U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner announces he has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress but that he did not consult the White House, Washington, Jan. 21, 2015 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

Some members of the United States Congress are working hard to short-circuit President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Many legislators, particularly Republicans, have opposed the talks from the beginning—with some advocating a military attack on Iran and others apparently believing that sanctions will compel Tehran to give up its nuclear aspirations. With the great Republican gains in the 2014 midterm elections, this group expanded and moved beyond simply critiquing Obama’s policy. Congressional opponents of a deal with Iran are attempting to pass a new slate of sanctions deliberately designed to torpedo the negotiation process. In a […]

A Houthi Yemeni holding a flag of Hezbollah chants slogans during a rally to show support for their comrades in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 28, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

On the day before Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died last week, the Arabian Peninsula was in turmoil. The government of Yemen, on Saudi Arabia’s southern border, had just resigned in ignominy; the Saudi-backed president had been besieged, humiliated and ultimately toppled by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. It was precisely the kind of face-off between Iran and Saudi Arabia some of us had been predicting. Events in Yemen offered further proof that the historical rivalry that has marked relations between Riyadh and Tehran has entered a new and far more dangerous stage, gradually moving from rhetorical and diplomatic battles to outright armed […]

Israeli soldiers stand next to a mobile artillery unit in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights near the border with Syria, Jan. 28, 2015 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

The threat of another war between Hezbollah and Israel ticked up Wednesday, after two Israeli soldiers were killed in a missile attack on a convoy in the Shebaa Farms, a disputed area controlled by Israel along its border with Lebanon. In response to the attack, which Hezbollah quickly claimed responsibility for, Israel launched airstrikes and artillery into southern Lebanon, killing a Spanish peacekeeper serving with the United Nations monitoring force there. The violence follows the Jan. 18 Israeli airstrike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights that killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general. Hezbollah vowed to retaliate. […]

Newly enthroned King Salman receives dignitaries who arrived to give their condolences for the late King Abdullah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP Photo/SPA).

The House of Saud proclaims that it stands “in the face of those trying to hijack Islam ‎and present it to the world as a religion of extremism, hatred, and terrorism.” In Saudi Arabia, at least, it has increasingly stuck to its word. Afraid that jihadis will overthrow them, Saudi royals have promulgated strict rules for oversight of waqfs, or religious charities, that hitherto funded Islamists at home and abroad. Last October, Saudi citizens were forbidden by decree from supporting the so-called Islamic State (IS), and the kingdom is building a stout 600-mile security fence along its border with Iraq […]

Libyan representative at the Arab League Ashour Abu-Rashed attends an emergency representatives meeting to discuss the conflict in Libya at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

Is nation-building—a concept that most Western policymakers disowned after Iraq and Afghanistan—about to make a comeback? Two weeks ago, I predicted that 2015 could see the deployment of large-scale international stabilization forces in four trouble spots: Libya, northeastern Nigeria, Syria and Ukraine. The prospects for operations in at least two of these cases, Libya and Nigeria, have risen since then. Libya’s factions are engaged in on-and-off peace talks in Geneva, and United Nations officials have publicly discussed options for a military operation to support a political deal. Meanwhile, West African governments have been talking up a new regional operation to […]

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads in Spanish “I am Nisman” during a protest sparked by the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

First came the accusation that sent shockwaves from Argentina to Iran. Then came the news that the man who leveled the charges was dead. Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman always knew his life was at risk, but the drama that marked the final few days of his life ensures that his death will remain—probably forever—the subject of intrigue, suspicion and mistrust. Nisman died this week, but the last chapter in his relentless quest to seek justice in the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentine history has produced at least one outcome that he would find gratifying: It has rekindled interest in what […]

A Belgian security officer stands guard near the Palace of Justice, where suspects wanted in Belgium on terrorism-related charges are set to appear before the federal court, Brussels, Jan. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Following the attack on the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this month, European leaders have called for more sharing of data and intelligence on national security and counterterrorism among European Union member states. As it stands currently, people and goods can travel freely within the EU but data about travelers cannot. Efforts to share information about air travelers in Europe have been repeatedly blocked by the European Parliament on the grounds that any such data-sharing system would violate Europeans’ right to privacy. “Cooperation between EU member states is a very important dimension of European counterterrorism […]

A Palestinian refugee poses for a picture in front of a wall painted with a mural in the Kalandia refugee camp between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 18, 2014 (AP photo by Muhammed Muheisen).

BETHLEHEM, West Bank—Shivering at his desk inside a dilapidated office building housing the Bethlehem branch of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Interior Ministry, Ayman al-Azza feels trapped. More than 20 years ago, al-Azza, now 48, returned from the U.S. to the refugee camp he grew up in ready to build the promised Palestinian state. Drawn by the optimism surrounding the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, more commonly known as the Oslo Accords, tens of thousands of Palestinians living abroad did the same. Two frustrating decades later, al-Azza is ready to call it quits. He’s not […]

A Turkish member of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stands in his sentry box at the entrance of the Turkish Engineer Construction Company stationed near the southern port city of Tyre, Nov. 16, 2006 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

