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Iran’s Axis of Resistance in Review, October 10-20, 2021

Iran’s Iraqi proxies will likely increase their use of violence and other forms of coercion against political opponents and the Iraqi state in the coming months. The political wings of Iran’s Iraqi proxies lost two-thirds of their parliamentary seats in Iraq’s October 10, 2021, elections, which they are legally contesting due to perceived fraud. Iran’s Iraqi proxies may escalate against UN, US, Emirati, or suspected Israeli personnel or assets in retaliation for their perceived role in the proxies’ political losses in the coming months. Domestic political conflicts, Iranian decision-making, Iranian proxy attempts to enforce the December 31 deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and the potential for a new regional ISIS campaign to stir up sectarian violence could exacerbate post-electoral Iranian proxy violence in Iraq.

Russia in Review: October 6-19, 2021

The Kremlin advanced two key lines of effort to increase Russian influence globally at the 2021 Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) ministerial summit—leveraging international organizations and expanding Russian cyber capabilities and influence. The CICA is an inter-governmental forum of 27 Asian and Eurasian member states founded in 1992 to enhance cooperation and promote security and stability in Asia.[1] CICA held the 2021 iteration of its biannual conference in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on October 12.

Russia in Review: September 22 – October 5, 2021

Serbian President Alexander Vucic exploited Kosovo’s implementation of a new border crossing law to frame Kosovo Serbs as victims of ethnic discrimination and provoke a regional crisis on September 20, 2021. Kosovo’s government-imposed license plate regulations requiring Serbian cars entering Kosovo to receive temporary Kosovar license plates – a reciprocal measure of how Serbian authorities have regulated Kosovar cars entering Serbia for several years – on September 20. Kosovo ethnic Serbs blocked two border crossings with Serbia in northern Kosovo to protest this policy on September 20. Kosovar riot police deployed to the roadblocks and reportedly used tear gas against Serb protesters on September 20. Vucic decried Kosovar police uses of force against ethnic Serb protesters, claiming that Serbs in Kosovo suffered a “brutal attack.” Likely ethnic Serb protesters committed arson against a Kosovo vehicle registration office that did not cause casualties on September 25.

Russia in Review: September 1 – September 21, 2021

Russia’s ruling United Russia Party retained its majority in highly falsified parliamentary elections. The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, conducted its five-year elections from September 17-19. The Kremlin-run Central Elections Commission (CEC) reported in preliminary results on September 21 that the United Russia party won 49.8 percent of the vote, securing 324 out of 450 seats, and announced a turnout of 52 percent.[1] United Russia held 343 seats before the election.

Recent Iranian Proxy Attack in Iraqi Kurdistan Unlikely a Signal for New Escalation

The recent Iranian proxy drone attack on Erbil International Airport was likely a stand-alone event and likely does not indicate the immediate resumption of large-scale Iranian proxy attacks on US facilities in Iraq. Iranian proxy militants launched two drones targeting what Iran assessed to be an Israeli intelligence asset at Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 11, 2021, possibly triggering an Israeli retaliatory strike on a proxy convoy in Abu Kamal, Syria, on September 14. Iran may have approved this attack after US and Israeli political and military leaders met in recent weeks to discuss their strategies for addressing the threat Iran poses to US, Israeli, and regional security. The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 New York terrorist attacks may have influenced the timing of the attack. Iran will likely maintain its ban on large-scale attacks on US facilities in Iraq until after Iraq’s October 10 elections and possibly until the end of 2021 unless the Iran-Israel escalation cycle spills further into Iraq.