Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

U.S.-Cuba Relations

Authors: Danielle Renwick, Brianna Lee, and James McBride

The United States and Cuba are moving toward normalization of relations for the first time in more than fifty years. This Backgrounder looks at the complicated relationship and ongoing challenges.

See more in Cuba; Diplomacy and Statecraft

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: 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 long-standing international practice.

See more in Weapons of Mass Destruction; Syria

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

Abenomics and the Japanese Economy

Authors: James McBride and Beina Xu

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has introduced an audacious set of economic policies designed to spur the country out of its decades-long deflationary slump. The results have so far been mixed.

See more in Japan; Economics