A Houthi Yemeni holding a flag of Hezbollah chants slogans during a rally to show support for their comrades in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 28, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

On the day before Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died last week, the Arabian Peninsula was in turmoil. The government of Yemen, on Saudi Arabia’s southern border, had just resigned in ignominy; the Saudi-backed president had been besieged, humiliated and ultimately toppled by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. It was precisely the kind of face-off between Iran and Saudi Arabia some of us had been predicting. Events in Yemen offered further proof that the historical rivalry that has marked relations between Riyadh and Tehran has entered a new and far more dangerous stage, gradually moving from rhetorical and diplomatic battles to outright armed […]

Israeli soldiers stand next to a mobile artillery unit in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights near the border with Syria, Jan. 28, 2015 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

The threat of another war between Hezbollah and Israel ticked up Wednesday, after two Israeli soldiers were killed in a missile attack on a convoy in the Shebaa Farms, a disputed area controlled by Israel along its border with Lebanon. In response to the attack, which Hezbollah quickly claimed responsibility for, Israel launched airstrikes and artillery into southern Lebanon, killing a Spanish peacekeeper serving with the United Nations monitoring force there. The violence follows the Jan. 18 Israeli airstrike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights that killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general. Hezbollah vowed to retaliate. […]

Libyan representative at the Arab League Ashour Abu-Rashed attends an emergency representatives meeting to discuss the conflict in Libya at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

Is nation-building—a concept that most Western policymakers disowned after Iraq and Afghanistan—about to make a comeback? Two weeks ago, I predicted that 2015 could see the deployment of large-scale international stabilization forces in four trouble spots: Libya, northeastern Nigeria, Syria and Ukraine. The prospects for operations in at least two of these cases, Libya and Nigeria, have risen since then. Libya’s factions are engaged in on-and-off peace talks in Geneva, and United Nations officials have publicly discussed options for a military operation to support a political deal. Meanwhile, West African governments have been talking up a new regional operation to […]

Vigilante and local hunters armed with locally made guns gather before a patrol to protect their town from Boko Haram gunmen, Yola, Nigeria, Nov. 25, 2014 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

The first weeks of 2015 have already brought repeated, shocking attacks by Boko Haram in and around Nigeria. Within the country’s northeastern state of Borno, the home turf of the proselytizing sect-turned-Islamist-group, militants massacred hundreds of civilians in Baga, site of a multinational military base. Suicide bombers attacked Maiduguri and Potiskum, the latter on three occasions. In a continuation of last year’s trends, Boko Haram’s violence spilled once again into northern Cameroon, where militants kidnapped dozens of children and adults in villages near Mokolo. Some commentators, including Kenan Malik in the New York Times, argue that “jihadists have turned terror […]

A Turkish member of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stands in his sentry box at the entrance of the Turkish Engineer Construction Company stationed near the southern port city of Tyre, Nov. 16, 2006 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

In November 2014, Turkey announced plans to send peacekeepers to participate in U.N.-backed missions in the Central African Republic and Mali. In an email interview, Nil S. Satana, assistant professor at Bilkent University in Ankara and research affiliate at the START Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, discussed Turkey’s contributions to international peacekeeping missions. WPR: In what capacity has Turkey contributed to European Union peacekeeping missions, and how does Turkey decide whether or not to participate in a given mission? Nil S. Satana: In compliance with its framework agreement for participation in EU crisis management operations signed in […]

French President Francois Holland and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 6, 2014 (photo from the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office).

Following a long-standing Gaullist tradition, and driven by romantic memories of their alliance from the two world wars, France has been careful to maintain good relations with Russia while remaining a member of NATO. But the Ukraine crisis has led to a significant change in France’s Russia policy, as evidenced by the saga over the sale to Russia of two Mistral-class warships. That deal was arranged in 2011 by President Francois Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. Encouraged by his prime minister, Francois Fillon, a traditional Gaullist, and his defense minister, Herve Morin, who was keen on ensuring jobs for the beleaguered […]

Skyline of Amman, Jordan, Nov. 22, 2013 (photo by Flickr user mahmoodphoto licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

The uprisings beginning in late 2010, known as the Arab Spring, shook the Middle East to its foundations. Yet the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan appeared to be a virtual oasis of calm in the midst of turmoil. In a volatile neighborhood, Jordanian stability remains nothing short of remarkable. But is Jordan an oasis or a mirage? Neither characterization seems entirely accurate: Jordan’s stability and security are not figments of the imagination, especially considering the revolutions, civil wars and endemic terrorism that seem to have afflicted most of the country’s neighbors. Yet the calm may not be sustainable, as Jordan confronts […]

A woman maneuvers a donkey cart on a street amid debris of buildings demolished by the Egyptian army on the Egyptian side of border town of Rafah, Nov. 6, 2014 (AP Photo/El Shorouk newspaper, Ahmed Abd El-Latif).

