Operation Peace Spring Is Europe’s Problem Too

By Tristan Ober Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, which Ankara launched on October 9, appears to have come to a halt. Compared to Russia’s role in resolving the crisis, involvement of the United States is far less prominent, underscoring the extent to which Moscow has capitalized on Washington’s strategic blunders—under both President Donald Trump and his … Continue reading “Operation Peace Spring Is Europe’s Problem Too”

Israeli Settlement Defenders Once Again Turn To False Antisemitism Claims Amid European Court Decision

By Mitchell Plitnick  For many years, the Israeli government has waged what we might call a campaign of normalization regarding its military occupation of the West Bank. Israel has spared no effort to erase the demarcation between its internationally recognized boundaries—the territory Israel controlled prior to the 1967 war when it captured the West Bank, … Continue reading “Israeli Settlement Defenders Once Again Turn To False Antisemitism Claims Amid European Court Decision”

Tehran, It’s Time to Listen and Take A Realistic View Of The Protests In Iraq

By Neda Bolourchi More than a month after protestors first took to the streets across Iraq, Adil Abdul Mahdi surprisingly remains the country’s prime minister. In what has been a movement against high unemployment, poor basic services, and state corruption, demonstrators insist on the removal of factions and political elites that came to power in … Continue reading “Tehran, It’s Time to Listen and Take A Realistic View Of The Protests In Iraq”

It’s when not if China’s Middle Eastern tightrope snaps

By James Dorsey China is manoeuvring to avoid being sucked into the Middle East’s numerous disputes amid mounting debate in Beijing on whether the People’s Republic will be able to remain aloof yet ensure the safety and security of its mushrooming interests and sizeable Diaspora community. China’s challenge is starkest in the Gulf. It was … Continue reading “It’s when not if China’s Middle Eastern tightrope snaps”

WSJ Article Runs Through The Greatest Hits of a Dysfunctional Foreign Policy Debate

By Adam Wunische The unrivaled and unchallenged exertion of American military power around the world, or what’s known as “primacy,” has been the basis for U.S. Grand Strategy over the past 70 years and has faced few intellectual and political challenges. The result has been stagnant ideas, poor logic, and an ineffective foreign policy. As … Continue reading “WSJ Article Runs Through The Greatest Hits of a Dysfunctional Foreign Policy Debate”

A Fitting Tribute to the Fall of the Berlin Wall

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since the Berlin Wall “fell,” heralding the end of the Cold War that supposedly was going to last forever. Within a short time, hundreds of millions of people in Central and Eastern Europe no longer lived under communism and the heel of the Soviet Union and … Continue reading “A Fitting Tribute to the Fall of the Berlin Wall”

Iran’s Strategy of Reducing Its Commitments Under the Nuclear Deal Is Risky And Could Backfire

After the United States’ withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the reimposition of even harsher sanctions on Tehran, coupled with Europe’s inability or unwillingness to provide Iran with relief from the rigors of U.S. sanctions, Tehran adopted a strategy based on demonstrating the dangers of … Continue reading “Iran’s Strategy of Reducing Its Commitments Under the Nuclear Deal Is Risky And Could Backfire”

Don’t Fall For Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Twitter Public Relations Campaign

By Kourosh Ziabari “Throughout history the secret to success has been love, freedom, and justice. … Building a better tomorrow filled with freedom, justice, and love is the goal of every nation. We should all strive to achieve this goal. … The search for freedom, justice, peace, and security is only possible if there is … Continue reading “Don’t Fall For Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Twitter Public Relations Campaign”

Repairing the Damage: What Democratic Candidates Ought to Talk About

By Paul Pillar The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination has had the unreal quality of not focusing on what the eventual winner will have the power to do, and will be most pressed to do, as president. Instead the campaign has been more of an abstract discussion of certain high-profile policy issues—abstract not in … Continue reading “Repairing the Damage: What Democratic Candidates Ought to Talk About”

