In this undated file photo, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq from Raqqa, Syria (Militant website via AP).

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to intervene militarily in Syria and work with Iran and Iraq to defeat the Islamic State has been met with a rather predictable response among Washington pundits: Putin is strong, and Barack Obama is weak. “Like Iran, Putin is willing to back up his pursuit of his interests with force,” writes Eliot Abrams in the National Review. “U.S. deterrence is dead,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka. The Washington Post editorial page bemoans Obama’s lack of a strategy for Syria and noted that while “shortsighted and cynical . . . at least Mr. Putin […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presents his annual report at the opening of the general debate of the U.N. General Assembly’s seventieth session, New York, Sept. 28, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

As world leaders begin the annual marathon that is the United Nations General Assembly opening session for the 70th time, expect the rhetoric to be both sober and soaring. The institution is caught between honest assessments of its shortcomings and grandiose pronouncements of its future goals that will inspire some and irritate others. At the risk of simplification, one can evaluate the U.N.’s track record over its seven decades in three distinct areas: war and peace, norm-setting on complex transnational issues and responses to humanitarian, environmental and moral crises. On the question of war and peace, the verdict has to […]

Thousands of Lebanese of Armenian descent, holding banners and a giant Armenian flag, march to mark the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, Antelias, Lebanon, April 24, 2015 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

By a fortuitous coincidence I found myself in Japan the week of the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which preceded the Japanese surrender in World War II. A special panel advising the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was divided over the wording of the government’s official statement, which is issued on major anniversaries of the war’s end. Should the words “aggression” and “apology” be used, or was “remorse”—the oft-employed substitute for a stronger expression—enough? Abe’s refusal to apologize for Japan’s colonial past, including its treatment of Koreans and other wartime atrocities, has divided Japanese political elites and […]

A convoy of Azerbaijani army tanks moves in the direction of Agdam, Azerbaijan, Aug. 2, 2014. (AP photo by Abbas Atilay).

Azerbaijan reported that three of its troops and nine Armenian soldiers were killed during clashes Sunday in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenia denies the losses and says more than 10 Azerbaijani troops were killed. This is only the latest incident in a year marked by a dramatic increase in hostilities between the two neighbors. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia began in 1988 when the Armenian majority in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was then an autonomous province of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, started a movement calling for unification with Armenia. Regional violence became a full-fledged war after Armenia and Azerbaijan became […]

Peacekeepers serving with the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrol the town of Pinga, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec. 4, 2013 (U.N. photo by Sylvain Liechti).

There are a lot of smug policy wonks in New York right now. As this year’s high-level General Assembly session kicks off at the United Nations, the media is focused on what the meeting could mean for Syria. It may achieve very little on that front. But analysts who take a longer view of multilateral affairs still see some reasons for optimism elsewhere. The most obvious is the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a sprawling but impressively ambitious list of global targets for 2030. Academics and activists have been celebrating this success all weekend. A special summit […]

Islamic State fighters wave an Islamic State flag as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle, Fallujah, Iraq, March 20, 2014 (AP photo).

Russia’s deployment of military equipment and personnel to Syria, combined with revelations about failed U.S. efforts to train and equip Syrian rebels, has rekindled criticisms of the Obama administration’s strategy against the self-declared Islamic State. The U.S. approach has been attacked from both sides of the political aisle, characterized as mission creep by some and weak incrementalism by others. During last week’s presidential debate, in particular, most of the Republican presidential candidates vied to burnish their national security credentials by vowing to expand U.S. military operations to defeat the Islamic State. However, the urge to “do something” in Iraq and […]

Syrians gather amid the rubble of damaged buildings in the predominantly Christian and Armenian neighborhood of Suleimaniyeh, Aleppo, Syria, April 11, 2015 (AP photo/SANA).

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the United States has rejected deep involvement, hoping that the conflict would work itself out or at least remain limited to Syria itself. These hopes are now bankrupt. Syria’s humanitarian disaster and refugee crisis is only growing, with tragic consequences for the Syrian people. It is destabilizing neighboring nations and threatening Europe. Containment of the conflict has failed. Yet there is no movement toward a resolution that reflects American interests. There is only stalemate and chaos. From the American perspective, the core problem is that U.S. strategy has been based on three […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a news conference, Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 14, 2013 (State Department photo).

American and Russian diplomats have proved to be congenitally unable to end the Syrian war. Could their military counterparts do any better? Last week, the Obama administration accepted a Russian offer of military talks over Syria. This is not necessarily a reason for much optimism. Moscow has sent aircraft, air-defense systems and significant amounts of new equipment to reinforce Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered regime. Some analysts believe that Russian troops will be fighting on the ground soon. This could make the war even more dangerous. The goal of the new Russian-American talks, which kicked off with a phone call […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening meeting of the General Assembly’s seventieth session, New York, Sept. 15, 2015 (U.N. photo by Eskinder Debebe).

