Is it time for NATO to begin wrapping up its Libya operation? The observance of Ramadan will begin in a few days, and even though Islamic tradition permits those involved in combat to be exempted from the requirements of the fast, most analysts expect a dramatic slowdown in major combat operations on the part of both pro-Gadhafi and anti-government forces during August. While NATO spokesmen have indicated that sorties will continue to be flown during the holiday, the pace of combat will lessen. This, in turn, may reinforce conditions on the ground, which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff […]

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Earlier this month, a clash between Iranian soldiers and Azerbaijani border guards left one Azerbaijani guard dead. In an email interview, Brenda Shaffer, a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa and a visiting professor at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, discussed Iran-Azerbaijan relations. WPR: What has been the trajectory of Iran-Azerbaijan relations over the past 10 years? Brenda Shaffer: Iran’s policy toward Azerbaijan is one of the best illustrations of the gap between Tehran’s ideological declarations and its actual realpolitik-guided policies. Despite sharing a common Shiite identity with Azerbaijan, Tehran has worked to undermine Azerbaijan’s security since the latter’s independence. […]

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Earlier this month, U.N.-led negotiations between Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus on the status of the divided island ended without any significant breakthroughs. In an email interview, Michális S. Michael, deputy director of the Center for Dialogue at La Trobe University, discussed the Cyprus talks. WPR: What are the primary areas of progress in talks between Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus, and how do they compare with the final status of talks in 2004? Michális S. Michael: In contrast to 2004, and despite 126 high-level meetings since 2008, little progress has been achieved on the core issues separating the two sides. While […]

Economic and diplomatic relations between Iran and Turkey have improved significantly in recent years, and for good reason. Each side offers something the other needs. Turkey needs oil and gas for its growing economy and a market for its export products. Iran is Turkey’s second-largest supplier of natural gas and is eager to buy many Turkish products. Iran also needs trade partners who are willing to ignore American and international sanctions to sell it the products others won’t. Turkey has done just that, ignoring the sanctions selectively and periodically. In 2010, for example, Turkey exported gasoline to Iran at a […]

When historians come to write the history of the European Union in the period following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, they are likely to describe it as a litany of jarring crises. They will naturally prioritize the financial shocks to the eurozone in 2010 and 2011. But they will also have to make space for at least two major humanitarian crises that sparked angry debates about the EU’s global role. The first was the earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. The second was the man-made disaster in Libya that began in February 2011. The Haitian catastrophe […]

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The Qatari energy corporation Qatargas recently signed a deal with Argentina to provide 16 percent of the Latin American country’s natural gas needs for 20 years. In an email interview, Giacomo Luciani, Princeton global scholar and scientific director of the international energy program at the Paris School of International Affairs, discussed Qatar’s natural gas industry. WPR: What is the extent of the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) market, and what is Qatar’s share, including its major LNG trade partners? Giacomo Luciani: The global LNG trade has been rapidly expanding and can be expected to continue to do so. According to […]

Most experts believe that one of the most catastrophic mistakes made during the U.S. occupation of Iraq was the decision to disband the Iraqi armed forces in May 2003. The question is not merely of interest to historians and those writing “after-action” reports on the Iraq invasion. After all, other Iraq-style regimes — most notably in Syria, Libya and North Korea — are likely to fall in the near future. In all three states, the armed forces are part and parcel of the longstanding political order, and there will be those arguing for their complete dissolution in order to sweep […]

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has met with Chinese leader Hu Jintao for bilateral trade talks during his visit to China. While the Chinese leader’s eyes are on Iraqi oil, Maliki is eying Chinese investments to redevelop war-ravaged Iraq.

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A recent assessment of information flows in Libya by the international media development group Internews explored the ambitions and needs of new media outlets in Benghazi. After 42 years of authoritarian rule, enthusiasm for journalism and free expression runs high in rebel-held Libya.

When pro-democracy protesters took on President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, watching from his perch in Lebanon, could hardly contain his glee. Arab demonstrators were taking on yet another Sunni dictator who was hostile to Hezbollah. At the time, the Arab Spring looked like good news to the Iran-backed Shiite militants. But the popular revolts did not stop with Hezbollah’s foes. Now that an uprising next door threatens the rule of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, one of Hezbollah’s principal patrons, Hezbollah is starting to look less steady. As the wave of popular unrest washes across the region, […]

CAIRO, Egypt — As demonstrators continue to hunker down in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website has blamed a number of groups for infiltrating the now two-week-long protest and fomenting instability by inciting confrontation. Undercover remnants of the deposed National Democratic Party-led regime, Ikhwan Online claimed last week, are responsible. State security, formerly a notorious government apparatus, is also culpable. And, not surprisingly, Israelis are involved. According to the website, foreign “thugs” were apprehended in Tahrir on July 8, wielding knives, carrying foreign currencies and exhibiting Star of David tattoos. “These accusations are nothing new,” says Tel […]

As the Middle East undergoes historic changes, Saudi Arabia continues to gradually shift its foreign and defense policies to reflect both new realities in its region and changes in the global landscape. The two main components of this shift include an ongoing effort to deter Iran and enhance stability among its regional allies through a sizable buildup of its conventional military forces, including a proposed record $90 billion arms sale from the United States, and a broadening of its economic and political ties with emerging global powers such as China and India. Ties between Saudi Arabia and its longtime backer […]

One sign of how good relations between Russia and the United States have become is that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spent three days in high-level meetings in Washington without attracting much attention from the American news media. Bilateral ties may finally be evolving, at least for now, into a more mature, almost normal relationship between two great powers sharing common interests as well as limited areas of disagreement. Lavrov discussed a range of important issues with his American interlocutors, including Libya, Syria, Iran, Korea, Afghanistan, South Sudan, terrorism, the Israel-Palestine peace process, the United Nations and even Alaska and […]

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Remarks this week by U.S. President Barack Obama may have indicated a hardening of his administration’s posture against Syrian President Bashar Assad and Syria’s ongoing violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. But questions remain over what the United States can do to rein in Assad while supporting the Syrian protesters. “The Americans’ options are extremely limited,” says Richard Gowan, a World Politics Review contributor and associate director of NYU’s Center on International Cooperation. The logical step would be to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Assad’s crackdown. But as Gowan told Trend Lines yesterday, “The Security Council is deadlocked over […]

An open-ended sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square will enter its seventh day today and may grow larger if calls for another major Friday protest are met. Five months after an 18-day uprising brought down President Hosni Mubarak, a substantial number of Egyptians feel that the pace of change has been too slow to satisfy their revolutionary demands. They are holding major demonstrations in Tahrir Square and around the country, explicitly condemning the ruling military council that took over after Mubarak’s resignation and pushing for faster and deeper reforms. In the week since the latest round of protests began, the interim […]

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