The Washington Institute (33)

The UN Action Plan for Libya: Prospects and Challenges

On September 20, Ghassan Salame, who heads the United Nations Support Mission in Libya , presented a new "Action Plan for Libya" during a high-level meeting hosted by UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres. The initiative outlines a series of steps to restart Libya's stalled transition and ...

Managing Washington's Flawed Partners in Eastern Syria

At a September 9 press conference, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced the Jazeera Storm campaign, which aims to clear the Islamic State from the Euphrates and Khabur River Valleys in Deir al-Zour province. The offensive has been spearheaded by the Deir al-Zour Military Council , led ...

How to Keep Armed Clashes in Kirkuk from Escalating

In the early hours of October 16, the federal Iraqi military forced its way into many parts of Kirkuk city and adjacent military and energy facilities. The Counter-Terrorism Service, supported by army tanks, the Federal Police, and special forces , took over the K1 military base, the governor's ...

U.S. Priorities in the Kirkuk Standoff

On October 12, the oil-rich Iraqi province of Kirkuk came very close to witnessing a major clash between two U.S.-armed militaries -- the federal Iraqi army and the forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government . The army has been unable to access its old bases in Kirkuk since its June 2014 collapse ...

Interpreting the Fall of Islamic State Governance

According to a field commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces , the last Islamic State holdouts will lose control of Raqqa, the group's self-proclaimed capital, by sometime in the third week of October. Alongside the fall of Mosul, the IS stronghold in Iraq, this development marks a ...

Here's How to Fix But Not Nix the Iran Deal

Two years ago, I urged senators to vote "no" on the Iran nuclear deal. My goal was not to have them scrap the accord, which had numerous positive benefits, but to give President Barack Obama leverage to repair its serious flaws. "No," I argued, "doesn't necessarily mean 'no, never.' It can also mean ...

Egyptians Surprisingly Open to Key Trump Policies, New Poll Shows

As President Trump rolls out his plan for confronting Iran, a credible new poll in Egypt reveals that this posture enjoys a remarkable degree of public support in the most populous Arab country. A mere 1% of Egyptians rate Iran's regional policies favorably, and in the ongoing intra-Arab dispute ...

Iran's Military Sites Continue to Haunt the Nuclear Accord

The legacy of Iran's suspected nuclear weapons work has emerged as a central issue for President Trump as he seeks to chart a new policy toward Tehran this month. Senior administration officials are indicating they want to reopen the question; in August, U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley ...

Will Russian-Saudi Relations Continue to Improve?

On October 5, when King Salman became the first ever Saudi monarch to visit Russia, President Vladimir Putin hailed the trip as a "landmark event," and billboards lined city streets welcoming the king in Arabic and Russian. After the summit, Salman and Putin signed a packet of documents on energy, ...

Hezbollah's Terror Army: How to Prevent a Third Lebanon War

Functioning as a sort of state inside the Lebanese state, Hezbollah has accumulated more rockets than many European militaries. But it is also an irregular army that uses terrorism as a strategic weapon against adversaries at home and abroad. Today, the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have reconfigured ...

Iraq's Role in Countering the Islamic State's Finances

After the Islamic State took over vast swaths of the country in 2014, the Central Bank of Iraq moved quickly to cut off financial institutions in IS-controlled territory, blacklist exchange houses exploited by the terrorist group for cross-border transactions, and otherwise isolate it from the ...

Confronting the Full Range of Iranian Threats

In negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Iran nuclear file, the United States bet implicitly on that diplomatic approach not only as a means to temporarily constrain Iran's nuclear weapons program, but also as a way to engender a transformation of Iran from an anti-status quo, ...

Stephen Walt Is Walking Back His Israel Lobby Theory Beyond Recognition

Stephen Walt's response to our article critiquing his attempt to show how recent history has proven his and John Mearsheimer's writings on the Israel Lobby accuses us of attacking strawmen without offering a coherent restatement of his own thesis. Our core claim is that Walt has failed to show how ...

How Obama Nudged Arab Leaders Toward Israel

Israeli-Arab relations have been warming of late. Last month Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa reportedly urged fellow Arabs to end their boycott and normalize relations with Israel. In August, the Egyptian government released a letter from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman affirming ...

Iran Flexes Its Muscles After the Kurdish Referendum

In the aftermath of the September 25 Kurdish independence referendum, Iran has deployed additional military forces and equipment to the border with northern Iraq, deliberately moving them through Iranian Kurdish towns in broad daylight as a show of force to audiences at home and abroad. The ...

Turkey and U.S. Enter Most Important Crisis in Recent Memory

On Sunday, the U.S. embassy announced the suspension of Turkish visa applications for the U.S., stating that "recent events...have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel." In retaliation, ...

