Defense and Security Articles

As Talks Stall, South Sudan Conflict Grinds to Stalemate

By Lesley Anne Warner
, , Briefing

Seven months after fighting broke out between the government of South Sudan and anti-government forces, the civil war is at a stalemate. Unlike its early days, when cities changed hands multiple times, the status quo has largely held since May. Despite several agreements signed by both sides, negotiations in neighboring Ethiopia have not led to a resolution of the conflict or a way out of the crisis. more

Without Chad, Central African Republic Peace Talks Unlikely to Succeed

By Celeste Hicks
, , Briefing

All sides in Central African Republic’s civil war are looking to a peace conference this week in neighboring Republic of Congo to yield a cease-fire agreement. But major questions linger about what the meeting can actually achieve. It’s unclear if the main rebel group Seleka will even attend, and Chad is not playing a leading role in talks. Any lasting peace in CAR is likely only to succeed with Chad’s support. more

Global Insights

Putin’s South American Trip Hides Russia’s Strategic Weaknesses

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to South America this month garnered considerable attention. In the U.S., some saw the trip as a tit-for-tat display of influence in Washington’s strategic backyard. However, it is best to keep Moscow’s machinations in perspective. Russia is presenting a number of challenges to important U.S. global interests, but its activities in South America are not among them. more

Strategic Posture Review: Israel

By Shai Feldman
, , Report

Israel’s threat environment has changed dramatically in recent years, especially when compared to that which Israel faced when its defense doctrine was first articulated and its force structure was first conceived. This report will discuss these changes, identify the new challenges Israel faces, characterize the domestic environment affecting defense allocations and attempt to ascertain the implications of these factors for Israeli strategy. The conclusion will elaborate on the debate now taking place within the country’s defense community about the future doctrine and force structure of the Israel Defense Forces. more

Despite U.S. Efforts, Root Causes of Migration Crisis Prevail in Central America

By Michael Allison
, , Briefing

The United States, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are frantically trying to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding on both the U.S. border and in Central America. They have pursued several initiatives to combat violence, strengthen democracy and promote economic opportunity, to stem the sudden increase of young migrants heading north. But such efforts have not delivered their intended benefits. more

Diplomatic Fallout

West Needs New Rules to Contain Proxy Wars With Russia

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

The events of the past week in Ukraine have confirmed three painful facts about the state of international affairs. The first is that the West is trapped in a cycle of proxy wars with Russia, running from Libya through Syria to Ukraine. The second is that there is no real rulebook for managing these conflicts. The third is that these confrontations are liable to escalate with unnerving frequency. more

With Negotiations Extended, U.S. Ponders Future of Iran Sanctions

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

The extension of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries includes allowing Iran to access $2.8 billion of its restricted assets. That has many in Washington debating the effect of previous sanctions relief and whether threatening or imposing future sanctions would improve the U.S. hand in negotiations. But analysis is mixed over the extent to which this relief has boosted Iran’s economy. more

The Realist Prism

U.S. Watches From Sidelines as Global Leaders Gather in Brazil

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

The U.S. missed out on a rare geopolitical opportunity this past week. Vice President Joe Biden, who has emerged in Barack Obama’s second term as more of an alter ego for the president on the international stage, should have taken a short trip to Brazil for the World Cup final. Sure, the U.S. team had already been eliminated, but Biden still had good reasons to drop in at the close of the tournament. more

Downing of MH17 in Eastern Ukraine Underscores Risks of Arming Syrian Rebels

By David Klion
, , Trend Lines

In the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine, all signs point to a surface-to-air missile launched by rebels who have been armed by Russia. There are sobering lessons here for the U.S. Part of the Obama administration’s hesitation to arm Syrian rebels was the fear that they would be unaccountable. If atrocities or accidents were committed with American weapons, the fallout could be disastrous. more

Global Insider

Diverse Shiite Militias Highlight Iraq Division

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Since the Sunni militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took control of Mosul last month, Iraq has also seen an increase in clashes between Shiite militias and Iraqi security forces. In an email interview, Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland, discussed the growing threat of Shiite militias in Iraq. more

World Citizen

As U.S. Pivot Stalls, Developments in East Asia Speed Ahead

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

Washington’s famed “Asia pivot” was postponed or at least slowed by the rash of crises in the Middle East over the past few years. But East Asia is not waiting for the U.S. Major countries in the region are actively jockeying for influence, assertively reassessing relations with their neighbors and generally stirring for what could become a significant realignment of power in the world’s fastest-growing region.

