U.S. President Barack Obama visited Saudi Arabia last week, where simmering dissent and repression in the Shiite-majority areas of the Sunni-dominated country continue to claim the lives of protesters and police three years after the Arab Spring. In an email interview, Stephane Lacroix, an associate professor at Sciences-Po who studies authoritarianism and Islamic social movements with a focus on Saudi Arabia, explained the status of Shiites in Saudi Arabia. WPR: What is the status of Shiites in Saudi Arabia in terms of political rights and access to state resources? Stephane Lacroix: Saudi Shiites, about 10 percent of the Saudi population, […]

In recent years, the security threats facing humanitarian aid workers have been the subject of headlines and debates. The humanitarian advocacy community has been filled with discussions of a perceived increase in the politicization of humanitarian aid—attributed in part to declining respect for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence—and growing difficulties ensuring operations can be conducted in accordance with those principles. These discussions frequently highlight attacks on relief personnel and assets to show that humanitarian workers are under attack. In the past year, the focus has narrowed to a particular area of humanitarian operations: medical and health […]

During the course of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has faced challenges in treating wounded soldiers on a scale it hasn’t witnessed since the Vietnam War. In response, the military has succeeded in reducing the mortality rate of soldiers injured in combat through a radical shift in doctrine, procedures and medical technology. The duration of the two wars has also produced a wealth of research that has informed Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), which has become the standardized set of procedures used to treat U.S. casualties across active-duty military services. Despite this, the cost has been […]

Recent reports have indicated that Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, is in the grip of its worst budget crisis since it took over the territory in 2007. In an email interview, Omar Shaban, the founder and director of the Gaza-based think tank Palthink for Strategic Studies, explained the origins of the crisis. WPR: What are the origins of the budget crisis facing Hamas? Omar Shaban: Hamas’ budget crisis is attributed mainly to the closing of the tunnels between Gaza and Sinai in 2013. These tunnels were the main source of income for the government of Gaza […]

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is about to find out whether his strategy for quelling an increasingly effective opposition will prove successful and help him secure his place of prominence in Turkey’s future. Erdogan has brandished an eye-popping catalog of conspiracy theories in response to, first, mass popular protests and, more recently, a growing corruption scandal that has ensnared close associates, family members and, allegedly, the prime minister himself. The defense by conspiracy theory will either destroy his critics’ charges or subject Erdogan to ridicule, bringing an end to his political career. On March 30, Turkish voters will go […]

This month, Saadi Gadhafi, the son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, was extradited from Niger to Libya to face trial. In an email interview, Hanan Salah, a Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch, explained the progress and failures to date of Libya’s post-Gadhafi judiciary. WPR: What have been the areas of greatest progress and failure in the process of rebuilding Libya’s post-Gadhafi judiciary? Hanan Salah: More than two years after the end of the uprising, Libya’s justice system is facing numerous challenges, and the authorities are unable to impose law and order. Amid rampant violence mainly by unaccountable militias, […]

Turkey’s domestic strife—starting with last summer’s Gezi Park protests and continuing with government corruption scandals and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s public falling out with the powerful Gulen Islamic movement—has forcefully reordered previous assumptions about the trajectory of the country’s politics. While Erdogan had been expected to push for a new constitution that creates a more powerful presidency—a position Erdogan himself was clearly planning on assuming—that path is now blocked. This has raised questions about Erdogan’s next moves, and whether his failure to fulfill his presidential aspirations augurs further setbacks for the previously invincible leader. Things certainly looked different three […]

Over the past few years, Turkey’s “zero problem with neighbors” policy has become something of a joke. After some initial successes at resolving problems with surrounding states, Turkey is now the only major country without ambassadors in Egypt, Syria and Israel simultaneously. One major exception was arguably Turkey’s relations with Russia, which have remained solid despite differences over Syria, Iran and other issues. Now the Crimea crisis has confronted Turkey with the most serious challenge to its Russian policy since the Cold War. Until losing the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, the Ottoman Empire held sovereignty over Crimea, which was then […]

