Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016 (AP photo by Allauddin Khan).

In a special year-end episode of Trend Lines, we look back on 2018 through three of our most popular Report interviews. They take us from the frontlines of the war against Boko Haram in West Africa, to life under a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, to Facebook, the new hub for the black-market trade in antiquities from the Middle East. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article every […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 30, 2018 (DPA photo via AP Images).

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi rules with brutal authority, but Egypt's political and economic future look anything but secure. CAIRO—To the many Egyptians who took to the streets in January 2011 to bring down former President Hosni Mubarak, Cairo is full of reminders of the country's post-revolution failures. Tahrir Square is once again a bleak traffic-laden roundabout; just next to it, the Egyptian Museum is associated with torture by the military after activists were detained and interrogated there following a protest in March 2011. Nearby, the downtown area of Maspero is notorious for the massacre of Coptic Christians. To the east, Rabaa […]

A gas production facility at Ras Laffan, Qatar, April 4, 2009 (AP photo by Maneesh Bakshi).

The tiny Persian Gulf monarchy of Qatar announced its intention to withdraw from OPEC earlier this month, after 57 years as a member of the cartel of major oil-producing nations. The move, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, is expected to have little impact on energy markets, as Qatar, which is rich in natural gas, exports a very small amount of oil. But it risks worsening Doha’s ongoing diplomatic row with some other Gulf Arab monarchies. In an email interview with WPR, Jim Krane, an energy studies research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in […]

A demonstration in memory of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, who was abducted, tortured and murdered in Cairo, in Rome, Jan. 25, 2018 (Photo by Riccardo Antimianu for ANSA via AP Images).

Italian prosecutors earlier this month named five Egyptian security officials as suspects in the murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student whose mutilated body was found in a roadside ditch outside Cairo in February 2016, nine days after he disappeared. Regeni had been conducting research on labor unions in Egypt for a doctorate at Cambridge University. For nearly three years, investigators in Rome have been frustrated by the lack of cooperation from their Egyptian counterparts, which led to the extraordinary decision to publicly identify Egyptian government agents as suspects. In an email interview with WPR, Timothy Kaldas, a nonresident […]

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, speaks to the media alongside Foreign Minister Marise Payne during a press conference at the Parliament House in Canberra, Oct. 16, 2018 (Photo by Mick Tsikas for AAP via AP Images).

In a much-anticipated speech in Sydney last Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his government would recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Morrison sought to mollify critics by delaying an embassy move from Tel Aviv until a final peace settlement is reached and holding out the possibility of recognizing a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Still, the announcement provoked stern reactions from Australia’s Muslim-majority neighbors, including Indonesia and Malaysia. In an interview with WPR, Ran Porat, a researcher and lecturer at the Australian Center for Jewish Civilization at Monash University in Melbourne, discusses the […]

A banner in a town square in the French Alps reads “Welcome Refugees,” Chamonix, France, Oct. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Bertrand Combaldieu).

Find out how the aftermath of the refugee crisis is still upending politics across Europe—when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). As the nationalist, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats claimed their best result yet in Sweden’s parliamentary elections in September, the nation’s newspapers went bold with their headlines. “Chaos,” read the front pages, in all caps, of the two largest tabloids. Dagens Industri, a financial newspaper, called the outcome “a political earthquake.” But the subject of their worry was not the rise of the Sweden Democrats, the latest party to surf Europe’s anti-establishment populist wave. Instead, it was the utter fragmentation […]

Houthi representative Mohammed Abdulsalam, right, and Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yaman, left, with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at peace talks in Rimbo, Sweden, Dec. 13, 2018 (TT News Agency photo via AP).

What happened in the multilateral system in 2018? Looking back over the year, it is possible to identify three strategic trends and a last-minute political surprise that may resonate in the future. The big trends in multilateralism included a hardening of the Trump administration’s opposition to international cooperation, a concomitant increase in China’s efforts to influence bodies like the United Nations, and worrying signs of European splits over the value of internationalism. The surprise was an unexpected, and arguably almost accidental, revitalization of humanitarian politics over Yemen. Let’s start with the trends. By the end of 2017, it was clear […]

Turkish army tanks head for the Syrian border town of Afrin, an enclave in northwestern Syria controlled by Kurdish fighters, Hassa, Turkey, Jan. 22, 2018 (AP photo).

The changing alliances in Syria’s civil war have pitted militaries and militias against each other, drawing Turkey progressively deeper into the conflict. Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). In January 2018, Turkish forces attacked Afrin, a Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwestern Syria, putting both American and Russian plans for Syria to the test. Most of Afrin’s original inhabitants are Kurds belonging to the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The YPG is a Syrian appendage of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, which has been locked in conflict with the Turkish government since the 1970s. The YPG […]

A woman prepares to perform Friday prayers in the courtyard of Zitouna Mosque, the oldest mosque in Tunisia, Tunis, Oct. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and associate editor, Elliot Waldman, discuss British Prime Minister Theresa May’s week of humiliations on the shambolic road to Brexit. For the Report, Frederic Wehrey talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about the growing power and influence of the “quietist” current of Salafism in the Maghreb and what that means for the region. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers […]

The skyline of Doha’s West Bay neighborhood, Qatar, Jan. 6, 2011 (AP photo  by Saurabh Das).

