Kimg Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, meets with then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, July 26, 2007 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Even before he became president of the United States, Donald Trump had reserved some of his most lavish praise for Egypt’s strongman, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. That’s why it came as no small surprise when news emerged last week that the U.S. had decided to withhold almost $300 million in aid for Egypt. The principal reason for the move, according to Trump administration officials, was Cairo’s continuing crackdown on human rights. But another issue also surfaced as a point of friction: Egypt’s ties to North Korea. Given what we know about the current U.S. administration, it seems likely that North Korea […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaves parliament after speaking as part of a debate over his proposed Cabinet, Tehran, Aug. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Judah Grunstein, who will return next week. The Trump administration should take heed of the potential economic pitfalls of its impending showdown with Iran over the 2015 nuclear agreement. A failure by the United States to recertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal would mean the reimposition of sanctions, a move that will only end up isolating the U.S. internationally. If Trump declares Tehran in breach of the nuclear agreement, Washington must be prepared to go it alone, because Iran, and its oil industry, will fight a U.S. snapback of […]

Afghan army commandos train at Camp Shorab in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Massoud Hossaini).

President Donald Trump’s advisers have touted his strategy in Afghanistan, unveiled last week, as taking a regional approach to America’s longest war. But Trump’s speech contained only the briefest reference to the roles and responsibilities of two of Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, India and Pakistan, which are so critical to the long-term fortunes of that beleaguered land. Trump’s call for a bigger role for India and his warning to Pakistan about its cross-border dealings were nothing new, and they failed to acknowledge the larger strategic tradeoffs and complexities in the region. A true regional approach would look quite different and would […]

A Belgian special forces soldier looks through binoculars east of Tal Afar, Iraq, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Balint Szlanko).

The beginning of every academic year presents professors with a small cavalcade of perplexities and irritants. Universities use the summer break to come up with innovative administrative guidance and supposedly improved computer systems that inevitably backfire on first contact with students or teachers. It normally takes just a few weeks to fix these glitches. But occasionally an academic will encounter a rather more significant challenge at the start of a semester: A creeping fear that their discipline is doomed. As someone who teaches International Conflict Resolution, or ICR, I currently feel something like that. This is not because there is […]

Tens of thousands of North Koreans gather for a rally at Kim Il Sung Square meant to demonstration their rejection of U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang, Aug. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Jon Chol Jin).

What is the point of the United Nations Security Council? The U.N. Charter says that the body “has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international security,” but it has only ever played this role haphazardly. The Security Council seizes on some crises tenaciously and ignores others entirely. As a result, the doyen of U.N. studies, Adam Roberts, has aptly described the organization as a “selective security system.” Hankerers after global governance may wish the council were more consistent. For more pragmatic observers, the interesting question is what sort of situations it selects to concentrate on. A quick glance at the […]

A military convoy passes a checkpoint on the outskirts of Marawi, Philippines, June 9, 2017 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

Today the grueling battles to expel the self-styled Islamic State from Iraq and Syria drag on, but even when they are over it will not be the end of the violent extremist movement. There are still willing recruits for the Islamic State and plenty of anger, disillusionment and alienation that it can exploit. Unfortunately, it has established its global “brand.” Even as it is being driven from its homeland, it seems to be plotting its next strategic moves. At this point, the Islamic State’s most effective foray outside Iraq and Syria is in Afghanistan, where it has joined the Taliban’s […]

Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, awaits the arrival of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

Except in times of war, few politicians have achieved great electoral success by telling voters to sacrifice living standards today for the sake of a better tomorrow. But in a surprising turn of events, voters in Argentina have just given an unexpected endorsement to this message, which has been the guiding logic behind the anti-populist policies of President Mauricio Macri. On Sunday, Argentina held primary elections ahead of the Oct. 22 midterm legislative polls. It wasn’t supposed to be a very momentous event, but the results, as it happened, came loaded with significance. Voters didn’t just give a boost to […]

White House chief of staff John Kelly watches as President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower, New York, Aug. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

We’ve now reached the “reductio ad absurdum” stage of Donald Trump’s presidency, where all the various factors that have made his short time in office so shambolic converge to dispel any remaining semblance of credibility. That this coincides with what I recently argued was the most dangerous period of his presidency, when U.S. rivals and adversaries begin to openly call Trump’s bluffs, means that the comedy of errors on display could easily lead to great tragedy. Two weeks ago, after a spike in dysfunction took the level of chaos higher than seemed imaginable, John Kelly was appointed White House chief […]

Protesters shout as they hold umbrellas during a rally demanding peace on the Korean peninsula, Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

The current tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs have become a U.S.-North Korea bilateral story, as the two countries’ leaders spar in public. In addition, coordinating with the South Korean government is tricky when the political philosophies in Washington and Seoul diverge. Comparing this current crisis to regional stresses in Europe over Russia and in the Arab world over Iran shows how the immediate neighbors of an adversarial state often have different interests than Washington. And even when threat perceptions converge, policy preferences may not. The current alignment of politics and policies in Washington and Seoul is not optimal […]

A crowd of displaced people look on as members of the U.N. multinational police contingent provide security during a visit of UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, Bentiu, South Sudan, June 18, 2017 (AP photo by Sam Mednick).

