Egyptians protest against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's decision to hand over control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, Cairo, Egypt, April 15, 2016 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

Two years ago, the Egyptian people spared no adjective in praise of their savior, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who in turn framed his lightning-fast rise to power as an expression of the people’s will. When he was named defense minister in 2012 by Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader elected Egypt’s president that year, el-Sisi vowed to keep the military out of politics. But the general, with strong popular support, eventually overthrew Morsi in 2013. He then retired his military post and announced he was running for president, winning in a landslide the following year. But now the honeymoon is over. The […]

Migrants behind a fence at the Nizip refugee camp, Gaziantep province, southeastern Turkey, April 23, 2016 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

There has been no shortage of criticism of Europe’s response to the worsening refugee crisis that first escalated in 2015. In January, Denmark passed a law authorizing the government to seize assets from asylum-seekers. Poland and Slovakia announced they would only accept Christian refugees from Syria. And a recent deal between the European Union and Turkey has come under fire over questions about its legality. The deal allows Greece to return “all new irregular migrants” to Turkey; in exchange, for every migrant settled in Turkey, one Syrian already in Turkey will be resettled in the EU. Immediately after the deal’s […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi during a welcome ceremony at the Ministry of Defense, Baghdad, Iraq, April 18, 2016 (AP photo).

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to deploy an additional 250 special operations forces to Syria. The increase will bring the total number of U.S. ground troops there to 300, and comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s announcement that 200 more troops are also being sent to Iraq. Both deployments are part of the continuing U.S. war against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), but as the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria has continued to rise, it has raised fears that the United States is being sucked into another military quagmire in the […]

Oman's deputy prime minister, Fahd bin Mahmoud al-Said, President Barack Obama, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa at the GCC Summit, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 21, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

The readout from President Barack Obama’s trip last week to the Gulf reflects the ongoing strains in U.S. relations with the Gulf monarchs. Both sides share responsibility for the current state of affairs. And it will take time to shift perceptions in the region so that the ongoing cooperation that is taking place is viewed more positively. It is also worth considering the possibility that the growing independence of the Gulf Arab states and the redistribution of power in their relationship with Washington will have a long-term benefit that’s just hard to see right now. The coverage of Obama’s trip […]

Karabakh Armenian soldiers near a howitzer in Hadrut province, Nagorno-Karabakh, April 5, 2016 (Photolure photo by Albert Khachatryan via AP).

The recent bout of intense fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan along the so-called line of contact near the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh should be seen not as an isolated flashpoint, but as the culmination of years of escalating tensions. The regional economic downturn and ongoing tensions between Russia and Turkey only add to the conflict’s volatility. The four days of fighting in early April between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces was the largest eruption of hostilities since the cease-fire to the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1994, which left Armenian forces in control of the landlocked mountainous region, as well as much of […]

Jordan's King Abdullah and Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman at the Northern Thunder military drill, Hafr al-Batin, Saudi Arabia, March 11, 2016 (Balkis Press photo via AP).

Earlier this month, Jordanian authorities shuttered the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman, capping several months of troubles for the Islamist group in the country. Its political arm, the Islamic Action Front, is Jordan’s main opposition party. The Brotherhood’s legal standing has been up in the air since last year, when it lost its official registration for failing to comply with new government regulations. But the group has also been split internally—both among its members in Jordan and over its affiliations with the embattled Egypt-based Brotherhood. With the Islamist group banned outright in other Arab countries, Jordan’s closure of […]

A Russian soldier on guard in front of a Russian ground attack jet parked at Hemeimeem air base, Syria, March 4, 2016 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

The words “cease-fire monitoring” are unlikely to create ripples of excitement in a group of military officers or civilian security specialists. Ambitious soldiers hanker after kinetic action, not observing static peace lines. Professional peacemakers associate tending to cease-fires with an outdated, Cold War-era approach to conflict management. This is unfortunate. Making simple cease-fires work is hard, and it seems that neither big powers nor international organizations are much good at it. Over the past week, the cessation of hostilities in Syria has lurched toward collapse, as violence escalated around Aleppo. It may be remarkable that the lull in fighting, which […]

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a campaign event, Hartford, Conn., April 21, 2016 (AP photo by Jessica Hill).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority; the U.K. referendum on European Union membership; and instability in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. For the Report, WPR columnist Michael Cohen joins us to talk about the role of foreign policy in the U.S. presidential election. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant Articles on WPR: Saudi Arabia’s Shiites Caught in the Crossfire Between Riyadh and Tehran Cameron’s Brexit Referendum Ploy Could Lead to Broader EU Reforms Nigeria’s Amnesty, Handouts Stave Off Wider Unrest in Niger Delta—For Now What Would a Truly […]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his villa, Baghdad, April 8, 2016 (AP photo by Jonathan Ernst).

In the past five days, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter have visited Iraq. The visits demonstrate the urgency with which Washington views the political crisis in Baghdad, against the backdrop of the Iraqi military’s stalled campaign against the so-called Islamic State. They also underscore how the Obama administration’s early plans to scale back America’s engagement in Iraq have come full circle: More troops and more political attention are now required. There’s no easy path to stability for Iraq, but some decentralization of power might help. The uptick in policy attention to Iraq […]

Saudi Shiites pray, Qatif, Saudi Arabia, March 26, 2008 (AP photo/STR).

