U.S. Foreign Policy Articles

Bahrain’s Ongoing Political Impasse Imperils U.S. Interests

By Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
, , Briefing

The fallout from Bahrain’s expulsion of a senior U.S. diplomat illustrates the continuing political impasse in this deeply polarized Persian Gulf ally. While the danger to the ruling Al Khalifa family posed by the 2011 uprising has passed, positions on all sides have hardened, with little prospect of any political settlement to Bahrain’s deep-rooted inequalities. That has three troubling implications for the U.S. more

Global Insights

China Advances on Missile Defense, With Eye on Dissuading Rivals

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

On July 23, China conducted its third declared ballistic missile defense test in the past four years, with the Ministry of Defense announcing afterward that the test “achieved the desired objectives.” But it would be premature to conclude that Beijing now embraces BMD. Instead, the recent tests are designed primarily to overcome adversary missile defenses as well as to develop China’s anti-satellite systems. more

The Realist Prism

On Iran and Russia, Obama Gambling for More Time

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

Though it is axiomatic that almost any foreign policy action taken by President Barack Obama will be reflexively criticized by the Republican opposition, in recent months congressional Democrats have been more willing to publicly voice critiques of the president’s performance. But Obama appears to be willing to swallow his pride and suffer domestic political attacks if it buys him time and maneuvering room.

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U.S. Aims to Boost India, Asia Ties with Malabar Naval Exercise

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

Yesterday India and the U.S. kicked off the 2014 Malabar naval exercise, the latest in a series of joint exercises going back over two decades, with Japan participating as well. This serves as an opportunity for the U.S. to demonstrate its commitment to naval engagement in the region, to reassure nervous allies in the face of an expansionist China and to refocus the U.S.-India relationship, which is widely seen as off track. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Must Rethink Unsustainable Counterterrorism Strategy

By Steven Metz
, , Column

While the world's attention this week was focused on Gaza and Ukraine, security remained precarious in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two lynchpins of America's conflict with transnational terrorism. Iraq and Afghanistan remain stark reminders that America's counterterrorism strategy, developed by the Bush administration and largely adopted by the Obama administration, is increasingly ineffective and unsustainable. 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

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

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.

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Migrant or Refugee? U.N. Joins Tense U.S. Immigration Debate

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

The rapid influx of migrants from Central America, many of them children, into the United States from Mexico has created political and logistical turmoil in Washington. The United Nations and others have pushed for the United States to treat at least some of these children as refugees, given that many are fleeing violence and deprivation back home. That could have a major impact on U.S. immigration policy. more

Global Insights

For Afghanistan Election, After Kerry Deal Comes the Hard Part

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

John Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy paved the way to resolving Afghanistan’s current election crisis, while helping to establish a potential framework to address its more-enduring problems. In so doing, Kerry’s effort fortified Afghanistan’s ability to overcome future political challenges with less U.S. intervention. Despite the successful deal-making, however, Afghanistan continues to face major challenges. more

Without Clear Goals, Venezuela Sanctions Likely to Be Counterproductive

By Michael McCarthy
, , Briefing

Congress is considering targeted sanctions against Venezuelan government officials for their handling of the country’s political unrest. Sanctions serve an important symbolic purpose: communicating universal support for human rights. But their utility needs to be assessed in terms of whether they can change the Venezuelan government’s relationship with the opposition and its heavy-handedness with protesters. 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

Special Report

Syria's Spillover, Iraq's Nightmare

By The Editors
, , Report

The ongoing civil war in Syria has spread across the Iraqi border in recent months, putting Iraq back at the center of the region’s security agenda. As the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) take control over a large part of Iraq, the Kurdish population has become increasingly assertive in the pursuit of its own autonomy, and Iraq has once again become a policy challenge for Washington. This report examines the implications of the growing conflict for Iraq, the U.S., Syria and a potentially independent Kurdistan, drawing on articles published in the past year. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Syria’s Chemical Arms Destroyed, but Aid Effort Unravels

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

Although no end to the war in Syria is in sight, remnants of international cooperation have survived. The U.S. and Russia have dismantled Syria’s chemical arms stockpile, and the U.N. is, in theory, committed to getting humanitarian aid into the country. This ugly modus vivendi is arguably a potential model for big-power cooperation in managing future conflicts. But is even this minimal consensus sustainable? more

India’s Latest IAEA Deal Too Little, Too Late to Undo NPT Damage

By Miles A. Pomper
, , Briefing

India’s ratification of an additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency is the country’s latest step to implement a controversial nuclear cooperation agreement reached with the U.S. in 2008. But the pact has yet to produce the promised economic benefits for the two countries. And its strategic benefits have been decidedly mixed, including striking a significant blow to nonproliferation. more

As U.S. Winds Down Counterterrorism Task Force in the Philippines, Challenges Remain

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

After more than a decade in the Philippines, the United States is phasing out an elite counterterrorism task force sent there after the attacks of 9/11. But as one chapter of U.S.-Philippines security cooperation comes to a close, the relationship will remain a priority for the Obama administration as it tries to keep its rebalancing plan—the strategic “pivot” of military assets and attention to Asia—on track. more

The Realist Prism

Russia’s Energy Ambitions Explain Putin’s Zigzags on Ukraine

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

How to explain Vladimir Putin’s zigzags on Ukraine? Putin’s long-term goal is to prevent Ukraine’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic world. In the short term, however, there is a lodestone that accounts for the shifts in Russia’s Ukraine policy: completing Russia’s emergence as the world’s energy superpower. This involves accomplishing two major projects: the South Stream pipeline and the opening of the Arctic. more

Strategic Horizons

What Lessons Will the U.S. Military Learn From Iraq’s Collapse?

By Steven Metz
, , Column

As extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria march on Baghdad and much of the Iraqi army runs away, American military veterans have been struggling to understand why the government and military that they worked so hard to create in Iraq has failed so miserably. This is more than simply soul searching: The outcome of this debate could have far-reaching implications for the future U.S. military. more

The Realist Prism

Time for Plan B on Obama’s Triple Containment of Russia, China, Iran

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

When the Obama administration took control of U.S. foreign policy in 2009, it undertook to mitigate what it considered the damage wrought by the Bush team. A deft wielding of diplomacy would end the standoff with Iran, reset relations with Russia and bring China into a dialogue to solve global problems. Things did not go according to this plan, and it is past time to move to a “Plan B” for U.S. foreign policy. more