U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Supporting Syria and the Region conference, London, Feb. 4, 2016 (U.N. photo Eskinder Debebe).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, Ellen Laipson, president emeritus of the Stimson Center and a WPR weekly columnist, joins host Peter Dörrie for a discussion on current trends in the international system, including the changing roles of the United Nations, regional powers and the United States in crisis management and conflict resolution. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant WPR articles: For Gulf States, Forging National Identity Trumps Regional Integration In War Against the Islamic State, U.S. Values Must Not Be a Casualty U.N. Peacemakers Wind Up Tough Year With a Flurry of Progress Can Regional Powers Mediate the […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the COP21 U.N. climate talks, Paris, France, Nov. 30, 2015 (Mikhail Klimentyev, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP).

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has canceled a March trip to Australia in order to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow instead. In an email interview, Michael Koplow, a policy director at the Israel Policy Forum, discussed Israel-Russia relations and the impact of the Syrian conflict. WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of Israel-Russia political, economic and security ties? Michael Koplow: The recent trajectory of Israel-Russia ties has been on the upswing. Vladimir Putin was the first Russian president to visit Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated ties with Russia for a number of reasons. Israel […]

An Iranian woman walks past electoral posters of parliamentary election candidates, Tehran, Iran, Feb. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

On Friday, Feb. 26, Iranians will take part in a complicated and contradictory drama in their country: voting in elections. They will cast ballots for candidates in the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, where all 290 seats are contested every 4 years, and the Assembly of Experts, in which its 88 members—all senior religious scholars—are elected every 8 years. The Majlis race is of short- and medium-term importance, mainly affecting President Hassan Rouhani’s ability to enact his political agenda. Whether the new parliament will work with him or not has implications for developing Iran’s post-sanctions economy and other key domestic issues. The […]

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with Revolutionary Guard officers who were involved in the detention of U.S. Navy sailors in Iranian waters, Tehran, Jan. 24, 2016 (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader photo via AP).

The lifting of economic sanctions on Iran has raised concerns that Tehran will use its newly released funds on vast military spending, threatening stability in the Middle East. Given escalating tensions with its Gulf Arab neighbors, the presence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State along its borders and ongoing military operations in Syria, Iran is indeed likely to spend a significant portion of its unfrozen assets and the unknown billions generated from renewed foreign trade on its military. Even so, it faces an enormous modernization bill and a host of bureaucratic, political and military-doctrinal challenges before it can effectively turn cash […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Moscow, Russia, Feb. 23, 2016 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Russia’s bold military interventions in both Ukraine and Syria have put Moscow’s geopolitical ambitions back at the center of analysis and debate. Despite last year’s confident claims in Western capitals that Moscow would be unable to sustain its efforts in both countries, there is no indication that the Kremlin plans to alter its policies in 2016. To the contrary, Russian President Vladimir Putin, having decided that core national interests are at stake, has made it clear that he will stay the course. At the same time, however, Russia continues to pay a heavy economic price exacted by international sanctions and […]

Pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad at a checkpoint to the Hamidiyeh market, Damascus, Syria, Feb. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

With Russian-backed Syrian forces close to encircling Aleppo, thereby cutting off supply lines for the rebels holding the key city, the Syrian civil war seems to have entered a new phase. Russia’s intervention has clearly reversed the course of the conflict, dimming prospects for meaningful compromise by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s newly ascendant regime in peace talks to end the fighting. Instead, the pro-regime coalition seems to have decided to win the war in western Syria on the ground, with the recently agreed cease-fire simply diplomatic cover for a slow consolidation of territorial control. Since Russia’s intervention last fall, critics […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses U.S. troops at the Incirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey, Dec. 15, 2015 (AP photo).

In the aftermath of the Cold War, two operations became seminal events for America’s armed forces: Operation Desert Storm and the peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia. The military’s leaders saw the war with Iraq as the model for their future, so they institutionalized it in what they called the “revolution in military affairs.” But, in fact, Yugoslavia was the true preview of 21st-century conflict. Now Syria has become Yugoslavia on steroids, the bloody paragon of this century’s wars. As in Yugoslavia, ethnic, sectarian, religious and regional hostility that the national government had long suppressed and kept in check were […]

Former Saudi intelligence chief and diplomat Prince Turki al-Faisal at the Beirut Institute Summit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

An intriguing incident occurred at last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, shedding light on the prospects for a historic realignment in relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The incident, particularly noteworthy when viewed in conjunction with other signs of movement, occurred after a presentation by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon at the conference. Yaalon told the audience that Israel has frequent communications with a number of Sunni Arab states that, according to Yaalon, see Israel as an ally against the Iranian threat. He made it clear that he was not speaking only about Jordan and Egypt, with which Israel has […]

Presidential candidates before the CBS News Republican presidential debate, Feb. 13, 2016, Greenville, S.C. (AP photo by John Bazemore).

