A U.S. Air Force captain at a pre-flight check of a F-15E Strike Eagle at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., June 16, 2011 (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes).

American security strategy often twists and shifts. The White House changes hands; partners come and go; enemies emerge and fade; and threats rise and fall. But throughout all the change, there are constants, and none are more enduring than a preference for indirect applications of military force, particularly airpower. There are good reasons for this. Relying on airpower, rather than direct methods that put U.S. troops in close proximity to enemies, lowers American casualties. Airpower exploits America’s technological superiority. And it’s easier to disengage, should things go badly, if the United States does not have troops on the ground. Aircraft […]

An Indonesian woman with a poster outside a Starbucks cafe attacked by Islamic State militants, Jakarta, Indonesia, Jan. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Achmad Ibrahim).

Attacks earlier this month in Jakarta by Indonesia’s Islamic State affiliate and a claim of allegiance to the jihadi group from a militant collective in the Philippines seem to show the Islamic State’s ascendency in yet another region outside its core operating base in Syria and Iraq. Confounding efforts to contain its global expansion, the Islamic State appears to have an increasing number of territories, or wilayat, and organizations nominally under its authority, amid an uptick in attacks against Western interests carried out at its behest. On this basis, it’s tempting to conclude that the Islamic State’s reach and successful […]

Supporters of Egyptian President el-Sisi mark Police Day, which falls on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 25, 2016 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

The fifth anniversary of Egypt’s failed democratic revolution came and went this week, without mass protests or visible signs of popular upheaval. There was, however, one unmistakable sign that the symbolically charged date was approaching: Security forces had gone into overdrive in the days and weeks leading up to the anniversary, intensifying a crackdown that reveals the one truth that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi would prefer to keep quiet: Although the revolution has been effectively crushed, el-Sisi, it seems, is afraid. Five years after the uprising, the best Egyptians can do is try to find lessons from the tumult that […]

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Ibrahim Naimi at the 10th Arab Energy Conference, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of falling oil and commodities prices on resource-exporting countries. In a recent interview with The Economist, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, talked about the kingdom’s plans to roll out avalue-added tax, as well as the possibility of privatizing Aramco, the state oil company, as ways to increase non-oil revenues in the face of the drop in global energy prices. In an email interview, Robert Looney, distinguished professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, discusses the economic and […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Sergei Karpukhin).

“You’ve got to fake it till you make it!” Long the refrain of aspiring actors and entrepreneurs who have to pretend to be famous or rich well before they are either, this might also be a good motto for international peacemakers grappling with the Syrian war. This week, diplomats and United Nations officials are supposed to gather in Geneva for talks between the Syrian government and a cluster of opposition groups. It is still not absolutely clear when the conclave will begin. It was meant to start today. Now it looks like it might be Wednesday or later. The meeting […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tehran, Iran (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader photo via AP).

Earlier this month, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released its first-ever Arab Policy Paper, which coincided with President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran last week. Xi’s trip was the first visit to the region by a Chinese head of state since former President Hu Jintao went to Saudi Arabia in 2009. Five years before that visit, Hu established the China-Arab Cooperation Forum (CACF), a multilateral platform to institutionalize the relationship between Beijing and the 22 members of the Arab League. Since its formation, the CACF has largely fulfilled its mission, with the forum meeting 12 times […]

Rapper Cheikh 'Keyti' Sene during a taping of the 'Journal Rappé,' Dakar, Senegal, Sept. 10, 2013 (AP photo by Jane Hahn).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein and host Peter Dörrie discuss implementation day for the Iran deal, Chinese drones and elections in Benin. For the report, Amanda Fortier, a journalist and communications consultant, joins us to explain the relationship between hip-hop youth culture and politics in Senegal. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant WPR articles: For Iran’s Relations Beyond the Middle East, a Moment of Flux With Sanctions Lifted, Will Iran Seek Engagement or Confrontation? Despite Nuclear Deal, Managing Expectations Still Key for U.S.-Iran Relations China Is Suddenly a Leading Exporter of Armed Drones Amid […]

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj at the President's residence, Jerusalem, Jan. 18, 2016 (AP photo by Dan Balilty).

