Lebanese President Michel Aoun during an official reception, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 10, 2017 (Saudi Press Agency photo via AP)

On Oct. 31, Michel Aoun, a former Lebanese army general, was elected president of Lebanon, ending a 29-month-long crisis in which the country had no president, its institutions were paralyzed, and its economy risked collapse. After being voted into office with the support of 83 lawmakers—well over the 65 needed to win—the Christian leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement was shown smiling in his seat in televised broadcasts of parliament, as fireworks crackled across Beirut in celebration. But the significance of Aoun’s election was not limited to the seat of the presidency. It marked the start of a […]

The headquarters of the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands, Jan. 12, 2016 (AP photo by Mike Corder).

More than 11 years after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Dominic Ongwen’s arrest, and nearly two years after he was captured and transferred to The Hague, his prosecution finally began in December. Ongwen, a former senior commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), faces 70 counts, including charges of murder, enslavement, rape and torture. He allegedly committed or oversaw these atrocities as part of the Ugandan rebel militia’s bloody campaign against the people of northern Uganda’s Acholiland that originally began in 1987. Though the LRA remains active in pockets of central Africa, it was driven from Uganda […]

Libyan forces affiliated with government in Tripoli during combat against Islamic State militants, Sirte, Libya, Sept. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Manu Brabo).

With the self-proclaimed Islamic State besieged in Mosul and on the defensive in parts of Syria, the future of the group’s network beyond its core territory has been thrown into question. At its peak in 2014 and early 2015, the Islamic State established affiliates across the Middle East and North Africa that it labeled “provinces,” or wilayat, rapidly increasing its operational reach and influence. But with its senior leadership now facing considerable pressure in both Iraq and Syria, it is unclear whether the Islamic State will be able to maintain communications and organizational ties with these affiliates abroad. Moreover, as […]

Soldiers from the United Arab Emirates march alongside Indian troops during the Republic Day parade, New Delhi, Jan. 26, 2017 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

When five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates were killed in a bombing in Kandahar earlier this month, Afghan authorities quickly blamed the Haqqani network, which many suspect of having ties to Pakistani intelligence. That triggered speculation that the attack—the first on diplomats from a Gulf state in Afghanistan—was meant to send a message to the UAE about its growing counterterrorism cooperation with India. The timing of the blast was seen as especially significant since it came just weeks before Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, March 20, 2016 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

Ever since Donald Trump won the presidential election in the United States, observers of the Middle East have been nearly unanimous about the ramifications of his presidency for Israel. Trump, they concluded, would help usher in a further consolidation of the Israeli right, dealing another blow to the political center and left, and further worsening Israel’s relations with Palestinians. While that consensus scenario remains highly probable, there is a sharply different possible turn of events that should not be discounted. In fact, there is a significant chance that in the coming months the Israeli center could rise, which would lead, […]

Israeli border police officers next to a supporter of Sgt. Elor Azaria during a demonstration by hardline nationalists outside the Israeli military court, Tel Aviv,  Jan. 4, 2017 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have long enjoyed a unique role in Israeli life, unlike that in any other liberal democracy. The IDF is the most influential force in the national security decision-making process, the one “neutral” player that Israel’s fractious politicians are usually willing to heed. The IDF has also contributed significantly to the development of Israeli society and its national identity, helping forge Israel’s disparate immigrant communities into a still discordant, but fundamentally united whole. As Israel enters its 70th year, public trust in the IDF remains remarkably high, to the point that it has been referred to […]

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir speaks at the India-Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

One of the more unexpected decisions to emerge in the waning days of Barack Obama’s presidency was his move last week to ease U.S. sanctions against Sudan that have been in place for nearly two decades. His administration initiated the shift after what it described as six months of “positive actions” by the government in Khartoum, including a reduction in internal conflicts, the opening of the country to aid operations and Sudan’s assistance in global counterterrorism efforts. If the “change in behavior” continues for another six months, Washington promised to reauthorize trade between the United States and Sudan and unblock […]

The coffin of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is surrounded by mourners during his funeral, Tehran, Iran, Jan. 10, 2017 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the potential dangers and opportunities of U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy agenda. For the Report, Mohsen Milani talks about former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s lasting influence on Iranian politics. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant Articles on WPR: The Dawn of the Trump Era The Trump Era Series How Will Countries Respond to China’s Shift From Global Exporter to Investor? Taking Stock of the U.S. Rebalance and the Contest for Influence in Asia Mexico Faces a Crucial Year as Trump and Domestic […]

French President Francois Hollande speaks alongside leaders and officials from Africa at the Paris Summit for security in Nigeria, Paris, May 17, 2014 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

“It’s the same fight, the same stakes,” French President Francois Hollande said of the battle against extremism in France and Africa while meeting with Malian troops in the northern city of Gao last week. “The terrorists who attack our land, who commit acts on our soil, are allied with those who are in the Levant, in Iraq and Syria, but here as well, in the Sahel.” Just days later, a suicide attack killed dozens at an army base there. Hollande was in Mali for the final Africa-France Summit of his presidency, which took place in the capital, Bamako, amid tight […]

