Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

National Missile Defense: A Status Report

Author: Greg Bruno

The United States has pursued missile defense technologies for six decades, with mixed results. Changes under the Obama administration, including adjustments to planned defenses in Europe, could portend a new direction.

See more in United States; Missile Defense

The African Union

Author: Stephanie Hanson

The African Union succeeded the old Organization for African Unity (OAU) in 2002. Since then, the new institution has struggled to reform governing bodies inherited from the OAU while shouldering challenging new peacekeeping missions.

See more in Africa (sub-Saharan); Regional Security

The Rise of Political Opposition in Japan

Author: Jayshree Bajoria

Opposition victory in Japan's 2009 parliamentary election served as a watershed moment in the country's electoral politics. Analysts say political change in Tokyo could result in a possible shift in its close relationship with the United States, especially in security matters.

See more in Elections; Japan

India-Afghanistan Relations

Author: Jayshree Bajoria

India's growing economic and political influence in Afghanistan has angered Pakistan, the traditional power there, and has experts worried that Afghanistan could become another battleground in the long-standing rivalry between South Asia's two giants.

See more in Trade; Afghanistan; India; Havens for Terrorism; Pakistan

The Media Landscape in Iran

Author: Greg Bruno

The crisis following Iran's presidential vote cast a new light on the country's hotly contested media space. A crackdown has limited independent reporting but other sources remain as channels for dissent.

See more in Iran

Brazil on the International Stage

Author: Stephanie Hanson

Brazil's economic dynamism has given it a stronger voice on global trade and energy issues. Experts say Washington can advance its regional interests more effectively through a more sophisticated relationship with Brazil.

See more in Brazil; Economic Development

Presidential Power in Iran

Authors: Greg Bruno and Jamal Afridi

Iran's Supreme Leader remains the regime's ultimate authority but controversy surrounding the country's June 12 presidential election has raised new questions about the role and power of the head of state.

See more in Iran; Elections