Council on Foreign Relations Educators Bulletin
Resources for the Academic Community

Special Edition: Backgrounders

July 2014


The Council on Foreign Relations has launched a new portal to house one of its most popular resources—the CFR Backgrounders series. "Backgrounders provide smart, authoritative histories and summaries in a concise, accessible format," writes CFR President Richard N. Haass.

Enhanced with images, graphs, and video, these primers on pressing global issues can now be filtered by region, issue, most recent, and curated series. Additional resources are provided at the end of each Backgrounder.

See below for examples of topics covered or visit the portal at for the full listing.


Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS)

ISIS has capitalized on Iraq's Sunni minority's alienation from the state to wreak havoc and establish zones of authority while expanding its reach into neighboring Syria. Go to the Backgrounder »

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Mounting fears of Russian aggression in eastern Europe may breathe new life into the Cold War-era security alliance. Go to the Backgrounder »

What is Internet Governance?

An intense international debate over who manages parts of the Internet's technical infrastructure is likely to feed a broader discussion of Internet-related public policy. Go to the Backgrounder »

NAFTA’s Economic Impact

A look at the basics of the North American Free Trade Agreement and its economic impact twenty years after its implementation. Go to the Backgrounder »

Driverless Cars

Tech and auto companies in the United States, Europe, and Asia are moving forward rapidly with efforts to develop driverless cars and street networks. The benefits appear tantalizing, but roadblocks loom. Go to the Backgrounder »


Sarin, one of the world's most lethal chemical weapons, has long been stockpiled but is rarely used by states or terrorists. Allegations of attacks on civilians in Syria, if substantiated, would represent a departure from long-standing international practice. Go to the Backgrounder »

U.S.-Cuba Relations

The U.S.-Cuba relationship remains frozen after fifty years. Despite economic reforms in Cuba and swelling public opinion in favor of resuming diplomatic and economic ties, analysts do not anticipate any normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations in the near to medium term. Go to the Backgrounder »

Boko Haram

Nigera's Islamist group Boko Haram has evolved from a local insurgency to a brutal militant group that the United States has designated a terrorist organization. Go to the Backgrounder »



About CFR

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. Founded in 1921, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.

About CFR’s Academic Initiative

CFR’s Academic Initiative connects educators and students at the college and graduate level with CFR’s research and nonpartisan analysis. The Academic Initiative offers a wealth of resources for the classroom, including an Academic Conference Call series, student briefings, and online Academic Modules, which feature teaching notes by authors of CFR publications. For more information, please contact

About the Educators Portal on

CFR's Educators Portal,, is a "first stop" on the Internet for members of the academic community seeking information on and analysis of U.S. foreign policy and global developments. In addition to a wide range of CFR materials—including interviews with experts, meeting transcripts, and new backgrounders—educators will find free customized academic modules built around a primary CFR text designed to assist in supplementing their course syllabi.


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