Geopolitics

Out of Cash, Iran Puts Dream Of Shia Empire On Pause

Under sanctions and deprived of funds, Iran's clerical regime has placed its dreams of regional supremacy on hold, at least until it can reach a multilateral pact on its nuclear program.

-Analysis-

It has been two years since a U.S. drone strike on a convoy in Iraq killed the Iranian Revolutionary guards commander Qasem Soleimani and 10 others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of the heads of the Iran-backed militia, Hashd al-shaabi.

In spite of his efforts and backing from his government, Soleimani's successor as head of the Revolutionary guards' Quds force, Ismail Qaani, has failed to prevent the depletion of the Axis of Resistance.

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Greater Russia? Four Scenarios For Putin’s Expansionist Ambitions

A mind map of the Russian leader’s possible plans to increase his influence, and expand his territory.

Vladimir Putin has always had his eye on the neighborhood.

In Georgia, the border with Russia has effectively been controlled by Moscow’s FSB security services since 2008. Washington this week accused Russian agents of recruiting pro-Kremlin Ukrainian operatives to take over the government in Kyiv and cooperate with a Russian occupying force. Meanwhile, all of Belarus has been on a short leash for two decades.

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New Revelations Of García Marquez's Ties To Cuba And Nicaragua

Like other intellectuals of his time, the celebrated Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez admired Cuba's Fidel Castro. What's just been revealed, however, is also, as one text reveals, the Sandinista rebels who have stifled Nicaraguan democracy in past years.

BOGOTÁ — Entirely isolated and criticized by the international community, Daniel Ortega was again sworn in earlier this month as president of Nicaragua.

Ortega has now outdone Anastasio Somoza, the despot he helped topple in his youth, with a record 26 years in power and starting a fifth mandate, including a fourth consecutive one and the second with his wife Rosario Murillo as vice-president.

After Cuba's Fidel Castro, he is the regional tyrant most frequently cheered by Colombia's leftist intellectuals, and praised as his people's emancipator from "yankee oppression."

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​What The Alexei Navalny Saga Tells Us About Putin’s Intentions On Ukraine

In the year since the arrest of Vladimir Putin's last opponent a new Cold War has begun. In the absence of internal enemies, Russia's increasingly powerful yet isolated ruler must turn to external targets.

-Analysis-

One year ago this week, on Jan. 17, 2021, Vladimir Putin effectively disposed of his last viable domestic opponent when Alexei Navalny was detained at the Sheremetyevo airport north of Moscow.

Putin had long struggled with how to handle the firebrand anti-corruption lawyer and politician — and finally decided to eliminate him. Months before, in fact, Navalny was poisoned with the deadly biological weapon Novichok but miraculously survived. The surveillance and attempted murder were carried out by Russia’s FSB state security operatives, one of whom confessed to Navalny himself in a phone conversation.

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Geopolitics
Felipe García Altamar

Ingrid Betancourt, A Hostage Heroine Reinvented As Feminist For President

Although Betancourt is best known for surviving six years as a hostage of the Colombian terror group FARC, and is considered a centrist politician, her unlikely new campaign for president will be centered on gender issues.

-Analysis-

BOGOTA — Exactly 20 years after she was kidnapped by the FARC terror group in the middle of her campaign for Colombian president, Íngrid Betancourt is launching a new campaign to lead her nation. She will do so on behalf of her party, Verde Oxígeno, becoming the only female candidate from the Centro Esperanza Coalition (CCE), which for months received a barrage of criticism for grouping only male candidacies and traditional politicians.

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Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Trying To Gauge Russian Ambitions? Look How Nervous Its Nordic Neighbors Are

The eyes of the world are on the Russian-Ukrainian border as Putin threatens an invasion. However, the more vital stage of the Kremlin’s military ambitions is the Baltic Sea, where the likes of bordering countries like Finland and Sweden are mobilizing troops as Moscow tries to undermine the allegiance of the EU and former Soviet states.

While tensions between the U.S and Russia mount with the Kremlin gathering troops at the border of Ukraine, countries farther north are preparing for the worst.

