This week, Washington grasped that Ban Ki-moon might be a bit of a chump. The United Nations secretary-general, despite his seven years on the job and nearly four decades before that as a South Korean diplomat, appeared both overzealous and amateurish as he extended and then rescinded a last-minute invitation to Iran to join the Syrian peace talks in Switzerland. The Obama administration’s unconcealed irritation with this gambit has left Ban, who has always prioritized good relations with the United States, looking foolish.

Jan 22, 2014
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria, United States
United Nations

A last-minute decision by the United Nations to invite -- and then disinvite -- Iran to this week's widely-anticipated Syrian peace conference threatened to unravel the entire diplomatic effort on Monday. The invitation, delivered by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, exposed a rare fault line between Ban and Secretary of State John Kerry, two close allies who have been working together for months.

Jan 20, 2014
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria, United States

It is an absolute certainty that 2014 will be a turbulent year for the United Nations. The organization is struggling with crises ranging from the chaos in the Central African Republic (CAR) to the plight of Syrian refugees. There is little hope that these challenges will dissipate soon. Yet two sets of peace talks this month could well decide whether the U.N. faces a truly dreadful year ahead, or just a very difficult one. 

Jan 06, 2014
Richard Gowan
Horn of Africa, Middle East, Syria

Jordan takes over the U.N. Security Council presidency on Wednesday, the first day of its two-year stint on a 15-nation body struggling to cope with conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali and elsewhere.

Read the full Reuters article here

Dec 31, 2013
Richard Gowan
Europe, Middle East, Syria

 In early 2013, peace operations have entered new and uncharted waters that may set the stage for major changes in multilateral conflict management in the years to come.

Turbulence in the Arab world and crisis in North Africa. The Middle East peace process on life support at best. Oil and food prices rising, causing global economic stresses and hardships. Mounting concerns about the sustainability of our growth. In the world’s dominant power, economic doldrums exacerbated by political gridlock; in Europe, policy confusion depressing growth. A competitor power rising, testing America’s weaknesses, probing for vulnerability.

Jan 09, 2013
Bruce Jones
Middle East, Libya, Syria, United States

The United States and Iran, having clinched a landmark interim deal suspending some aspects of Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, turned their attention this week to addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Read the full Foreign Policy article here

Nov 26, 2013
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria

The January 22 start of landmark Syria peace talks in Geneva will be difficult to keep to as the war worsens and fallout spreads across the Middle East, analysts say.

Read the full Agence France Presse article here

Nov 26, 2013
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria

The United Nations Security Council has received the first report from chemical weapons inspectors inside Syria. The report details the country's cooperation with the initial effort to destroy its capacity to manufacture the weapons but despite progress on that front, the humanitarian crisis there shows no sign of improvement.

Read the full Channel NewsAsia article here

Oct 28, 2013
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria

Saudi Arabia refused to accept the membership of the United Nations Security Council it won yesterday, citing issues including Syria’s civil war that it said show the world body is incapable of resolving conflicts.

Read the full Bloomberg Business Week article here.

Oct 18, 2013
Richard Gowan
Middle East, Syria