The Gezi Park protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which shook Turkey at the end of May, represent a turning point in Turkey’s contemporary political history. Although their main target was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his style of government, the protests, in combination with developments in Syria’s civil war, will have significant consequences for the ongoing peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). At the same time, the need to effectively address the Kurdish issue could accelerate recent shifts in Turkey’s stance on the Syrian crisis. Though the Turkish-PKK peace process currently appears deadlocked due to natural mistrust […]

There have been many diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian war, and few if any are worth commemorating. But this week brings the second anniversary of one attempt that, despite making no difference on the ground, offered some evidence of how the international system is evolving. On Aug. 3, 2011, the Security Council agreed a statement calling for an immediate halt to violence in Syria. This was the council’s first significant declaration on the already six-month-old crisis. But it was also notable because of the three countries that championed it: Brazil, India and South Africa, all temporary members of the […]

When the European Union voted to add Hezbollah’s name to its list of terrorist organizations, it simultaneously added one more item to the growing list of costs the Lebanese group is incurring for its brazen intervention in Syria’s civil war. Jumping into the Syrian fray is taking a significant toll on Hezbollah, and it could ultimately take an even greater one on Lebanon. Still, Hezbollah calculates the risk would be even greater if it sat out the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Whether that decision will pay off is yet to be seen. Europe was careful to name Hezbollah’s […]

This month, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group now based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, staged attacks that prompted more than 60,000 Congolese refugees to flee to neighboring Uganda. In an email interview, Kristof Titeca, senior research fellow at the University of Antwerp’s Institute of Development Policy and Management and the University of Ghent’s Conflict Research Group, described the ADF’s background and its recent resurgence. WPR: What is the background on the Allied Democratic Forces in terms of their numbers and goals? Kristof Titeca: The movement was started in 1995 in eastern Congo by Ugandan members […]

The community of national security experts is consumed with debate on the appropriate size and configuration of the American military. Seldom does a week pass without some new report, commission or conference offering solemn advice on this complex issue. Policy journals and op-ed pages are awash with articles on it. Such vigorous discussion is a good thing, but it may be focused on the wrong issue—ultimately the size of the armed forces matters less than what they are asked to do. There are analysts, though, who are grappling with the type of conflicts the U.S. military may be ordered to […]

With hopes ranging from better living standards and a more open and fair society, to improved public services and higher levels of security, Yemenis have justifiably high expectations of the country’s National Dialogue Conference, underway since March 18, 2013. The conference, part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plan for the Arab Spring’s only negotiated transition so far, is of great significance not only for Yemen, but also for the wider region and beyond. Making a success of the conference is vital for the continued existence of Yemen as a state—literally, by offering a credible alternative to Southern secessionists, and […]

After nine months in Havana, Cuba, negotiators are making slow but steady progress toward ending the conflict between Colombia’s government and its largest leftist guerrilla group, the 49-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The talks are now at the second of five agenda points, and a growing segment of public opinion believes that this peace process—the fourth in the past 30 years—may end in an accord. But the FARC are not Colombia’s only leftist guerrilla group with a national presence. The National Liberation Army (ELN), like the FARC, was founded in 1964. The ELN differs from the FARC in […]

Do articles about the United Nations really have to be relentlessly depressing? Over the past six months, this column has dwelt on such bleak topics as the Security Council’s failure to halt the Syrian crisis and the mounting dangers of peacekeeping in trouble-spots like Mali and Lebanon. Yet despite all the bad news, it is arguable that the U.N. has had rather a good year on many other fronts, and focusing solely on its problems is unfair. So this column sets out to celebrate some of the organization’s successes in 2013 so far, and asks whether they might ultimately outweigh […]

