So far, the wave of protests jolting the Middle East has targeted mostly regimes friendly to the United States. With the prominent exception of Libya, a country that is rather peripheral to the region’s political life, the uprisings of the Arab Spring have weakened Washington’s friends and, consequently, brought satisfaction to its foes. All of that could change with the events unfolding in the latest country engulfed by reformist protests, Syria. Much like Egypt, Syria stands at the heart of the Middle East. But unlike Cairo, Damascus has remained a very large thorn in America’s side for decades. Run by […]

After weeks of debate followed by days of confusion, the international coalition enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya has finally taken shape. Spearheaded by the U.S., the U.K. and France, Operation Odyssey Dawn now also includes Canada, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom have intervened to stop Col. Moammar Gadhafi from carrying out a threatened massacre against his own citizens. Although the ultimate outcome of the intervention remains uncertain, the Libyan episode has already revealed three important features of contemporary global politics. First is the issue of U.S. leadership and its global responsibilities. After […]

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Europe’s leaders are voicing increasing concern that unrest in North Africa and the Middle East will cause a surge of illegal immigration to the continent. And with current European Union laws placing the onus of dealing with immigrants on the country where they land, the possibility of a surge has some more on edge than others. Italy, for instance, says it shouldn’t be left to “bear the brunt of the new arrivals just because it is so close to North Africa,” according to this New York Times story about the country’s present scramble to house people evacuated from Lampedusa, a […]

KIGALI, Rwanda — On a Thursday afternoon in February, a plot worthy of a Hollywood script unfolded in Goma, the freewheeling provincial capital that clings to the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Starring a high-profile Congolese fugitive, a cadre of foreign businessmen and a U.S.-registered Gulfstream jet, the tale featured a car chase that resulted in the seizure of $6.8 million in cash and a dramatic runway arrest that netted a half-ton of gold. Four foreign nationals — including a Frenchman, two Nigerians and a Houston-based diamond dealer — are now awaiting trial in the Congolese capital, […]

President Barack Obama’s address explaining the reasons for the U.S. intervention in Libya has already generated a flurry of responses. Some have lauded the speech as setting forth a set of grand strategic principles that will guide the U.S. response to the “Arab Spring.” Others have decried it as lacking sufficient grand strategic vision. In reality, grand strategic principles rarely dictate specific courses of action in complicated situations, and a coherent grand strategy absolves no one from the responsibility of “muddling through.” Even if there is an “Obama doctrine,” it is unclear how that doctrine matters for Libya, or how […]

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Clashes are spreading between opposing forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire, where tensions have been on the rise since November’s contested election between the two. With the country teetering on the edge of civil war, Ouattara’s party issued a statement this week asserting that all peaceful means to get Gbagbo to recognize defeat have been exhausted. Gbagbo has since offered a ceasefire, which according to the New York Times, “appeared to be a delaying tactic and was ignored by Mr. Ouattara’s forces as they continued their advance from two sides of the country.” Lauren Gelfand, […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — With an estimated 2 billion barrels of oil sitting beneath its Lake Albert, Uganda boasts the largest reserves among a number of African countries whose recent discoveries of petroleum have swelled the ranks of the continent’s oil-possessing states. But it took a recently signed agreement resolving a tax dispute between the government of President Yoweri Museveni on one side and two companies — Tullow Oil and its former partner, Heritage Oil — on the other to open the door for an estimated $10 billion of investment in the country. By the terms of the agreement, announced Feb. […]

The U.S.-led military intervention in Libya is decidedly different than the ongoing military operations underway in Iraq and Afghanistan in at least one sense: Unlike those wars, which President Barack Obama inherited from his predecessor, Libya is Obama’s war from start to finish. As such, it offers us the first true picture of how this commander-in-chief commands — and how he believes U.S. force should be employed. One thing we have learned is that the president is very much a reluctant warrior, as was evident even before he launched what his press secretary calls a “time-limited, scope-limited” operation. Consider the […]

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Tensions continue to run high in Ivory Coast as forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo patrol the streets of Abobo, Abidjan. Gbagbo is struggling to contain a rebel advance from the north, where forces loyal to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, have reportedly seized several towns.

