King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of the opening of a Gulf Cooperation Council summit, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 14, 2012 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

One of the most dramatic socio-economic experiments in the world is unfolding in Saudi Arabia, where exactly one year ago, a young prince launched an ambitious plan to transform his conservative, oil-rich kingdom. The reform program, named Vision 2030, seeks to wean the country from its near-total reliance on oil revenue and government largesse, turning it into one that is more balanced, more modern and more sustainable by the year 2030. But last week, near the anniversary of the modernization plan’s unveiling last April, the kingdom announced it was rolling back some of its key austerity measures. The reversal raises […]

Houthi rebels secure a road as Yemenis take part in a march denouncing plans by the Saudi-led coalition to attack the port of Hodeida, Sanaa, Yemen, April 19, 2017 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

As the fate of Yemen hangs in the balance, the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that supports the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is about to escalate its two-year-old war by launching a new offensive in the key Red Sea port of Hodeida. The move aims to throttle Hadi’s enemies, Houthi rebels aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but it is more likely to choke the country’s population, tipping it from hunger and starvation into outright famine. Hodeida, the country’s busiest and most important port, is responsible for 80 percent of northern Yemen’s imports. If […]

Workers prepare elevation fixtures on a building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about workers’ rights in various countries around the world. Like in other Gulf countries, the United Arab Emirates’ small population leaves it dependent on migrant labor to execute an ambitious development program. In order to address criticism of how migrant laborers are treated there, authorities have adopted a series of reforms in recent years. In an email interview, Zahra Babar, associate director for research with the Center for International and Regional Studies at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, explains the specific problems these reforms were […]

Iranian troops march during a parade marking National Army Day in front of the mausoleum of the country's first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2017 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

The sudden return to tough talk about Iran by the Trump administration makes one wonder if it has a deeper strategy to realize Trump’s campaign promises about the nuclear deal, as well as to address Iran’s destabilizing regional activities. The signals about Iran can be read several ways: pressure to deliver on that national security priority as the 100-day milestone approaches; discomfort with the routine bureaucratic declaration that Iran is actually complying with the nuclear agreement; or a more ambitious and disturbing goal of provoking Iran into a more open confrontation. For many weeks, it looked like Iran was on […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia's King Salman during a welcome ceremony, Beijing, China, March 16, 2017 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

On March 15, King Salman of Saudi Arabia arrived in Beijing for a three-day visit. The trip, part of a one-month tour of Asia, was widely covered in the Saudi and international press, in part due to the fact that the king was accompanied by an entourage of 1,000 people. Far more noteworthy were the $65 billion worth of agreements the king signed with Chinese President Xi Jinping in fields ranging from cooperation on China’s space exploration program to the construction of new refineries in China with Saudi Aramco, the state oil company. Saudi Arabia is clearly seeking to deepen […]

Iranian cleric Ebrahim Raisi waves to the media as he registers for the May 19 presidential vote, Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2017 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Officials at Iran’s Ministry of the Interior were expecting a relatively normal day last Wednesday, when they started registering candidates for next month’s presidential election. But former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a surprise in store for them. Ahmadinejad, who left office in 2013, had been very publicly warned by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei not to run for another term. So when he accompanied his former vice president, Hamid Baghaei, to the ministry, no one thought much of it. But after Baghaei completed his registration for the election, Ahmadinejad put on quite a show for the media. He suddenly pulled out […]

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, pauses while speaking to the media during a press briefing, Washington, April 11, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Without admitting it, U.S. President Donald Trump largely continued his predecessor’s military policy in the Middle East during the opening months of his administration. Like Barack Obama, Trump relied on American airpower and special operations forces to strike directly at the self-styled Islamic State, while deploying other U.S. military units to support local forces battling the extremists. But after a grotesque chemical attack on a Syrian village by the military of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Trump ordered a retaliatory cruise missile strike against the air base from which the chemical attack was launched. Suddenly a policy that once seemed so […]

Supporters of the government protest after the failed coup attempt, Istanbul, Turkey, July 21, 2016 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and associate editor Robbie Corey-Boulet discuss Rex Tillerson’s sit-down with Vladimir Putin and the loaded protocol of high-level diplomatic meetings. For the Report, Alev Scott talks with Peter Dörrie about how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan transformed a war on terror into a crackdown on all dissent and what’s at stake in this weekend’s constitutional referendum. If you’d like to support our free podcast through patron pledges, Patreon is an online service that will allow you to do so. To find out about the benefits you can get through pledging […]

Smoke rises during a clashes that erupted between the Palestinian Fatah Movement and Islamists in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh, Lebanon, April 9, 2017 (AP photo by Mohammed Zaatari).

