African and European leaders gather for a group photo at an EU-Africa summit, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Nov. 29, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Last April, the International Organization for Migration released a report documenting “shocking events on North African migrant routes.” Interviews with West Africans trying to reach Europe revealed that migrants were being kidnapped, beaten, raped and “sold as slaves” in public squares and garages in Libya. A spokesman for the agency went so far as to describe Libya as a “torture archipelago.” The findings generated a fair amount of news coverage, but before long they were folded into the broader story about the dangers of trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea—a story that has been on the world’s radar for several […]

A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces walks inside a prison built by Islamic State fighters, Raqqa, Syria, Oct. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Asmaa Waguih).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series on the Islamic State after the fall of Raqqa and the outlook for Syria and its neighbors. What does the future of the Islamic State look like in the wake of its battlefield setbacks in Iraq and Syria, from the fall of Mosul last summer to Raqqa last month? Will it revert to a low-level insurgency, or lash out with the kinds of terrorist attacks more associated with its predecessors, like al-Qaida? Can it sustain itself as a movement drawing in sympathizers and recruits from around the world? Writing for […]

Rubble clutters a traffic roundabout in Raqqa, Syria, Oct. 18, 2017 (AP photo by Asmaa Waguih).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series on the Islamic State after the fall of Raqqa and the outlook for Syria and its neighbors. The only sound in the video from Raqqa is the howl of the wind and the hum of a pickup truck passing through block after obliterated city block. “Drive around Raqqa for hours and all you will see is destruction,” the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville wrote on Twitter, where he posted the video. “The pictures say enough.” The buildings that weren’t flattened by airstrikes don’t have many of their walls or any windows left. […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry during a press conference, Jerusalem, July 10, 2016 (AP photo by Dan Balilty).

The Arab League’s economic boycott of Israel stretches back to the state’s founding in 1948. Today, only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, have formal relations with Israel as a result of peace treaties, while the Arab League’s boycott remains in place for its other members. Yet backdoor cooperation with Israel is growing among some Arab states, creating the prospect of more economic and trade relations. The king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, reportedly even called for an end to the boycott of Israel in September. In an email interview, Paul Rivlin, an economist and senior research fellow […]

Soccer fans in Saudi Arabia cheer as they hold up pictures of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a 2018 World Cup qualifying match in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 5, 2017 (AP photo).

The drama surrounding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to captivate policy communities around the world. Is MBS, as the upstart royal is known, a genuine reformer or a reckless and ambitious young leader who has more power than he has wisdom? He is strongly identified with Saudi Arabia’s costly war in neighboring Yemen, the nearly six-month diplomatic standoff with Qatar and the geopolitical struggle with Iran. At home, he has spearheaded ambitious plans to open up social space, reinvent the political system and adapt the kingdom’s economic strategies for a changing world energy landscape. The rise of MBS […]

A man takes pictures of blood stains of victims after masked gunmen ambushed a bus carrying Coptic Christians to a monastery, Maghagha, Egypt, May 27, 2017 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

On Thursday, an assault on a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula killed 305 worshippers in what officials have called the deadliest terrorist attack in modern Egyptian history. The staggering number of victims was a sign of the shifting nature of violence in which Egypt has been mired for nearly five years. Militants in Sinai who have waged an insurgency against the government are expanding their campaign to include not just agents of the state, but a rapidly growing number of civilians. The ongoing violence has weakened the position of the military-led regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledges his supporters during an appearance in parliament, Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 21, 2017 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series on the Islamic State after the fall of Raqqa and the outlook for Syria and its neighbors. The Syrian civil war is drawing to a close, at least in the way that the traditional conflict dynamics have been understood since 2011. The rebel opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in disarray and confined to relatively small patches of disconnected territory across the country, while the self-proclaimed Islamic State is on its last breath, pushed out of its base in the city of Raqqa and squeezed in eastern Syria. Only […]

Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov raises his hand to vote against a resolution condemning Syria’s use of chemical weapons, U.N. headquarters, New York, April 12, 2017 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

It is Cold War time at the United Nations again. Last week, Russia caused diplomatic uproar by vetoing not one, but two Security Council resolutions extending a U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Moscow is angry with the investigators for accusing the Syrian regime of using sarin gas and chlorine bombs. Russia has now used its veto 11 times to block resolutions over the Syrian war since 2011, four of them this year. Every veto sparks a ritualistic bout of outrage in the Security Council. All sides seemed especially tetchy last week. Nikki Haley, the U.S. […]

An Iranian holds a poster showing caricatures of U.S. President Donald Trump,  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2017 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

U.S. President Donald Trump’s team of neophyte Middle East peacemakers is reportedly shifting to “a new phase” in its effort to solve one of the world’s most intractable disputes, by starting to draft a peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s lawyer and Middle East envoy, was quoted by The New York Times as saying the team is “not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal.” Instead, he said, the goal “is to facilitate, not dictate, a lasting peace agreement to improve the […]

