Turmoil Across the Middle East: What Does It Mean?

What should we make of the Middle East’s upheavals? In recent weeks, the Islamic State (ISIS) “caliphate” collapsed. Syria’s Assad regime all but won the six-year war, thus consolidating Iranian and Russian influence. Saudi Arabia purged parts of its royal family. Lebanon’s prime minister abruptly resigned. Iraq’s Kurds voted for independence, triggering confrontation with Baghdad. Years of U.S. and international engagement has failed to rebuild fractured countries, and the very viability of states like Iraq and Syria has been challenged.

Satoshi Ikeuchi: Impact of the Islamic State and Global Jihadism

Satoshi Ikeuchi, a Wilson Center Japan Scholar in the Asia Program from October to December of 2009, is an associate professor at the University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology. His research at the Center focused on examining American Middle East policy in the initial months of the Obama administration.  Ikeuchi was a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge in 2010. Prior to his time at the Center, he was an associate professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

US on the End of the Caliphate

On October 20, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the liberation of Raqqa, Syria from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh. ISIS seized Raqqa in early 2014 and declared it the capital of their caliphate. It was also a central hub for planning overseas terrorist attacks. The fight to liberate Raqqa began in June 2017 with U.S.-coalition airstrikes backing SDF ground operations. The SDF forces are composed of Arab, Kurdish and Assyrian militias. The following are statements by U.S. officials and the SDF on the liberation.

United States Policy and the Kurdistan Referendum: Compounding the Problem

Iraqi Kurds want their independence. Even before the referendum results were announced, we knew a majority of Kurds had voted for it; the only real question was which position would be taken by the minorities living in Kirkuk and other disputed territories. Not surprisingly, Iraq and other countries with Kurdish minorities—Turkey, Syria, and Iran – have condemned the referendum, fearing it will encourage their Kurds to follow the example.

The Sinai: Jihadism's Latest Frontline

Evan W. Burt

Updated November 2017

Mosul after ISIS: Whither U.S. Policy in Iraq?

The liberation of Mosul from ISIS control is a major win for the Iraqi government, the United States, and the campaign to defeat the terrorist group – but a critically important question now looms: What comes next for U.S. policy toward a country divided and tattered from years of war?

The War on ISIS: The Forgotten Need for Congressional Authorization

In the words of Defense Secretary James Mattis, the war on ISIS has shifted into the “annihilation” phase. While there is broad consensus for aggressively pursuing the terrorist group, the legal grounds upon which the president can expand the use of military force against ISIS are more tenuous.

Tensions in the Gulf: Implications for U.S. Policy

The dramatic decision by Saudi Arabia, key Gulf states, and others to isolate Qatar is part of a deeper problem that has been brewing for years. How big a challenge does this recent turn of events, including the first major ISIS attack in Iran, portend for U.S. policy and interests in the region? Is this just a headline or does it represent a significant trend line that could reshape Arab politics and power balances?

In this ground truth briefing, three veteran analysts and practitioners of U.S. policy in the Gulf and the region share their views on these and other matters. 

Alumni Work Among New York Times Most Notable Books of 2016

Assessing ISIS Expansion in Southeast Asia: Major Threat or Misplaced Fear?

In an era of international terrorism and the rise of large, well-organized Islamic jihadist groups working hard to violently establish strict conservative Islamic states, the need for continually evolving threat assessments becomes paramount for the safety of lives and assets. One such threat assessment to evaluate is the vulnerability of the Southeast Asian region as a possible new theater for the expansion of the jihadist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).