Oil derricks on the Caspian Sea beyond the Bibi Heybat Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 3, 2006 (AP photo by Mikhail Metzel).

Russia’s assertive approach to reclaiming a sphere of interest in the post-Soviet space has highlighted the security dilemmas facing Eurasian countries that find themselves outside of any regional military alliance. Although recent attention has focused on Georgia and Ukraine, the Caspian littoral countries have for several years considered themselves vulnerable to renewed Russian assertiveness and have complained about declining U.S. and European engagement in their region. In response to these challenges, as well as in pursuit of new opportunities for regional energy cooperation, Azerbaijan has partnered with Turkey and, at various times, Georgia, Iran and Turkmenistan in recent years to […]

Houthi rebels gather to protest against Saudi-led airstrikes at a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, March 26, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

For almost a week now, fighter jets from a coalition of Sunni Arab militaries have been bombarding military installations across Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to dislodge the Houthis, a religious revivalist movement for the Zaydi form of Shiite Islam largely unique to northern Yemen that has now become a fearsome militia. Yet even as Operation Resolute Storm, as the Saudis have dubbed the campaign, has intensified, the Houthis have continued to push on into the south of the country. The group’s spokesmen have even threatened to launch a campaign in Saudi Arabia, which shares a 1,100-mile border […]

Iraqi security forces hold a flag of the Islamic State group they captured during an operation outside Amirli, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2014 (AP file photo).

Whether by burning a Jordanian fighter pilot alive, massacring Shiites or beheading American hostages, the self-declared Islamic State (IS) has an unprecedented knack for making enemies. IS has also inadvertently achieved what the United States never accomplished during more than a decade in Iraq: the mobilization of a willing coalition of Arab countries to fight jihadi extremists. Still, in the first year of its so-called caliphate, IS’ aggressive expansion appears to have passed its zenith. Both on the internet and on the ground, there are many indicators that the group’s decline has already begun. But IS will likely endure for […]

Tourist walk among flowers and the ancient Temple of Zeus, Athens, Greece, March 31, 2015 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

Despite marathon talks over the weekend, Greece and its creditors—the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission—failed to agree on a list of reforms that Athens must implement before the next $7.8 billion tranche of its bailout package is released. Greece could run out of money before next week if those bailout funds are not dispersed. The government must repay about $482 million to the IMF on April 9, but given the current situation, that seems unlikely. Though it looks like there won’t be a deal before the end of the week, both sides […]

Khalid Toukan, chairman of the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission, meets with Sergei Kiriyenko, of the Russian state nuclear energy agency Rosatom, Amman, Jordan, March 24, 2015 (AP photo by Sam McNeil).

Last week, Jordan signed a $10 billion deal with Russia to build its first nuclear power plant. In an email interview, David Schenker, director of the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, discussed Jordan’s nuclear energy policy. WPR: What are Jordan’s current power needs, how does it meet them, and how are they projected to change moving forward? David Schenker: Jordan has 3,380-megawatts (MW) of installed electricity-generation capacity—by comparison, Israel has 14,000-MW—but will need to boost this number significantly to meet growing domestic requirements. Rapid increases in the kingdom’s population—including 1 million Syrian refugees—as […]

Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar speaks with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Chaudhry during a meeting at the foreign ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 3, 2015 (AP photo by Aamir Qureshi).

Earlier this month, Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar went on a whirlwind tour of all seven nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The objective was to discuss the implementation of reforms, ranging from developing infrastructure to combating terrorism and improving governance, which member states agreed to during last year’s SAARC summit in Nepal. Strengthening the SAARC to boost South Asia’s economic integration and development has been a key foreign policy objective of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, but beyond that regional agenda, Jaishankar’s trip to Pakistan was also a chance to restart dialogue on bilateral […]

Chadian soldiers collect weapons seized from Boko Haram fighters, Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

War is back in fashion. Across northern and western Africa and in the Middle East, governments are resorting to force to counter regional threats. Last week, Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, with the backing of nine other members of the Arab League. Members of this coalition are already involved in the air campaign in Iraq and Syria against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Some are also itching to get sucked into the Libyan conflict. In Nigeria, meanwhile, an ad hoc coalition of local armies and foreign mercenaries has taken the offensive against Boko Haram. All […]

U.S. Army recruits receives wait for further in-processing after receiving their initial haircuts during basic combat training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Jan. 16, 2008 (U.S. Air Force photo by Sr. Airman Micky M. Bazaldua).

Since the creation of the all-volunteer force in 1973, finding enough high-quality recruits has been a constant challenge for the U.S. military. It became a bit easier after the Sept. 11 attacks, as patriotism and anger inspired many new volunteers to sign up, and after the global financial crisis, when the shortage of jobs led many young people to consider the military as an opportunity for social mobility. When there are no pressing threats to national security and the economy is on a steady keel, however, military recruiting becomes harder. What’s more, social and demographic trends suggest that it is […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn after signing an agreement on sharing water from the Nile River, Khartoum, Sudan, March 23, 2015 (AP photo by Abd Raouf).