A burned poster of former KRG President Masoud Barzani, Kirkuk, Iraq, Oct. 19, 2017 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, discuss the latest developments in Zimbabwe and what factors will shape political outcomes there following the military’s detention of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe. For the Report, Mohsen Milani talks with Peter Dörrie about Iran’s historical ties to Iraq’s Kurdish minority and how they are driving Tehran’s response to tensions between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad in the aftermath of a referendum on Kurdish independence. Editor’s note: In the podcast, Robert Mugabe’s age is stated as 91 years old. He is […]

A Russian military policeman, left, rests in the lobby of a hospital in the city of Deir el-Zour, Syria, Sept. 15, 2017 (AP photo).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series on the Islamic State after the fall of Raqqa and the outlook for Syria and its neighbors. In Syria, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, was always treated as a problem with an essentially military solution. At least for the U.S.-led international coalition, there was no positive end state or program of political change that could be joined to the military campaign against the jihadi group. The general repulsiveness of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad meant that, unlike in neighboring Iraq, Washington and its allies could not simply invest […]

New recruits of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan train at their base, Koya, Iraq, Sept. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Maya Alleruzzo).

In late September, the Kurds of Iraq seemed to have moved one step closer to realizing their historic goal of gaining independence, when nearly 93 percent of voters backed a referendum to formally secede from Baghdad. Masoud Barzani, the former guerrilla leader who had served as president of the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, since 2005, went ahead with the poll despite fierce opposition from the governments of Iraq, Iran and Turkey, and mild opposition from the United States. When the results came in, Kurds took to the streets of Irbil, the regional capital, in celebration. It soon became […]

Worshipers attend a sermon during Eid al-Adha at the Martyrs Square, Tripoli, Libya, Sept. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Mohamed Ben Khalifa).

As a political solution to Libya’s civil war remains elusive, with rival governments operating in Tripoli in the west and Tobruk in the east, running a fully functioning economy has been all but impossible. Once a major oil exporter, the war-torn country has had to make do with less production and, given the collapse in global prices, less revenue. In an email interview, Mohamed Eljarh, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, discusses what remains of Libya’s non-hydrocarbon economy and the toll that the deteriorating economic situation is taking on the country’s people […]

Iraqis from the Yazidi community rebuild temples destroyed by Islamic State fighters, Bashiqa, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2017 (AP photo Khalid Mohammed).

Late last month, in an unexpected political maneuver after Iraqi Kurdish officials went ahead with their controversial referendum on independence, Iraq’s central government restored its dominance over most of the so-called disputed territories in the north of the country. Even though they fall outside the jurisdiction of the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, these areas had effectively been controlled by the KRG for the past three years, amid the chaos created by the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the retreat of Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces swept through the key, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, as well as Sinjar and much of the Nineveh […]

A Houthi sniper keeps watch over a rally to mark the third anniversary of the Houthis’ takeover of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, Sept. 21, 2017 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Now that the self-described Islamic State has all but lost its caliphate in Iraq and Syria, leaving the term “state” as a relic in its name, many people may be breathing a sigh of relief, anticipating a reduction in the gruesome violence that inundated social media and occupied global strategists in recent years. But those hopes could be dashed. There is a high probability that even more violence is ahead. The drums of war are pounding in the Middle East and beyond, and the chance that a new war will start in the near future is far from negligible. For […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walks with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed during a welcome ceremony, Ankara, Turkey, April, 26, 2017 (Presidency Press Service photo via AP).

At the end of September, Turkey opened a military base in Somalia, its largest overseas base, just weeks before the deadliest terrorist attack in the nation’s history claimed the lives of hundreds of Somalis. Amid Somalia’s chronic instability, Turkey is quickly becoming the country’s most important external partner, while Somalia has become the launchpad for Turkish ambitions in East Africa. In an email interview, Michael Woldemariam, an assistant professor of international relations and political science at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, explains the basis for deepening Turkish-Somali ties and what they reveal about the Turkish government’s wider aims […]

Fans of the Lebanese rock group Mashrou' Leila wave a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 22 2017 (DPA photo by Benno Schwinghammer).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series on LGBT rights and discrimination in various countries around the world. Since a September concert in Cairo during which a few concertgoers waved rainbow pride flags, the Egyptian government has initiated a severe crackdown on the country’s LGBT community. Dozens have been arrested, while much of the Egyptian media and conservative religious figures have stoked widespread homophobia. In an email interview, Neela Ghoshal, a senior researcher on LGBT rights at Human Rights Watch, discusses the unprecedented scale of the crackdown, how the government justifies it, and how responsive Egypt is […]

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