On December 4, 2019, the New York Times reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran had exported ballistic missiles to its non-state clients in Iraq. The news is similar to Tehran’s activities in Yemen, where Iranian forces have sent ballistic and cruise missiles to the Houthis, its ally in the conflict, and it also mirrors Iran’s recent use of cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas infrastructure. To discuss Iranian missile proliferation in the Middle East, Aaron Stein, the Director of the Middle East Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, spoke with Fabian Hinz, a Research Associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, about the reports and what this means for Iran’s regional policy.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) receives a lot of attention for its standing within the IC and for its role in conducting sensitive collection and producing analyses used at the highest levels of government. Since its founding in 1947, the CIA has had a key role in many successes and scandals. (Of course, due to the clandestine nature of intelligence work, the public is much more likely to hear about scandal than successes, at least initially.) To discuss the state of civil-intelligence relations, the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute convened an online discussion, moderated by Michael P. Noonan, with its Senior Fellow Carol Rollie Flynn, a 30-year veteran of the CIA and the president-designate of FPRI, and Stephen Slick, a CIA veteran and Director of the Intelligence Studies Project and the Inman Chair in Intelligence Studies at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
The post-9/11 wars have spurred a lot of attention on the problem of transnational foreign fighters. Such foreign fighters—foreign nationals drawn to intervene into civil conflicts for reasons of religion, ethnicity, or ideology—have been used to generate combat power on the ground and in many cases have been exceedingly brutal and indiscriminate in the application of violence. The present war in Syria has shown the deadly power of such fighters as have the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and other war zones. But this phenomenon is not new and is not simply an output of the Islamic faith. The Spanish Civil War (1936-39), for instance, had many foreign combatants drawn from the ranks of communists, socialists, and fascists. Even today, there have been signs in an uptick of white supremacists joining the ranks of the pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.
In 2011, protesters and insurgents brought down multiple decaying Arab regimes in what came to be known as the “Arab Spring.” Lebanon, as poorly governed as many other Arab countries, experienced nothing of the sort. This stability usually has been attributed to its “resilience.” Yet, recent events have shown otherwise. On October 17, nationwide protests broke out, involving hundreds of thousands across the country’s multiple religious sects—casting doubt on this mythology. Lebanon’s decades-long stasis in the face of unsustainable pressure was not resilience, but mere inertia—an inertia that has triggered the country’s deepest crisis since its 1975 civil war.
President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Syria has laid bare contending visions about U.S. engagement in the Middle East. Trump depicts the move as extricating the U.S. from the Middle East’s quagmire of “endless war.” Critics see it as betraying Kurdish forces that had loyally served in the campaign against the Islamic State. Neither side, though, offers a vision for how a war like the one in Syria, where multiple foreign powers maintain direct relationships with armed proxy groups, might end. Understanding these endgame scenarios can enable the U.S. to escape the Middle East’s proxy wars while building a broader framework for regional security.
Entering its third year, the 2019 Yushan Forum, centered on “Deepening Progressive Partner-ships in Asia,” was attended by 30 ambassadors and foreign representatives from 22 countries. The theme focused on the efforts from governmental sectors and non-governmental organiza-tions as a way to demonstrate multi-faceted results of collaborations and partnerships, specifi-cally through sessions on people-centered development agenda sessions, for example, the im-portance of “Enhancing Technological and Economic Partnerships” which was closely related to the session on “Building Talent Cultivation Partnerships” and another panel on “Promoting Partnerships in Sustainable Development;” these issues reflect the strategic importance of prac-tical collaboration between Taiwan and its neighbors. The two-day forum, held on October 8-9, attracted over 1,000 participants from 31 countries, including 31 international partners from 13 countries serving as panelists.
In many respects, the navy that the Philippines is now building is a new one. By the 1990s, its old navy had fallen into such a state of obsolescence that it had no ships capable of fighting a modern naval battle. Indeed, with the exception of a single World War II-era destroyer escort, the navy had no vessel bigger than a 62-meter offshore patrol boat. But in the coming years, the Philippine navy will for the first time acquire the full spectrum of contemporary anti-air, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and electronic warfare capabilities that it has lacked for so long. Still, it remains to be seen if the Philippine navy will acquire those capabilities in sufficient quantity or quality to present a “credible deterrent” against the Philippines’ various challengers in the South China Sea.