Defense and Security Articles

Gains by Assad and Islamic State Leave Syrian Rebels Down, but Not Out

Iraqi security forces hold a flag of the Islamic State group they captured during an operation outside Amirli, Iraq, Sept. 1, 2014 (AP photo).
By Balint Szlanko
, , Briefing

Syria’s moderate rebels are in trouble. Nearly encircled in their main bastion of Aleppo by the forces of Bashar al-Assad’s government and under pressure by Islamic State fighters, they are also weakened by internal rifts and little external support. Yet they are fighting back, and the strength of their enemies may be exaggerated. With more Western aid, the rebels could still come back. more

Global Insights

Managing Partnerships, not Enlargement, Is NATO’s Real Challenge

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

Despite the recent prominence given to the issue of NATO’s membership enlargement, the alliance seems destined for at least the next few years to focus on broadening and deepening its partnerships with nonmember countries and other international institutions. Partners contribute capabilities, money and legitimacy to alliance activities. But managing NATO’s diverse portfolio of partners also presents challenges. more

The Realist Prism

Despite Hope of Minsk Summit, Damage Done to Russia-West Relations

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

Next week, Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a face-to-face trilateral summit in Belarus with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and a European Union delegation headed by its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger. The summit has an ambitious agenda on the table to defuse the Ukraine crisis. Assuming that a major breakthrough does occur in Minsk, what next? more

Rebel Divisions Already Plague Latest Round of Mali Peace Talks

By Hannah Rae Armstrong
, , Briefing

Tuareg rebels and Malian officials have begun meeting in Algeria to try and hammer out the terms of a lasting peace in northern Mali. In July, the parties signed a road map deal that paved the way for talks on an array of political and security issues. In September, they will return to Algiers for three weeks of negotiations. But so far, divisions among rebel groups threaten to complicate the prospects for peace. more

Uganda’s Longtime Strongman Faces a New Rival: His Restless Soldiers

By Harry Verhoeven
, , Briefing

Nearly 30 years after taking power, President Yoweri Museveni still dominates Uganda’s politics. While the civilian opposition appears impotent to legally break his grip on power, the internal dynamics of the armed forces are another matter. Museveni has a twin strategy of keeping the army under control and having his son Muhoozi Kaneirugaba succeed him, but resentment in the military is festering. more

Strategic Horizons

2016 Election Will Redraw Road Map for U.S. National Security

By Steven Metz
, , Column

The United States is at a transitional point in its national security strategy perhaps as crucial as the opening years of the Cold War. During the 2016 presidential campaign, debate about America’s role in the world will move into the limelight as differing visions within and between the Democratic and Republican parties clarify policy options and choices. For U.S. and global security, much will be at stake. more

Global Insider

Maoist Insurgency Still Simmers in Modi’s India

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Two Indian police officers were injured over the weekend when Maoist insurgents detonated a landmine below their convoy. In an email interview, P.V. Ramana, a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, discussed the insurgency of Maoist groups, also known as Naxalites, and the Modi administration’s response. more

Global Insights

When it Comes to Nonproliferation, China Has Been a ‘Free Rider’

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

The Chinese, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a recent interview, “have been free riders for the last 30 years,” while the U.S. has maintained international security for the good of the world. Although Obama might not have meant to be so blunt, his remarks reflect a widespread view within Washington that China, in order to minimize foreign risks, has not been as helpful on many global issues, especially nonproliferation. more

Iran’s Rouhani Stokes Domestic Backlash With Attack on Critics

By Nader Habibi
, , Briefing

In an address last week to Foreign Ministry officials, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did not hold back his frustration with critics of nuclear negotiations with the P5+1. Deviating from his usual calm and moderate tone, Rouhani told his critics to go “to hell.” The backlash could further polarize Iranian politics and bring deep-rooted tensions between reformists and conservatives to the surface. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Why the International System Is Still Worth Fighting For

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

The multilateral security system is stumbling around the world as it suffers from major structural weaknesses. Yet elements of it have worked surprisingly well in the current set of crises, from documenting atrocities in Syria to mediating in Ukraine. Despite setbacks, a mix of international officials and observers, soldiers and governments remain willing to stand up for the vulnerable and uphold that system. more

With Eye on Russia, Poland Reshapes Military Modernization Plan

By Tomasz Szatkowski
, , Briefing

Compared to other Central European countries, the Polish military might appear to be a giant, due to Poland’s size but also its relatively high fixed level of defense spending. But it still has to face a seriously deteriorated security environment with fewer expectations of help from its Western allies. Poland needs to craft a more cohesive military modernization plan to respond to an array of challenges. more

