The United States faces threats from outside its borders, but also from within. While domestic issues including healthcare, immigration, and tax reform occupy the media, a more sinister threat exists underfoot. The political system that once created a strong, prosperous, and united nation now sows division. Many of the country’s public institutions, most notably Congress, seem increasingly inept and dangerously dysfunctional. Permanent campaign mode is distracting the country’s institutions from their responsibilities, alienating the public from civic processes, and leaving the country vulnerable to foreign interference.
Geographic proximity and shared religion, specifically Shia Islam, give Iran deep influence in Iraq, as shown in a new Atlantic Council issue brief entitled “Iran in Iraq,” by American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Kenneth M. Pollack. Despite advantages in geography and demography, Pollack argues that Iranian influence in Iraq is not insurmountable. The United States should therefore seek to implement policies that strengthen Iraq's government and unify its people in order to keep Iran at bay.
Rebuilding Syria by Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Faysal Itani and independent international security analyst Tobias Schneider, focuses on large, strategic policy questions: Why should the international community help rebuild Syria? Should it work with the Syrian government? If so, can the promise of rebuilding be used as leverage? Who are the local partners? What are the priorities in terms of sequencing?
The great Asian paradox is that a region steadily becoming more economically integrated is filled with distrust, competing nationalisms, and territorial disputes in the security realm. This is epitomized by Northeast Asia and the North Pacific: the region features the world’s three largest economies; three of the largest militaries; three of the five declared nuclear weapons states, and one de facto nuclear state. It is the locus of the greatest near-term threat to regional stability and order—the North Korea nuclear problem—and it is also increasingly the nexus of the global economy. Each North Korean missile launch and nuclear test highlights the risks of a very dangerous nuclear flashpoint.
The Western Balkans were supposed to be a solved problem. The United States has mostly watched from afar in recent years, thinking that the Europeans had these matters mostly in hand. US diplomats have played crucial roles in key moments; yet, the region continued to slide down the US political agenda.
As one of the African continent’s largest and most sophisticated economies, South Africa offers a myriad of opportunities for engagement with the United States on diplomatic, commercial, security, and social fronts. It is a self-sufficient, complex, and dynamic country in a struggling, complex, and dynamic region. Yet, the centrality of South Africa to the United States’ relationship with the wider continent is underappreciated by Washington’s policy community, which has become distracted by the displays of dysfunctionality and high-level corruption that have come to characterize South African politics. These political dramatics have knocked US relations with South Africa off track by obscuring the enduring social inequities at the heart of South Africa’s problems, both in media depictions of South Africa and in serious policy discussions.
No one can know the future. China and Russia—who are currently challenging, albeit in different ways, the Western liberal order—face difficulties at home and could become inward-focused and disengaged. Nonetheless, almost thirty years after the end of the Cold War, geopolitics looks like it is poised for another turn of the wheel that may not be as favorable to Western interests.
Education remains a crucial component of economic development and poverty reduction. Primary education is especially important, as it provides students with the foundational skills necessary to continue with advanced education and participate in local and global economies. Collectively, educational benefits extend beyond individuals to benefit broader communities.
Ambassador John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, writes in a new issue brief entitled "Partners or Competitors? The Future of the Iran-Russia Power Tandem in the Middle East" that Russia and Iran are currently drawn into partnership over common regional interests and anti-American policies and sentiments despite centuries of historical rivalry. While their strategic partnership might not survive long-term shifts in either country’s politics, it remains inimical to US interests in the short-term.