Negotiations with Iran: Nuclear Breakthrough or Nuclear Meltdown?

Initially, Bashar al-Asad had developed his chemical weapons programs as a deterrent against Israeli and Western aggression—lately, he has discovered that these arms are more of a liability than an asset, nearly provoking the very invasion they were intended to ward off. For its part, Iran has been unyielding in their condemnation of the use Read more about Negotiations with Iran: Nuclear Breakthrough or Nuclear Meltdown?[…]

The Problem with Pakistan: Drones or Delusions?

The Drone Smokescreen On October 23, 2013, President Obama hosted a meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in order to discuss a bilateral relationship greatly strained by the killing of Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Subsequent to the U.S. Navy Seal raid in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, the U.S. suspended $800 Read more about The Problem with Pakistan: Drones or Delusions?[…]

Afghanistan 2014: Will the U.S. Exit Strategy Work?

SISMEC, in partnership with Civil Vision International, the UA School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, the UA Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the UA Graduate & Professional Student Council  and Ricoh USA, is pleased to announce a symposium on Afghanistan. The event’s purpose is to spur vital dialogue about U.S. policy and what the future Read more about Afghanistan 2014: Will the U.S. Exit Strategy Work?[…]

Hearts for Sale! A Buyer’s Guide to Winning in Afghanistan (Excerpt)

A beloved and well-respected Afghan civil society leader, Dr. Mohammad Saeed Niazi once said, “The hearts of the people are for sale—but not for money.” Genuine caring, respect, and service “buy” hearts; and those hearts freely offer the legitimacy governments embroiled in counterinsurgency so crave. Dr. Niazi’s words suggest that neither the secret to earning Read more about Hearts for Sale! A Buyer’s Guide to Winning in Afghanistan (Excerpt)[…]

Street With Joy: The Afghan Triumph in South Asia

It was nearing midnight on September 11th, 2013, when chaos exploded in the streets: shouting, honking horns, tracers arching over people’s heads, scattered gunshots. But this time, for the first time in living memory, it was an overwhelmingly joyful frenzy; people were hugging, dancing, back-slapping, weeping, waving the red-black-and-green flag, blaring music from their cars, Read more about Street With Joy: The Afghan Triumph in South Asia[…]

Presidential Election – one small step for the ayatollah, one giant leap for Iranians

Despite choice limitations, Iranians elected a new president and with him comes hope for the future The recent presidential elections in Iran may signal a slow march towards reform, although there is no sign of a new “spring” just yet.  In an election in which over 70% of the country turned out to vote, Iranians Read more about Presidential Election – one small step for the ayatollah, one giant leap for Iranians[…]

The Taliban in Doha – Peace or Ruse?

The challenges of negotiating with the Taliban On Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, four major news-items collided in the headlines on Afghanistan. The first was the official security handover by the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) of remaining 95 districts in Southern and Eastern regions to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The second was a Read more about The Taliban in Doha – Peace or Ruse?[…]

Women and War: G8 makes rape a crime – wasn’t it already?

The G8 declares rape a war crime and vows to punish all perpetrators – will they start with themselves? At a recent summit in which representatives met to discuss various ongoing and possible conflicts,  the G8 announced that it has officially declared rape a crime against humanity and a breach of the Geneva Convention.  The Read more about Women and War: G8 makes rape a crime – wasn’t it already?[…]

Learning from Student Dialogue

Civil Dialogue and Better Ways to Build Afghan-U.S. Trust Earlier this week, Afghan and American university students held a video-dialogue covering a variety of policy issues as well as insight into their daily lives. The tone of the event from the Afghan side was upbeat, and both sides expressed enthusiastic openness and respect.  Many groups Read more about Learning from Student Dialogue[…]

That Haven-Hopping Al-Qaeda Finds a Viable Landing Pad in the Sinai

What the vacuous security situation means for Egypt, her neighbors, and the U.S. As U.S. drone strikes and targeted killings in states like Pakistan and Yemen continue to make life for terrorists there less and less sustainable, the ethereal group of Islamic Salafists who self-identify as al-Qaeda seem to be adapting to this new brand Read more about That Haven-Hopping Al-Qaeda Finds a Viable Landing Pad in the Sinai[…]

Play it again, Sam

Maybe sanctions will work this time, unlike all of those other times… At the recent SISMEC sponsored symposium “10 Years Later: Lessons from Iraq,”  Dr. Joseph Sassoon discussed the legacy of violence created by the practices of Saddam Hussein’s regime.  Drawing on the extensive research found in his book Saddam Hussein’s Ba`ath Party: Inside an Read more about Play it again, Sam[…]

Calling for talks, not more air strikes in Mali

Who’s fighting whom? And for What? The ongoing conflict in Mali continues to play out in the periphery of the international news and political machines. News of the death of an Al Qaeda in the Maghrib (AQIM) leader is seized upon in headlines and provides fodder for the never satiated “we-got-another-Islamist!” Western political machine. But Read more about Calling for talks, not more air strikes in Mali[…]

Moammar Gaddhafi, Giantslayer

The Libyan Intervention in Retrospect It would not be surprising if there are many in the Obama Administration who occasionally think, “I miss Moammar Gaddhafi.” And if no one there is thinking that, they should. And not just because of the camping trips he would take in New York City, his amazing sense of style, his Read more about Moammar Gaddhafi, Giantslayer[…]

New Hosts of Drone Bowl III?