Despite unfolding disasters in Egypt and Syria and the damage to American security from the bizarre Edward Snowden episode, Afghanistan, which had begun to seem like last year’s news, is grabbing headlines again. The Obama administration is undertaking yet another review of its options following the planned drawdown of U.S. military forces in 2014. Reports are that the administration, frustrated with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is considering a “zero option” that would leave no American troops in Afghanistan. But before wholesale disengagement is even officially on the table, opposition to it is flaring. Angry at the idea, House Armed Services […]

In Mali, a West African country once seen as a model of democracy but now in the midst of an internal conflict, presidential hopefuls are campaigning for July 28 elections that some fear are coming too soon. John Campbell, Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the elections should be postponed, “both because of the inadequacy of the technical preparations for the elections but also the concern that the occasion of the elections raises the possibility of terrorist attacks and very low turnout,” he said. Low turnout might detract from the legitimacy […]

Last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a comprehensive hearing devoted to assessing the post-2014 U.S. transition in Afghanistan. A central issue was the question of whether the Obama administration is genuinely considering a “zero option,” as news reports suggested last week, that would withdraw all U.S. military forces from the country by the end of 2014. While many oppose this option, the hearing made clear that it might happen if the Afghan government fails to hold free and fair national elections next year. The Obama administration has yet to announce how many U.S. troops it will maintain in […]

Should the West attempt to make the Syrian civil war drag on for as long as possible? The question may sound morally offensive and politically wrong-headed. The U.S. and its allies have consistently called for a rapid cessation of hostilities and a negotiated settlement. Yet they are currently pursuing military, diplomatic and humanitarian strategies that could contribute to prolonging the conflict. This could result in either a stalemate inside Syria or even more violence in the country and across the Middle East. As the Syrian war escalated from steady but limited violence to large-scale bloodletting in 2012, many Western observers […]

U.S. Central Africa Policy Sees a New Surge of Energy

Last month’s appointment of former Sen. Russ Feingold as the new United States special envoy for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) signals an important surge of energy into American diplomacy in this troubled region. His appointment should be seen in the context of other recent positive steps, including the “Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region,” a February 2013 agreement among 11 African states known as the PSC Framework. The framework aims at ending the decades-long instability, violence, multiple humanitarian crises and grave human […]

The confusing web of alliances in Middle Eastern politics has gotten even more tangled after the forcible deposition of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the attempt by the military to decapitate the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Dividing lines once seen in Washington as unchangeable may now be in flux as a result of the Egyptian turmoil. The implications for Syria, in particular, are most compelling. Amid concerns that the Syrian opposition to President Bashar al-Assad—which contains a number of pro-Muslim Brotherhood factions—might line up with their Egyptian counterparts in opposing the new government, the provisional administration in Cairo has now […]

If a Western policymaker had sketched out a dream scenario for the Arab world in 2013, it would have looked something like this: In Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi would gradually mature into a semi-competent leader. In Syria, his counterpart Bashar al-Assad would fall quickly and the fragmented opposition would cobble together a half-decent government. Other countries in the region making the transition from dictatorship, such and Libya and Yemen, would make halting progress to lasting stability. Some Western officials had even greater ambitions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process an early priority since […]

As the United States stumbles about in search of a coherent strategy in Syria, one idea that continues to resurface is the establishment of a no-fly zone. Its appeal is easy to understand. Facing a rebel advance in the summer of 2012, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military increasingly relied on airpower. As a result, civilian casualties escalated. With no response to the threat from the air, the rebel offensive faltered, and the Assad regime, which seemed on the verge of collapse, turned the tide. For the United States, a no-fly zone seems to provide a way to do something about […]

Conflict in 2012 by the Numbers

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) has released its annual by-the-numbers update on the state of conflict worldwide, through the end of 2012, in the latest issue of the Journal of Peace Research. The combination of statistics and violence makes for unusually dismal reading, but nevertheless the authors have good news: “Overall, the 2000s has been the least conflict-ridden decade since the 1970s.” Last year in particular saw 32 armed conflicts around the world, five fewer than in 2011, where the authors define an “armed conflict” as one that “concerns government or territory or both where the use of armed […]

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