• National security challengesOn rogues and peers: Russian, Chinese challenges to U.S. national security

    Russia and China represent distinct challenges to U.S. national security. Russia is not a peer or near-peer competitor but rather a well-armed rogue state that seeks to subvert an international order it can never hope to dominate. In contrast, China is a peer competitor that wants to shape an international order that it can aspire to dominate.

  • Hemispheric securityGuyana faces "creeping coup"

    Venezuela is not the only country in South America facing political instability and crisis:  After losing a parliamentary vote of non-confidence on December 21st, in the small neighboring country of Guyana, the government of President David Granger has refused to resign or schedule elections, in clear violation of the constitution.

  • Africa watchQatar plays key role for peace in the Horn of Africa

    The past year’s unexpected outbreak of peace between former rivals Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa was the result of a decade of patient diplomacy, investment, and military peacekeeping by several regional states, most notably Qatar. The small, oil-rich Emirate in the Persian Gulf has now emerged as a significant regional power.

  • The gathering stormRussia’s hostile measures threaten Europe: Report

    A new RAND report examines current Russian hostile measures in Europe and forecasts how Russia might threaten Europe using these measures over the next few years. “Whatever the U.S. response, preparation for involvement in a wide range of conflicts can help reduce the risk of mismanagement, miscalculation, and escalation,” the report’s authos say.

  • The Russia connectionKremlin dispatches Russian security personnel to protect Venezuela’s Maduro

    Private Russian military contractors have been dispatched by the Kremlin to Venezuela in the past few days to shore up security for President Nicolas Maduro. The Russian move appears to be in response to the recognition by the United States and most of Latin America’s countries of Juan Guaido, who declares himself as Venezuela’s interm president earlier this week. Russian sources told Reuters that the Russian contingent sent to protect Maduro is about 400 strong.

  • Energy & geopoliticsNew geopolitical power dynamics created by renewables

    Political and business leaders from around the world have outlined the far-reaching geopolitical implications of an energy transformation driven by the rapid growth of renewable energy. In a new report, experts say the geopolitical and socio-economic consequences of a new energy age may be as profound as those which accompanied the shift from biomass to fossil fuels two centuries ago.

  • Sonic weaponsCuban lovelorn crickets, not a sonic weapon, made U.S. diplomats ill: Study

    In late 2016, U.S. diplomats in Havana began to report ear pain, dizziness, confusion – and some showed symptoms of mysteriois brain injury. The diplomats said that their symptoms occurred after they repeatedly heard a high-frequency noise. The State Department withdrew half its embassy staff, and several studies concluded that the high-frequency noise was generated by a sonic weapon. A new study argues that the high-frequency noise was created by local crickets.

  • Considered opinion: Guyana turmoilGuyana at risk: Ethnic politics, oil, Venezuelan opportunism and why it should matter to Washington

    By Evan Ellis

    On Friday, 21 December, the government of Guyana, a strategically important but often overlooked country, imploded. A member of parliament from a small centrist partner in the governing coalition, supported an opposition no-confidence motion against his own party’s leadership. His move ended the government’s fragile 33-32 majority in the 65 seat National Assembly, setting the stage for new national elections within 90 days. The collapse of the government is the first shot in a destabilizing fight between Guyana’s ethnically Indian and African communities to control the spoils from a tidal wave of oil money as production from the offshore Liza field begins in 2020. To exacerbate the situation, the collapsing socialist regime of neighboring Venezuela continues to assert claims on part of that oil and a third of Guyana’s national territory.

  • Peace index2018 Global Peace Index finds a less peaceful world

    The 2018 Global Peace Index (GPI) finds that the global level of peace has deteriorated by 0.27 percent in the last year, marking the fourth successive year of deteriorations. Ninety-two countries deteriorated, while 71 countries improved. The 2018 GPI reveals a world in which the tensions, conflicts, and crises that emerged in the past decade remain unresolved, especially in the Middle East, resulting in a gradual, sustained fall in peacefulness. The Top 5 most peaceful countries are Iceland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark. The least peaceful countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia.

