As the Libya operation enters what appears to be its final phase, the debate is only beginning as to what it portends for the future of U.S. policy and the international system as a whole. The course of events in Libya over the past months validates what I have termed the “just enough” doctrine. The Obama administration successfully resisted pressure — from Libyan rebels, European allies and domestic critics alike — to increase the U.S. role in order to achieve a faster outcome in Libya. If that doctrine takes on greater coherence, it could strengthen the arguments for limited, targeted […]

The future of Libya was never terribly important to the U.S. That has now changed. Under the rule of the flamboyant Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Tripoli managed to garner a lot of attention, but, in fact, the country had only marginal strategic importance to the West. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted as much soon after the U.S. agreed to join a NATO effort on the side of the rebels seeking to topple the regime. Once NATO launched its operation in Libya, however, the stakes for Washington suddenly grew. And now more than ever, with Gadhafi out of power, Libya has […]

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With the world’s spotlight now shining on the climactic events in Libya, the struggle for meaningful transformation in neighboring Tunisia, whose authoritarian president was ousted by demonstrations some eight months ago, has largely been left in the dark. Tunisia’s youth uprising has widely been credited with sparking the greater Arab Spring. But the nation has yet to form an assembly to reform its constitution, and its economy has suffered increasingly this summer amid a near collapse in the nation’s tourism industry. There is, however, reason to feel optimistic, according to Emad Shahin, a Middle East specialist at Notre Dame’s Kroc […]

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Turkish President Abdullah Gul was in Saudi Arabia last week to discuss the situation in Syria with Saudi King Abdullah. In an email interview, Gareth Jenkins, senior fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Silk Road Studies Program, discusses Turkey-Saudi Arabia relations. WPR: What is the current status of Turkish-Saudi relations, and how have they evolved in recent years? Gareth Jenkins: Turkey and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed cordial rather than close relations since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in Turkey in 2002 and began to focus more on strengthening Ankara’s relations with other Muslim countries […]

With the breaking of Libya’s many-month stalemate, the end of a 42-year reign of megalomaniacal tyranny has arrived. As the rebels attempt to consolidate power in Tripoli, however, what lies ahead for Libya as a nation and for the foreign powers that paved the way for Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster remains far from certain. Key to the future of a viable Libya will be law, stabilization and reconstruction so that civil society can be re-established swiftly. After four decades of inequity, revenge will be hard to avoid. Nonetheless, Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) has emphasized to rebel fighters that retribution against […]

Over the past few days, Libyan rebels supported by NATO airstrikes have seized most of Tripoli. The rebels’ apparent military success has quieted, at least for the moment, many critics of NATO’s military strategy in Libya. While a full account of the lessons learned from the conflict must await the writing of a full history — not to mention the end of the actual war — the events of the past few days demand a degree of re-evaluation of how the campaign was conducted. Indeed, this column has offered several critiques of NATO’s performance, including commentary on the dubious legality […]

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Iran announced last month that it would send aid to Malawi, shortly following cuts in aid to the Southeast African country by the U.S. and the U.K. In an email interview, Scott Lucas, an expert on Iran at the University of Birmingham, discussed Iran-Africa relations. WPR: What is the current state of Iran’s development aid and investment in Africa? Scott Lucas: Iran has continued, despite — and arguably because of — international sanctions, to make a significant effort to further its diplomatic and economic ties with African countries. High-ranking Iranian officials, including the foreign minister, have toured the continent, and, […]

Amid the anxiety and devastation of the London riots, there was one brief comic interlude, when the government of Iran urged British authorities to use restraint in dealing with protesters. The appeal was bitterly amusing, of course, because of the brutal tactics Tehran used to put down protests in 2009. Police in London managed to end the rioting using traditional crowd-control methods. But then, in the wake of a public outcry over the disturbances and the disappointing performance of the police, British Prime Minister David Cameron made a highly controversial proposal: Next time, he suggested, the government might choke off […]

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There are two interesting U.S. angles to the recent spate of high-level defense contacts between Israel and China. The first has to do with the respective roles each country plays in the domestic U.S. discourse, with Israel universally portrayed as the United States’ most stalwart ally and China increasingly portrayed as our most likely future peer competitor. This Manichean view is especially pronounced among the Tea Party and Christian Zionist wings of the GOP, but is also present in moderate Republican and Democratic circles. So it will be interesting to see how a closer defense relationship between the two plays […]

Of all the uprisings underway in the Middle East, none has the immediate potential to tilt the regional balance of power to the degree that Syria’s does. Under the Assad dynasty, Damascus has played a pivotal role in determining the relative strength of rival powers. Now, with the government of President Bashar al-Assad under pressure from its own people and with the brutality of the regime’s repression raising a popular outcry throughout the world, the principal powers in the Middle East are maneuvering to solidify their positions and reinforce their claim to regional leadership. Mideast powers are moving their chess […]

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The expanded military crackdown being orchestrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his own people has triggered a wave of global criticism and prompted Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait to recall their ambassadors from the country. The move early this week by regional powers to distance themselves from the Assad government effectively means that Syria has lost the support the Gulf Cooperation Council, notes Andrew Tabler, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “That, combined with the visit to Syria by [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu] today, is a big loss for the Assad regime,” he told […]

The State Department is currently planning to assume leadership of the U.S. mission in Iraq on Oct. 1, 2011. Yet, recent proposals in Congress to cut further the department’s budget for Iraq, following two reductions in planned spending last year, threaten to defeat a transition plan that, if not quite representing victory, offers the best hope of achieving an outcome acceptable to U.S. interests as well as to the Iraqi people. The planned handoff of the U.S. mission in Iraq from the Defense Department to State includes positioning some 17,000 political, economic and security personnel under the authority of the […]

As massive protests shook Iran in June 2009 following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s widely contested re-election, Arab leaders around the region watched the unfolding events with a mix of wariness and satisfaction. Unnerved by the Obama administration’s overtures of rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, many had a keen sense that Iran would emerge from the crisis weakened and more isolated internationally. They were largely correct. Some two years later, it is the Iranians who are closely following the slew of uprisings — and violent crackdowns — that have rocked the Arab world. While initially reticent to weigh in, Tehran could not […]

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