Middle East and North Africa

Must Read

FP: Breaking Syria's Reign of Terror

Author: Hassan Hassan

"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."

See more in Syria; Terrorism

Must Read

Al-Monitor: In 'Rumi’s Field': Can U.S. and Iran Meet in a Place Beyond Sanctions and Centrifuges?

Author: John W. Limbert

"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."

See more in Iran; United States; Politics and Strategy

Must Read

Time: Why Iraq's Most Violent Province Is a War Zone Again

Author: Ned Parker

"There is not a Sunni region in the country now that is not enmeshed in strife.… The conflict in Sunni regions is creating an atmosphere of perpetual crisis that could tip the country into civil war or be used by Maliki as a justification to stay in power after what is expected to be a closely fought election. The more chaos, the greater the chance for al-Qaeda-linked fighters to hide among the population and reap chaos."

See more in Iraq; Terrorism

Primary Sources

UN Invitation to Geneva II

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces leaked this United Nations invitation sent to opposition President Ahmad Jarba requesting his attendence at the Geneva II meetings on January 22 to 24, 2014. The letter explains the priniciples and rules of the conference for officials addressing the conflict in Syria.

See more in Syria; Treaties and Agreements; Wars and Warfare

Must Read

New York Review of Books: How al-Qaeda Changed the Syrian War

Author: Sarah Birke

"The Salafist-jihadist insurgency, and the emergence of one of al-Qaeda's most fearsome affiliates within it, has fundamentally changed the war in Syria. In a conflict in which some 6,000 people continue to die every month and a third or more of the population have been forced to leave their homes, the problem of basic security has almost completely supplanted the aspirations of a once-peaceful protest movement trying to take on an autocratic, militarized, and sectarian regime. And as the regime…has resorted to increasingly brutal attacks, organizations like ISIS have spread unprecedented terror on the rebel side."

See more in Syria; Terrorism

Must Read

NY Times: A Deadly Mix in Benghazi

Author: David Kirkpatrick

"The United States waded deeply into post-Qaddafi Libya, hoping to build a beachhead against extremists, especially Al Qaeda. It believed it could draw a bright line between friends and enemies in Libya. But it ultimately lost its ambassador in an attack that involved both avowed opponents of the West and fighters belonging to militias that the Americans had taken for allies."

See more in Middle East and North Africa; Terrorism

Ask CFR Experts

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.

Read full answer

See more in Iran; Presidents and Chiefs of State