Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 2)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s to-do list reads like Mission Impossible. Staff his cabinet with honest officials; rebuild war-torn Sunni areas in the north; placate an angry Shia south that is desperately short of water and power; deal with Kurdish demands; reintegrate Iranian-backed militias into civilian life; balance carefully between Iran and the U.S. He must do all this without a secure parliamentary majority or even a solid support base. Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s position as an honest broker gives him great strength, but if he fails, Iraq could become Libya.
Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 1)
Iraq’s new prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was reportedly hand-picked at meeting in Beirut by the leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah. Yet the man they chose is far from a radical. Close examination of Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s career shows him to be an experienced, honest and gutsy politician, friendly to the U.S. and hardly in Tehran’s pocket. The task he faces is gargantuan, but Mr. Abdul Mahdi has hidden strengths.
Saudi Arabia’s hidden power struggle comes into the open
The arrest of 208 high-ranking individuals in November 2017 on suspicion of corruption suggests that the House of Saud faces serious challenges. King Salman’s son, Mohammad bin Salman, has consolidated power in a way that contravenes the traditional rules of succession of the Saudi ruling dynasty. But amid foreign policy setbacks and a mixed record with domestic reforms, it is far from certain that the Crown Prince will succeed his father on the throne.
Trump’s Middle East blueprint: an Israeli view
Donald Trump took a scattershot approach to the Middle East in his election campaign. At times, he advocated greater involvement, at others he leaned toward isolationism. On balance, however, the new president will have no choice but to jettison Barack Obama’s policy of disengagement. The most probable outcome is active intervention.
Hezbollah’s role in Syria
Iran established Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s to fight Israel and subvert Sunni regimes in the Middle East. Now, it is doing Tehran’s bidding in the Syrian civil war, supporting President Bashar al-Assad. The experience has given Hezbollah fighters the military skill necessary to strike again at Israel. The coming conflict could be much worse than the previous round of fighting in 2006.
Iraq: between democracy and failed state
Iraqi democracy has been more or less written off by the West. Combating its political gridlock, sectarianism and corruption will be harder than defeating Daesh. The best way Baghdad can start solving these problems is to strike a deal to retake Mosul.
Understanding Iraq’s Sunni tribes
Iraq’s Sunni tribes form a key part of Iraq’s complicated power structure. The United States found some success in the early 2000s when it allied with them to push back al-Qaeda. Since then, some have been alienated and joined Daesh. Most have not chosen sides. The U.S. will need to bring more into its fold in order to expel Daesh from Iraq.
Syria’s future: the losers and winners
For all the confusion about Syria’s civil war, there’s no doubt about the big loser – the Syrian people. But nearly every regional power that has intervened to advance its own interests has also paid a heavy price, as has the European Union, a not-so-innocent bystander. For now, the most likely winners are the former Cold War antagonists, the United States and Russ...
China steps up engagement in the Middle East
Beijing’s increasing involvement in the Middle East has important economic, diplomatic, and military implications for the region, China and the world. The stakes were highlighted when the Chinese government chose to build its first overseas military base in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa. President Xi Jinping’s recent visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia drove the poin...