Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance

Author: Beina Xu

The U.S.-Japan alliance has been the cornerstone of Washington's security policy in East Asia, but rising threats from China, North Korea, and economic recovery in both countries have raised questions about the future of the rapport.

See more in Japan; Defense and Security

Author: Steven J. Markovich

U.S. space exploration inspired a generation of students and innovators, but NASA's role may transition amid a new set of national priorities and constraints, explains this Backgrounder.

See more in United States; Space

Author: Steven J. Markovich

Postsecondary education has significant public and private benefits, but debate continues over the extent of federal student lending, explains this Backgrounder.

See more in United States; Education

Sarin

Author: Zachary Laub

Sarin, one of the world's most lethal chemical weapons, has long been stockpiled but is rarely used by states or terrorists. Allegations of attacks on civilians in Syria, if substantiated, would represent a departure from longstanding international practice, this Backgrounder explains.

See more in Weapons of Mass Destruction; Syria

Same-Sex Marriage: Global Comparisons

Author: CFR.org Staff

The movement to recognize same-sex marriage continues to gain traction worldwide, though homophobia still persists within societies. This Backgrounder examines policies toward same-sex couples in select countries.

See more in Global; Society and Culture

Human Rights in Iran

Authors: Jayshree Bajoria and Robert McMahon

Global monitors say Iran's human rights situation is poor and unlikely to improve amid a climate of political uncertainty and growing external pressures. But activists urge continued international scrutiny of Iran's violations.

See more in Iran; Human Rights