In November 2014, Turkey announced plans to send peacekeepers to participate in U.N.-backed missions in the Central African Republic and Mali. In an email interview, Nil S. Satana, assistant professor at Bilkent University in Ankara and research affiliate at the START Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, discussed Turkey’s contributions to international peacekeeping missions. WPR: In what capacity has Turkey contributed to European Union peacekeeping missions, and how does Turkey decide whether or not to participate in a given mission? Nil S. Satana: In compliance with its framework agreement for participation in EU crisis management operations signed in […]

A suspected Yemeni al-Qaida militant holds an Islamist banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court in Sanaa, Yemen, April 23, 2013 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Even before the smoke cleared from last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, people were struggling to make sense of them. Because the initial victims were associated with Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known to deride Islam, attention fell on questions of free speech and whether it should be limited when religion is involved. But even if the belief that Islam is being insulted influenced the killers at a personal level, the al-Qaida strategists who claim to have directed the Charlie Hebdo attack had other goals. For them, the notion of blasphemy is useful propaganda, but their objectives are much […]

Palestinian female militants of the Islamic Jihad hold their weapons during a rally marking the 26th anniversary of the movement’s foundation in Gaza City, Nov. 1, 2013 (AP photo by Hatem Moussa).

When French officials announced they were searching for a woman as an accomplice in the attacks on a Jewish grocery store in Paris in which four hostages were killed, many in the West shook their heads. How was it possible that a woman, one born and raised in the West, would become a jihadi, a fighter committed to an extremist ideology that is hostile to women? Hayat Boumedienne, it turns out, is only one of a surprisingly large number of Western women who have been joining Islamist groups in recent years. The exact figures are not known, but researchers have […]

Skyline of Amman, Jordan, Nov. 22, 2013 (photo by Flickr user mahmoodphoto licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

The uprisings beginning in late 2010, known as the Arab Spring, shook the Middle East to its foundations. Yet the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan appeared to be a virtual oasis of calm in the midst of turmoil. In a volatile neighborhood, Jordanian stability remains nothing short of remarkable. But is Jordan an oasis or a mirage? Neither characterization seems entirely accurate: Jordan’s stability and security are not figments of the imagination, especially considering the revolutions, civil wars and endemic terrorism that seem to have afflicted most of the country’s neighbors. Yet the calm may not be sustainable, as Jordan confronts […]

A woman maneuvers a donkey cart on a street amid debris of buildings demolished by the Egyptian army on the Egyptian side of border town of Rafah, Nov. 6, 2014 (AP Photo/El Shorouk newspaper, Ahmed Abd El-Latif).

In the months before former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military in the summer of 2013, Cairo was full of rumors. That wasn’t particularly new; Egyptian politics have always thrived on rumor. But the latest in a string of anti-Morsi hearsay at that time, which grew louder as the summer neared, went something like this: To appease his Palestinian brethren in Hamas, Morsi planned to give the group—an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood—a foothold in the Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian prosecutors went even further, after Morsi was in military custody later that year, accusing him of plotting both […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan, May 12, 2014 (AP photo by Toru Hanai).

Earlier this month, Israel approved a plan to strengthen trade ties and boost security cooperation with Japan. In an email interview, Ben-Ami Shillony, a professor emeritus in East Asian studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, discussed Israel-Japan relations. WPR: How extensive are Israel-Japan relations, and what are the main areas of cooperation? Ben-Ami Shillony: Israel and Japan are two highly industrialized democracies, complementing each other in many ways. Despite its small territory and population, Israel is today one of the leading high-tech and startup nations in the world. Japan, the third-largest economy in the world but grappling with an […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin speak during their meeting at the Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, Sept. 29, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky).

Following a meeting in Tehran yesterday with visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called on Russia to assume a more active role in multilateral talks over Iran’s nuclear program, which will resume later this week. Despite fears that the meeting could produce a shift in Russia’s stance in the talks, however, it produced no unusual announcements or initiatives. The lack of drama from Ryabkov’s trip provides yet another welcome sign that Russian threats to abandon the United States on the Iranian nuclear issue are mostly bluff. In November 2014, a senior National Security Council […]

People gather at the site of a bomb explosion, Kano, Nigeria, Nov. 28, 2014 (AP photo by Muhammed Giginyu).

Where will international stabilization forces intervene in 2015? Potential answers include Libya, Syria, Nigeria’s northern borderlands and eastern Ukraine. Restoring order in any one of these places, let alone two or more at once, would be a daunting task. Libya is sinking into full-scale civil war. Syria has been ravaged by four years of violence, leaving over 200,000 dead. The Boko Haram militant group has inflicted repeated defeats on the Nigerian military in a conflict punctuated by massacres by both sides. Russia retains the ability to turn the war in Ukraine on and off at leisure. Few countries outside these […]

Supporters of Beji Caid Essebsi hold his portrait outside his party headquarters after he was elected Tunisian President, Dec. 22, 2014 in Tunis, Tunisia (AP photo by Ilyess Osmane).

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part briefing on Tunisia’s elections. Part I looked at the state of democratic transition with the rise of the Nedaa Tunis party. Part II focuses on economic issues and whether Tunisia’s progress is sustainable. Despite Tunisia’s success navigating its political transition by holding peaceful, fair elections, the challenges of keeping it sustainable remain enormous. If Tunisia’s newly elected leaders don’t deal with those challenges carefully, they could undermine the steady progress Tunisia has made over the past four years. The most alarming issue is the absence of a clear economic agenda in […]

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