Leaders from around the world will soon be arriving in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. But it is Pope Francis, scheduled to speak at the Sustainable Development Goals summit on Friday, who is generating the most excitement. In the latest Global Dispatches podcast, host Mark Goldberg talks with World Politics Review columnist Richard Gowan about Pope Francis’ address and the other topics likely to dominate the 70th U.N. General Assembly: Syria, the refugee crisis and U.N. peacekeeping. For more on U.N. politics, read Gowan’s recent feature […]

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar speaks to the media about the situation in South Sudan, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Aug. 31, 2015 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

When South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, inked a new agreement in late August to end his country’s 20-month conflict, he seemed to be following a pattern the two warring sides had set in reaching or recommitting to an earlier deal to cease hostilities: Temporarily stave off international and regional pressure by signing, then allow it to collapse under the weight of continued fighting. True to form, clashes have continued into September, with each side accusing the other of attacks. So far, however, neither camp has yet declared the latest deal a failure. And the leaders, though critical of some elements […]

A man carries a child as migrants and refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 8, 2015 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

The wave of refugees washing over Europe today is the latest distress call from the remnants of what we still, for simplicity’s sake, refer to as Syria. The immediate reaction has been one of panic, with the European Union’s vaunted open borders—symbol of a generation’s worth of hard-won European integration—now at risk. There is much to criticize in the official and popular reactions in Europe. The flow of migrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan has been building over a long enough time for the EU to have formulated a more effective response. But the shift in routes […]

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at a ceremony for the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, San Francisco, California, June 26, 2015 (AP photo by Jeff Chiu).

In the first half of August this year, something snapped inside Ban Ki-moon. The secretary-general of the United Nations demanded that the leader of the U.N. operation in the Central African Republic (CAR), Senegalese Gen. Babacar Gaye, should resign. The mission, known by its French acronym MINUSCA, was buckling under the weight of stories about sexual abuse by U.N. troops. “Enough is enough,” Ban told the press. Gaye did not go quietly. He had, he pointed out in his resignation letter, insisted on a “zero tolerance” policy toward the abuse. He previously served the U.N. in the Democratic Republic of […]

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, United Nations, New York, Sept. 27, 2015 (U.N. Kim Haughton).

Germany has never been an entirely comfortable power at the United Nations. The Security Council is, as Russian diplomats like to note, still run by the countries that defeated Hitler in 1945. East and West Germany did not even join the U.N. until 1973. Nevertheless, Berlin now pays over 7 percent of the U.N. budget, while Britain and France cover less than 6 percent each. At regular intervals, the Germans launch quixotic campaigns to win a permanent seat on the Security Council. Time and again, these plow into the sand. Despite these bids for a bigger role, German diplomats often […]

Syrian boys walk between tents in mud from the heavy rains at a refugee camp in the town of Marej in the Bekaa valley, east Lebanon, Feb. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

Today the world is riveted by the tragic migrant flows from North Africa and the Middle East into Europe. Driven by conflict in their homelands, hundreds of thousands of refugees have risked—and sometimes lost—everything in search of security and opportunity far from their troubled nations. While addressing this humanitarian crisis is the most pressing concern for Europe, the United States and the rest of the world community, political leaders must also look further into the future: Today’s migrant crisis is the bow wave of tomorrow’s security challenges. In the contemporary security environment, a peace settlement or the removal of a […]

An explosion and smoke rise after an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition at a weapons depot in Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 11, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

The Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen began as a war waged from the skies, but as it drags on, it is increasingly moving to the ground. In the past week, Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have deployed more soldiers to Yemen, capped by 1,000 ground troops from Qatar. Egypt reportedly sent 800 of its own soldiers, after rumors last spring of its willingness to join a potential ground war to drive the Houthis out of territory they have seized in Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. The Qatari and Egyptian troops join a 3,500-strong battalion of soldiers from […]

A long line of women refugees from Syria wait to register with UNHCR, Arsal, Lebanon, Nov. 2013 (UNHCR photo).

As the plight of Syrian refugees and their harrowing attempts to enter Europe dominate international media, calls have mounted for the United States to play a greater role in managing the crisis. Last week, a photo of the lifeless 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, went viral, only intensifying demands to address the humanitarian needs of many Syrians fleeing the civil war that has raged since 2011. European countries—the target for many migrants—have responded unevenly; Germany and Sweden are liberally accepting European Union-bound refugees and have called on other member states to absorb more migrants, though prospects […]

Demonstrators hold signs in French reading "No to a third term" during protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza, Bujumbura, Burundi, May 1, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

In April, Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, announced that he would run for a third term in the 2015 presidential election, stoking outrage among his opponents. Unrest swept the capital, Bujumbura, and protests devolved into violence as security forces increasingly cracked down on dissent against the ruling CNDD-FDD party. An attempted coup was quickly quashed, leading to a series of arrests and beatings of its accused perpetrators, and unleashing more violence in the streets, causing thousands to flee. Officials in neighboring Rwanda called on Burundian authorities to mitigate a humanitarian catastrophe and quell unrest. That deviated from other East African nations, […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 211 2 Last