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Preview: - Middle East - Middle East and North Africa

A nonpartisan resource for information and analysis

Published: Tue, 16 May 2017 06:42:45 -0400

Last Build Date: Tue, 16 May 2017 06:42:45 -0400

Copyright: Copyright 2017 by the Council on Foreign Relations. All Rights Reserved.

Media Call: President Trump's Middle East Agenda

Mon, 15 May 2017 14:01:41 -0400

After meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House next week, President Donald J. Trump will embark on his first international trip on May 19, with stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Panelists on this on-the-record teleconference discussed the significance of the president's visit and his objectives in the region, particularly as they pertain to the fight against the self-declared Islamic State and forging a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.


Media Files:

Trump Should Be Wary of Putin’s Syria Plan

Fri, 12 May 2017 12:39:23 -0400

The deal Russia is offering would empower America’s adversaries far more than America’s friends, writes Stephen Sestanovich. 


Iran’s Presidential Test

Mon, 01 May 2017 11:19:43 -0400

Iran’s May 19 election will pit Ibrahim Raisi, a hard-line protégé of the supreme leader, against the more centrist incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, in a contest that may hinge on the perceived economic impact of the nuclear deal, writes CFR’s Ray Takeyh.


United States Assistance for Egypt

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:27:37 -0400

Elliott Abrams testified before the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations. He gave his assessment of the security side of the U.S.-Egypt aid relationship and suggested that the United States should reconsider its security and economic assistance to Egypt. 


Iran’s Supreme Leader Moulds a Successor in His Image

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:16:56 -0400

The candidacy of Ebrahim Raisi dooms Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chances of winning a second term in next month’s elections, writes CFR’s Ray Takeyh. Raisi, a protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has long been groomed to become the Islamic Republic’s next supreme leader.


The Need to Change Palestinian Political Culture

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 09:56:46 -0400

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will be visiting Washington soon and will call for a renewed commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state. But both opinion polls, and actions by the Palestinian Authority glorifying terrorism and terrorists, suggest that Palestinian political culture is oriented to violence and revanchism, not to peace. Elliott Abrams argues that a change in Palestinian political culture is a necessary precondition for real peace.


The Future of the Middle East

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 18:00:47 -0400

Philip H. Gordon, Farah Pandith, and James M. Lindsay discuss the future of the Middle East.


Trump's Making a Big Strategic Mistake on Human Rights

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 16:09:27 -0400

It’s one thing to hold your nose and work with Erdogan despite his human-rights abuses. It’s another thing to actually praise him for destroying Turkish democracy.


Stop Supporting Palestinian Terror

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 10:56:15 -0400

Should Congress cut aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it ceases payments to terrorists and their families? In the new issue of National Review magazine, Elliott Abrams argues that Congress should pass the Taylor Force Act, cut the aid, and try to force a change in Palestinian political culture.


RIP Turkey, 1921 - 2017

Sun, 16 Apr 2017 16:04:58 -0400

The Turkish public seems to have given President Erdogan and his party license to reorganize the state and, in the process, raze the values on which it was built, writes CFR's Steven A. Cook.


How Will Trump Get Us From Tomahawks to the Peace Table?

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 14:51:12 -0400

While numerous questions remain as to how the Syrian conflict will end, all sides agree that talks should continue in Geneva. “The Geneva process is exhausting and frequently has felt futile,” writes Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, “…but it still exists and offers a framework to end these wars.”


Small Footprint, Small Payoff

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 14:38:15 -0400

Stephen Biddle, Julia McDonald, and Ryan Baker argue that training, equipping, and advising partner militaries is an increasingly popular alternative to large U.S. ground force deployments in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and many other places where the United States has real but limited interests at stake. Yet SFA has often yielded disappointing results in actual practice. The authors explain this pattern as the result of systematic interest misalignment between the United States and the partners it must work with in these kinds of missions—and argue that these problems are only partly remediable. The authors present ways to do better at the margin, but also argue that underlying interest misalignment will limit this tool's likely utility in the future, and that U.S. decision makers must take this into account when deciding when, where, and how to use it. 


Don’t Count on Russia to Get Rid of Assad

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 16:21:37 -0400

Writing in the Washington Post, Philip Gordon argues that it will take a lot more than a single set of airstrikes to get Russia to abandon its support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad.


The Impact of the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 11:14:57 -0400

Iran has restricted its nuclear program and given international inspectors unprecedented access, but it has not seen the economy recovery expected in the aftermath of the agreement with international powers.


