U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, a past proponent of striking Iran, speaks at the United Against Nuclear Iran summit, New York, Sept. 25, 2018 (Photo by Michael Brochstein for Sipa via AP Images).

The idea of a pre-emptive American attack on Iran periodically resurfaces in Washington, despite the absence of any strategic logic. After abating following the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program, the war drums are beating again, with the Trump administration ratcheting up the pressure. Is striking Iran an option? Iran is a longstanding and steadfast opponent of the United States. It promotes terrorism, extremism and instability in the Middle East, with brutal allies like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Iranian regime continues to develop advanced weaponry while repressing internal dissent. There is no question that the […]

French soldiers at a military outpost on the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 2, 2017 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

The prospect of an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, first announced by President Donald Trump last December, sparked fear and uncertainty for the other countries participating in the U.S.-led international coalition fighting the last remnants of the Islamic State there. Trump’s decision has affected France in particular, putting the presence of French forces in Syria, until now somewhat overlooked, in the spotlight. France’s military operations in Syria grew out of its involvement in Iraq, where it initially joined in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS, at the request of the Iraqi government in September 2014. At […]

Venezuelan Bolivar bills arranged on a table in a bookshop in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 28, 2019 (DPA photo by Marcelo Perez del Carpio via AP Images).

A country’s gold reserves are meant to provide stability and financial ballast, not cash for everyday purchases. Only in the most extreme cases do they become a source of currency for vital supplies. That is exactly what is happening in Venezuela, where the political crisis has triggered the kind of international intrigue usually scripted in Hollywood. The embattled government of President Nicolas Maduro is trying to cash in its reserves while the opposition and its foreign backers maneuver to keep the country’s gold and any hard currency from its sale out of Maduro’s hands. This intrigue involving bank vaults and […]

Pro-Hamas protesters during a demonstration against a speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that threatened more financial pressure on Gaza, in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Gaza City, March 21, 2018 (AP photo by Adel Hana).

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah resigned last month along with his unity government, dealing a setback to reconciliation efforts between rival Palestinian factions. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, denounced the move as an attempt by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and his West Bank-based political party, Fatah, to further marginalize Hamas. A round of intra-Palestinian talks in Moscow ended last week without any further progress to bridge the divide. In an interview with WPR, Ghaith al-Omari, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, discusses the deepening Fatah-Hamas split and the internal politicking that […]

A man walks past a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Aleppo, Syria, Dec. 24, 2018 (Photo by Mikhail Voskresenskiy for Sputnik via AP).

As the Syrian civil war grinds to an end, the government in Damascus, propped up by Iran and Russia, is regaining its footing, with important implications for the balance of power in the Middle East. Syria’s neighbors and powers outside the region are now attempting to determine the appropriate level of engagement, if any, to have with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. While Assad’s main foreign patrons will no doubt continue to deepen their military, political and economic ties, it is countries that stood against him over the past seven years that now have the most difficult decisions to make. If […]

Uighurs living in Turkey protest against China’s oppression of Muslim Uighurs in far-western Xinjiang province, in Ankara, Turkey, Feb. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

Earlier this month, Turkey broke a long period of silence on China’s policy of forcibly incarcerating over 1 million Uighur Muslims, calling it a “great shame for humanity.” The statement, which prompted an indignant response from Beijing, represented a shift for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pursued deeper economic ties with China but has also come under increasing political pressure to speak out against repressive Chinese policies toward its Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, in western China. In an interview with WPR, Selçuk Çolakoglu, director of the Turkish Center for Asia-Pacific Studies in Ankara, discusses what led Erdogan’s government […]

Iranians wave national flags during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi, in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

As Iran celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, the United States’ confrontational policy toward Tehran under President Donald Trump presents a real challenge for the Iranian political elite, particularly the moderates among them. Trump’s policy of reimposing economic sanctions aims to impose “maximum pressure” on Iran in order to provoke a change of behavior in Iranian regional policy. Far from accomplishing its goals, the U.S. approach is more likely to strengthen conservative factions within Iran and give the moderates, including President Hassan Rouhani, an excuse for not working toward their electoral promises of granting greater freedoms and pursuing […]

An AH-64 Apache attack helicopter provides security from above while CH-47 Chinooks drop off supplies to U.S. soldiers at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan, June 10, 2017 (Photo by Sgt. Justin Updegraff for U.S. Marine Corps via AP Images).

