The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of exciting moments for Iran. President Hassan Rouhani has ushered in a much needed atmosphere of change domestically and internationally, and the world waits eagerly to see if he is able to achieve at least some of what he has promised. Following the momentous phone conversation with President Barack Obama, Rouhani announced that he has launched a study into the possibility of resuming direct flights between the United States and Iran. In fact one month earlier Iranian news sources were circulating a rumor that Iran Air and Delta Airlines would resume direct flights between the two countries for the first time since 1979. While the rumor was not completely accurate, Rouhani’s announcement confirms that the new administration is seeking to reestablish direct travel as part of the campaign to mend diplomatic relations. More importantly, the announcement draws attention to the topic of sanctions which directly affects the possibility of nonstop flights.
Since January 2011, Egypt has witnessed chaos. An autocratic leader has been overthrown after thirty years, a military-led transition has produced contested constitutional declarations and parliaments, political violence has raged in the streets, the first democratically elected president took power and was himself overthrown, and the media and rights organizations have seen both unparalleled freedom and renewed repression. Throughout this period of instability, one thing has remained constant: the United States’ financial support of the Egyptian military. The US has been sending military aid to Egypt since the 1970s, reaching its current level of $1.3 billion per year in 1987. The continuation of foreign military financing (FMF) to Egypt is detrimental to the prospects for democracy in the country and contributes to severe human rights abuses; it should have been suspended long ago. But neither the Obama administration nor future governments is likely to cease sending Egypt the second-greatest military funding package in the world any time soon.
In the wake of the multi-day siege on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya which killed at least sixty people, many in the international community have questioned whether Al-Shabaab is a resurgent organization which could significantly threaten the recent gains made by the Somali government and the African Union’s peacekeeping force (AMISOM). While the attack in Kenya demonstrates a worrying level of tactical sophistication on the part of Al-Shabaab, it may not be enough to regain the ground the group has lost over the past three years.
We’re a group of alumni (and a current student) from the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations, setting out to provide analysis, commentary, and scholarship in international relations, national and international security, and current events. More to come.