Saudi King Salman, right, and Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 18, 2018 (Saudi Press Agency photo via AP Images).

Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi made his first trip to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The visit was part of a broad effort by Saudi Arabia to counter the growing regional influence of its rival, Iran, by deepening political and economic ties with Iraq. For Iraq, too, a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia allows it to diversity its foreign policy. But the two neighbors’ efforts to mend fences will take time, and will need to overcome many tricky obstacles, says Elizabeth Dickinson, senior analyst for the Arabian Peninsula at the International […]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, May 17, 2019 (Reuters Pool photo by Thomas Peter via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to Beijing, where he met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi. The visit, part of an Asian tour to promote Iran’s economic engagement with the region amid intense sanctions pressure from the United States, led some to wonder whether China and Iran’s tensions with Washington are pushing them to increase their cooperation. At the beginning of the month, the U.S. ended sanctions waivers for eight countries that import Iranian […]

Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 18, 2016 (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP Images).

In the high-stakes game between Tehran and Washington, it is often hard to tell who is really bluffing. This week, President Donald Trump threatened that a war would be “the official end of Iran,” responding in part to reports that Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, had urged leaders of Iranian-backed militias across the Middle East to “prepare for proxy war.” For those counting cards, however, Iran may already have tipped its hand. The recent return to Iran of a wave of fighters from Liwa Fatemiyoun, an Iranian-backed militia made up of ethnic […]

A police officer stands on the side of the road near the newly inaugrated Al-Fattah Al-Alim mosque, in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, east of Cairo, Jan. 10, 2019 (pool photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds via AP Images)

It doesn’t seem like an accident that Egypt’s prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, used to be the country’s housing minister and, before that, the head of the government agency that came up with elaborate, mostly unrealistic urban development plans, including one that reimagined Cairo as Dubai in the Nile Valley. Since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in a coup in 2013, he has set out to build. Canals, bridges, cities—they are all part of an old school nationalist development agenda redesigned for the 21st century. Taking their cues from recent building sprees in China and the Gulf states, Sisi’s megaprojects […]

Amnesty International activists protest against human rights violations in Egypt and for freedom of expression on the sidelines of the Egyptian president’s visit to Berlin, Germany, Oct. 29, 2018 (Photo by Paul Zinken for dpa via AP Images).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. The space not just for press freedom but freedom of expression of any kind has dramatically shrunk in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who took power in a coup in 2013.* Egypt was hardly a bastion of a free and fair press under previous regimes, but under Sisi, government entities have consolidated their control over nearly every major media outlet. Journalists of all affiliations and nationalities also face a variety of threats to their safety, including harassment, arrests, […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Tehran, Iran, Feb. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

In this week’s editors’ roundtable, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Elliot Waldman, talk about new fears of a war between the U.S. and Iran as tensions continue to rise. They also discuss the future of U.S.-China relations as the trade war rumbles on, and the implications of a new Cold War for a globalized world. 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 […]

Sudanese protesters wave national flags at the sit-in outside the military headquarters, in Khartoum, Sudan, May 2, 2019 (AP photo by Salih Basheer).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Sudan appeared to be inching closer to a transitional government this week, but renewed violence threatens to derail the talks. The military council, which currently holds power, and the opposition alliance, which is composed of protest leaders and opposition politicians, have agreed on a three-year period of transition to civilian rule. Under the terms of the agreement, the country will be run by a government that includes a sovereign council, a Cabinet and a legislative body. But the two sides remain at […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he arrives to deliver a speech to members of his ruling Justice and Development Party, Ankara, April 27, 2019 (Presidential Press Service photo via AP Images).

