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 […]

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 […]

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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Turkish Cypriots held protests in Nicosia recently in opposition to austerity measures being imposed by Ankara on the Turkey-supported territory. In an email interview, Mehmet Hasgüler, an expert on Turkish international relations at the International Strategic Research Organization and Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, discussed relations between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus. WPR: Why have tensions risen between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus in recent months? Mehmet Hasgüler: As a matter of fact, tension has always been a part of the relations between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus. A decade ago, Turkish Cypriot grievances toward the Turkish government erupted into a series of demonstrations […]

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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, […]

Observers around the world are glued to their TV and computer screens, barely able to keep pace with popular protests seizing one Middle Eastern country after another and changing the Arab world for good. Yet, largely ignored by Western media, the revolutionary wave of the “Arab Spring” has also reached the autonomous Kurdistan Region in Iraq, where it could have the dangerous side effect of plunging the whole of Iraq back into sectarian violence at the very moment the last American troops are scheduled to leave. Unsurprisingly, the popular protests originated in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan’s most secular and liberal city, where […]

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Coverage of the Western intervention in Libya has overshadowed the somewhat unprecedented regional intervention that has been going on for the past two weeks in Bahrain. Troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Peninsula Shield Force (PSF) entered Bahrain after a “request by Bahrain for support,” Asharq Alawsat reported on March 15. According to Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, the development marks “a watershed moment: to see this force being used visibly to deal with internal unrest and to see the GCC states openly declare that these forces are being used in this way.” Katulis tells […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has long been considered among the region’s most stable. But a growing uprising, along with the government’s aggressive crackdown on demonstrators yesterday, have many wondering if the Assad family’s decades-old grip on power might finally be breaking. A Washington Post report this morning called the demonstrations “the most serious unrest” of Assad’s 11-year tenure. (His father, Hafez, ruled the country for 29 years before him.) The Post cited a pre-dawn raid on the southern city of Daraa by Syrian security forces “in which dozens of people were killed, according to witnesses and activists.” […]

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