Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after a visit to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, on Republic Day in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

Turks will head to the polls again this Sunday, Nov. 1, to vote for a new parliament, after negotiations to form a coalition government failed following an inconclusive election in June. The vote comes amid considerable unrest in Turkey: In July, a two-year cease-fire agreement between the government and the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) collapsed, while a cell of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in southeastern Turkey has attacked several targets near the Syrian border and, recently, deeper in Turkey, including two suicide bombings that killed more than 100 people in Ankara earlier this month. Despite this unrest, opinions polls […]

Two of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Task Group's F/A-18A Hornets during a mission into Syria, Sept. 14 2015 (Australian Department of Defence photo).

Although far removed from Australia’s traditional areas of interest in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, the Middle East continues to be a focus of Australian foreign policy and military strategy. But its own security interests in the region have nearly always been defined in terms of its security relationship with the United States. One of only four countries to have participated in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Australia was more recently among the first countries to follow Washington’s lead in offering renewed military assistance to Iraq after the fall of Mosul to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in June […]

A ground crew member reports to pilots that their jet is ready for a combat mission, Hemeimim airbase, Syria, Oct. 22, 2015 (Russian Defense Ministry photo).

Russia began its military intervention in Syria a month ago, initially declaring that its aim was to take on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But instead, it immediately started targeting groups that pose the most threat to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, mainly the Islamist coalition of rebel and jihadi groups known as Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest, which includes the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, as well as more moderate groups backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even the United States. Russia hopes to consolidate the territory controlled by Assad’s forces, which have also launched an offensive on rebel groups […]

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 1994 (Israeli Government Press Office photo).

Americans often take for granted that events that mark U.S. history are as indelibly imprinted in people’s memories around the world as they are in the U.S. For those of a certain generation, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is one such event. For younger Americans, it’s the attacks of Sept. 11. But at times, the reverse is also true, when historical events that occur elsewhere in the world become indelibly imprinted on American minds. That is the case for me and Nov. 4, 1995: the day Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv. I can still […]

Iraqi security forces and allied Popular Mobilization Forces prepare to shell Islamic State group positions at an oil field outside Beiji, Iraq, Oct. 24, 2015 (AP photo).

Developments over the past year in Syria and Iraq suggest many parallels between the two countries. From the separatism of the Kurds and the fight against the self-declared Islamic State to the expansion of Russia’s presence and influence, the two states seem to be following similar trajectories. But a closer look suggests quite distinct realities. Syria clearly seems to be headed toward implosion, even if the bigger picture of chaos obscures at least one smaller one that could inspire optimism for the future. By contrast, Iraq’s narrative today is not one-dimensional—in fact, the signs point in many directions: The country […]

Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, briefs the Security Council, New York, July 29, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

Do Europeans still make good peacemakers? Europe’s militaries have been in long-term decline since the end of the Cold War. But the continent’s diplomats and politicians retain a prominent role in international crisis management. This is nowhere more obvious than in the Middle East and North Africa. The United Nations currently has seven top-level envoys working on conflicts in the region. Five of them are Europeans. The U.N. has, for example, decided that a German official will replace a Spanish diplomat as its envoy on Libya. Staffan de Mistura, who holds double Italian-Swedish nationality, still has the ugly task of […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at the opening ceremony of the new section of the Suez Cana, Ismailia, Egypt, Aug. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

Consider three pieces of bad news from Egypt this week: low voter turnout—likely just as the government intended—in a sham election; the resignation of Egypt’s central bank governor as the currency continues to be devalued; and the arrest of a senior leader and chief financier of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Each development was a reminder of the state of Egypt under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, a strongman who has ruled unilaterally without a parliament since 2013. The hope of democratic reform seems farther away than ever. The economy, in free fall since the popular uprising that led to Hosni Mubarak’s ouster […]

Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani arrives to support Kurdish forces as they head to battle Islamic State militants, Sinjar, Iraq, Dec. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Zana Ahmed).

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the times of plenty and stability are over. The autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq has been hailed for most of the past decade as an emerging Dubai in Mesopotamia and the only success story of the Iraq war. But it is descending farther into civil strife, agonizing economic recession and a political stalemate that threatens to paralyze one of America’s most potent allies in the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Last Monday, Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), fired four ministers of his government, all of them members of the […]

A Palestinian kicks a tear gas canister that was fired by Israeli troops during clashes near Ramallah, West Bank, Oct. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Majdi Mohammed).

The Israel-Palestine conflict, with all its recurring violence, often seems like the broken record of international affairs. Still this latest wave of lone-wolf Palestinian terrorist attacks followed by predictably harsh Israeli reprisals—and mutual recriminations from both sides that the other is responsible—should come as no surprise. With the collapse of peace talks, the re-election of a right-wing Israeli government opposed to a two-state solution, the continued corruption and dysfunction of the Palestinian leadership and the lack of any realistic path to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the chickens have once again come home to roost in the […]

Smoke rises after shelling by Syrian army backed by Russia airstrikes, Damascus, Syria, Oct. 14, 2015 (Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP).

