Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a sermon during Friday prayers at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 17, 2020 (Photo by the Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP Images).

In three weeks, Iranians will go to the polls to choose a new parliament. For President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate and ardent supporter of the now-moribund international agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear program, the parliamentary vote on Feb. 21 could be the first note in his political swan song. With some 90 percent of Iran’s reform candidates disqualified in a decision issued by the hard-line Guardian Council this week and reformists threatening an election boycott, it seems highly unlikely that Iran’s pro-reform bloc will be able to stitch together much of a showing at the polls. That’s bad news for […]

President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House, Washington, Jan. 28, 2020 (Photo by Oliver Contreras for Sipa via AP Images).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the Trump administration’s long-anticipated Israel-Palestine peace plan, which after numerous delays was rolled out this week, and why it is a gift to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right. They also discuss how the deal reflects the shifting dynamics of regional geopolitics, and the options available to the Palestinian leadership moving forward. 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 […]

From left, U.N. Libya envoy Ghassan Salame, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the conference on Libya in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 19, 2020 (Pool photo by Axel Schmidt via AP).

At a recent conference in Berlin, more than a dozen outside powers, including Russia and Turkey, pledged to stop interfering in Libya’s civil war and respect the terms of a shaky cease-fire and a United Nations-imposed arms embargo. But just days after the meeting in Berlin, the U.N. warned that foreign materiel and personnel were continuing to flow into the country. The fragile truce that was first declared on Jan. 12 has now collapsed, as fierce fighting resumed in Libya this week between breakaway Libyan militia commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces and the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli. Fueled by increasing foreign […]

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 18, 2019 (Pool photo by Mandel Ngan via AP).

The stunning allegation this week that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hacked the phone of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, according to a report by United Nations investigators, may come as a shock to some. But for most people tracking the rise of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler over the past five years, it’s business as usual. From his disastrous proxy war in Yemen to the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, the young crown prince, known as MBS, has demonstrated time and again his hubristic belief that there are no limits […]

Oman’s new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, at the Royal Family Council in Muscat, Oman, Jan. 11, 2020 (Oman News Agency photo via AP Images).

For years, a cloud hung over a corner of the Middle East, containing fears of yet another conflict suddenly erupting. They centered on what would happen after the death of the longest reigning monarch in the Gulf, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who ruled over the Sultanate of Oman for half a century without leaving behind an heir apparent. Qaboos had been ill for years, and yet, if you tried to gently broach the subject of his successor with Omani citizens, they would recoil. The sultan had set up a system for succession and everyone knew it. But no one knew […]

Lebanese marine special forces soldiers march during a military parade to mark the 76th anniversary of Lebanon's independence, at the Lebanese Defense Ministry, Beirut, Nov. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

The Trump administration created yet another stir in Washington last fall when it mysteriously froze $105 million in military aid to Lebanon for several months. While the hold was quietly lifted on Dec. 2 after pressure from members of Congress, it ignited a debate over how the United States should engage with Lebanon amid an ongoing revolutionary protest movement that has already forced one prime minister in Beirut to resign. There are also signs that Lebanon views the U.S. as an increasingly unreliable security partner, allowing Russia to gain influence in this small but strategically important country in the Middle […]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, left, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Damascus, Jan. 7, 2020 (pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin of Sputnik via AP Images).

The assassination of Iran’s top military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, raises a lot of questions about what an all-out war between the United States and Iran might look like. The simple answer is that it will be bad, but how bad may depend as much on Russia as it does on the U.S. and Iran. If there is one player in the dangerous drama unfolding in the Middle East with the ability to flip the script, it’s Russian President Vladimir Putin. Five years ago, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, dismissed Russia as a “regional power” capable at most of menacing […]

A woman walks past a mural depicting members of Iran’s Basij paramilitary force, Tehran, Jan. 3, 2018 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Though President Donald Trump appears to have backed away from further military conflict with Iran, the Middle East is still on edge. Amid fears of heightened conflict, what is really driving Iran’s behavior? Download your FREE copy of Iran Sanctions: The View From Iran to learn more today. The ballistic missiles that Iran fired at two military bases in Iraq housing American troops could only be the start of Tehran’s retaliation. Many observers worry that more blowback could come in the form of Iran’s favored tactic of asymmetric warfare waged through its proxies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and pro-Iranian […]

