Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung delivers a speech next to General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong during the opening ceremony of the Communist Party of Vietnam's 12th Congress, Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 21, 2016 (Pool Photo by Hoang Dinh Nam via AP).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss the recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, the U.N.’s cease-fire monitoring capabilities, and West Africa’s regional anti-Boko Haram force. For the Report, David Brown joins us to discuss leadership struggles, prospects for economic growth, and the fight against corruption in Vietnam. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles from WPR: Why Nagorno-Karabakh’s Conflict Turned Hot—and Could Again It’s Time for the U.N. to Refresh Its Neglected Cease-Fire Monitoring Skills West Africa’s Regional Force Against Boko Haram Is a Political Prop Can Vietnam’s New Leadership Deliver on […]

Migrants behind a fence at the Nizip refugee camp, Gaziantep province, southeastern Turkey, April 23, 2016 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

There has been no shortage of criticism of Europe’s response to the worsening refugee crisis that first escalated in 2015. In January, Denmark passed a law authorizing the government to seize assets from asylum-seekers. Poland and Slovakia announced they would only accept Christian refugees from Syria. And a recent deal between the European Union and Turkey has come under fire over questions about its legality. The deal allows Greece to return “all new irregular migrants” to Turkey; in exchange, for every migrant settled in Turkey, one Syrian already in Turkey will be resettled in the EU. Immediately after the deal’s […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi during a welcome ceremony at the Ministry of Defense, Baghdad, Iraq, April 18, 2016 (AP photo).

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to deploy an additional 250 special operations forces to Syria. The increase will bring the total number of U.S. ground troops there to 300, and comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s announcement that 200 more troops are also being sent to Iraq. Both deployments are part of the continuing U.S. war against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), but as the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria has continued to rise, it has raised fears that the United States is being sucked into another military quagmire in the […]

Oman's deputy prime minister, Fahd bin Mahmoud al-Said, President Barack Obama, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa at the GCC Summit, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 21, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

The readout from President Barack Obama’s trip last week to the Gulf reflects the ongoing strains in U.S. relations with the Gulf monarchs. Both sides share responsibility for the current state of affairs. And it will take time to shift perceptions in the region so that the ongoing cooperation that is taking place is viewed more positively. It is also worth considering the possibility that the growing independence of the Gulf Arab states and the redistribution of power in their relationship with Washington will have a long-term benefit that’s just hard to see right now. The coverage of Obama’s trip […]

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power with Multinational Joint Task Force Commander Maj. Gen. Lamidi Adeosun at its headquarters, N'Djamena, Chad, April 20, 2016 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In March, the small West African nation of Benin announced that it would contribute 150 soldiers to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNTJF), a West African coalition whose main mission is to fight the militant group Boko Haram. The task force has approximately 9,000 total troops, but nevertheless it is primarily a political prop rather than an integrated military outfit. The region’s national militaries largely pursue their own campaigns, while the optics of regional integration serve a political purpose: They explicitly support narratives about so-called African solutions to African problems, yet implicitly facilitate greater Western involvement in the fight against […]

Karabakh Armenian soldiers near a howitzer in Hadrut province, Nagorno-Karabakh, April 5, 2016 (Photolure photo by Albert Khachatryan via AP).

The recent bout of intense fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan along the so-called line of contact near the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh should be seen not as an isolated flashpoint, but as the culmination of years of escalating tensions. The regional economic downturn and ongoing tensions between Russia and Turkey only add to the conflict’s volatility. The four days of fighting in early April between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces was the largest eruption of hostilities since the cease-fire to the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1994, which left Armenian forces in control of the landlocked mountainous region, as well as much of […]

Jordan's King Abdullah and Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman at the Northern Thunder military drill, Hafr al-Batin, Saudi Arabia, March 11, 2016 (Balkis Press photo via AP).

Earlier this month, Jordanian authorities shuttered the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman, capping several months of troubles for the Islamist group in the country. Its political arm, the Islamic Action Front, is Jordan’s main opposition party. The Brotherhood’s legal standing has been up in the air since last year, when it lost its official registration for failing to comply with new government regulations. But the group has also been split internally—both among its members in Jordan and over its affiliations with the embattled Egypt-based Brotherhood. With the Islamist group banned outright in other Arab countries, Jordan’s closure of […]

A Russian soldier on guard in front of a Russian ground attack jet parked at Hemeimeem air base, Syria, March 4, 2016 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

The words “cease-fire monitoring” are unlikely to create ripples of excitement in a group of military officers or civilian security specialists. Ambitious soldiers hanker after kinetic action, not observing static peace lines. Professional peacemakers associate tending to cease-fires with an outdated, Cold War-era approach to conflict management. This is unfortunate. Making simple cease-fires work is hard, and it seems that neither big powers nor international organizations are much good at it. Over the past week, the cessation of hostilities in Syria has lurched toward collapse, as violence escalated around Aleppo. It may be remarkable that the lull in fighting, which […]

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event, Maryland, April 20, 2016 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Despite intense efforts by the Republican establishment to stop Donald Trump from winning that party’s presidential nomination, there is a good chance that he’ll pull it off. Current polling data suggests that if he faces Democratic frontrunner and likely nominee Hillary Clinton in the November election it will be a landslide victory for the Democrats. But strange things can happen in open political systems. While a Trump presidency may be unlikely, it would have far-ranging repercussions, particularly for U.S. defense policy and the American military. While that much is clear, Trump is harder to gauge than any recent presidential candidate. […]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his villa, Baghdad, April 8, 2016 (AP photo by Jonathan Ernst).

