After he stepped down as the U.N. special envoy for Syria in May, Lakhdar Brahimi was asked what he thought would become of the country. “It will become another Somalia,” he replied. “It will not be divided, as many have predicted. It’s going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place.” As early as 2012, Brahimi began issuing warnings of the “Somalization” of Syria. While analysts following Syria acknowledge it may not yet be Somalia, “Brahimi’s warning is timely and appropriate,” according to Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at the Department of War Studies at King’s […]

The 2003 Iraq war split the Security Council, but the United Nations ultimately sustained only limited long-term damage from the incident. In the 11 years since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the council has passed over 600 resolutions on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to African conflicts. Now the U.N. faces another war in Iraq, at a time when its overall credibility may be in greater danger than it was in 2003. The Security Council has played an exceedingly minor role during the past month’s crisis in Iraq. After the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria […]

How to best explain Vladimir Putin’s zigzags on Ukraine? Over the past few months, spokesmen and leading officials have confidently made statements about Russian policy only to have the Russian leader suddenly change course. It can be quite confusing for analysts and commentators to assess Russia’s true intentions—and makes Putin look dangerously unpredictable. Putin’s long-term goals are clear: to prevent Ukraine’s full integration into the Euro-Atlantic world; to preserve some semblance of Ukraine’s former position as a neutral intermediary and buffer between Russia and the West; and to retain Russia’s special relationship with the country, particularly its southern and eastern […]

Last week, following the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the United Nations raised the crisis in Iraq to a level three humanitarian disaster—its highest designation—with over 1.5 million displaced people. In an email interview, David Romano, associate professor of political science at Missouri State University, discussed the refugee situation in Iraq. WPR: What impact have refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) had in Iraq and globally since 2003? David Romano: The impact of refugees and IDPs on Iraq and globally is very multifaceted and depends on the context. After the 2003 invasion of […]

As extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria march on Baghdad and much of the Iraqi army runs away, there has been a torrent of writing from national security experts, journalists and pundits. This made it easy to miss an important story by Greg Jaffe and Kevin Mauer about American military veterans struggling to understand why the government and military that they worked so hard to create in Iraq has failed so miserably. This is more than simply soul searching: As Jaffe and Mauer noted, the outcome of this debate could have far reaching implications for the future […]

With insurgents from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) taking the country’s second biggest city, Mosul, and advancing on the capital, Baghdad, Iraq finds itself in the worst political and military crisis since the height of the civil war in 2006-2007; the very survival of Iraq as a state is in doubt. Its political and military institutions are discredited beyond repair, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s divisive, sectarian leadership is widely blamed for fueling the unrest that feeds the ISIS advance through the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces of central Iraq. Little surprise, then, that many observers in the West, […]

One of the major issues affecting U.S. deliberations over whether to accept a nuclear deal with Iran or to cooperate with Tehran in Iraq is the question of how much Iranian foreign policy has changed under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. In fact, a comprehensive survey of Iranian foreign policy during the past year shows, from Washington’s perspective, major improvements in only a few areas, such as the regime’s nuclear diplomacy, with a harder line on some other issues and broad continuity in most cases. In the November 2013 interim deal over Iran’s nuclear program, which expires July 20 unless renewed, […]

The race to succeed Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general of the United Nations is heating up. More or less open candidates are emerging with growing frequency. This may seem premature: Ban will not leave office until the end of 2016, and he has a lot of unfinished business to attend to. He hopes to seal deals on climate change and the future of international development next year. He also needs to contain the crises in South Sudan and Syria, both of which threaten to cast a profound shadow over his legacy. The pressure seems to have given Ban extra energy. He […]

When the Obama administration took control of U.S. foreign policy in 2009, it undertook to mitigate what it considered the damage wrought by the George W. Bush team. The Iraq War was to be wound down, although, as it happens, more or less along the timeline laid down by the previous president. Afghanistan, the forgotten war, was to be quickly turned around by a judicious application of U.S resources and attention. A deft wielding of diplomacy would end the standoff with Iran, “reset” relations with Russia and bring China into a new dialogue to solve global problems. After the massive […]

