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Thursday marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which will be noted with anguish by Palestinians and quiet celebration by Israelis. Nov. 2, 1917 was a major turning point for the Middle East, when the then-British foreign secretary expressed in writing his government’s support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. While, a century later, Arab politics and international relations focus on many other challenges, the cause of Palestine retains a gravitational pull for many Arabs, including younger generations. Thoughtful Israelis and Palestinians are still debating how to correct the imbalance between Israel’s success and the Palestinians’ […]

Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces ride near the main traffic circle in Raqqa, Syria, Oct. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Asmaa Waguih).

The Syrian war has torn the United Nations apart many times over. There is more damage for it to do yet. While Syria may be stumbling toward some sort of peace, the U.N.’s role in assisting this process is likely to be controversial for many years ahead. U.N. peacebuilders are likely to hold a very weak hand when it comes to dealing with the Syrian regime and its international backers. The organization has been accused of kow-towing to human rights abusers in cases such as Sudan and Myanmar, neither of which benefits from as much support. What principles should guide […]

Lebanese demonstrators hold placards calling for the departure of Syrian refugees from Lebanon in Zouk Mosbeh, north of Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 14, 2017 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

AMMAN, Jordan—A new humanitarian catastrophe is looming on the horizon as thousands of refugees and internally displaced people return to their homes in Syria, by choice or by force. Changes in the course of Syria’s civil war and developments in fragile peace talks are making return a reality and, in some cases, a nightmare, as conditions inside Syria are still dire. The widespread, premature return of Syrians to their towns and cities could undermine the country’s long-term stability and hinder the hopes of more Syrians coming back. Throughout the war, there has been a constant trickle of refugees returning to […]

United Nations staff and other demonstrators assemble at U.N. headquarters to show their solidarity with the people of Aleppo, New York, Dec. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

Who remembers Aleppo? A year ago, the Syrian city appeared tragically central to international diplomacy. Russian and Syrian government forces were in the midst of a brutal final push to drive rebels from eastern Aleppo. This was the last major urban redoubt of opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. It was clear that the city’s looming collapse could be a definitive turning point in his battle to cling onto power. Yet the fate of Aleppo seemed liable to have vastly wider effects. The city was a profound source of friction between the U.S. and Russia before and after the November 2016 […]

Filipino students burn a caricature depicting President Rodrigo Duterte during a protest in front of the gates of the Malacanang presidential compound, Manila, Philippines, Oct. 19, 2017 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is approaching the third calendar year of his bombastic term in office, but for all his tough-guy language, his policies on several critical issues remain muddled and contradictory. Duterte’s blunt, aggressive rhetoric—often veering into profane rants, including one last week against the European Union—has played well at home, keeping his popularity high. A September poll by Pulse Asia showed that about 75 percent of Filipinos have trust in Duterte, despite the notable gap between his talk and his actions in three key areas. Duterte was elected in part on promises to fight economic and political elites […]

Carlos Ocariz, the opposition candidate for governor of Miranda state, yells out “Let’s go!” as he walks hand-in-hand with his stepdaughter to a polling station, Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Fernando Llano).

After months of delays, polling booths finally opened in Venezuela last Sunday for gubernatorial elections in each of the country’s 23 states. Accusations of fraud have already marred the results, as candidates backed by President Nicolas Maduro and his regime won an overwhelming majority of seats despite poor polling numbers that pointed to an opposition victory. Candidates with the opposition coalition have demanded an electoral audit in every state, citing cases of voter intimidation, repeat ballots and nonfunctioning polling booths. The opposition’s failure to turn the tide on the regional level looks like a major political loss, but the situation […]

Female protesters flash the No. 1 sign as part of the “One Billion Rising” global movement to end violence against women and children, Manila, Philippines, Feb. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Most studies of violence and conflict usually focus on political motivations. But the ubiquity of gender-based violence in many if not most societies has now pushed this social issue into the analysis of patterns and trends in violence more broadly. Political and social scientists who study conflict often focus on disputes over land, resources and political power as determinants of where violence occurs and persists. Gender-based violence in conflict situations has largely been seen as a byproduct of war. The United Nations has increasingly given attention to crimes against women as war crimes, creating a special representative for sexual violence […]

Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 29, 2014 (AP photo by Hasam Jamali).