more

Regional Security Role Shields Mauritania’s Aziz From Pressure to Reform

By Kal Ben Khalid
, , Briefing

Western governments welcomed the re-election of Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, last month. Yet they should not confuse Aziz, a vital counterterrorism partner, with the entire Mauritanian regime. His power has limits and depends on the backing of the military. Strengthening the military without monitoring delicate internal politics risks destabilizing an important regional security ally. more

The Realist Prism

Israel-Hamas Conflict Locked In by Both Sides’ Strategic Assumptions

By Steven Metz
, , Column

World attention is riveted by the ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas. The desperate enemies continue to pummel each other, seemingly seeking revenge rather than discernible political objectives. Whatever happens during the next few weeks will not be the finale of the two sides’ long conflict or even the beginning of the end. The reason lies with the strategic assumptions that drive the two antagonists. more

In Iraq, Gulf Countries Must Confront ISIS Threat and Their Own Policies

By Frederick Deknatel
, , Trend Lines

In early July, Saudi Arabia moved 30,000 troops to its northern border with Iraq, apparently steeling itself against the advance of ISIS, which now calls itself the Islamic State. To many observers, it was a sign of Saudi Arabia reaping what it had sown. Private financial support to jihadi groups in Syria such as ISIS and others has been widely reported during Syria’s civil war, including from Saudi sources. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Despite Risk of Escalation, West and Russia Keep Ukraine Crisis Limited

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

Ukraine a model for the management of future international crises? At first glance, it looks like nothing of the sort. Kiev is in the middle of a bloody military campaign against pro-Russian rebels in the east, with more and more civilians caught in the crossfire. There is still a danger that this conflict could escalate further. Yet the most striking feature of the crisis is just how limited it remains. more

The Pentagon’s New Idea for Streamlining Defense Spending

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

The high cost of major military programs is a source of headaches as the Obama administration struggles to balance the books. Successive administrations and Congresses have tackled the ways in which the U.S. military buys things, often with little effect. Yesterday the Pentagon made the case to Congress for a different approach: empowering the people who actually purchase weapons and equipment for the military. more

World Citizen

Emotional Bonds, Strategic Interests Link Israel and Iraqi Kurds

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

It is no secret that the survival of Iraq within its current borders is very much in doubt. The battlefield victories of ISIS have revived the debate about a partition of the country into three states: one Sunni, one Shiite and one Kurdish. As Iraqis fret and international observers debate the country’s future, Israelis across the political spectrum have declared their support for an independent Kurdish state. more

Growing Threat of European Fighters in Syria Highlights Need for EU Cooperation

By Benoît Gomis
, , Briefing

Almost all European Union member states have seen some of their citizens, often Muslims between the ages of 18-29, leave their countries to join the jihad against the Assad regime in Syria. There has been a range of national responses to stem the flow of European jihadi fighters, including prevention, management, monitoring, prosecution and reintegration measures. But the EU still has an important role to play. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Planners Must Start Preparing for Strategic Disaster

By Steven Metz
, , Column

The collapse of the Iraqi army as it faced an extremist onslaught shocked many Americans. In Washington, policymakers and military leaders scrambled to find an effective response and to understand how the disaster happened. In the flurry of finger-pointing, many missed the bigger issue: The slow reaction to Iraq's failure is one more manifestation of a deep flaw in the way Americans think about security. more

Heavily Invested, China Cannot Escape the Iraq Powder Keg

By Emanuele Scimia
, , Briefing

Like it did with the crisis in Ukraine, China is trying to keep out of the chaos in Iraq. But as Iraq’s government confronts the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, it will be hard for China to preserve a policy of noninterference. This time around, China cannot keep out of another sovereign nation’s internal affairs—until now a cornerstone of its diplomacy—given Beijing’s huge economic interests in Iraq. more

Global Insights

Xi’s Visit Brings No Breakthrough in China-South Korea Ties

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

Last week’s China-South Korea summit confirmed the good relations between Beijing and Seoul under Presidents Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye. The two leaders announced ambitious economic goals and reconfirmed their opposition to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Nonetheless, no breakthrough occurred; until Beijing distances itself from Pyongyang, it cannot fundamentally elevate its relations with Seoul. more