Negotiations are set to resume in September between Iran and the P5+1 countries — the five permanent U.N. Security Council members along with Germany — with an eye to restarting a diplomatic process that might lead to a resolution of the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program. The question is whether something akin to the 2003 Libyan breakthrough is possible — or even desirable. By that scenario, Iran would stop all of its efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons breakout capability — notably, the ability to enrich uranium. In return, the U.S. and its Western allies would agree to lift sanctions […]

Stepped-up hostilities between Turkish forces and Kurdish guerrillas in southeastern Turkey and predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq coupled with a high-powered Iraqi Kurdish campaign to achieve greater autonomy are complicating U.S. efforts to ensure that Iraq remains united once American troops leave the country. The increased hostilities couldn’t come at a worse time for the Obama administration, which is preparing for next year’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The U.S. had hoped that closer Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish cooperation and Ankara’s conciliatory moves toward Turkey’s estimated 15 million Kurds — who account for approximately 20 percent of Turkey’s population — would end […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Washington’s decision to partially lift the ban on contact with Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces command has angered human rights organizations within the country and beyond. The decision, which had been rumored for some time, was announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at a meeting last Thursday with Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta. The ban on Kopassus was part of a U.S. military embargo imposed more than a decade ago in response to repeated human rights abuses committed by Kopassus units and by Indonesia’s military, the TNI, in Papua, Aceh and East Timor. The […]

As Gen. David Petraeus takes over the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan, he is right to continue a strategy of counterinsurgency and to strengthen it with a plan that seeks to give local Afghan communities the means to defend themselves. However, both the recently announced local defense plan, which pays community members to don a rifle and police uniform, and the over-arching counterinsurgency of which it is a part take the wrong path to reducing violence in Afghanistan. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2008, the U.S. “cannot kill its way to victory.” Yet, the Pentagon has emphasized “providing […]

At the 2008 summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman observed something intriguing about the powerful American team, which won the overall medal count for the games. After wandering through the athletes’ village, he noted, “The Russian team all looks Russian; the African teams all look African; the Chinese team all looks Chinese; and the American team looks like all of them.” The United States, Friedman said, is the clearest example of a nation whose “strength comes from diversity.” The most powerful nations in history have all followed a similar formula. In “Day of Empire,” […]

The 2014 Afghan security plan unveiled by President Hamid Karzai this week at the international conference in Kabul raises once again the question of whether the U.S. and NATO are moving towards a 21st century variant of the “Najibullah strategy” as they seek to determine their end game in Afghanistan. The reference is to the regime of Mohamed Najibullah, the Afghan leader at the time the Soviet Union withdrew its combat forces from Afghanistan in 1989. The Afghan government that the Soviets left behind controlled the major population centers as well as some of the rural regions of the country, […]

With his recent selections of Gens. David Petraeus and James Mattis for command in Afghanistan and Central Command respectively, President Barack Obama signals his understanding that his previously established deadline of mid-2011 to begin drawing down combat troops in the “good war” cannot be met. The two were co-architects of the military’s renewed embrace of both counterinsurgency operations and the associated nation-building project that by necessity goes along with it. Neither flag officer can be expected to preside over a Vietnam-like exit that once again puts troubled and untrustworthy Pakistan in charge of Afghanistan’s fate. And so, despite the conventional […]

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project tightens the straightjacket that our current terrorist list system has placed on American diplomats and social scientists. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the First Amendment does not protect groups or individuals who provide “expert advice or assistance” or “training” for pacific means to proscribed terrorist groups. For non-governmental peacebuilding groups that conduct workshops and promote dialogue as critical elements of their work, this decision is catastrophic. Now, even individuals who, through direct communication, urge proscribed terrorist groups to disarm and participate in negotiations are vulnerable to […]

U.S. strategies in two key fronts of the ongoing struggle against terrorism and extremism — Afghanistan and Somalia — are predicated on one critical element: the eventual emergence of a central government that can establish its writ throughout the territory nominally under its jurisdiction. And in both cases, the central governments that exist on paper seem to offer little hope for success. Diplomats may recognize Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the head of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), as president of Somalia, and Hamid Karzai has held the presidency in Afghanistan for many years now. But oftentimes it seems that both […]