In the past five days, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter have visited Iraq. The visits demonstrate the urgency with which Washington views the political crisis in Baghdad, against the backdrop of the Iraqi military’s stalled campaign against the so-called Islamic State. They also underscore how the Obama administration’s early plans to scale back America’s engagement in Iraq have come full circle: More troops and more political attention are now required. There’s no easy path to stability for Iraq, but some decentralization of power might help. The uptick in policy attention to Iraq […]

Saudi Shiites pray, Qatif, Saudi Arabia, March 26, 2008 (AP photo/STR).

On Jan. 1, 2016, Saudi Arabia executed Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric, stoking outrage in the region and beyond. His death, and the backlash that followed, highlighted long-simmering tensions both within Saudi Arabia and between Riyadh and Tehran. News of al-Nimr’s death triggered virulent protests in Iran, with demonstrators setting ablaze the Saudi Embassy in Tehran; Saudi Arabia subsequently severed diplomatic relations with Iran. The response illustrated how Saudi Arabia’s troubled relationship with its Shiite minority could rapidly inflame intercommunal and international relations in the Persian Gulf. Historically, Saudi Arabia’s Shiite communities were concentrated in what is today the […]

Iraqi security forces arrest a suspected ISIS fighter during an operation to regain control of Hit, Iraq, April 13, 2016 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

When the leaders of the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) take stock of their movement, they must like some of what they see. Affiliates of the group are cropping up across the Islamic world, and the organization has proved adept at recruiting or inspiring alienated young Muslims—many with criminal backgrounds—to commit murder in Europe and North America. But there are also things that must concern the group’s leaders. In the past few months, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have taken back 40 percent of the territory the Islamic State had conquered over the past two years. American airstrikes have killed 25,000 of […]

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura with Syrian opposition group representatives, Geneva, Switzerland, March 16, 2016 (U.N. photo by Anne-Laure Lechat).

This week, three of the United Nations’ thankless peace missions—in Libya, Yemen and Syria—will mark steps forward. To be sure, the definition of success is modest. For now, just reducing violence and beginning a political process is the best that one can hope for. But the U.N. deserves credit for persevering and nudging the parties along. Even as U.N. negotiators, sometimes with the ambiguous help of the great powers and regional leaders, begin cajoling the warring parties in the Middle East’s three terrible crises to compromise, the prospects for real peace are distant. The U.N. process not only aims to […]

South Sudanese rebel soldiers stand to attention at a military camp, Juba, South Sudan, April 7, 2016 (AP photo by Jason Patinkin).

Security officials from South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s government allegedly attacked and detained 16 members of rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar’s publicity team Tuesday. The publicity team was in Juba in advance of Machar’s return to South Sudan’s capital on April 18, when he is set to assume the office of vice president again in a unity government with Kiir as part of a fledgling peace deal. Tuesday’s violence is only the latest round of renewed fighting in South Sudan. The U.S. State Department issued a statement Monday condemning recent attacks on rebels in the northwest of […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the opening of the Army-2015 international military show, Moscow, June 16, 2015 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss the upcoming elections in Peru and Chad as well as the varying reactions to the Panama Papers around the globe. For the Report, Steven Metz joins us to talk about the concept of “limited war” and the differences in the U.S. and Russian approach to it. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: In Peru’s ‘Chaotic’ Presidential Elections, It’s a Race for Second Place Deby Set to Keep Power in Chad Election, but Discontent Is Growing Reaction to the ‘Panama Papers’ Reveals […]

Smoke billowing as Nusra Front fighters attack the village of al-Ais, near Aleppo, in an image posted on the group's Twitter page, April 1, 2016 (Nusra Front via AP).

BEIRUT—Syria’s nationwide cessation of hostilities has made clear the growing rift between the country’s mainstream opposition and the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate. But just as the cease-fire has highlighted these maybe irreconcilable differences, it has also shown the extent to which the Nusra Front is tangled up in and ultimately dependent on the rest of the Syrian opposition. The Nusra Front often sells itself as the beginning and end of the fight against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. But Nusra cannot win single-handedly. It is a symbiote—it can only succeed when it is attached to a Syrian opposition […]

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally, Superior, Wis., April 4, 2016 (AP photo by Jim Mone).

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, is no fan of NATO. In recent weeks, he’s suggested that U.S. involvement in the alliance may need to be reduced. “NATO is costing us a fortune,” Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post, “and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.” At a town hall event sponsored by MSNBC, Trump went even further, declaring, “We don’t really need NATO in its current form. . . . [Y]ou have countries that are getting a free ride.” Now on one level, Trump is correct: […]

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