Cyber Flag 14-1 participants analyze an exercise scenario at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 5, 2013 (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Tam).

For decades military strategists have studied and refined what they call the “principles of war.” Drawn from the long history of armed conflict, these guidelines encapsulate the things that often lead to battlefield success. They are not immutable laws—bold commanders sometimes ignore them and get away with it. But they reflect the accumulated wisdom of warfighting, including things like concentrating combat power at the decisive place and time; the value of directing every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective; and the need to seize, retain and exploit the initiative, among others. Every budding military planner and […]

Young Israeli settlers scuffle with border police officers over the demolition of a building at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, Wednesday, July 29, 2015 (AP photo/Tsafrir Abayov).

On Wednesday, Israeli settlers clashed with security forces after the Israeli High Court declared two apartment blocks in the West Bank settlement of Beit El illegal and ordered their demolition, stoking outrage among settlers and right-wing members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Following the ruling, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly authorized 300 new construction units in East Jerusalem, reacting to pressure from the Likud and Jewish Home parties. The court had previously rejected an appeal—issued by settlers and backed by the government—to prevent the demolition. Right-wing members of the Knesset were outraged at the court ruling: Moti Yogev of […]

Turkish soldiers patrol near the border with Syria, outside the village of Elbeyli, east of the town of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, July 24, 2015 (AP photo).

When Turkey announced it had decided to join the war against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria, it seemed like a major turning point in the fight against the radical Islamist group. But the actions Ankara has taken in the week since its policy reversal raise serious questions about its true intentions. Twin security operations, combining domestic sweeps with cross-border airstrikes, strongly suggest that the impetus behind the new policy has more to do with pushing back against Kurdish groups than against IS. The government’s domestic anti-terrorist campaign has targeted Kurdish activists more than IS members. Similarly, the airstrikes, […]

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, Kabul, Afghanistan, March, 9, 2015 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

Afghan officials were expected to enter into a second round of Pakistani-brokered talks with Taliban representatives this week, a highly contentious initiative upon which President Ashraf Ghani has staked his presidency. But that peace process became more uncertain with the announcement Wednesday by the Afghan government of the death of Mullah Omar, the militant movement’s reclusive leader, which prompted a Taliban spokesman to disavow talks and Pakistan to declare their postponement. Dealing with the Taliban insurgency, however, is far from the only domestic challenge facing the Ghani administration. Unresolved domestic rivalries and newly institutionalized tensions created by last year’s power-sharing […]

Demonstrators support IS in Mosul, Iraq, on June 16, 2014 (AP photo).

The rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has further destabilized a region already in upheaval and dominated U.S. security policy in the Middle East. On Tuesday, Turkey and the U.S. came to a landmark agreement to establish an “Islamic State-free zone” on the Turkish-Syrian border, marking a potential turning point in the multinational effort to fight IS. This report covers the group’s ideology and strategy, its impact on and implications for the Middle East, and the U.S. strategy to combat its spread. All of the articles linked below are free for non-subscribers until Aug. 13. The Islamic State’s Ideology […]

Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and northern Cyprus President Mustafa Akinci shake hands in the northern part of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, May 23, 2015 (AP photo by Petros Karadjias).

It has been a busy month in Cyprus, with visits from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And for the first time since the early 2000s, there seems to be real optimism that one of the longest-running conflicts in the world could finally be resolved. This newfound optimism is due in large part to the election of Mustafa Akinci as president of northern Cyprus last April. Akinci came to power on a pledge to reach an agreement on the reunification of Cyprus, which since 1974 has been divided between […]

Syrians gather in a street that was hit by shelling, in the predominantly Christian and Armenian neighborhood of Suleimaniyeh, Aleppo, Syria, April 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Syrian official news agency SANA).

The world has done a dreadful job of managing the civil war in Syria. Could it do any better at rebuilding peace there, if and when hostilities eventually slow down? This prospect still seems sadly remote. The Syrian government indicated last week that it is still not ready for new peace talks led by the United Nations. Yet there are signs that the regime is getting nervous. President Bashar al-Assad admitted this weekend that his army is depleted and has deliberately withdrawn from some battlefronts. In the event of a series of further defeats, the regime could yet conclude that […]

A militiaman allied with the Iraqi security forces dismantles a weapon from a destroyed vehicle belonging to the Islamic State group, southern Ramadi, Anbar province, Iraq, July 20, 2015 (AP Photo).

For decades U.S. policy in the Middle East focused on two things: Israel and oil. Helping to keep Israel secure was not hard since the Israelis themselves had it well under control. Making sure that oil flowed was more challenging since most of it was owned by brittle monarchies or dictators, but the United States and its allies found a way. This emphasis on Israel and oil led to an American strategy that was remarkably consistent even when the White House changed hands. Its goal was stability built on partnerships with local states when possible and direct action if necessary. […]

Protestors gather during an anti-extremism march, Tunis, Tunisia, March 29, 2015 (AP photo by Hichem Jouini).

