Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with Health Ministry officials, in Tehran, Iran, June 25, 2019 (Office of the Iranian Presidency photo via AP Images).

In recent weeks, Iran has elevated its long-simmering tensions with the United States to a dangerous new level, shooting down a U.S. reconnaissance drone over the Gulf of Oman, apparently launching a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, and announcing that it will stop complying with some of the conditions in the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal that President Donald Trump earlier abandoned. Now, the U.S.-Iran standoff is dangerously close to becoming an outright confrontation. The timing of this escalation seems perplexing. Why would Iran go out of its way to provoke the United States when Trump […]

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner during the opening session of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop, Manama, Bahrain, June 25, 2019 (Bahrain News Agency photo via AP).

President Donald Trump views foreign policy through the narrow lens of economic self-interest. He has reduced the notion of American power and influence to a question of whether the United States is getting a “good deal,” measured only in terms of who is paying for what—say, the cost of basing U.S. troops. Gone are any references to the intangible benefits of international cooperation, let alone the common good. It’s how he has approached relations with NATO and with America’s allies in Asia. In recent days, this economic-centric view of U.S. foreign policy has been on display in Trump’s clumsy and […]

Thousands of supporters surround a bus from where Ekrem Imamoglu, the new mayor of Istanbul from Turkey’s main opposition opposition Republican People’s Party, makes a speech after he took over office, in Istanbul, June 27, 2019 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

A maxim among Turkey’s political strategists is that the road to Ankara starts in Istanbul. Turkey’s largest city accounts for one-third of the country’s economy and is home to a quarter of its population. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose meteoric political rise began while he was the city’s mayor in the 1990s, knows it as well as anyone. He himself has often remarked that “whoever wins Istanbul also wins the country.” That is why Erdogan applied pressure to dubiously contest the results of March’s mayoral election, which his handpicked candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, lost to Ekrem Imamoglu of […]

Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate of the opposition Republican People's Party, waves to supporters at a victory rally after the repeat mayoral election, Istanbul, June 23, 2019 (Imamoglu Media photo by Onur Gunay team via AP).

The results of Sunday’s rerun election for mayor of Istanbul sent headline writers and political commentators scrambling for the right description. One Turkish newspaper called the crushing defeat of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hand-picked candidate an “earthquake.” Another called it a “people’s victory.” Cumhuriyet, the main opposition daily, declared that “one-man rule” had been “thrashed.” Voters in Istanbul, the city where Erdogan was born and where he rose to power as mayor himself in the 1990s, turned firmly against him, setting the country’s political landscape in flux. The opposition is invigorated and Erdogan, who has become the most dominant figure […]

President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order to increase sanctions on Iran, in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, June 24, 2019 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Judah Grunstein this week. Escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf peaked last week when President Donald Trump abruptly canceled U.S. airstrikes against Iranian military assets, after Iran shot down an unmanned American surveillance drone over the Gulf of Oman. Trump’s ordering of military strikes, only to change his mind apparently at the last moment, has raised more questions about the administration’s strategy toward Iran and its ultimate goals. Trump’s decision to call off the airstrikes seemed to indicate that he doesn’t see a military solution to this growing crisis, even […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is greeted with military honors by Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Kabore, at the Presidential Palace, Ouagadougou, May 1, 2019 (Photo by Michael Kappeler for dpa via AP Images).

BAMAKO, Mali—“The terrorists are quick,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after a summit with the leaders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou in May. “This is why we have to be quicker, so that we can beat them.” What happens in the Sahel, the vast sub-Saharan region of Northern Africa, “is not only the responsibility of the region, but is also a European responsibility,” Merkel added in what was for her some uncharacteristic alarmism. “If chaos gains the upper hand here—something we want to prevent—other areas would be impacted.” The sight of Merkel standing side […]

A member of the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, searches for survivors in a collapsed residential building in the village of Saraqib in Syria’s Idlib province, June 22, 2019 (DPA photo by Anas Alkharboutli via AP Images).

Since late April, tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes in the Idlib region in northwestern Syria as President Bashar al-Assad’s air force pummels Islamist-controlled towns. Amid the fighting, Russia and Turkey continue to negotiate for a restoration of a broken cease-fire in Idlib, with each seeking changes that will shore up its own influence over the conflict. As ever in Syria’s civil war, there are key questions about this latest escalation—from the fundamental facts on the ground in Idlib, to the interests of outside powers and the potential endgame. The region of Idlib, which also includes insurgent-held […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, speaks with the lawmakers during a parliamentary session, Tehran, Oct. 27, 2018 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on the Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein; managing editor, Frederick Deknatel; and associate editor, Elliot Waldman, talk about the latest escalations in the United States’ tense standoff with Iran, and whether a path remains to deescalate the crisis. They also discuss the significance of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rare visit to North Korea. 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 […]

Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi raises his hands inside a defendant’s cage in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in an eastern suburb of Cairo, Egypt, June 21, 2015 (AP photo by Ahmed Omar).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. The death of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, in a Cairo courtroom Monday has put another spotlight on the repressive regime that replaced him in a 2013 military coup. Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian government has imprisoned thousands of dissidents and members of Morsi’s now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, while also cracking down on freedom of expression and tightening its control over the media. True to form, Sisi’s government even restricted how journalists could report on Morsi’s death this week. […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, reviews an honor guard as he is welcomed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, in an official arrival ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, June 12, 2019 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

In March 1953, the Japanese oil tanker Nissho Maru set sail from Kobe, in western Japan, bound for the Iranian port of Abadan. Its mission—to transport a shipment of Iranian oil back to Japan—was risky. Two years earlier, Iran’s government had nationalized the Iranian assets of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which would later become British Petroleum. The British had responded with economic sanctions and a naval blockade, threatening to seize any vessel involved in the transshipment of Iranian oil. With limited trading options, the Iranians were desperate for buyers. Sazo Idemitsu, the founder and president of the oil company Idemitsu […]

Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Daqlou, top right, the deputy head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, waves to supporters during a rally in the town of Garawee, northern Sudan, June 15, 2019 (AP photo).

On June 3, the eve of the 30th anniversary of China’s bloody dispersal of demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Sudan’s military authorities launched their own massacre of unarmed pro-democracy protesters. State-linked paramilitaries attacked a peaceful sit-in in the capital, Khartoum, claiming, without proof, that it had been infiltrated by drug dealers and criminals. More than 100 people were killed, according to doctors’ groups in Khartoum. Scores of bodies were dumped into the Nile River, women were reportedly raped and hospital staff attacked as they tended to the injured. That the atrocities echoed those conducted in Darfur for more than a […]

Chadian troops participate in the closing ceremony of operation Flintlock in an army base in N’djamena, Chad, March 9, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Every expert on transnational jihadism knew that eradicating the Islamic State’s self-declared “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq would not lead to the end of this brutal, malignant movement. Since it had become as much an ideology and a brand as an actual organization, holding physical territory and establishing a proto-state were important but not vital for the Islamic State, at least in the near term. In response to its battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has been dispersing, keeping its brand alive with hopes that someday it can take another shot at creating a state. For now, […]

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).

This time last month, the United States and Iran seemed to be headed toward a military conflict. The Trump administration was warning of new and imminent threats emanating from Tehran, evacuating diplomatic personnel from Iraq and deploying military assets to the region, even as some elected officials warned that the threat was being exaggerated. Military tensions have cooled somewhat since then, but Iranians are already on a war footing, as they struggle to make ends meet in an economy that has been brought to its knees by U.S. sanctions. Pressure is mounting on Iran’s political leaders, who this week followed […]

Security forces charge at protesting teachers during a demonstration in Rabat, Morocco, Feb. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of anongoing seriesabout education policy in various countries around the world. Thousands of teachers went on strike and marched for better working conditions in Morocco in recent months. The waves of demonstrations, which occasionally turned violent as police used water cannons to disperse the protesters, have since subsided as teachers have returned to classes. But there is potential for further unrest if the government doesn’t meet the teachers’ key demand: being accorded full civil servant status. In an email interview with WPR, Aboubakr Jamai, dean of the School of Business and International Relations at […]

A protester flashes the victory sign in front of burning tires and debris near the military’s headquarters, Khartoum, Sudan, June 3, 2019 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. On Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Sudanese security forces staged their own brutal crackdown on demonstrators in the capital, Khartoum. More than 100 protesters are estimated to have been killed and many of their bodies dumped in the Nile, while paramilitary forces injured and raped hundreds more, according to a Sudanese doctor’s organization. The violence apparently began with an early-morning raid by the paramilitary Rapid Security Forces on a protest camp that has been stationed outside the military’s […]

Former Defense Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman during a press conference after a second, snap election was called, Tel Aviv, Israel, May 30, 2019 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

Only one thing is clear in Israel’s suddenly chaotic politics. On July 16, Benjamin Netanyahu will become the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history. But two months later, he may be on his way out of office. Unprecedented political developments are roiling Israel after Netanyahu was surprisingly unable to form a governing coalition despite another election win in April. A rerun of the vote is set for Sept. 17, and Netanyahu’s fate could look very different by then. It is as intriguing of a domestic political reality as Israel has ever seen, with multiple moving parts and scenarios to contemplate. […]

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, March 20, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The Trump administration twice approved the transfer of nuclear technical expertise to Saudi Arabia after last year’s murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to new revelations this week. The disclosures have fueled frustrations in Congress over the administration’s apparent eagerness to aid Riyadh and its nuclear ambitions, including repeatedly ignoring and blindsiding lawmakers. The new details only add to questions about the White House’s motivations and the implications of a nuclear Saudi Arabia for the Middle East and U.S. national security. In a statement released Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia disclosed the timing of the two “Part […]