President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the White House on the ballistic missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing U.S. troops, Washington, Jan. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the latest developments in the standoff between the U.S. and Iran, following the U.S. assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iran’s retaliatory ballistic missile strike against two military bases in Iraq where U.S. troops are stationed. Did the U.S. reestablish deterrence, as the Trump administration claims? Or will Iran take further covert action to avenge Soleimani’s death? And what impact will the U.S. political calendar have on how both sides manage tensions moving forward? Judah and Freddy discuss those topics and more […]

Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone strike, in Kerman, Iran, Jan. 7, 2020 (Tasnim News Agency photo by Erfan Kouchari via AP Images).

Reactions in the United States to the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani have tended to fall into three broad categories. Those who support the strike argue that it eliminated a uniquely irreplaceable figure advancing Iran’s regional influence, while also reestablishing deterrence against Tehran. Those who oppose it fall into two groups. Some warn that by killing Soleimani, the U.S. took a step up the escalation ladder that will inevitably lead to open conflict with Iran. Others say that even short of causing all-out war, the strike was ill-advised because its strategic costs outweigh its benefits. The first argument […]

A protester waves the national flag near Tahrir Square during a demonstration against an Iranian missile strike, in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

Nearly a week after the United States military assassinated Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general who headed the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in Baghdad, a huge rift has opened up in the U.S. relationship with Iraq. A high-ranking Iraqi militia commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed in the U.S. strike, angering many Iraqis. And on Sunday, the Iraqi parliament passed a nonbinding resolution urging the government to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, although the Trump administration insists it plans to stay. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by […]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, talks to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, during a meeting in Beijing, Dec. 31, 2019 (pool photo by Noel Celis of AFP 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. As tensions rise between the United States and Iran, China is urging both countries to exercise restraint while it carefully avoids words or actions that could be construed as taking sides. Beijing’s measured response to this escalating confrontation is a sign of its delicate diplomatic balancing act in a region where it has considerable economic interests. After Iran launched a missile strike early Wednesday against two military bases in Iraq hosting U.S. troops, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson called […]

Soldiers stand guard in a watchtower flying Jordanian flags, in the area of ​​Baqoura near the Israeli-Jordanian border, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

The 25th anniversary of the landmark peace treaty between Jordan and Israel came and went without celebration among Jordanians last fall. They did cheer, however, when the Jordanian government refused to renew annexes to the treaty that allowed Israel to lease and farm fertile lands in the Jordan Valley. While Israelis were disappointed by the move, which followed through on a previous announcement, Jordanians welcomed the return of their country’s flag and sovereignty to the territories of Baqura and al-Ghamr. A cold peace, as King Abdullah II has often put it, is getting colder. Relations between Jordan and Israel have […]

A Qatari flag flies in front of a banner showing King Salman of Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh, Dec. 9, 2019 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

Saudi Arabia and its allies began the Qatar blockade in 2017 in an attempt to reorient Doha's foreign policy away from countries seen as inimical to Saudi interests. With Saudi leadership now facing several crises and increasingly willing to compromise, the two sides are inching closer to a resolution. Saudi Arabia and Qatar appear to be closer to resolving a diplomatic feud that has isolated Doha from its neighbors since 2017, although wide gaps still remain. In an attempt to break the impasse, which has sharply divided the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia recently invited Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim […]

Iranian Maj. 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 this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the U.S. assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and its impact on Iran’s regional influence operations. They also discuss the potential for escalation in the U.S.-Iran conflict and the implications for U.S. ties with Iraq. 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 […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to deliver a speech at an event in Ankara, Dec. 30, 2019 (Presidential Press Service photo via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. With Turkey’s parliament approving a bill this week to greenlight a military deployment in Libya, the chaos that followed the 2011 ouster of long-time Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi threatens to deepen further. Turkish legislators voted overwhelmingly to make good on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promise to intervene in Libya on behalf of the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, known as the Government of National Accord, or GNA. Although Erdogan must still determine the exact size and scope of the Turkish military mission, […]