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In Depth

In Depth: Photos Taken Inside ISIS Underground Lair

in In Depth

Reuters/Ari Jalal // A tunnel used by Islamic State militants is seen in the town of Sinjar, Iraq December 1, 2015.Nima Elbagir (CNN) — The battle for the key Iraqi city of Ramadi has opened a window into the resilience of ISIS. It took months of daily onslaughts before Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition were able to expel the militants from the city center recently.

Despite this setback, ISIS still controls as much as 25% of Ramadi, local tribal leaders say. And fighting continues to rage in pockets throughout the city.

So how does ISIS evade airstrikes? In Ramadi, as in many ISIS strongholds, the answer lies below the ground. "During our advance to cleanse the area, they would distract us and disappear," Maj. Gen. Sami Kathim, commander of Iraqi Counter Terror Services, told CNN.

The Iran Delusion: A Primer for the Perplexed

in In Depth

AFP/Getty Images // The Revolutionary Guards has army, navy and air units as well as covert operatives.Michael J. Totten (World Affairs) — The chattering class has spent months bickering about whether or not the United States should sign on to a nuclear deal with Iran, and everyone from the French and the Israelis to the Saudis has weighed in with “no” votes.

Hardly anyone aside from the Saudis, however, seems to recognize that the Iranian government’s ultimate goal is regional hegemony and that its nuclear weapons program is simply a means to that end.

The Middle East has five hot spots—or “shatter zones,” as Robert D. Kaplan called them in his landmark book, The Revenge of Geography—which are more prone to conflict than others, where borders are either unstable or porous, where central governments have a hard time keeping everything wired together, and where instability is endemic or chronic.

Despite White House Pledges, Gitmo Closure Remains Long-Term Goal

in In Depth

Bob Strong/Reuters // The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, in this file photo taken on March 6, 2013.Jenifer Fenton (Al Jazeera America) — The newly appointed Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure is “under no illusions” that closing the U.S. prison “is going to be easy.”

Lee Wolosky is filling a State Department position that has been vacant for the last six months. He served in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations — working on the National Security Council staff.

Wolosky understands the difficulty of the task ahead of him. The status of the controversial facility, along with its inhabitants, remains mired in delays, appeals and political dramas that make shutting the prison increasingly difficult to imagine.

In Depth: Floating Armouries in the Indian Ocean

in In Depth

Aburgus/File // No one knows exactly how many actual maritime security service providers are out there.Maritime private security companies (PSCs) are utilized as anti-piracy measures in the Indian Ocean, providing armed security on board merchant vessels transiting the high-risk area (HRA; see Map 1).1

During the past decade, sea piracy flourished in the HRA2, growing into a menace to international shipping. Although there has not been a single successful pirate attack since 2012, the shipping industry’s demand for maritime PSC services has remained high. During 2013, 35–40 per cent of the estimated 65,922 merchant vessels transiting across the Indian Ocean’s HRA carried private armed guards on board (OBP, 2014, p. 18).

One of the major challenges for the operation of maritime PSCs in the HRA relates to the storage of arms and ammunition, particularly because coastal states in the region either prohibit or severely restrict entry into territorial waters by vessels with arms on board.

In Depth: Time to Negotiate in Afghanistan

in In Depth

Mohammad Shoib/Reuters/Partners for peace? Afghan Taliban joining a reintegration program, January 2012.James Dobbins and Carter Malkasian (Foreign Affairs) — Peace talks, if not peace itself, may be close at hand in Afghanistan. Over the past few months, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Afghan Taliban have made unexpected strides toward talks. In early May, members of the Taliban and the Afghan government even met in Qatar and expressed real interest in starting official negotiations—a heartening step.

Since 2001, opportunities for peace talks have come and gone. Sometimes, the process has stalled for political reasons, such as the United States’ reticence to engage with the Taliban.

Other times, discussions have broken down due to miscommunications or a lack of political consensus. It was not until 2010 that the United States fully embraced peace talks as the best way to end the violence in Afghanistan, and even then, progress was slow and halting.

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