In the months before former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military in the summer of 2013, Cairo was full of rumors. That wasn’t particularly new; Egyptian politics have always thrived on rumor. But the latest in a string of anti-Morsi hearsay at that time, which grew louder as the summer neared, went something like this: To appease his Palestinian brethren in Hamas, Morsi planned to give the group—an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood—a foothold in the Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian prosecutors went even further, after Morsi was in military custody later that year, accusing him of plotting both […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan, May 12, 2014 (AP photo by Toru Hanai).

Earlier this month, Israel approved a plan to strengthen trade ties and boost security cooperation with Japan. In an email interview, Ben-Ami Shillony, a professor emeritus in East Asian studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, discussed Israel-Japan relations. WPR: How extensive are Israel-Japan relations, and what are the main areas of cooperation? Ben-Ami Shillony: Israel and Japan are two highly industrialized democracies, complementing each other in many ways. Despite its small territory and population, Israel is today one of the leading high-tech and startup nations in the world. Japan, the third-largest economy in the world but grappling with an […]

North Korea’s ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam is escorted into Uganda’s parliament by Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Asuman Kiyingi, Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 30, 2014 (AP photo).

Uganda and North Korea agreed to strengthen bilateral ties during a visit from Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Peoples’ Assembly of North Korea, in late October last year. In an email interview, Andrea Berger, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, discussed North Korea’s ties with Uganda. WPR: How extensive are North Korea’s ties with Uganda, and how has the relationship changed since Kim Jong Un came to power? Andrea Berger: North Korea and Uganda have had positive bilateral relations since the mid-Cold War. At the time, the North Korean foreign policy apparatus […]

Pakistani army soldiers check vehicles near the Army Public School which was targeted by Taliban militants last year, Peshawar, Pakistan, Jan. 12, 2015 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

On Dec. 16, militants from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) infiltrated Peshawar Cantonment, a high-security zone under military administration housing key government offices, and attacked the Army Public School, killing 145 people—132 of them children. The massacre was a stark reminder of Pakistan’s crisis of urban violence, weaknesses in its intelligence apparatus and the need to strengthen its counterterrorism capabilities. The attack prompted the government to swiftly adopt new measures to improve counterinsurgency and counterterror efforts. Nevertheless, significant changes in strategic thinking and internal reforms will be needed for this incident to become a watershed moment for Pakistan’s security policies. Pakistan’s major […]

People gather at the site of a bomb explosion, Kano, Nigeria, Nov. 28, 2014 (AP photo by Muhammed Giginyu).

Where will international stabilization forces intervene in 2015? Potential answers include Libya, Syria, Nigeria’s northern borderlands and eastern Ukraine. Restoring order in any one of these places, let alone two or more at once, would be a daunting task. Libya is sinking into full-scale civil war. Syria has been ravaged by four years of violence, leaving over 200,000 dead. The Boko Haram militant group has inflicted repeated defeats on the Nigerian military in a conflict punctuated by massacres by both sides. Russia retains the ability to turn the war in Ukraine on and off at leisure. Few countries outside these […]

A Pakistani religious student stands before a fire set by protesters demanding the government unmask culprits of the Taliban attack on a school, Peshawar, Pakistan, Dec. 16, 2014 (AP photo by Mohammad Sajjad).

On Dec. 16, 2014, seven gunmen broke into a school in a high-security zone in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar, shooting indiscriminately into crowds of children, before splitting up and going room by room to execute dozens more. Armed with explosives, suicide jackets, automatic rifles and pistols, these men cornered their targets in their classrooms, setting one teacher who attempted to resist on fire as a lesson to the rest. Once in the school’s auditorium, they first shot and killed all those attempting to escape, and then went row by row to execute those who were left. Many were […]

Afghan National Army soldiers open fire into mountains during an ongoing war in the Dangam district of Kunar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 28, 2014 (AP photo by Rahim Faiez).

A few days ago, U.S. Army General John Campbell announced the formal end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. “The longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion,” U.S. President Barack Obama then added. Whether accurate or not, the declaration of victory launched a scramble among national security experts to identify the strategic lessons of Afghanistan. The stakes of this debate are high. Because the lessons of Afghanistan will shape American security policy for decades, it is vital to get them right. The process of identifying strategic lessons is always rife with tempting missteps. For Afghanistan, […]