War and Conflict Articles

The Realist Prism

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

Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Aug. 15, 2014 (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev).
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

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

Al-Shabab: A Close Look at East Africa's Deadliest Radicals

By Peter Dörrie
, , Feature

More than any other organization, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, widely known as al-Shabab, has left its mark on the recent history of Somalia. Political and radical Islam have a long history in the country, but no group has survived longer than al-Shabab, and no group has emerged stronger from challenges and setbacks. Today, the group has emerged from an existential crisis and looks stronger than it has in years. Though al-Shabab is often referred to as simply a “terrorist group,” the term does not accurately describe the range of the group’s activities.

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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

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

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

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

With More Evidence of Assad War Crimes, Is Transitional Justice Possible in Syria?

By Frederick Deknatel
, , Trend Lines

Last week, a former Syrian military photographer appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee with thousands of photographs allegedly showing widespread torture and killing in Bashar al-Assad’s jails. Amid the geopolitical wrangling over the Syrian civil war, the photographs have reignited calls for transitional justice and accountability for atrocities committed there, whenever the fighting stops. more

Strategic Horizons

The Nonlethal Weapons Revolution That Wasn’t

By Steven Metz
, , Column

War among the people pitting state security forces against militias or insurgents has become a pervasive aspect of the contemporary security environment. In such wars, anything that can help a military limit civilian casualties is valuable. Not so long ago it looked like the technology to do this might be on the way. The obstacles to a revolution in nonlethality, though, are political, ethical and legal. more

Israel-Hamas War Highlights Policy Continuity for France’s Hollande

By Judah Grunstein
, , Briefing

The Israel-Hamas war has highlighted continuity with shifts in France’s policy toward Israel as well as its broader foreign policy alignment begun under former President Nicolas Sarkozy. President Francois Hollande’s response to the current conflict, combined with his foreign policy approach to date, suggest the shifts have achieved a bipartisan consensus in Paris, although not an uncontested one. more

Despite Political Shakeup, an Emerging Consensus in Ukraine

By David Klion
, , Trend Lines

Two weeks ago, Ukraine’s governing coalition, which had been assembled after the Maidan protests, was dissolved, and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk offered his resignation. Last week, Yatsenyuk’s resignation was rejected by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. At first glance, the infamously dysfunctional Rada appears to be as chaotic as ever. But the situation in Kiev may be more stable than it seems. more

Special Report

A Year of Conflict and Crisis for Africa

By The Editors
, , Report

As President Barack Obama convenes a summit of nearly 50 African leaders in Washington focused mainly on economic opportunity, security and health crises continue to undermine the continent’s potential. South Sudan and the Central African Republic are torn by civil war; Nigeria and Kenya are threatened by terrorist groups; and Sierra Leone and Liberia are suffering from the worst Ebola outbreak to date. But while Western powers like the U.S. and France continue to wield influence, it is increasingly Africa’s leaders who are driving events. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Lacking Primetime Partners, U.S. Remains ‘Indispensable’ Crisis Manager

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s ill-fated attempts to staunch conflict after conflict seem to confirm that Washington’s global influence is shriveling, even as the argument that the U.S. has little choice but to keep fighting diplomatic fires implies it is unable to choose where and when to expend its diplomatic energy. Does the U.S. have to be trapped in this pattern of obligations and setbacks? more