On Thursday, Tunisia’s parliament adopted a series of articles in a new counterterrorism bill to replace its authoritarian 2003 law, part of the government’s efforts to bolster security in response to rising domestic and regional threats. Amid outcry from human rights groups, deputies overwhelmingly voted in favor of three provisions authorizing the death penalty for acts of terrorism, despite a de facto moratorium on executions that Tunisia has observed since 1991. Critics argue that the bill, which was issued following the March 26 attack on the Bardo museum that left 22 dead, falls short of international rights standards—notably in its […]

President Barack Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Washington, July 15, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

In trying to make sense of the recent nuclear deal with Iran and what it says about U.S. policy in the Middle East, the penultimate scene in “The Godfather” comes to mind. In it, the new godfather, Michael Corleone, wipes out his criminal rivals, the heads of New York’s five Mafia families and casino magnate Moe Greene. In recounting the day’s bloodletting, Michael subsequently says, “Today I settled all family business,” as he prepares to move the Corleone family to Nevada. This, minus the gangland shootings, is largely what the United States is trying to do with the Iran deal. […]

Ukrainian soldiers muster at a point close to Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 20, 2014 (AP photo by Petro Zadorozhnyy).

Ever since the 2004 “Orange Revolution” that led to its first turn toward the West, Ukraine’s future alignment between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic bloc has been the subject of much debate and speculation. The promise of a durable Western shift, already dimmed by 2010, receded even further under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, who tried to steer a middle course between Moscow and Brussels with some success until pressure from Brussels and Moscow, but also Ukraine’s pro-European public opinion, made nonalignment no longer tenable. Since the Euromaidan protests that drove Yanukovych from power in February 2014 and through the emergence […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2014 (AP photo/RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev).

Ties between Russia and Japan are slowly picking up steam again after a 16-month chill following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. Earlier this month, Shotaro Yachi, Japan’s national security adviser, traveled to Moscow and met with his Russian counterpart to discuss President Vladimir Putin’s plans to visit Japan later this year. And despite ongoing tensions over Ukraine, there are also signs that Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, may travel to Russia in the coming months to prepare for a potential Putin visit. Japan-Russia cooperation is also continuing on the security front with bilateral maritime security drills, focused primarily […]

An Egyptian armored vehicle patrols the border with the Gaza Strip, July 2, 2015 (AP photo by Adel Hana).

Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is an insurgent’s dream. The corridor between Asia and Africa encompasses deserts, soaring mountains, plunging canyons and an expansive coastline. Most of its 23,000 square miles, roughly the same area as West Virginia, exist outside the control of the Egyptian state. Decades of neglect by successive Egyptian governments and limited economic development have resulted in a Sinai population that is largely disenfranchised and impoverished. Dark networks and crime syndicates proliferate, smuggling everything from drugs and weapons to people, to and from mainland Egypt, Gaza, Israel and further afield. In an area where development is limited and where […]

U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at a redeployment ceremony, Anchorage, Alaska, Nov. 1, 2012 (DoD photo by Justin Connaher, U.S. Air Force).

Nations going to war often believe the fighting will end quickly. A lightning campaign or two, a few battles and the enemy will fold. Few nations plan for a long war. Despite this, long wars do happen, normally when the belligerents overestimate their own prowess and underestimate the determination and capability of their enemies. For most of its history the United States worked on the same assumption, entering wars with the expectation that they would be short. The world wars and the Cold War were exceptions, but after the demise of the Soviet Union, Americans again believed all their wars […]

Ivan Marquez, chief negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), speaks to the press, Havana, Cuba, May 27, 2014 (AP photo by Franklin Reyes).

Now that negotiators have walked to the brink and returned with signed documents on two major international crises—Iran’s nuclear program and Greece’s debt—it’s time to look at another historic diplomatic effort that appears to be hanging by a thread: peace talks aimed at ending the world’s longest-running conflict, the war between the Colombian government and the FARC insurgency. The war has already lasted half a century, outliving countless revolutionary movements in poor countries and outlasting the Soviet-led push for a global workers’ revolution by decades. In the past three years, much of the contest has shifted from battlefields in the […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari salutes his supporters during his inauguration, Abuja, Nigeria, May 29, 2015 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

On Tuesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari fired all of Nigeria’s military chiefs in preparation for a fresh multinational offensive against the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Despite an international coalition having driven insurgents out of numerous towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria, Boko Haram has ramped up attacks and suicide bombings recently, killing over 250 people this month. Buhari was elected in March, upsetting incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in a historic victory. “For the first time in Nigeria’s history as an independent nation, an incumbent leader was ousted not in a coup, but at the ballot box,” Sarah Chayes wrote in […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference, at the Vienna International Center, Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015 (AP photo by Carlos Barria).

Yesterday’s announcement of a comprehensive agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear ambitions is no ordinary triumph. It is, in fact, a historic and seminal moment that fundamentally strengthens the international system and suggests a major shift in global affairs. For 12 years, the international community has been trying to force Iran to accept limitations on its nuclear aspirations. United Nations Security Council sanctions were placed on the country, threats of military force made, torturous negotiations initiated and interim agreements achieved. While talks, at various points, appeared to be on the brink of failure, in the end, the international community, […]

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