Operation Torch and the Birth of American Middle East Policy, 75 Years On

"THE JEWS WILL HAVE TO WAIT" On November 8, 1942, a full year-and-a-half before the Allies invaded Normandy, about 110,000 American and British troops invaded North Africa. They had set out in more than 850 ships from U.S. and British ports, sailed for up to 4,500 miles through treacherous Atlantic ...

JCPOA under the Gun : A Middle Course?

Read Part 1 of this PolicyWatch, which outlines the five decisions the Trump administration needs to make in deciding the JCPOA's fate. As President Trump prepares to deliver a major Iran policy address on October 12, his administration has a number of ways to approach the October 15 deadline for ...

Decertifying the Iran Deal Wouldn't Have to Kill It

European leaders surely do not want the U.S. to walk away from the JCPOA. But their room to maneuver is politically limited, given Mr. Trump's unpopularity in their countries. Responding to the White House on Iran will prove difficult for them unless Mr. Trump changes his tone and emphasizes that ...

JCPOA under the Gun : Trump's Five Decisions

Read Part 2 of this PolicyWatch, which discusses the various points of leverage Washington will wield as the certification debate proceeds. President Donald Trump garnered much attention, first, with comments about no longer wanting to certify a set of questions related to Iran and the 2015 nuclear ...

Are Shia Dynamics in Iraq and Lebanon Turning Against Iran?

Despite Hezbollah's powerful influence over Lebanon, much of the country's Shia community looks to the Iraqi holy city of Najaf for religious guidance and leadership. Although Najaf was never politically involved in Lebanon the way Iran is, the Shia institutions that call it home were once the only ...

Iran's Shadow over Lebanon

Last week, a Lebanese military court sentenced local Sunni jihadi leader Sheikh Ahmed Assir to death. Assir has been in prison since 2015 for directing clashes between his supporters and the Lebanese Armed Forces in Sidon two years earlier in which 17 soldiers were killed. While few Lebanese will ...

How to Contain and Roll Back Iranian-Backed Militias

The following is an excerpt from prepared remarks delivered before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. To read the full testimony, download the PDF. We're here today because Iran is in the process of spreading its military and political influence across the Middle East to a ...

King Salman's Moscow Visit Overshadowed by Past Tensions

When Saudi Arabia's King Salman arrives in Russia on October 5, he will become the first ever Saudi monarch to make the visit. Perhaps recognizing the trip's landmark status, the Kremlin has expressed high hopes for the frequently postponed meeting, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov describing the Saudis ...

After the Kurdish Referendum: Regional Implications

On September 29, David Pollock and Michael Knights addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Pollock is the Institute's Kaufman Fellow and director of Project Fikra. Michael Knights is a Lafer Fellow with the Institute who has worked in all of Iraq's provinces and spent time embedded ...

Survey: Qatari Public Wants Compromise, Not Iran's Help

As the crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain enters its fourth month, a timely, publicly available independent political survey among Qatar's roughly 300,000 citizens shows that they overwhelmingly want to settle this dispute in an amicable fashion. ...

Cairo Bombing Exposes the Muslim Brotherhood's Jihadist Tilt

Hasm, an Egyptian militant group aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood , has claimed responsibility for the September 30 bombing at the embassy of Myanmar in Cairo. While no one was injured, the attack indicates that MB-aligned groups are acting on their past threats to strike foreign interests and ...

The Urgent U.S. Role in Post-Referendum Kurdistan

The September 25 statehood referendum in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq passed overwhelmingly, with 92.7 percent of voters choosing "yes." Although the outcome does not trigger any administrative changes and is explicitly not a declaration of independence, the central government and parliament in ...

A Field Trip to the Front Lines of the Qatar-Saudi Cold War

The diplomatic row between Qatar and its erstwhile Arab allies -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt -- does not seem to be on the road to resolution. At least that is my sense gained during a lightning trip over the past week to London, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai. ...

Iran's New Ballistic Missile May Have North Korean ICBM Links

On September 22, following a year of speculation, Iran displayed its newest ballistic missile as part of its annual "Sacred Defense Week" military parade. The unveiling was accompanied by older video footage showing the missile being test fired. Called "Khoramshahr" -- after the southwestern Iranian ...

Is Saudi Arabia Really Changing?

Tuesday's announcement that women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive is extraordinary both in social and political terms. There is also an important economic dimension: Currently, an estimated one million foreign men, mainly from the South Asia and the Philippines, are employed ...

After the Kurdish Referendum: Regional Implications

Frustrated with Baghdad and empowered by their role in fighting the Islamic State, residents of Iraqi Kurdistan have voted yes on a highly charged referendum regarding their potential independence. The U.S. government criticized the move for distracting from the war against IS and creating further ...

How Putin Checkmated the U.S. in Syria

September 30 will mark the two year anniversary of Moscow's intervention in Syria that saved President Bashar al-Assad from an imminent collapse. Assad is largely responsible for one of the worst humanitarian tragedies since World War II. Today, in no small part thanks to Russian President ...