Nothing Will Come of Nothing

By Lawrence Wilkerson On Saturday, October 19 at the College of William and Mary, where I teach, the student veterans group convened “on the green” for a military style breakfast for themselves and military veteran alumnae. The event was well attended—even a veteran of the Korean War was present. I’ll be 75 in January and … Continue reading “Nothing Will Come of Nothing”

The Limited Utility of the Iran Sanctions

By Kenneth Katzman The objective of any sanctions regime is not to punish the target country or weaken its economy as an end in itself. Rather, a sanctions campaign—including the Trump Administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran—is meant to change the target country’s behavior. Such a result could come from a reduction in its … Continue reading “The Limited Utility of the Iran Sanctions”

The Beginning of the End of Yemen’s Civil War?

By Peter Salisbury The Riyadh Agreement, signed on 5 November, has averted a war within Yemen’s civil war, at least for the time being. The deal prevents a collapse of the fragile alliance of Yemeni forces that Saudi Arabia has supported since intervening in Yemen in March 2015 to prevent Huthi rebels from taking over … Continue reading “The Beginning of the End of Yemen’s Civil War?”

Q&A: Syria, The U.S., And The Incoherence of Donald Trump’s Incoherence

by Derek Davison Since Donald Trump announced last month that he was pulling U.S. forces off of the border between Syria and Turkey, U.S. policy in northeastern Syria has become almost inscrutable. Trump’s announcement green lit a conflict between Turkey and the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who had served as U.S. proxies in … Continue reading “Q&A: Syria, The U.S., And The Incoherence of Donald Trump’s Incoherence”

Is France Moving Against the MEK?

By Eldar Mamedov On October 30, a volley of tweets attributed to Alexis Kohler, chief of staff of the French President Emmanuel Macron, announced that France, taking into account the “negative consequences” of the presence of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) on the French soil, will restrict its activities in the country. On November … Continue reading “Is France Moving Against the MEK?”

U.S. Maximum Pressure Meets Iranian Maximum Pressure

By Ali Vaez and Naysan Rafati Iran announced on 5 November that it is moving ahead with incremental breaches of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). According to President Hassan Rouhani, as of 6 November, Tehran will start “injecting [uranium hexafluoride] gas into the centrifuges in Fordow”, a bunkered enrichment facility that under … Continue reading “U.S. Maximum Pressure Meets Iranian Maximum Pressure”

Evaluating the Hormuz Peace Endeavor

By Kayhan Barzegar Concerns of Increased tension, instability and possible conflict, mainly involving energy security, has inclined the international community to think of establishing a collective security system in the Persian Gulf. In this respect, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani proposed the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) at the UN General Assembly in September, and Iranian Foreign … Continue reading “Evaluating the Hormuz Peace Endeavor”

Lebanon’s ‘Arab Spring’ Shakes Iran and the Region

By Emile Nakhleh Lebanon’s largely peaceful “Arab Spring” is a model in civic activism for the greater Middle East. Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s offer to resign in response to the country’s popular uprising, which has been devoid of bloodshed and mayhem, is starkly different from the response of regimes to the first Arab spring in … Continue reading “Lebanon’s ‘Arab Spring’ Shakes Iran and the Region”

Global protests: Russia and China risk ending up on the wrong side of history

By James M. Dorsey Widespread perceptions see Russia together with China as the rising powers in the Middle East as a result of America’s flip flops in Syria and US president Donald J. Trump’s transactional approach towards foreign policy as well as Russian and Chinese support for regimes irrespective of how non-performing and/or repressive they … Continue reading “Global protests: Russia and China risk ending up on the wrong side of history”

Winter Is Coming: Castle Black, the Syrian Withdrawal, and the Battle of the Bases

By Nick Turse They called it Castle Black, an obvious homage to the famed frozen citadel from the HBO series Game of Thrones. In the fantasy world of GoT, it’s the stronghold of the Night’s Watch, the French Foreign Legion-esque guardians of the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms. This Castle Black, however, was all too real and occupied by … Continue reading “Winter Is Coming: Castle Black, the Syrian Withdrawal, and the Battle of the Bases”

