The United States relies on Jordan to help resolve many of the thorniest problems in the region, including fighting terrorism, dealing with the consequences of the Syrian civil war and finding a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is in this context that U.S. officials recently told the Associated Press that preparations were being made for U.S. Special Forces to train Iraqi troops on Jordanian soil in the near future. According to David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a former Levant country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the United States and […]

For almost 70 years, the foundation of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy rested on the kingdom’s relationship with the United States. America guaranteed Saudi security during a famous 1945 meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal. That commitment had stood the test of history. The past three years, however, have brought enormous turbulence to the Middle East, and the Saudis have found Washington’s response increasingly worrisome. Saudi rulers are questioning America’s reliability as an ally and protector. They see the U.S. gradually relinquishing its pre-eminent role and allowing revolutionary […]

With the adoption of a new constitution last weekend, Tunisia became the first post-revolutionary country in the Arab world to forge a political settlement accepted by the broad mass of its people. The process has hardly been swift, but the passage of the document by an overwhelming majority—200 delegates in favor and only 12 against—is a significant achievement. At a time when the other Arab countries that saw popular uprisings in 2011 have been dragged down by polarization and violence, Tunisia provides an example of political compromise overcoming broad national differences. Tunisia’s path to this moment has often been precarious. […]

Last week’s special session of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), convened primarily to secure emergency funding for enhanced safeguards activities in Iran, provided an acute reminder of both the IAEA’s importance and its precarious financial situation. The international community demands ongoing high performance from the agency, while chronically failing to replenish resources perilously close to exhaustion. And yet, given the agency’s central role in key nuclear nonproliferation and security efforts, the stakes could not be higher. The IAEA is integral to international efforts as diverse as implementing the interim nuclear deal—and any potential follow-on […]

More than two years after the December 2011 withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq, the United States is no longer the key foreign player in that country. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is arguably the most influential foreign force in Iraqi politics. The 2003 U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein had already led to the empowerment of Shiite parties closely aligned with Iran. The Iraqi central government is now dominated by Shiite parties as are, to some extent, the Iraqi military and security forces. Iraq’s estrangement from the Sunni-majority Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia, and the sectarian upheaval in […]

President Barack Obama now has a little less than three years left in office, and the latest political parlor game is to try and discern what shape the final tranche of his administration will take. David Remnick’s profile of Obama in the New Yorker suggests that the next 12 months or so represents the administration’s last chance to set in concrete what it hopes its lasting contributions to U.S. foreign and domestic policy will be. After that, the calendar will shift, with the dominant question becoming who will succeed Obama come January 2017. So will the last third of Obama’s […]

JERUSALEM—The job comes with some nice perks and mostly symbolic duties, but the position, president of Israel, carries enormous prestige, potentially a great deal of influence and, ultimately, a guaranteed spot in the history books. The race to replace Shimon Peres as head of state is getting off to a star-studded start. The latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring received the Nobel Prize in chemistry a couple of years ago. But polls show Israelis would like Peres, also a Nobel Prize winner, to stay on for another term. Already the collection of possible candidates looks like a […]

Washington’s reluctance to include Tehran unconditionally in talks to end the war in Syria was on full view this week. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to Iran to take part in preliminary peace talks at Montreux, Switzerland—quickly accepted—led to a diplomatic crisis after the U.S. insisted Iran had to embrace the agreement reached in June 2012 by the U.N.-backed Action Group for Syria, which among other things called for the formation of a transitional governing body. Syria’s main external opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, also threatened not to show up to the talks if the Iranians were present. So […]

The life of an insurgent is not easy. When state security forces possess advanced surveillance technology, even remote areas are unsafe. Fear is persistent; death can come quickly, silently and at any time. If security forces penetrate a rebel movement or local competitors arise, only paranoid insurgents survive. Over time, fear and paranoia become grinding, exacting a heavy psychological price. And in the end, insurgents seldom win: Most are killed, defeated or fade away without a clear victory. Why, then, would anyone become an insurgent? Put simply, people do so out of desperation. Insurgents consider the status quo unjust and […]

The implementation agreement for the interim nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 in November, in which Iran consents to constrain its nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief, officially entered into effect yesterday. The text of the implementation deal, finalized Jan. 12, remains confidential. But the White House released a summary that, while answering some important questions, still leaves uncertain whether the interim deal will achieve its main purpose of transitioning to a more comprehensive agreement. The implementation framework specifies the phasing and technical details of the reciprocal concessions the parties made in the interim agreement. These […]

After years of deadlocked negotiations and apparent inflexibility on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran to make substantive concessions on its development of nuclear technology, some of which might be used for weapons, Tehran has recently become much more accommodating. The framework agreement reached in November in Geneva, trading cessation of enrichment and dilution of existing stockpiles of enriched uranium for sanctions relief, will go into effect Jan. 20. Is this newfound willingness to negotiate simply a result of personnel changes, beginning with the election of Hassan Rouhani as president? Not entirely. After all, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei […]

TEL AVIV, Israel—Before he became the leader of his country, Ariel Sharon, the recently deceased former Israeli prime minister, spent most of his life as a military man. The formative events for the late general took place on the battlefield. The experiences proved so powerful that they shaped Sharon as a political actor, gradually chiseling the profile of a political leader with such strong and unexpected views that he managed to antagonize even his closest allies and surprisingly satisfy some of his harshest critics. By the time he became Israel’s most powerful man, the lessons of war led the older […]

This month, thousands of African migrants to Israel, many seeking asylum, marched in Tel Aviv to demand more rights and protections from the Israeli government. In an email interview, Dov Waxman, associate professor of political science at Baruch College and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), as well as the co-director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development at Northeastern University, explained Israel’s immigration policy. WPR: What is the state of Israel’s overall immigration policy, particularly with regard to political refugees? Dov Waxman: Israel’s immigration policy fundamentally distinguishes between Jews, non-Jews […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series will run every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. The series introduction can be found here. Historically a crossroads of commerce and culture linking Persia and Central Asia, the ethnically mixed western region of Afghanistan has more recently been notable for the stability and wealth of its most important province, Herat, and its capital city of the […]

In the past month, a nasty fight has broken out in public between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on one side and Turkey’s judiciary on the other. Given Turkey’s international reputation as an emerging democracy, casual observers of Turkey may be surprised at the battle underway. After all, judicial independence and integrity are hallmarks of democracy and rule of law, and the fact that the government is alleging improper judicial interference in its activities and attempting to limit the courts’ powers is striking. While the AKP’s assault on the judiciary indeed […]

Since the conflict in South Sudan escalated in December, well-meaning governments and United Nations officials have repeatedly argued that only a political solution can end the fighting. “There is no military solution,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told CNN on Christmas Eve. But the South Sudanese government does not seem entirely convinced. Over the past week it has ratcheted up its offensives against rebel-held areas, recapturing the economically important town of Bentiu. Bor, another major center in rebel hands, has also been under attack. The government is still in peace talks with rebel envoys, but it is evidently […]

Depressing headlines from the Middle East have thrown cold water on any lingering optimism that U.S. policy objectives in the region were on track. In Iraq, Fallujah and Ramadi have been lost, at least for now, to al-Qaida-linked insurgents. The Syrian conflict has apparently transformed into a multi-sided war, increasing the likelihood that Bashar al-Assad’s regime will survive. And progress remains elusive in Afghanistan as the countdown to withdrawal continues. Not long ago there was reason for hope in all these countries. The surges in Iraq and Afghanistan were supposed to have worked, and the Arab Spring, it was hoped, […]

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