Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin after talks in the Konstantin palace outside St. Petersburg, Aug. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Turkey and Russia are patching up their troubled relationship. In early August, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in St. Petersburg, in the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders in 10 bitter months since Turkey shot down a Russian jet that was briefly in its airspace last November. But after some symbolic handshakes and photo-ops, what can be expected in concrete terms moving forward between Ankara and Moscow? Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. It’s a safe bet that state-controlled media in Russia will no longer portray Erdogan and his close entourage with […]

Turkish troops check their tanks near the Syrian border, Karkamis, Turkey, Aug. 26, 2016 (Ismail Coskun, IHA via AP).

Syria’s horrific crisis is now generating new insights into the fault lines and even falsehoods of international cooperation. Diplomatic efforts to find some minimal common ground to tamp down the war have repeatedly fallen short, as the external actors care more about preventing each other’s gains than saving Syria. It reminds us that old-fashioned, formal alliances have more meaning than ad hoc coalitions. The Syrian conflict may be an outlier with its endlessly tragic dimensions. As The New York Times’ Max Fisher explained this week, Syria defies all the theories about civil wars, offering little hope for the conflict winding […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a rally of his supporters after the country’s abortive July 15 coup, Istanbul, Aug. 7, 2016 (Presidential Press Service photo by Kayhan Ozer via AP).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series inviting authors to identify the biggest priority—whether a threat, risk, opportunity or challenge—facing the international order and U.S. foreign policy today. Just 25 years after winning the Cold War, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, the United States is facing a very different world than the one many had expected. Instead of a world of relative peace, with no proxy wars in developing countries and no major global geostrategic opponents, there is violence and terrorism around the globe, much of it […]

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos gives Senate President Mauricio Lizcano the peace deal with FARC rebels, Bogota, Colombia, Aug. 25, 2016 (AP photo by Felipe Caicedo).

Here is a moral dilemma: Would you be happy to live in a world in which 80 percent of the population enjoys more or less peaceful conditions, but the remaining 20 percent are condemned to live with a worsening spiral of war and suffering? This is a useful question, because it is a rough description of the actual world we live in. Most of the planet is pretty stable these days. Last week, the cognitive scientist Stephen Pinker and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos underscored this point in an opinion piece celebrating Colombia’s peace deal with the leftist Revolutionary Armed […]

A Russian long-range Tu-22M3 bomber during an airstrike over Aleppo, in frame grab provided by Russian Defence Ministry, Aug. 16, 2016 (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service photo via AP).

When the Russian Defense Ministry announced last week that it had started launching bombing raids into Syria from a base inside Iran, the news produced a remarkable reaction, simultaneously angering both the United States and much of Iran. U.S. officials were caught unprepared and were deeply displeased by the news that Tehran and Moscow had decided to intensify their military cooperation. But it wasn’t just the Americans who were angered by the developments. In Iran, many members of parliament were furious to learn that the Russian military machine had positioned some war assets on Iranian soil. It took less than […]

Israeli settlers watch the demolition of a building at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, West Bank, July 29, 2015 (AP photo by Tsafrir Abayov).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss how Britain’s policy toward China is changing under Prime Minister Theresa May, the limited successes of Cameroon’s gay rights movement, and the risk of overreacting to terrorism. For the Report, Avner Inbar joins us to talk about the Israeli right’s political strategic impasse. Listen:Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant Articles on WPR: May Appears to Abruptly Walk Away From Britain’s Embrace of China Cameroon’s Gay Rights Movement Is Fighting Taboos and Winning Visibility The Danger of Overreacting to Terrorism—and How to Resist It Global Insider […]

A coffee shop that ran out of business near the Giza Pyramids, Egypt, Aug. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Last week, the International Monetary Fund agreed to a tentative deal with Egypt to loan it $12 billion over three years, in exchange for undertaking major economic reforms. The Arab world’s most populous country, Egypt has been cash-strapped and staggering from crisis to crisis in the five years since longtime President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who ousted Mohammed Morsi in a coup in the summer of 2013, came to power with the promise of righting the economy, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, el-Sisi has taken after his predecessors and pursued grandiose development projects, […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the inauguration of the new parliament, Tehran, Iran, May 28, 2016 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Millions of Iranians went to the polls in February in Iran’s first elections since Hassan Rouhani, a centrist cleric, rode a wave of hope to the presidency three years ago. Among them was the mother of 30-year-old Ali Shariati, who has been in prison since 2015. “My son Ali and a number of other political prisoners issued a statement encouraging people to vote,” she told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran after the election. “We voted. Now President Rouhani should carry out his promise from two years ago to free political prisoners.” In 2013, Ali Shariati enthusiastically campaigned […]

Tens of thousands of Egyptians celebrate the fall of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square,  Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 18, 2011 (AP photo by Khalil Hamra).