Relations between Israel and major Western countries have become increasingly contentious in recent years, owing largely to disagreements over Israel’s approach to its conflict with the Palestinians. Ties with the U.S. and Europe remain of paramount importance to Israel. But the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a concerted effort to look toward major Asian countries, if not to replace Israel’s traditional European connections, then at least to lessen the country’s diplomatic and economic dependence on the West. The refocused efforts have started yielding results, most notably in transforming relations with India, China and Japan. To be sure, […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani surrounded by lawmakers as he arrives at the parliament, Tehran, Iran, Jan. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Last week marked the formal implementation of the agreement signed last summer by Iran and the international community to roll back Tehran’s nuclear program. Although the news did not create as much of a fuss as the actual signing of the agreement in July, in the larger context of international relations, it’s still a pretty big deal. The agreement is a critical step forward for nuclear nonproliferation efforts and for the upholding of global norms and the will of the international community. It’s a victory for the notion that intractable international issues can be resolved via diplomacy and negotiations, rather […]

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria, Jan. 16, 2016 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

It was a rare week of good news in the Middle East. Iran met its obligations to formally launch all the provisions of the nuclear agreement agreed to with world powers last July, an early demonstration of its commitment to radically restructure its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. Tehran also surprised many observers with the quick release of 10 U.S. sailors detained last week after they inadvertently navigated into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. Finally, in the latest step forward in building a more functional relationship between Washington and Tehran, the two sides completed secret negotiations […]

Syrian refugees wait to be approved to get into Jordan, near the town of Ruwaished, Jan. 14, 2016 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

Syria diplomacy is back. International alarm over the self-proclaimed Islamic State has given new urgency to a political settlement that would bring some stability to Syria after nearly five years of civil war, as well as align the country’s warring parties and interested world powers against the jihadi group. The International Syria Support Group, which includes the United States, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, has invested in a diplomatic process that made seeming progress in Vienna in November. In a joint statement subsequently endorsed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, the group called for U.N.-supervised negotiations later […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomes Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, Tehran, Iran, Nov. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

This past week, Iran satisfied its obligations for implementing the nuclear deal reached last July with world powers, earning it relief from sanctions. The prisoner swap with the United States that followed hinted that a new era of possible cooperation between Washington and Tehran could be in the cards as the result of last year’s hard-earned diplomatic victory. But how relations will unfold, and how they will fare under the next U.S. administration, remain unclear. Iran’s other relationships are also in flux. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran following an attack on its embassy in Tehran […]

This photo released by a militant website shows a flag of the Islamic State group placed on a damaged helicopter, Tadmur military airbase, Palmyra, Syria, May 31, 2015 (Militant website via AP).

Once again the Obama administration is revising its programs to counter and defeat the self-styled Islamic State, particularly on the battlefield of ideas. With no apparent decline in supporters flocking to the movement nor any shortage of unhinged murderers inspired by it, State Department officials announced that they were creating a new “Global Engagement Center” to combat the Islamic State online. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama met with social media-savvy representatives from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to convince them to join the effort. This is simply the latest episode of a series now deep into reruns: The United States fiddles with […]

The signing of a U.N.-sponsored deal forming a unity government and aiming to end Libya's conflict, Dec. 17, 2015, Sikhrat, Morocco (AP photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar).

On Dec. 17, dozens of delegates from Libya’s two rival parliaments, as well as from local municipalities and civil society, signed a United Nations-brokered deal to form a national unity government and hopefully halt the country’s long descent into unrest and civil war. Talks had been ongoing for almost a year, with plenty of obstacles along the way. But almost a month on, the agreement’s prospects are decidedly mixed. The nascent Government of National Accord has yet to be fully formed. A nine-member presidential council is up and running, although working mostly from Tunis. Overall, the power-sharing process outlined in […]

Egypt's parliament, packed with supporters of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, meeting for the first time in three years, Cairo, Jan. 10, 2016 (Lobna Tarek, El-Shorouk Newspaper via AP).

Is there a tipping point for the grim state of affairs in Egypt, where the fifth anniversary of the popular uprising that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak is less than two weeks away? On Jan. 7, supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood clashed with police outside a hotel in Giza; no one was injured, but the exchange of gunfire was another hit to Egypt’s tourism industry. It was also a rare sign of Brotherhood supporters taking to the streets, after being severely repressed over the past two and a half years. The next day, two men armed with knives […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jafari, Tehran, Iran, Jan. 6, 2016 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

As the Saudi-Iran crisis lumbers along, featuring new mutual recriminations and a Saudi campaign to line up Muslim support over the past week, two regional states have offered to mediate. Turkey and Iraq are well-positioned, in different but complementary ways, to engage both parties and try to defuse the situation. But their current leaders, no matter how well-intentioned, are unlikely to influence Saudi or Iranian behavior, unless Riyadh and Tehran decide they need to start looking for a way out of their standoff. The crisis provoked by the Saudi execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan. 2 has not […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syria President Bashar Assad at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Oct. 20, 2015 (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin, RIA-Novosti via AP).

Wherever you look these days, unhappy regional powers and even some weak states are demonstrating a startling degree of contempt for the supposed masters of the international system. In the past two weeks, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have precipitated a crisis with Iran that threatens to wreck the U.S. opening to Tehran, while North Korea has infuriated China with its so-called hydrogen bomb test. In Africa, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, once a darling of aid donors, has declared that he will run for a third term in office, having already revised the country’s constitution to eliminate its erstwhile […]

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