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Showing posts from April 25, 2014

Afghanistan: A Battleground for Iranian and Saudi Interests

Many observers have overlooked some of the ancillary regional consequences of the U.S.-Iran deal. As the United States and Iran reached the agreement, Washington encountered trouble with Iran's eastern neighbor, Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai would not sign the bilateral security agreement that would authorize a residual American force in Afghanistan after 2014. The standoff will be short-lived, but in light of the U.S.-Iran deal, battles will continue to take place in Afghanistan between two historic rivals: Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is now poised to play an unprecedented role in the region.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice left Kabul on Tuesday after warning Karzai that if he did not sign the bilateral security agreement Washington would have to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year. That probably will not come to pass; Karzai is simply posturing to get additional concessions from Washington, many of which involve Karzai tryin…

What China's Economic Slowdown Means for Latin America

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua (R) and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, at the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry on April 21.(JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)


A looming slowdown in the Chinese economy promises trouble for China's economic partners in Latin America, especially commodity exporters. The growing relationship between China and Latin America is on display this week as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi tours the region in a trip that will wrap up April 26. Wang is visiting Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina to discuss bilateral financing and trade deals.

China's slowing economy and potential for domestic economic instability threatens to sharply lower demand for key commodities exported by Latin American countries. Particularly vulnerable are countries such as Brazil, Peru and Chile that have seen China rise in importance as an export destination.


When the 2008 financial crisis seized international trade and sent the European Union and the United State…

Boko Haram Adjusts Its Methods

Policemen investigate the site of the April 14 Boko Haram attack in Abuja. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)


The April 14 car-bombing near the Nigerian capital of Abuja, for which Boko Haram claimed responsibility over the weekend, marks the group's renewed use of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices to carry out attacks. Boko Haram is modifying its strategy, employing guerrilla and terrorist tactics while abandoning its effort to control a small part of Borno state -- a goal the group pursued during the first half of 2013.

The most recent attack marks a return to the methods Boko Haram used in 2012, although the softer targets and lack of suicide bombers suggest a lower degree of sophistication. The group's activity during the first quarter of this year also suggests a more limited geographic concentration to the three northeastern states of Nigeria: Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. However, occasional attacks in Kano state and the Middle Belt region remain likely.


The ch…

German Business Ties With Russia Curb the Threat of EU Sanctions

A German and Russian flag in front of the Westin Hotel in Leipzig, Germany, on April 23.(ROBERT MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images)


The Europeans will continue to threaten Russia with sanctions to pressure Moscow to help implement the Geneva agreement on eastern Ukraine, but the likelihood of European financial and economic sanctions is small. An important reason is that Germany has prioritized strategic commercial deals with Russia and is reluctant to see relations deteriorate further. Yet with the German public and other European countries calling for greater energy freedom from Russia, it will become more difficult for Berlin to defend stronger ties with Russia.


It is difficult for the European Union to reach a consensus on financial and economic sanctions against Russia because member states have their own bilateral ties with Russia to preserve. Even before the April 17 agreement, it was not possible to clearly define which countries were for or against financial and economic s…

South Sudanese Rebel Attacks Delay Oil Production

Foreign workers wait for a visit from South Sudan's petroleum minister in the town of Paloch on March 2.(ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)


Relative calm had returned to South Sudan's oil-producing Unity state after government forces recaptured the state's capital, Bentiu, in January. The South Sudanese Petroleum Ministry had put forth a July 2014 deadline for resuming oil production, but the ongoing rebel offensive in the state has halted any attempts to meet that deadline. Any damage the oil facilities sustain in a rebel takeover would only prolong the time it would take to bring production back to pre-crisis levels.


Oil production in Unity state, which at 50,000 barrels per day makes up about one-fifth of South Sudan's current production capacity, has been completely halted since fighting broke out near the oil facilities in December 2013. Interested outside parties have since weighed in on the matter. China has reiterated its interest in a diplomatic …