One of the most intriguing aspects of the new political dynamics of the Arab Middle East is the decision by the tiny Gulf kingdom of Qatar to throw its full support behind the controversial Muslim Brotherhood in the contest for the future of the region. The choice by a monarchy to support a populist movement always looked like a gamble. But now, two years into what some still call the Arab Spring, with Egypt’s Brotherhood-dominated government scrambling to keep the country from spinning out of its control, the bet by Qatar’s emir looks riskier than ever. Evidence of Qatar’s backing […]

The U.S. Treasury Department asserted earlier this month that informal financial transactions through networks known as hawala are helping Iran evade international sanctions. In an email interview, Roger Ballard, a consultant anthropologist and director of the University of Manchester’s Center for Applied South Asian Studies who has written extensively on hawala, explained the long history of these networks and how they currently operate. WPR: What purposes are the hawala networks in Iran used for, and what volume of transactions passes through them? Roger Ballard: For well more than a thousand years, traders operating throughout the Indian Ocean region have routinely […]

After a decade of gradual rapprochement anchored by booming bilateral energy ties and close coordination on combating Kurdish separatists, Iran and Turkey are struggling to maintain a veneer of mutual amity and cooperation. In recent months, Iran and Turkey have shown growing signs of estrangement. At the heart of their differences lie the Syrian crisis and Ankara’s gradual alignment with the West’s efforts to check Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The two neighbors continue to be bound, however, by a complex and deepening state of energy interdependence, which explains why both sides continue to exercise a measure of self-restraint in their engagements […]

As the conflict in Syria continues, with the United Nations reporting a dramatic increase in the numbers of refugees fleeing the country, Syria’s economy, too, is a victim of the violence. And its chances of recovery are looking slim. “Syria is now fully a war economy that displays all the features of a country in conflict,” Samer Abboud, assistant professor of history and international studies at Arcadia University, told Trend Lines in an email interview. “There is increased informality and black market activity, an increase in criminality and markets for violence, families trying to cope under these conditions by whatever […]

Amid fears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will pass weapons systems to the Lebanese military group Hezbollah, Israel apparently carried out an airstrike within Syria last night. Regional officials told news outlets that Israel appeared to be targeting a convoy carrying SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles near the border with Lebanon, though Syria claimed Israel targeted a research facility near the capital, Damascus. “The Israelis have always been sensitive to any increase in Hezbollah’s anti-aircraft capability,” Jeffrey White, defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Trend Lines, noting that Israel has already suffered some losses due to surface-to-air […]

The wars in Mali and Syria have followed very different trajectories over the past month. While Syria has become symbolic of international inaction, France’s use of force in Mali has shown that some Western governments are still willing to launch new interventions abroad. And while there have been no dramatic military shifts in Syria, French troops have pushed deep into northern Mali with growing speed. The crises also have very different geopolitical implications. The situation in Mali is the latest in a long series of French operations to stabilize its former colonies, although Paris enjoys an unusual level of African […]

The outcome of Tuesday’s elections in Israel proved disappointing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was hoping to come away with an even stronger coalition after he formed an alliance between his Likud party and the right-wing Israel Beiteynu (“Israel is Our Home”). And yet, despite the disappointment, Netanyahu managed to retain the top job, just as everyone was sure he would. It would have taken a miracle, and not a small one, the pollsters said, for a leftist candidate to become prime minister. The only unknowns ahead of the vote were the margin of victory and the shape of […]

The response to last week’s hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria perfectly encapsulated the broader relationship between the European Union and Algeria. EU countries, notably France and the U.K., tried to encourage Algeria to consult with them on handling the dramatic events taking place on Algerian territory, but ultimately, the Algerian government acted on its own terms, on the basis of its better intelligence about the situation on the ground. In the end, European leaders acknowledged that, while they would have liked some advance notice, the Algerian army had responded swiftly and appropriately according to its […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, marking the first time a leader of the majority-Muslim Southeast Asian nation has visited the Palestinian enclave controlled by Hamas. While Najib said his visit was a humanitarian mission intended to “express deep concern” over “what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Hamas’ rival Fatah, said the visit would worsen divisions between the two Palestinian factions. Two experts who spoke with Trend Lines pointed to Malaysian domestic politics in the run-up to general elections that Najib must […]

