Kimg Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, meets with then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, July 26, 2007 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Even before he became president of the United States, Donald Trump had reserved some of his most lavish praise for Egypt’s strongman, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. That’s why it came as no small surprise when news emerged last week that the U.S. had decided to withhold almost $300 million in aid for Egypt. The principal reason for the move, according to Trump administration officials, was Cairo’s continuing crackdown on human rights. But another issue also surfaced as a point of friction: Egypt’s ties to North Korea. Given what we know about the current U.S. administration, it seems likely that North Korea […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaves parliament after speaking as part of a debate over his proposed Cabinet, Tehran, Aug. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Judah Grunstein, who will return next week. The Trump administration should take heed of the potential economic pitfalls of its impending showdown with Iran over the 2015 nuclear agreement. A failure by the United States to recertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal would mean the reimposition of sanctions, a move that will only end up isolating the U.S. internationally. If Trump declares Tehran in breach of the nuclear agreement, Washington must be prepared to go it alone, because Iran, and its oil industry, will fight a U.S. snapback of […]

An Iranian oil worker rides his bicycle at the Tehran oil refinery south of Tehran, Iran, Dec. 22, 2014 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

When Iran signed the international agreement in 2015 to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration believed the deal would usher in badly needed foreign direct investment to relieve Iran’s economic woes. Two years on, the promise of an economic renaissance has not fully panned out. In an email interview, Sanam Vakil, professorial lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe in Bologna and associate fellow at Chatham House in London, discusses what Iran has achieved since the sanctions were lifted, the ongoing political wrangling between reformers and hard-liners, and whether or […]

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses an audience of soldiers about his new Afghanistan policy, Fort Meyers, Virginia, Aug. 21, 2017 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editors, Robbie Corey-Boulet and Omar Rahman, discuss the new U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan announced by President Donald Trump and what it reveals about Trump’s foreign policy agenda so far. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen on WPR, please think about supporting our work by subscribing. We’re currently offering a 25 percent discount on the first year of an annual subscription to our podcast listeners. To take advantage of it, just enter the word “PODCAST” in […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari after his arrival at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria, Aug. 19, 2017 (Photo by Sunday Aghaeze for Nigeria State House via AP).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. More than 100 days after leaving Nigeria to treat an undisclosed medical condition in the U.K., Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Abuja over the weekend. Supporters hailed his arrival, and Buhari seemed eager to move past the uncertainty and tension provoked by his absence, criticizing “political mischief-makers” while appealing to a sense of national unity. As Alex Thurston wrote for WPR toward the beginning of Buhari’s trip—his second long-term stay in London this year—the immediate complications for Nigeria […]

A military convoy passes a checkpoint on the outskirts of Marawi, Philippines, June 9, 2017 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

Today the grueling battles to expel the self-styled Islamic State from Iraq and Syria drag on, but even when they are over it will not be the end of the violent extremist movement. There are still willing recruits for the Islamic State and plenty of anger, disillusionment and alienation that it can exploit. Unfortunately, it has established its global “brand.” Even as it is being driven from its homeland, it seems to be plotting its next strategic moves. At this point, the Islamic State’s most effective foray outside Iraq and Syria is in Afghanistan, where it has joined the Taliban’s […]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas receives Jordan's King Abdullah II, Ramallah, West Bank, Aug. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Nasser Nasser).

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has been quietly busy. On July 7, after months of meticulous negotiations in Amman and elsewhere, the U.S., Russia and Jordan concluded a cease-fire agreement in southern Syria that, in addition to quelling the violence in its target area, brought an interim calm to Jordan’s northern border and helped stem the flow of refugees entering the country. Weeks later, as Jerusalem lurched toward the brink of a religious conflagration, Abdullah stepped in and used his position as the custodian of Muslim holy places in the city to negotiate with Israelis and Palestinians and restore calm. All […]

A traditional Omani dagger and a scarf bearing images of Sultan Qaboos, Muscat, November 5, 2016 (Press Association photo by John Stillwell via AP).

Three years ago, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, Oman’s 76-year-old ruler, left for an eight-month stint of medical treatment in Germany. It wouldn’t be his last. Since then, the sultan’s continued deteriorating health and lack of a clear heir—he has no children and has kept any plans for a successor vague—have fueled a succession debate both within Oman and among its neighbors. Now, amid the significant rift in the Gulf resulting from the Saudi- and Emirati-led blockade of Qatar, the potential for a looming succession crisis in Oman could affect not just domestic stability in the Gulf’s quietest state, […]

Protesters shout as they hold umbrellas during a rally demanding peace on the Korean peninsula, Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

The current tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs have become a U.S.-North Korea bilateral story, as the two countries’ leaders spar in public. In addition, coordinating with the South Korean government is tricky when the political philosophies in Washington and Seoul diverge. Comparing this current crisis to regional stresses in Europe over Russia and in the Arab world over Iran shows how the immediate neighbors of an adversarial state often have different interests than Washington. And even when threat perceptions converge, policy preferences may not. The current alignment of politics and policies in Washington and Seoul is not optimal […]

Carla del Ponte, who recently resigned her post from the commission of inquiry on Syria, presents report findings during a press conference, Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 18, 2013 (Salvatore Di Nolfi for Keystone via AP).