On Jan. 1, 2016, Saudi Arabia executed Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric, stoking outrage in the region and beyond. His death, and the backlash that followed, highlighted long-simmering tensions both within Saudi Arabia and between Riyadh and Tehran. News of al-Nimr’s death triggered virulent protests in Iran, with demonstrators setting ablaze the Saudi Embassy in Tehran; Saudi Arabia subsequently severed diplomatic relations with Iran. The response illustrated how Saudi Arabia’s troubled relationship with its Shiite minority could rapidly inflame intercommunal and international relations in the Persian Gulf. Historically, Saudi Arabia’s Shiite communities were concentrated in what is today the […]

Iraqi security forces arrest a suspected ISIS fighter during an operation to regain control of Hit, Iraq, April 13, 2016 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

When the leaders of the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) take stock of their movement, they must like some of what they see. Affiliates of the group are cropping up across the Islamic world, and the organization has proved adept at recruiting or inspiring alienated young Muslims—many with criminal backgrounds—to commit murder in Europe and North America. But there are also things that must concern the group’s leaders. In the past few months, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have taken back 40 percent of the territory the Islamic State had conquered over the past two years. American airstrikes have killed 25,000 of […]

Candles are lit to commemorate the second anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, Manila, Nov. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss domestic politics in Bangladesh; Iran and Saudi Arabia’s battle for influence in Africa; and the challenges facing the global middle class. For the Report, Prashanth Parameswaran joins us to talk about corruption and reform in the Philippines under President Benigno Aquino III and what lies ahead for the next administration after May elections. Listen:Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant Articles on WPR: Opposition Leader Zia Latest Victim of Bangladesh’s Zero-Sum Politics Saudi Competition Gets in the Way of Iran’s Outreach in Africa Is the Global […]

Senegal’s then-president, Abdoulaye Wade, meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tehran, Iran, June 27, 2006 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

On Jan. 6, Djibouti announced it was severing relations with Iran inresponse to attacks on Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions in Tehran, following the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric by Saudi authorities. Shortly after, a joke appeared on Telegram, an instant messaging app popular among Iranians: “One good thing that the snapping of ties with Saudi Arabia taught me is geography. At least now I know where Djibouti is.” Although many Iranians have since dismissed the tiny Horn of Africa state as an inconsequential actor, it was not that long ago that Tehran sought to expand its engagement with small […]

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura with Syrian opposition group representatives, Geneva, Switzerland, March 16, 2016 (U.N. photo by Anne-Laure Lechat).

This week, three of the United Nations’ thankless peace missions—in Libya, Yemen and Syria—will mark steps forward. To be sure, the definition of success is modest. For now, just reducing violence and beginning a political process is the best that one can hope for. But the U.N. deserves credit for persevering and nudging the parties along. Even as U.N. negotiators, sometimes with the ambiguous help of the great powers and regional leaders, begin cajoling the warring parties in the Middle East’s three terrible crises to compromise, the prospects for real peace are distant. The U.N. process not only aims to […]

The wreckage of a suicide bombing near a police checkpoint in Russia’s Dagestan republic, Feb. 15, 2016 (NewsTeam photo by Bashir Aliev via AP).

Russia’s North Caucasus insurgency has gone relatively quiet, but reduced casualty numbers belie a still-worrying situation where long-standing grievances remain. As more and more fighters join the cause of globalized jihadi groups, most of all the self-declared Islamic State (ISIS), Moscow may find that it has only transformed and widened its war. A thwarted suicide bombing outside a police station near the Northern Caucasus city of Stavropol on Monday was the latest sign. Adding to the threat is the fear of blowback at home of previously dormant ISIS-inspired terrorist cells. This comes after a remarkable reduction of violence in Europe’s […]

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and European Council President Donald Tusk during an EU summit, Brussels, Belgium, March 18, 2016 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

The recent terrorist attacks in Belgium exposed critical deficiencies in Europe’s intelligence agencies. Soon after the attacks in late March, the Turkish government announced that, in July 2015, it had arrested Ibrahim El Bakraoui, a Belgian responsible for the Brussels airport bombing, and deported him to the Netherlands after determining that he intended to join the self-proclaimed Islamic State. European authorities never followed up. It was just the latest sign of the European Union and Turkey’s failure to cooperate on counterterrorism since the outset of the Syrian conflict. For close to three years, the European Union withheld from Turkey the […]

Smoke billowing as Nusra Front fighters attack the village of al-Ais, near Aleppo, in an image posted on the group's Twitter page, April 1, 2016 (Nusra Front via AP).

BEIRUT—Syria’s nationwide cessation of hostilities has made clear the growing rift between the country’s mainstream opposition and the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate. But just as the cease-fire has highlighted these maybe irreconcilable differences, it has also shown the extent to which the Nusra Front is tangled up in and ultimately dependent on the rest of the Syrian opposition. The Nusra Front often sells itself as the beginning and end of the fight against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. But Nusra cannot win single-handedly. It is a symbiote—it can only succeed when it is attached to a Syrian opposition […]