Ask CFR Experts

This archived feature invited members of the public to submit questions to CFR's experts on various topics related to U.S. foreign policy. Selected questions on matters ranging from the latest news headlines to long-term international issues were answered by CFR fellows. This feature is now retired.

Featured Question

Answered by:
Alyssa Ayres

What will be the effect of India's general election on relations with its neighbors, the EU, and the United States?

Asked by Najibullah Adamji, from Mithibai College, Mumbai University

Historically, India's foreign policy has not oscillated on a partisan basis, exemplifying the American adage: politics stops at the water's edge. This doesn't mean politics has no effect on foreign policy in India; it is, however, more attenuated with powers farther away, and amplified with smaller neighbors.

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Past Questions

Answered by:
Robert M. Danin

How critical is Hamas to the success of an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty?

Asked by Yijia Liang, from Upper Arlington High School
Author: Robert M. Danin

Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel in any form, opposes the negotiations taking place between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and believes that Israel should not exist. Its control of Gaza, constituting roughly 40 percent of the population (overall 4.4 million) slated to be part of a Palestinian state, would pose a major impediment to the success of any Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. The current reality—a divided Palestinian polity with Gaza under Hamas' rule and the West Bank under PLO rule—is a formidable challenge to the viability of any peace agreement signed between Israelis and Palestinians. For instance, in the event the PLO and Israel reached an agreement, with Gaza under Hamas, how would the PLO take control and create a unified Palestinian state consisting of both Gaza and the West Bank?

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Answered by:
David Palkki

How should the United States react to Al-Qaeda regaining influence in Iraq?

Asked by Tyler Malcolm
Author: David Palkki

Recent gains by al-Qaeda's main offshoot in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), are dangerous and discouraging. ISIS control of Fallujah is particularly disheartening, given the U.S. blood spilled to liberate this city in 2004. ISIS occupation of cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi in western Iraq, and Raqqa in eastern Syria, are part and parcel of a plan to destroy the Iraqi state and to create an Islamic caliphate. Important U.S. interests in Iraqi stability and regional security are at stake.

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Answered by:
Mark P. Lagon

Why is the world unable to eliminate child- and sex-slavery?

Asked by Valiant Clapper, from University of South Africa
Author: Mark P. Lagon

A 2012 International Labor Organization study found that at least 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor and human trafficking. One quarter, or 5.5 million, are children. Of the 18.7 million in the private economy (minus the 2.2 million exploited by states or armed rebels), 4.5 million, are victimized primarily for sex.

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Answered by:
Mira Rapp-Hooper

How does the nuclear deal with Iran affect Hezbollah and its regional influence?

Asked by Ahmad Takouche
Author: Mira Rapp-Hooper

It is not clear how the interim Geneva agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers will affect Iran's relationship with Lebanon-based Hezbollah or Hezbollah's regional influence. According to the IAEA's most recent report, Iran's stockpile of medium-enriched uranium has decreased substantially from its prior levels, suggesting that Iran is implementing the Geneva agreement, at least for the time being. One could certainly argue that if Iran continues to comply with the deal and forecloses its nuclear option, it will no longer be able to easily project influence with the threat of nuclear weapons acquisition or a latent nuclear capability. By this logic, Iran may choose to rely more heavily on Hezbollah to make its presence felt throughout the region. This is certainly a concern of other Gulf States, who fear that the nuclear deal does not address the threat that proxy groups may pose to their regimes.

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Answered by:
Max Boot

Could Iraq be divided into separate regions along Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish lines?

Asked by Edrees Mohammed, from UCLAN

This is an idea first proposed by Vice President Biden in 2006 when he was a senator. It was a non-starter then and it won't work any better today. While the Kurdish region in the north is already almost an independent country, neither Shiites nor Sunnis are interested in splitting up the rest of Iraq—something that would be hard to do, in any case, because the two sects are intermingled in Baghdad and other areas. Just as the solution to Iraq's last major bout of bloodletting, in 2003-2007, wasn't partition, so it isn't today.

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Answered by:
Charles A. Kupchan

Will the United States support Ukraine's opposition forces?

Asked by Isaiah Smith, from Birdville High School
Author: Charles A. Kupchan

It is in the interests of the United States to see Ukraine emerge as a stable democracy with strong economic and political ties to the European Union. The United States sides with and supports the Ukrainian opposition—inas much as many of the demonstrators in Ukraine are protesting President Viktor Yanukovych's infringements on democratic practices, his government's use of violence against the demonstrations, and his decision to conclude an economic pact with Russia rather than with the EU.

