British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a dramatic challenge to her leadership during a Conservative Party vote on December 12, but she still must find a way to pass the Brexit agreement she negotiated with the European Union through a skeptical Parliament.

Serious concerns about how to keep the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland open—and the possibility that the United Kingdom may need to remain in the EU’s customs union to achieve that—means that right now “we don’t have a deal which has a chance of passing the UK Parliament,” Peter Westmacott, a distinguished ambassadorial fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former UK ambassador to the United States, said in a call hosted by the Council on December 12.

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One year on, there appears to be little to show for US President Donald J. Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan. The administration needs to implement this strategy in a way that creates an opportunity to end the war in Afghanistan while advancing core US interests of defeating terrorism and demonstrating that a moderate Islamic state, aligned with the international community, can succeed.

The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center convened policymakers, analysts, and diplomats to assess the gaps in and imminent challenges facing the US strategy in Afghanistan. In a resulting report, “A Review of President Trump’s South Asia Strategy: The Way Ahead, One Year In,” these experts provide some important recommendations to the administration. Here’s a look at those recommendations.

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Two years ago, Maj. Marcel Podhorodecki bought himself a new toy—a battery-powered drone he could control with an application downloaded to his cellphone.

The public affairs officer for Poland’s 12th Mechanized Division, an army unit that plays a key role in the defense of NATO’s eastern border, took a four-day course in the drone’s fundamentals. Determined to become a whiz at it, he began learning the DJI Phantom 4’s fine points by trial and error. Hundreds of practice hours later, the seventeen-year officer from Jelenia Gora in southwestern Poland achieved the mastery he had hoped for. In fact, he became so skilled that he began using the drone in his work at the 12th Mechanized’s home in Szczecin.

The growing popularity of drones in journalism, film, and other kinds of communication means that some military public affairs units are acquiring them for missions. But Podhorodecki is likely the only military public affairs officer in the world using his personal drone on the job.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May on December 10 decided not to call a long-expected vote on her plan to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union (EU). The underlying reason is continued controversy over the so-called Irish backstop—a fall-back plan that would maintain an open border on the island of Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without securing a deal. But while there is a mountain of controversy over the backstop mechanism itself, and whether it might lock the UK, against its will, into a near permanent customs union with the EU, there is virtually no discussion of the underlying political—and security—rationale for the backstop.

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The land border shared by the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has taken center stage in the current Brexit debate. The volume of trade that occurs between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the potential for a renewal of ethnic violence, the isolationist views of Brexiteers in London, and the concerns of Northern Irish communities themselves have all combined to fuel a stalemate over the border. The reconciliation of these issues is essential to the passage and implementation of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, and, according to the prime minister, to “ensure that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland—so people can live their lives as they do now.”

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Though we spend so much of our time contemplating some of the cruelest of human actions, human rights activists are normally, by nature, optimists. After all, why else would we believe in our ability to expose evil, ensure justice, and bring positive change?

Yet recent times have challenged us a lot and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 falls at a time of deep pessimism for many human rights activists. There have been massive advances over the past seventy years—billions raised out of poverty, children moved from the workforce and into the classroom, their elders living longer and healthier lives. Women have taken huge strides toward gender equality, while indigenous communities, those who identify as LGBT, and people with disabilities are claiming their place in society.

Still, there is truly a mercy deficit in the world today.

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SCHLOSS ELMAU, GERMANY – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently shared some history with a friend, explaining why he reached out to China’s then-Premier Wen Jiabao in 2011, seeking urgent financial support and providing Beijing one of several European inroads in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
 
Orban’s reason was a simple one: survival. Facing a potential debt crisis and unwilling to accept austere loan conditions from Western institutions, Beijing offered a lifeline. For his part, Orban convened some Central European leaders with Beijing, and they laid the groundwork for the “16-plus-one” initiative based in Budapest that since then has provided China unprecedented regional influence.
 

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Washington Squanders its Newfound Leverage

Geopolitical issues converged in an unlikely location this week—the conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial meeting in Vienna, Austria. On the table were production cuts intended to stop the 30 percent slide in the price of oil from its high of $85 per barrel (Brent) in early October. Yet Iran sanctions, the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Russia’s increasing engagement in the Middle East (part of a broader pattern of an assertive global posture), the escalation of trade tensions between the United States and China, and US President Donald J. Trump’s obsession with oil prices made politics a considerable undercurrent in OPEC’s decision to cut oil production.

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For much of the past decade, Spain has been an exception to the Europe-wide electoral rise of populist right-wing parties. The December 2 regional election in Andalusia ended the Spanish anomaly. As the results poured in, heads turned in Europe as Vox, a populist right-wing party, won 11 percent of the vote and twelve seats in the Andalusian parliament. Most polls in the lead-up to the vote had the party around the 5 percent mark.

Populism is nothing new in Spanish politics. In recent years, left-wing Podemos has successfully employed a brand of populism that appealed to large portions of the electorate in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The conservative platform, on the other hand, was dominated in the 2008 and 2011 elections by the center-right People’s Party (PP).

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In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote, “degrading US-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the US and its allies.” Moreover, in the course of his defense of the Trump administration’s Saudi policy, Pompeo exaggerated the value of Saudi partnership and sought to debunk critics by attacking their political affiliation, labeling the debate as one between liberal idealism and Trump pragmatism.

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