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” President Donald Trump said in his recent State of the Union address—one of the few lines that may have appealed to both ends of the political spectrum. Debate is raging in the United States over how quickly to disengage from Syria and Afghanistan, as frustration with these seemingly interminable conflicts has grown on the political right and left. Trump grasps this frustration and seems inclined to pull American forces out of both places. But every time Trump mentions military withdrawal, security experts, political leaders and military commanders push back. Trump’s statement about not […]

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, Feb. 14, 2019 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss why the Trump administration’s hard-line Iran policy risks isolating the United States more than Tehran, and what the confrontation between Rep. Ilhan Omar and Elliott Abrams, Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela, reveals about the U.S. foreign policy community and accountability in Washington. 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 day […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei listens during a meeting with members of the Iranian government, Tehran, May 23, 2018 (Sipa photo via AP).

Leaving the Iran nuclear deal is meant to put pressure on the Iranian government. But so far, most of the pressure is being felt by Iran’s citizens. Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). Iran’s steeply depreciating currency has plunged the country into a potentially explosive economic crisis, with several waves of public protests since December. The situation was exacerbated by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to violate the terms of the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions. The Trump administration believes that by exerting “maximum pressure,” Iran will inevitably return to the negotiating table, or […]

Iraqi riot police prevent protesters from storming the provincial council building during a demonstration in Basra, Iraq, July 15, 2018 (AP photo).

As Iraqis grow disillusioned with the country’s political class, protests have grown more violent, but they may not lead to the real change so widely desired. Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). In what is becoming a yearly ritual in southern Iraq, protesters took to the streets to voice their grievances amid scorching summer heat in July. Their government’s inability to provide basic services, namely electricity and water, makes the harsh summer unbearable to many Iraqis. The high unemployment rate means that many cannot afford a basic standard of living. Reflecting a heightened mood of […]

U.S. soldiers leave Al Faw palace at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2011 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

The culture of speaking truth to power is alive and well in the United States, despite the toxic environment in which analysts and other truth-tellers in the federal government operate these days. That is the main lesson of an important new history of the Iraq War released last month by the U.S. Army. The study takes on some of the established narratives about the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and its violent aftermath, while offering refreshingly honest assessments of the performances of both civilian and military leaders. America’s tragic engagement in Iraq is well-trodden terrain, with formidable and critical […]

Bahraini Shiite Muslims march in support of prominent jailed opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman after mid-day prayers in Diraz, Bahrain, June 12, 2015 (AP photo by Hasan Jamali).

Bahraini soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi was released from jail this week in Thailand, after the authorities in Bahrain dropped an extradition request related to his participation in anti-government protests in 2011. He is now back in Australia, where he has refugee status. Dissidents and government critics inside Bahrain have not been as fortunate, as the country’s highest court recently upheld life sentences against three opposition leaders on charges of spying for Qatar. In an interview with WPR, Neil Quilliam, a senior research fellow with the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, discusses Bahrain’s crackdown on dissent and […]

Russian flags in front of the ancient ruins of Palmyra, Syria, April 8, 2016 (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP).

Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war was never meant to be long-term. Now that Russia has been successful in saving the regime of Bashar al-Assad, what’s next for Russia’s Middle East strategy? Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). Russia’s decision to intervene in the Syrian civil war in September 2015 was consistent with its belief that the Syrian state represents the only viable and legitimate actor in the country, and its forces are the only ones worth supporting. Moscow has always been willing to pay a political and military price to prevent a Syrian […]

Iraqi President Barham Salih, right, shakes hands with visiting Jordanian King Abdullah II, left, in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 14, 2019 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

Leaders from Iraq and Jordan held a summit meeting earlier this month, where they signed a slew of agreements liberalizing trade and commercial ties. The meeting, which follows a visit to Iraq by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, is part of a recent intensification in Baghdad’s diplomatic outreach as it seeks to rebuild after its brutal, years-long war with the Islamic State. In an interview with WPR, Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, discusses Iraq’s post-ISIS foreign policy priorities. World Politics Review: What is Iraq’s interest in cultivating increasingly close economic and diplomatic ties with Jordan? Randa […]

Retired Israeli military chief Benny Gantz, right, raises hands with former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon during the official launch of Gantz’s election campaign in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 29, 2019 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

Back in December, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition decided to dissolve parliament and call new elections, the news inspired a chain reaction of yawns. Despite Netanyahu’s growing legal problems, the overwhelming consensus was that he was headed for another victory, one that would allow him to break the record of Israel’s founder, David Ben Gurion, as the country’s longest-serving prime minister. To be sure, the election, scheduled for April 9, is still Netanyahu’s to lose, but the inevitability of another victory by Bibi, as he is known, and his rightist Likud party is now in doubt. Voters who […]