Palestinian Hamas supporters protest an Egyptian court ruling that declared Hamas a terrorist organization, Gaza City, March 1, 2015 (AP photo by Khalil Hamra).

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Iran has transferred tens of millions of dollars to Hamas’ military wing over recent months in an effort to revive ties. In an email interview, Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, discussed Hamas’ internal divisions. WPR: What are the key areas of dissension between Hamas’ Gaza-based leadership and its foreign-based leadership? Nathan Thrall: Hamas’ primary challenge over the past several years has been navigating a rapidly changing regional landscape characterized by growing Sunni-Shiite sectarianism, as well as by intra-Sunni fighting. Hamas is a Sunni organization connected to the […]

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko watches a military exercise of the Ukrainian armed forces in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine, April 25, 2015 (Presidential Press Service photo by Mykola Lazarenko via AP).

The average European leader probably lacks the number of brain cells required to process the sheer amount of bad news he or she currently receives on a daily basis. This is not because they are stupid, but because there is so much dire news to digest. In the past two weeks, over 1,000 migrants have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean; there has been fresh fighting in Ukraine; and the Greek government has careened toward total bankruptcy. The European Union has responded to this torrent of crises with a mixture of big talk, half-measures and fraying tempers. At a summit […]

A Pakistani Honor Guard at the Army’s Martyr’s Monument, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Jan. 21, 2010 (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison).

Last week, Pakistan agreed to send ships to help enforce a U.N.-approved arms embargo against Houthi rebels in Yemen, but declined a request by Saudi Arabia to send attack aircraft or troops to join the Saudi-led coalition there. In an email interview, Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent security analyst in Pakistan, discussed Pakistan’s military capabilities. WPR: What are the Pakistani military’s size, training priorities, capabilities and operational strengths? Ayesha Siddiqa: The Pakistani military is a volunteer force and the seventh-largest military in the world. It is primarily dedicated to conventional warfighting. There are 617,000 active duty personnel in the Pakistani military, […]

Yemeni women pray during a rally marking the third anniversary of the revolution, Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 7, 2014 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

When Kawkab Althaibani demonstrated in Change Square in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, during the 2011 protests against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, her heart, she recalls, “was full of hope.” Today, six weeks after Houthi militias surrounded her house in Sanaa looking for her husband, an outspoken critic of the group, she is in Istanbul, where she fled the insecurity of Yemen’s civil war to seek asylum for her and her family. Althaibani is just one of many Yemeni women who once believed that the 2011 uprising was the harbinger of a more moderate, more inclusive and peaceful Yemen. Despite violence from […]

Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters regain control of the northern neighborhoods, after overnight heavy clashes with Islamic State group militants, Ramadi, Iraq, April 23, 2015 (AP photo).

When U.S. President Barack Obama announced his strategy for countering the so-called Islamic State (IS) last September, it was met with an immediate volley of criticism, most of it asserting that the president’s approach was too timid. Incensed by IS’ horrors, the critics called for large-scale American military action. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, demanded that the Obama administration “destroy” IS within 90 days. When told by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that this was impossible, Cruz issued a press release saying the general was wrong. Now that the 2016 presidential race has kicked off, […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a welcome ceremony at the new Presidential Palace, Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

On April 14, Turkey broke ground on its first nuclear power plant, a controversial $20 billion project in Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast. Like Iran’s Bushehr plant, the only operational nuclear power reactor in the Middle East, the reactor at Akkuyu will be constructed by Russia. Moscow’s Middle Eastern sales drive doesn’t end there. It extends to recent nuclear cooperation agreements of varying degrees with Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Saudi Arabia. With little notice, Russia is on the verge of becoming the nuclear Wal-Mart of the Middle East. But if across the region Russian nuclear exports come with many advantages, […]

Iranians celebrate the announcement that Iran and six world powers have reached a preliminary nuclear agreement, Tehran, Iran, April 2, 2015 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

The recent framework agreement between Iran and the P5+1—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China—removed a major hurdle toward resolving the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program. Though a final deal between Iran and the West before the self-imposed June 30 deadline is far from guaranteed, it cannot be excluded and now seems more reachable than ever before. But would such an agreement also bring about a broader rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran? And what changes to Iran’s regional policy can be expected if a nuclear deal is reached and sanctions on the Islamic Republic are […]

U.N. peacekeepers from Niger stand at attention at the Niger Battalion Base, Ansongo, Mali, Feb. 25, 2015 (U.N. photo Marco Dormino).

The United Nations is an organization that is willing to learn from failure. This is fortunate, because it fails quite a lot. The U.N. has absorbed the lessons of previous catastrophes, such as the Balkan wars and the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, and now deploys peacekeepers far more professionally than in that nightmarish era. In the near future, it will face a reckoning over more recent failures, as its efforts to bring peace to countries destabilized by the Arab revolutions—most notably in Syria but also in Libya, Yemen and Mali—have veered off course, costing thousands of lives in the […]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gestures during an interview with the BBC, Damascus, Syria, Feb. 10, 2015 (AP photo/SANA).