Servants of the U.S. National Interest

By Paul R. Pillar The roles of national security professionals who spend careers in government have gotten increased attention lately, mainly because some of their number have been thrust into an uncomfortable spotlight because of the possible impeachment of Donald Trump. The attention has not improved public understanding of the missions and commitment of such … Continue reading “Servants of the U.S. National Interest”

Change of Government is Unlikely To Solve Iraq’s Problems

By Shireen T. Hunter In the wake of large-scale popular demonstrations in Iraq, demands for the resignation of its prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, have increased. Among the most vocal voices demanding his resignation has been the unpredictable cleric Muqtada al Sadr. Sadr, who has tried to model himself as the defender of Iraqi nationalism … Continue reading “Change of Government is Unlikely To Solve Iraq’s Problems”

J Street conference confronts America’s ‘blank check’ to Israel

By Mairav Zonszein WASHINGTON — In the shadow of the World Series, the reported killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the one-year anniversary of the Tree of Life Massacre in Pittsburgh, 4,000 people gathered in the U.S. capital for J Street’s eighth annual conference, titled “Rise to the Moment.” In some ways, J Street did just that. … Continue reading “J Street conference confronts America’s ‘blank check’ to Israel”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Europe’s Islamophobes: An Unsavory Alliance

By Eldar Mamedov One of the central strategies the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East use to gain influence in the European Union (EU) is to promote themselves as bulwarks of stability, moderation, and tolerance. They pump up their credentials as defenders of religious minorities, particularly Christians, against the threat of political Islam. The efficacy … Continue reading “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Europe’s Islamophobes: An Unsavory Alliance”

ISIS’s Next Perfect Storm

By Alessandro Regio President Donald Trump announced last Sunday morning that with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death and the United States’ withdrawal from Northern Syria, the terror organization had been completely eradicated. ISIS’s threat capacities, even as destroyed as it may be now in terms of leadership and territory, are being heavily distorted by … Continue reading “ISIS’s Next Perfect Storm”

False Security: Donald Trump and the Ten Commandments (Plus One) of the National Security State

By Andrew Bacevich Let us stipulate at the outset that Donald Trump is a vulgar and dishonest fraud without a principled bone in his corpulent frame. Yet history is nothing if not a tale overflowing with irony. Despite his massive shortcomings, President Trump appears intent on recalibrating America’s role in the world. Initiating a long-overdue … Continue reading “False Security: Donald Trump and the Ten Commandments (Plus One) of the National Security State”

Operation Peace Spring Has Further Exposed Close Turkish-Qatari Ties

By Giorgio Cafiero Some member-states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) join Egypt in viewing Turkey’s agenda in the Arab/Islamic world as a major threat. Specifically, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh perceive Turkey’s “neo-Ottoman” and Muslim Brotherhood-friendly foreign policy with serious trepidation, believing that Arab states need to act collectively to counter Ankara’s strategic clout and … Continue reading “Operation Peace Spring Has Further Exposed Close Turkish-Qatari Ties”

How Hezbollah Can Embrace Reform If Lebanon’s Uprising Doesn’t Overreach

By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz It is great news for Lebanon that Prime Minister Saad Hariri has resigned. At this decisive moment, the undeclared leaders of the uprising must pause and weigh alternatives. A secular identity is emerging in the October 17 rebellion with people rushing to the street to oust a political class. In thirteen … Continue reading “How Hezbollah Can Embrace Reform If Lebanon’s Uprising Doesn’t Overreach”