The royal decree permitting Saudi women to apply for driver’s licenses in June 2018, issued late last month, was a highly visible statement of intent from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that his plans to modernize and reform Saudi Arabia remain on track. Uncertainty over the viability of the crown prince’s much-vaunted plans to transform the Saudi economy had mounted after the partial reversal of austerity measures last April and reports in September that the National Transformation Program, a series of economic reforms with a target date of 2020, was being revised. Slower than expected progress on restructuring Saudi Aramco, […]

Opposition protesters scatter as police fire tear gas at them during a demonstration in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 26, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Kenya’s long-running political drama is sinking deeper into crisis, testing the outermost limits of the country’s election laws. Its highest court seemed at first to have struck a rare victory for judicial independence with its declaration that August’s presidential election, which gave a second term to President Uhuru Kenyatta, was “invalid, null and void,” necessitating a rerun. But as the weeks have passed, the Supreme Court ruling looks more like a mixed blessing that guaranteed a prolonged political morass. The new vote was supposed to take place before the end of October, but very few of the underlying problems identified […]

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir casts his ballot for presidential and legislative elections, Khartoum, Sudan, April 27, 2015 (AP photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy).

After several false starts over the past decade, the United States finally lifted sanctions it first levied against Sudan nearly two decades ago. The decision came late last week, after the Trump administration had extended its deadline over the summer on whether to make the Obama administration’s easing of sanctions permanent. The sanctions relief for Sudan was one of former President Barack Obama’s final, surprising foreign policy moves in office. The U.S. has imposed the financial restrictions since the 1990s in response to the Sudanese regime’s penchant for harboring terrorists and for the atrocities it has committed, including the genocide […]

Members of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a political movement for Arab Muslims inside Israel, protest Myanmar’s treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority, Tel Aviv, Israel, Sept. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

YANGON, Myanmar—As Israel’s High Court weighs a ban on weapons sales to Myanmar, where the United Nations’ top human rights official has denounced a military campaign as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” Israel’s Defense Ministry—no stranger to isolation—is unrepentant. In the latest outburst of violence in Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine state, the military’s blistering crackdown in response to attacks in August from Rohingya insurgents has triggered an unprecedented exodus. More than 500,000 Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority, have fled into Bangladesh. International condemnation has been swift, with rights groups exerting pressure on Western nations to cut military-to-military engagement. The United […]

Ugandan opposition MPs scuffle with security trying to eject some of the MPs from Parliament during a debate on the presidential age limit, Kampala, Uganda (AP photo by Ronald Kabuubi).

KAMPALA, Uganda—Not long after he took office in 1986, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, had a singular diagnosis for his continent’s ills. “The problem of Africa in general, and Uganda in particular, is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power,” he claimed in a book titled, appropriately enough, “What Is Africa’s Problem?” But now the former guerilla fighter seems to have changed his mind. Uganda is currently moving full steam ahead with an unpopular constitutional amendment that will effectively guarantee the 73-year-old Museveni the ability to remain in office for the rest of his life, by lifting […]

Opposition protesters ride on a truck bearing pictures of Kenyan opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 26, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

The Kenyan Supreme Court’s ruling that nullified the results of August’s presidential election was a watershed moment for the African continent. Kenya became the first African country to have its election results invalidated and a fresh election ordered by its highest court. Citing widespread “irregularities” in ballot counting, the unreliability of electronic voting machines and the absence of transparency at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, or IEBC, which oversaw the vote, the court declared that “[if] candidates do not respect the rule of law; if the average citizen, political parties and even candidates themselves do not perceive them as […]

United Nations Security Council meets on Myanmar's Rohingya crisis at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 28, 2017 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

September was Asia month at the United Nations. It began with the Security Council negotiating a set of severe sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s late-August nuclear test. It ended with the permanent members of the council trading barbs over the humanitarian crisis exploding in Myanmar. On Thursday, the council held its first public meeting on Myanmar in eight years to address the military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority in the northwest of the country. The discussion was the diplomatic definition of doing too little, too late. The military operation, reportedly involving the systematic destruction […]