On Thursday, Palestinian security forces entered the Ain el-Hilweh camp for Palestinian refugees in southern Lebanon, putting an end to a week of clashes involving Sunni Islamist militants that killed an estimated seven and injured dozens. The violence broke out last Friday, when a Palestinian security force met resistance from fighters affiliated with Bilal Badr—a radical Islamist with a strong foothold in Ain el-Hilweh—while attempting to deploy throughout the camp. In response, Fatah, the party that has controlled the Palestinian Authority since 1993, launched an offensive targeting Badr’s positions. Jihadi groups aren’t a new phenomenon in Palestinian camps in Lebanon, […]

Turkish flags and posters of Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a rally in support of a referendum on constitutional reforms, Istanbul, April 8, 2017 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

It is not very often that a candidate country admonishes the organization it wants to join. Yet that is the story in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gone on a series of tirades against the Netherlands, Germany and the European Union at large ahead of a referendum this weekend on constitutional changes that would grant Erdogan more powers and transform Turkey’s government from a parliamentary to a presidential system. Turkey has been stuck in accession talks with the EU for over a decade. Erdogan’s anti-EU streak began with attacks early last month against the Netherlands, which he called […]

A Syrian air force jet at the Shayrat air base, one day after the U.S. missile attack, Homs, Syria, April 8, 2017 (photo by Mikhail Voskresenskiy/Sputnik via AP).

The U.S. missile attack on the Syrian airbase from which the devastating chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun had been launched was a clear win for the Trump administration on several fronts. It doesn’t, however, guarantee a successful new Syria strategy, for reasons related to the nature of the conflict there and the leadership dynamics in Washington. It’s still worth considering how to make the modest intervention a more transformative event. President Donald Trump’s quick decision to launch cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase early Friday, in retaliation for Syria’s presumed use of sarin gas against residents of the opposition-held […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters during a rally for the upcoming referendum, Istanbul, Turkey, March 11, 2017 (AP photo by Kayhan Ozer)

Over the past 18 months, terrorist attacks in Turkey have claimed over 400 lives, a dramatic increase that put pressure on authorities to take action. But the approach that Turkish authorities adopted has raised more concerns than it addressed: On Feb. 1, a month after a gunman affiliated with the so-called Islamic State killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve, the Supreme Council of Radio and Television, or RTUK, issued a notice to stations that effectively banned reporting on domestic terror. News outlets can no longer mention where a terrorist attack took place or who might […]

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at Mar-a-Lago after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria, Palm Beach, Fla., April 6, 2017 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Throughout the Cold War, the United States wrestled with the “friendly dictator” dilemma. Americans had long believed that democracy was not only the most just political system, but also the only one that could remain stable over time. Dictators might impose order for a while, but eventually the natural urge for freedom led to their downfall. Under the right conditions, a dictator’s demise could be relatively peaceful. At other times, though, it sparked a dangerous paroxysm of violence. Even so, Cold War-era American policymakers accepted and even embraced friendly dictators. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the problem was […]

The United Nations Security Council holds a meeting on the situation in Syria, New York, April 7, 2017 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

U.S. President Donald Trump has punctured the tired but persistent myth that the United Nations Security Council can manage the Syrian civil war. Last night, he ordered cruise missile strikes against Syria without looking for authorization from the United Nations. He did not even wait for Russia and China to veto a U.N. resolution on this week’s chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which would have offered the U.S. an excuse for pursuing unilateral action. This is both refreshing and dangerous. Since 2011, Security Council diplomacy over Syria has frequently been a grotesque farce. The U.S. and its […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Chinese President Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony, Beijing, Dec. 23, 2014 (AP photo by Greg Baker).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. China has been a consistent partner for Egypt despite the latter’s years of instability going back to the Arab uprisings of 2011. It should come as no surprise, then, that Egypt is part of Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative. In an email interview, Kyle Haddad-Fonda, an expert on China’s relations with the Arab world, explains how Egypt’s role in OBOR shows that the initiative […]

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Ramallah, March 14, 2017 (AP Photo by Majdi Mohammed).

When Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Monday, the world heard a striking shift in tone in the relationship between the United States and one of its closest Middle East allies. President Barack Obama had kept el-Sisi at arms’ length, concerned about his human rights record and his authoritarian governing style. Trump, on the other hand, could not have been more deliberate in his embrace. “I just want to let everybody know in case there’s any doubt,” he declared, “that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job […]

President Donald Trump greets Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, at the White House, Washington, April 3, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Guest columnist Nikolas Gvosdev is filling in for Judah Grunstein this week. President Donald Trump’s meeting at the White House on Monday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi gave the clearest indication yet of how the Trump administration plans to conduct American foreign policy. One of the most striking elements of el-Sisi’s visit was how the Trump team, in contrast to its predecessors in the Obama administration, decided to pursue a very focused, prioritized agenda. President Barack Obama found himself caught amid the push and pull of contradictory impulses and interests when it came to the U.S. relationship with Egypt. El-Sisi […]

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