Maurizio Molinari

Leaders

The Russian presence in Syria has not only changed the calculus on the ground, it has also upended the political power balance in the region. Now all hopes are contingent on how Putin decides to play his hand.

The Orientalist
Islamic State’s pivot to the west

As they struggle to consolidate territory, IS has called on its foreign fighters to focus on the West, thus opening a new front in their jihad.

The Orientalist
The new Islamist Intifada

What distinguishes the current uprising of Palestinians from previous ones is the religious impulse behind it, which has supplanted the nationalism of past intifadas. Israelis fear this new element might be much harder to contain.

The Orientalist
Making facts on the ground

Russia has begun to reinforce the Assad regime in Syria with weapons and troops. Putin’s gambit is both a last ditch effort to keep his ally from losing and an attempt to make Moscow a major player in the Middle East again.

The Orientalist
Egypt feels the jihadi squeeze

With a growing jihadi insurgency both within and beyond its borders, President Sisi is preparing to double down on his efforts to quash the Islamists who want to overthrow him.

The Orientalist
A setback for the Sultan

After years of seemingly uncontested rule in Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan has to confront obstacles to his neo-Ottoman vision. His fate will have a huge impact on the Middle East power struggle. 

The Orientalist
Proxy war in the Gulf

Saudi Arabia and Iran are very close to direct armed conflict against each other. To judge by the new king’s recent moves, the Saudis intend to wait out the Obama presidency and maintain their close relationship with the US.

The Orientalist
A four-way power play

In order to get a sense of how events might play out in the Middle East, the Iranian agreement can be seen from the perspectives of four different power blocs vying for increased influence in the Muslim world.

The Orientalist
Israel’s right keeps Netanyahu alive

Just before Israeli voters went to the polls, the Prime Minister took a more hawkish stance than usual with the Palestinians. As a result of his victory, the two-state solution is probably dead.

The Orientalist
On the offensive

Outraged by the horrors of IS perpetrated on their subjects, the President of Egypt and the King of Jordan have forged a pact to destroy the jihadists on the other side of their border.

Venezuela
Under Chávez’s shadow

A potential political cataclysm is hovering over Venezuela. The combination of inept leadership cracking down on dissent, an economy solely ­dependent on petroleum, and falling oil prices have conspired to erode the consensus built by the late
Hugo Chávez. ­­­

The Orientalist
Jihadis eye Europe’s fertile ground

One of the aims of the jihadist attacks in Paris is to gain more recruits in Europe, while at the same time instigating strife within the Muslim communities.

The Orientalist
Putin’s moves in the Middle East

Long kept on the sidelines of the Middle East chessboard, Russia is reasserting its importance as a fundamental player in the fight against IS. 

The Orientalist
Khamenei’s nine point plan to destroy Israel

Whether meant for domestic consumption or in earnest, recent tweets from the Iranian Supreme Leader have been provocative. The subtext implied that Hezbollah and Hamas would be keys to Israel’s destruction.

The Orientalist
Whose boots on the ground?

Air power will not be enough to defeat IS in Syria. Ground forces will be necessary. Yet among all the nations involved, each have their own reasons to hold back ground forces. 

The Orientalist
Ten years of war ahead

With Sunni Arab nations now helping the US to bomb Islamic State forces in Syria, the Middle East is bracing for a protracted war. Given their widespread support among jihadis, the IS will not be easy to destroy.

The Orientalist
Lines in the sand

The Middle East is not unfamiliar with territorial disputes. For the past 60 years the borders between Jews and Arabs have been the cause of wars. Now the entire region seems to be redrawing its boundaries.

The Orientalist
The new Arab strongman

Egypt’s new president is determined to crush his country’s Islamists. In doing so, he is forging a moderate Sunni alliance in the region, one that tacitly includes Israel.

The Orientalist
The darling of the Middle East

The more Vladimir Putin projects the image of a decisive, loyal and ruthless leader willing to use both cunning and force, the more his popularity increases in the Middle East.

The Orientalist
Are two states better than one?

With negotiations based on a Two State Solution hitting a wall, many on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian question are beginning to wonder if some alternative solution might not be more appropriate.

The Orientalist
Winds of counterrevolution

After the brief reign of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a backlash has brought together a host of forces united by their antagonism to the political movement viewed as crypto-jihadist.

The Orientalist
Engaging with the enemy

There is no love lost between Iran and Israel. Yet as negotiations proceed and moderates gain momentum, some movement toward a reciprocal acceptance seems to be taking place.

Potomac watch
Obama’s sticky pivot

The intended American leverage to Asia has hit a few snags in the past year. Despite distractions both at home and in other parts of the world, the US must regain its leadership role if it wants to wield influence in this vital area.

Potomac watch
Obama looks for New Year’s resolutions

As his mandate heads for the home stretch, Obama’s attempt to solidify a legacy in foreign affairs will be hindered by obstacles posed both in China and Europe.

Potomac watch
The Democrats’ Achilles heel

The Obamacare online fiasco is ripping into Democrats’ hopes of regaining the House of Representatives. Now the party’s candidates must decide how much of a liability the President has become.

Potomac watch
A party gone to pieces

In the latest debt ceiling drama, Republican zealots have pushed too hard in the eyes of both their moderate colleagues and their constituency. This could spell disaster for the GOP in the 2014 midterm elections.

Potomac watch
New voices in the President’s ear

Despite the presence of humanitarian hawks in his team, Obama’s cautious instincts have drawn him toward a couple of younger advisors who have been gaining influence by the day in his decisions regarding Syria.

Potomac watch
Putin the US on the defensive

With every available opportunity, the Russian president does not hesitate to make America aware that its old nemesis is still there to make its quest for hegemony more difficult.

