U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron at the G-7, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, June 7, 2015. (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

This month represented another stepping stone in the long diplomatic march toward a prospective international climate change agreement in Paris in December. In the Bavarian Alps on June 7-8, the G-7 countries agreed on a communiqué reiterating their support for the goal of limiting climate change to below 2 degrees Celsius—compared to pre-industrial baseline levels—and pledging complete decarbonization of the global economy by 2100. The G-7 countries also restated their commitment to a promise that they have been making repeatedly since the Copenhagen climate accord talks in December 2009. Developed nations pledged billions of dollars a year in financial assistance […]

Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends a ceremony at the Diwan royal palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Yoan Valat).

The release of tens of thousands of diplomatic cables that Wikileaks says it obtained from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry have added detail and color to long suspected Saudi behavior in the Middle East. Mostly, that means money and how Riyadh wields it. Samir Geagea, a Lebanese politician who is a vocal critic of Syrian President of Bashar al-Assad—and a staunch defender in the Lebanese media of Saudi Arabia—begged for more money from Riyadh to support his flailing political party and former Christian militia, the Lebanese Forces. The Saudi ambassador in Beirut wrote favorably back to Riyadh that Geagea “expressed readiness […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 18, 2015 (Official Kremlin photo).

Russia’s joint naval exercises with Egypt in the Mediterranean earlier this month put into sharper relief its resurgent ties in the Middle East, where it is steadily reviving a meaningful role for itself. Russia has negotiated a slew of new arms sales and security cooperation agreements, both with Iraq and Egypt; is one of the chief arbiters of Syria’s fate, as a backer of President Bashar al-Assad; and remains an important component of the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. Despite a toxic relationship with the West over the crisis in Ukraine, Moscow’s foreign policy is not inherently inimical to U.S. […]

U.N. peacekeepers from Bangladesh arrive at the Niger Battalion Base in Ansongo, Mali, Feb. 25, 2015 (U.N. photo by Marco Dormino).

This fall the United Nations will celebrate its 70th birthday. As for most 70-somethings, the commemoration evokes nostalgia for a more idealistic time, reflections on creaky joints and renewed hopes for the future. To be sure, this grand edifice of mid-20th century geopolitics needs some serious refurbishing to align its mission and capabilities with the demands of the 21st-century world. Migration crises affecting Africa, Europe and Asia in unprecedented numbers; war in Sudan and enduring conflict in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere; and failing U.N. peace processes for Syria and Yemen show clearly that the current global […]

A close-up view of the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees, July 18, 2013 (State Department photo).

At the beginning of June, around 1,000 Syrian refugees found themselves stranded in the desert just inside Jordan, with precarious access to food and water. Their flight from Syria was driven by the desire to escape that country’s ongoing civil war, which has helped generate the largest refugee crisis since the aftermath of World War II. But their plight in the desert was the immediate result of Jordan gradually tightening its border to Syrian refugees, even as it remains officially open to them. It may be a sign of things to come, as the governments bordering Syria tire of hosting […]

A Kurdish peshmerga fighter fires a weapon towards an Islamic State Group position, overlooking the town of Sinjar, northern Iraq, Jan. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

SINJAR, Iraqi Kurdistan—The crash of the incoming mortar came from way behind the Kurdish lines; the shells were landing in the rear. Yet the excited and somewhat fearful commotion among the peshmerga fighters was instant. Men were looking through the peek holes at the Islamic State (IS) lines a few hundred yards away, trying to locate the mortar. Kurdish officers were on the phone, calling for a coalition airstrike. The warplane soon came roaring in, but by then the mortar had disappeared among the houses. A second coalition jet targeted an IS fighting unit—the next, a tank. The Kurds rely […]

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) conducts a training exercise in riot control for its peacekeepers in Juba, South Sudan, May 7, 2015 (U.N. photo by JC McIlwaine).

Policy papers from the United Nations rarely make for scintillating reading. Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released “Uniting Our Strengths for Peace,” a new report by an expert panel on the future of peace operations. Running to over 90 pages and full of familiar bromides such as “the universal legitimacy of the United Nations is one of its greatest strengths,” this does not at first glance seem like an exceptionally enticing text. On closer inspection, it proves to be a subtly subversive summary of what is wrong with peace operations, and indeed the entire U.N., today. Ban convened the panel […]

Screenshot of a YouTube video of an alleged Islamic State boot camp graduation, taken on Oct. 13, 2014 (photo from Flickr user hinkelstone licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

A recent memorandum by Undersecretary of State Richard Stengel painted an ominous picture of America’s failure to counter propaganda from the so-called Islamic State (IS). Across the board, the U.S. narrative is, as Stengel put it, “being trumped.” To a great extent this competition of narratives takes place on the Internet, particularly in social media. The Islamic State has made mistakes in that venue, but a number of indicators—its continued flow of recruits, the number of other extremist movements seeking to affiliate with it and its ability to inspire attacks in the West—demonstrate that the United States is losing on […]

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi with United Nations special envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon as they arrive for a meeting, Chigi Palace, Rome, March 11, 2015 (AP photo by Alessandro Di Meo, Ansa).

