Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after a visit to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, on Republic Day in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

Turks will head to the polls again this Sunday, Nov. 1, to vote for a new parliament, after negotiations to form a coalition government failed following an inconclusive election in June. The vote comes amid considerable unrest in Turkey: In July, a two-year cease-fire agreement between the government and the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) collapsed, while a cell of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in southeastern Turkey has attacked several targets near the Syrian border and, recently, deeper in Turkey, including two suicide bombings that killed more than 100 people in Ankara earlier this month. Despite this unrest, opinions polls […]

Two of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Task Group's F/A-18A Hornets during a mission into Syria, Sept. 14 2015 (Australian Department of Defence photo).

Although far removed from Australia’s traditional areas of interest in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, the Middle East continues to be a focus of Australian foreign policy and military strategy. But its own security interests in the region have nearly always been defined in terms of its security relationship with the United States. One of only four countries to have participated in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Australia was more recently among the first countries to follow Washington’s lead in offering renewed military assistance to Iraq after the fall of Mosul to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in June […]

A ground crew member reports to pilots that their jet is ready for a combat mission, Hemeimim airbase, Syria, Oct. 22, 2015 (Russian Defense Ministry photo).

Russia began its military intervention in Syria a month ago, initially declaring that its aim was to take on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But instead, it immediately started targeting groups that pose the most threat to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, mainly the Islamist coalition of rebel and jihadi groups known as Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest, which includes the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, as well as more moderate groups backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even the United States. Russia hopes to consolidate the territory controlled by Assad’s forces, which have also launched an offensive on rebel groups […]

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso and French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace, Paris, France, Dec. 6, 2013 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

The longtime president of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, is now eligible to run for a third consecutive term, after voters overwhelmingly approved amendments to the constitution in a referendum last Sunday, according to the official results announced Tuesday. The opposition, which has protested 72-year-old Sassou’s attempt to retain power since he announced his intentions in May, urged voters to boycott the referendum and called for civil disobedience. The government issued a ban on public gatherings, but protests ensued. Tens of thousands of demonstrators were met with a violent government crackdown. According to government officials, clashes between police […]

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 1994 (Israeli Government Press Office photo).

Americans often take for granted that events that mark U.S. history are as indelibly imprinted in people’s memories around the world as they are in the U.S. For those of a certain generation, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is one such event. For younger Americans, it’s the attacks of Sept. 11. But at times, the reverse is also true, when historical events that occur elsewhere in the world become indelibly imprinted on American minds. That is the case for me and Nov. 4, 1995: the day Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv. I can still […]

Iraqi security forces and allied Popular Mobilization Forces prepare to shell Islamic State group positions at an oil field outside Beiji, Iraq, Oct. 24, 2015 (AP photo).

Developments over the past year in Syria and Iraq suggest many parallels between the two countries. From the separatism of the Kurds and the fight against the self-declared Islamic State to the expansion of Russia’s presence and influence, the two states seem to be following similar trajectories. But a closer look suggests quite distinct realities. Syria clearly seems to be headed toward implosion, even if the bigger picture of chaos obscures at least one smaller one that could inspire optimism for the future. By contrast, Iraq’s narrative today is not one-dimensional—in fact, the signs point in many directions: The country […]

A Houthi fighter during a tribal gathering showing support to the Houthi movement, Sanaa, Yemen, Oct. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

During the early decades of the nuclear age, a debate developed on the general utility of force. In the new and dramatically altered conditions of that period, in which a third world war could have meant the obliteration of great cities and civilization, it was hard to see what political purposes could possibly be achieved by launching an aggressive war. But by the same token there were also horrendous risks in a defensive war if that required resort to the most destructive weapons available. The dominant response, at least when it came to war among the great powers, was to […]

Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, briefs the Security Council, New York, July 29, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

Do Europeans still make good peacemakers? Europe’s militaries have been in long-term decline since the end of the Cold War. But the continent’s diplomats and politicians retain a prominent role in international crisis management. This is nowhere more obvious than in the Middle East and North Africa. The United Nations currently has seven top-level envoys working on conflicts in the region. Five of them are Europeans. The U.N. has, for example, decided that a German official will replace a Spanish diplomat as its envoy on Libya. Staffan de Mistura, who holds double Italian-Swedish nationality, still has the ugly task of […]

U.S. soldiers in the Nawa Valley, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston).

A few years ago Afghanistan seemed on the path to success. The economy was doing relatively well. The Taliban were losing ground to Afghan security forces, the U.S. military and units from other partner nations. The new president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, seemed more willing to tackle Afghanistan’s deep political problems than Hamid Karzai, his erratic predecessor. By all indications, things were looking up. Sadly this has proven to be an illusion. Ghani has not gotten a handle on Afghanistan’s crippling corruption, cronyism and ethnic strife. The country will not be able to function without massive economic assistance far into the […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the Residence of the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, New York City, Oct. 1, 2015 (State Department photo).

