People wave Polisario Front flags while taking part in a demonstration in support of the Polisario Front and a free Western Sahara, Pamplona, Spain, March 23, 2022 (AP photo by Alvaro Barrientos).

In mid-March, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent a letter to Moroccan King Mohamed VI, supporting Rabat’s plan to grant Western Sahara autonomy over its internal affairs, while remaining under Moroccan sovereignty. The move appeared to be an abrupt departure for Spain, which has maintained a position of careful neutrality over its former colony’s efforts to gain independence from Morocco for nearly 47 years. When the Moroccan Foreign Ministry eventually made Sanchez’s support public, it provoked an uproar in Spain centered around two primary questions. First, Does this really constitute a major policy change for Spain, given that it has never explicitly ruled out the Moroccan autonomy […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken poses for a photograph with the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates at the Negev Summit, Sde Boker, Israel, March 28, 2022 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

DOHA, Qatar—Washington’s partners in the Gulf believe that the United States has fundamentally altered the terms of the deal that has historically governed their relationship. From the period beginning with the end of the Cold War until recently, governments in the Gulf Arab countries considered themselves protected by an ironclad security guarantee provided by the U.S. In exchange, those countries tacitly agreed to leverage their dominance of global oil markets in support of Washington’s policies, particularly at moments of strategic urgency. There is no mutual defense pact requiring the U.S. military to come to the defense of the Arab oil […]

A Free Syrian Army fighter holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher while taking cover after a tank blast in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 26, 2012 (AP photo by Manu Brabo.)

For the community of analysts that have focused on Syria’s civil war over the past decade, the images of bombed out Ukrainian cities, civilian casualties and refugees flooding across the border over the past month are bitterly familiar. As a policy problem, too, the war in Ukraine invites obvious comparisons to the Syrian conflict. Both raise questions about the costs and benefits of U.S. intervention. Both, of course, involve Russia. And in both cases, “realism” has somehow become synonymous with non-interventionism in the U.S. policy discourse.  In fact, those that make a career out of non-interventionism while casting themselves as […]

An aerial view of destroyed buildings and shops in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Felipe Dana).

MOSUL, Iraq—On both sides of the Atlantic, the war in Ukraine and its direct impacts on regional security and the international order  continue to be the focus of policymaking attention. By contrast, because Iraq is physically distant to the conflict, the country continues to remain embroiled in its own affairs. Six months after parliamentary elections held last October, Iraq’s political class remains stuck in a protracted negotiation over government formation that is slowly morphing into a governance crisis, with all the ingredients of state failure. Meanwhile, Iran and the United States continue to jostle for influence in the country, confronting each other […]

A woman walks past the World Bank building in Washington, April 5, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In mid-February, the World Bank issued a warning: Many low-income countries hit hardest by the pandemic are now on the brink of serious debt crisis, complicating the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. While worries about the accumulated burden of sovereign debt and the possibility of a debt crisis have been present for years, the pandemic has exacerbated an already precarious situation for many low-income countries, revealing fundamental flaws in the current architecture for sovereign debt restructuring. These flaws are likely to become more evident in 2022, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contributes to higher global energy and food prices, […]

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat speak at the State Department, Washington, March 11, 2022 (AP photo by Balce Ceneta).

The war in Ukraine might be distant from the African continent, but its effects are proving to be far-reaching. From skyrocketing fuel prices to disruptions in food supply chains, Africans are feeling the real-life consequences of a conflict many of them regard as peripheral to their concerns and believe has little to do with them. But in addition to exacerbating the myriad difficulties African populations are grappling with, the war is also threatening to hobble the international collaborations their governments are trying to develop to address those challenges. That dynamic was on display at last week’s eighth annual high-level dialogue between the […]

A farmer carries wheat on his farm in a village in the Nile Delta town of Behira, north of Cairo, Egypt, May 14, 2015 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which pits two of the world’s major wheat and corn producers against one another, has deep implications for several grain-importing countries. Grain prices had already risen steadily over the past year due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and increasing energy prices. The war further pushed these prices to an all-time high in February, seriously rattling an already shaky global food system. While some commentators are calling for trade measures that would facilitate alternate sources of grain exports to make up for the shortfalls, what is really needed is a major rethink of the conventional food security […]