How ‘Israel Hayom’ became Trump’s mouthpiece in the Middle East

By Refael Afriat When Israel Hayom, now the most widely-read newspaper in Israel, was launched in 2007, it was promptly nicknamed the Bibiton (a portmanteau of Bibi, Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname, and “iton,” the Hebrew word for newspaper). Over the ensuing 12 years, the editors developed several tools for promoting the prime minister: when Netanyahu wants to … Continue reading “How ‘Israel Hayom’ became Trump’s mouthpiece in the Middle East”

Bad Moon Rising for Lebanon

By Aurélie Daher For two weeks now, the free world has been enthusiastic about the uprising of Lebanese society against its political class. In this collective momentum calling for the departure of a clique inherited in its large part from the time of the civil war (1975-1990) and the years of Syrian tutelage (1990-2005), leaders … Continue reading “Bad Moon Rising for Lebanon”

Eric Rouleau And The Intersection Of Nationalism And Religion

By Gareth Smyth The recently published translation from French of Eric Rouleau’s memoirs open up for English-language readers a breadth of experience and vision in Middle East journalism unrivaled in the Anglophone world except by David Hirst. Rouleau, who died in 2015, was an Arab Jew born in Cairo in 1926 two decades before the … Continue reading “Eric Rouleau And The Intersection Of Nationalism And Religion”

Changing Israel’s Behavior Will Require Much More Than Tinkering With Aid And Loan Guarantees

By Mitchell Plitnick Last week, I explained some of the mechanics of U.S. aid to Israel and why a president would find it difficult to use aid as leverage against Israel. I also explained why the traditional theoretical targets of leveraging aid—settlements and a two-state solution—were no longer relevant and their futility meant supporters of … Continue reading “Changing Israel’s Behavior Will Require Much More Than Tinkering With Aid And Loan Guarantees”

Don’t Make It About the Oil

By Paul R. Pillar Confusion has prevailed regarding the purposes of the U.S. troop presence in Syria, and whether the declared purposes are the actual ones. Originally the expedition was widely understood to be all about combating the Islamic State (ISIS) after the group had established a mini-state on a large portion of Syrian and … Continue reading “Don’t Make It About the Oil”

Without Regional Stability, The Resurgence Of The Islamic State Or Emergence of New Terror Groups Is Inevitable.

By Shireen T. Hunter The death of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS), is good news. However, it would be a mistake to think that his demise means the end of IS. Even if IS as an organization is dismantled, it will regroup under a different name and a different … Continue reading “Without Regional Stability, The Resurgence Of The Islamic State Or Emergence of New Terror Groups Is Inevitable.”

Popular Protest: How Effective Is It?

By James M. Dorsey If there is one theme, beyond corruption and a host of economic and social grievances, that have driven protests — large and small, local, sectoral and national – across the globe, it has been a call for dignity. Reflecting a global breakdown in confidence in political systems and leadership, the quest … Continue reading “Popular Protest: How Effective Is It?”

Chaos in Iraq: Najaf’s Zero Problems Policy

By Talal Mohammad and S. Mohammad Hassan Bahr al-Uloom The youth chanted, “Ali wiyak Ali!” “Ali is with you!” as they ripped down the picture of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala, one of the Shi’a’s holiest sites, which also houses the mausoleum of Imam Hussein and his … Continue reading “Chaos in Iraq: Najaf’s Zero Problems Policy”

What Al-Baghdadi’s Death Means For Trump And The Future Of ISIS

By Giorgio Cafiero In northwestern Syria, a few miles south of the Turkish border, lies the impoverished village of Barisha. The majority of the village’s 7,000 inhabitants are displaced Syrians from elsewhere in the country who came to Barisha mainly due to its close proximity to Turkey and its relative calm compared to other parts … Continue reading “What Al-Baghdadi’s Death Means For Trump And The Future Of ISIS”

Assessing the Fatalities in Turkey’s PKK Conflict

By International Crisis Group Since July 2015, the conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) – which Ankara, Brussels and Washington designate a terrorist organisation – has taken more than 4,600 lives in Turkey and northern Iraq. But if the conflict is long-running, open-source data on fatalities collected by Crisis Group … Continue reading “Assessing the Fatalities in Turkey’s PKK Conflict”

