s politics. Sadly, although the country’s never-a-dull-moment political machinations provide entertainment value, they almost always unfold against the backdrop of a struggling population.  As political soap operas go, it would be hard to find anything more gripping than what has been unfolding in Buenos Aires in the past few days. Argentines have barely been able to take their eyes away from a pitched battle between President Alberto Fernandez and Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, exploding in full view on social media. As you might recall, Cristina Fernandez, the former president and […]

President Joe Biden speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-7 summit, Cornwall, U.K., June 11, 2021 (AP Photo by Patrick Semansky).

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 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. Despite yesterday’s conciliatory phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, the trans-Atlantic tensions over the nuclear-powered submarine deal between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia show little sign of abating. Last week’s announcement of the so-called AUKUS security partnership completely blindsided European […]

A man helps hold up a banner with a hashtag that reads in Spanish, “terrorism never again,” as he joins others outside the anti-terrorism directorate to celebrate the death of Abimael Guzman, in Lima, Peru, Sept. 11, 2021 (AP photo by Martin Mejia).

LIMA, Peru—Less than a week after Abimael Guzman—the aging founder of the Maoist Shining Path guerilla group that once drenched this Andean nation in blood—died in prison, Peru’s divided Congress passed a law ensuring the cremation of his body. The rushed piece of legislation, approved last Friday with 70 votes in favor and 32 against, was intended to head off the possibility of Guzman’s tomb becoming a shrine to his fundamentalist ideology. Guzman and his followers believed a proletarian utopia should be built, almost literally, on the bones of the bourgeoisie—a class it defined as anyone who had not signed […]

The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Missouri departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Sept. 1, 2021 (U.S. Navy photo by Spc. Amanda R. Gray via AP).

In the space of a single news cycle last week, the substance behind the news that the United States and Britain had joined forces to sell nuclear submarine technology to Australia came to be overshadowed by the emotions aroused by this development—namely, France’s theatrically indignant response to having its preexisting deal to sell submarines to Canberra canceled without notice. Paris has invoked “treason” and spoken of being stabbed in the back, comparing U.S. President Joe Biden unfavorably to his predecessor, Donald Trump, all while taking the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors from the United States and Australia, something seldom done even […]

President Joe Biden, joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

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 Wedenesday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Last Wednesday, the Biden administration unveiled a historic security partnership in the Indo-Pacific region between the U.S., Australia and the U.K., known as AUKUS. As part of the deal’s terms and conditions, the United States and the United Kingdom will help Australia build and deploy nuclear-powered submarines, as […]

Victor Ruiz Valencia removes his hat during the burial of his cousin, Yaqui Indigenous rights leader Tomas Rojo, who was found dead amid local opposition to construction in the area, in Vicam, Sonora state, Mexico, July 10, 2021 (AP photo/Luis Gutierrez).

According to a report released last week, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for environmental and land rights activists around the world. The human rights organization Global Witness recorded 227 killings of such activists, a tally that it said was almost certainly an undercount.  As the report makes clear, the victims were most often killed while resisting the activities of extractive industries on their land: logging, mining, the clearing of forests for agribusiness and other environmentally destructive activities that fuel the climate crisis. Of the confirmed lethal attacks, the highest number was recorded in Colombia, and nearly three-fourths of […]

Turkish security forces apprehend a group of migrants in an operation aimed at stemming the recent influx of migration, in Van, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

In July, British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the U.K. had agreed to pay France roughly $72 million to fund border personnel and equipment that would be used to stop asylum-seekers from crossing the English Channel. The deal came amid a dramatic rise in the number of channel crossings. In the first half of 2021, more than 8,000 asylum-seekers completed the voyage to land on England’s southern shore. The deal with France was controversial, including within Patel’s own Conservative Party. Noting that this was the second such payment to France in the past year, Tim Loughton, a leading Conservative […]

President Joe Biden, joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announces the AUKUS agreement from the East Room of the White House, Washington, Sept. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

The newly announced nuclear-powered submarine deal and trilateral security partnership between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia is remarkable for the sheer range of regional and subject matter experts needed to make sense of it. Like the proverbial three blind men and the elephant, it means something very different depending on where you grab hold of it. Some of issues raised by the sub deal, particularly over the technical specifications and proliferation concerns, remain open questions that will only be answered 18 months from now, when the framework agreement is due to be finalized in an actual contract, although that […]

The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Oklahoma City returns to the U.S. Naval Base in Guam, Aug. 19, 2021 (U.S. Navy photo by Naomi Johnson via AP).

The newly minted Australia-U.K.-U.S. security pact, known by its acronym AUKUS, was announced just days after the 70th anniversary of another regional trilateral defense arrangement, the ANZUS treaty, which comprises Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The genesis of both deals was deeply informed by history and geography.  Signed in 1951, ANZUS built on its signatories’ close cooperation in the Pacific theater of World War II and reflected a common sense of identity between the three signatories—all Pacific Ocean-facing, English-speaking democratic societies of the New World. But ANZUS was always a precarious alliance, never including a NATO-like Article 5 […]

A Wikipedia landing page is displayed on a laptop computer screen at the offices of the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco, Jan. 18, 2012 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Last week, Maggie Dennis, Wikimedia’s vice president of community resilience & sustainability, announced that it had removed seven Chinese nationals as editors on Wikipedia, following a year-long investigation into “the unrecognized group Wikimedians of Mainland China.” The internal investigation by Wikipedia’s parent organization uncovered evidence of “infiltration” resulting in members of the platform’s editorial community facing the risk of physical harm and other threats to their safety. Though Wikipedia is banned in mainland China, there have been press reports of hotly contested “edit wars” relating to political content on the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and the status of Taiwan.  The episode reignites […]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani upon his arrival at the Red Sea city of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, May 10, 2021 (AP photo by Bandar Aljaloud).

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. Talking is good, but how much should expectations and hopes be raised now that Middle East rivals are talking without necessarily putting a pause on their disputes?  Friday saw the unveiling of a new “public display of diplomacy” in the broader region when an aide to […]

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