"As the power of the central leadership created by Osama bin Laden has declined, the vanguard of violent jihad has been taken up by an array of groups in a dozen countries across Africa and the Middle East, attacking Western interests in Algeria and Libya, training bombers in Yemen, seizing territory in Syria and Iraq, and gunning down shoppers in Kenya."
Will the Assad regime and Syrian political opposition negotiate a political transition or move to alleviate Syria's humanitarian crisis? This Issue Guide provides background and analysis on the long-awaited Geneva II talks.
Though it's unlikely the Geneva II talks on Syria will yield major breakthroughs, movement is possible on humanitarian aid, cease-fires, and prisoner exchanges, says former ambassador to Syria Edward P. Djerejian.
"The armed Syrian opposition, in all of its disparate glory, has long talked of a revolution after its revolution to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a period when scores would be settled between various anti-Assad groups…. Elements of all of these various fault lines had become frontlines during isolated bouts of rebel infighting over the past year or more, but the decision by so many different groups to take on ISIS at the same time, and in so many locations, was surprising. What was also surprising was how quickly ISIS was initially routed from some areas."
"Since the Syrian revolution began, in 2011, private Kuwaiti donors like Herbash have been among its most generous patrons, providing what likely amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars to the armed opponents of Assad…. As the war took a more sectarian and extremist turn, so, too, did its private funders."
"This is the third constitutional referendum since Mr. Mubarak was forced out. Security conditions have deteriorated and political divisions deepened. Instead of real conversation about policies and politics, the debate has been reduced to slogans."
This report about the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi was released on January 15, 2014. It discusses how the attack could have been prevented and according to the New York Times, it is "the first public examination of a breakdown in communications between the State Department and the C.I.A. during the weeks leading up to the deadly episode at the diplomatic compound." The Accountability Review Board released an unclassified report on the embassy attacks in December 2012.
Authors: Max Boot and Michael Doran New York Times
Max Boot and Michael Doran argue that the Obama administration's efforts to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran have contributed to the recent instability in the Middle East and are destined to fail in the end.
The P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union) met with Iran in Geneva to discuss a diplomatic resolution regarding Iran's nuclear program. They released an initial plan of action November 24, 2013. Secretary Kerry gave an update on January 12. 2014.
Elliott Abrams argues that U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process should focus on pragmatic, achievable goals rather than raising expectations for a comprehensive peace settlement that is not now attainable.
"It will be nearly impossible for observers to do a credible job under the present conditions in Egypt. And even if the referendum goes smoothly, it is not at all clear that the vote will make a meaningful contribution to getting Egypt back onto a democratic path. Observers and foreign governments, including the United States, would do well to make sure that their engagement and statements keep the focus on the big picture of Egypt's worrisome trajectory."
With its Shiite government struggling for survival and poised for a confrontation with Sunni extremists in Fallujah, Iraq faces a deepening sectarian conflict partly fueled by spillover from Syria, says Jane Arraf.
"The fighting over the past week is a watershed moment for the Syrian uprising. The momentum against extremism can pave the way for the re-emergence of moderate groups that had been pushed to the margins under ISIS's reign of terror. The episode has proved that it is Syria's mainstream rebels who are best fit to face down extremists -- not the Assad regime."
Algerian and Western counterterrorism efforts, along with an African-led peacekeeping force in Mali, have shifted the North African al-Qaeda franchise's criminal and terrorist activities to remote areas of the Sahara and Sahel, explains this Backgrounder.
"Some say Iran and the United States have "crossed the Rubicon," and there is no road back to the old ways. Whatever metaphor one uses, Iran and the United States have ventured into new and unfamiliar territory for which neither side has reliable maps. In this new reality, both sides must use long-neglected tools and exercise atrophied muscles. On this new ground they must put aside the old practices of reflexive bashing and insults and relearn elementary diplomacy: how to listen, how to be patient and how to be careful with language. They must relearn the value of quiet and private contacts, which without the need for posturing can set the stage for more fruitful public events."
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
The author examines Pakistan's complex role in U.S. foreign policy and advocates for a two-pronged approach that works to quarantine threats while integrating Pakistan into the broader U.S. agenda in Asia.