Potomac watch
007 2.0

The leaks about secret NSA programs potentially tracking anyone who uses a cellphone or internet have brought to light the fact that spycraft has entered a new age.

Potomac watch
The Obama Gambit and Russian Defense

 

Whatever happens in Syria, Middle East alliances will be affected. Recent American overtures to Russia imply a willingness to allow Moscow greater influence in the region if it can convince Assad to stand down.

 
Potomac watch
Getting to Korea through China

Pyonyang’s bellicose posture has opened a window of opportunity for the US.
If the Americans play their hand well, they might be able to rein in both North Korea and
anti-American elements in the Chinese military.

Potomac watch
Maliki’s moves for Iran

The Shia-led Iraqi government’s sympathies in the Syrian conflict coincide with Iran’s, because if Sunni militants take over Syria, Iraq could be destabilized. The US, however, is wondering how to play the situation to its advantage.

Potomac watch
When Barry met Bibi

The relationship between the American and Israeli leaders has not been the smoothest imaginable, but there is enough common ground between them to allow for cooperation during Obama’s visit to the Holy Land.

Potomac watch
All the President’s men

With his choices for Secretaries of State, Defense and the Treasury, Obama has shored up the bipartisan credentials of his team. Yet his game plan involves a direct challenge to his most hardened adversaries.

Potomac watch
Legal hassles for Obama’s drones

As the number of civilian casualities from drone attacks climbs, the UN focuses on determining the legality of these unmanned assassinations. The effect may be to curtail the US and other countries’ lethal use of drones.

Potomac watch
Who knew what?

Ostensibly a matter of adultery, the Petreaus affair has deeper implications on national security. Did federal agencies cover for the president? Did the CIA chief become blackmailable? These questions probably won’t go away soon.

Potomac watch
Washington eyes the black flags

Since the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Washington has been focused on the rise of Salafi movements throughout North Africa, where a power vacuum has given new impetus to extremists.

Potomac watch
Preparing for the worst

China and the US need each other. Any way you look at it, they each stand to benefit from the other’s prosperity. But electoral politics requires that both candidates confront the only possible threat to US hegemony.

Potomac watch
Monti scores points in the States

Finally, the Americans have a European leader they can talk to. The key to the Italian prime minister’s popularity in the US is his ability to communicate with both the president and the business community.

Potomac watch
Obama talks Turkey

Amid the turmoil in the Middle East, Washington sees in Turkey a model for the nascent democracies to follow and in Erdogan an interlocutor with a shared geostrategic vision.­­

Potomac watch
Space Inc.

The final frontier is opening up to private industry. As a result there is now fierce competition among established aerospace giants and newcomers for a piece of the action.

Potomac watch
Running along the line

Mitt Romney is an anomaly when it comes to Republicans. In fact, to some conservatives he looks a little too progressive to be palatable. But Romney is betting that voters in the center will prefer him to Obama.

Potomac watch
Another BRIC in the wall

As the US tries to get a grip on the consequences of China’s economic rise, reports show a shift in the balance of emerging countries, with some better prepared for the next phase of development than others.

Potomac watch
Getting more for less

As the Pentagon cuts spending, NATO is looking to revamp its structure. Europe will need to defend its own territory more as the US concentrates on areas of growing vital interest.

Potomac watch
A leaner, meaner fighting machine

The Pentagon’s new plan for the US military is clear: the focus for hardware is shifting to Asia, while the rest of the world will see a nimbler, stealthier, more cost-effective force.

Potomac watch
Asymmetrical threats

The Republicans are down to two contrasting candidates. Romney has the organization and money, Gingrich the determination and grit. What each lacks, the other makes up for in abundance.

Potomac watch
Making waves with China

Amid all the talk of spending cuts, there is one organization that can expect more money coming its way: the US Navy. The reason is simple: China is rising, and it mustn’t control the Indian Ocean.

Potomac watch
A foiled plot thickens the options against Iran

If there is one weak link in Obama’s foreign policy, it is Iran. The alleged plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat can free the president up to garner international support against Tehran.

Potomac watch
The Washington-Doha hotline

The Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar – home to Al Jazeera – is translating its “soft power” into welcome political clout. So much so that it has become an indispensible ally for the United States.

Potomac watch
And they’re off

The Republican candidates are off and running. Regenerated by the Tea Partiers’ ideological chest-thumping on the debt, the more pragmatic candidates must now vaunt their values – fiscal and otherwise.

Potomac watch
Wedding bells on the campaign trail

Gay marriage could well become the social issue of 2012. With the US Supreme Court looking into it and nine swing states opposed, it will prove a delicate balancing act for Obama.

Potomac watch
Going through withdrawal

Recent changes at the top of the Pentagon and the CIA served as prelude to the debate in Washington about the withdrawal of troops. The shuffle of chief advisors points to more CIA-Pentagon synergy.

Potomac watch
Might on a tight budget

Everyone agrees on cutting the deficit. Ultimately, though, what gets cut may determine how the US projects its power throughout the coming years, especially if the cuts are aimed at its military.

Potomac watch
And in poll position…

Obama has a lot on his plate, with wars, upheavals in the Arab world, high unemployment, and astronomical debt. But first things first: the 2012 campaign.

Potomac watch
The Windy City’s breath of fresh air

Running his beloved Chicago was a dream job for Rahm Emanuel. So when the opportunity arose unexpectedly, the feisty Capitol Hill insider left his post as White House Chief of Staff to campaign for mayor of his hometown.

Potomac watch
Leveraging Latin America

In his upcoming trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, Obama will emphasize how US interests converge with Latin America’s. By forming a united front with emerging economies, the US President hopes to send a message not only
to China, but to Chavez as well.

Potomac watch
The African queen