Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising in January 2011 sent waves of anxiety coursing through the Israeli establishment. By mid-February, a close partner had been deposed in Cairo, and popular Egyptian sentiment demanded a tough, polemical line against Israel: no more gas deals, no security cooperation, no political collaboration. The strategic relationship reached its nadir that fall, when a crowd in September stormed the Israeli Embassy while the Egyptian military stood by. A phone call from Washington was required to resolve that crisis, prompting the Egyptians to intervene before any Israelis were injured. Fast-forward to today, and the Israel-Egypt strategic relationship appears […]

Last month, the Israeli navy took control of a Panamanian ship off the coast of Sudan that was carrying Iranian munitions to Gaza. The Red Sea operation underscored the growth of the navy’s role in Israel’s power projection, which has accelerated in the 21st century after many decades in which maritime strategy was something of an afterthought for Israel’s military. A maritime perspective was central in pre-state Zionist strategic thinking, because the seas were the gateway for Jewish immigration into Palestine. However, once the state of Israel was created in 1948, the seas and the navy lost their significance in […]

Launching a new round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians last July, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry set a deadline for the two sides to reach a peace deal within nine months. Today, that deadline is passing with the sides seemingly no closer to resolving their long-running dispute. Israel suspended the negotiations last Thursday, after rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas announced that they would form a unity government in the coming weeks. The move to form a unity government presented perhaps the final complication to the United States’ recent push for peace. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel […]

President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia this past week seemed to push the “legacy” cliche button in the minds of editors everywhere. I’ve lost track of how many times I was asked about it, and, embarrassingly, the question took me by surprise the first several times. We’re still six months from the midterms, after all. For right now, at least, a more interesting question to ask might be: In national security and foreign policy, how has Obama set the stage so that he and his team can construct a legacy over the next two years? Presidential administrations always deny that […]

This month, Israel launched a new surveillance satellite reportedly aimed at monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. In an email interview, Deganit Paikowsky, a senior researcher the Yuval Neeman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security and an adjunct lecturer at the Security Studies Program at Tel Aviv University, explained the evolution and objectives of Israel’s space program. WPR: What is the background of Israel’s space program, and how has it evolved recently? Deganit Paikowsky: Israel has a long and successful legacy in space, having developed robust and competitive space industries and applications for national and commercial use. The Israeli Space Agency (ISA) […]

Returning the aging and ailing Abdelaziz Bouteflika to the presidency for a fourth term, the April 17 elections in Algeria delivered few surprises—much to the relief of the United States, France and the Algerian economic and political elite. At the same time, some Algerians questioned the legitimacy of the electoral process, whether by staying home in large numbers or through violent clashes in Kayblia, the Berber region in the northeast. Bouteflika’s supporters at home and abroad repeatedly underlined the necessity of stability in Algeria, a country with violent Islamist movements in the Sahara and one that suffered an exceedingly bloody […]

On July 23, 1999, Morocco’s ruler, King Hassan II, died and was succeeded by his eldest son, Mohammed VI. Many Moroccans hoped that the succession would also entail a transition from a system of autocratic rule to a liberal democracy, and the new king’s early initiatives seemed likely to give substance to these hopes. Now, 15 years later, it is possible to see to what extent those hopes have been fulfilled and, if they have not, to determine why and to what degree they have been disappointed. The expectations for the new reign did not emerge, of course, in a […]

As Iraq gears up for general elections scheduled for April 30, the political constellation that has allowed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stay in power for two terms is realigning in unexpected ways, raising questions about Maliki’s ability to retain Iraq’s top job. Apart from the similar context of violence in which it will likely take place, this round of voting will be greatly different from the three other national elections held since 2005. First, the country’s political landscape is more fragmented than it used to be. Former large alliances have given way to smaller entities, even as the electoral […]

One of the Obama administration’s biggest foreign policy gambles, the agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons in the midst of that country’s civil war, is behind schedule but still making progress. Despite tensions over Ukraine and the outcome of the Syrian civil war itself, the United States, Russia and others appear to be maintaining cooperation on the issue. On Monday, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)—the Netherlands-based international organization responsible for ensuring compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention—announced in a statement that the Syrian government had delivered two additional shipments of chemicals to the port city […]

At a parliamentary group meeting today, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed his country’s courts for acting as part of a parallel state undermining his government. Erdogan’s remarks were the latest maneuver in an ongoing struggle between Turkey’s judiciary and the prime minister and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a contest that Michael Koplow described in an article for World Politics Review in January. With the dispute showing no signs of flagging, WPR spoke via email with Koplow, program director at the Israel Institute and the author of the blog Ottomans and Zionists, to review the latest […]

This month, four Iranian border guards were freed two months after being kidnapped and allegedly taken into Pakistan by an Iran-based Sunni militant group. In an email interview, Isaac Kfir, a senior researcher at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and a visiting assistant professor of law and international relations, explained the state of Iran-Pakistan relations. WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of the Iran-Pakistan security relationship, particularly regarding their shared border? Isaac Kfir: Iran and Pakistan work together on some issues and compete on others. The two countries have good cooperation on drug interdiction, as both […]

From the start of John Kerry’s push for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, nobody except the secretary of state held very high hopes for success. Kerry declared confidently he expected a comprehensive deal, a “final status agreement over the course of the next nine months.” Everyone else responded to his optimism with little more than a benign smile. Eight months later, what the parties have reached instead of an agreement is a deep impasse. The inevitable question arises: What’s next? The nine-month period concludes at the end of April, and negotiations have produced what seemed almost impossible: a […]

While Americans debate when and where the United States should use drones to strike at insurgents and terrorists who cannot be reached by other means, they may be overlooking an important trend: the move to supply a targeted killing capability to allied nations. This began when the Bush administration decided to provide technology and advice to help the government of Colombia kill the leaders of its narco-insurgency. Today, the U.S. military is also helping the armed forces of Yemen field systems for the targeted killing of anti-government extremists associated with al-Qaida. This is the beginning of a trend, as more […]

When President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia last Friday, he briefly opened a window into the closest circles of power in Riyadh. One of the most striking images was that of Saudi King Abdullah breathing with the aid of an oxygen tank during his meeting with Obama. Although the king appeared animated and energetic, still sporting the jet-black goatee popular among Saudi royals, he looked puffy, and the plastic tubes taking oxygen into his nose betrayed the urgency of a royal succession process that has already gone into overdrive. It was no coincidence that Thursday, the day before Obama […]

article card

On Sunday, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan racked up an astounding victory in municipal elections. The party’s success came despite waves of civil unrest last year, the economy taking a downturn, daily revelations about corruption in the highest echelons of government and a crackdown on online media. There are many political and socio-economic reasons for the AKP’s dominance, but in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, Erdogan was able to count on one unexpected campaigner on his behalf: the president of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq, Massoud Barzani. On Nov. 18, facing his darkest […]

article card

The Obama administration faces many severe challenges in the Middle East, ranging from preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon to brokering peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But President Barack Obama’s trip to the region last week was partly aimed at addressing a lower-profile problem—the emerging fissures in the traditional partnership between the U.S. and the six nations of the Saudi Arabia-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). “Bilateral U.S. relationships with the GCC states are strong,” explains Stephen McInerney of the Project on Middle East Democracy in a phone interview, but there are “tensions and suspicions” relating to foreign policy on […]