The United States must improve its proficiency with three core strategic skills to meet a future of conflict that is already unfolding.

Through wargaming, the PLA aspires to achieve an edge in military competition, seeking to “design” the dynamics of and develop capabilities for future warfare.

The United States cannot stabilize—or safely deprioritize—the Middle East without first stabilizing Iraq.

This center houses ISW’s in-depth research and trusted analysis that protects America and its allies against current and future adversaries.

This center invests in strengthening the future cadre of America’s leaders through education, intellectual development, and hands-on leadership development.

Latest from ISW

Russia in Review: November 10 – November 30, 2021

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s campaign to coerce the European Union (EU) to repeal sanctions has further geopolitically isolated Belarus and expanded opportunities for Russia to deploy forces into Belarus to threaten Ukraine and NATO. Russia and Belarus set conditions throughout November to expand military cooperation on the Belarus-Ukrainian border under the guise of protecting the Kremlin-dominated Union State from claimed NATO threats. Lukashenko continues to conduct a campaign of migrant trafficking despite framing EU states as responsible for the crisis by refusing to accept migrants. US allies neighboring Belarus—including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine—have increased security measures on the Belarusian border throughout November.

Indicators and Thresholds for Russian Military Operations in Ukraine and/or Belarus

Russia is setting conditions to conduct military operations against Ukraine and/or in Belarus in the coming weeks or months. The Russian Federation has positioned military forces around Ukraine’s border and near the border with Belarus able to initiate offensive operations on very short notice with very little warning. Russian officials and media outlets have been setting conditions in the information space to support such operations. This document is not intended as a forecast or an assessment of the likelihood of any such Russian activities, all of which are also consistent with Russian non-military lines of effort against Ukraine, Belarus, the US, and NATO.

Turkey in Review: October 29 – November 17, 2021

Turkey likely abandoned its plans for an incursion into Syria after a significant military buildup in October. Turkey and the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) planned, signaled, and prepared for a Turkish military incursion into northern Syria in late October after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the military operation on October 11. The incursion would have been Turkey’s fourth into Syria and targeted the Kurdish-majority autonomous region controlled by the US-partnered Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF commander Mazloum Abdi told al-Monitor on November 9 that SDF forces expected a Turkish military campaign on November 5. Turkey’s recent military mobilization was the largest in northeastern Syria since its most recent incursion in October 2019, indicating likely genuine preparations for an incursion and not simply posturing. However, the social media reports of Turkish military reinforcements and SNA statements on an “upcoming incursion” came to an end by October 31. Turkey likely abandoned plans by early November.

Russia in Review: October 20 – November 9, 2021

The Kremlin undermined a key guarantor of the Balkan peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, weakening dampeners on renewed conflict and empowering Russia’s Serbian allies. The Kremlin politically weakened the Office of the High Representative (OHR), a key US and EU-backed international institution devoted to maintaining the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. Russia removed all mention of the OHR’s stabilizing role from an annual United Nations Security Council resolution to renew the EU-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina on November 3. By doing so, Russia undermined the OHR’s political authority and ability work to with peacekeeping forces, impeding its ability to mediate between the component institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Kremlin characterizes the OHR and the Dayton Accords as illegitimate agreements imposed on Bosnia by the Western dominated world order. The Kremlin often seeks to support the Bosnian Republika Srpska and key Russian ally Serbia and undermine EU and NATO efforts to preserve the Dayton Accords.

Iran's Axis of Resistance in Review October 21 - November 7, 2021

Iran likely supported and facilitated a failed attempt by its Iraqi proxy militias to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to retain Iran’s dominant influence in Iraq. Iran likely permitted the attack after Iraqi nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr began to pursue a new government without the participation of Iran’s proxies in the aftermath of Iraq’s October 10, 2021, elections. Iran and its proxies are most likely to deescalate if Sadr agrees to form a consensus government without Kadhimi as prime minister. However, Iran has demonstrably shifted its policy towards the current Iraqi government and may be willing to permit more violence to achieve its objectives: an Iranian-influenced government under a controllable prime minister who accepts Iran’s dominant position. In a less likely but most dangerous scenario, Sadr could deploy his own militias to counter Iranian threats, risking a wider civil war in Iraq.