The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the upcoming EU meeting to discuss the situation in Mali, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Cairo, and elections for Cuba’s National Assembly.
- French and Malian troops have regained control of the legendary city of Timbuktu, which had been under the control of jihadist forces for almost ten months. Against this backdrop EU officials will meet next week to pledge sending troops to train Mali’s military and support an African peacekeeping force. None of this means that Mali’s problems are solved. The jihadists are retreating to more remote parts of Mali, and they could well resort to the types of asymmetric tactics that al-Qaeda and the Taliban have used to deadly effect in Afghanistan.
- Egypt is hosting the twelfth OIC summit next week. The meeting, which is held every three years and which will kick off Egypt’s three-year presidency of the OIC, will give Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi an opportunity to showcase the new Egypt. Heads of government from across the Islamic world will be in Cairo, and the summit’s public pronouncements will emphasize Islamic solidarity. But privately there will be deep divisions, especially on the question of Syria. Iran, which has not had diplomatic relations with Egypt since severing ties 1980, backs Damascus, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar (among other governments) are seeking to oust the Assad regime. Meanwhile, Morsi has to worry that domestic unrest could distract from the diplomatic success he hopes to score with the summit.
- Cubans go to the polls on Sunday to choose the 612 members of the country’s National Assembly. The vote is not a free and fair one by any measure. The Communist Party selected the candidates, voters merely get to vote yes or no on the names on the ballot, and the National Assembly has little influence over the decisions of the Cuban leadership. The election should, however, bring a new generation of Cubans into the National Assembly; two-thirds of the candidates would be first-time assembly members and more than 70 percent were born after Fidel Castro seized power. Experts disagree over whether a new generation of candidates, along with some incipient economic reforms and the recent lifting of restrictions on the ability of ordinary Cubans to travel abroad, signals fundamental (albeit slow) political change in Cuba or window dressing designed to keep a sclerotic regime in power.
- Bob’s Figure of the Week is Senator Marco Rubio. My Figure of the Week is 1.035 billion. 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:
The EU discusses the situation in Mali: Reuters has published a timeline of events in Mali. The EU’s European External Action Service summarizes current EU-Mali relations. Project Syndicate analyzes why other European countries are slow to come to France’s aid in Mali. The Telegraph reports on Britain’s offer to send troops to Mali and surrounding countries.
The OIC meets in Cairo: Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi welcomes the OIC to Cairo for the Islamic Summit Conference. The Express Tribune covers major items on the summit’s agenda. New Europe describes some obstacles to closer relations between Egypt and Iran. Reuters reports that talks between the Egyptian government and opposition groups have begun.
Cubans elect a new parliament: The Havana Times discusses why the world pays little attention to Cuba’s elections. CFR’s Julia Sweig discusses the elections and the future of the relationship between Cuba and the United States. The Associated Press reports that both John Kerry and Chuck Hagel support better ties with Cuba. The Economist doubts the seriousness of Raul Castro’s plans for further reform in Cuba.