There are few less fashionable phrases in international relations today than “nation building.” In the U.S. and Europe, politicians and generals are still struggling to put the ghosts of their interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq behind them. At the United Nations, international officials talk about promoting “resilience” or “sustaining peace” in volatile societies. Only a brave observer would make a full-fledged case for the need to build functional states, let alone “nations,” in the face of such widespread skepticism. Michael von der Schulenburg is courageous enough to do that. The former U.N. official, who served in countries ranging from Afghanistan […]

Afghan soldiers stand guard following weeks of heavy clashes to recapture territory from Taliban militants in Baghlan province, March 15, 2016 (AP photo by Massoud Hossaini).

Washington remains consumed by America’s long military involvement in Afghanistan. Many policy experts, members of Congress and government officials favor continuing the existing approach, while others—including President Donald Trump himself—are unconvinced. Whichever side prevails this time, one thing is certain: This is not an isolated debate. Rather, it is the beginning of a deeper reconsideration of the role that counterinsurgency should play in U.S. security strategy. The United States first took on counterinsurgency, known by its military acronym COIN, in the 1960s out of fear that the Soviet Union was exploiting nationalist and leftist insurgencies to weaken the West. The […]

Carla del Ponte, who recently resigned her post from the commission of inquiry on Syria, presents report findings during a press conference, Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 18, 2013 (Salvatore Di Nolfi for Keystone via AP).

Amid the torrent of news this week regarding multiple brewing crises from North Korea to Venezuela, one item of seemingly minor importance managed to filter through. It was a personnel matter, a bureaucrat’s decision, but one that highlights the magnitude of the current struggle to develop an international system for conflict resolution, accountability and justice. On Sunday, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria confirmed that its most prominent member, Carla del Ponte, had resigned from the body. The resignation points to a major flaw in the system: the ability of powerful players, in this case Russia, to thwart […]

Participants at the 6th Moscow Conference on International Security, Moscow, April 27, 2017 (Iliya Pitalev for Sputnik via AP).

The past nine years spent editing World Politics Review have put me in a privileged position to observe not only global affairs, but also media coverage of global affairs. In that time, a number of trends and evolutions in online media have dramatically changed the way we collectively are informed about the world, at times for better, but often for worse. Never has there been so much global news available to the average reader. But the way news is now delivered means that quantity has not necessarily translated into quality. Although this column normally focuses on the actual issues WPR […]

President Donald Trump meets with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the G-20 Summit, Hamburg, July 7, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

President Donald Trump’s desire to be true to his domestic political base while offering some concessions to policy experts is settling into a pattern. On climate change, relations with Mexico, the Iran nuclear agreement and Cuba, the president has so far been willing to make tactical shifts while keeping some superficial semblance of his campaign promises. It is not a serious or sustainable way to make national security policy. This past week, the transcripts of Trump’s early exchanges with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were released—and the foreign policy community gasped. The leaked conversations provided unexpected insights into the […]

Supporters of Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi gather to mourn after his death, Kinshasa, Congo, Feb. 2, 2017 (AP photo by John Bompengo).

Does the United Nations have to go back to square one in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Mounting violence in the DRC threatens to put one of the organization’s longest-running large-scale peacekeeping operations in an unsustainable position. At a time when U.N. officials and diplomats in New York are talking about limiting blue helmet operations in the face of U.S. budget cuts, the organization faces a security test in the DRC that could highlight why it really needs more military resources, not fewer. There have been U.N. peacekeepers in the DRC since 1999. The first international personnel were deployed to […]

Security forces leave after responding to an attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 31, 2017 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

While not as dangerous as Iran and North Korea, Afghanistan remains one of America’s thorniest and most frustrating security challenges. Since the George W. Bush administration intervened in that country after the attacks of 9/11, the United States has tried to create an Afghan government and train security forces that could stabilize the country and eradicate extremist organizations like al-Qaida that had been given sanctuary there under Taliban rule. The idea was that after some period of international help, the government and security forces of Afghanistan would be able to stand on their own. Unfortunately this has not worked. While […]

A photo released by the Saudi Press Agency on July 30 shows Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Saudi Press Agency via AP).

On Monday, a most intriguing photograph started circulating in print and on social media, raising eyebrows, stoking conspiracy theories, and simultaneously stirring worries and anticipation. The picture featured the firebrand Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, dour-faced and black-turbaned, sitting across from a relaxed and smiling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young royal who is steadily emerging as the de facto leader of the Sunni kingdom. The picture revealed their unlikely meeting a day earlier in the Saudi city of Jeddah, and it testified to the fact that the two men wanted to make sure their encounter became known […]

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