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, are currently involved in a diplomatic dance over resuming talks on Tehran’s nuclear program. If the talks do indeed come to fruition, Ashton could assume the negotiating role previously played by her predecessor, Javier Solana. While Solana’s diplomatic efforts ultimately did not bear fruit (.pdf), the circumstances that hampered his attempts to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff — namely, the lack of U.S. participation and Iranian perceptions that the country had little to gain by talking with Europe — have since improved and could be […]

Tension between Iran and the United Arab Emirates is rising after the UAE became the first Gulf state to publicly signal endorsement of military force to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, should peaceful efforts to resolve the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program fail. The UAE also restricted Iran’s use of Dubai to imports goods sanctioned by the United Nations and the United States. In a statement, the UAE Foreign Ministry described recorded remarks made by UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, at a conference in Colorado as “inaccurate.” Nonetheless, the remarks offer a rare insight into […]

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Russia and the United States are about to learn how much international goodwill their renewed progress toward nuclear arms control, as manifested by the New START Treaty, will buy them in other WMD nonproliferation arenas. The two countries have recently confirmed that they will miss their already extended deadlines for eliminating their stockpiles of chemical weapons, as required by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). In principle, this failure could lead to bitter denunciations as well as concrete sanctions imposed by other countries. At present, though, it looks like Moscow and Washington will escape punishment, perhaps in part due to the […]

The debate over whether or not we have entered a “post-American world” has, at least in U.S. circles, become predictably stale. In one corner are those sneeringly referred to by their opponents as the “declinists” — a more neutral label might be “post-primacists” — who trot out all sorts of facts and figures demonstrating the debilitating costs of America’s imperial overstretch, and argue that the torch of global leadership is passing to new aspirants hungry for the job. In the other corner are the perennial optimists, who have their own statistics to show that even if the U.S. is facing […]

With all of the comparisons being drawn between the presidencies of Barack Obama and Franklin D. Roosevelt, it is surprising that one of FDR’s most famous programs has not emerged as a possible model for U.S. policy today: Lend-Lease. That’s not to suggest that the United States should plunge the rest of the planet into world war as a strategy for domestic economic recovery. But consider the following: First, global security challenges are on the rise. The dark side of globalization means that technologies and capabilities that previously were the prerogatives of states have increasingly filtered down to non-state actors […]

In the two weeks since Gen. David Petraeus was nominated to be the new commander for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan, continuity has been the dominant theme in describing what his replacement of ousted Gen. Stanley McChrystal represents. After all, Petraeus literally wrote the book on U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, which McChrystal tried to apply in Afghanistan over the past year. It only seems natural to expect that Petraeus will maintain the same approach. But continuity is the worst possible option for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, because it would mean maintaining a strategy that appears increasingly unlikely to succeed. […]

The United States and Japan commemorated the 50th anniversary of their security alliance last month with an uneasy sense of ambivalence. On the one hand, the sheer fact that the alliance, firmly rooted in the common interests and shared values of both countries, has persisted for so long is reason enough to celebrate. The U.S. and Japan, in addition to being democracies, are the world’s top two economies and two of the largest funders of multilateral institutions. They share a long list of common objectives, from ensuring that China’s rise is peaceful and deterring a nuclear North Korea to policing […]

This World Politics Review special report is a compilation of WorldPolitics Review’s top articles on Afghanistan from December 2009 through June 2010. It is an update of WPR’s first special report on Afghanistan, published in 2009. Below are links to each article, which subscribers can read in full. Subscribers can also download a pdf version of the report. Not subscriber? Not a subscriber? Subscribe now, or try our subscription service for free.Obama’s Afghanistan Plan: The Partner ProblemBy Richard WeitzDecember 2, 2009 Navigating Roadblocks in AfghanistanBy Nikolas GvosdevDecember 4, 2009 Can Spheres of Influence Solve Afghanistan?By Nikolas GvosdevDecember 11, 2009 The […]

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