Oil derricks on the Caspian Sea beyond the Bibi Heybat Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 3, 2006 (AP photo by Mikhail Metzel).

Russia’s assertive approach to reclaiming a sphere of interest in the post-Soviet space has highlighted the security dilemmas facing Eurasian countries that find themselves outside of any regional military alliance. Although recent attention has focused on Georgia and Ukraine, the Caspian littoral countries have for several years considered themselves vulnerable to renewed Russian assertiveness and have complained about declining U.S. and European engagement in their region. In response to these challenges, as well as in pursuit of new opportunities for regional energy cooperation, Azerbaijan has partnered with Turkey and, at various times, Georgia, Iran and Turkmenistan in recent years to […]

Houthi rebels gather to protest against Saudi-led airstrikes at a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, March 26, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

For almost a week now, fighter jets from a coalition of Sunni Arab militaries have been bombarding military installations across Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to dislodge the Houthis, a religious revivalist movement for the Zaydi form of Shiite Islam largely unique to northern Yemen that has now become a fearsome militia. Yet even as Operation Resolute Storm, as the Saudis have dubbed the campaign, has intensified, the Houthis have continued to push on into the south of the country. The group’s spokesmen have even threatened to launch a campaign in Saudi Arabia, which shares a 1,100-mile border […]

Iraqi security forces hold a flag of the Islamic State group they captured during an operation outside Amirli, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2014 (AP file photo).

Whether by burning a Jordanian fighter pilot alive, massacring Shiites or beheading American hostages, the self-declared Islamic State (IS) has an unprecedented knack for making enemies. IS has also inadvertently achieved what the United States never accomplished during more than a decade in Iraq: the mobilization of a willing coalition of Arab countries to fight jihadi extremists. Still, in the first year of its so-called caliphate, IS’ aggressive expansion appears to have passed its zenith. Both on the internet and on the ground, there are many indicators that the group’s decline has already begun. But IS will likely endure for […]

Chadian soldiers collect weapons seized from Boko Haram fighters, Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

War is back in fashion. Across northern and western Africa and in the Middle East, governments are resorting to force to counter regional threats. Last week, Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, with the backing of nine other members of the Arab League. Members of this coalition are already involved in the air campaign in Iraq and Syria against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Some are also itching to get sucked into the Libyan conflict. In Nigeria, meanwhile, an ad hoc coalition of local armies and foreign mercenaries has taken the offensive against Boko Haram. All […]

Khalid Toukan, chairman of the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission, meets with Sergei Kiriyenko, of the Russian state nuclear energy agency Rosatom, Amman, Jordan, March 24, 2015 (AP photo by Sam McNeil).

Last week, Jordan signed a $10 billion deal with Russia to build its first nuclear power plant. In an email interview, David Schenker, director of the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, discussed Jordan’s nuclear energy policy. WPR: What are Jordan’s current power needs, how does it meet them, and how are they projected to change moving forward? David Schenker: Jordan has 3,380-megawatts (MW) of installed electricity-generation capacity—by comparison, Israel has 14,000-MW—but will need to boost this number significantly to meet growing domestic requirements. Rapid increases in the kingdom’s population—including 1 million Syrian refugees—as […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn after signing an agreement on sharing water from the Nile River, Khartoum, Sudan, March 23, 2015 (AP photo by Abd Raouf).

On Monday in Khartoum, the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed an initial accord on mutual water rights to the Nile River, removing another obstacle to Ethiopia’s massive Grand Renaissance Dam, which has been a source of tension with its neighbors since construction began just 10 miles from Sudan’s border in 2011. But the agreement is about a lot more than water. It may signal a seismic shift in the politics of northeastern Africa and could lead to a new axis of cooperation to manage, if not resolve, conflicts in one of the world’s most turbulent regions. The accord’s […]

A Houthi fighter stands guard as people search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, March 26, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

From the popular uprising that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011 and the subsequent power vacuum to the swift advance of the Houthi rebel movement from northern Yemen into the capital, Sanaa, last summer, Yemen has been described as perpetually “on the brink” in recent years. The presence of a local al-Qaida franchise in Yemen’s southern provinces and an ongoing, separate southern secessionist movement, known as Hirak, have only added to the country’s turmoil and confusion over where it was all headed. Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia, leading a coalition of other Arab states and supported by the […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with other officials before resuming talks over Iran's nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 16, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

With negotiations for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program getting down to the wire, differences between the U.S. and Israel have come to the fore, highlighted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to the U.S. Congress in early March. It would be a mistake to reduce these differences to the personal animosity reported to exist between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. As Steven Metz explained in his WPR column last week, they have more to do with America and Israel’s different strategic cultures. But they also reflect how the dramatic changes in the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif before their advisers resumed negotiations about the future of Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 20, 2015 (State Department photo).