In an unusual New York Times Magazine single-story issue titled “Fractured Lands,” journalist Scott Anderson provides a sweeping look at the Middle East, through portraits of subjects from Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya. His conclusions are mostly gloomy, although some brief moments of human resilience and hope appear. One can debate his analysis of state failure, and of how much weight to give to U.S. policy, particularly since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in explaining the current unraveling in some key Arab states. But even with some disagreements, a big takeaway is the vital role that journalists play in making […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, May 31, 2016 (AP photo by Dan Balilty).

Things have never looked brighter for the Israeli right’s political prospects. Israel’s current government is widely acknowledged as the most right-wing in the country’s history. The opposition is so weak and fragmented that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is practically leading the country unopposed. The decades-old project of expanding Jewish settlements into the West Bank has lured more than 300,000 Israelis into the West Bank, threatening to render the two-state solution obsolete. Yet scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find that neither Netanyahu nor his allies on the religious right know what to do with this power. In fact, as its […]

Tunisia's new Prime Minister Youssef Chahed delivers a speech, Tunis, Tunisia, Aug. 3, 2016 (AP photo by Hassene Dridi).

Habib Essid, the technocrat who had been Tunisia’s prime minister for the past 18 months, lost a vote of no confidence on July 30. And unlike most issues in Tunisian politics, that decision wasn’t the subject of extensive debate—all but three members of parliament voted him out. Few were surprised by Essid’s ousting. He had by most measures failed to achieve what he had been appointed in February 2015 to do: enact economic reforms, boost employment and improve security. “The vote of no confidence was inevitable,” says Sarah Yerkes, a visiting fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in the Konstantin palace, outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Aug. 9, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

If Vladimir Putin ever loses interest in running Russia, he should set up a diplomatic academy. The British journalist and wit David Frost once defined diplomacy as “the art of letting somebody else have your way.” Through a mix of hard bargaining, guile and simple force, the Russian president has often shown that he knows how to do just that. His skills were on ample display last week. Putin welcomed his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to St. Petersburg to bury their tensions over Syria. He then ignited a new crisis with Kiev over an alleged shoot-out between Ukrainian and […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their economic summit, Baku, Aug. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Geo-economics dominated the agenda of two critical meetings this week: a trilateral economic summit in Baku between Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, followed by a bilateral summit in St. Petersburg between Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While matters of war and peace were also on the agenda—the stalemated conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the ongoing fighting in Syria—both summits’ main focus was on ensuring connectivity to the global economy. Let’s start with Iran. In the year since Iran acceded to the terms of the nuclear agreement it signed with the group of world […]

Russian Lt.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoi speaks to the media as a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry shows a target hit in an airstrike on screen, Moscow, Russia, Aug. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

Fierce urban fighting alongside Machiavellian political maneuvering is nothing new to the Syrian conflict. But the past few days have brought a new twist in the upheaval with lasting, if opaque, repercussions for Syria’s civil war and the many actors involved in it directly or by proxy. The key center of the new convoluted and deadly developments is Aleppo, Syria’s prewar commercial capital, now a rubble-strewn ruin at the heart of the five-year-old conflict. After several days of intensified battles and curious political moves, a new crop of winners and losers is emerging. But identifying who they are, or who […]

A fighter loyal to the Libyan armed forces preparing for clashes with ISIS militants west of Benghazi, March 7, 2016 (AP photo by Mohammed el-Shaiky).

Last week, the United States significantly expanded airstrikes in Libya against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, upping its military involvement in a country mired in civil war since a NATO-led intervention helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Libya’s United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, known as the Government of National Accord, or GNA, requested the airstrikes. They have centered on the coastal city of Sirte, where Libyan forces aligned with the unity government have been engaged in fierce street battles with the Islamic State. The strikes have reportedly come from jets launched from a U.S. amphibious assault ship in the Mediterranean […]

A worker at a construction site, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 8, 2014 (AP photo by Hasan Jamali).

It is no secret that Saudi Arabia is experiencing a sharp economic slowdown and has decided to respond by implementing far-reaching economic reforms. But in recent days, a less well-known aspect of this transformation has become visible, highlighting the repercussions and potential risks of the kingdom’s crisis. Less than 60 days after the Saudi government announced its five-year National Transformation Program, part of the larger Vision 2030 reforms, the government of India announced it had launched an emergency operation to rescue thousands of desperate Indian nationals caught in Saudi Arabia’s economic crosscurrents. The plight of large numbers of South Asian […]

Syrian refugee children at a refugee camp in the town of Hosh Hareem, Lebanon, Jan. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

In the early hours of June 27, four suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts in the sleepy Lebanese town of al-Qaa, which lies just a few kilometers from the Syrian frontier. Another four attackers would strike later in the evening, with the two attacks killing five and wounding scores more. In the context of spillover from the Syrian civil war, the violence itself was not an anomaly. Lebanon has been on high alert for retaliatory terrorist activity ever since 2013, when Hezbollah leader Sayed Hasan Nasrallah publicly announced the party’s fighters were active in Syria alongside longtime ally President Bashar […]

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