from The Water's Edge

The World Next Week: U.S. Embassies Reopen, AGOA Forum Convenes in Addis Ababa, Mali Holds a Runoff Election

The U.S. embassy in Baghdad (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

August 8, 2013

The U.S. embassy in Baghdad (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).
Blog Post
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The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the reopening of U.S. embassies in the Middle East, the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in Addis Ababa, and Mali’s runoff presidential election.


The highlights:

  • A number of U.S. embassies in the Middle East are scheduled to reopen next Sunday after a week of closures, following reports of an increased threat from al-Qaeda. U.S. government officials have been quoted as saying that the amount of “chatter” on intercepted electronic communications has reached or exceeded the levels seen in the months before the 9/11 attacks. The debate following the closures has focused on whether the Obama administration has overreacted to last year’s Benghazi attack. The more troubling issue is that officials don’t seem to know what the target is, when it will be attacked, or how it will be attacked. That makes it hard for the government—and ordinary citizens—to know what to do in response to the troubling news coming out of the intelligence community.
  • U.S. trade negotiators will be in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next week to participate in the 2013 U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA Forum). The meeting is mandated by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which was enacted during the last year of the Clinton administration to support increased U.S. trade with sub-Saharan Africa. U.S. trade with Africa has increased greatly over the past dozen years, but nowhere near as fast as Chinese trade with Africa. China passed the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner back in 2009, and its total trade with the continent is now nearly twice the size of U.S. trade. Part of the reason might be that China has made the more concerted effort to increase trade. The United States has only six commercial attaches in Africa, while China has over one hundred and fifty.
  • Mali will be holding a second round of presidential elections on Sunday. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the former prime minister, faces off against Soumaila Cisse, the former finance minister. Neither man won a clear majority in the first round of elections, which were held back on July 28. Keita, who polled nearly twice as many votes as Cisse during the first round, is favored to win. Whoever wins will face a daunting to-do list that begins with repairing the damage created by the March 2012 military coup and the subsequent success of jihadist groups in the northern part of Mali.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is three. My Figure of the Week is Jeff Bezos. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Reopening of U.S. embassies: PBS Newshour discusses how terror “chatter” plays into the debate on U.S. surveillance. The New York Times reports that Yemen claims it has stopped a planned al-Qaeda attack and analyzes the global response to the U.S. decision to shut down its embassies last week. BBC News writes that the United States has charged Ahmed Abu Khattala for the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012.

AGOA Forum: The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) explains the basics of AGOA. John Campbell offers analysis of Obama’s recent Africa trip. Bloomberg argues that Obama should seize opportunities to invest in Africa. BBC News explains how China and India have increased their ties with African countries. The New York Times writes that USTR is suffering due to sequestration.

Mali’s runoff election: The New York Times writes that while both candidates are political veterans, Keita is favored to win the runoff. The Washington Post reports that protesters in northern Mali are demanding the release of Tuareg prisoners. reports that Mali’s constitutional court has deemed that the first round of elections were not fraudulent.  Eamonn Gearon argues in Foreign Policy that France hopes that successful elections in Mali will provide an exit strategy.