Will there be a draft of a final agreement to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program by the self-imposed deadline at the end of this month? Moreover, is such an agreement a good idea? How one answers these questions depends on one’s perception and tolerance of risk. Is it better to take a chance on what might turn out to be a flawed agreement, or to walk away from the talks even if this increases the chance of military action? For both Iran and the United States, it depends upon which of the following scenarios is seen as the […]

New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, March 23, 2012 (photo by Flickr user yuwenmemon licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, a professor from New York University was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates, where the school recently opened a new campus, after he criticized the country’s labor practices. In an email interview, Stephen Wilkins, director of the integrated doctoral program in business and management at Plymouth University and the former director for professional management programs at Dubai University College, discussed the challenges facing satellite campuses of Western universities. WPR: What are the motivations for establishing satellite campuses of Western universities in places like China and the Persian Gulf, both for the schools and the host countries? […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif walks into another negotiating meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

As negotiators in the Iran nuclear talks strive to meet the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement, which is supposed to be followed by a more detailed implementation package by June, critical external players like Israel and the U.S. Congress have been expressing loud opposition to a deal that they perceive as too lenient on Tehran. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’ expression last week of similar concerns highlights the fact that differences exist even among the six powers—the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China—that are negotiating with Iran. In this context, the quiet if conditional support offered by […]

Migrants shout behind an iron fence at the Foreigners Detention Center in Amygdaleza, Greece, Feb. 14, 2015 (AP Photo/InTime News/Nikos Halkiopoulos).

Earlier this month, the European Commission launched the European Agenda on Migration, intended to be a comprehensive new policy approach to trafficking, labor migration, border security and asylum issues. As European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos has put it, “We need more legal routes for people to arrive to Europe safely, and to avoid deaths in the Mediterranean and other irregular migrant routes. We need more resettlement places.” The announcement comes as the migration crisis in Europe continues unabated. The same day the European Union launched the European Agenda on Migration, Italy rescued over 1,000 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, […]

The U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question, New York, Dec. 15, 2014 (U.N. photo by Mark Garten).

U.S. President Barack Obama’s ability to influence the future of American foreign policy is inevitably shrinking as he approaches the end of his second term. But as president, he still has enormous leverage over the direction of United Nations diplomacy. In the next few weeks or months, Obama could dump two exceptionally sensitive tasks on the U.N.: finding a new way out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and monitoring an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. If the U.N. can successfully accomplish either of these things, the organization will receive a gigantic boost. If it fails on both, the long-term damage to […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

As the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program careen toward the finish line, tensions between U.S President Barack Obama’s administration and Israel remain high. The inability of the United States and Israel to reconcile their positions is not, as some critics contend, the result of Obama’s wavering commitment to Israel’s defense, but of two enduring and deep peculiarities of U.S. strategy: first, its expansiveness, and second, America’s uniquely idealistic strategic culture. These shape not only U.S. cooperation with Israel but also U.S. security partnerships around the world. Unlike Israel, the U.S. has far-ranging, interconnected global concerns. How the U.S. deals with […]

Vietnamese guards of honor march in Hanoi, Vietnam, June 4, 2012 (AP photo by Na Son Nguyen).

Earlier this month, the director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry was in Hanoi to discuss boosting defense ties with the Vietnamese defense minister. In an email interview, Alvite Singh Ningthoujam, a doctoral researcher at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, discussed Israel’s defense relationships in Southeast Asia. WPR: How established are Israel-Vietnam defense ties, and what initiatives are planned or underway to expand them? Alvite Singh Ningthoujam: Defense ties between Israel and Vietnam have been growing significantly, particularly since then-Israeli President Shimon Peres’ visit in November 2011. Given Vietnam’s large army and its obsolete Soviet-era […]

Sandbags protect mosaics from damage caused by further attacks at the Maarra Mosaic Museum, Maarat an-Numan, Syria, March 4, 2015 (photo from the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum).

Four years ago this week, the first protests against President Bashar al-Assad began in Syria. The toll from his regime’s crackdown and the ensuing civil war is staggering: at least 210,000 dead, 50 percent of the population displaced and over 1.2 million homes destroyed, along with half of Syria’s cities, where the lights have effectively gone out. Nearly 11 million Syrians have been forced from their homes. “The country they sought to improve literally no longer exists,” The Washington Post noted on this grim anniversary. The war’s toll on Syria’s cultural heritage, in particular, has recently received more attention, after […]

A multinational group of paratroopers exit a C-130 H3 aircraft over a drop zone during Exercise Flintlock 2014, Agadez, Niger, March 2, 2015  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist).

In the modern security environment, insurgency is the strategy of choice for violent extremists. Even so, the United States insists on clinging to an outdated concept of insurgency steeped more in the anti-colonial struggles of the Cold War than the fluid battlefields where movements like the self-declared Islamic State (IS), Boko Haram and the al-Qaida affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa lurk. During the Cold War, the most dangerous insurgencies blended a leftist ideology with nationalism. This combination gave revolutionary insurgency its reach, appealing to more supporters and recruits than either leftism or nationalism alone could have done. […]

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