Reaping Ungovernability in North Africa In the previous edition of the bulletin SISMEC pondered Western involvement in trying to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven in North Africa, wondering if we might see another invasion. It seems that we were provided an answer this week as Niger gave approval for the establishment of a US drone Read more about New Hosts of Drone Bowl III?[…]

Western “heroics” and one-eyed villains…the drama continues

Money & Ideology: the one or the other? The UN Security Council voted in December to support a 3,300-strong African Union (AU) force to be deployed to Mali in January of 2013; the AU force was mandated by the UN to assist in the restabilization of the country following the March 2012 coup. In the Read more about Western “heroics” and one-eyed villains…the drama continues[…]

Blowback nothing?

Colin Owens Christopher Swift’s article “Strikes in Yemen Aren’t Pushing People to Al Qaeda” (July 2012) draws conclusions about the expanded U.S./Yemen drone program in Yemen, including signature strikes, based on interviews concerning a different and limited Yemen campaign. While the article argues that al-Qaeda recruitment in Yemen is largely driven by economics, and that Read more about Blowback nothing?[…]

And to the Victor Goes the Ruins

The next phase of the Syrian Civil War As the Syrian conflict has dragged on, growing in intensity with no sign of resolution or international intervention, the regime may seem incredibly resilient: they have been able to push the rebels out of Damascus, to protect the majority-Alawite territories, to hold Aleppo, and to keep pressure Read more about And to the Victor Goes the Ruins[…]

With this cast of characters, who needs cartoons?

The 2012 UNGA meeting proved to be entertaining, but was it productive? The annual United Nations General Assembly meetings are a time for countries to come together, speak to each other in a neutral location, and attempt to work out their problems.  Unfortunately, they have become an opportunity for states to battle for status via Read more about With this cast of characters, who needs cartoons?[…]

Afghanistan’s Post-Modern Security Crisis

Identity and Boundaries at the crux of “insider attacks” So far in 2012, NATO forces have seen a 45% increase in “insider attacks” against coalition forces by their Afghan security counterparts, accounting for more than 18% of the total 2012 NATO casualties. Beyond the loss of life, these attacks have had a devastating impact on Read more about Afghanistan’s Post-Modern Security Crisis[…]

The Lion’s Advocate

Working through misconceptions in the Syrian uprising While one would never know it from the news, the reform process in Syria is actually going smoother than it is in Egypt. If this might sound crazy to the everyday headline reader, think of it this way:  Syria has a popularly approved new constitution, a democratically elected Read more about The Lion’s Advocate[…]

“Battleship 2012” – more than a game, more than a movie

Persian Gulf: US and Iranian naval activity could be the blockbuster of the summer Recent history has seen US military forces focused on the ground, but the summer has brought an old battleground to the forefront: the sea.  Specifically, the Persian Gulf in which merchant ships, national navies, and pirate forces consistently vie for an Read more about “Battleship 2012” – more than a game, more than a movie[…]

And the beat goes on…

Violence continues as the political process stagnates A recent wave of bombing attacks has made June 2012 one of the deadliest months since the height of the American invasion in Iraq.  In both coordinated and seemingly isolated attacks, approximately 200 people were killed this month with hundreds more wounded.  The violence occurred throughout Iraq, although Read more about And the beat goes on…[…]

Too many cooks in the kitchen…

Bahrain, the Land of Two Seas: Now Between a Rock and a Harder Place In the immediate months after the Saudi-Bahraini led crackdown on the Pearl Roundabout protests last year it appeared as if tensions could not get much higher between regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Iran. On one hand, Bahrain’s foreign ministry, held by Read more about Too many cooks in the kitchen…[…]

Iranian Sanctions: Greatest Hits of the 90’s

The West hits replay on its 90’s Iraq strategy: Lessons Learned & Forgotten? The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reported that Iranian oil production is down by 12% and is expected to fall even further due to continuing international sanctions. With the final phase of the European Union ban scheduled to begin on Read more about Iranian Sanctions: Greatest Hits of the 90’s[…]

Bidding Sarko Adieu?

The Future of French Middle East Policy As the final round of voting for the French presidential election approaches, it looks like Sarko might need to start looking for a new job. Socialist candidate François Hollande has been consistently leading the polls and remains ahead after Wednesday’s big debate. Foreign policy somehow did not make Read more about Bidding Sarko Adieu?[…]