Posters of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone attack January 2020, are seen in front of three ballistic missiles on display in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 7, 2022. Iran put (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

A dozen ballistic missiles struck Iraq’s northern city of Erbil on Sunday, with some reports suggesting that several landed near the U.S. consulate building in the city. The missile attack left residents of the city terrified, with many posting videos online showing several large explosions and some saying that the blasts shook their homes. Amid speculation of Iranian involvement, the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps quickly claimed responsibility for the missile strike. This latest round of what some observers describe as Iran’s “messaging by missile” marks a dangerous escalation in the Middle East. Iran has built up a long track record […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks via video link during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, New York, Sept. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Spencer Platt).

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the reaction it has drawn from the United States and the European Union, has been described by many observers as having “revitalized the liberal international order,” as Kori Schake of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute wrote in The Atlantic. Ivo Daalder, the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, tweeted that “the West isn’t weak, divided or declining after all.” Other commentators have drawn similar conclusions following the stronger-than-expected response on both sides of the Atlantic to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. But many observers outside the core countries of the […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan attend an official welcome ceremony in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 15, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought some clarity to regional realignments and strategic partnerships in the Middle East, with the changing relationship between the United States and the oil-producing members of the Gulf Cooperation Council in particular coming into sharp focus. War has a tendency to cause states to pay closer attention to and accelerate policy decisions on issues that they might otherwise prefer to defer action on or to leave ambiguous or unresolved. But after more than a week of fighting in Ukraine, one thing has become clear: Washington’s partners in the Middle East are increasingly confident about […]

People gather in a bar to watch the presidential inauguration of Junta leader Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba during his swearing-in ceremony broadcast on national television, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Feb. 16, 2022 (AP photo by Sophie Garcia).

A national conference in Burkina Faso has approved a charter setting out a three-year transition period before the country schedules national elections, following the coup that overthrew former President Roch Kabore in January. Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the officer who led the coup and was already serving as Burkina Faso’s interim head of state, was immediately sworn in as president for the duration of the transition. He subsequently appointed a transitional prime minister to head the 25-member Cabinet, while pledging to make improvements to security and the restoration of “territorial integrity” his key priorities as head of state. The announcement of the charter came after […]

Tunisians demonstrate in support of Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia, Oct. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Hassene Dridi).

Today, the Ukrainian people are fighting—quite literally—for their right to determine their own fate, independently and democratically. It was not so long ago that millions of people in multiple nations of the Middle East and North Africa rose up to fight for democracy at home in a wave of revolutions that, while markedly different from the events, circumstances and challenges in Ukraine, involved a quest to secure some of the rights that Ukrainians are today battling to preserve. At the time, these uprisings, known as the Arab Spring, inspired high expectations. Then, they derailed into tragedy. Back in 2011, observers […]

African residents in Ukraine wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Lviv, Ukraine, Feb. 27, 2022 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last Thursday, major developments that will reshape global politics both immediately and for years to come have rapidly unfolded one after the other. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would boost its defense spending this year by $113 billion and meet NATO’s target of 2 percent of GDP in the future. The U.S. and European Union announced a new round of sanctions against Russia that has sent the ruble crashing. And the EU announced that its member states will grant Ukrainians fleeing the war the right to stay and work in the bloc for […]

U.S. Army soldiers search one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces damaged after a bombing, in Baghdad, April 7, 2003 (AP photo by John Moore).

Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine last week, comparisons to the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq have inevitably and understandably emerged. After all, at transformative moments in world history like the one we’re currently witnessing, analysts naturally draw historical analogies to make sense of contemporary events, mining the past in search of patterns and causal connections that bear some resemblance to what is unfolding today. And while no two situations are ever exactly alike, the comparison to Iraq in 2003 is particularly important, since it has considerable bearing on whether and how the United […]