U.S. Army 1st Lt. Andrew Dacey reviews security checkpoints with Iraqi soldiers in the city of Abu Ghraib, Iraq, March 31, 2009 (U.S. Army photo).

Soon after the George W. Bush administration toppled Saddam Hussein, it became clear that Iraq was headed for a bitter conflict driven by Saddam’s politicization of sectarian and ethnic divisions and the lingering pathologies of his parasitic dictatorship. Thus, for the U.S., getting out of Iraq required the rebuilding of an Iraqi army that could maintain internal security. The U.S. military embraced this challenge, lavishing money and effort to create a new Iraqi army designed for the sort of effectiveness and apolitical professionalism that characterizes America’s armed forces. The raw material that U.S. military advisers and trainers had to work […]

Protester at the talk with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, New York, Sept. 24, 2014 (photo by David Klion).

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke yesterday at an event sponsored by the New America Foundation at the New York Hilton. The event was well attended and the audience included many journalists, although only New America board member Fareed Zakaria had the opportunity to ask Rouhani questions. Rouhani began his prepared remarks by noting that he used to run the Center for Strategic Research and called for more interaction between U.S. and Iranian think tanks. He then turned to the Middle East, where the forces of the Islamic State group—which Rouhani, through his translator, described variously as extremists, terrorists, or using […]

Anarchy flag at a May Day rally, Santiago, Chile, May 1, 2008 (photo by Flickr user cproesser licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerial 2.0 Generic license).

On Sept. 8, just three days before the anniversary of the 1973 military coup that deposed Chile’s socialist President Salvador Allende, an explosion rocked a metro station at an upscale shopping center in the capital, Santiago. The blast injured 14 people, two of them seriously, and sent authorities scrambling to investigate Chile’s worst bomb attack in more than two decades. The country’s deputy interior minister, Mahmud Aleuy, declared that the blast was the work of “demented criminals,” but the facts pointed to a much more troubling explanation. It wasn’t common criminals, demented or otherwise, who had carried out the attack. […]

Then-Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Mohamed A. Al-Attiyah at the Conference on Security Policy, Munich, Germany, Feb. 5, 2012 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

At the end of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Doha last week, Qatar’s young emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, drove Erdogan to the airport in his own car. The gesture, perhaps, was meant to signal Turkey and Qatar’s close ties. But one couldn’t help thinking it was also a sign of the course they’ve charted, often together, over the past three years as the chief sponsors of Islamist political parties and movements across the Middle East. Both countries’ calculations, however, could be changing. On the heels of Erdogan’s trip to Doha, the Guardian reported that Qatar had […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with his Arab counterparts after a meeting with them in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 11, 2014 (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool).

In a Sept. 13 speech, President Barack Obama unveiled his strategy for dealing with the Islamic State group. “We will degrade and ultimately destroy” it, Obama said, “through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” The strategy he outlined in the speech includes three components: U.S. airstrikes; increased support for militias and national militaries directly fighting the Islamic State group; and efforts to prevent the group from undertaking terrorist attacks against the U.S. or other nations. As always, Obama was careful, cautious and restrained, seeking an indirect and supporting role rather than the leading one. He ruled out large-scale American involvement […]

President Barack Obama speaks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

When President Barack Obama announced plans for calibrated U.S. air strikes in Iraq last week, he set off heated debates about the wisdom and chances for success of his strategy to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State group operating there and in neighboring Syria. This week, the White House announced another military deployment that, despite involving not air strikes but some 3,000 American boots on the ground, evinced barely a second glance: the medical humanitarian mission to West Africa to contain the ongoing outbreak of the Ebola virus there. The reason for the contrast in reactions is of course […]

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima, center left, arrive at the Hall of Knights, The Hague, Netherlands, Sept. 16, 2014 (AP photo by Jasper Juinen).

AMSTERDAM—The annual event known as Prince’s Day in the Netherlands brings an uncommon dose of pomp to the decidedly informal Dutch landscape. Tens of thousands of people gathered on Tuesday to watch King Willem-Alexander and his superstar wife Queen Maxima travel in their golden carriage to the Hall of Knights for the opening of Parliament. The crowds come for the pageantry, but the day contains a large dose of serious substance. The main event is the king’s speech, which offers important clues to emerging priorities for the Netherlands, and usually for much of Europe. This year marked the 200th occasion […]

Spanish Marine Sgt. Cole Mulbah Ruiz watches as members of Cameroonian Rapid Intervention Battalion practice their marksmanships skills, April 6, 2009 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Elsa Portillo).

