• Kremlin 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.

  • New 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.

  • Cuban 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.

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

    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.

  • 2018 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.

  • The 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.

  • 21 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.”

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

    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.

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

    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.

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

    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.

  • Tillerson 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.”

  • Netanyahu tells Putin Israel won’t allow Iranian bases in Syria, missile plants in Lebanon

    In talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Putin that Israel would not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria or making Lebanon into “factory for precision missiles” to attack Israel. Regarding Iranian efforts to establish a base of operations in Syria, Netanyahu said, “I made clear to Putin that we will stop it if it doesn’t stop by itself. We are already acting to stop it.”

  • Head of Saudi-based Muslim organization calls Holocaust denial “a crime to distort history”

    In a historic move, the leader of the Muslim World League, a group based in Saudi Arabia, has condemned Holocaust denial in a letter sent to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “History is indeed impartial no matter how hard forgers tried to tamper with or manipulate it,” Mohammad Al Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League, wrote in the message sent to museum director, Sara Bloomfield, five days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January.

  • Outcry over Poland’s law which rewrites WWII history, and bans challenges to the government’s version

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined other Israeli leaders in harshly condemning a law initiated by Poland’s nationalist government and passed by the lower house of the Polish parliament. The law aims to distance Poland from any responsibility for or complicity in the Holocaust. At a Sunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel has “no tolerance for the distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.” Historians of twentieth-century Poland, as well as historians of the Second World War and the Holocaust, argue that the Polish government’s version of history is a willful distortion of a complicated and painful reality.

  • Climate change will displace millions in coming decades. Nations should prepare now to help them

    By the middle of this century, experts estimate that climate change is likely to displace between 150 and 300 million people. If this group formed a country, it would be the fourth-largest in the world, with a population nearly as large as that of the United States. Yet neither individual countries nor the global community are completely prepared to support a whole new class of “climate migrants.” The scale of this challenge is unlike anything humanity has ever faced. By midcentury, climate change is likely to uproot far more people than the Second World War, which displaced some 60 million across Europe, or the Partition of India, which affected approximately 15 million. The migration crisis that has gripped Europe since 2015 has involved something over one million refugees and migrants. It is daunting to envision much larger flows of people, but that is why the global community should start doing so now.