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Answered by:
Janine Davidson

If there are no U.S. or NATO troops in Afghanistan after 2014, what happens?

Asked by Tom Gordon

There are good reasons to worry about a precipitous departure of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The country remains fragile and the Taliban still threaten key areas. Withdrawing all troops would leave the Afghans to fend for themselves against a resurgent Taliban. And because the United States uses its presence to monitor and target al-Qaeda and other threats, such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons from the region, leaving the country completely would mean having less warning or ability to respond.

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Answered by:
Alyssa Ayres

How does Bangladesh’s socio-political situation affect India?

Asked by Chaitali Phadke

Bangladesh is a critically important neighbor for India, and one with great impact on India—both positive and potentially negative. On the positive side, Bangladesh is a country of approximately 160 million people making great progress on human development, with an economy consistently growing between five and six percent, and with ambitions to reach lower-middle income levels by 2021.

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Answered by:
Daniel S. Markey
Answered by:
Scott D. Campbell

What is the best way forward in fighting terrorism on the Horn of Africa?

Asked by George Macharia, from University of Nairobi

Terrorism in the Horn of Africa is a complex problem that requires a "full spectrum" solution. The first step in any counterterrorism campaign is developing an understanding of the terrorists' motivations and goals. In the Horn of Africa, the chief terrorist threat emanates from al-Shabab fighters attempting to violently overthrow the Somali government and impose fundamentalist Islamic law. The group and its affiliates are also attempting to sow unrest in neighboring countries like Kenya.

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Answered by:
Stewart M. Patrick

Do stronger international institutions necessarily mean a weaker United States?

Asked by Aisling L
Author: Stewart M. Patrick

International institutions provide a platform for promoting, formalizing, and enforcing rules, norms, and regimes that regulate state behavior. As a leader in many of these fora, the United States is well positioned to promote its national interests through multilateral partnerships. Multilateral consensus is uniquely capable of legitimizing U.S. action and spreading burdens of leadership.

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Answered by:
Ray Takeyh

How much control does Ayatollah Khamenei have in Iranian-U.S. relations?

Asked by Arianna Talaie, from College of William and Mary
Author: Ray Takeyh

Ali Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of Iran and has the final say on all issues pertaining to its foreign policy. The Islamic Republic has a complex constitutional structure whereby the authority of the president and the parliament are subservient to that of the Supreme Leader. All issues of war and peace, treaties and elections have to be approved by Khamenei. As such, the presidents and foreign ministers can engage in negotiations but cannot commit Iran to a final course until the Supreme Leader approves.

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Answered by:
Scott A. Snyder

Does North Korea pose a credible threat to the United States?

Asked by Jonathan Crouse, from Coastal Carolina University

North Korea's capability to threaten the United States comes in two forms:

The possibility that North Korean-origin fissile material could be sent to the United States, either through sale to terrorist groups or by delivering a nuclear device to a U.S. harbor by boat, or;

The ability to threaten U.S. interests abroad, including through renewed conflict on the Korean peninsula, where 28,000 U.S. forces are stationed with the mission of defending South Korea from North Korean aggression.

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Answered by:
Joshua Kurlantzick

What action, if any, should be taken by outside actors to support reform in Myanmar?

Asked by Talee
Author: Joshua Kurlantzick

Despite impressive changes over the past three years, Myanmar (or Burma) now faces growing insecurity and rising disappointment among citizens that reform has not brought higher standards of living. Interethnic and interreligious unrest now threaten to halt reforms altogether, depress much-needed investment, and could even lead to broader regional tensions.

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Answered by:
Steven A. Cook

How have Iraqi Kurdish authorities responded to the Syrian civil war?

Asked by Martin Lafon, from Sciences-Po Bordeaux

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has approached the civil war in Syria with caution. The authorities governing the Iraqi autonomous region, based in Erbil, have quietly played an important role in the humanitarian response to the crisis with 197,000 (according to the UN refugee agency) Syrian refugees on KRG territory, spread across three refugee camps in the main cities of Dohuk, Erbil, and Sulaimaniyah.

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Answered by:
Robert D. Blackwill

Does India have an edge over China in its display of its soft power in the world?

Asked by Vikas, from American University

Indian and Chinese soft power is manifested in a variety of mediums, including traditional and pop culture, academic exchanges, and cuisine. Since soft power emanates from a country's history, culture, domestic political arrangements and civil society, it is difficult to measure its impact in a quantitative way as can be done with some forms of economic or military power, including aid and investment, infrastructure projects, and militarization. Thus, the effects of soft power are largely in the eye of the beholder.

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