Bashar Assad’s Big Push to Recover His Eastern Border

A billboard of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, July 4, 2010
A billboard of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, July 4, 2010 (Wojtek Ogrodowczyk)

Bashar al-Assad hadn’t had control of his Iraqi frontier for years. It’s a major headache; it’s allowed Sunni rebels to supply themselves from Anbar, a favorable route for Gulf states hoping to keep the war going.

It’s also allowed the Islamic State to slide supplies from its shrinking Iraqi domains to its shrunken Syrian ones.

The Islamic State famously demolished the literal border wall between the two countries. That was right after they blitzed across it to capture Mosul in June 2014.

Now Assad’s Iranian and Iraqi allies are hoping to rebuild the border and thereby secure the regime they’ve fought so hard to preserve. Read more

Time Looks Ripe for Japan-NATO Cooperation

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg welcomes the Japanese defense minister, Tomomi Inada, in Brussels, January 5
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg welcomes the Japanese defense minister, Tomomi Inada, in Brussels, January 5 (NATO)

Strategic thinkers have proposed closer cooperation between Japan and NATO for more than a decade. The circumstances are now such that this could become a reality. Read more

Erdoğan Discovers Personality Doesn’t Trump Geopolitics

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, in Kiev, March 20, 2015
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, in Kiev, March 20, 2015 (Press Service of the President of Ukraine/Palinchak Mikhail)

Turkey still hopes the United States might reconsider their support for Kurdish rebels in Syria, but it doesn’t look like Donald Trump will change this policy from his predecessor, Barack Obama.

If anything, the new president has doubled down, approving the delivery of more arms to Kurds who do battle with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Read more

Why Russian Resets Keep Failing

Presidents Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic and Barack Obama of the United States share a toast, Prague, April 8, 2010
Presidents Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic and Barack Obama of the United States share a toast, Prague, April 8, 2010 (White House/Pete Souza)

In short, if it wasn’t one thing, it would have been another.

It didn’t have to have to be a gas attack. It could have been a stray Russian shell in some Ukrainian city, a dead exiled opposition leader on the streets of a Western capital city, a major hacking attack against a critical American target, a crucial NATO ally “flipped” by a Russian disinformation campaign or a released set of Trump e-mails.

It could have been Donald Trump waking up one day to realize the Russians aren’t interested in destroying the Islamic State so long as IS distracts the Americans and grinds down anti-Assad rebels.

It could have been when Trump tried to rally Moscow to support a new round of sanctions or military threats against North Korea.

Perhaps Trump’s bromance might have ended with a shooting incident over Finnish skies or maybe he’d have changed his mind if Russian troops showed up in Libya to prop up Moscow’s increasingly favorited local strongman, Khalifa Haftar.

The fact is, on a long enough timeline, he would have changed his mind or faced an all-out revolt from his cabinet, his generals and his party. Read more

Donald Trump Is Now a Real American President

King Abdullah II of Jordan and American president Donald Trump prepare to deliver a news conference outside the White House in Washington DC, April 5
King Abdullah II of Jordan and American president Donald Trump prepare to deliver a news conference outside the White House in Washington DC, April 5 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

“Real” is not the same as “good”. “Real” means he is finally coming to understand America as a geopolitical entity. Read more

Brexit Is an Opportunity to Take Back Control — For Spain

The Rock of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016
The Rock of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016 (Scott Wylie)

When Brexiteers argued leaving the European Union would be a chance to “take back control”, they presumably didn’t mean for Spain. But it is thinking just that.

Now that the United Kingdom has formally triggered its exit from the bloc, the Spaniards smell an opportunity to take back control of a territory they lost to Britain over 300 years ago: Gibraltar. Read more

How Climate Change Will Be the Biggest Geopolitical Crisis of the Century

French troops in Mali, May 2013
French troops in Mali, May 2013 (EMA/Ministère de la Défense)

America is out of the environmental protection businesses; so says the haughty God-Emperor Donald Trump, whose word is apparently law.

Too bad even god-emperors cannot change facts. Too bad, especially, for the billions who are almost certain to be disrupted, displaced and decimated by the looming geopolitical effects of climate change.

That basic truth is denied heartily by many who have incentive to play games for short-term gain. These are old-school industrial concerns, for whom environmental regulation hammers a bottom line; alt-right, alt-truthers, for whom simple science is a threat to their incoherent worldview; and shattered working classes, seeking a simple scapegoat for the complicated story of their economic dissolution and disenfranchisement. Read more