In Sweden, Dagens Nyheter reports that the country of 10 million people deployed armored vehicles and 100 soldiers to patrol streets on the island of Gotland on Friday in response to Russian landing ships sailing into the Baltic Sea. Even if the Swedish Armed Forces announced soon after that the ships were leaving, serious questions about Russia's military ambitions remain.

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Geopolitics
Théophile Simon

The New Iraq, Signs Of Hope Amid The Rubble And Reconstruction

How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future.

BAGHDAD — With a vast office located at the top of a tower fiercely guarded by the army and a bell to call the staff, Khalid Hamza Abbas is obviously a powerful character, decked out in an impeccable suit. Abbas runs the Basra Oil Company (BOC), the national company responsible for the exploitation of the oil fields in the province of Basra, in the very south of Iraq, from which four million barrels of crude oil flow daily. It’s the equivalent of 4% of world demand and 65% of central government revenue concentrated in a region of only four million inhabitants.

As he explains the profit-sharing scheme between the world’s major oil companies and his public enterprise, the 50-year-old with thin glasses is suddenly stopped dead in his tracks by the ringing of his telephone. He tries a joke to mask his suddenly worried face: "I'm going to ask you to leave my office for a few moments. If I haven't called you back in 10 minutes, call the police."

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Geopolitics
Cameron Manley

REvil Bust: Is Russian Cybercrime Crackdown Just A Decoy From Ukraine?

This weekend’s unprecedented operation to dismantle the cybercriminal REvil network in Russia was carried out on a request and information from Washington. Occurring just as the two countries face off over the Russian threat to invade Ukraine raises more questions than it answers.

The world’s attention was gripped last week by the rising risk of war at the Russia-Ukraine border, and what some have called the worst breakdown in relations between Moscow and Washington since the end of the Cold War. Yet by the end of the week, another major story was unfolding more quietly across Russia that may shed light on the high-stakes geopolitical maneuvering.

By Friday night, Russian security forces had raided 25 addresses in St. Petersburg, Moscow and several other regions south of the capital in an operation to dismantle the notorious REvil group, accused of some of the worst cyberattacks in recent years to hit targets in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West.

And by Saturday, Russian online media Interfax was reporting that the FSB Russian intelligence services revealed that it had in fact been the U.S. authorities who had informed Russia "about the leaders of the criminal community and their involvement in attacks on the information resources of foreign high-tech companies.”

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Coronavirus
Andrea Matallana

Why U.S. Vaccine Diplomacy In Latin America Makes "Good" Sense

Echoing its cultural diplomacy of the early 20th century, the United States is gifting vaccines to Latin America as part of a renewed "good neighbor'' policy.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Just before and during World War II, the United States' Good Neighbor policy proved a very effective strategy to improve ties with Latin America. Initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the policy's main goal was non-interference and non-intervention. The U.S. would instead focus on reciprocal exchanges with their southern neighbors, including through art and cultural diplomacy.

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Geopolitics
Osman El Sharnoubi

When The Only Way Out Of Prison Is The Price Of Your Citizenship

Several notable political prisoners in Egypt have renounced their citizenship to gain freedom. The choice is a difficult one to make personally, and the practice is highly questionable politically.

CAIRO — On January 8, Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath arrived in Paris after Egyptian authorities released him from prison and deported him after over 900 days in remand detention. He walked out of Charles de Gaulle Airport with his wife Celine Lebrun-Shaath to a cheering crowd of supporters. Yet the conditions of his release were no cause for celebration — Shaath was forced to renounce his Egyptian citizenship in exchange for his freedom.

Shaath's detention was part of a continuing crackdown on political dissent under Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has trageted liberal critics.

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Geopolitics
Vladimir Soloviev and Alexander Konstantinov

Kazakhstan: When One Strongman Replaces Another

Violent unrest in Kazakhstan has resulted in a new authoritarian leader finally assuming proper power in the country. Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev promises a new way of doing things, but his methods are strikingly similar to his predecessor.

The real transition of power in Kazakhstan was supposed to have taken place in 2019. Former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled the former Soviet Republic with an iron first since its independence in 1991, finally stepped aside to allow his successor, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, to take power.