Russia’s combat operations in Syria, barely three weeks old, are the kind of expeditionary campaign that Moscow has not undertaken since the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. This intervention is the consequence of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama both following through on the original, respective paths they chose in Syria. While the United States sought to avoid military entanglement and stay out of the conflict—doing the bare minimum to appease regional allies in their efforts to force Bashar al-Assad out of power—Russia remained consistent in its belief that the Syrian state represents the only viable and legitimate […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greets Russian President Vladimir Putin following the latter’s address at the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session, New York, Sept. 28, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

Will Vladimir Putin ever be satisfied? As the Russian president has launched his small wars in Ukraine and Syria over the past two years, countless pundits have tried to guess his long-term goals. Some believe that he is a megalomaniac, intent on an open-ended campaign against the West. Others discount him as a nervous nationalist, focused on stabilizing Russia’s disorderly southern flank. Cynics dismiss him as an opportunist, seizing chances to expand his influence whenever they arise. In New York, many diplomats and analysts affiliated with the United Nations take a fourth view: Putin is a conservative with a profound […]

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Kobani, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP photo).

Whenever it seems that the war in Syria can’t get more tragic and dangerous, it does. That conflict has already created the worst humanitarian disaster of a young century and empowered the barbaric self-declared Islamic State. And it could become worse. The Obama administration has avoided an entangling involvement, instead providing refugee aid and supporting some of the less repellent rebel groups, in the hopes that the combatants conclude that an outright military victory is out of reach and accept a power-sharing arrangement. That was a long shot from the beginning and became even less likely as the hatred between […]

An elderly man sits under a mural depicting a Saudi-led airstrike hitting Sanaa with Arabic writing that reads, "using internationally banned bombs," in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

The war in Yemen has pushed the country to the brink of famine, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program, while Yemenis are dying daily because of a lack of access to clean water supplies, basic medicine and even affordable transport to medical facilities. Yet despite a mounting international outcry, the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen is unlikely to have much of an impact on the calculus of the main players in the conflict, or their foreign backers. In truth, a solution to Yemen’s humanitarian crisis will only come once the warring parties believe a political solution works in their […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan salutes during a meeting with the leaders of villages at the presidential palace, Ankara, Turkey, Sept. 29, 2015 (AP photo/Presidential Press Service).

In the aftermath of last weekend’s horrific bombings in Ankara, the Turkish people and international observers are trying to understand what went wrong with Turkey, a country that until very recently embodied the hopes of a more peaceful and interconnected Middle East. The answer inevitably leads to one man: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The evidence in the twin suicide attack that killed almost 100 people, making it the deadliest in Turkey’s modern history, points to the self-declared Islamic State. And yet, many people, searching for the bigger picture in Turkey’s crisis, have turned angrily in Erdogan’s direction. Turkey’s president, until […]

The launching of an Emad long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile in an undisclosed location, Iran, Oct. 11, 2015 (Iranian Defense Ministry photo via AP).

While Iran’s nuclear program has topped the headlines in recent years, its missile program has mostly remained off the radar, with the exception of discussions of a potential Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which could be used against the continental United States. Iran’s missile program, however, is relatively transparent, so it is remarkable that notable improvements in the range, accuracy and lethality of its arsenal have received far less attention than its nuclear ambitions, especially as these developments signal the missions Iran has in mind for its missiles. In particular, they suggest that unlike North Korea, Iran is in no […]

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he leaves Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, Oct. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Denis Poroy).

President Barack Obama’s interview Sunday evening with Steve Kroft of the CBS News program “60 Minutes” offered a revealing insight into the foreign policy mindset of the Washington Beltway—not due to anything that Obama said, but rather due to the questions posed to him by Kroft. When asking about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military interventions in Ukraine and Syria, Kroft directly challenged Obama. “You said a year ago,” said Kroft, “that the United States . . . leads. We’re the indispensable nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.” Obama tried, in vain, to point out that Putin’s moves […]

The head of the Tunisian Bar Association and one of the four winners of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, Mohamed Fadhel Mafoudh, at his office, Tunis, Tunisia, Oct. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Hassene Dridi).

Tunisia has received more media coverage than usual this week, after the National Dialogue Quartet was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.” The award confounded observers; bets were on Germany’s Angela Merkel or Pope Francis. That’s because, with the exception of Tunisia’s closest followers, few had actually heard of the Quartet—which comprised a labor union, an employers’ organization,* a human rights group and a lawyers’ association—or understood its role in advancing Tunisia’s democratic transition. The Quartet, which was spearheaded […]

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