The aftermath of an airstrike in a rebel-held area of Aleppo, Sept. 24, 2016 (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets photo via AP).

If it is hard to grasp the scale of devastation in rebel-held Aleppo this week, given the past four years of bitter warfare in Syria’s largest city, consider this detail from Liz Sly and Louisa Loveluck’s reporting in The Washington Post. With no electricity, “families huddle together in the dark” at night, when the bombings are the worst, “gathered in one room so that they don’t die alone, listening to the roar of the jets and waiting for the bombs to fall.” Taking shelter on the lower floors of apartment buildings, “entire families sleep in one room, because they prefer […]

Kurdish fighters preparing to retake Sinjar from the Islamic State, Iraq, Nov. 13, 2015 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

The United Nations took a historic step earlier this month, for the first time naming a victim of human trafficking as a goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of such atrocities. Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a 23-year-old Yazidi woman who survived months of captivity as a sex slave of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, was appointed to the position at a ceremony at U.N. headquarters in New York. She gives an international voice to the brutalized young women and children of the Yazidi religious minority, the victims of barbarity and sexual enslavement in northern Iraq. Murad’s new role provides some […]

A convoy of Islamic State militants, Tel Abyad, Syria, May 4, 2015 (AP photo via militant website).

Confusion, mistakes and misfires on the battlefield are hardly unusual. To the contrary, they are a common occurrence in warfare. But last Saturday, after U.S. warplanes launching airstrikes in Syria against the so-called Islamic State struck instead a group of Syrian army forces, what followed was, if not unusual, informative. The aftermath of the incident highlighted the Middle East’s propensity to find murky motives behind easily explainable events, exacerbated by the widespread confusion about the strategic objectives of the war’s combatants, notably the United States. As soon as news emerged of the U.S. airstrikes in Deir el-Zour, which Russian officials […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony, Beijing, June 25, 2016 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Two themes will figure prominently for the next American president in managing the challenges to global order and U.S. national security: Applying the lessons learned from America’s experience over the past two decades in dealing with fragile states; and relearning the lessons forgotten from the Cold War about great power rivalry. Both will be enduring aspects of the international order, and navigating them will be complicated by a political landscape, in the U.S. and other countries, that puts limits on what governments can achieve beyond their borders. Fragile states and the risks they pose became a central concern to U.S. […]

An anti-government rebel sits with an anti-aircraft weapon in front an oil refinery, Ras Lanouf, Libya, March 5, 2011 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

Libya’s crude oil production has increased by more than 70 percent since August, to 450,000 barrels per day, as several oil fields resumed output and the port of Ras Lanuf reopened for the first time since 2014. In an email interview, Matthew Reed, the vice president of Foreign Reports, Inc., a Washington-based consulting firm focused on Middle East politics and world oil markets, discusses Libya’s oil industry. WPR: What is the state of Libya’s oil industry and its infrastructure? Matthew Reed: Libya’s oil sector is making a tenuous comeback. Production jumped to 450,000 barrels per day following the reopening of […]

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, Washington, Nov. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In the waning months of the Obama administration, the drama of U.S.-Israeli relations driven by personal and policy frictions between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dimmed. The two leaders’ lack of rapport has become irrelevant, as Obama works to demonstrate an unstinting American commitment to Israel’s security. What remains to be seen is to what extent he will emphasize the unfinished business of Palestinian statehood in his remaining time in office. This month, U.S.-Israeli relations have been back in the news, after being largely absent from the national security preoccupations of the presidential candidates and the […]

U.S. warships participate in a bilateral training exercise in the South China Sea, May 10, 2015 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner via Flickr).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss the resignation of Mexico’s finance minister, the prospects for Gabon’s opposition after that country’s contested election, and the EU’s ruling on Apple’s back taxes in Ireland. For the Report, Hugh White joins us to talk about great power rivalry and the risk of war in the Asia-Pacific between the U.S. and China. Listen:Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant Articles on WPR: Mexico’s Economic Malaise, Not Just Trump Visit, Forced Finance Minister Out Cards Stacked Against Gabon’s Opposition in Election Challenge to Bongo EU Ruling on […]

A soldier loyal to the Houthis stands guard during a pro-Houthi rally, Sanaa, Yemen, July 18, 2016 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

With the warring parties in Yemen locked in a stalemate on the ground, the battle for the Arab world’s poorest country is moving to a new front: the economy. The government-in-exile of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi is planning to shut down the Central Bank of Yemen in the capital, Sanaa—a city that Houthi rebels have controlled for two years—and establish a new bank in the southern port city of Aden. Hadi hopes to cut off financing to the alliance of Houthi rebels and military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which control Yemen’s northwestern highlands and western […]

A Chinese Navy nuclear-powered submarine during a fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of People's Liberation Army Navy, April 23, 2009 (AP photo by Guang Niu).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series inviting authors to identify the biggest priority—whether a threat, risk, opportunity or challenge—facing the international order and U.S. foreign policy today. The most urgent priority in international affairs today is to avoid a war between the United States and China. The consequences of such a war, military as well as economic, would be so vast as to dwarf all the other serious perils the world faces. Of course, a war is far from inevitable, but the risk is real, and much greater than most observers seem to realize, especially […]

An employee of Doctors Without Borders stands inside the charred remains of their hospital after it was hit by a U.S. airstrike, Kunduz, Afghanistan, Oct. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Najim Rahim).