The standoff pitting Saudi Arabia and the UAE versus Qatar has brought new tensions to the Persian Gulf, and there’s no end in sight. Will the crisis be too much for the region? Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). In the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s first official visit abroad to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, long-simmering tensions among America’s allies in the Persian Gulf boiled over. It all started the day after Trump left Riyadh. The Qatari news agency, QNA, reported that the country’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, had given […]

Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces walk inside the stadium that was the site of Islamic State fighters’ last stand in the city of Raqqa, Syria, Oct. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Asmaa Waguih).

This week’s attack against a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, by a radicalized French Muslim illustrates that jihadis, or militant Islamists, still pose a serious threat to national security in the U.S. and Europe. But since late 2013, jihadis have also become a threat to other jihadis, regularly killing each other on battlefields across the Middle East in numbers that have observers talking about a jihadi civil war. In Syria, armed rebels affiliated with al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State continue to fight each other, while the most potent force battling the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan is the Taliban. […]

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil leaves a stadium after a tour organized for diplomats and journalists, Beirut, Oct. 1, 2018 (Photo by Marwan Naamani for dpa via AP Images).

After seven years of civil war, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looks set to emerge victorious thanks to the support he received from Russia, from his patrons in Iran and from Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah. The war is not over, but the focus on what comes next is already underway, and one change is now plainly visible: Iran, Damascus and Hezbollah are pivoting their attention to Lebanon’s future—and so is Israel. In recent days, a flurry of military and political activity has shifted to Lebanon, confirming that the tiny country—which has for so long been caught in the vice of regional […]

Afghan deportees walk across the border from Iran to Afghanistan in Islam Qala, Herat, Afghanistan, June 6, 2007 (AP photo by Farzana Wahidy).

More than 730,000 undocumented Afghan immigrants in Iran have returned to Afghanistan so far this year, according to the United Nations. Many of them are fleeing a lack of economic opportunity in Iran, due largely to the United States’ decision to reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. But according to Annalisa Perteghella, a research fellow at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies in Milan, they are unlikely to encounter better conditions in their native country, which faces a worsening security situation and a severe drought. In an email interview with WPR, Perteghella delves […]

A man shouts anti-government slogans during a demonstration organized by Salafists, Tunis, Tunisia, Nov. 6, 2012 (AP photo by Amine Landoulsi).

Adherents of Salafism, the literalist, Saudi-inspired current of Islamism, are growing in influence across North Africa. This is especially true for the so-called quietist current, which theoretically eschews overt political activism but is increasingly asserting itself in the political and social spheres. In some states in the Maghreb, authoritarian regimes are partly responsible for the quietist salafists' rise. BENGHAZI—The young fighters huddled on lawn chairs in the nighttime shadows of the militia camp, smoking and drinking coffee. Around them in a courtyard sat the machinery of war: howitzers, tanks and truck-mounted recoilless rifles. Artillery and rockets boomed in the distance. […]

Iraqi President Barham Salih, center, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Nov. 17, 2018 (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader photo via AP Images).

Iraqi President Barham Salih traveled to Iran’s capital, Tehran, last month for talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The meeting came two weeks after the U.S. reimposed tough sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal. In light of those sanctions, Iran’s economic ties with Iraq, which relies on Iranian gas for nearly half of its energy supply, are of utmost importance to Iranian rulers. In an interview with WPR, Tamer Badawi, a research fellow at the Istanbul-based Al-Sharq Forum, discusses Iran’s strategy for maintaining close commercial ties with Baghdad. World Politics Review: How has the […]

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, center, leaves the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 2, 2018 (AP photo by Karim Kadim).

In May 2018, Iraqis went to the polls to vote for their new government. The vote was significant in some ways, in particular due to poor turnout. Iraqis seemed to be sending a message to the country’s political elite that it was time to turn the page on Iraq’s party and government system put in place for the past 15 years. But the elections were inconclusive in terms of delivering a parliamentary majority to any single party or bloc, and represented more than anything else an indictment of the political elite that has governed Iraq since the fall of Saddam […]

Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat, Oman, Oct. 26, 2018 (Israeli Prime Minister’s Office photo via AP Images).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a surprise visit to Oman in October, the first official visit by an Israeli leader in over two decades. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also traveled to Oman days before Netanyahu’s trip, leading to speculation that Oman could be acting as a go-between for another round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In an interview with WPR, Giorgio Cafiero, founder and CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a geopolitical risk consultancy, discusses this recent flurry of diplomatic activity in the context of Oman’s historical efforts to break impasses in a number of regional conflicts. World Politics Review: What […]