What most distinguishes human civilization in the 21st Century and during the emerging era of globalization is its ever intensifying complexity. Gone are the terrestrial frontiers and the disconnected solitude that comes with exploration of remote spaces; gone are the dumping grounds for our indiscretions. Everyone is connected and the ...

Why has Russia under President Vladimir Putin remained fairly stable despite worsening economic conditions? Is Zimbabwe likely to become embroiled in conflict when its 92-year old dictator, President Robert Mugabe, passes on? Political upheavals like civil wars, military coups, and total state collapse are hard to predict but have massive ...

A few years ago, my colleagues and I published an article on forecasting instability in nations around the world.  Two things stood out in that paper.  First, the main determinant of instability was the type of regime.  States with partial democracies, especially ones that exhibited marked factionalism among political groups, ...

For twelve years, the Fund for Peace has calculated and published the Fragile States Index (FSI), which measures state fragility around the world based on over 100 social, economic, and political-military indicators. The Cipher Brief spoke with J. J. Messner, Executive Director of the Fund for Peace, to learn more ...

President Barack Obama is meeting today with his National Security Council at CIA headquarters to discuss efforts to combat the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). This comes as the administration debates ways to fight recent ISIS gains. On the table: an increase in the number of U.S. ...

Well into its sixth year, it is easy to conclude that there is no end in sight to the devastating Syrian civil war. Warring parties still have plenty of fight, indirect talks among Syrian political factions have made no visible progress, and regional players have shown little willingness to compromise.  ...

When I landed in Damascus in late 2005 as a foreign correspondent, I went looking for the most popular place where young Syrians spend their time. I found the American Cultural Center (ACC) to be one of the more popular hangouts with a staunchly loyal clientele. Housed inside an apartment ...

Russia is playing a game of Bismarckian realpolitik in the Middle East – political maneuvering based on current conditions, rather than on ideological premises, that uses the exertion of power to gain benefits for one’s country. Russian President Vladimir Putin is forming as many alliances as he can, in order ...

Since 2012, there has been a period of diplomatic activity by the Kremlin in the Middle East which is unprecedented since the fall of the USSR. Existing records of diplomatic and political contacts show an increased exchange of multilevel delegations between Russia and Middle Eastern countries. Moscow is attempting to ...

Syria is Russia’s only real ally in the Middle East. A stable and friendly Syria is in Moscow’s best interests. Stability in Syria is also in the best interests of the United States. Yet Moscow and Washington have different ideas on how to rid the region of chaos. Former U.S. ...