The Trump Doctrine Was Written By CNN

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 16:44:06 -0400

Far from decisive, Trump’s decision to fire cruise missiles against a single air base in Syria was reminiscent of the kind of low-risk cruise missile attacks that Republicans have mocked in the past for their symbolic, ineffectual nature. While it is a good thing Trump did act, it is hard to know what larger lessons about U.S. policy in the world or in Syria itself one can draw from this decision. The Trump doctrine appears to be: The United States reserves the right to use force whenever the president is upset by something he sees on TV.


Trump’s Humanitarian Intervention in Syria Is Just Getting Started

Sun, 09 Apr 2017 16:23:32 -0400

But the president might be the last to know it.


Will Syria Yield to the Chemical Weapons Ban?

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 16:28:57 -0400

Syria's breach of its treaty obligations has led to broad international support for U.S. military action, says CFR's Lori Esposito Murray.


How Trump Can Help Cripple the Iranian Regime

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 16:07:05 -0400

The United States can cripple the Iranian regime if it doesn’t compromise the battle on the ground for fear of compromising arms control, argue Reuel Gerecht and CFR’s Ray Takeyh. America should fight Iran’s proxy militias in the regions, support popular movements against the Islamic Republic, and make human rights a priority for its Iran policy.


Is Trump Wagging the Dog in Syria?

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 16:06:12 -0400

Writing in Politico, Philip Gordon asks whether Donald Trump has really changed his mind about Syria, or if he is just looking to distract attention from controversies at home.


Trump’s Appetite for Risk Spells Trouble for U.S. National Security

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 16:00:00 -0400

Thursday night’s cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase will be much debated in coming weeks. Critics will cite the danger of escalation or of ensnarement in a quagmire.


The Strike At Syria

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 11:42:58 -0400

The American strike on Syria shows President Trump in two new roles: as Commander in Chief, and far more surprisingly as Leader of the Free World. Elliott Abrams explains why in the Weekly Standard.


'It Was High Time'

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 11:05:54 -0400

The right move, if the wrong president, for Obama's internal critics who wanted air strikes in Syria for three years.


Welcome to Syria, President Trump: Years of Rational Policy Led to This Horror, and There’s No Easy Way Out

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 09:24:38 -0400

If the war Obama and the Pentagon struggled to avoid is now upon us, it's likely to make a bad situation worse


Forget the Subs: What Taipei Can Learn From Tehran About Asymmetric Defense

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 12:59:33 -0400

Ahead of the Donald Trump-Xi Jinping summit this week at Mar-a-Lago, Taiwan is understandably anxious. Trump’s ascendance to the American presidency has injected uncertainty into the U.S. approach to China and Taiwan — an element of foreign policy that is traditionally carefully calibrated to avoid upsetting the precarious cross-strait arrangement.


Syria’s Assad Must Pay a Price for Using Chemical Weapons

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 12:44:30 -0400

The United States and its allies have a rare second chance to punish Syria for attacking civilians with chemical weapons or else risk the further weakening of global norms against the use of weapons of mass destruction, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass.


What Was the Legal Basis for the U.S. Air Strikes Against Syria?

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 09:28:07 -0400

The United States has just launched a missile attack against Syrian air bases, apparently in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.  (The attack apparently was launched in the middle of President Trump's dinner with Chinese President Xi, and is not likely to make the Chinese very happy.) 


Assessing the Iran Deal

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 16:31:43 -0400

Ray Takeyh testified before the Subcommittee on National Security of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government and gave his assessment of the stability of the Islamic Republic and what the United States can should do to counter Iran’s influence in the region and weaken the regime.


When It Comes to Syria, the Ball's In Trump's Court

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 10:34:13 -0400

In the wake of the latest chemical attack in Syria, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon questions what—if anything—the Trump administration will do beyond condemn the attack. 


Libya: A Fractured State

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 13:29:41 -0400

Experts examine the challenges Libya faces in regaining stability—from its ongoing civil war to the increasing danger of the Islamic State—and discuss the repercussions of foreign intervention in failing states.


Dear Senators: Push Back Against Iran, but Not at the Expense of the Nuclear Deal

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 12:20:02 -0400

Writing in Foreign Policy, Philip Gordon and other former Obama administration officials argue that Congress should push back on Iran—but not at the expense of the nuclear deal.