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What We're Watching: Mexico dismisses US report on drugs, UN warns Burundi, Biden's limits on US-UK trade

Mexico rejects top drug hub claim: In response to a new US report on the countries that are major transit points and producers of illicit drugs, Mexico's populist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, rejected the report's findings — which called out Mexico as one of the world's most prolific drug production hotspots — as merely a matter of "opinion." AMLO said that the accusation is an example of things that come up in its relations with the US that "we [Mexico] don't accept," but made clear that he would not seek confrontation with Washington over the disagreement. Indeed, AMLO's dismissal is remarkable considering he came to power in 2018 in part on his promise to root out crime linked to the country's powerful drug cartels. But to date, crime in Mexico has only exploded under AMLO's watch, while more recently, the country's powerful cartels have exploited the pandemic to expand their operations (evidence suggests that lockdowns have exacerbated the addictions of their US clientele, who account for over $20 billion of Mexican drug sales each year).

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What does a US troop withdrawal mean for Iraq?

Earlier this year, in response to diplomatic confusion over reports of an abrupt US withdrawal from Iraq, Mark Esper, the US Secretary of Defense, said decisively: "We have no plans to leave Iraq."

Now, eight months later, the Trump administration says it will reduce the number of US forces in the country to 3,000 in the coming weeks — a reduction from the 5,200 currently there. What does the US troop drawdown — and potential eventual full withdrawal — mean for Iraq, the region, and the US?

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A tenuous deal in Afghanistan

It's the decision that could kickstart intra-Afghan dialogue, and pave the way to ending the US occupation in Afghanistan after 20 bloody years.

On Sunday, after days of deliberations that involved thousands of Afghan delegates packing into one tent (what's COVID again), President Ashraf Ghani agreed to release hundreds of Taliban prisoners from government jails. The move opens the way to intra-Afghan dialogue under a deal that the US brokered directly with the Taliban earlier this year.

The Trump administration has touted this development as a major step towards peace, but after nearly two decades of war, the relevant players are still miles apart when it comes to laying out a common vision for the conflict-ridden country. What do they all want?

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Countdown to the (possibly contested) US election

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Normalcy is incrementally coming to the United States, if not yet to a lot of developing markets, but certainly to Europe, certainly to China. And I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the US election yet, certainly nothing close to the media coverage. I thought I would today because we've got 99 days until November 3rd. You say 100 days yesterday, sounds like a bigger deal, but that's only because we have a base 10 numeric system. If we had a base three numeric system, 99 days out would be pretty meaningful, right? But no, I thought let's finally, right, we've got these massive, incredibly expensive, billions of dollars spent, a year and a half of the entire process, I mean, by far a greater subversion of democracy, the way the US elections are held than any other advanced industrial democracy in the world. We all know it. Democrats, Republicans, people sick of the party system. We all recognize nothing can be done about it. It's fantastic for special interests that spend an immense amount of money trying to ensure that candidates do their bidding. But now that we are only 99 days out, political polls really do start to matter. We know who the candidates are on both sides. We don't yet have the V.P. on the Biden side. But still, I mean, we're pretty close. 100 days out, 99 days out, you feel like you can start paying attention.

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The Graphic Truth: Demographics and economic power

Updated on 08/29 to correct the positions of Japan and Germany in 2020.

Will demographic trends change the pecking order of the global economy three decades from now? Yes, but not as much as some experts have predicted. According to a new study, in 2050 China will have surpassed the US as the world's largest economy — despite China's population declining while America's keeps growing (mainly due to immigration). India will also rise economically as it becomes the world's most populous country, while Japan will stay in fourth position despite a shrinking population. We take a look at where the world's top 10 economies will be ten and twenty years from now, showing each country's projected population size.

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