U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande arrive at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, Le Bourget, France, Nov. 30, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

In the wake of this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande has cast himself as a fierce war leader, promising to take revenge on the self-declared Islamic State for the atrocities. Yet while he has ratcheted up airstrikes in Syria, he also needs to strike some major diplomatic bargains to shore up France’s global position. Last week, the French president was in both Washington and Moscow trying to secure a global deal on the Syrian war. Now he is back in Paris to kick off final talks on a potentially even trickier international agreement over climate change. […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace, Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Kayhan Ozer).

Editor’s note: Judah Grunstein is filling in for Michael A. Cohen, who is on vacation this week. The downing of a Russian bomber over the Turkish-Syrian border by Turkish fighter jets yesterday offered yet another illustration of the extraordinary complexities of the Syrian conflict and the actors involved there. Coming on the heels of the Paris attacks, and what subsequently seemed like diplomatic progress toward the framework of a broad coalition to fight against the self-declared Islamic State, the incident also highlights the degree to which the war in Syria, like all war, is characterized by the unplanned, the unexpected […]

Flowers are put in a window shattered by a bullet in the Nov. 13 attacks, Paris, France, Nov. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

As observers around the world watched chaos unfold in Paris on Nov. 13, many were struck by the attackers’ use of Kalashnikov assault rifles in the bloodbath. How, given France’s strict gun laws, did the attackers manage to procure military-grade weapons so easily? Where are these heavy weapons coming from? Those same questions were asked in January, when gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher killed 12 at the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and another armed with a submachine gun and an assault rifle killed four at a kosher supermarket. In 2012, Mohamed Merah […]

U.S. Admiral Bill Gortney and Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan during a panel at the Halifax International Security Forum, Nov. 20, 2015 (U.S. Embassy in Canada photo).

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia—The seventh annual Halifax International Security Forum, a mostly right-of-center gathering of mostly democratic states, covered the full suite of security problems confronting the world today. And whether talking about the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the nightmare of terrorism in Western capitals or the long-term challenges of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive revanchism and China’s increasingly assertive posture in Asia, anxieties were high. Across the spectrum, there was a yearning for more robust American leadership. The Halifax Forum was created in 2009 with support from Canada’s then-Conservative government as a vehicle to ensure a high-level dialogue with Washington. […]

A World Food Programme aircraft drops bags of food supplies, Bentiu, South Sudan, Oct. 21. 2015 (U.N. photo by Isaac Billy).

Two competing narratives about the future of international conflict management are currently making the rounds at the United Nations. To simplify, one argues that military responses to security threats rarely work, and that instead we should invest more in diplomatic and economic approaches, as well as in conflict prevention, even if these only deliver results slowly. The other, roughly speaking, contends that terrorism is too pervasive now to waste time on diplomacy and development that would be better spent killing some bad guys. Nobody working in or around the U.N. would be quite so blunt in public. But last week, […]

A U.S. Marine fighter jet aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, Sept. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

The conflict between the self-declared Islamic State and the civilized world has taken a chilling turn. While the extremists continue to fight both the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the government of Iraq, they now have also demonstrated a deadly commitment to transnational terrorism. In the past several weeks, the Islamic State has claimed credit for bombings in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Lebanon as well as for downing a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai. It apparently orchestrated Friday’s complex terrorist attack in Paris, attempted ones in Belgium and Germany, and has threatened to unleash terrorism in the United […]

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during a meeting with French mayors, Paris, Nov. 18, 2015 (AP photo by Stephane de Sakutin).

In the initial hours and days after the Paris attacks, the world reacted with a moving show of support for France. The messages of solidarity came from all corners of the globe in verbal, visual and symbolic form. As diplomats and officials pledged unity with France, millions bathed their Facebook profiles in the blue, white and red “tricolore” of the French flag. Major international landmarks were also lit in the tricolore, and the stirring notes of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, rose from teary-eyed faces in gatherings from Trafalgar Square to Madison Square Garden. We are all French, they […]

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the Paris attacks, Molenbeek, Belgium, Nov. 18, 2015 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

As French police and detectives tried to make sense of the coordinated attacks that rocked Paris on Friday, eyewitnesses reported to have seen black-clad men emerging from cars with Belgian license plates. That led detectives to search a car with foreign license plates parked near the Bataclan theater, where at least 89 concertgoers were murdered. Upon searching the car, they found a discarded parking ticket, issued in Molenbeek, an impoverished district of Brussels. That, as part of a larger investigation, led French authorities to identify the alleged organizer of the Paris attacks: Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian who had fought […]

Airmen prepare a MQ-9 Reaper during an exercise at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., May 15, 2014 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nadine Barclay).

Immediately after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande declared the coordinated attacks as “an act of war.” France did not need such a provocation, however. It had already been involved in U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State for six weeks, and in Iraq since September 2014. The question now is where and how it might escalate its involvement militarily. The United States stated that it stands by France and will assist in whatever way necessary. That raises the question of whether U.S. assistance will include arming France’s unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Vienna, Austria, Nov. 14, 2015 (State Department Photo).