Turkish women hold a banner reading "We don't fear, we will not obey," as they protest violence against women, Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 26, 2016 (AP photo).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the status of women’s rights and gender equality in various countries around the world. Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called women who work “half persons” and “deficient,” sparking outrage among many liberal Turks, though his statement resonated with the country’s conservative majority. In an email interview, Melinda Negrón-Gonzales, an associate professor at the University of New Hampshire, discusses women’s rights and gender equality in Turkey. WPR: What is the current status of women’s rights and gender equality in Turkey? Melinda Negrón-Gonzales: Generally, Turkey lags behind its […]

King Mohammed VI of Morocco at the opening of a solar plant, Ouarzazate, Morocco, Feb. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar).

Diplomatic ties between Iran and Morocco were fully restored earlier this month when Morocco’s ambassador to Iran presented his credentials to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Morocco’s appointment of an ambassador to Iran represents a new era in bilateral relations after Rabat severed ties in 2009 over what it called Tehran’s interference in Morocco’s internal affairs. In an email interview, Ann Wainscott, an assistant professor at St. Louis University, discusses Morocco’s ties with Iran. WPR: Why did Iran and Morocco decide to restore ties, and what areas of potential cooperation are on the agenda? Ann Wainscott: Morocco and Iran officially resumed […]

President-elect Donald Trump and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis at Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

The one-year anniversary of the Iran nuclear agreement’s implementation on Monday—combined with Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees last week and the death of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Jan. 8—has put Iran back in the spotlight. In their congressional testimony, Trump’s nominees for foreign policy and national security posts offered a range of views about the nuclear agreement and the larger problem of Iran for U.S. national interests. At the same time, Iranians are debating the implications for Iran’s foreign policy of Rafsanjiani’s final exit from the political stage. While the net effect of […]

Front pages of Iranian newspapers announce the death of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran, Jan. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Revolutions, by their intrinsic idealism, generate ideological extremism and destructive policies. Like the lava of an active volcano that indiscriminately burns everything in its path, revolutionary extremism devours what stands in its way. The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran was no exception. It brought to power idealistic and self-righteous revolutionaries with the mission to establish an Islamic order in Iran and beyond. Opponents of this agenda, many of whom operated outside of the new system, have been brutally suppressed. Individuals within the governing elite have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to soften this revolutionary extremism and gradually reform the […]

Egyptian women wait to cast their votes during parliamentary elections, Alexandria, Egypt, Oct. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the status of women’s rights and gender equality in various countries around the world. Last week, an Egyptian court upheld a decision to freeze the assets of three women’s rights activists. The three are charged, along with five others, of using illegally obtained foreign funds to “destabilize Egypt.” In an email interview, Marwa Shalaby, the director of the Women’s Rights in the Middle East Program at Rice University’s Baker Center, discusses women’s rights and gender equality in Egypt. WPR: What is the current status of women’s rights and […]

Jordanian security forces on patrol in Karak, where 10 people were killed by Islamic State gunmen, Dec. 19, 2016 (AP photo Ben Curtis).

Last month’s terrorist attack in Jordan, which the self-declared Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for, was a brutal reminder of the kingdom’s fragile security situation. Gunmen attacked a police station in the southern city of Karak and then stormed a Crusader castle popular with tourists. They killed nine Jordanians in the firefight, including seven security officers, and a Canadian tourist. In the days after the attack, three Jordanian gendarmes and a police officer were killed in security raids in Karak, where authorities discovered a huge cache of weapons and explosives that apparently belonged to the gunmen. “Judging by the quantity […]

Lebanese women protest a law that allows a rapist to get away with his crime if he marries the survivor, Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 6, 2016 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the status of women’s rights and gender equality in various countries around the world. In December, a parliamentary committee in Lebanon recommended striking down a law that allows rapists’ sentences to be reduced if they marry their victims. It will take months for parliament to consider the recommendation, though women’s groups have welcomed it as a first step. In an email interview, Zeina Zaatari, a lecturer and independent consultant on women’s issues in the Middle East, discusses women’s rights in Lebanon. WPR: What is the current status of […]

A neighborhood in eastern Aleppo after it was retaken by forces backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Dec. 14, 2016 (Kyodo photo via AP).

The harrowing image last month of a Turkish police officer standing over the Russian ambassador he just shot, while blaming Moscow for the devastation in Syria, captures a key foreign policy challenge for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump: How can he attempt to stabilize the Middle East by bringing conflicts to a close, rather than letting Russia and Iran lead the region into further cycles of repression and violence under the rubric of fighting terrorism? Trump’s current defense priority—“to crush and destroy” the so-called Islamic State—plays right into Russian and Iranian machinations, with their selective definitions of terrorism and scorched-earth tactics. […]

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