Last week, Saudi Arabia and China signed four agreements to expand bilateral cooperation and investment. In an email interview, Naser al-Tamimi, a Middle East analyst with a focus on Middle East-Asia relations, explained the recent trajectory of Saudi Arabia’s relationship with China and with East Asia more broadly. WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of Saudi-China relations, and what are the key areas of cooperation? Naser al-Tamimi: Energy and trade are at the heart of the growing links between Saudi Arabia and China. The bilateral relationship centers mostly on crude oil, petrochemical industries, refining, China’s cheap consumer goods and […]

Last week, the Israeli parliament passed a law raising the threshold for parliamentary representation from 2 percent to 3.25 percent of votes in parliamentary elections. In an email interview, Dov Waxman, an associate professor of political science at Baruch College and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York as well as the co-director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development at Northeastern University, explained what the change means for Arab political parties in Israel. WPR: What are the main Arab Israeli political parties and their general platforms? Dov Waxman: There are currently two […]

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was removed Tuesday after failing to stop a tanker from sailing away with an illicit shipment of Libyan oil. The event underscores the crucial role of the oil industry in the country’s current political instability, while further eroding initially optimistic expectations about Libya’s transition and the return to health of its oil industry. Not so long ago, the political and economic prospects for Libya looked brighter. The toppling of the Gadhafi regime in 2011 set the country on the path of a democratic transition. The oil sector, which is the backbone of the Libyan economy, […]

What does a gambler do when a large bet suddenly looks like it’s riding on a losing hand? Many will fold and cut their losses. Others push ahead, even doubling down, hoping their game plan will ultimately pay off. The emirate of Qatar has opted for the second approach in its high-stakes gamble to support the Muslim Brotherhood. With the Brotherhood losing ground dramatically after sweeping to multiple victories in what was once known as the Arab Spring, Qatar is sticking with its strategy and paying an increasingly high cost for its reluctance to change course. The unavoidable question is […]

Amid the crisis in Crimea, Turkey authorized a U.S. Navy destroyer to pass through the Bosphorus last week but noted that the legal agreement governing access to the Black Sea would not permit a U.S. aircraft carrier to make the same passage. In an email interview, James Kraska, an expert in maritime governance who is Mary Derrickson McCurdy visiting scholar at Duke University, discussed the terms of the Montreux Convention. WPR: What is the history of the Montreux Convention, and what are its terms? James Kraska: The Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits 1936 (the Montreux Convention) governs transit […]

President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia later this month will come at a time of considerable shifts in Saudi regional strategy. Three recent policy changes in particular—the moving of the Syria file from Prince Bandar bin Sultan to counterterrorism chief Prince Mohammad bin Nayef; the withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors from Qatar; and the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as terrorist organizations by Saudi Arabia—are signs that Riyadh is taking a more assertive approach to dealing with a range of Islamist forces. The […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June 2013 on a ticket of change, amid hope for improvements in both domestic and foreign affairs. His constituents were, and still are, hoping for an easing of the political atmosphere, a less stifling environment on university campuses, a more predictable and stable style of governance and, most importantly, a reversal of the economic decline that has impoverished Iranians in the past 3-4 years. In many ways, most of the promises on this electoral laundry list hinge on the last item—turning the Iranian economy around. This plays into but is not the sole […]

On Feb. 15, Lebanon formed a new government after 11 months of political deadlock. Yet the real significance and impact this will have on Lebanon’s political stability is very much unclear. The new Cabinet allows Lebanon’s main parties—the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and the Sunni Future Movement—to resume their political fight inside the government rather than on the street, although one does not preclude the other. However, several points of contention remain between the two sides that could obstruct further progress. For the new Cabinet to start addressing a host of pressing challenges, including the election of a new president […]