The leaders of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark at the White House's Nordic Summit, Washington, May 13, 2016 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

Earlier this month, the leaders of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland were in Washington to attend a summit at the White House. Together with President Barack Obama, the five Nordic leaders discussed tensions with Russia, security, climate change and trade. Obama didn’t hesitate to heap praise on the Nordics. “So I really do believe that the world would be more secure and more prosperous if we just had more partners like the Nordic countries,” he said. “They consistently punch above their weight.” Obama speaking so highly of the Nordic countries is nothing new. He has lauded them for years, […]

Supporters of the Islamist party Ennahda during a rally in Tunis, Tunisia, Feb. 16, 2013 (AP photo by Amine Landouls).

On Thursday, Rachid Ghannouchi, the founder of Tunisia’s Ennahda, told the French newspaper Le Monde that his party—long defined and projected as Islamist—would be “leaving political Islam behind.” Rather than Islamists, Ghannouchi says, Ennahda is a party of “Muslim Democrats,” echoing a paper that a party legislator recently published for the Brookings Institution. The move requires some clarification: Ennahda is not stripping Islam from its identity. Rather, the group will formally delineate between its political and religious activities. Its leadership will focus exclusively on politics and technocratic issues, whereas its other members will remain free to engage in the civic […]

Guatemalan Defense Minister Gen. Williams Mansilla gives a press conference following the death of a 13-year-old boy in a shooting incident on the Belizean border, Guatemala City, April 23, 2016 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

Border tensions between Belize and Guatemala flared back up this weekend when Belizean soldiers shot and injured a Guatemalan man who allegedly threatened them with a machete after he was found illegally prospecting for gold on Belize’s side of the contested border. In an email interview, Margath Walker, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville, discussed the border dispute between Belize and Guatemala. WPR: What is the history behind the contested border between Belize and Guatemala, and what has caused the recent border tensions? Margath Walker: The territorial dispute between Guatemala and Belize dates back more than 150 years. […]

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble, Kobani, Syria, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP photo).

The breakdown of the Syrian state has been a political boon for Kurdish groups. Failed governance, civil war, jihadi threats and external support have enabled the Kurds’ Democratic Union Party (PYD)—an affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)—to advance its leftist-nationalist agenda. Since 2011, the PYD has created new facts on the ground in Syria by expanding territories, assuming de facto control over oil fields, creating three autonomous cantons, and declaring a so-called federal Kurdish region. The PYD has also benefitted from both U.S. and Russian backing in the campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), support that has bolstered […]

Map of the Sykes–Picot Agreement signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, May 8, 1916 (U.K. National Archives image).

This month marks the centenary of the Sykes-Picot treaty, a French-English agreement to establish areas of control and influence in the Arab lands of the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The milestone has stirred up resentments and a sense that the flailing states of the region never really existed as coherent geographic entities. But changing borders is not easy, and even if one could draw a better map of the Middle East, it would not solve its deepest sources of distress. Much is being said about the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, a minor event […]

A member of the Moroccan special anti-terror unit at the headquarters of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations, Rabat, Morocco, April 20, 2015 (AP photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar).

Last week, the Long War Journal reported that the “self-proclaimed head of the Islamic State’s arm in the Sahara has reportedly threatened to attack Morocco,” according to an audio statement sent to Al Jazeera. The message’s authenticity has not been verified, and there has been no official media release of the tape. But it drew attention to the potential terror threats facing Morocco, which has for years taken pride in its domestic anti-radicalization programs and has emerged as an important counterterrorism partner for European countries, including France and Belgium. In 2014, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), Abu Bakr […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attend a Victory Day parade, Red Square, Moscow, May 9, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his campaign to prevent Ukraine from drawing closer to the European Union in 2014, his strategic objectives went beyond that Eastern European country’s borders. To be sure, Russia was concerned about Ukraine’s political and economic drift toward the West. But Moscow’s warnings to Kiev, which were followed by military action, were also meant as a signal to other countries that might have contemplated following in Ukraine’s steps. The message was aimed at what used to be a clearly demarcated sphere of influence, serving as a threat to any country that was once part of […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Ankara, Turkey, May 4, 2016 (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Service, via AP).

The ouster of Ahmet Davutoglu as prime minister of Turkey is an internal matter. But it will almost certainly have negative repercussions for the hard-fought and controversial deal between Turkey and the European Union, by which Brussels agreed to compensate Ankara for helping to stem the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe. It’s the latest of several cases where domestic political dramas have affected the foreign policy interests of important middle powers. Last week, a long-simmering power struggle between Davutoglu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to a boil. Erdogan had recently cajoled or convinced others in his […]

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets on the tarmac at the Siauliai airbase, Lithuania, April 27, 2016 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

The next NATO summit, set for July in Warsaw, is arguably one of the most important meetings of the alliance’s heads of state in the post-Cold War era. European security is at its worst since the end of the Cold War, while Europe finds itself facing a range of serious internal challenges, including continued slow economic growth, the influx of migrants and refugees and the rise of extremist parties. The United States, on the other hand, is distracted by its own poisoned domestic politics and must contend with security challenges in not only Europe, but also the Middle East and […]

Senegalese soldiers during U.S.-led Flintlock military training, Thies, Senegal, Feb. 18, 2016 (AP photo by Vincent Tremeau).

On Monday, the United States and Senegal signed a deal to facilitate U.S. troop access to the West African country, in the latest example of the American military’s expanding presence in Africa. The deal authorizes the creation of infrastructure that enables quick deployment for U.S. forces; once the construction of new facilities is completed, American troops won’t have to start from scratch in the event of a crisis or attack. The agreement comes in the context of West Africa’s increasingly precarious security, with rising threats from militant groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and the […]

An opposition rally to gather signatures to recall Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Caracas, April 27, 2016 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Venezuela’s unraveling is gathering speed. The country is now on course for an extended period of uncertainty, with a probably momentous and possibly dangerous outcome lying in wait. This does not come as a surprise. A few months ago, I described Venezuela’s shambolic start to what promised to be a dramatic year. That was not a risky prediction. Anyone watching the country’s trajectory could see disaster coming. The question now is, How will this end? A number of possible scenarios come to mind, some of them very troubling. The events of the past few days mark a sharp escalation in […]

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at a rally commemorating the anniversary of the militant group, Gaza, Palestine, Dec. 12, 2014 (AP photo by Adel Hana).

The Gaza Strip will become “uninhabitable” by 2020, according to U.N. reports published in September 2015. This grim and alarming reality facing the nearly 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza is the result of both external and internal factors. Externally, successive Israeli wars in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 effectively destroyed the basic foundations of day-to-day life in Gaza. These wars were preceded and followed by land, sea and air blockades imposed by Israel, and later by Egypt. The blockades have led to one of the harshest regimes of collective punishment in modern times, limiting the flow of basic goods into […]