When Ban Ki-moon was chosen as secretary-general of the United Nations, his predecessor Kofi Annan welcomed him as “a man with a truly global mind.” Nearly five years on, such a mindset is indeed an asset, as Ban must find his attention constantly roaming from one to another of the planet’s trouble spots. In the past six months, the U.N. has played a central role in major crises in both Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. The Ivorian standoff threatened to shame both the secretary-general and the Security Council, as Laurent Gbagbo ignored their efforts to make him leave office after losing […]
Middle East & North Africa Archive
The crackdown in Syria appears to have taken a chilling turn after amateur video revealed what was reported to be a mass grave. Residents recovered 13 bodies from a pit near the southern city of Deraa — four of them children.
King Abdullah II of Jordan recently formed a royal committee to review and propose amendments to Jordan’s constitution. In an email interview, Jillian Schwedler, a Jordan expert at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, discussed protests and reform in Jordan. WPR: How has Jordan been affected by the popular upheavals in the region? Jillian Schwedler: Like citizens throughout the Middle East, Jordanians of various political and socio-economic backgrounds were inspired by the protests in Tunisia and then Egypt to raise questions about their own government. Small protests took place throughout the country for nine consecutive Fridays beginning in late-January. The most […]
This video shows graphic footage of the violence that erupted on Israel’s borders with Syria over the weekend, leaving at least four people dead and many wounded. Reports on Monday had put the number of people killed at 12. The violence erupted on “Nakba Day,” which commemorates the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during fighting after the founding of Israel in 1948.
Indonesia and Saudi Arabia recently agreed to increase their cooperation on defense matters. In an email interview, Ann Marie Murphy, an associate professor at the Whitehead School of Diplomacy at Seton Hall University, discussed Indonesian-Saudi relations. WPR: What is the current state of Saudi-Indonesian relations? Ann Marie Murphy: Indonesian-Saudi relations are currently strained over a string of cases of abuse of Indonesian migrant workers by their Saudi employers. With more than 3 million Indonesians working abroad, protection of migrant workers is a politically charged issue in Indonesia, and graphic pictures of young maids tortured in Saudi Arabia triggered an uproar […]
At first glance, the power struggle currently taking place among Iran’s ruling elites might seem bizarre. After all, it is not often that the chief executive of a 21st-century nation is accused of “witchcraft,” “experimenting with exorcism” and “communicating with genies.” Mullahs have tarred Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration as containing “deviants, devils and evil spirits.” Ahmadinejad responded that his opponents have launched a “conspiracy” to undo socio-economic changes beneficial to most Iranians. At the heart of the widening dispute is Ahmadinejad’s increasing independence from the system of “velayat-e faqih,” or guardianship of the — religious — jurist, on which […]
Following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the developments still unfolding in the region, several questions arise: Is the Arab Spring over? Have we reached a turning point where no new revolutions are likely and where the remaining autocratic leaders will reaffirm their power monopolies? And what do post-revolutionary developments in Tunisia and Egypt suggest about the pace and prospects of their political opening and possible democratization? In trying to answer these questions, the two waves of democratization in Eastern Europe and Eurasia provide useful analytical comparisons. The 1989 revolutions in the former communist bloc, as well as its […]
As part of a wider ongoing crackdown on dissent, government security forces in Bahrain are targeting medical workers.
CAIRO — Following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt seems poised to pursue a more independent foreign policy in the Middle East. But as Cairo prepares to change course from Mubarak’s unblinking adherence to the region’s pro-U.S. bloc, Saudi Arabia can be expected to do its best to prevent both the current military leadership and any future civilian government from disrupting the status quo. Riyadh, whose first concern is blocking the expansion of Iranian influence, has an arsenal of political, economic and social tools to keep Egypt in check. Saudi Arabia’s rulers, long accustomed to dealing with Mubarak’s […]
At the start of the Arab revolutions, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) tentatively placed Turkey on the side of the pro-democracy movements, starting with Tunisia and then Egypt. In contrast to 2009, when Ankara backed the Ahmadinejad administration following Iran’s disputed elections, Turkey was the first country to call for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down at a time when other leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, were hedging their bets. In doing so, Erdogan positioned himself and Turkey as regional leaders in encouraging democracy in other Muslim countries, based on […]
The clash between Coptic Christians and Salafi Muslims that left 12 people dead in Cairo over the weekend prompted a swift response from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that has run Egypt since February’s ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. The violence represents a serious uptick in sectarian tensions within Egyptian society, and some are questioning the extent to which sinister elements from Mubarak’s fallen regime may be playing a role in it. “There is some concern, and there have been claims even that some of the things we’ve been seeing with regard to the sectarian clashes have […]
America’s successful assassination of Osama bin Laden, long overdue, naturally renews talk across the country about ending the nation’s military involvement in Afghanistan-Pakistan. Coupled with the ongoing tumult unleashed by the Arab Spring, Washington is once again being encouraged to reconsider its strategic relationship with the troubled Middle East. The underlying current to this debate has always been the widely held perception that America’s “oil addiction” tethers it to the unstable region. Achieve “energy independence,” we are told, and America would free itself of this terrible burden. The simplicity of that argument belies globalization’s crosscutting interdependencies, which only grow more […]
Egypt’s military caretaker government played an important role in the new reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah, brokering secret talks that led to a breakthrough announced in Cairo. In an email interview, David Schenker, Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as well as author of “Egypt’s Enduring Challenges: Shaping the Post-Mubarak Environment,” discussed relations between Egypt and Hamas and Fatah. WPR: What is the recent history of relations between Egypt and the Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah? David Schenker: Egypt has maintained strong ties with the Palestinian Authority […]
There’s an emerging consensus that, after a promising start, Turkey has had a bad Arab Spring. Anthony Shadid suggested yesterday in the New York Times that the unrest threatens Turkey’s newfound regional influence, while Steven Cook argued in Foreign Policy that the Arab uprisings represent a kind of “emperor has no clothes” moment for Ankara, exposing the hollowness underlying Turkey’s much-vaunted rise. I’d like to weigh in on this, especially since I recently flagged the Turkish Model as a promising foreign policy approach for Egypt, the Palestinians and the region in general. Clearly, Turkey miscalculated on Libya, as Cook makes […]
If the death of Osama bin Laden marks the beginning of the end of the “global war on terrorism,” as Michael Cohen argued in a WPR briefing this week, it will have profound consequences for U.S. national security policy. For the last decade, the fight against international terrorism, as personified by bin Laden, was one of the central organizing principles of American foreign and defense policies. Preventing another Sept. 11 was the rationale for the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as for a whole host of programs in dozens of countries around the world, ranging from security […]
The recent events in the Arab world and Iran have led many in the West to urge President Barack Obama to take a stronger stance against human right abuses in Iran. The Obama administration should resist this temptation, as doing so would only serve to weaken Iran’s domestic opposition. As the popular uprisings in the Middle East have demonstrated, revolutions are most successful when they are organic. The voices calling on the Obama administration to give greater attention to human rights abuses in Iran have been forceful and diverse. A Washington Post editorial from last month, for instance, told the […]
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must have winced when he heard Hamas’ reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden. For years the PA has worked to clean up its image, from that of the fatigue-clad, pistol-packing Yasser Arafat to one of a mainstream, diplomatically palatable would-be country ready to join the international community. But just days after Abbas’ Fatah reached a reconciliation agreement with its rival Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ top man in Gaza, praised bin Laden as a “martyr” and an “Arab holy warrior.” Making matters worse, Haniyeh condemned the United States for killing the head of al-Qaida […]