An iconic cover illustration of the New Yorker magazine once purported to show the stereotypical Manhattan resident’s view of the world: Looking west from 9th Avenue, half the page consists of a relatively detailed rendering of the city’s buildings and streets leading up to the Hudson River. Beyond that, a small patch of land, featureless but for several cartoonish mountains and place names, passes for America. Faintly visible in the distance beyond the Pacific Ocean are landmasses helpfully labeled as China, Japan and Russia. If one were to draw a similar cartoon illustration to represent how this year’s U.S. presidential […]

Filling up at a gas station, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy).

For the first time, Saudi Arabia’s budget this year includes measures to gradually reduce subsidies on gasoline and other fuel, in response to declining oil revenue from the slump in global energy prices. The move, replicated in other Arab Gulf states, represents a fundamental challenge to the assumptions on which the region’s economy and political structure are based. Since the beginning of the year, millions of Saudis have found it more expensive to drive to and from work each day. To people living outside the Gulf, the burden may not seem onerous. The cost at the pumps of higher-grade gasoline […]

Morocco's King Mohammed VI attends Friday prayers at the Malik ibn Anas mosque, Carthage, Tunis, June 6, 2014 (AP photo by Aimen Zine).

MARRAKECH, Morocco—There is a strong consensus among counterterrorism experts in the Maghreb and the Sahel that comprehensive and integrated approaches are needed to confront the threat from al-Qaida, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and their regional affiliates and rivals. Military force is necessary but not sufficient to deal a significant blow to this all-consuming threat: Everything from educational reform to inclusive economic growth is on the policy table. One of the trickiest components of such a comprehensive approach is what governments can do to nurture peaceful practices in Islam, and tolerance between Muslims and followers of other faiths. Morocco has […]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials at the International Syria Support Group meeting, Munich, Germany, Feb. 11, 2016 (AP photo by Michael Dalder).

The Syrian catastrophe has not reached bottom but continues to spiral into an ever-greater disaster. Every week brings new horrors and deeper damage to Syria itself and its entire region. This week a United Nations report on the conflict abandoned any attempt at diplomatic phrasing and accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of “inhuman actions” and “extermination.” As former U.S. officials Nicholas Burns and James Jeffrey wrote, “The cancer of this war has metastasized into neighboring countries and the heart of Europe. It could destabilize the Middle East for a generation.” Only extremists gain from that. But tragically, […]

Syrian army troops inside the Kweiras air base, east of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 11, 2015 (SANA photo via AP).

Thanks in large part to Russia’s intervention, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has registered a series of important victories against its armed opposition and now seems to be encircling Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city. While the civil war is far from over, the conflict’s current trajectory suggests a regime military victory in the western half of the country. But the United States and other so-called Friends of Syria would do well to consider the implications of what it means to watch from the sidelines while the Russian air force obliterates the Syrian rebels. Set aside the moral stain of […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a 23-nation conference on fighting the Islamic State in Libya, Rome, Italy, Feb. 2, 2016 (AP photo by Andrew Medichini).

It appears increasingly likely that U.S. military involvement against the self-declared Islamic State’s growing foothold in Libya is a matter not of “if,” but of “when.” Over the past several months, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has taken advantage of the ongoing civil war in Libya and the lack of a central government to expand its operations there. The group now controls the city of Sirte and, according to recent U.S intelligence estimates, has more than 5,000 fighters in the country, some of whom have been sent from Iraq and Syria to provide guidance but also to keep […]

Emirati officials watch U.S. President Barack Obama's address at the opening ceremony of the World Government Summit, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

This week, world leaders are gathering in Dubai for the fourth World Government Summit. It’s a bit surreal to talk about world government these days, given the recent setback to the United Nations’ efforts to get Syria peace talks off the ground, and the undeniable failures of governments across the Arab world to provide stability and a modicum of freedom to their citizens. Clearly, too, the summit is part of the United Arab Emirates’ relentless pursuit of its global brand. But it is also about the UAE’s desire to set a more positive agenda for the Arab world. The gathering […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the BRICS summit, Ufa, Russia, July 9, 2015 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein and host Peter Dörrie discuss the impact of El Niño on South America, Iran’s economy after the end of sanctions, recent elections in Taiwan and upcoming elections in Uganda. For the report, we are joined by Miles Kahler, senior fellow for global governance at the Council on Foreign Relations, who explains the increasing influence of emerging economies on the international stage. Listen: Download: MP3 Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: El Niño Tests Latin America’s Ability to Adapt to Climate Risks After Sanctions, Rouhani’s Economic Agenda Faces Challenges […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a press conference at the Elysee Palace, Paris, Jan. 28, 2016 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

Thanks to Iran’s speedy compliance with the requirements of its nuclear agreement with the group of world powers known as the P5+1, international economic sanctions on Iran were formally lifted on Jan. 16. Iran’s political leadership upheld its part of the deal so far in order to prevent any delay in lifting sanctions that have crippled its economy. The two most devastating sanctions that were lifted had restricted Iran’s finances and oil exports. These measures reduced Iran’s oil revenues, blocked its foreign assets and nearly paralyzed its foreign trade. Free from those restrictions, Iran has wasted no time in trying […]

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