As Boko Haram increasingly devastates northeastern Nigeria and crosses into Nigeria’s neighbors, Cameroon has attracted more international attention, both positive and negative. The International Crisis Group recently wrote that “Cameroon’s apparent stability and recent government reforms can no longer hide its vulnerabilities.” The report assesses the political risks of President Paul Biya’s apparent desire to remain in power indefinitely, despite his advanced age and lack of a clear succession plan. Alongside these medium-term risks are two short-term problems that deserve special scrutiny: the potential for destructive escalation in Cameroon’s fight with Boko Haram and the ambiguous effects of an aggressive […]

In this undated file picture released Nov. 29, 2013, posted on the Facebook page of a militant group, members of Ahrar al-Sham brigade exercise in a training camp at unknown place in Syria (AP photo).

Last week, on Sept. 9, the entire leadership of one of Syria’s strongest rebel groups, Ahrar al-Sham, was killed in a blast during a secret meeting in Idlib, in northern Syria. A dozen of the deeply conservative Salafi movement’s leaders died in the attack, which some sources claim was a suicide bombing and others an airstrike by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. As the United States mobilizes an international coalition against the militants of the Islamic State group, with plans to train 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels, the attack could have domino effects across the conflict, especially among often-shifting rebel alliances. The killing […]

A man sits alone near the road between the Dakhla Refugee Camp and Awsaard Refugee Camp, June 24, 2003 (UN photo by Evan Schneider).

The Western Sahara conflict is fast approaching its 40th anniversary with no end in sight. A web of geopolitical interests keeps the conflict in a permanent state of limbo. At the heart of this web is the U.N. Security Council, which has managed the conflict since the late 1980s. The council has been historically reticent to take dramatic action to resolve the dispute and remains so today. Though there has been “peace” in Western Sahara since 1991 when a cease-fire came into effect, all efforts to reconcile Morocco’s claim of sovereignty against the local population’s right to self-determination have failed. […]

A masked man in a guerrilla outfit holds a flag of the rebel Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK), Diyarbakir, Turkey, March 21, 2014 (AP photo).

Last month, at least one Turkish soldier was killed in an attack by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which threatened to undermine President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mandate to negotiate with the organization. In an email interview, Mehmet Ümit Necef, associate professor at the Centre for Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, discussed the prospect of PKK peace talks under the Erdogan presidency. WPR: What is the current status of Turkey’s relations with the PKK given ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq? Mehmet Ümit Necef: The Turkish government and the PKK have carried out a successful peace […]

Fighters of the Islamic State waving the group's flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, Raqqa, Syria, photo post Aug. 27, 2014 (AP photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group).

Washington is rife with calls to destroy the so-called Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The combination of far-reaching ambition, tactical skill, money, weaponry and depraved barbarity make the group a pressing, even unprecedented, security threat. Like al-Qaida a decade ago, the Islamic State has woven together a dangerous network, this one composed of fat-cat Gulf funders, angry young Western Muslims struggling with inner demons, local Sunni Arabs angered by repression from the governments in Damascus and Baghdad, violence-obsessed jihadists from across the Islamic world and former Baathists still bitter over losing power. As […]

Panama's police officers cross the Coello river during a training course in San Luis, Colombia, Dec. 2, 2009 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Last month, Colombia signed a deal with the European Union on crisis management and counterinsurgency cooperation. In an email interview, Arlene Beth Tickner, professor at the University of the Andes in Colombia, discussed Colombia’s military cooperation. WPR: How extensive is Colombia’s military cooperation, and what countries are its main military partners? Arlene Beth Tickner: Since the mid-2000s, Colombia has received increasing numbers of requests for security cooperation from governments of distinct ideological stripes throughout Latin America and other parts of the globe. Between 2009 and 2013 alone, it provided police and military training to nearly 22,000 individuals from 47 different […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center right, and Chief of Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel, rear left, on Victory Day in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 30, 2014 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s shift from the prime ministership to the presidency symbolizes a deeper shift for Turkey. While Erdogan has made progress towards peace with the Kurdish minority at home, he faces criticism for an increasingly autocratic ruling style. At the same time, Turkey’s relations both with its neighbors in the Middle East and with major powers such as the United States are under strain. This report covers Turkey’s domestic politics and foreign affairs, drawing on articles from the past year. Subscribers can download a PDF copy of this report here. Non-subscribers can purchase a PDF copy here. Domestic Politics […]