Desperate times call for desperate conflict-management measures. This weekend, at talks on Syria convened in Vienna at the behest of Russia and the U.S., diplomats called for Damascus and mainstream opposition groups to agree to a national cease-fire, in parallel with continued offensives against the self-declared Islamic State and al-Qaida-affiliated fighters. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council pledged to back a “U.N. endorsed ceasefire monitoring mission in those parts of the country where monitors would not come under threat of attacks from terrorists.” Will this be a case of “the third time’s the charm” for peacekeeping […]

Indian paramilitary soldiers in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Nov. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Mukhtar Khan).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kashmir earlier this month brought steel barricades, razor wire, a curfew and other tight security measures to the contested territory on India and Pakistan’s border as Pakistan-backed separatists took to the streets in protest. It was just the latest sign of how Kashmir has re-emerged as the most critical issue in India-Pakistan relations. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington last month offered further proof. With an agenda otherwise dominated by U.S. security concerns vis-a-vis Afghanistan, Sharif ensured that the long-running Kashmir conflict remained a priority. In a meeting with senior U.S. […]

French soldiers patrol the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, Nov. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

PARIS—The multiple coordinated attacks that struck Paris on Friday mark a new operational phase of France’s war, as part of the U.S.-led coalition, against the self-declared Islamic State. Nevertheless, the same local and geopolitical obstacles to a broader consensus on the conflict in Syria continue to hamper efforts to craft a new strategic approach for eradicating the group there. As a consequence, France and its European partners must brace their populations against the likelihood of similar attacks in the future, even as they adopt a more pro-active and transnational approach to preventing them. The major differences between Friday’s attacks and […]

A woman carrying flowers in front of the Carillon cafe and Petit Cambodge restaurant, Paris, France, Nov. 14, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Killing sprees at six locations in Paris on Friday left at least 129 people dead and many more injured, with the city reeling after its second terrorist attack of 2015. The self-proclaimed Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the massacre, which it declared was in retaliation for the French air-strike campaign against the group in Syria. President Francois Hollande vowed to be “unforgiving with the barbarians” of the group, and French jets bombed the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa. The United States also upped its military campaign in Syria, attacking hundreds of trucks used to smuggle crude oil, […]

U.N. Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon, left, walks with Saleh Almkhozom of the General National Congress, Tripoli, Libya, Jan. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Mohammed Ben Khalifa).

United Nations-led talks to resolve Libya’s unrest have been undermined by revelations of extensive links between the outgoing U.N. mediator, Bernardino Leon, and the United Arab Emirates, one of the regional powers that openly backs one side of the civil war. But not everything is lost, provided Leon’s successor, the veteran German and U.N. diplomat Martin Kobler, can overcome three outstanding obstacles. Leon was trying to broker a country-wide cease-fire and a national unity deal between competing factions that have fought each other since the summer of 2014 and split Libya into two rival governments: the internationally recognized one in […]

A counter-narcotics police officer organizes seized packages of cocaine during a presentation to the press, Necocli, Colombia, Feb. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

The latest figures released by the United Nations indicate that Colombia has retaken the title of world’s largest cocaine producer, with some 69,000 hectares of land used for growing coca. After years of declining production, the U.N. estimates cocaine production in Colombia will increase by 52 percent this year. Only two years ago, Peru overtook Colombia as the top producer of coca and processed cocaine, as Bruno Binetti and Ben Raderstorf explained in their WPR feature this week. “Unlike most of its neighbors, Peru lacks a comprehensive strategy to fight drug trafficking, instead preferring to downplay the issue . . […]

Senegalese soldiers practice live fire maneuvers during an AFRICOM training exercise, Senegal, June 19, 2014 (U.S. Army Africa photo by Staff Sgt. Donna Davis).

U.S. military forces are taking a more active role in combating the Boko Haram insurgency that has killed more than 30,000 people since its outbreak in 2009 and spread from northeastern Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad. The move is consistent with the general U.S. approach to security on the African continent, which leans heavily on enabling local forces to combat terrorist groups, but which has failed to stem a rise in Islamist violence in recent years. President Barack Obama notified Congress in mid-October that he had ordered 300 military personnel into northern Cameroon to support reconnaissance flights of […]

Egyptian soldiers guard the entrance to the Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, Egypt, Nov. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Thomas Hartwell).

How much worse can things get in Egypt? The fallout from the likely bombing of a Russian passenger jet, which exploded above the Sinai Peninsula late last month, has crippled Egypt’s long-suffering tourism industry, with Russia banning all flights to Egypt for the next several months—peak tourism season for Russians. The U.K. and Ireland have suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort in the southern Sinai from where the Russian plane took off. Its airport, which had once been praised for its security upgrades after a series of deadly bombings across the seaside town in 2005, is now […]

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