On July 20, Colombia’s peace talks with the FARC guerrilla group emerged from what was hopefully their roughest patch. With daily episodes of combat between FARC militants and the Colombian army, June was the most violent month in Colombia since peace talks began in October 2012. Then, in late July, at the strong urging of foreign diplomats accompanying the talks, the FARC declared a new unilateral cease-fire, and both sides said they would dedicate themselves to making it bilateral. The three months since then have been the least violent that Colombia has experienced since 1975. The July truce and de-escalation […]

Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani arrives to support Kurdish forces as they head to battle Islamic State militants, Sinjar, Iraq, Dec. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Zana Ahmed).

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the times of plenty and stability are over. The autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq has been hailed for most of the past decade as an emerging Dubai in Mesopotamia and the only success story of the Iraq war. But it is descending farther into civil strife, agonizing economic recession and a political stalemate that threatens to paralyze one of America’s most potent allies in the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Last Monday, Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), fired four ministers of his government, all of them members of the […]

People protesting against the military's coup attempt among the burnt out remains of tires, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Sept. 17, 2015 (AP photo by Theo Renaut).

Hailed at the time as the start of an “African Spring,” the October 2014 revolution that ousted President Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso was called into question last month when an elite army unit staged a brief coup. But even before soldiers under the command of Gen. Gilbert Diendere derailed the transition, the process was in many ways already disappointing. Now the coup’s failure has opened another window of opportunity for real democratic progress, but serious questions over the likelihood of true reform remain. Many of Burkina Faso’s contemporary challenges are deep-rooted. Some of the country’s most important political figures […]

Smoke rises after shelling by Syrian army backed by Russia airstrikes, Damascus, Syria, Oct. 14, 2015 (Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP).

Russia’s combat operations in Syria, barely three weeks old, are the kind of expeditionary campaign that Moscow has not undertaken since the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. This intervention is the consequence of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama both following through on the original, respective paths they chose in Syria. While the United States sought to avoid military entanglement and stay out of the conflict—doing the bare minimum to appease regional allies in their efforts to force Bashar al-Assad out of power—Russia remained consistent in its belief that the Syrian state represents the only viable and legitimate […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greets Russian President Vladimir Putin following the latter’s address at the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session, New York, Sept. 28, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

Will Vladimir Putin ever be satisfied? As the Russian president has launched his small wars in Ukraine and Syria over the past two years, countless pundits have tried to guess his long-term goals. Some believe that he is a megalomaniac, intent on an open-ended campaign against the West. Others discount him as a nervous nationalist, focused on stabilizing Russia’s disorderly southern flank. Cynics dismiss him as an opportunist, seizing chances to expand his influence whenever they arise. In New York, many diplomats and analysts affiliated with the United Nations take a fourth view: Putin is a conservative with a profound […]

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Kobani, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP photo).

Whenever it seems that the war in Syria can’t get more tragic and dangerous, it does. That conflict has already created the worst humanitarian disaster of a young century and empowered the barbaric self-declared Islamic State. And it could become worse. The Obama administration has avoided an entangling involvement, instead providing refugee aid and supporting some of the less repellent rebel groups, in the hopes that the combatants conclude that an outright military victory is out of reach and accept a power-sharing arrangement. That was a long shot from the beginning and became even less likely as the hatred between […]

An elderly man sits under a mural depicting a Saudi-led airstrike hitting Sanaa with Arabic writing that reads, "using internationally banned bombs," in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

The war in Yemen has pushed the country to the brink of famine, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program, while Yemenis are dying daily because of a lack of access to clean water supplies, basic medicine and even affordable transport to medical facilities. Yet despite a mounting international outcry, the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen is unlikely to have much of an impact on the calculus of the main players in the conflict, or their foreign backers. In truth, a solution to Yemen’s humanitarian crisis will only come once the warring parties believe a political solution works in their […]

Soldiers prepare a simulated casualty for transport as a UH-60 medevac helicopter lands nearby during live-fire training, Tactical Base Gamberi in eastern Afghanistan, July 2, 2015 (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Charles Emmons).

Backtracking on earlier plans for a withdrawal of U.S. forces, President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through 2016, before reducing the number to 5,500 by early 2017. “While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” Obama said during the announcement at the White House. The Obama administration originally planned to cut the number of U.S. soldiers in half by next year, eventually leaving 1,000 troops stationed at the U.S. embassy in Kabul by early 2017. But it changed course with the Taliban’s […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 321 2 Last