On Monday in Khartoum, the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed an initial accord on mutual water rights to the Nile River, removing another obstacle to Ethiopia’s massive Grand Renaissance Dam, which has been a source of tension with its neighbors since construction began just 10 miles from Sudan’s border in 2011. But the agreement is about a lot more than water. It may signal a seismic shift in the politics of northeastern Africa and could lead to a new axis of cooperation to manage, if not resolve, conflicts in one of the world’s most turbulent regions. The accord’s […]

A Houthi fighter stands guard as people search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, March 26, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

From the popular uprising that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011 and the subsequent power vacuum to the swift advance of the Houthi rebel movement from northern Yemen into the capital, Sanaa, last summer, Yemen has been described as perpetually “on the brink” in recent years. The presence of a local al-Qaida franchise in Yemen’s southern provinces and an ongoing, separate southern secessionist movement, known as Hirak, have only added to the country’s turmoil and confusion over where it was all headed. Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia, leading a coalition of other Arab states and supported by the […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with other officials before resuming talks over Iran's nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 16, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

With negotiations for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program getting down to the wire, differences between the U.S. and Israel have come to the fore, highlighted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to the U.S. Congress in early March. It would be a mistake to reduce these differences to the personal animosity reported to exist between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. As Steven Metz explained in his WPR column last week, they have more to do with America and Israel’s different strategic cultures. But they also reflect how the dramatic changes in the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during an anti-imperialist rally with state oil and electric workers at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Venezuela is one country where U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama had struck the right tone—until a few weeks ago. A diplomatic miscalculation by Washington has strengthened the repressive Venezuelan regime and derailed the Obama administration’s campaign to bolster ties with Latin American nations after December’s landmark reopening of relations with Cuba. Amid the urgent foreign policy challenges from the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere, the Venezuela debacle has unfolded mostly below the radar. But for those who have watched closely, it seems like a once-successful policy taking a sharply damaging turn. The unraveling of Venezuela’s economy, institutions and […]

Anti-balaka militiamen at their base in the Bimbo neighborhood of Bangui, Central African Republic, May 31, 2014 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

In the wake of recent violence in the Central African Republic, the United Nations announced today that it is sending an additional 1,000 peacekeepers to the war-torn country. In an email interview, Amadou Sy, director of the African Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, discussed the political and security situation in CAR. WPR: How successful has the French-led multinational intervention been at improving the security situation in Bangui and other major cities in CAR, and what are the next priorities for the mission? Amadou Sy: The French-led Operation Sangaris came at a critical juncture in the civil war, and put […]

People working in the Mekong River near Luang Prabang, Laos, March 2, 2012 (photo by Flickr user wileyb-j licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.)

Last year, Laos announced it would go ahead with the second of two massive, controversial dams on the Lower Mekong River, over the strong objections of its downstream neighbors, Vietnam and Cambodia. Despite the contentious decisions to build the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, however, the widespread and well-founded fear that a series of dams along the Mekong is fated to destroy a uniquely productive ecosystem may be overly pessimistic—not because the impact of the dams themselves has diminished, but because there are more reasons to doubt whether all of them will actually be built at all. Up to 11 […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif before their advisers resumed negotiations about the future of Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 20, 2015 (State Department photo).

Will there be a draft of a final agreement to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program by the self-imposed deadline at the end of this month? Moreover, is such an agreement a good idea? How one answers these questions depends on one’s perception and tolerance of risk. Is it better to take a chance on what might turn out to be a flawed agreement, or to walk away from the talks even if this increases the chance of military action? For both Iran and the United States, it depends upon which of the following scenarios is seen as the […]

New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, March 23, 2012 (photo by Flickr user yuwenmemon licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, a professor from New York University was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates, where the school recently opened a new campus, after he criticized the country’s labor practices. In an email interview, Stephen Wilkins, director of the integrated doctoral program in business and management at Plymouth University and the former director for professional management programs at Dubai University College, discussed the challenges facing satellite campuses of Western universities. WPR: What are the motivations for establishing satellite campuses of Western universities in places like China and the Persian Gulf, both for the schools and the host countries? […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif walks into another negotiating meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

As negotiators in the Iran nuclear talks strive to meet the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement, which is supposed to be followed by a more detailed implementation package by June, critical external players like Israel and the U.S. Congress have been expressing loud opposition to a deal that they perceive as too lenient on Tehran. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’ expression last week of similar concerns highlights the fact that differences exist even among the six powers—the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China—that are negotiating with Iran. In this context, the quiet if conditional support offered by […]

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