Once taboo, the targeting of hospitals and health care providers in wartime has become such a frequent occurrence in today’s conflict zones that Doctors Without Borders, the humanitarian aid organization that goes by its French acronym MSF, now calls it the new normal. Attacks that previously seemed to occur unintentionally or sporadically now appear to be a deliberate strategy of war. This is particularly the case in Syria and Yemen, where hospitals and doctors are targeted so often that medical care now has to be provided in places such as caves and chicken coops in order to avoid detection by […]

Russian navy ships and helicopters during military drills on the Black Sea coast, Crimea, Sept. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

On Aug. 24, Ukraine celebrated 25 years of independence from the Soviet Union with a military parade in the capital, Kiev. President Petro Poroshenko, elected in the wake of the 2014 Maidan uprising, proudly recounted the country’s progress to the crowd: “Independence already gave us democracy and liberty, sense of human dignity and national unity; taught us to defend ourselves and opened the European perspective. The middle class has been formed as well as the civil society. The first post-Soviet generation with a new European world outlook has grown up.” Less than two weeks later, a mob of far-right protesters […]

Walking through a devastated part of town in Palmyra, Syria, April 14, 2016 (AP Photo by Hassan Ammar).

As the Syrian people suffer the unspeakable horror and deprivation of war, it must seem to them that the violence will never end. Every week brings new brutality, whether the use of barrel bombs and chlorine gas by an evil regime or the up-close barbarity of the so-called Islamic State. It is hard to overstate how shocking this has been: In 2011, almost no one foresaw that protests demanding democratic reforms and the release of political prisoners by President Bashar al-Assad would devolve into a protracted humanitarian disaster that would devastate Syria, destabilize its region, and fuel the rise of […]

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is greeted by lawmakers after delivering his first State of the Nation Address, northeast of Manila, July 25, 2016, in suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

The international headlines generated recently by the Philippines combative new president, Rodrigo Duterte—over extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers in the country and a slur directed at U.S. President Barack Obama this week—have overshadowed his efforts to seek peace with communist rebels to end one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies. Just over two months after being inaugurated, Duterte opened a first round of official talks in Norway in late August. Although early overtures suggest a level of promise not seen for decades, it remains to be seen whether the government and rebels can succeed where past talks have failed and translate […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi King Salman at Erga Palace, Riyadh, April 20, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

President Barack Obama has often been more upfront than past American presidents on what he thinks about the nature of ties with Saudi Arabia. Years before he came into office, he referred to Riyadh as one of America’s “so-called allies” in the Middle East. Last year, when asked by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull if the Saudis were America’s friends, Obama reportedly replied, “It’s complicated.” And he does little to hide his frustrations with the kingdom, whether over its export of Wahhabism around the world or its treatment of women at home, in interviews, as was the case with The […]

Myanmar's foreign minister, Aung San Suu Kyi, during the Union Peace Conference—21st Century Panglong, Naypyidaw, Myanmar, Sept. 3, 2016 (AP photo by Aung Shine Oo).

Over the past week, Myanmar held its eagerly awaited national peace conference in Naypyidaw, with hundreds of the country’s ethnic armed groups gathering in the capital alongside the government, parliament, the powerful military and political parties. The conference was a centerpiece of the agenda of the new administration led by the once-opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). It was designed to be a kind of sequel to the Panglong Conference held in Myanmar in 1947, when NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, independence hero Aung San, presided over the last meeting that brought together the country’s numerous factions and […]

Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, patrol the Mecaya river in the southern jungles of Putumayo, Colombia, Aug. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

This is it. As of Aug. 24, after 52 years of fighting and four years of negotiating, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have a peace accord. The FARC will cease to be one of the hemisphere’s largest generators of violence and will transition into a peaceful political movement. Already, the past 13 months have been the least violent period in Colombia since the conflict with the FARC began in 1964. And at midnight on Aug. 29, the government and the leftist guerrillas made it permanent, calling a definitive halt to all hostilities. The […]

Al-Shabab fighters sit on a truck as they patrol Mogadishu, Somalia, Oct. 30, 2009 (AP photo by Mohamed Sheikh Nor).

One of the most momentous decisions the United States made after 9/11 was to go on the offensive against violent extremists, seeking to cut them off at their source. This was to be done by helping governments in the Islamic world provide prosperity, security, justice and a sense of national identity. While sound in theory, this forced the U.S. to work with deeply flawed partners and repeatedly crashed against three problems. First, extremists, appropriating or misappropriating religious themes and local grievances, are often deeply ingrained in the societies where they operate, whether by ethnicity, clan, tribe or religion. Second, political […]

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