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June 30, 2020

Syria
U.S. Retrenchment Will Intensify Crisis in Idlib

In order to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Syria and avoid regional instability, the United States should make the outcome of the fight for Idlib a national security concern and exercise the lead…

Two adults and two children walk by a destroyed building on which images of the novel coronavirus have been spray painted in Idlib, Syria.

June 22, 2020

Saudi Arabia
Just How Important Is the Rift Between Qatar and the Saudi Arabia-led Quartet?

Amir Asmar is a Department of Defense analyst and CFR’s national intelligence fellow. Throughout his intelligence career, his primary area of focus has been the Middle East. He held a wide range of a…

Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson steps off a plane at an air base in Qatar, on October 24, 2017.

June 9, 2020

Mali
French-Led Decapitation Strike on AQIM in Mali

On June 5, France announced that its forces killed Abdelmalek Droukdel and many in his inner circle. Droukdel was the "emir" or leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The attack took place…

Dust is whooshed into the air as a military helicopter prepares to land. A soldier in desert camouflage kneels on one knee as he signals the helicopter. The sky, obstructed by the dust, is otherwise a dull, clear blue.

April 10, 2020

Nigeria
Case Not Quite Closed on the Assassination of Nigerian Salafi Scholar Shaikh Jaafar Adam

While at prayer on April 13, 2007, the prominent Salafi scholar, Shaikh Jaafar Mahmud Adam, was assassinated at his mosque in Kano. At the time, the murder made a deep impression on mainstream Muslims, many of whom revered Adam. The murder took place in the final days before the 2007 presidential elections, and many observers, including those at the U.S. embassy, thought that the murder was somehow related. But it now seems more likely that Adam was assassinated by a vengeful former member of the Nigerian Taliban. His murder was an early manifestation of the deadly battles among Boko Haram’s competing factions that continue up to the present.

A man cycles past the Al Ansar mosque in Maiduguri. Four red and white minarets are visible around a green dome topped with gold. Person-sized arches line the one-story building around the dome and minarets.

November 1, 2019

Election 2020
Campaign Foreign Policy Roundup: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, Israel, and Campaign Advisors

Each Friday, I look at what the presidential challengers are saying about foreign policy.

Bernie Sanders speaks at the J Street National Conference in Washington, DC, on October 28.

December 31, 2019

Global
Ten World Figures Who Died in 2019

I wrote yesterday about ten Americans who died in 2019 who shaped U.S. foreign policy during their lifetimes. But Americans are not the only ones who influence world affairs. Below are ten world figu…

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December 23, 2019

Global
Ten Most Significant World Events in 2019

If you are feeling a bit exhausted as 2019 comes to a close, you aren’t alone. It has been a busy year on the world scene. A seemingly unending parade of summits, crises, and protests have dominated …

Hong Kong Protests

August 14, 2019

Nigeria
Understanding the Threat Posed by ISWA in Nigeria

The fishing town of Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad, has been devastated by both Boko Haram and the Nigerian army. It is currently controlled by the Boko Haram faction, the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA). The group is led by Abu Abdallah al-Barnawi, and is separate from, and presumably a rival to, Abubakar Shekau’s faction. Obi Anyadike, a reporter, interviewed eight former residents of Baga who had fled to Maiduguri.

Two women and a man stand by a window and a door of a mosque in Maiduguri.

August 1, 2019

Nigeria
Notes From Yobe State on Living With ISWA

From far away it is difficult to know what daily life is really like in an area controlled by a Boko Haram faction. Chitra Nagarajan, a journalist and author who has written for the Guardian (UK), among other publications, recently spent time in Yobe State doing research on gender.

A girl walks past a bull stall on the street in Dapchi.

June 13, 2019

Boko Haram
New Audio Offers Potential Window Into ISWA Decision-Making

Abdulbasit Kassim, leading Boko Haram scholar, recently discovered a thirty-eight-minute recording of a purported Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) communique. I translated it from the original Kanuri. It provides a particular version and explanation of ISWA's immediate history, and sheds light on why the group executed Mamman Nur, one of the Boko Haram’s founding fathers and an influential ideologue, its internal decision-making, and ISWA’s relationship with the Islamic State (IS). It is not clear, however, the extent to which what is described in the audio is true to what actually happened. 

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