In late March, Syria’s northern provincial capital of Idlib fell to Islamist rebels. A week later, both the self-declared Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, advanced into the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in a suburb just six miles south of central Damascus. Despite these setbacks for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, he has continued a choreographed international media campaign, going on French television for his latest interview with a Western news outlet so that he could present himself as the necessary partner for a political solution to Syria’s civil war, assert his strength and deny […]

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is welcomed by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi, India, March 25, 2015 (photo from the website of the Prime Minister of India).

In late March, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, became the first head of state from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to visit India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office last year. The visit came at a time when India is looking to renegotiate its long-term gas contracts with Qatar, given the opening up of other sources of supply around the world. Qatar is still India’s primary liquefied natural gas supplier and also hosts 600,000 Indian nationals, most of whom work as migrant laborers, which in recent years has led to India extending security guarantees to its […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shake hands at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

One of the most salient criticisms of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent overtures to Iran and Cuba is that neither country, as a condition for engagement, has agreed to undertake fundamental reforms of their internal political systems or alter the general direction of their foreign policies. Indeed, the leaders of both countries have claimed victory in defying those types of demands. In theory, this need not be a setback. When Richard Nixon traveled to China in 1972, Mao Zedong did not repudiate his ideology, release any political prisoners or make any commitment to pursuing liberal political or economic reforms. Nixon, […]

U.S. President Barack Obama walks out to speak in the Rose Garden of the White House about the breakthrough in the Iranian nuclear talks, April 2, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled a diplomatic framework designed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Opposition to the negotiations in Washington, which was intense all along, exploded, soon collapsing into near-hysteria. Critics compared the framework to the 1938 Munich agreement—the widely accepted gold standard for weakness and appeasement. Opposition to the Iran framework agreement has many sources. One of the most important is that, after several decades with no major arms control agreements, the American public and its elected representatives no longer understand the complex and often counterintuitive logic of arms control. Paradoxically, the more hostile and […]

Saudi King Salman meets with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 1, 2015 (AP Photo/Saudi Press Agency).

While Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has his eyes on Yemen, with plans apparently hatched to commit Egyptian troops to a possible Saudi-led ground invasion there, the Sinai Peninsula still smolders. Last Thursday, militants attacked checkpoints in the northern Sinai near the Israel-Gaza border, killing 15 soldiers and two civilians. Threats to Egypt’s domestic security linger, but last week, el-Sisi said that Egypt was involved in Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen because “it was not possible for us to abandon the security of the Gulf.” That being said, Saudi Arabia and its fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation […]

U.S. President Barack Obama walks to the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, to speak about the breakthrough in the Iranian nuclear talks, April 2, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Is U.S. President Barack Obama the last great Cold War statesman? Obama aspired to be a transformational figure in U.S. politics. Yet when it comes to international affairs, he often harks back to America’s old confrontation with the Soviet Union. Justifying the last-minute push for a nuclear deal with Iran last week, he borrowed a line from former President John F. Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” After Iran agreed to the framework deal Thursday, Obama returned to the history books. Speaking at the White House, he quoted Kennedy again and […]

Iranians celebrate a framework agreement on their country’s nuclear program between the Islamic Republic and six world powers, Tehran, Iran, April 3, 2015 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

The framework agreement announced last week by Iran and the P5+1 states—the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany—on how to regulate Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program faces many obstacles before it can be finalized as a formal accord by the self-imposed June 30 deadline. To survive the onslaught of spoilers on all sides, however, the permanent deal will need to be sound not only on the technical level, in terms of the verifiable limits it places on Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability, but also on the political level. Nevertheless, the successful outcome of the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland has revived […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walks by an honor guard at the Cotroceni presidential palace, Bucharest, Romania, April 1, 2015 (AP photo by Vadim Ghirda).

It wasn’t very long ago that Turkey was held up as an example of a country in the midst of a great democratic transformation—a nation steadily enhancing democratic norms, finding easy coexistence between Islam and democracy and moving optimistically in the direction of membership in the European Union. Today, it’s difficult to find many people expressing hope for Turkey’s prospect of joining the EU. Even more troubling, there is a growing consensus that Turkey is visibly and rapidly drifting away from democracy. The driving force behind the country’s dramatic change of direction is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, April 2, 2015, (AP photo by Brendan Smialowski).

As The Associated Press reports, “After marathon negotiations, the United States, Iran and five other world powers announced a deal Thursday outlining limits on Iran’s nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward a comprehensive agreement within three months.” A fact sheet distributed by the U.S. State Department provides the key parameters of the framework nuclear deal, with surprisingly specific terms. Iran has agreed to reduce its number of installed centrifuges by approximately two-thirds and not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years—a level suitable as fuel for nuclear power plants, but […]

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