The Great Debate

Seven unlikely events in the fight against Islamic State, and their likely outcomes

By Aki Peritz and Tara Maller
November 17, 2014

Shi'ite fighters, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), take part in field training in the desert in the province of Najaf

It’s easy to get depressed about the Middle East these days. The bloodshed continues unabated in Syria. Islamic State advances across Iraq, sacking towns and slaughtering innocents. Millions are refugees. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems well ensconced in Damascus, on track to outlasting President Barack Obama in office.

It’s no love match, but divorce is not an option for U.S. and Turkey

By Andrew Finkel
November 10, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan listens to U.S. President Obama during joint news conference at the White House in Washington

Recent events in Kobani are a lesson in how relationships between nations can grow dysfunctional.

Staying on the sidelines: In fight for Kobani, Turkey doesn’t see any good guys

By Andrew Finkel
October 13, 2014

Turkish Kurds watch the Syrian town of Kobani from near the Mursitpinar border crossing

ISTANBUL – Mayhem and civil war in Syria has become a grim spectator sport on the Turkish side of the border. Turkish Kurds gather on the hilltops overlooking the smoldering Syrian town of Kobani, under siege from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. They cheer and sing patriotic songs, certain that the town’s defenders, Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units, hear them and take heart.

NATO allies must work closely together, but do their missile defense systems?

By Francis Mahon
October 2, 2014

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Since few nations can go it alone militarily, alliances are now crucial for ensuring security. To mount a common defense, allies need weapon systems that can operate together. In military parlance, the ability to work with other systems and  share data with them as if they were one system is known as “interoperability.”

You never know who you’re going to meet on Turkey’s ‘jihadi highway’

By Yuko Narushima
September 23, 2014

Smugglers carrying blue jerry cans on horses ride back to Syria along the wire fences after ferrying fuel smuggled into Turkey from over the border in Syria, in Hatay province

Turkey’s border with Syria, like all borders, allows passage both ways – at least for the right price.

A NATO ally stays on sidelines of fight against Islamic State

By Andrew Finkel
September 18, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama listens as he hosts a bilateral meeting with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan during the NATO Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales, in the United Kingdom

Few countries are in a better position than Turkey to help the United States fight Islamic State. The moderate Islamic country shares a 750 mile border with Syria, is a NATO member and a long-time ally of America. But don’t hold your breath for Turkey’s support.

Iraq airstrikes: You read the news, now get the context

By Allison Silver
August 8, 2014

Relatives mourn the death of a Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighter, killed during clashes with Islamic State fighters in the Iraqi city of Rabia on the Iraqi-Syrian border, during his funeral in Ras al-Ain

Once you read the latest news about the U.S. airstrikes and humanitarian drops in Iraq, turn to commentary for the context you need to fully understand what is happening and how we got here. Here is a quick tour:

from Compass:

Putin’s action is no surprise

By Nader Mousavizadeh
March 28, 2014

Surprise is the least forgivable sin of statecraft. Yet nothing has so characterized the Ukraine crisis as the West's continuing surprise at Russia's behavior.

In Turkey, taking on West wins elections

By Howard Eissenstat
March 28, 2014

Is Turkish leader crazy, or crazy like a fox?

Confronted by a series of revelations involving corruption, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan countered by banning Twitter by court order last Friday. He has now moved onto other social media networks — blocking YouTube on Thursday.

Turkey cashes in on the Iran talks

By Jonathan Schanzer
December 12, 2013

You may have thought the Geneva deal struck last month between Iran and the P5+1 nations (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) was a sweet one for Tehran — getting billions in sanctions relief in exchange for mere promises to halt its nuclear program.