A man holds a placard as people gather in support outside the Zaman newspaper in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Akin Celiktas).

Turkish police raided a newspaper and television station with ties to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his Hizmet movement earlier this month, arresting 23 journalists, producers and writers. While freedom of the press has long been a concern in Turkey—which currently ranks 154 out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index—the arrests have more to do with growing tensions between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the exiled Gulen. Gulen was an ally of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) until a corruption scandal, which Gulen and his followes deny instigating, broke last year. […]

Adoration of the Magi by El Greco, 1568

The Christmas story is full of joy and wonder, but it also includes a cautionary tale about a diplomatic blunder. The blunderers are the three ostensibly wise men from the east who visit King Herod in Jerusalem to ask: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” This query sets in motion a chain of events that culminates in Herod’s decision to massacre the baby boys of Bethlehem and its environs in a failed attempt to kill Jesus. This atrocity ensures that […]

A cargo train is ready to cross an Iranian border in the Turkmen frontier village of Ak-Yayla, Dec. 3, 2014 (AP photo by Alexander Vershinin).

Earlier this month, the presidents of Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan inaugurated a railway that runs from western Kazakhstan to northern Iran. In an email interview, Erica Johnson, lecturer and director of masters studies in global studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill discussed infrastructure projects in Central Asia. WPR: What obstacles, both political and technological, had to be overcome to construct the railway between Iran and Turkmenistan? Erica Johnson: Because of the 2008 global financial crisis, Kazakhstan put the railway project on hold for 18 months. In addition to financing from the three participating countries, the Asian Development […]

Yazidi fighters head to battle Islamic State militants, on the summit of Mount Sinjar, in Iraq, Dec. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Dalton Bennett).

After months of military gains by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, there is some hope that the tide is turning. Backed by American air strikes, Kurdish fighters broke IS’s four-month siege of Mount Sinjar, freeing thousands of Yazidis who weathered the extremist assault. Meanwhile Iraqi government troops are moving to recapture the Tal Afar military airport, which IS seized last June. As Winston Churchill famously said in November 1942 as Nazi forces in North Africa surrendered, this may not be the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning. During World War II, the […]

Oil pump jacks work in unison on a foggy morning, Williston, North Dakota, Dec. 19, 2014 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

In the waning days of 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy, roundly castigated by critics for most of the year as being weak, feckless and indecisive, appears to have been vindicated by more recent developments. Eschewing the calls for immediate reactions to a series of disparate events—from anti-government protests in Venezuela to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine—the president opted for diplomacy and sanctions, augmenting his existing approach to perennial problems like Iran and its nuclear program. Now, the story goes, a whole list of U.S. opponents, from Cuba to Iran, are moderating their defiance of Washington and looking […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Sochi, Russia, Aug. 12, 2014 (Photo from the website of the Russian presidency).

In late November, a report by international audit firm Ernst and Young ranked Egypt’s private sector as the most corrupt in the world. In an email interview, Sahar Aziz, an associate professor at Texas A&M University School of Law who teaches Middle East law, national security and civil rights law, discussed corruption in Egypt’s private sector. Professor Aziz is the author of multiple articles on Egypt, including “Revolution without Reform? A Critique of Egypt’s Election Laws,” “Egypt’s Protracted Revolution” and “Bringing Down an Uprising: Egypt’s Stillborn Revolution.” WPR: What is the extent of private sector corruption in Egypt, and what […]

Dozens of immigrants who arrived on a cargo ship from Turkey line up for meals in a basketball arena where they have been given temporary shelter, Ierapetra, Crete, Nov. 28, 2014 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

European decision-makers are accustomed to appearing weak. Their collective economic, political and military weight has plummeted in recent years. But they like to think that they retain moral authority. Europe’s governments claim to be virtuous on a wide range of issues. The United Kingdom and the Nordic countries are committed to international aid. Germany is standing up for personal privacy in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. France has shrugged off accusations of neocolonialism to intervene in benighted ex-colonies such as the Central African Republic (CAR). Europe may not be a great power, but it wants to do the […]

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard march during an annual military parade just outside Tehran, Iran, Sept. 22, 2014 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent remarks about the prevalence of corruption in some powerful Iranian institutions suggest that his relations with the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are entering a new and potentially tense phase. On Dec. 7, addressing a conference on bureaucratic efficiency and anti-corruption policies, Rouhani argued that when a single public organization possesses guns, newspapers, websites and power, it is unlikely to remain free of corruption. While he did not name any specific organization, many observers have interpreted his comments as an implicit reference to and criticism of the IRGC. Conservative media outlets affiliated with the Revolutionary […]

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 9, 2014 (AP photo by Mark Wilson).

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal today, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi celebrated the accomplishments of his few, tumultuous months in office. A recent oil-sharing deal between the central government and Iraq’s Kurds, along with purges of corrupt officers from an army routed by militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) last summer, have brought Abadi some good press recently. Meanwhile, the fight against IS goes on, with Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announcing yesterday that U.S.-led airstrikes had killed three senior IS leaders in Iraq in recent weeks. Abadi, who last […]

Gasoline is advertised for $1.99 per gallon at an On Cue station and $2.03 per gallon at the nearby 7-11 in south Oklahoma City, Dec. 5, 2014 (AP photo by Sue Ogrocki).

