A Russian military policeman, left, rests in the lobby of a hospital in the city of Deir el-Zour, Syria, Sept. 15, 2017 (AP photo).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series on the Islamic State after the fall of Raqqa and the outlook for Syria and its neighbors. In Syria, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, was always treated as a problem with an essentially military solution. At least for the U.S.-led international coalition, there was no positive end state or program of political change that could be joined to the military campaign against the jihadi group. The general repulsiveness of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad meant that, unlike in neighboring Iraq, Washington and its allies could not simply invest […]

Nationalists burn flares during a march to mark Poland’s Independence Day, Warsaw, Nov. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski). The march suggests Poland is at risk of becoming the European capital of xenophobia.

An annual march on Poland’s Independence Day has become a magnet for ultranationalists from across Europe. In 2017, the march drew 60,000 neo-fascists into the streets. If a major European country becomes a hub of far-right radicalism and xenophobia, the ramifications for Europe and the West would be damaging. On Nov. 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I, Poland celebrates its national Independence Day. This year, the most popular of the many events held that day took on a shocking tone, capturing the world’s attention and raising a sense of alarm. While most of the observances unfolded […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping after attending a business event at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, Nov. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

I suspect I speak for many close observers of international affairs when I express my frustration with the sheer repetitiveness of trying to decipher signal from noise amid the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump’s lengthy jaunt through Asia is the latest case in point. On the one hand, he managed to reassure many observers by staying “on-script” through much of the trip, although defining success as avoiding any public displays of pique—rather than securing any concrete deliverables—is a sign of how low the bar has now been set for Trump. On the other, he did […]

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, left, and Irish minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan point to the Irish border crossing near Castleblayney, Ireland, May 12, 2017 (AP photoby Peter Morrison).

While talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union over the terms of Brexit are ongoing, the question of how to sever Northern Ireland from the EU has emerged as a major point of contention. If talks fail, the U.K. will likely exit the EU without a smooth transitional framework in place. That would raise several border issues in Ireland and Northern Ireland and could even threaten the Good Friday peace agreement that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland in the late 1990s. In an email interview, Frank Barry, a professor of international business and economic development […]

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at an ASEAN summit dinner at the SMX Convention Center, Nov. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

During his marathon visit to Asia, the longest by a U.S. president in over 25 years, Donald Trump at least demonstrated to American allies and partners that he is not going to ignore the region. Following up on the Obama administration’s promise to regularly send high-level U.S. officials to major Asian summits to demonstrate Washington’s regional commitment, Trump attended the summits of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But he cut short his trip at the last minute and skipped the East Asia Summit’s plenary session, which he had added to his itinerary earlier. […]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is greeted by his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo during a meeting, Bogor, Indonesia, Nov. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

On Nov. 9, South Korean President Moon Jae-in unveiled his “New Southern Policy,” aimed at deepening relations with the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. Moon’s announcement, made on a state visit to Indonesia, came amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the region ahead of the latest ASEAN summit in the Philippines and U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia. In an email interview, Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the forthcoming book South Korea at […]

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In late September, the Kurds of Iraq seemed to have moved one step closer to realizing their historic goal of gaining independence, when nearly 93 percent of voters backed a referendum to formally secede from Baghdad. Masoud Barzani, the former guerrilla leader who had served as president of the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, since 2005, went ahead with the poll despite fierce opposition from the governments of Iraq, Iran and Turkey, and mild opposition from the United States. When the results came in, Kurds took to the streets of Irbil, the regional capital, in celebration. It soon became […]

U.S. Intelligence Faces Challenges From Tech, Bad Actors—and the President

Three recent stories about U.S. intelligence offer insights into how the massive effort to collect and interpret data about threats to the United States has performed over the past few years, and how that effort must increasingly deal with challenges from technology, bad actors and even from political leaders. The first story is about the planned release of old U.S. intelligence documents, which are straightforward enough. The second is the publicly acknowledged damage done to American signals intelligence from hacking or leaking. The third, and perhaps most troubling, is President Donald Trump’s startling statement while overseas in Asia that he […]

U.N. forces from Rwanda patrol the streets of Bangui, Central African Republic, Feb. 12, 2016 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

On Nov. 15, the United Nations Security Council will meet to decide on the fate of the U.N. mission in Central African Republic, known by its acronym MINUSCA. In stark contrast to the debate over the U.N. mission in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, which the U.S. pushed to reduce last April after citing its ineffectiveness and cost, few in New York expect cuts to the Central African Republic (CAR) mission. To the contrary, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited CAR at the end of October and called for increasing the mission’s authorized troop ceiling, currently just over 12,000, by […]

Worshipers attend a sermon during Eid al-Adha at the Martyrs Square, Tripoli, Libya, Sept. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Mohamed Ben Khalifa).