However, Nazarbayev retained enormous influence behind the scenes. The real transfer of power is in fact happening only now, following large-scale unrest and protests around the country.

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Geopolitics
Shahram Sabzevari

Don't Underestimate Russian Influence Over Iran's Military

Russia's role in in Iranian affairs goes to the highest levels of its military and security structures. But will anyone in Iran dare question Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in spite of the grave risks to the country's national security?

-Analysis-

LONDON — Several sources recently reported on the sale of 24 Russian Su-35 fighter jets to Iran. These were initially to be sold to Egypt, but that deal was thwarted by the threat of U.S. sanctions on Egypt. Since 15 of the planes were reportedly ready for delivery, they may be sent to the Iranian regime in early 2022.

Reports of sales of Russian commercial or military planes to Iran are not new, though some now qualify them as a consolation for Tehran to make amends for Russia's suspected approval of the strikes that have targeted Iranian Revolutionary guards bases, allied militias and Iranian war material in Syria.

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Coronavirus
Deng Yuwen

Why COVID-19 Has Made China Stronger

The COVID-19 outbreak has reshaped the world's emerging superpower both at home and abroad, making China emerge as a more efficient power and helping Chinese overcome their inferiority complex vis-a-vis the West.

-Analysis-

BEIJING — We are now entering the third year of the pandemic since the outbreak of COVID-19 in January 2020. During the past two years, the coronavirus has spread from China to the whole world. Not only is this pandemic a testimony of every government and social response, but it has also had an impact that goes beyond public health, especially among the major powers. To some extent, the pandemic has brought about changes in our way of life and has reshaped the world's geopolitics.

China is the original epicenter of where the virus was found, and the propagation of the infectious disease occurred at a moment when China and the United States were plainly engaged in a trade war. The Chinese government's response to the crisis has been significantly different from that of other countries.

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Ideas
Anna Akage

"Worse Than Death" - A Message For Putin From A Reluctant Ukrainian Patriot

With Russian troops amassed at the border with Ukraine, the writer, who came of age in Kiev in the post-Soviet era, says her fellow Ukrainians of every generation are united in never again falling under the reign of Moscow.

"We survived the War, we can survive these maneuvers."

"The important thing is that there's no war."

"If there is a war, what if I am too tired to fight?"

These are phrases that I've heard in my daily life for as long as I can remember. There is no family in Ukraine that did not suffer from the 20th century's two world wars, Soviet revolutions and repressions and the Holodomor famine of the 1930s that killed millions. Flare-ups and worse with Russia over the past two decades spark immediate visceral reactions, sometimes overreactions, that come from history that never seems too far behind.

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Geopolitics

Norwegian Salmon v. Danish Trout: Lessons On Ecology And Economics

The Danish government has banned further growth in sea-based fish farming, claiming the country had reached the limit without endangering the environment. A marine biologist says it is a misguided policy for both economic and ecological reasons.

-Analysis-

“They’ve got the oil in the North Sea, but don’t let Norway get all the pink gold too…”

That was a headline of a recent OpEd in Danish daily Politiken, arguing that misguided environmental concerns are giving neighboring Norway a monopoly on the lucrative salmon industry.

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Geopolitics
Lena Surzhko Harned

Kazakhstan's Turn: Putin Having His Way With Former Soviet Republics

As with Ukraine and Belarus, Kazakhstan is falling under the grip of Moscow as a response to disorder and threats to align with the West.

-Analysis-

Add Kazakhstan to the list of former Soviet republics whose independence is now being threatened by Russia. Russian leader Vladimir Putin is using a similar playbook in Kazakhstan to one that he has used over almost a decade to threaten the sovereignty of Ukraine.

What began as protests over rising fuel prices on Jan. 2, 2021, quickly escalated into violent clashes on the streets of Kazakhstan. On Jan. 5, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a firm ally of Putin’s, requested support from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, of which Putin’s Russian Federation is the leading member. Russia has responded decisively by sending paratroopers, special operations troops and equipment as part of a nearly 3,000-strong force to Kazakhstan.

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