The Middle East

Air Campaign Against ISIS Is Just Getting Off the Ground

The stated objective of the American-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—language carefully crafted to imply a gradual process that may take months, even years. Yet just over two months into the campaign, some are already asking for results. The United […]

What Could US Boots on the Ground Do in Iraq and Syria?

“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.” Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit song, “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” became wildly popular with GIs during the Vietnam War, where the lyrics took on a more bellicose meaning. In discussions of […]

Iraq Observations

Military collapses come fast, creating pressure for prompt action.  Domestic politics weigh heavily on the decision.  Will the administration be blamed for losing Iraq if it does not order military intervention?  Or will history judge the president wise for keeping US forces out of war as it did President Eisenhower for not bombing Vietnam in […]

A Bigger, But Less Unified, Al Qaeda

Al Qaeda’s universe may be rent by centrifugal forces resulting from its own recent expansion, but that expansion itself reflects a remarkable achievement. Although thousands of volunteers had passed through its training camps in Afghanistan before 9/11, by the end of 2001, al Qaeda consisted of a few hundred fighters on the run. The camps’ scattered alumni […]

Syria’s Bloody Stalemate

Neither side can win and neither side can afford to lose. Seems highly unlikely that the upcoming talks in Geneva scheduled to begin on Jan. 22 will achieve a political settlement to Syria’s civil war. Syrian President Bashar Assad will attend, but feels under no pressure to negotiate his own departure. The attendance of the […]

Should the United States End Assistance to Syria’s Rebels?

The United States announced recently that it was suspending aid to the rebels fighting to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This comes amidst reports that other Western countries are now gradually withdrawing their military support to the rebel forces. Should the suspension of U.S. assistance be made permanent? There are some good […]

Syria As We Know It Is Gone

Bashar Assad may hang on to power, but not over all of Syria. Other than as a geographic expression, Syria has ceased to exist. With Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah support, Bashar Assad’s forces, at the moment, appear to have gained the initiative over a fragmented rebel movement. But Assad will not be able to restore […]

10 Reasons U.S. Influence Has Fallen in the Middle East

And the United States appears to be a blundering and dangerous giant. By most assessments, U.S. influence in the Middle East has dramatically declined since the Arab uprisings began in January 2011. Critics have blamed this on inept diplomacy by the current administration, but this is only a partial explanation for America’s loss of authority […]

Limited U.S. Military Strikes Do Not Unseat Dug-in Dictators

Facing the possibility of U.S. military attack, Bashar al-Assad should worry about his long-term future. But based upon the historical record, any American military attack is more likely to be aimed at coercion than at threatening his immediate survival as president of Syria. The U.S. has launched a series of measured air attacks in recent […]

What Would al Qaeda’s PowerPoints Say?

It seems unlikely that al Qaeda holds conference calls to do business, and they probably don’t use PowerPoints. But for the sake of discussion, what if they did? And if they held one today, what would their presentation look like? To al Qaeda, there would be much about which to gloat: Slide one: “We have […]

The Syrian Chemical Weapons Conundrum

Syria’s civil war could provide a test run for dealing with dangerous weapons that fall into the wrong hands. Both Israel and the United States now believe that chemical weapons have been used in Syria’s civil war, most likely by Syrian government forces. If the rebels have even some of the chemical weapons, that could […]

The Invasion of Iraq: A Balance Sheet

Historically, wars were fought primarily for material gain: livestock, treasure, tribute, or territory. More recently, however, the profit motive for war has declined as life has become more precious and conquest and plunder have become less acceptable, although conflicts waged for control of diamonds and other precious commodities continue in parts of the world. International law […]

Syrian Scenarios

The fighting in Damascus is so far not the Battle of Berlin or the Fall of Saigon, marking the clear beginning of the end. The endgame, indeed, may be a long way off. So what happens next? It is difficult to sort out the military situation on the ground or the maneuvers behind the scenes. […]

Al-Qaeda After Bin Laden

The death of Osama bin Laden will have sent remaining al Qaeda leaders diving for cover. Drone strikes already have decimated their number. Bin Laden’s death represents a major breach of security. His lieutenants must worry that documents captured at his hideout will lead the Americans to them, or that Pakistan, embarrassed by al Qaeda’s […]

Would-be Warriors: Incidents of Jihadist Terrorist Radicalization in the United States since September 11, 2001

Would-be Warriors: Incidents of Jihadist Terrorist Radicalization in the United States since September 11, 2001

This paper examines the extent of jihadist radicalization in the United States, discusses who is being recruited, and assesses the domestic terrorist threat posed by the recruits. It then looks at how the recruits were identified by U.S. authorities and asks what this means for domestic counterterrorist strategy. The findings should be of interest to […]

Afghanistan: A marathon, not a prize fight

President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan reflects a nation deeply divided on the war. There are compelling arguments on both sides. Sober-minded observers see al Qa’ida, the reason the U.S. came to Afghanistan in the first place, as a spent force whose leaders are now in Pakistan. And the Taliban, while […]



Brian Michael Jenkins, former terrorism expert at the Rand Corporation shares his insights with Brian Williams about world security, the Middle East and Saddam Hussein. Watch the full video here.