Houthi rebels gather to protest against Saudi-led airstrikes at a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, March 26, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

For almost a week now, fighter jets from a coalition of Sunni Arab militaries have been bombarding military installations across Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to dislodge the Houthis, a religious revivalist movement for the Zaydi form of Shiite Islam largely unique to northern Yemen that has now become a fearsome militia. Yet even as Operation Resolute Storm, as the Saudis have dubbed the campaign, has intensified, the Houthis have continued to push on into the south of the country. The group’s spokesmen have even threatened to launch a campaign in Saudi Arabia, which shares a 1,100-mile border […]

Iraqi security forces hold a flag of the Islamic State group they captured during an operation outside Amirli, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2014 (AP file photo).

Whether by burning a Jordanian fighter pilot alive, massacring Shiites or beheading American hostages, the self-declared Islamic State (IS) has an unprecedented knack for making enemies. IS has also inadvertently achieved what the United States never accomplished during more than a decade in Iraq: the mobilization of a willing coalition of Arab countries to fight jihadi extremists. Still, in the first year of its so-called caliphate, IS’ aggressive expansion appears to have passed its zenith. Both on the internet and on the ground, there are many indicators that the group’s decline has already begun. But IS will likely endure for […]

Chadian soldiers collect weapons seized from Boko Haram fighters, Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

War is back in fashion. Across northern and western Africa and in the Middle East, governments are resorting to force to counter regional threats. Last week, Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, with the backing of nine other members of the Arab League. Members of this coalition are already involved in the air campaign in Iraq and Syria against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Some are also itching to get sucked into the Libyan conflict. In Nigeria, meanwhile, an ad hoc coalition of local armies and foreign mercenaries has taken the offensive against Boko Haram. All […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn after signing an agreement on sharing water from the Nile River, Khartoum, Sudan, March 23, 2015 (AP photo by Abd Raouf).

On Monday in Khartoum, the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed an initial accord on mutual water rights to the Nile River, removing another obstacle to Ethiopia’s massive Grand Renaissance Dam, which has been a source of tension with its neighbors since construction began just 10 miles from Sudan’s border in 2011. But the agreement is about a lot more than water. It may signal a seismic shift in the politics of northeastern Africa and could lead to a new axis of cooperation to manage, if not resolve, conflicts in one of the world’s most turbulent regions. The accord’s […]

A Houthi fighter stands guard as people search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, March 26, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

From the popular uprising that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011 and the subsequent power vacuum to the swift advance of the Houthi rebel movement from northern Yemen into the capital, Sanaa, last summer, Yemen has been described as perpetually “on the brink” in recent years. The presence of a local al-Qaida franchise in Yemen’s southern provinces and an ongoing, separate southern secessionist movement, known as Hirak, have only added to the country’s turmoil and confusion over where it was all headed. Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia, leading a coalition of other Arab states and supported by the […]

Anti-balaka militiamen at their base in the Bimbo neighborhood of Bangui, Central African Republic, May 31, 2014 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

In the wake of recent violence in the Central African Republic, the United Nations announced today that it is sending an additional 1,000 peacekeepers to the war-torn country. In an email interview, Amadou Sy, director of the African Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, discussed the political and security situation in CAR. WPR: How successful has the French-led multinational intervention been at improving the security situation in Bangui and other major cities in CAR, and what are the next priorities for the mission? Amadou Sy: The French-led Operation Sangaris came at a critical juncture in the civil war, and put […]

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speaks to police officers during an event to launch a Christmas security plan, Bogota, Colombia, Dec. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

When Juan Manuel Santos became president of Colombia in August 2010, it was clear he had one overriding aim: to end his country’s longstanding internal armed conflict, chiefly with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Re-elected to a second term last June, Santos now appears to be in the final stretch toward reaching a peace agreement with the FARC. Talks in Havana between government negotiators and FARC leadership have advanced enough for some victims of the conflict and an array of military officials to have joined the negotiations. In addition, Santos managed to get the United States to name […]

The U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question, New York, Dec. 15, 2014 (U.N. photo by Mark Garten).

U.S. President Barack Obama’s ability to influence the future of American foreign policy is inevitably shrinking as he approaches the end of his second term. But as president, he still has enormous leverage over the direction of United Nations diplomacy. In the next few weeks or months, Obama could dump two exceptionally sensitive tasks on the U.N.: finding a new way out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and monitoring an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. If the U.N. can successfully accomplish either of these things, the organization will receive a gigantic boost. If it fails on both, the long-term damage to […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

As the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program careen toward the finish line, tensions between U.S President Barack Obama’s administration and Israel remain high. The inability of the United States and Israel to reconcile their positions is not, as some critics contend, the result of Obama’s wavering commitment to Israel’s defense, but of two enduring and deep peculiarities of U.S. strategy: first, its expansiveness, and second, America’s uniquely idealistic strategic culture. These shape not only U.S. cooperation with Israel but also U.S. security partnerships around the world. Unlike Israel, the U.S. has far-ranging, interconnected global concerns. How the U.S. deals with […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a cricket match, Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov. 15, 2014 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