The dramatic fall in global energy prices over the past several months provides the United States with a window of opportunity to push new solutions to several pressing domestic and foreign policy challenges—if Washington is focused and prepared to act quickly. I proposed one such solution several weeks ago: a reverse-windfall tax to set a “price floor” on domestic energy consumption. Doing so would take advantage of falling prices at the pump to raise funds to sustain the infrastructure that has been constructed over the past decade in the North American nonconventional energy fields, without damaging the U.S. economic recovery. […]

Egyptian youths shout slogans against the country’s ruling military council during a demonstration in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 30, 2011 (AP photo by Bela Szandelszky).

Young people and youthful energy propelled the Arab uprisings that began in 2010. And while the cohesion and impact of vaguely defined “youth” movements have been overstated, they remain the most important potential source of change—the Arab world’s best hope. The small vanguard that drove the original uprisings is growing more organized and more ideologically sophisticated even as, for the time being, it has lost political ground. Egypt has always set regional trends in political thought. Its Tahrir Square uprising raised expectations for democratic transitions throughout the region, although the other Arab revolts brought wildly divergent results, especially for youth. […]

A French Senator casts his ballot in an urn supporting a motion, at left, during a vote on the recognition of a Palestinian state, at the French Senate in Paris, France, Dec. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

Last week, the French Senate voted to recognize Palestine as a state, following a similar vote by the French National Assembly the week before. With the symbolic measure, which only recommends that the French government recognize Palestine, the French lawmakers join their counterparts in the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, all of whom passed similar nonbinding resolutions in recent weeks. Sweden has gone even further, with the government officially recognizing Palestine, a move which caused Israel to withdraw its ambassador. The recent groundswell of support in Europe for a Palestinian state comes as European relations with Israel are at […]

Peacekeepers from the Netherlands serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) keep watch in Gao, Mali, Feb. 26, 2014 (U.N. photo by Marco Dormino).

International crisis management does not evolve in a linear or rational fashion. It develops in fits and starts, almost always in response to specific shocks. Just as the Rwandan genocide and Srebrenica massacre reshaped United Nations peacekeeping in the 1990s, forcing the U.N. to professionalize its management systems and start thinking systematically about protecting civilians, 9/11 led NATO to shift from regional stabilization in the Balkans to long-range expeditionary warfare in Afghanistan. Had U.N. or NATO officials known at the time that, by adapting to these events, they were heading for the quagmires of Darfur and Helmand respectively, they might […]

Smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following airstrikes by the U.S. led coalition, seen from a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, Nov. 17, 2014 (AP photo Vadim Ghirda).

GAZIANTEP, Turkey—Since June, hundreds of airstrikes by the United States and its Arab allies have killed thousands of fighters in Syria belonging to the so-called Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS. But the strikes have also played into the group’s recruitment strategy, drawing thousands of new militants from other Syrian rebel groups, along with ideologues from around the world. If the U.S. and its allies would like to effectively combat IS, they will need to go beyond just airstrikes and work toward a decisive political solution in Syria while countering the group’s narrative about global jihad. When the coalition […]

View of the Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers’ meeting in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 9, 2014 (AP photo by Osama Faisal).

In March 2011, Peninsula Shield, the joint emergency military force of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), crossed the causeway from Saudi Arabia into Bahrain to help the ruling al-Khalifa family crush a popular revolt. Two GCC members, Oman and Kuwait, refused to participate in what was effectively a Saudi-led intervention to prop up a fellow monarch. But earlier this week, at the annual GCC summit in Doha, Qatar, the bloc agreed to expand security cooperation—and this time, there were no abstentions. The Doha summit capped a year of reconciliation among the oil and gas-rich Arab Gulf kingdoms, mainly involving Qatar […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin passes by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti).

Because no two countries in the world share completely overlapping interests, the responsible leader must assess under what conditions disagreement with another state warrants interfering with beneficial ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent summit with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara this past week illustrates the delicate dance of this kind of selective partnership. There are serious divisions between Ankara and Moscow over several fundamental foreign policy issues, ranging from Russia’s longstanding support for the maritime claims of Cyprus, the northern part of which is recognized by Turkey as an independent country, to Turkey’s opposition to the regime of […]

Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the U.N. and the League of Arab States for Syria, during the second round of Syrian peace, Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 13, 2014 (U.N. photo by Jean-Marc Ferré).

This festive season, spare a thought for all the frustrated diplomats and politicians who have spent their time, if often in vain, trying to make the world a less bloody place in 2014. This week brings the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. This year’s prizewinners, the Pakistani champion of girls’ education Malala Yousafazi and Indian children’s rights defender Kailash Satyarthi, are both unimpeachably impressive honorees. Yet traditionalists grumble that the Nobel committee rarely recognizes the diplomats and mediators who engage in the grinding work of negotiating the end to civil wars: The last time an old-school peacemaker earned a […]

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