Writing 10 years ago in Orbis magazine (.pdf), Ray Takeyh and I argued that, if a wave of democratization were to topple formerly pro-American autocrats in the Middle East, the new Arab democracies “would seek what they perceived to be equitable and fair relations with the United States, but object to . . . cumbersome American . . . demands, especially regarding Israel.” The speech delivered this week by Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, at the United Nations General Assembly has confirmed this analysis. Unlike Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose pronouncements before the international community regularly conform to […]

In the years that preceded the Arab Uprisings, the term “Islamist,” particularly in the West, often carried connotations of a monolithic movement. The word served as shorthand, but it blurred significant distinctions that have long existed within the movement. Political Islam has always included a variety of views, particularly regarding timing and tactics. Islamists have long held differing positions regarding the acceptability of violence, and they have stood at numerous points along an ideological axis that ranges from gradualism and moderation to fast-track radicalism. Since the fall of a number of Arab dictatorships, however, it has become even more apparent […]

President Barack Obama heads to the U.N. tomorrow to address the new session of the General Assembly. His visit will be brief — he is not even expected to stay for lunch — and his speech is likely to be sharply worded. In what will probably be his last major international engagement before November’s elections, he has a chance to scold Russia for its behavior over Syria, warn Iran over its nuclear program and reassert America’s primacy on the international stage. This won’t be an entirely easy exercise for the president in terms of his domestic audience. Whatever he ends […]

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Free Syrian Army brigade fighters positioned in the Saif al-Dawla and Izaa districts of Aleppo continued operations on Sunday as rebels said they now control most of the country and have moved their command center from Turkey to “liberated areas” inside Syria. Video News by NewsLook

U.S. pundits commenting on the wave of protests that have swept across the Middle East this past week have tended to focus on “finger-pointing and partisan sniping,” as Greg Scoblete notes, with conservatives vaguely calling for Washington to show more “strength” and liberals advocating more “outreach.” Few have wanted to deal with a far more unpleasant reality: The de facto coalition of Turkey, Israel and “moderate” Sunni Arab states that for decades worked to advance U.S. interests in the region is disintegrating. The aftermath of the Iraq War and the outbreak of the Arab Spring were just the first tremors […]

As Turkey’s once-hailed approach to foreign policy flounders in the Middle East, the spirit of “zero problems” continues to consolidate gains in other neighboring areas, notably the Caucasus. Georgia, though lacking many of the national bonds that mortar Turkish ties with Azerbaijan, has become a particular beneficiary of Turkey’s Caucasus strategy. For Turkey, Georgia is a fundamental part of its regional energy strategy and an important buffer between it and historical rival Russia. For Georgia, Turkey is a trade partner, a window to the Euro-Atlantic and a powerful regional advocate. Over the past decade, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s “zero […]

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey would not extradite Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who was sentenced to death in absentia by an Iraqi court. As BBC News reported, Hashemi dismissed the charges against him as “politically motivated.” The most senior Sunni official in Iraq’s predominantly Shiite government, Hashemi was accused of running Sunni death squads. The incident was the latest in a series of recent flare-ups between Ankara and Baghdad. Henri Barkey, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University, mentioned a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Kirkuk, Iraq, last month […]

U.S. strategy in the Islamic world is teetering on collapse. Angry, often violent crowds from Morocco to Afghanistan attacked anything associated with the United States or the West during the past week, from embassies and schools to fast food restaurants. All indications are that the protests accurately reflect a deep and persistent anger toward the United States, one that can be easily manipulated for nefarious purposes. For decades, the United States was concerned with little but stability in the Islamic world, building partnerships with a sordid cast of monarchs, civilian dictators and military despots. While this approach continues to be […]

Cyberspace is often credited with having helped end decades of authoritarian rule in the Middle East. Some dubbed the Arab Spring the “Twitter Revolution” after protesters, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt, used the micro-blogging platform to coordinate action and broadcast reports, both among themselves and to the world. Just 18 months later, content posted to another social media platform has ostensibly driven large crowds into the streets throughout the Muslim world, this time to protest a movie depicting the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in an insulting light. In some cases, protesters formed into violent mobs, directing their ire at the […]

Despite its relatively small size, Azerbaijan has frequently been the focus of foreign attention since it gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is in large part due to Azerbaijan’s sizable energy resources and pivotal location, which provides the only viable pipeline route for Caspian Basin oil and gas to reach the West without passing through Russia or Iran. Azerbaijan’s leaders have tried to exploit these geopolitical assets to help manage the challenges presented by the country’s volatile neighborhood, which include a number of disputes over Caspian energy reserves, heavy interference by outside powers and the potential […]

The past year has witnessed a high-profile disagreement between Moscow and Washington over the civil war in Syria and the broader direction of political change in the Arab world. Some Russians have even revealed a degree of schadenfreude over the latest anti-U.S. violence in Libya, where Russian President Vladimir Putin likened last year’s NATO intervention to a medieval crusade. But though Washington and Moscow differ on rhetoric and tactics, when it comes to core U.S. interests in the Middle East, such as managing the rise of political Islam, constraining Iran’s nuclear program and ensuring the welfare of the state of […]

Egypt’s petroleum minister announced last week that British Gas plans to invest $3 billion to $5 billion in development projects in Egypt. In an email interview, Gawdat Bahgat, a professor of national security affairs at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Study, discussed the state of Egypt’s oil and gas industry. WPR: Where have the events of the past two years left Egypt’s oil and gas industry? Gawdat Bahgat: Unlike its North African neighbors Libya and Algeria, Egypt has never been a major oil producing and exporting country. It is not a member of OPEC […]

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, recently warned of atrocities committed on both sides of the conflict in Syria in an effort to draw attention to the conflict. In an email interview, Hurst Hannum, a professor of international law at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, discussed the high commissioner’s role and capabilities. WPR: What is the role of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights within the landscape of U.N. agencies, such as the Human Rights Commission? Hurst Hannum: The U.N. high commissioner for human rights (HCHR) is the highest-ranking U.N. official specifically concerned […]

Some commentators have argued that last week’s attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia will strengthen the radical and anti-Western Islamic factions in those countries. However, a number of political and economic realities suggest that the violent attacks might instead marginalize the extremists and strengthen these countries’ moderate Islamists. In Tunisia and Egypt, recent elections resulted in governing coalitions led by moderate Islamist parties. But gaining control of the executive branch has made moderate Islamists responsible for dealing with the mounting economic and social problems that have plagued both countries since the 2011 uprisings. Indeed, in both countries, […]

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