Graduation ceremony of Zayed University, Qatar, May 27, 2015 (Zayed University photo).

Globally, the legal, political and social progress achieved by women over the past half-century has been attributed to the democratization of societies and the emergence of more widely accepted human rights norms. This is not the case with respect to the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These countries have confronted rapid internal and external changes in recent years, and they have strived to reform themselves on a variety of fronts, including the economy, labor and some areas of politics. Yet despite some progress in these other domains, Gulf […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits across from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other advisers, Vienna, Austria, June 27, 2015 (State Department photo).

Welcome to what could turn out to be the most important, and potentially the most destructive, week in international diplomacy since the end of the Cold War. In the next seven days, we are meant to reach three major turning points in global affairs. On Tuesday, major powers are meant to conclude an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. On the same day, Greece is supposed to make a 1.6 billion euro payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but may fail to do so. And on Sunday, Greek voters will vote in a referendum on the latest bailout […]

Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends a ceremony at the Diwan royal palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Yoan Valat).

The release of tens of thousands of diplomatic cables that Wikileaks says it obtained from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry have added detail and color to long suspected Saudi behavior in the Middle East. Mostly, that means money and how Riyadh wields it. Samir Geagea, a Lebanese politician who is a vocal critic of Syrian President of Bashar al-Assad—and a staunch defender in the Lebanese media of Saudi Arabia—begged for more money from Riyadh to support his flailing political party and former Christian militia, the Lebanese Forces. The Saudi ambassador in Beirut wrote favorably back to Riyadh that Geagea “expressed readiness […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 18, 2015 (Official Kremlin photo).

Russia’s joint naval exercises with Egypt in the Mediterranean earlier this month put into sharper relief its resurgent ties in the Middle East, where it is steadily reviving a meaningful role for itself. Russia has negotiated a slew of new arms sales and security cooperation agreements, both with Iraq and Egypt; is one of the chief arbiters of Syria’s fate, as a backer of President Bashar al-Assad; and remains an important component of the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. Despite a toxic relationship with the West over the crisis in Ukraine, Moscow’s foreign policy is not inherently inimical to U.S. […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 18, 2015 (Official Kremlin photo).

At last week’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian and Greek officials negotiated a framework agreement for Greece’s participation in the Turkish Stream gas pipeline that, if realized, will transport Russian gas via the Black Sea and Turkey to European markets. The deal comes just a year after the European Union adopted a comprehensive strategy to enhance its energy security, with a key objective being to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian energy sources. However, if the Russia-Greece deal and other developments of the past year are any indication, this campaign could take decades […]

A close-up view of the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees, July 18, 2013 (State Department photo).

At the beginning of June, around 1,000 Syrian refugees found themselves stranded in the desert just inside Jordan, with precarious access to food and water. Their flight from Syria was driven by the desire to escape that country’s ongoing civil war, which has helped generate the largest refugee crisis since the aftermath of World War II. But their plight in the desert was the immediate result of Jordan gradually tightening its border to Syrian refugees, even as it remains officially open to them. It may be a sign of things to come, as the governments bordering Syria tire of hosting […]

A Kurdish peshmerga fighter fires a weapon towards an Islamic State Group position, overlooking the town of Sinjar, northern Iraq, Jan. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

SINJAR, Iraqi Kurdistan—The crash of the incoming mortar came from way behind the Kurdish lines; the shells were landing in the rear. Yet the excited and somewhat fearful commotion among the peshmerga fighters was instant. Men were looking through the peek holes at the Islamic State (IS) lines a few hundred yards away, trying to locate the mortar. Kurdish officers were on the phone, calling for a coalition airstrike. The warplane soon came roaring in, but by then the mortar had disappeared among the houses. A second coalition jet targeted an IS fighting unit—the next, a tank. The Kurds rely […]

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) conducts a training exercise in riot control for its peacekeepers in Juba, South Sudan, May 7, 2015 (U.N. photo by JC McIlwaine).

Policy papers from the United Nations rarely make for scintillating reading. Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released “Uniting Our Strengths for Peace,” a new report by an expert panel on the future of peace operations. Running to over 90 pages and full of familiar bromides such as “the universal legitimacy of the United Nations is one of its greatest strengths,” this does not at first glance seem like an exceptionally enticing text. On closer inspection, it proves to be a subtly subversive summary of what is wrong with peace operations, and indeed the entire U.N., today. Ban convened the panel […]

Screenshot of a YouTube video of an alleged Islamic State boot camp graduation, taken on Oct. 13, 2014 (photo from Flickr user hinkelstone licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

A recent memorandum by Undersecretary of State Richard Stengel painted an ominous picture of America’s failure to counter propaganda from the so-called Islamic State (IS). Across the board, the U.S. narrative is, as Stengel put it, “being trumped.” To a great extent this competition of narratives takes place on the Internet, particularly in social media. The Islamic State has made mistakes in that venue, but a number of indicators—its continued flow of recruits, the number of other extremist movements seeking to affiliate with it and its ability to inspire attacks in the West—demonstrate that the United States is losing on […]

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi with United Nations special envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon as they arrive for a meeting, Chigi Palace, Rome, March 11, 2015 (AP photo by Alessandro Di Meo, Ansa).

