US legislators weighing options to punish rogue actors using the plumbing of the international financial system – the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) – must carefully weigh the benefits of any such decision against the broad potential consequences. Unilateral, isolated policy making that implicates SWIFT risks hampering the flow of global financial transactions and trade, harming US businesses as well as further antagonizing European allies.

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US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s resignation on October 9 caught many, including some within US President Donald J. Trump’s Cabinet, by surprise. She will leave the post at the end of the year.

Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and the daughter of Indian immigrants, at times struck an independent position from Trump, but was also a prominent supporter of the president.

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Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist who has been compared to Donald J. Trump, won the first round of the presidential election in Brazil on October 7, but fell just short of the majority required to avoid a second-round runoff. The former army captain will face left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) candidate, Fernando Haddad, in a runoff on October 28.

Bolsonaro belongs to the Social Liberal Party (PSL). He has a history of making incendiary remarks about women, minorities, and gays; he has also promised to get tough on crime and corruption. He won just under 47 percent of the vote, his closest competitor, Haddad, got 28 percent.

“Bolsonaro’s near victory in the first round shows Brazilians are fed up with insecurity and corruption, and desperately want their economic fortunes reversed,” said Jason Marczak, director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

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Even with all news noise focusing on the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation fight and the "not NAFTA" trade agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada, it would be a mistake to miss this week's most significant geopolitical development:

The dramatic unfolding of the Trump administration's intensified offensive on China.

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After five months of political uncertainty, Iraq finally has a new prime minister.

On October 3, Iraq’s newly named president, Barham Salih, picked Adel Abdul Mahdi, an independent Shia politician, to be the next prime minister and form a government. The appointment of Mahdi may have provided an opportunity to calm the protests that have roiled the southern Iraqi city of Basra since July.

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NAFTA is back with a new alias: the USMCA. Can you spot the difference? Put your knowledge to the test with 7 questions designed for only the truest trade geeks. Pour a glass of Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir and prove that you liked NAFTA before it was cool.

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With less than six months to go before the United Kingdom exits the European Union (EU), it is still unclear how such an exit will occur. After a contentious meeting on September 21 in Salzburg, Austria, EU leaders and British Prime Minister Theresa May remain unable to reach a deal about the relationship the United Kingdom should keep with the bloc after Brexit.

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Over the past five years, the Maldives steadily transitioned from democratic to authoritarian rule under President Abdulla Yameen. Despite all odds, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) achieved a stunning electoral victory on September 23 that provides the Indian Ocean nation with an opportunity to reverse the erosion of rights and freedoms that occurred during Yameen’s tenure. The new government must now secure the loyalty of its institutions, including political factions within the MDP and the military, to ensure a peaceful and stable transition of power from Yameen to President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his new ruling coalition in November.  

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US Vice President Mike Pence took direct aim at Beijing in an October 4 speech in which he accused China of “pursuing a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the president, our agenda, and our nation’s most cherished ideals.”

Pence’s speech followed similar remarks by US President Donald J. Trump at the United Nations Security Council on September 26. Trump there accused Beijing of “meddling… because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade and we are winning on trade.” China and the United States have been locked in a tit-for-tat exchange of tariffs after Trump placed restrictions on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods in June. On September 17, the United States placed additional tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, in response to Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs for the initial June measures.

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‘Our adversaries have demonstrated the capability and will,’ says US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

The United States’ top cybersecurity officials believe that the midterm elections in November are a potential target of foreign cyberattacks as “our adversaries have demonstrated the capability and will,” US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at a conference hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington on October 3.

“Our goal at the heart of it is to ensure that every American has assurance that their vote is counted and that their vote is counted correctly,” Nielsen said. She gave a keynote address as part of the Atlantic Council’s Global Forum on Strategic Communications and Digital Disinformation (StratComDC), a two-day conference convening global leaders in combatting disinformation and securing digital infrastructure, co-hosted by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Embassy of Sweden, the Embassy of Lithuania, and Twitter.

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