Reports over the past three months suggest that Pakistani military leaders and Afghan officials are renewing efforts to open direct talks between the Taliban and Kabul. Though these steps show signs of promise and should be supported by U.S. policymakers, expectations about the talks’ prospects for a swift resolution to the Afghanistan War should be measured, given the history of breakdowns of past efforts and the potential for spoilers on all sides to derail them. The last bid for peace talks, supported by the U.S. State Department and facilitated by Qatar, was abandoned in 2013 after Afghanistan’s then-President Hamid Karzai […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting, Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

How do the crisis in Ukraine and the political situation in Russia look when viewed through the prism of Chinese media? The familiar Western narrative of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a dictator responsible for destabilizing Ukraine and snuffing out domestic dissent takes on a far different coloring. The appeal of the Chinese version of events elsewhere in the world could help explain why U.S. and Western efforts to marginalize Putin and Russia on the world stage have met with little success. At the Naval War College on Monday, Christopher Marsh, professor of national security and strategic studies at the […]

Sandbags protect mosaics from damage caused by further attacks at the Maarra Mosaic Museum, Maarat an-Numan, Syria, March 4, 2015 (photo from the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum).

Four years ago this week, the first protests against President Bashar al-Assad began in Syria. The toll from his regime’s crackdown and the ensuing civil war is staggering: at least 210,000 dead, 50 percent of the population displaced and over 1.2 million homes destroyed, along with half of Syria’s cities, where the lights have effectively gone out. Nearly 11 million Syrians have been forced from their homes. “The country they sought to improve literally no longer exists,” The Washington Post noted on this grim anniversary. The war’s toll on Syria’s cultural heritage, in particular, has recently received more attention, after […]

Samantha Power, United States Permanent Representative to the U.N., briefs the press, United Nations, New York, Sept. 30, 2014 (U.N. photo by Kim Haughton).

The United States sent its European allies some stern signals about their obligations to the American-led international order last week. On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power visited Brussels, where she warned NATO members to halt their “dangerous” defense cuts and called on European powers to offer more troops to United Nations peace operations. Power argued that European armies, which currently provide less than 10 percent of all U.N. peacekeepers worldwide, could have a “momentum-shifting” impact on beleaguered blue helmet missions in trouble spots such as South Sudan. Instead, she underlined, “European countries have drawn back from peacekeeping,” […]

A multinational group of paratroopers exit a C-130 H3 aircraft over a drop zone during Exercise Flintlock 2014, Agadez, Niger, March 2, 2015  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist).

In the modern security environment, insurgency is the strategy of choice for violent extremists. Even so, the United States insists on clinging to an outdated concept of insurgency steeped more in the anti-colonial struggles of the Cold War than the fluid battlefields where movements like the self-declared Islamic State (IS), Boko Haram and the al-Qaida affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa lurk. During the Cold War, the most dangerous insurgencies blended a leftist ideology with nationalism. This combination gave revolutionary insurgency its reach, appealing to more supporters and recruits than either leftism or nationalism alone could have done. […]

Smoke rises as the Iraqi army, supported by volunteers, battles Islamic State extremists outside Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq, March 4, 2015 (AP photo).

More than ever, Iraq’s Sunnis remain ground zero in the struggle that is being waged against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Recent military successes by the international coalition formed by the United States last summer to counter the jihadis through the intercession of local fighters—particularly Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish militias—make it clear that the war’s outcome will in large part be determined on the battlefield. But any defeat of IS, which arose and has been fed principally by the failure of political powers to grasp the scale of the problem in time, must include a political component addressing Sunni grievances […]

Myanmar army soldiers patrol on a road in Kokang, northeastern Shan State, more than 500 miles northeast of Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 17, 2015 (AP Photo/Eleven Media Group).

Since taking office in 2011 after decades of iron-fisted military rule, Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government has faced the challenge of opening up a country long closed to the outside world and delivering on the promise of domestic reform. But it faces major security obstacles, too, in the long-running ethnic rebellions on its borders with India and China, one of which escalated last month in clashes that killed more than 50 Myanmarese troops and 70 Kokang rebels in northern Myanmar. The Kokang and other ethnic rebels have fought for greater autonomy, federalism or control over natural resources in their corners of Myanmar […]

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a news conference after their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2015 (AP photo by Sergei Karpukhin).

Here is a modest proposal to resolve the Ukrainian crisis: NATO should invite the so-called Islamic State (IS) and Boko Haram to send fighters to assist Kiev’s battered military. Die-hard IS and Boko Haram extremists would surely be happy to battle the Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine and their Orthodox Christian-nationalist creed. For veteran Islamists, it would bring back memories of past glories in Afghanistan and Chechnya. This whole idea is clearly bonkers. But does it make more sense to ask Russia to help fight threats to Europe from IS and its affiliates in Africa and the Middle East? Last […]

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