FOCUS on Pariah Leaders: Bashar al-Assad

In early October, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received a phone call from King Abdullah II of Jordan, their first since Abdullah called for Assad to step down in 2011 during the Arab Spring, according to Al Jazeera. Jordan is not alone in normalizing relations with their estranged Arab neighbor—Egypt and the UAE have both contacted the Syrian government. Jordan and the UAE have come to agreements to improve economic ties and resume trade with Syria, despite U.S. sanctions.

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FOCUS on Pariah Leaders: Nicolás Maduro

Nicolás Maduro, the simultaneously reviled and celebrated socialist President of Venezuela, is facing another contested vote in November’s upcoming regional elections, according to CNN. The rise and fall of Maduro’s political legitimacy parallel that of other populist leaders in Latin America, but recent events indicate that Maduro may finally achieve the legitimacy he desires. 

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FOCUS on Frozen Conflicts: Israel-Palestine

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict made recent headlines in May after Israeli forces launched devastating airstrikes on Gaza. This latest Gaza war was sparked after Israeli Defense Forces raided one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Al Aqsa Mosque, during the holy month of Ramadan. Israeli forces dispersed worshippers with flashbangs and rubber bullets, wounding nearly 300 people, reports The Guardian.

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FOCUS on Frozen Conflicts: Ukraine-Russia

Seven years ago, Russia annexed Crimea in southern Ukraine, sparking the largest security crisis in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Today, this conflict continues to simmer, with over 10,000 killed and 24,000 injured, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Eastern Europe is no stranger to uncertainty, but the situation in Ukraine presents a serious obstacle to peace in the region and has left the country in a precarious state of limbo. 

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FOCUS on Frozen Conflicts: Taiwan-China

Taiwan’s defense minister, former Taiwanese general Chiu Kuo-cheng, made headlines recently when he stood before the Legislature Yuan and predicted that China would launch a full-scale invasion of Taiwan by 2025. According to ABC News, the Chinese government in the past few weeks has sent more than 150 military aircraft to fly through Taiwan’s air defense zone in an attempt at intimidation.

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FOCUS on Frozen Conflicts: North and South Korea

Tensions are mounting on the Korean Peninsula as North and South Korea find each other in an arms race. As a frozen conflict with its origins in the Korean war—which has not yet formally ended—both sides are attempting to resume peace talks while balancing strategic interests in the region. In 2018, both Koreas began re-establishing dialogue towards denuclearization and keeping regional peace.

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FOCUS on Afghanistan: Women

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover of the country, many questions have arisen regarding women’s rights in the country. The Taliban announced that they would lead an inclusive government where women would work “shoulder to shoulder” with men, promising to govern differently than before, says Al Jazeera.

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FOCUS on Afghanistan: The Taliban

On Tuesday, September 21, the Taliban requested to address world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and nominated Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, according to Reuters. This was one of many strategic efforts by the Taliban as it continues to woo world leaders in a bid for recognition as the official political authority in Afghanistan. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were the only countries that recognized the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

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