Amid the torrent of news this week regarding multiple brewing crises from North Korea to Venezuela, one item of seemingly minor importance managed to filter through. It was a personnel matter, a bureaucrat’s decision, but one that highlights the magnitude of the current struggle to develop an international system for conflict resolution, accountability and justice. On Sunday, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria confirmed that its most prominent member, Carla del Ponte, had resigned from the body. The resignation points to a major flaw in the system: the ability of powerful players, in this case Russia, to thwart […]

A fighter with the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on the front line in Raqqa, Syria, July 27, 2017 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

Mission accomplished? That was doubtless then-President Barack Obama’s expectation as he anxiously watched a team of American Navy SEALs kill al-Qaida’s leader, Osama bin Laden, six years ago. It was clearly Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s hope last month when he visited the city of Mosul, newly liberated from the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But consider this: Al-Qaida had some 400 combatants on Sept. 11, 2001. Today it is stronger than ever, with several thousand adherents in countries from the Arabian Peninsula to Southeast Asia. If Western powers like the United States and the United Kingdom and their regional partners like […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives with family members for a ceremony at a school, Istanbul, Turkey, June 2, 2017 (Presidential Press Service photo via AP).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about education policy in various countries around the world. Turkey’s education system became fodder for international news stories this summer after authorities announced they would no longer teach Darwin’s theory of evolution in high school. The move takes place in the context of a dramatic expansion of religious education under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In an email interview, Dr. Lisel Hintz, assistant professor in the European and Eurasian Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, explains how education has been used as a tool […]

A woman dressed in the colors of the Eritrean flag stands chained at a demonstration by Eritrean refugees and dissidents, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 23, 2016 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and associate editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, discuss Kenya’s upcoming elections and Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis. For the Report, Michael Woldemariam talks with Peter Dörrie about how the Gulf crisis—pitting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt against Qatar—is spilling over into the Horn of Africa. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen on WPR, please think about supporting our work by subscribing. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant Articles on WPR: Old Game, New Stakes: How the Gulf Crisis Could […]

A photo released by the Saudi Press Agency on July 30 shows Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Saudi Press Agency via AP).

On Monday, a most intriguing photograph started circulating in print and on social media, raising eyebrows, stoking conspiracy theories, and simultaneously stirring worries and anticipation. The picture featured the firebrand Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, dour-faced and black-turbaned, sitting across from a relaxed and smiling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young royal who is steadily emerging as the de facto leader of the Sunni kingdom. The picture revealed their unlikely meeting a day earlier in the Saudi city of Jeddah, and it testified to the fact that the two men wanted to make sure their encounter became known […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban during a reception ceremony, Budapest, Hungary, July 18, 2017 (MTI photo by Balazs Mohai via AP).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent trip to Europe brought him to Hungary at a time when the government there was being accused of deploying anti-Semitic imagery and rhetoric in a campaign against billionaire George Soros. During a meeting with Central European leaders, a hot mic picked up Netanyahu bashing the European Union’s policy with respect to Israel as “actually crazy.” In an email interview, Dr. Toby Greene, an Israeli Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explains why these mini-scandals were somewhat beside the point for a visit focused […]

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh attend the opening ceremony of the Connect Arab Summit, Doha, Qatar, March 6, 2012 (AP photo by Osama Faisal).

When a group of four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia launched a dramatic diplomatic gambit by severing ties with Qatar in early June, the crisis immediately commanded the world’s attention. The leaders of major powers, from Washington to Paris and Beijing, recognized the situation’s high stakes and—with the exception of some early-round Twitter provocation from U.S. President Donald Trump—began pushing for a resolution. In Africa, too, the Gulf spat drew swift responses, with countries such as Mauritania and the Comoros following Riyadh’s lead and breaking ties with Doha, while others staked out less forceful positions or promoted dialogue. Meanwhile, […]

A black-and-white depiction of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, attracts signatures and comments of support amid a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and neighboring Arab countries, Doha, Qatar, July 3, 2017 (AP photo by Maggie Hyde).

After two months, the crisis between Qatar and its larger Gulf neighbors shows no signs of resolution. The stalemate may endure for some time, with significant costs to all parties. But it’s worth considering other possible outcomes and how to avoid or encourage those alternatives. In early June, the Arab Gulf region was roiled when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with Bahrain and Egypt, launched an aggressive political and economic attack on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism, engaging Iran and undermining stability in the region through its sponsorship of Al Jazeera, the feisty media operation based […]