Publications

President Barack Obama's executive order today dramatically alters Cuba policy in a manner likely to advance individual freedom and democratic change. In taking steps to pursue direct engagement with a country just 90 miles off our coast, the president's actions will open access to information, increase exchanges, boost private enterprise, and accelerate democracy. Once walls are torn down – like with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union – the truth becomes hard to hide. The beginning of the end of the island's authoritarian legacy will come because Cubans will now more easily see what is beyond their shores.

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In the last month, President Obama has used executive orders to address the two largest structural impediments to better US relations with Latin America; immigration, and Cuba. We commend his leadership on both counts. Today, nearly 55 years of ineffective Cuba sanctions policy has come to an end.

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The actions taken by President Obama today are the effective end of a policy that for nearly 55 years has failed to produce real, democratic change in Cuba. The embargo now exists in name only.

The freeing of Alan Gross and an unnamed US intelligence asset has opened the door for relaxing restrictions on banking, remittances, and travel. This, along with the restoration of diplomatic relations, will move Cuba further down the path of reform. After the review process, Cuba should be expected to be removed from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, which will open the island to the reform pressures that come with the access this brings to international financial institutions. Engagement is what brings about change and will eventually allow Cubans to one day live in a free society.

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When it comes to the Middle East, things can always get worse and often do.

But as 2014 limps to an end, there are reasons to question this mantra.

On several fronts, there are glimmers of optimism about easing decades-long confrontations in ways that would strengthen the coalition against the group that calls itself the Islamic State.

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Although the story of Africa is increasingly one of economic dynamism, some very real development challenges remain. Many of them are related to the interdependencies between three key resources—food, water, and energy, otherwise known as the food-water-energy “nexus.”

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What does the future hold for North Korea? In 2013 North Korean Kim Jong-un proclaimed a national strategy he called byungjin ("parallel strategy") – simultaneously developing nuclear weapons and the economy. He has raised expectations among North Korea's 24 million citizens that he will lead the nation to prosperity.

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On the same day that the Senate Intelligence Committee released its blockbuster report on CIA interrogation practices after 9-11, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation declaring December 10 "Human Rights Day."

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OF ALL the international crises facing President Obama in his final two years in office, how to cope with a burning Iraq and disintegrating Syria may be the most daunting. Syria, especially, is facing the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world today.

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Iraq's chances of remaining a unitary state increased significantly with the signing of a new oil and budget agreement between the Baghdad government and the Kurds.

Building on a partial deal reached last month that permitted the Kurds to legally sell 150,000 barrels of oil a day through a pipeline to Turkey, the new agreement will allow the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to sell 550,000 barrels of oil a day, including 300,000 from the disputed Kirkuk region. The KRG and the central Iraqi government will split the revenue.

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After failing to reach their own deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement, the world's major powers and Iran settled for an extended truce that avoids the hard political choices that neither Washington nor Tehran could make.

The decision to prolong last year's interim agreement for another seven months – the best negotiators could achieve after yet another round of high-level diplomacy in Vienna – will keep Iran from amassing the fissile material for a nuclear weapon without a significant easing of sanctions or breakthrough in U.S.-Iran ties.

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