As a political solution to Libya’s civil war remains elusive, with rival governments operating in Tripoli in the west and Tobruk in the east, running a fully functioning economy has been all but impossible. Once a major oil exporter, the war-torn country has had to make do with less production and, given the collapse in global prices, less revenue. In an email interview, Mohamed Eljarh, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, discusses what remains of Libya’s non-hydrocarbon economy and the toll that the deteriorating economic situation is taking on the country’s people […]

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, right, poses with U.S. President Donald Trump and other leaders during the ASEAN-U.S. Summit, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 13, 2017 (Photo by Manan Vatsyayana via AP).

Even as Donald Trump wraps up his first trip to Asia as U.S. president this week, deep uncertainty remains over what the broad contours of his administration’s Asia policy will actually end up being. Though U.S.-Singapore ties themselves are already on a solid footing and the city-state remains a key U.S. strategic partner, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Washington last month, ahead of Trump’s Asia tour, reinforced the point that this important relationship is not immune to that uncertainty, with both sides trying to manage their relations in the context of their domestic and foreign policies. Both […]

United Nations peacekeepers from Niger patrol the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Jan. 10, 2011 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

United Nations peacekeepers have a branding problem. The blue helmets, once much-admired symbols of international cooperation, are now routinely associated with venality and incompetence. Regular allegations of sexual abuse have tarnished their reputation, and U.N. forces have struggled to manage surges of violence in trouble spots such as South Sudan. The U.N. has not yet properly come to terms with well-attested claims that Nepali peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti, killing thousands. As a result, media reports about peacekeepers now start from the presumption that U.N. personnel are a problem rather than a solution to major crises. U.N. officials wearily note […]

Homeowner Sohail Soomro dumps debris on his front yard in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Katy, Texas, Sept. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Matt Rourke).

Devastating hurricanes and fires in the United States and the Caribbean since August have demonstrated yet again that extreme weather exacerbated by climate change has created new risks. The suffering and damage caused by this extreme weather has, in turn, created additional new dangers to public health. One of the more worrisome is the spread of disease, especially “vector-borne” diseases. These are diseases transmitted to humans through insect bites, most commonly by mosquitoes, ticks and flies. They include Zika, Lyme, Chikungunya and malaria. In 2015, malaria alone infected over 200 million people and caused about 438,000 deaths worldwide. According to […]

Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, chats with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe after a ceremony during which Mnangagwa was sworn in as vice president, Harare, Zimbabwe, Dec. 12, 2014 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Speculation about the end of Robert Mugabe’s reign as president of Zimbabwe typically centers on the 93-year-old’s health. This week, however, the conversation turned to a different kind of threat, as Mugabe encountered what The Guardian described as “his biggest political challenge in almost two decades.” On Monday, Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had formerly been seen as a potential successor. In announcing the move, Khaya Moyo, the information minister, said Mnangagwa had “consistently and persistently exhibited […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking at the plenary session of the annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Sochi, Russia, Oct. 19, 2017 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

When World War II ended in 1945, the United States hoped that wartime cooperation with the Soviet Union would continue. The dream of then-President Franklin Roosevelt was for an enduring partnership of the victorious great powers acting together to prevent future world wars. But this was not to be. Whether ideological differences between the Soviet Union and the United States doomed postwar cooperation from the start, or the idea was deliberately sabotaged by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, Washington and Moscow were soon locked in the Cold War. The United States—new to great power statecraft and global leadership—did not know initially […]

Iraqis from the Yazidi community rebuild temples destroyed by Islamic State fighters, Bashiqa, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2017 (AP photo Khalid Mohammed).

Late last month, in an unexpected political maneuver after Iraqi Kurdish officials went ahead with their controversial referendum on independence, Iraq’s central government restored its dominance over most of the so-called disputed territories in the north of the country. Even though they fall outside the jurisdiction of the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, these areas had effectively been controlled by the KRG for the past three years, amid the chaos created by the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the retreat of Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces swept through the key, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, as well as Sinjar and much of the Nineveh […]

Maatalla Mboirick, who was born into slavery but later escaped, in Nouakchott, Mauritania, Aug. 19, 2017 (Photo by Jillian Kestler-D’Amours).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Frederick Deknatel discuss the regional implications of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s power grab in Saudi Arabia. For the Report, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours talks with Peter Dörrie about the enduring legacy of slavery in Mauritania as well as new grassroots efforts to address the social and legal inequalities still faced by descendants of enslaved people—and root out slavery where it is still being practiced in that country. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen on WPR, please think about supporting our work by […]

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