  • DeterrenceThe challenge of deterrence in today’s world

    The challenge of deterrence — discouraging states from taking unwanted actions, especially military aggression — has again become a principal theme in U.S. defense policy. But the landscape has changed: Many potential adversaries are significantly more capable than they were a decade or more ago, and the risks of actually fighting a major war are more significant than ever. This makes it even more imperative to deter conflict.

  • Cuban mystery21 U.S. diplomats in Cuba suffered “acquired brain injury from an exposure of unknown origin”: Experts

    In late 2016, U.S. government personnel in Havana, Cuba, visited the embassy medical unit after experiencing unusual sound and sensory phenomena and the onset of neurological symptoms. Researchers who examined the twenty-one diplomats say that concussion-like symptoms were observed in the 11 women and 10 men after they reported hearing intensely loud sounds in their homes and hotel rooms and feeling changes in air pressure caused by an unknown source. The symptoms were consistent with brain injury, although there was no history of head trauma. The experts who examined the American diplomats concluded: “The unique circumstances of these patients and the clinical manifestations detailed in this report raise concern about a new mechanism for possible acquired brain injury from an exposure of unknown origin.”

  • IranIran’s uprising—a case of patrimonial corruption, pt. 2

    By John Changiz Vafai

    Iran’s corruption is more structural and ideologically oriented than the one resulting from nepotism or individual petty corruption. The grievances expressed by the ordinary Iranians on the streets of various towns, reflect the structural corruption that have resulted in a grave disparity in distribution of resources for the ordinary people. Because of the structural and patrimonial corruption, mismanagement, and preferential treatment of its citizens, Iran’s economic growth after the nuclear deal has benefited only the well-connected few. The demonstrations took place primarily in towns other than Tehran, and the demonstrators were not solely students demanding change on government’s policies concerning basic human rights and political freedoms. The demonstrators have been asking for an affordable price of groceries.

  • IranIran’s uprising—a case of patrimonial corruption, pt. 1

    By John Changiz Vafai

    The recent uprising in Iran has a powerful message: eliminate economic injustice. In this respect, it is more potent and enduring than the wave of demonstrations in 2009 seeking “where is my vote.” The 2009 revolt was primarily carried out by young university students, intellectuals, urban dwellers, and those who had the experience of life under democratic systems. In that year, young Iranians’ overwhelming vote, for a semblance of a representative government, was answered with guns. Iran’s problems could not be explained without referring to the paradoxical fabric of its society, and its government. Iran has one of the highest adult education in the world— 97 percent among young adults— well ahead of the regional average. Further, a considerable percentage of the student body, in Iranian universities, is female. And Iran has a unique pattern of distribution of wealth among its institutions. The disposition of economic resources is mainly controlled, and ultimately benefited, by the extra-constitutional entities.

  • African securityTurkey’s foray into Somalia is a huge success, but there are risks

    By Brendon J. Cannon

    Turkey’s engagement with Somalia is striking for its brevity and ostensible success. Turkey has been involved in Somalia since just 2011, yet Ankara can point to a string of reported accomplishments and an arguably outsized presence in an often violent country regularly described as a failed state. Turkey’s presence in Somalia certainly embodies one of the most interesting regional geopolitical developments in the past decade. It also represents one of the most misunderstood and confusing. Why did Turkey choose Somalia? And, after its initial humanitarian intervention in 2011, what internal and external forces have shaped and expanded that involvement? Furthermore, what explains Turkey’s reported triumphs? Turkey’s actions have arguably improved the situation in Somalia over the past six years. This is because Ankara has actually attempted to assuage rather than solve Somalia’s long-standing problems outright. Investment is largely driven by profits and assistance is targeted, coordinated and based on needs. These interventions rarely come with the types of strings attached that characterize other efforts seeking to restructure Somalia. This has been welcomed by many Somalis for whom requirements for political reform or the creation of accountability mechanisms ring hollow.

  • The Russia connectionTillerson urges Latin America to beware of Russia, China

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned countries of the Western Hemisphere to beware of “alarming” actions by Russia and China in their region, urging them to work with the United States instead. “Latin America doesn’t need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people,” Tillerson said in speech in Texas on 1 February before arriving in Mexico to begin a tour of regional countries. Tillerson said that “strong institutions and governments that are accountable to their people also secure their sovereignty against potential predatory actors that are now showing up in our hemisphere.”