Articles

The Obama administration and its European allies are confronted by multiple crises in an increasingly turbulent and violent Middle East — the Iran nuclear threat, a strengthening Islamic State and the disintegration of Iraq, Yemen and Libya as functioning nation-states. But no problem is as difficult, grave or pivotal as the brutal, bloody and worsening civil war in Syria.

The situation in this keystone Middle East state is catastrophic. More than 220,000 Syrians have died in its four-year civil war. More than 11 million Syrians — half the population — have fled their homes. Four million have taken refuge in nearby countries. Nearly double that number are displaced within Syria itself. The Islamic State occupies more than a third of Syria's territory and swathes of Iraq. Given this level of deprivation, mass murder and geopolitical risk in Syria, the response of the rest of the world has been woefully inadequate. The U.N. Security Council has been neither a peacemaker nor a pain reliever.

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With the arrival of Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, in Vienna Friday, the climax to nearly two years of intensive negotiations is at hand.

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Faced with a $1.8 billion debt payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday, Greece was unable to reach an agreement with its Eurozone partners and the IMF yesterday in the latest round of talks in Brussels as both sides failed to make progress on key issues such as pension reform and taxation. A final session of negotiations will begin on Saturday, where Greece will have one last chance to strike a deal to unlock $8.06 billion in bailout aid. Absent an agreement, EU leaders are prepared to implement measures such as capital controls and even humanitarian aid to help stem the spread of economic contagion caused by a Greek default. If capital controls do in fact have to be adopted, they will be discussed and finalized over the weekend.

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I "visited" Iran the other day, but didn't need a visa or a plane ticket.

Through the magic of the Internet and sophisticated audiovisual technology, I chatted for 20 minutes with a young man in Tehran about the mood in society in anticipation of a historic nuclear agreement with the U.S. and five other nations.

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Bottom Line Up Front:

• A multinational joint task force consisting of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger has driven Boko Haram from key territorial strongholds in northeastern Nigeria; on June 18, the Chadian military conducted airstrikes against six Boko Haram bases in Nigeria

• But the terror group continues to launch deadly, near-daily attacks throughout the region—including on June 15 with twin suicide bombings in Chad—using guerrilla tactics rather than conventional warfare• Nigeria’s newly-inaugurated president, Muhammadu Buhari, has moved quickly to support regional counter-Boko Haram efforts, insisting on Nigerian leadership in the task force and pledging $100 million in financial support

• Despite the nascent successes of the joint task force, Islamic State gains in North Africa and, in particular, Libya, could impact the flow of weapons and fighters into Nigeria; Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March of this year.

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After a period of Brazil's necessary distancing from the United States in the wake of the National Security Agency spying scandal in 2013, both countries are ready to reengage. The June 30 meeting between Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and US President Barack Obama comes amid much change—both in Brazil itself and in the United States' relationship with the broader region. A flurry of shuttle diplomacy is setting the stage for what many hope will be a substantive visit.

Rousseff's official US trip comes in a period of domestic uncertainty—recession and corruption scandals are crippling her popularity and power. The rapprochement is a byproduct of Brazil's foreign policy aligning with domestic policy: she needs to change Brazil's—and her—negative narrative to a positive one. While Workers' Party (PT) stalwarts remain skeptical of closer relations with the United States, today it represents one of the most important roads back toward renewed growth of the Brazilian economy. For the United States, this presents a unique opportunity to inject new life into the bilateral relationship. (A full Arsht Center report on the bilateral agenda, US-Brazil Relations: A New Beginning? How to Strengthen the Bilateral Agenda, will be released on June 19.).

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This week, there were a plethora of events in Washington devoted to deepening understanding of the factors tearing apart Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen and threatening the stability of many other countries in the region.

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As a June 30 deadline for a deal on Iran's nuclear program approaches, casual observers of the talks might be forgiven for thinking that this is mostly a duel between U.S. and Iranian negotiators.

But without the participation of the so-called E-3 – Britain, France and Germany – nuclear diplomacy with Iran would probably never have gotten to this point and might not have happened at all.

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President Barack Obama hosted Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi at the White House, where they held talks. Ahead of their May 21 meeting, The Washington Post published an opinion editorial, jointly written by the two leaders. Excerpts follow.

Helping Tunisia Realize its Democratic Promise

Amid the turmoil that so often dominates the headlines, it can be tempting to think that all of North Africa and the Middle East is gripped by disorder. But in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, democracy and pluralism are taking root ...

More than four years after a young street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire to protest the daily humiliations of an oppressive government, sparking the protests that ended decades of dictatorship, Tunisia shows that democracy is not only possible but also necessary in North Africa and the Middle East ...

Our two nations now have an unprecedented opportunity to forge an enduring partnership based on shared interests and values. Indeed, since the revolution, the United States has committed more than $570 million, and supported two major loan guarantees, to help Tunisians pursue critical political, economic and security reforms. Over the past year alone, the United States has worked to double its assistance to Tunisia, with $134 million proposed for next year. This is not charity...

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White House spinmeisters were in full damage-control mode Monday after Saudi Arabia announced that King Salman would not be attending a Camp David summit expressly arranged to reassure him and other U.S. Arab allies that an impending nuclear agreement with Iran is not coming at their expense.

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