The 13 months since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down have been turbulent and chaotic for the country. But it is only now, with a presidential election scheduled to begin in eight weeks and a committee being put in place to write a new constitution, that full-on political crisis seems to be looming. In recent days, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power when Mubarak resigned and has been overseeing the transition process, has found itself in conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood over the powers and responsibilities of the recently elected parliament. At the same time, secular […]

The Egyptian activists whose protests brought down the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 are becoming increasingly alarmed as their dream of a liberal, secular and egalitarian democracy in Egypt is starting to look unattainable. In a severe blow to their hopes, Islamist members of parliament brazenly staked out a large majority of the positions in the newly chosen constitutional assembly, all but ensuring that the fundamental law of the land will be written by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the more radical Salafists, with only minimal, easily discardable input from other sectors of society. By a conservative […]

As Israel contemplates military action to retard the development of Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. and Arab policymakers are trying to determine the second- and third-order effects that such a strike would have on the region. A recent exercise by U.S. Central Command has raised concerns among U.S. policymakers that an Israeli strike on Iran would do serious damage to U.S. interests in the region in particular, but analysts must remain humble about what we can really know with certainty about such contingencies. Both Iranian and Israeli intentions are unclear, and the United States and its allies have remarkably poor political […]

After months of aggressive debates over the Middle East, the U.N. Security Council is starting to calm down. Last week the council released a statement supporting Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria — which calls for a U.N.-supervised cease-fire and an “inclusive Syrian-led political process” — signaling the change of mood. The Western powers reached consensus with Russia and China on the text, toning down and cutting controversial passages, after Moscow called for daily cease-fires to let humanitarian aid reach suffering Syrians. The contrast with the mood at the United Nations in February, when the Chinese and Russians vetoed a […]

The Obama administration’s national security team must walk a very delicate tightrope on Iran policy in the weeks to come. On the one hand, it must convince doubters in Iran, Israel and the U.S. Congress that the administration is prepared to use force if necessary to stop Iran from mastering the technologies needed to construct nuclear weapons. If the different factions within the Islamic Republic are not convinced that President Barack Obama is prepared to pull the proverbial trigger, they have no incentive to return to the negotiating table. And if the U.S. commitment to accept the use of force […]

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The political unrest that has gripped Syria over the past year, and the sanctions that resulted, have had a devastating impact on the country’s economy. Sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union have targeted members of the Syrian government, frozen international banking transactions and halted Syrian oil exports. And the resulting economic decline, which is just beginning to make headlines, has major implications not only for the Syrian government, but also for the Syrian people. Ayesha Sabavala, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s editor and economist for the Middle East and North Africa, explained that as the economy declines, the likelihood […]

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Thousands of Syrian Kurds held demonstrations in northern Syria on Wednesday to mark the Kurdish New Year, as seen in videos posted online by anti-regime activists. In the main northern city of Aleppo, demonstrators waving Kurdish flags shouted slogans such as “Azadi”, meaning freedom in the Kurds’ Kurmanji language, and “Our Syrian revolution is for justice, dignity and freedom.” World News Videos by NewsLook

In the run-up to Russia’s March 4 presidential election, with opposition forces staging massive protests, Vladimir Putin sharply escalated the intensity of his anti-American and anti-Western rhetoric. His accusations of U.S. interference in Russian affairs and portrayal of America as an enemy of Russia brought back memories of the Cold War, raising the specter that Moscow would become an unmovable obstacle in the path of many of Washington’s foreign policy objectives. The concern carried particular weight at a time when the U.S. and its allies are trying to muster a united front to stop Iran’s nuclear program and to bring […]

In the immediate aftermath of the 2003 Iraq War, before the Iraqi insurgency had come to define the conflict, one of the Democratic Party’s loudest criticisms of the Bush administration was that it had utterly bungled the diplomatic angle in the run-up to the war: President George W. Bush had been unable to replicate his father’s success in getting the United Nations to pass a catch-all resolution authorizing “all necessary means” to ensure that Iraq was disarmed. Nor had he been able to get a major regional security organization to endorse military action after efforts at the U.N. Security Council […]

If you’re looking for a good example of an oxymoron, or at the very least of a counterintuitive situation, nothing works better than the famed “resource curse.” The idea that great natural wealth might in fact contribute to keeping a country poor has captured the public imagination precisely because it helps explain a phenomenon that is one of the great paradoxes of our time: Countries blessed with fabulous riches are often also cursed, perhaps inevitably, with grinding poverty. But the phenomenon with the catchy title deserves a closer, critical look, because recent evidence suggests that the potion for breaking the […]

When results began to emerge from Iran’s March 2 parliamentary elections, the ayatollahs, their cohorts and the news outlets they control were quick to herald a resounding victory for the principles of “velayat-e faqih,” or “governance by the Islamic jurist,” the doctrine that puts Iran’s religious leadership at the top of the political hierarchy. Western media followed suit, declaring a solid victory for factions supporting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei by lumping together all Islamic parties that had gained parliamentary seats. Yet, jumping to such conclusions simply reinforces what Iran’s fundamentalists want their own public and the West to believe, […]

A major Indian trade mission is in Iran seeking to exploit Tehran’s increasing diplomatic and commercial isolation to rectify India’s trade imbalance with Iran. But while Indian companies are understandably eager to take advantage of the resulting commercial opportunities, the Indian government must soothe U.S., Israeli and European concerns that Indian firms will simply undercut international sanctions against Iran by “backfilling” Western companies currently departing the country. India’s behavior highlights a major problem with the Iran sanctions regime: Many countries face a different set of calculations with regard to Iran than the United States, Israel and the European and Persian […]

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