Savior Admirals And Generals, Civilian-Military Relations, And The Presidency

By James A. Russell Recent statements by a bevy of retired admirals and generals, former Special Operations Commander Admiral (Ret.) William McRaven, and former Defense Secretary General (Ret.) Jim Mattis’s admonishment of the commander-in-chief, President Trump, provide insight into some uncomfortable realities of today’s civil-military relations. The statements come amidst a constitutional crisis with a … Continue reading “Savior Admirals And Generals, Civilian-Military Relations, And The Presidency”

Trump Pours More Misery On Iranians He’s Claiming To Support

By Tyler Cullis The Trump administration has sounded the death knell for humanitarian trade with Iran. By designating Iran a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern and imposing additional restrictions on foreign banks maintaining accounts for Iranian financial institutions, the United States Department of the Treasury has imposed a prohibitive bar for parties seeking to … Continue reading “Trump Pours More Misery On Iranians He’s Claiming To Support”

Radical Reform or Total Chaos for Lebanon?

By Nabeel Khoury Lebanese of all sectarian, political, and regional affiliations took to the streets starting on October 17 to protest rampant corruption and the collapse of services. Unlike previous protests, these sprang up across the country and seem to be driven by genuine popular anger against the entire political class and not by narrow political interests. … Continue reading “Radical Reform or Total Chaos for Lebanon?”

Iraq’s ‘Arab Spring’?

By Giorgio Cafiero On the final Friday of this month, chaotic unrest hit Baghdad. Renewed protests against Iraq’s government broke out and thousands of Iraqis crossed the Jumhuriyya Bridge connected to Baghdad’s Green Zone where the U.S. Embassy and many Iraqi government offices are located, resulting in a violent confrontation with soldiers. Two deaths were … Continue reading “Iraq’s ‘Arab Spring’?”

Can the Turkey-Russia Agreement Help Syrians End Their Civil War?

By Helena Cobban The United Nations’ Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, recently expressed confidence that the Syrian Constitutional Committee (SCC), a key gathering of representatives of the country’s government, opposition, and civil society, can convene as planned in Geneva, October 30. If this does occur—even with, perhaps a slippage of a few days—it could … Continue reading “Can the Turkey-Russia Agreement Help Syrians End Their Civil War?”

The Sochi Agreement And Its Implications

By Kaveh L. Afrasiabi On October 22, coinciding with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s stinging criticism of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “thief” who “is today stealing our land,” an “excellent agreement” was reached between Erdogan and the Russian President Putin that puts a seal of approval on a Turkish-dominated “safety zone” along the … Continue reading “The Sochi Agreement And Its Implications”

Killing Me Softly With Militarism: The Decay Of Democracy In America

By William J. Astore When Americans think of militarism, they may imagine jackbooted soldiers goose-stepping through the streets as flag-waving crowds exult; or, like our president, they may think of enormous parades featuring troops and missiles and tanks, with warplanes soaring overhead. Or nationalist dictators wearing military uniforms encrusted with medals, ribbons, and badges like so many barnacles on … Continue reading “Killing Me Softly With Militarism: The Decay Of Democracy In America”

Pushing NATO into the Persian Gulf

by Paul R. Pillar Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper is in Brussels this week for a meeting of NATO defense ministers, with the Turkish incursion and related events in Syria likely to figure prominently in the discussions. But Esper has another item on his agenda that stems from the Trump administration’s obsession with confronting … Continue reading “Pushing NATO into the Persian Gulf”

A Better Path to a United Kurdistan

By Youseph Yazdi The vision of an independent Kurdistan took a major step back in recent weeks. Anyone familiar with the history of this heartfelt but ever disappointing dream was not surprised. Neither are they surprised that what was thought to be a long-term relationship turned out to be a one night stand. One need … Continue reading “A Better Path to a United Kurdistan”