At the beginning of the space age, the United States “had a vision of space as infinite” said Clay Moltz of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School during recent remarks at the Stimson Center. In the intervening decades, as U.S. activities in space have expanded and the number of space-faring nations has increased, the usable orbits around earth have become crowded. To manage this state of affairs, the United States has sought to expand international cooperation in space, partly with an eye toward protecting the space assets of U.S. companies, scientists and troops fighting on the ground. Of particular concern are […]

When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched its blitzkrieg assault on Iraq, it suddenly put the entire country in play, threatening its very existence. The rapid territorial gains by the ultra-extremist Sunni militant group put enormous pressure on the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But it is not only Maliki who faces difficult and urgent choices. The Iraqi crisis is also a pressing challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama. As Obama and his advisers survey the disastrous scene, examining the possible scenarios that could emerge from the crisis and weighing the options for Washington, all […]

Colombians re-elected President Juan Manuel Santos for a second term on June 15, in what is being described as a referendum on his government’s peace negotiations to end the half-century-long guerrilla war with the FARC. The election was close until the very end, with pre-election polls predicting differing results. In the end, Santos won a little more than 50 percent of the votes while his challenger, former Finance Minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, gained a little over 45 percent, providing a close yet nonetheless decisive mandate for the incumbent president to continue with the peace process. With this in mind, some […]

For years Iraq has been a deeply troubled nation spiraling deeper and deeper into sectarian violence. The primary causes were Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s exclusion of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs from power and his politicization of the Iraqi military, which the United States expended so much money and effort to build. Then sparks from Syria’s civil war leapt back across the border to ignite Iraq’s political tinderbox. Yet even the most pessimistic observers did not foresee the events of the past two weeks, as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—a jihadist movement so violent and extreme that al-Qaida disavowed […]

The United States has “a willing partner in the next Afghan president, whichever one it is,” said Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Philip Breedlove last week. He said he was “extremely confident” that Afghanistan and the United States would be able to reach an agreement to keep in Afghanistan the 9,800 U.S. troops slated to remain there past the end of the year, when the NATO-led mission in the country officially ends. But the U.S. footprint in the country is shrinking, and if Breedlove’s confidence is misplaced, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan could soon go to zero. The U.S. […]

The notion of disarming, then disbanding and rehabilitating former soldiers in the aftermath of conflict is as old as war itself. Tens of thousands of soldiers were voluntarily disarmed and returned to their villages after the Roman-Etruscan wars, and similar practices have followed virtually every conflict since. The expectation has always been that these activities can prevent a relapse of warfare, and potentially kick-start the long road to reconstruction. In recent times, the concept has assumed a kind of orthodoxy in the peace, security and development community. Bilateral and multilateral donors such as the United Nations (U.N.) and World Bank […]

A large part of ending civil wars and insurgencies is about finding new political solutions to old political conflicts. One such political solution and instrument has at times been to convert armed groups into political parties. Convincing former warring parties to enter formalized democratic politics is not an easy task however, and even when armed groups transform into political parties, the challenges for long-term democracy continue. Research related to the political integration or reintegration of armed groups has been quite extensive. But political integration of armed groups is only one facet of a larger question about political integration of various […]

In a revealing quirk of history, the crisis in Iraq caused by the sudden onslaught of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can help us better understand possible scenarios for Afghanistan moving forward. Despite their many differences, both countries are exposing the consequences of America’s decreased leverage combined with the rising but often mutually competing influence of other powers. Notwithstanding the desire of both Iraqi and U.S. leaders to keep U.S. forces in Iraq beyond 2011 in order to train and equip Iraq’s still developing security forces, domestic political opposition in both countries combined with flawed diplomatic negotiations […]

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