ISTANBUL—After 17 years in power, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his governing Justice and Development Party, the AKP, face perhaps their toughest test yet. Voters in Istanbul will head to the polls again on June 23 to elect a mayor for the second time in three months, after Turkey’s Supreme Election Council controversially canceled the results of the March vote, which the opposition narrowly won. The Supreme Election Council cited irregularities, backing a complaint brought by Erdogan and his party. All 11 of the board’s members were appointed under Erdogan’s government. Just as the opposition’s surprising win in Istanbul […]

President Donald Trump at a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, May 13, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

While campaigning for U.S. president, Donald Trump sold himself as a great negotiator who would get tough and get things done. That image took a big hit after Trump’s capitulation to Congress over his needless government shutdown earlier this year, and his failure to get additional funding for his border wall. It took another hit last week when three of Trump’s foreign policy priorities suffered setbacks: Iran announced that it would stop adhering to some provisions of the international deal curbing its nuclear program; North Korea resumed ballistic missile launches; and Beijing reneged on commitments aimed at resolving the U.S.-China […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, Jan. 31, 2019 (Photo by Oliver Contreras for dpa via AP Images).

In this week’s editors’ discussion episode of the Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein, managing editor Frederick Deknatel and associate editor Elliot Waldman talk about the latest repercussions of Trump’s pressure campaign on Iran and trade war with China, both of which escalated this week. They also take a look at some important election-related developments in South Africa, Thailand and Turkey. 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 […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, listens to Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri during an army parade just outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2019 (Office of the Iranian Presidency photo via AP Images).

Exactly one year after the Trump administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, tensions between Washington and Tehran are escalating sharply amid confusion about what, exactly, the U.S. sees as its end goal. For Iran, uncertainty about what President Donald Trump wants to achieve and what he is prepared to do to get there presents a menu of risky choices. On Wednesday, Iran announced it was withdrawing from parts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the initially seven-nation agreement struck in 2015 curbing Iran’s nuclear program that was central to former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, points toward the city center as he speaks with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a meeting in Ankara, May 6, 2019 (Presidential Press Service via AP Images).

The United States and Turkey have engaged in extensive diplomacy for over a year and a half now to try and resolve the festering dispute over the Turkish government’s decision to buy the advanced S-400 missile defense system from Russia. President Donald Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have spoken about it personally several times, including in a phone call late last month. But the rift between the two is still too great to bridge. How this standoff is resolved, if at all, could permanently alter the trajectory of U.S.-Turkey relations, and by extension, Turkey’s role in NATO and its […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters after polls for Israel’s general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 10, 2019 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

JERUSALEM—At 10 p.m. on election night on April 9, as polling stations were closing all over Israel, Channel 12 News, the country’s most popular newscast, predicted a tie between the two major political blocs. It looked like Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces who had entered the fray just four months earlier, was set to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Buoyed by the fact that a tie should work in his favor, as no center-left parties were willing to join a Netanyahu government, while a couple of parties on the right had not […]

U.S. soldiers gather for a brief during a combined joint patrol rehearsal in Manbij, Syria, Nov. 7, 2018 (Photo by Spc. Zoe Garbarino for U.S. Army via AP Images).

The surprise reappearance of the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a recently recorded video seems like a throwback to the mid-2000s. The most visible difference from the video recordings Osama bin Laden used then to remind al-Qaida followers he was still alive—and persuade them he was still relevant—is that al-Baghdadi, who was last seen in 2014, is seated on the floor of what seems like a furnished living room, rather than a cave. In other ways, too, the defeat of the Islamic State as a self-declared caliphate and its return as a transnational terrorist network would […]

Protesters wear yellow vests as they denounce Khalifa Haftar’s military offensive, Tripoli, Libya, April 19, 2019 (AP photo by Hazem Ahmed).

When Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the self-declared Libyan National Army, released an audio message announcing his offensive on Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on April 4, he likely expected things to go very differently. Despite being the centerpiece of a United Nations political process that his international backers—primarily France, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt—had essentially hijacked to provide him a diplomatic route to uncontested power in Libya, Haftar used the assault on Tripoli to send a clear message that he rejected even the semblance of diplomacy and power-sharing. After all, it began on the same day that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio […]