After he stepped down as the U.N. special envoy for Syria in May, Lakhdar Brahimi was asked what he thought would become of the country. “It will become another Somalia,” he replied. “It will not be divided, as many have predicted. It’s going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place.” As early as 2012, Brahimi began issuing warnings of the “Somalization” of Syria. While analysts following Syria acknowledge it may not yet be Somalia, “Brahimi’s warning is timely and appropriate,” according to Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at the Department of War Studies at King’s […]

The 2003 Iraq war split the Security Council, but the United Nations ultimately sustained only limited long-term damage from the incident. In the 11 years since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the council has passed over 600 resolutions on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to African conflicts. Now the U.N. faces another war in Iraq, at a time when its overall credibility may be in greater danger than it was in 2003. The Security Council has played an exceedingly minor role during the past month’s crisis in Iraq. After the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria […]

How to best explain Vladimir Putin’s zigzags on Ukraine? Over the past few months, spokesmen and leading officials have confidently made statements about Russian policy only to have the Russian leader suddenly change course. It can be quite confusing for analysts and commentators to assess Russia’s true intentions—and makes Putin look dangerously unpredictable. Putin’s long-term goals are clear: to prevent Ukraine’s full integration into the Euro-Atlantic world; to preserve some semblance of Ukraine’s former position as a neutral intermediary and buffer between Russia and the West; and to retain Russia’s special relationship with the country, particularly its southern and eastern […]

In his inaugural address on May 24, South African President Jacob Zuma identified “rapid economic transformation” and “inclusive growth” as the policy centerpieces of his second and final term in office. This emphasis on transformation reflects an underlying post-election unease within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and represents a tacit recognition that Zuma’s first term was largely squandered due to scandals, managerial incompetence at all levels of government and internecine strife within the ruling party. The ANC hierarchy is aware that another five years of drift and underachievement will lead to a hemorrhage of votes in the 2016 municipal […]

Last week, following the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the United Nations raised the crisis in Iraq to a level three humanitarian disaster—its highest designation—with over 1.5 million displaced people. In an email interview, David Romano, associate professor of political science at Missouri State University, discussed the refugee situation in Iraq. WPR: What impact have refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) had in Iraq and globally since 2003? David Romano: The impact of refugees and IDPs on Iraq and globally is very multifaceted and depends on the context. After the 2003 invasion of […]

The fall of Mosul to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), suddenly put Iraq back on the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Although stories of fleeing Iraqi troops and stolen U.S.-supplied Humvees got most of the attention in U.S. media, the hostage-taking of 49 Turkish citizens, including special forces, diplomats and children, from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, as well as 31 other Turks from elsewhere in northern Iraq, could limit U.S. options in responding to the growing chaos in Iraq. Turkey imposed […]

When Raul Castro became president of Cuba in his own right in 2008, he replaced most of his brother Fidel’s cabinet with ministers of his own choosing. In March 2009, he announced a sweeping reorganization of the government bureaucracy, replacing nine veteran ministers and firing Fidel’s proteges, Carlos Lage, the de facto prime minister, and Felipe Perez-Roque, the foreign minister. By 2012, across 26 ministries, only three of Fidel’s appointees were still in office. Raul’s new ministers came from the ranks of experienced professionals, a number of them from the armed forces. Today, eight ministries are led by career military […]

Barely 10 days after the Palestinian Authority (PA) swore in a new unity government, three Israeli teenagers, including one with U.S. citizenship, were kidnapped in the West Bank. The abduction of the Israeli teens triggered a number of reactions in the area, including an Israeli dragnet searching for the captives, which was aimed at Hamas operatives and supporters in the West Bank. Somewhat less visible than the Israeli operation is the reawakening of enmity between Hamas and Fatah, a dispute the two sides suppressed with great effort in order to make possible the reconciliation agreement that produced the unity government. […]

On June 18, Lebanese parliamentarians met for the seventh time to elect a new president but failed to do so. Speaker Nabih Berri had to postpone the session to July 2, cautioning against a prolonged presidential vacuum reminiscent of 2007-2008, when it took 20 sessions to settle on Michel Suleiman as a compromise choice. The immediate cause of the failure to choose a successor to Suleiman, whose term expired on May 25, is the boycott of the majority of parliamentarians belonging to the pro-Hezbollah March 8 alliance. But the root causes of the crisis are external. They are linked to […]

As extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria march on Baghdad and much of the Iraqi army runs away, there has been a torrent of writing from national security experts, journalists and pundits. This made it easy to miss an important story by Greg Jaffe and Kevin Mauer about American military veterans struggling to understand why the government and military that they worked so hard to create in Iraq has failed so miserably. This is more than simply soul searching: As Jaffe and Mauer noted, the outcome of this debate could have far reaching implications for the future […]

Spanish police have recently begun to crack down on Islamist militants in its exclaves Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. In an email interview, Gerry O’Reilly, senior lecturer in geography and international affairs at St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University, discussed Spanish policy toward both autonomous territories. WPR: What is Spain’s logic for maintaining its two North African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla? Gerry O’Reilly: Spain maintains the exclaves for historical and security reasons: Spain acquired these territories as part of the 15th-century “Reconquista” crusade. Spain’s security imperative remained with Ceuta given its geostrategic importance, as it faces the British […]

With insurgents from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) taking the country’s second biggest city, Mosul, and advancing on the capital, Baghdad, Iraq finds itself in the worst political and military crisis since the height of the civil war in 2006-2007; the very survival of Iraq as a state is in doubt. Its political and military institutions are discredited beyond repair, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s divisive, sectarian leadership is widely blamed for fueling the unrest that feeds the ISIS advance through the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces of central Iraq. Little surprise, then, that many observers in the West, […]

One of the major issues affecting U.S. deliberations over whether to accept a nuclear deal with Iran or to cooperate with Tehran in Iraq is the question of how much Iranian foreign policy has changed under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. In fact, a comprehensive survey of Iranian foreign policy during the past year shows, from Washington’s perspective, major improvements in only a few areas, such as the regime’s nuclear diplomacy, with a harder line on some other issues and broad continuity in most cases. In the November 2013 interim deal over Iran’s nuclear program, which expires July 20 unless renewed, […]

The race for European Commission president got a bit more interesting over the weekend as leaders from Europe’s left, including French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, reportedly backed Jean-Claude Juncker’s candidacy, setting up a showdown with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who opposes Juncker. It is a high-stakes dispute, given that the European Commission presidency is one of the most important institutions in the European Union, empowered with proposing legislation and representing the EU abroad. A meeting in Paris on Saturday among leaders from France, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, […]

As the top judicial body in the American justice system, the U.S. Supreme Court is no stranger to setting legal precedents that reverberate for generations. However, more often than not, those rulings have little impact outside of U.S. borders. Last Monday, however, the high court reached a decision that might very well change the face of international finance for years to come. By ruling that Argentina must repay $1.3 billion to a group of persistent creditors, the nine justices potentially delivered a blow to emerging market economies dependent on international debt markets and put America’s global financial power on display […]

The race to succeed Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general of the United Nations is heating up. More or less open candidates are emerging with growing frequency. This may seem premature: Ban will not leave office until the end of 2016, and he has a lot of unfinished business to attend to. He hopes to seal deals on climate change and the future of international development next year. He also needs to contain the crises in South Sudan and Syria, both of which threaten to cast a profound shadow over his legacy. The pressure seems to have given Ban extra energy. He […]

When the Obama administration took control of U.S. foreign policy in 2009, it undertook to mitigate what it considered the damage wrought by the George W. Bush team. The Iraq War was to be wound down, although, as it happens, more or less along the timeline laid down by the previous president. Afghanistan, the forgotten war, was to be quickly turned around by a judicious application of U.S resources and attention. A deft wielding of diplomacy would end the standoff with Iran, “reset” relations with Russia and bring China into a new dialogue to solve global problems. After the massive […]

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