Gaza is close to exploding into war. The only major issue appears to be which will come first — a new war with Israel or a Hamas-Fatah civil war. With crushing domestic pressure on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in the wake of foreign aid cuts — the result of Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist — Hamas and other terrorist groups have been smuggling an unprecedented level of weaponry into Gaza from Egypt. But any move by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-led PA and set up an emergency government — thereby defusing the growing […]

Editor’s Note, July 9, 2012: Due to facts that have recently come to our attention about the reliability of the primary source for this article, World Politics Review is retracting it. The information attributed to “a special adviser to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan” is unreliable and possibly false. We deeply regret this error. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has rescheduled for Nov. 4 the repeatedly postponed all-parties national reconciliation conference, seen as crucial to salvage rapidly diminishing hopes for a national accord in that war torn country. Most recently set for Oct. 21, the conference was called off indefinitely […]

The analogy between the recent violence in Iraq and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam is illustrative, but not for the reasons suggested by Thomas Friedman and the White House. Friedman’s Oct. 18 column in the New York Times suggested that, “while there may be no single hand coordinating the upsurge in violence in Iraq, enough people seem to be deliberately stoking the fires there before our election that the parallel with Tet is not inappropriate.” Friedman’s comparison between the recent violence in Iraq and the Tet Offensive is inappropriate for several reasons: First, such a comparison suggests that the violence […]

The closer the mid-term elections get, the less responsible the debate over Iraq is likely to become. Inversely, post-election political dynamics will favor arguments and options more grounded in reality than rhetoric. The national debate over the way forward in Iraq will become much more consequential the evening the votes are counted. Regardless of which party finds itself in control of Congress on Nov. 8, the new political constellation will favor a reduction in partisanship and some unusual political bedfellows. If the Republicans retain control of Congress, they will give increasingly less fealty to a lame-duck White House. Regardless of […]

WASHINGTON — Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said North Korea’s nuclear test was “a cry for help”, and Iran’s defiant refusal to halt its nuclear program is aimed at forcing the United States to normalize relations between the two countries. Speaking at Georgtown University in Washington Monday, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize told a gathering of foreign policy specialists and college students that testing a nuclear bomb was “the only trump card” North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il had. The North Koreans “feel isolated and threatened,” ElBaradei said. Their message was […]

MAYSAN PROVINCE, Iraq — A Royal Air Force Merlin helicopter swoops low over the marshes of southern Iraq, over the heads of fishermen poling narrow boats along winding channels. Reeds bend and water ripples under the chopper’s rotor blast. The fishermen shield their eyes to gaze up at the roaring machine. It’s a typical encounter in the remote province of Maysan on the border with Iran. Here, more than 10,000 crude fishing boats ply the wetlands that straddle the border, providing sustenance to hundreds of thousands of Shiite “Marsh Arabs” who populate teeming villages that aren’t marked on any map. […]

Iran would be at or near the top of a list of countries Americans would least like to see have nuclear weapons, and the reasons for apprehension have deepened dramatically in the past year with the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran under the mullahs since the revolution of 1979 has been a weird and ominous country. With Ahmadinejad’s new prominence, the weirdness quotient has reached new levels. Iran is now headed by an individual who expresses the hope that Israel be wiped off the map and denies that the Holocaust ever occurred. Those are sentiments not found in civilized […]

Elbowed out of the headlines by North Korea’s nuclear test, U.N. peacekeeping forces have continued to expand their presence in southern Lebanon in an atmosphere that is both nervous and uneventful, according to official reports from the area Monday. Troops from Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and other European countries have been arriving in Lebanon since early September, and taking up positions in the south alongside the Lebanese army. Their role is to ensure observance of the mid-August cease-fire that ended the 34 days of fierce fighting between Israel and Hezbollah fighters. With Iran defying admonitions by the U.N. Security Council […]

The merger announced last month by Ayman al-Zawahiri between al-Qaida and Algeria’s GSPC represents a significant strategic move by the al-Qaida leadership. It is the latest example of a new chapter in al-Qaida’s efforts to both outsource operations and more aggressively re-brand once autonomous or loosely affiliated groups. It is a well-known fact that al-Qaida has become highly decentralized in the years since 9/11 and the fundamental nature of the organization has changed dramatically. With no physical base from which to draw and train recruits or launch attacks, and with its hierarchy severely damaged, the role of al-Qaida-central (as some […]

The flag of Lebanon.

In the aftermath of the Israel-Lebanon war, the Lebanese are divided like no time since the civil war of the late 1970s and 1980s. One is either with Hezbollah or with the Lebanese government. Gray areas are evaporating and being replaced by tribalism and patron-client loyalties, for which the Middle East is particularly famous. In a recent trip to Beirut, I witnessed this rising tension firsthand. The pan-Arabic weekly magazine al-Mushahid al-Siyasi (The Arab Viewer) recently wrote that the next three months in Lebanon will be characterized “either by permanent stability, or frightening deterioration.” One side is represented by the […]

TEL AVIV, Israel — You don’t have to understand Hebrew to read the worried faces of Israelis glancing at this week’s newspapers. The picture under yesterday’s bold headlines shows the familiar round face of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. Looking at him from a Tel Aviv sidewalk near the beach, Israeli readers show a familiar expression: one of profound worry. “Now Iran will feel it can do whatever it wants,” said Nili Orvin, a local businesswoman. North Korea, on Asia’s Pacific rim, lies thousands of miles from the Mediterranean Sea that laps gently upon Tel Aviv’s shore. Still, Israelis know […]

BASRA, Iraq — Shadows are growing long on the afternoon of Oct. 1 when British Army Captain Steve Morte, 39, strolls into the garden courtyard of a decaying Saddam-era palace-turned-British base in this sweltering city of 2 million. In one sweaty hand he clutches a government-issued receipt book. In the other, $25,000 in cash in a soggy yellow envelope. His grip on the money tightens as he approaches two Iraqi men sitting on a bench, for they are — or were — the enemy. But dealing with erstwhile enemies — and tolerating cultural mores that seem somehow wrong to Westerners […]

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JERUSALEM — When Israeli newspapers shook the newsstands in late September with word that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Saudi Arabian officials — perhaps even the Saudi King — had held face-to-face talks, not everyone was shocked at the revelation. The two countries have no formal relations. In fact, the official enmity is such that Saudi law, as that of most Arab states, bars anyone with a passport showing an Israeli stamp from entering the country. Still, a handful of Middle East observers were not surprised to hear of possible talks between Israel and the Kingdom. That’s because they predict […]

JERUSALEM — When Israelis heard that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was coming to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, their reaction required no words, a shrug of the shoulders was enough. Most believed that Condi’s diplomatic prowess would achieve little in the Holy Land. This may be the land of miracles, but it is also the land of grudges, even among cousins. Make that especially among cousins. The prevailing view here even before Condi arrived on Wednesday was that as long as Palestinians continued battling one another, unable to decide on a unified strategy for the future, anything […]

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JERUSALEM — The usually ferocious Jerusalem traffic moves a little more slowly these days. According to the lunar calendars followed by Muslims and Jews, the holy Muslim month of Ramadan this year coincides with Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, making this a time when both Muslims and Jews, separately but simultaneously, are engaging in reflection and prayer. Their prayers this year ought to include requests for new leaders, brave and creative, for both sides of this conflict. Palestinians and Israelis are giving pollsters mind-bogglingly inconsistent views of what they want. That means they are ready for […]