For nearly four decades, Egypt stood as a tent pole in America’s strategic position in the Arab Middle East. Starting in the 1970s, Washington and Cairo coordinated military and diplomatic policies, building what appeared to be reliable, predictable and lasting links between the Arab world’s most populous nation and the world’s most powerful country. Now, as fierce political winds batter the region, America’s entire structure of relationships in the area looks shaky, and the ties that bind Egypt and the U.S. have become dangerously frayed. Without special attention, the United States and Egypt could end up losing an alliance that […]

Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip, has significant interests in the stability of neighboring Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Like Egypt and Israel, Hamas has a stake in countering the rise of Salafi-jihadi groups in Sinai, some of which originally hail from Gaza. These groups are currently attacking Egyptian forces in Sinai, and they have on occasion attacked Israel from across the Egyptian border; but they also serve as an existential threat to Hamas’ control over the Palestinian enclave. As such, and somewhat awkwardly, Hamas shares interests with Egypt, which is currently cracking down on Hamas’ Egyptian counterpart, […]

After three days of voting that began over the weekend, participants in a one-sided referendum held in the disputed Abyei region on the border between Sudan and South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to join the South. The vote is not binding, but depending on the reaction, the outcome could have the potential to pull these countries even further apart. With only one of two ethnic groups in the region participating, the lopsided outcome was widely expected. What remains to be seen is how people will react to the vote both in the region and in the two national capitals. “There could […]

Though important to both, the security relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has for decades been very peculiar, pairing the world’s leading liberal democracy with one of the most conservative nations. Scott McConnell described it as a “protection racket: We provide protection to the Saudi monarchy, and they use their oil wealth to aid the U.S. in other objectives, most importantly keeping the price of oil stable.” Recently this has not seemed enough—the relationship has steadily eroded as differences festered and grew. In a sense, it is less surprising that the U.S.-Saudi partnership has hit a shoal than […]

When the Ibero-American Summit convened in Panama on Oct. 16, it bore little resemblance in spirit and tenor to its launch in 1991. The idea that initially animated the annual gathering of Spain and Portugal’s heads of state and their Latin American counterparts emphasized the renewal of historical, cultural bonds in a context in which the two relatively prosperous European nations could lend a hand to help lift up their former colonies. Spain in particular was held up as a model for its post-Franco democratic restoration and would serve as Latin America’s entry point into European markets. Judging by the […]

As a strategic approach, the U.S. pivot or rebalance to Asia seeks to expand the American political, economic and military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. While this realignment is not only about China, it is also evident that much of the thinking behind it relates to China, and in particular how a more engaged American leadership in Asia could be potentially productive in steering Beijing toward a path that, from the U.S. perspective, would be beneficial for regional and global order. The strategic shift has led many observers to perceive the rebalance as a means for the U.S. to maintain […]

In the absence of a NATO heads-of-state summit this year, the regular meetings of the alliance’s defense ministers take on added importance. This past week’s meeting in Brussels on Oct. 22-23 yielded important achievements regarding the Connected Forces Initiative, but offered little new to say on Afghanistan, Russia or NATO’s core capability initiatives. The meeting was also overshadowed by fallout over revelations of U.S. National Security Agency surveillance of American allies as well as Turkey’s decision to award a missile defense contract to a sanctioned Chinese company. To avoid having such controversies distract from next year’s heads-of-state summit, or have […]

The coming end of the Afghanistan operation that has defined NATO for the past decade marks the end of an era for the alliance. Its mission in the next decade will look drastically different. Gone is the political and public appetite for costly overseas state-building missions. To maintain its relevance, the alliance will have to refocus its commitments, partnerships and missions to make them more dynamic and more responsive to the evolving security landscape. One way to do so involves widening the definition of Atlanticism to include the South Atlantic and the Arctic, areas traditionally ignored by NATO but critical […]

Is there a strategic case for the United States to sustain or expand its efforts to eavesdrop on German intelligence targets? Over the past week, German politicians and the media have grappled with claims that the U.S. National Security Agency listened to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone calls. For many commentators and the chancellor herself, this is by definition a huge breach of trust between allies. For more cynical observers, there is no serious cause for outrage. All states, they smirk, spy on one another. Both the moralists and the cynics have solid arguments. But both also miss a simple point […]

Following its “defeat” in the July 31 presidential and parliamentary elections at the hands of ZANU-PF, the fortunes of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have reached their lowest point in the party’s 14-year existence. Any optimism the MDC may have harbored about removing ZANU-PF seems to have been extinguished, and, after five years in a government of national unity, the MDC is back where it has been for most of its lifespan: on the outside looking in, subject to persistent state harassment and seemingly powerless to halt the ZANU juggernaut. Crucially, this time the MDC also lacks the […]

Washington got two important reminders this week that it cannot take anything for granted in the current international environment. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was reported as saying that the kingdom is planning to make a “major shift” in its relations with the United States. Then on Wednesday, India and China announced an agreement designed to defuse border tensions. Underlying these two moves is the reality that in a more chaotic, G-Zero world, all countries are going to hedge their bets. It is, of course, important not to overreact. Some sources have suggested that Bandar’s […]

In Iraq, the civilian death toll so far this year is nearly double what it was last year, with car bombings and other attacks by al-Qaida-linked militants on the rise. The violence has been described as reminiscent of Iraq’s sectarian civil war, which peaked in 2006-2007 as Sunni and Shiite militias fought one another. But Doug Ollivant, a senior national security fellow with the New America Foundation, noted that Iraq’s recent violence is being waged almost exclusively by the Sunni extremist group al-Qaida in Iraq, which “is striking primarily Shiite civilians, government targets and their own political enemies among the […]

On the surface, the troubles Mexico is facing seem to resemble the devastating challenges that its South American neighbor Colombia suffered not many years ago. It is not surprising, then, that Mexico looked to Colombia’s impressive victories against drug cartels a decade ago and the subsequent economic and social improvements as a model worth emulating. And yet, Mexico has shown few signs of achieving comparable results. A closer look at the differences between the countries’ security problems and their strategy, tactics and execution offers useful glimpses into the demands of governance and the deep roots of the two countries’ security […]

Following a decade-long oil and mining boom, Colombia is facing the challenge of how to harness its energy wealth and push development forward. Since former President Alvaro Uribe opened up Colombia’s oil and mining sectors in the early 2000s, Colombia has gone from producing just more than 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2002 to nearly 1 million bpd in 2012. Over the same period, it has seen foreign direct investment inflows jump from $2.1 billion to $15.8 billion, more than half of which was destined for the oil and mining sectors last year. Some 68 percent of Colombia’s $369 […]

Reports today that two U.S. citizens were seized by pirates off the coast of Nigeria are drawing international attention to the simmering problem of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. In July, maritime security expert James Bridger wrote in a WPR briefing that the situation was getting out of control. “West Africa has now reached a tipping point,” he wrote, “where the geographic expansion of pirate activity demands a coordinated response.” He continued: Operating out of western Nigeria, criminal syndicates with high-level political and economic patrons are targeting specific tankers for hijacking, offloading their cargo to secondary vessels and then […]

Last week, Canada and the European Union signed a free trade agreement after four years of negotiations. In an email interview, Crina Viju, an assistant professor at the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at Canada’s Carleton University, explained the terms and likely impact of the agreement. WPR: What were the major points of agreement in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and what was left unresolved? Crina Viju: As the final text of CETA has not been released due to ongoing drafting and legal analysis, I can outline a few major points overviewed in the summary documents […]

Rumors are swirling in Washington that the Pentagon is thinking of closing its Office of Net Assessment (ONA). Alarmed by this idea, four congressmen led by Rep. Randy Forbes wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (.pdf) demanding “a commitment to the Office of Net Assessment.” The Lexington Institute’s Daniel Goure joined the fray, opining that ONA “must be preserved and supported.” National security discussion boards and email loops quickly lit up with concern for ONA’s future. Outside Washington such passion must seem strange. ONA is a tiny organization that mostly commissions analysis and studies. Abolishing or changing a government office […]

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