U.S., India Seek to Move Defense Ties Beyond Arms Sales

By Saurav Jha
, , Briefing

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited India to sound out Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, the “centerpiece” of the U.S.-India security relationship. To sustain ties with a new Indian government focused on leveraging weapons manufacturing for jobs, Washington realizes it must move beyond arms sales to co-development and co-production agreements. more

Strategic Horizons

The Rise of the Islamic State and the Evolution of Violent Extremism

By Steven Metz
, , Column

From Yemen to Africa, violent extremists are leaving al-Qaida-affiliated groups and joining the ultra-radical and violent movement now known as the Islamic State. This gives some worrisome hints about the future of extremism in the Islamic world. That the U.S. is attacking the Islamic State rather than al-Qaida shows militants exactly who Washington considers to be the largest threat. more

Risks and Realities of the Egyptian-Israeli Alliance Against Hamas

By Frederick Deknatel
, , Trend Lines

With another ceasefire set to expire, Israeli and Palestinian diplomats are in Cairo for Egyptian-brokered talks to end the fighting in Gaza. Egypt is hardly a neutral mediator: President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas, is no secret; neither is Egypt’s security relationship with Israel. But the inner workings of that relationship are rarely exposed. more

West Can Use Nagorno-Karabakh Tensions to Push Azerbaijan to Reform

By Aslan Amani
, , Briefing

Clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh have prompted worries of a full-fledged war. But Russia’s presence in Armenia suggests that the escalation has less to do with the two belligerent parties and more with Russia’s growing geopolitical ambitions. The West shouldn’t abandon Azerbaijan but must make clear that the usual way of doing business will not work. more

Global Insights

NATO Summit Must Make Further Progress on Smart Defense

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

Next month’s NATO summit needs to make greater progress on Smart Defense, the alliance-wide effort to get more collective benefits out of individual members’ defense budgets. The initiative aims to induce NATO members to acquire military capabilities collectively, so that smaller members can contribute to expensive joint projects. Unfortunately, Smart Defense initiatives have so far produced limited results. more

Nagorno-Karabakh’s Summer of Violence

By Laurence Broers
, , Feature

This year, while Europe commemorated 100 years since the beginning of World War I, a long-forgotten conflict on the edge of the continent rumbled on. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a contest for control over Nagorno-Karabakh for more than 25 years. Following a particularly dismal stretch of the peace process over the past two years, tensions have come to a head in a summer of violence along the front line. Yet while front-line casualties have dominated the headlines, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also become a formidable weapon for both Armenia and Azerbaijan to securitize politics, exclude opposition and explain away the absence of domestic reforms. more

Diplomatic Fallout

U.S., Russia Duel Over Humanitarian Interventions in Iraq and Ukraine

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

There has been a lot of talk about humanitarian interventions over the past week. Russia has pressed for a “humanitarian mission” to the war zone in eastern Ukraine. While telling Russia to back off, the Obama administration has launched air strikes in Iraq against the forces of the Islamic State. The humanitarian case for American action is clear. It may nonetheless also have unwelcome consequences. more

The Realist Prism

Time Running Out for Obama to Reboot U.S. Foreign Policy

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

Are we on the verge of personnel shifts that will produce a national security team 4.0 for the Obama administration? The third iteration has enjoyed a particularly rough tenure, with public confidence in Obama's handling of national security diminishing as a result. The upcoming November midterm elections could prove decisive to what an Obama foreign policy agenda for the end of his presidency might look like. more

Kurds Ask for U.S. Support in Counteroffensive Against Islamic State

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

With fighters associated with the Islamic State making advances against Kurdish areas in Iraq, the Kurdish peshmerga forces have mounted a counteroffensive. Officials in Iraq have called on the U.S. to aid the Kurds, saying it is the U.S.' "moral responsibility," while members of Congress have said air strikes are necessecary to avert “a humanitarian nightmare of unspeakable proportions.” more

World Citizen

ISIS Victories Over Kurds Demand New U.S. Policy on Iraq

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

Last June, when Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, fell to ISIS, the consensus among international observers was that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian regime had undermined the Iraqi military’s unity, preparedness and willingness to fight. To be sure, Maliki’s governing approach has proved devastating for Iraq, but events of the past few days point to a much more ominous explanation. more