In the winter of 2013, then-Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta came out of a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama with the idea that the United States, too busy with other issues, had delegated the solution of the turmoil in Libya to Italy. This perception soon percolated into both the foreign policy and the defense establishments in Rome: Libya was now important not just because of geography and longstanding ties, but also because it was one of the few areas of the world in which the rest of the West would look to Italy for a solution. Yet two years […]

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale looks through binoculars during a live-fire demonstration of advanced TOW-II missile, Taybeh, Lebanon, June 10, 2015 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

Last week, the Lebanese army tested advanced TOW-II missiles, its newest weapon supplied by the United States. The live-fire demonstration took place at an army base in the Baalbek region, not far from the Syrian border. In late May, the U.S. agreed to provide more than 200 of the anti-tank guided missiles and dozens of launchers, at a cost of over $10 million, to help guard Lebanon’s border from Islamist militants and the threat of spillover from Syria’s civil war. Lebanese soldiers have come under attack by militants near the Syrian border in the past two years, including from the […]

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People’s Party, speaks during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, June 15, 2015 (AP photo).

Among the many questions left unanswered by the surprise results of Turkey’s recent parliamentary elections are whether and how the country’s foreign policy will change now that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has lost its ability to single-handedly control the legislature. On June 7, Turkish voters delivered a stunning blow to the AKP and its founder, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After having handed him more than a decade of landslide victories, voters denied Erdogan the two-thirds supermajority that would have opened the way for the AKP to rewrite the constitution without submitting it to a referendum, making Erdogan […]

Hezbollah fighters stand guard during a rally commemorating "Liberation Day," which marks the withdrawal of the Israeli army from southern Lebanon in 2000, Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, May 24, 2015 (AP photo by Mohammed Zaatari).

The political change heralded by the 2010-2011 wave of protests across the Middle East and North Africa known as the Arab Spring never reached Lebanon, but the small Mediterranean country of 4 million has been suffering from the repercussions of those momentous events ever since. To the north, fighters and goods are still being smuggled to embattled Syria. To the northeast, a war of attrition is underway with Islamist militants, who have already seized vast swathes of territory from northern Syria and Iraq. To the south, there is the ever-volatile border with Israel. Indeed, in all directions, Lebanon’s fate is […]

Syrian refugees mass at the Turkish border while they flee intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, June 15, 2015 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

Nearly 60 million people last year were displaced by war, conflict and persecution, the highest number ever on record, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) annual report today. The largest source of refugees is Syria, with 3.9 million Syrian refugees in 107 countries. Syria overtook Afghanistan in the U.N.’s ranking; Afghanistan had previously held that position for more than 30 years. As U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonia Guterres said, “We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required […]

Supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party wave flags with pictures of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during a rally, Istanbul, Turkey, June 8, 2015 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

They had predicted success with breezy self-confidence, but even the leaders of the Kurdish-rooted Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were likely surprised by their historic gains in Turkey’s parliamentary elections earlier this month. Sweeping 13 percent of the national vote, the HDP became the first majority-Kurdish party to formally enter parliament in Turkish history, pushing beyond the 10 percent election threshold that had forced Kurds to field independent candidates in elections past. For HDP voters, victory seemed all the sweeter given the blow it delivered to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to secure a […]

Boys take a walk at Azraq refugee camp in Azraq, Jordan, March 10, 2015 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

The world is finally waking up to the fact that the international humanitarian system is falling apart. European nations are bickering over how to handle Syrian refugees, while Southeast Asian nations grapple with the outflow of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Liberal commentators see parallels with the flight of Jews from Germany in the 1930s. “It is clear that the United States and other developed countries must find more room for refugees,” The New York Times editorialized this weekend, adding that United Nations agencies that help those who are suffering should be “amply funded.” U.N. officials reading these lines are likely […]

Iraqi army soldiers deploy in front of a court run by the Islamic State group after a military operation to regain control of the town of Sadiyah in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 24, 2014 (AP photo).

Editor’s note: World Politics Review partnered with the Global Dispatches podcast and its host, Mark Leon Goldberg, to present an interview with WPR columnist Steven Metz on the evolving U.S. strategy against the so-called Islamic State. Critics claim that U.S. President Barack Obama is not “aiming for decisive victory” against the so-called Islamic State (IS), but simply trying to contain the conflict and turn it over to his successor. This charge may be true, but the widespread assumption that it is an error says more about the condition of America’s discourse on global security than about the wisdom of Obama’s […]

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