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 […]

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, center, speaks during the Democratic primary debate in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019 (AP photo by Wilfredo Lee).

The Democratic Party held its first presidential primary debates this week. As expected, the candidates focused their attacks on President Donald Trump. One of the many contenders, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, even said—to raucous applause in Miami—that Trump was “the biggest threat to the security of the United States.” In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Elliot Waldman, talk about how Trump’s divisive approach to foreign policy could play an outsized role in the Democratic primary and in next year’s presidential election. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines […]

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 […]

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 […]

President Donald Trump, right, with Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, during their bilateral meeting at the G-20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 1, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

President Donald Trump is traveling Wednesday to Osaka, Japan, for the G-20 leaders’ summit, where the packed agenda includes a much-anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “The world’s eyes will be on the Trump-Xi meeting,” WPR columnist Stewart Patrick wrote this week, as the two leaders will try to get negotiations for a trade deal back on track after talks broke down last month. From Japan, Trump will travel on to South Korea for talks with President Moon Jae-in about how to restart stalled diplomacy with North Korea over its nuclear program. As the former top U.S. diplomat for […]

Staff members stand near the emblem for the 2019 Group of 20 leaders’ summit at the entrance of the press center of the G-20 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting, in Fukuoka, Japan, June 9, 2019 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. When Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump meet Saturday at the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Osaka, Japan, as expected, the ongoing trade war will be at the top of the agenda. With negotiations at a standstill since May, the meeting is an opportunity to break the deadlock—and for Trump to back off his threats to impose tariffs on nearly all Chinese imports that are not already taxed. A breakthrough was expected last month, until […]

A boat sails past a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, June 10, 2019 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

If the U.S.-China trade war develops into a broader cold war, as some observers fear, it will be nothing like the actual Cold War. Between civil war in Russia after World War I, the Great Depression in the United States and then the cataclysm of World War II, America and the Soviet Union never had a chance to develop a significant economic relationship before things hardened into a stark East-West divide. When Washington adopted a containment strategy that blocked most trade with the Soviets, including technology transfers, it had relatively little impact on either economy. The situation with China today […]

State officials and tech company executives are sworn in to testify at a congressional subcommittee hearing on election security, Washington, May 22, 2019 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Homeland security is a priority for every nation. Since some countries face the same threats and enemies for decades, or even centuries, their conceptualization of homeland security remains constant. The United States is different. As America’s role in the world and the challenges it faces have changed, Americans themselves have had to periodically reconceptualize homeland security. Another radical rethinking is underway again today, and much is at stake. In the first half of the 20th century, homeland security became more than just protecting the nation’s borders and ports, as Americans recognized that events far away had a direct effect on […]

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 […]

U.S. President Donald Trump attends the multilateral meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

In his 2014 book “Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy,” Barry Posen argued that America’s post-Cold War grand strategy of global engagement is costly, unsustainable and unnecessary. U.S. national security interests could be secured, he argued, with a leaner and more effective national security strategy that places more of an emphasis on air and sea power rather than the permanent stationing of U.S. troops overseas. In this week’s podcast interview, Posen, who is currently the Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT and the Director of the MIT Security Studies Program, joins WPR’s associate editor, Elliot Waldman, […]

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 […]

A container ship is unloaded at the Virginia International Gateway terminal in Norfolk, Va., May 10, 2019 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

President Donald Trump likes trade wars because he thinks they are “easy to win,” as he infamously put it, and because he thinks they will help improve the trade balance. Trump claims past American presidents have been weak, allowing other countries to take advantage of the United States in trade negotiations. As evidence, he points to the large American trade deficit. But any economist worth her salt will tell you that the deficit doesn’t reflect what Trump thinks it does. Instead, it simply reflects the propensity of Americans to spend more than they save and invest. Trump is wrong about […]

Melinda Gates, Jack Ma, center, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, right, at U.N. headquarters, June 10, 2019 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

Eleven months ago, with little fanfare, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed a High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, co-chaired by Melinda Gates of the eponymous Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Guterres assigned the group of 22 luminaries a daunting task: to figure out how to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms to humanity posed by the digital revolution. Last week, the panel delivered its conclusions in a report on “The Age of Digital Interdependence.” Unfortunately, the panel’s findings are apt to fall on deaf ears as the world grows more divided […]

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, […]

A protester holds a sign mocking Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during an anti-government march in central Budapest, Hungary, Dec. 21, 2018 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

Around the world, political debates are increasingly being shaped around social and cultural issues rather than questions of policy. The result is a hardening of national discourses in many countries, as well as a shrinking of the space required for compromise. Meanwhile, a new generation of populist leaders is increasingly willing to not only flout democratic norms, but also to use traditional tools of democratic governance to consolidate and expand their own power. 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, discuss the emerging […]

Planes from the Battle of Britain memorial flight pass over Arromanches, France, during a service to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, June 6, 2019 (Press Association photo by Gareth Fuller via AP Images).

Can the norms and institutions of liberal democracy still effectively arbitrate the issues driving debate in Western democracies? The ideological movements roiling politics throughout Europe and the United States have been seen as a popular backlash against the elite technocratic policy consensus of Third Way globalization. But in some ways, they portend a new form of contesting politics that is fundamentally incompatible with the premises on which liberal democracy is based. These movements may be working within the system to achieve their aims for now, but in the long run, the battles they seek to join could represent existential threats […]

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