Today all conflicts have cascading effects, quickly engulfing neighboring states and, if unchecked, entire regions. They cause humanitarian disasters, refugee problems and sometimes ecological decay while abetting the spread of extremism, crime and disorder. The expanding violence in the Saharan region is a perfect example. Tragically, North Africa has joined the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Yemen and Somalia as one of the world’s most dangerous places. All of these conflicts share a pathology: Extremists associated with or inspired by al-Qaida blend with and exacerbate existing tensions based on ethnicity, sect, clan, race or personal patronage, making old conflicts even more deadly. The […]

article card

President Barack Obama begins his second term with a new national security team in the making. It now looks like most if not all his key nominees will secure Senate confirmation in coming months, with Sen. John Kerry at State, former Sen. Chuck Hagel at Defense and White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan at the CIA. Though some have described Obama’s new “team of friends” as representing an inward-looking impulse, world events may not permit that. As in his first term, Obama will probably again face a gap between his preferred goals and strategies — focusing on Asia and rebuilding […]

After decades of condemning parliamentary politics, Salafis have created political parties for the first time in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, even as Salafis in Morocco and Gaza attempt to do the same. Salafi political parties are not unprecedented in the Arab world — Bahrain and Kuwait have had Salafi political blocs for many years, and there was a Salafi-dominated party briefly in Algeria in the early 1990s that successfully contested parliamentary elections until the Algerian government cancelled the poll results. But the phenomenon is unusual. Before the Arab Spring, the majority of Salafis, or Sunni Muslim puritans, condemned parliaments […]

We are rapidly approaching the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. For some politicians, their initial stance on the war is something they might prefer to overlook. It will be interesting to see, for instance, if, during their nomination hearings, either Secretary of State-designate John Kerry or Secretary of Defense-designate Chuck Hagel is asked whether they still stand by their yea vote in October 2002 to give President George W. Bush the authorization to pursue military action against Saddam Hussein. For others, the inevitable retrospectives will fall into one of several predictable categories. Some will attempt to […]

In January, the United Arab Emirates arrested a group of Egyptians on suspicion of forming a Muslim Brotherhood cell in the country, prompting tensions with the Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government. In an email interview, Frederic Wehrey, a Middle East program senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, discussed Egypt-UAE relations. WPR: What has been the trajectory of relations between Egypt and the UAE since the fall of Hosni Mubarak? Frederic Wehrey: Throughout 2011, bilateral relations were strained by mounting concern in the UAE over Egypt’s potential warming to Iran. For their part, Egypt’s new leaders have cast a […]

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s efforts to portray an image of moderation for himself, for the Muslim Brotherhood and for Egypt under the Brotherhood’s rule threaten to come undone once again. This time, the curtain has been drawn back by a spate of video clips of the former Muslim Brotherhood leader making bluntly anti-Semitic statements. The statements cannot be dismissed as old rants from an over-enthusiastic young radical. They are recent, dating to just a few months before the January 2011 uprising that ultimately brought Morsi and his political allies in the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt. If Morsi wants […]

In the most direct admission by a high-ranking Iranian government official that international sanctions are imposing a heavy burden on the economy, Iranian Minister of Industry Mehdi Ghazanfari called the latest round of sanctions “crippling” at a gathering of provincial governors on Jan. 10. His remarks were a clear break from his previous statements, in which he downplayed the impact of sanctions. Ghazanfari said the latest round of sanctions have been far more costly than previous ones, pointing in particular to three new sets of sanctions imposed in 2012: financial sanctions, especially those targeting Iran’s central bank; oil export restrictions; […]

On Dec. 5, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia heard testimony from American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Michael Rubin on Iran’s influence in the South Caucasus. While Rubin detailed Iran’s close ties to Armenia and contrasted them to Iran’s uneasy relationship with Azerbaijan, he closed his testimony with unexpected warnings of a potential Georgian alignment with Iran (pdf). “The victory of [Prime Minister] Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream party in October 2012 elections threatens to radically reorient the Republic of Georgia, which, under President Mikheil Saakashvili, has been reliably pro-Western,” cautioned Rubin, adding that Ivanishvili’s pledge to […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 241 2 Last