In the years leading up to the financial crisis that began in 2007, the core of the financial system was vulnerable to major shocks emanating from any of a variety of sources. While this particular crisis was triggered by over-levered home owners and a severe downturn in U.S. housing markets (Mian and Sufi, 2015), a reasonably well supervised financial system would have been much more resilient to this and other types of severe shocks. (Slides)
In this essay, Sanam Vakil assesses the four interconnected economic, regional, domestic, and nuclear deal challenges besetting Iran. These challenges have emerged due to renewed US pressure against Iran but also stem from Iran’s endemic factional tensions between pragmatists and conservatives and their ideological differences on how to best protect the Islamic Republic. Vakil also argues that the gravity of these challenges offers a unique opportunity to the Trump administration to move beyond its traditional containment policy toward a meaningful grand strategy to reduce US-Iranian tensions.
Does Egypt still have a place in the US grand strategy? For many pundits in Washington the answer is a resounding no. From every corner of the US foreign policy community frustration abounds with Egypt. If, however, the United States is ever capable of understanding its troublesome ally and salvaging what remains of the US–Egyptian alliance, it must tread carefully, following Fouad Ajami’s steps, and approach the Egypt of reality, and not that of imagination. It must take a voyage to “a jaded country,” as Ajami called it, and visit the land of sorrows.
Of all the world's great powers, Russia has the longest and most tangled experience of Islam at home and abroad. Muslims have led or taken part in revolts. Chechnya is only the latest such rebellion against Russian rule. Tsars, commissars, and now presidents have had to contend with internal difficulties that are aggravated by external Islamic interference. They have also intervened actively in Muslim countries in the "near abroad" and in the Middle East. This makes for danger in world politics.
Countering Islamism requires several elements. First is defining the term and understanding that Islam is one of the world’s great faiths and that Islamism is not a religion but an ideology of power and control. Second is recognizing that radical Islamists seek to use that ideology to gain control for a violent, exclusionary, and expansionary agenda. Third is realizing that radical Islamists are both Sunni and Shia. The Sunnis, in the case of the Islamic State, must be defeated and the idea must be discredited—and only other Sunnis can do that.
Ceasefires are often assumed to be a means to peace; but in Syria, the Assad regime has transformed them into a powerful weapon against civilians. This essay describes how Assad's forces have strategically deployed ceasefires to achieve two goals: (1) the starvation and displacement of urban areas, and (2) the massing of otherwise overstretched forces. Through a series of case studies, this essay also charts the evolution of Assad's ceasefires strategy, from the “local ceasefires” that took hold early in the conflict to the current “de-escalation zones.” The essay also highlights impacts on Iranian regional expansion and long-term population displacement and demographic re-engineering.
The United States has now been fighting a global war on terror (GWOT) for nearly two decades, but the threat posed by extremist groups remains. This essay seeks to reconcile the strategic requirement of prosecuting an aggressive campaign against the most dangerous extremist groups with the grand strategic constraints that the United States currently faces.
The presence of the United States in northeastern Syria after the defeat of the Islamic State is justified in the context of the confrontation with Iran and Russia in the Middle East. However, by relying primarily on the YPG (People's Protection Units), an outshoot of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), Washington creates an existential threat to Ankara and pushes Turkey into the arms of enemies of the United States. The inversion of local power to the benefit of the Kurds and the disastrous economic situation strikes the Arab populations, who are turning to Damascus. That calls into question all the calculations made by strategists who are not interested in the deep reality of the territory that must support their actions.