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. […]

Newly enthroned King Salman receives dignitaries who arrived to give their condolences for the late King Abdullah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP Photo/SPA).

The House of Saud proclaims that it stands “in the face of those trying to hijack Islam ‎and present it to the world as a religion of extremism, hatred, and terrorism.” In Saudi Arabia, at least, it has increasingly stuck to its word. Afraid that jihadis will overthrow them, Saudi royals have promulgated strict rules for oversight of waqfs, or religious charities, that hitherto funded Islamists at home and abroad. Last October, Saudi citizens were forbidden by decree from supporting the so-called Islamic State (IS), and the kingdom is building a stout 600-mile security fence along its border with Iraq […]

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads in Spanish “I am Nisman” during a protest sparked by the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

First came the accusation that sent shockwaves from Argentina to Iran. Then came the news that the man who leveled the charges was dead. Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman always knew his life was at risk, but the drama that marked the final few days of his life ensures that his death will remain—probably forever—the subject of intrigue, suspicion and mistrust. Nisman died this week, but the last chapter in his relentless quest to seek justice in the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentine history has produced at least one outcome that he would find gratifying: It has rekindled interest in what […]

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 Belgian security officer stands guard near the Palace of Justice, where suspects wanted in Belgium on terrorism-related charges are set to appear before the federal court, Brussels, Jan. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Following the attack on the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this month, European leaders have called for more sharing of data and intelligence on national security and counterterrorism among European Union member states. As it stands currently, people and goods can travel freely within the EU but data about travelers cannot. Efforts to share information about air travelers in Europe have been repeatedly blocked by the European Parliament on the grounds that any such data-sharing system would violate Europeans’ right to privacy. “Cooperation between EU member states is a very important dimension of European counterterrorism […]

A suspected Yemeni al-Qaida militant holds an Islamist banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court in Sanaa, Yemen, April 23, 2013 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Even before the smoke cleared from last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, people were struggling to make sense of them. Because the initial victims were associated with Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known to deride Islam, attention fell on questions of free speech and whether it should be limited when religion is involved. But even if the belief that Islam is being insulted influenced the killers at a personal level, the al-Qaida strategists who claim to have directed the Charlie Hebdo attack had other goals. For them, the notion of blasphemy is useful propaganda, but their objectives are much […]

Palestinian female militants of the Islamic Jihad hold their weapons during a rally marking the 26th anniversary of the movement’s foundation in Gaza City, Nov. 1, 2013 (AP photo by Hatem Moussa).

When French officials announced they were searching for a woman as an accomplice in the attacks on a Jewish grocery store in Paris in which four hostages were killed, many in the West shook their heads. How was it possible that a woman, one born and raised in the West, would become a jihadi, a fighter committed to an extremist ideology that is hostile to women? Hayat Boumedienne, it turns out, is only one of a surprisingly large number of Western women who have been joining Islamist groups in recent years. The exact figures are not known, but researchers have […]

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 […]

A workman slides a dustmop over the floor at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Va., March 3, 2005 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

As the new year opens, and the dust has begun to settle from the release of a report last month by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA’s use of torture in the war on terror, it is time to ask what changes, if any, the report’s revelations will bring about for the agency in the coming years. Quite a few are necessary, but whether they will implemented is, of course, uncertain. To begin with perhaps the most concrete potential outcome, the report opens the way for an overhaul of how U.S. drone strikes are conducted in the […]

Leaders from Israel, Mali, France, Germany, the EU and Palestine march during a rally in Paris, France, Jan. 11, 2015 (AP photo by Philippe Wojazer).

The failure of U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration to send a high-level representative to the Paris unity march, convened in the wake of the terrorist attack on the editorial offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, is being described by some as the first foreign policy gaffe of 2015. Given the Obama team’s laser-like focus on domestic issues in the run-up to the State of the Union address, however, it is not surprising. Moreover, given that one of the administration’s goals seems to be to halt further deterioration in the critical U.S.-India relationship, it is very understandable why the president […]

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 […]

A pro-Russian rebel fires sniper rifle toward Ukrainian army positions at the frontline near Peski village, Donetsk, eastern Ukaine, Nov. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Mstyslav Chernov).

With combat operations in Afghanistan fading in the rearview mirror, the United States is turning its attention to finding ways to stem Russian aggression. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration supports the creation of a new NATO rapid reaction force and is sending more troops and tanks to Europe. These steps are intended to revive deterrence of Russia. They may do so given the nature of the challenge that Russia poses, but they also underscore the limitations of the old Cold War notion of deterrence in today’s security environment. When the Soviet Union fielded nuclear weapons during the opening years of […]

French President Francois Hollande, center left, flanked by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, right, walks outside the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s office, in Paris, Jan. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Remy De La Mauviniere).

PARIS—For the seven years I have lived here, the French military has been at war, first in Afghanistan, then in Libya, Mali and the wider Sahel region. Yet if the French armed forces were not only engaged, but at times stretched to the breaking point by their operational pace, the French people seemed oblivious to the country’s role in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa and now the Middle East. In all but the most dramatic circumstances, casualties were ignored, and while the spotlight of breaking news at times put these wars in the public’s mind, the debate was […]

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 […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Rome, Italy, Dec. 14, 2014 (State Department photo).

When diplomats want to explore a way out of a crisis, they like to talk about striking a “grand bargain” and try to avoid the word “climb-down,” which tends to imply an acknowledgement of failure or defeat. Nevertheless, Russia and the United States, trapped in costly confrontations over Syria and Ukraine, may need to agree to a sort of “grand climb-down” that allows the two powers to get out of unsustainable positions as painlessly as possible. Moscow and Washington both begin 2015 stuck with the consequences of poor strategic bets. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine now looks like a truly disastrous […]