In the winter of 2013, then-Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta came out of a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama with the idea that the United States, too busy with other issues, had delegated the solution of the turmoil in Libya to Italy. This perception soon percolated into both the foreign policy and the defense establishments in Rome: Libya was now important not just because of geography and longstanding ties, but also because it was one of the few areas of the world in which the rest of the West would look to Italy for a solution. Yet two years […]

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale looks through binoculars during a live-fire demonstration of advanced TOW-II missile, Taybeh, Lebanon, June 10, 2015 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

Last week, the Lebanese army tested advanced TOW-II missiles, its newest weapon supplied by the United States. The live-fire demonstration took place at an army base in the Baalbek region, not far from the Syrian border. In late May, the U.S. agreed to provide more than 200 of the anti-tank guided missiles and dozens of launchers, at a cost of over $10 million, to help guard Lebanon’s border from Islamist militants and the threat of spillover from Syria’s civil war. Lebanese soldiers have come under attack by militants near the Syrian border in the past two years, including from the […]

Rohingya migrants sit in their room at a temporary shelter, Bayeun, Aceh Province, Indonesia, June 1, 2015 (AP photo by Binsar Bakkara).

Over the past month, Myanmar’s multiple domestic crises have spilled over its borders and into South and Southeast Asia, setting back the country’s reforms just before Myanmar’s highly anticipated national elections this fall. Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence and discrimination in western Myanmar have attracted the most global news coverage. Their plight in rickety boats with little food or water has sparked international calls for Myanmar’s government to take stronger measures to end discrimination against the Rohingya and address the crisis at its source. But the flight of the Rohingya is just one issue undermining Myanmar’s stability. Fighting has flared again […]

Hezbollah fighters stand guard during a rally commemorating "Liberation Day," which marks the withdrawal of the Israeli army from southern Lebanon in 2000, Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, May 24, 2015 (AP photo by Mohammed Zaatari).

The political change heralded by the 2010-2011 wave of protests across the Middle East and North Africa known as the Arab Spring never reached Lebanon, but the small Mediterranean country of 4 million has been suffering from the repercussions of those momentous events ever since. To the north, fighters and goods are still being smuggled to embattled Syria. To the northeast, a war of attrition is underway with Islamist militants, who have already seized vast swathes of territory from northern Syria and Iraq. To the south, there is the ever-volatile border with Israel. Indeed, in all directions, Lebanon’s fate is […]

Supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party wave flags with pictures of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during a rally, Istanbul, Turkey, June 8, 2015 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

They had predicted success with breezy self-confidence, but even the leaders of the Kurdish-rooted Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were likely surprised by their historic gains in Turkey’s parliamentary elections earlier this month. Sweeping 13 percent of the national vote, the HDP became the first majority-Kurdish party to formally enter parliament in Turkish history, pushing beyond the 10 percent election threshold that had forced Kurds to field independent candidates in elections past. For HDP voters, victory seemed all the sweeter given the blow it delivered to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to secure a […]

The Russian navy ship Smolny, with about 400 Russian sailors aboard, leaves the port of Saint-Nazaire, France, Dec.18, 2014 (AP photo by Laetitia Notarianni).

Russia has been skillfully using its ground forces to support pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine and keep NATO guessing over Russian intentions in that country, the Baltic states and Moldova. In addition, Moscow’s air force has for the first time since the Cold War sustained a high tempo of operations in NATO’s vicinity for more than a year. But the revival of the Russian navy has been another key element of Moscow’s use of military force to press its great power status. Naval considerations were actually a major factor driving Moscow’s insistence on maintaining control over Crimea. The naval base at […]

Boys take a walk at Azraq refugee camp in Azraq, Jordan, March 10, 2015 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

The world is finally waking up to the fact that the international humanitarian system is falling apart. European nations are bickering over how to handle Syrian refugees, while Southeast Asian nations grapple with the outflow of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Liberal commentators see parallels with the flight of Jews from Germany in the 1930s. “It is clear that the United States and other developed countries must find more room for refugees,” The New York Times editorialized this weekend, adding that United Nations agencies that help those who are suffering should be “amply funded.” U.N. officials reading these lines are likely […]

U.S. soldier congratulates Iraqi army trainees on their graduation from a six-week training course at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 13, 2015 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire).

This week marks one year since the so-called Islamic State (IS) took control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The fall of Mosul forced Iraq back onto U.S. President Barack Obama’s agenda and prompted a re-examination of the U.S. policy toward IS. Just yesterday, the White House announced that up to 450 additional U.S. troops will be deployed to train Iraqi forces and help in the fight against the group. World Politics Review partnered with the Global Dispatches podcast to present this interview with WPR columnist Steven Metz on the evolving U.S. strategy against IS. Speaking with host Mark […]

Internally displaced children are seen standing at the gate of their camp, Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 6, 2015 (U.N. photo by JC McIlwaine).

South Sudan’s army today claimed that it repelled an attack by rebels allied with former Vice President Riek Machar and regained control of several areas in Unity state from rebel forces. In an email interview, J. Peter Pham, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, discussed the status of the fighting and and its economic and humanitarian effects. WPR: What is the current status of fighting between government forces and rebel groups, and among rebels groups, and what are the obstacles to a political resolution? J. Peter Pham: South Sudan is in the midst of its annual rainy season, […]

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