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Like the military intervention in Libya itself, President Barack Obama’s speech last night was probably too little, too late to have a decisive impact on the debate. It offered nothing in the way of a neat doctrine or clear-cut objectives to justify the use of force, meaning that critics are unlikely to be swayed. But in some ways, it was probably more honest than most people were expecting: The decision to intervene was essentially a gut call, long on tactics and short on strategy, whose wisdom will be determined by the outcome on the ground. What the speech did accomplish, […]

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited Egypt earlier this month, the first head of state to do so following the Egyptian revolution. In an email interview, Jacob Høigilt, a Middle East researcher at the Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies, discussed Egypt-Sudan relations. WPR: What was the state of Egypt-Sudan relations prior to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak? Jacob Høigilt: Relations were highly ambiguous during the Mubarak era. Historically, Egypt and Sudan have enjoyed a close relationship. There has been much movement of people across the borders, and both governments have supported each other against the other Nile Basin countries in […]

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Last week it seemed like even the intervention of U.S., British and French airpower might not be enough to enable the Libyan rebellion to regain the momentum against Libyan government forces. Now it looks like the balance has shifted in the rebels’ favor, if not yet decisively so. For me, as a supporter of the intervention, that makes this week an even better moment than last to emphasize that we should not be judging the wisdom of our involvement based on the latest isolated news accounts from the front, and that it is wildly premature to assess any ultimate outcomes. […]

The uprising in Libya and the subsequent foreign military intervention there are providing a significant test for Turkey’s stated desire to create a foreign policy that combines realism with idealism, while also highlighting the difficulty Ankara is facing in balancing its aspirations to become a more independent regional leader in the Middle East with its efforts to maintain its traditional alliances. Furthermore, the developments in Libya threaten to deepen ongoing tensions between Turkey and NATO as well as some of the alliance’s member countries, in particular France. In recent years, Turkey has set lofty goals for its foreign policy, especially […]

While many in the West fret over the challenge of “rebalancing” the global economy after the recent global financial crisis, several trends suggest that the field of supply chain management could offer a key advantage for an America eager to double its exports by 2014. On the surface, supply chain management might not sound too sexy, but understand this: In today’s globalization, neither companies nor countries compete — supply chains do. Companies like Wal-Mart have known this for some time. Thus, positioning America to be the world’s pre-eminent provider of secure, transparent and efficient supply chains will ensure that our […]

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Amid all the criticism of the U.S. and coalition military intervention in Libya, one strain in particular has focused on the role played by France and President Nicolas Sarkozy in leading the charge toward action. In his typically thorough fashion, Art Goldhammer does a great job of explaining both the personal and political factors behind Sarkozy’s zeal. As Goldhammer mentions, there is the thirst for glory, the appetite for risk, the desire to make up for flubbing Tunisia and receiving Gadhafi on a state visit to Paris in December 2007, as well as the potential boost a global leadership role […]

The young men and women who took over Cairo’s Tahrir Square in late-January electrified the Arab world with their calls for building a new Middle East. When their peaceful protests subsequently toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, they took the first step toward moving their country from decades of autocratic rule into a future of democracy. Six weeks into that future, the forces of liberal democracy have suffered their first major defeat. On Saturday, Egyptians by the millions went to the polls to cast their vote on proposed changes to the constitution. The progressive leaders of the uprising struggled to get […]

The military operation that the U.S., the U.K. and France have launched against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi thus far lacks a clear set of strategic goals. The coalition partners cannot agree regarding whether the operation is intended to remove Gadhafi, to support rebel operations against Gadhafi loyalists or simply to protect civilians from attack by Gadhafi’s military forces. The lack of a strong, well-defined set of strategic objectives means that military operations in and over Libya are likely to be incoherent. All this is bad enough, but perhaps worse is that there is little indication that France, the U.K. or […]

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