Against the grim backdrop of global terrorism and a deadly health crisis, world leaders are preparing to convene in New York for their annual gathering at the United Nations General Assembly. The terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State and efforts to control the spread of the Ebola virus are expected to dominate discussions.
On September 17, 2014 CIC Director Barnett Rubin spoke on a panel at the Woodrow Wilson Center. The event accompanied the launch of a report which examines the impact of US policy on a nuclear agreement on the Middle East. For more information on the event and report, please visit the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Worlds apart, two leaders are planning to intervene in worsening conflicts outside their borders, and citing humanitarian concerns as their rationale. In Iraq, President Barack Obama and his administration are considering how to contain the violent march of radical Islamist militants and provide help to those whom the Islamists threaten with extermination. In the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a convoy of 280 trucks with what the Russians describe as “humanitarian aid” for the embattled region.
The Cameron government's decision to arm Kurdish fighters brings the UK in step with the US and France in an effort to bolster Kurdistan as a bastion against the spread of a particularly murderous form of Islamic extremism and maintain a safe haven for Iraqis and Syrians forced to flee their homes by the tidal wave of violence sweeping the region.
Europe’s strategic situation is simultaneously precarious and curiously comfortable. From eastern Ukraine to northern Africa, conflicts crowd in on the European Union (EU). Yet the bloc’s security may actually benefit from the ongoing instability in cases such as Ukraine, Mali and even Syria. The longer these conflicts absorb the energies of potential foes, ranging from Russian President Vladimir Putin to various Islamist radical groups, the less likely they are to menace the EU directly.
The conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, not to mention the war in Syria, have presented diplomats with emotional testimonies of civilian suffering, even alleged crimes against humanity. Yet the 15-member Council has been unable to end these conflicts. The problem is not that the major world powers don’t care. It is that they care too much.
The UN is currently in poor health but the severity of its condition is not yet clear, Richard Gowan argues in this paper commissioned by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue for the 2014 Oslo Forum for senior mediators. Gowan assesses the impact of events in South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine for the UN, and warns that the organization's operational and political credibility is weakening.
The 2003 Iraq war split the Security Council, but the United Nations ultimately sustained only limited long-term damage from the incident. In the 11 years since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the council has passed over 600 resolutions on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to African conflicts. Now the U.N. faces another war in Iraq, at a time when its overall credibility may be in greater danger than it was in 2003.
The Syrian war, currently overshadowed by its offshoot in Iraq, remains a ruinous blight on international diplomacy. Nearly half a year after the furiously hyped but fundamentally hopeless peace talks between the government and moderate rebels in Geneva, no end to the fighting is in sight.
The consensus decision reached at the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to convene a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East (MEWMDFZ) was, perhaps, the most salient outcome of the quinquennium gathering. It is also one of the most challenging undertakings for a number of strategic, technical and political reasons.
Even the most seasoned Middle East observers were taken aback by the events of early 2011. Protests born of oppression and socioeconomic frustration erupted throughout the streets; public unrest provoked violent police backlash; long-established dictatorships fell. How did this all happen? What might the future look like, and what are the likely ramifications for the United States and the rest of the world? In The Arab Awakening, experts from the Brookings Institution tackle such questions to make sense of this tumultuous region that remains at the heart of U.S.