Russia is trying to look tough at the U.N. Security Council this week, promising to reject a resolution backed by the European Union, the U.S. and the Arab League that calls for a political transition in Syria to end the violence there.* This is a new phase in Moscow’s efforts to defend its friend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which included blocking an earlier resolution in October that threatened U.N. sanctions against Damascus. Yet while Russia can use its veto power to paralyze the council again, the diplomatic battle over Syria has highlighted its weakness in global affairs. The U.N. serves […]

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Conditions in Libyan prisons have caused much controversy after Doctors Without Borders recently suspended its work in Misrata saying its medics were increasingly confronted with patients who suffered injuries caused by “torture” during questioning. World News Videos by NewsLook

America’s current standoff with Iran over the direction of Tehran’s nuclear program is only one symptom of a larger problem. Concerns over climate change and the rising costs of ever-scarcer hydrocarbons are leading more countries to turn to atomic energy as a long-term source of cheap and emissions-free energy. While some of these nuclear newcomers will trust that international markets will be able to guarantee access to nuclear fuel, others will want to control the entire fuel cycle on their own territory. That means we may soon be faced with a situation where many countries will aspire to the technological […]

JERUSALEM — When the U.S. and Israel announced last week that they had decided to either cancel or postpone the biggest joint military exercise in their history, the news kicked the wheels of the Mideast rumor and speculation machines into high gear. After all, the missile defense maneuvers codenamed Austere Challenge 12 had been touted as a major event, designed to send a clear message to several key audiences — including the Iranian government — that Israel and the U.S. would work together to stop Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. What had started as a determined show of military force and […]

Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna’s visit to Israel earlier this month produced a number of significant outcomes, notably proposals for the opening of a new Israeli consulate in Bangalore and a bilateral free trade agreement, as well as Israeli support for a permanent Indian seat on the U.N. Security Council. More importantly, the trip highlighted the degree to which solidifying relations with Israel, and in particular maintaining robust defense ties, has become a bipartisan foreign policy consensus in India. India recognized the Jewish state in 1950 but eschewed the establishment of full diplomatic relations during the Cold War, […]

Who shall we bomb next? Pundits and commentators have begun to fall over themselves declaring the necessity of launching military campaigns against Syria and Iran — the former to prevent a humanitarian disaster and the latter to forestall the development of a nuclear weapon. The catalyst for this enthusiasm is the success of NATO’s aerial campaign in Libya, a war that apparently vindicated the long-standing promise of advanced, precision-guided airpower to cheaply and easily solve inconvenient political problems. Unfortunately, the rediscovered enthusiasm for intervention demonstrates only that the foreign policy punditocracy is committed to serially mislearning the lessons of airpower […]

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Relations between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have grown increasingly strained in recent weeks, particularly after Erdogan, a Sunni Muslim, urged the Shiite leadership in Iraq to resolve sectarian tensions, which have escalated in the wake of the recent U.S. military withdrawal from the country. Maliki responded by telling Erdogan to stop interfering in Iraqi affairs, with the sharp exchange between Baghdad and Ankara taking an alarming turn when several rockets were fired at the Turkish embassy in Iraq last week. According to Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert at Lehigh University, the recent […]

The first page of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ Field Manual 3-24 (.pdf), entitled “Counterinsurgency,” states, “Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation-builders as well as warriors.” Authored in 2006 by Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the director of the CIA, and Lt. Gen. James F. Amos, currently the commandant of the Marine Corps, the manual essentially enshrined counterinsurgency as nation-building in U.S. military doctrine. This required U.S. soldiers and marines to undertake, in roughly proportionate measure, five tasks: safeguard the indigenous population, improve democratic governance, combat corruption, deliver economic projects and institute the rule of law […]

For the past several years, the widely accepted view among defense analysts had been that counterinsurgency, or COIN, represented the future of U.S. defense planning and operations. This consensus was initially driven by the belief that “effective COIN” had “won” the Iraq War, and later by the need, as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, to fight “the wars we’re in.” Now things have become far less clear. Awareness has set in that the effects of the 2007-2008 “surge” in Iraq were only partial and, even at the time, only partly achieved by the shift toward conducting what we […]

Defense policy analysts and pundits are wasting ink arguing back and forth about whether or not counterinsurgency is dead or alive. The real debate — the one that risks getting lost in the noise about counterinsurgency’s vital signs — concerns the future of the U.S. Army. As the U.S. military ends its role in Iraq and winds down in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, alone among the armed services, has no compelling narrative for how it fits into the nation’s defense. The questions today surrounding the future of counterinsurgency are no less intense than the debates over whether or not counterinsurgency […]

Photo: U.S. Army soldiers rest during a mission in the Hindu Kush mountain range in the Parwan province of Afghanistan, January 2009 (U.S. Army photo by Scott Davis).

Is counterinsurgency dead, as some observers claim? Is it alive and well, as others have argued? Or is it, as still others maintain, merely evolving? One thing is certain. Once fashionable within the Washington beltway, counterinsurgency — or COIN, as it’s known — has come under withering criticism, as violence in Afghanistan escalates and the Pentagon tightens its belt. Many of counterinsurgency’s critics are convinced that the U.S. would do well to avoid such campaigns in the future. Who can blame them? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have extracted an ever-mounting toll in time, blood and treasure from a […]

Americans often assume that insurgency is a modern phenomenon, invented by Mao Zedong and refined by his emulators. The notion permeates official thinking, including Department of Defense definitions and doctrines. In reality, insurgency has existed ever since states and empires began attempting to impose their will on people too weak to resist with conventional military means. Indeed, counterinsurgency is a common function for most states and an inevitable one for empires. That said, the strategic significance of insurgency has ebbed and flowed over time. When the chance of direct conflict between great powers was high, insurgency became background noise in […]

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Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba paid a two-day visit to Turkey earlier this month. In an email interview, Selçuk Esenbel, a Japan specialist at Bosphorus University, discussed Japan-Turkey relations. WPR: How deep are diplomatic and trade relations between Japan and Turkey, and what is their recent trajectory? Selçuk Esenbel: Since Japan and what was to ultimately become the modern state of Turkey first established relations in 1873, ties have been friendly with no serious conflicts of interest. Geographic distance has hampered the development of close trade ties, but generally speaking Turkey has always been very friendly toward Japan. Since the […]

When former U.S. Marine Amir Mirzaei Hekmati was sentenced to death for espionage by an Iranian court earlier this month, he was accused, among other things, of helping to make video games. In his televised “confession,” Hekmati stated that, after working for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “I was recruited by Kuma Games Company, a computer games company which received money from [the] CIA to design and make special films and computer games to change the public opinion’s mindset in the Middle East.” He added, “The goal of Kuma Games was to convince the people of the world […]

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