Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir inspects the honor guard after his arrival in Entebbe, Uganda, Nov. 13, 2017 (AP photo by Ronald Kabuubi).

The people of Sudan are accustomed to volatility, but even for them, the current moment is fraught with uncertainty. A convergence of social, economic and diplomatic unrest has sent Sudan into a state of anxiety, straining society and raising the prospect of new domestic turmoil. On Jan. 16 and 17, protesters in cities from Darfur in the west to Port Sudan in the east took to the streets angry over the rising prices of essential goods. They blamed the government of President Omar al-Bashir for economic mismanagement and corruption. Inflation in Sudan is running at more than 30 percent, partly […]

Egyptian human rights lawyer and former presidential candidate  Khaled Ali announces his withdrawal from the race, Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 24, 2018 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

January has been a troubling month for Egyptian politics. In a substantial blow to the pretense of fair elections, the military-backed authorities ramped up efforts to clear the field ahead of the presidential poll slated for March 26 to 28. Five candidates were either forced out of the race by the military or have exited on their own as a result of an intensive campaign of interference and intimidation. Now, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi will run virtually uncontested. He was elected to his first term in 2014 with 97 percent of the vote, a figure that many suspected was inflated. The […]

Turkish army tanks head for the Syrian border town of Afrin, an enclave in northwestern Syria controlled by Kurdish fighters, Hassa, Turkey, Jan. 22, 2018 (AP photo).

On Jan. 20, Turkish forces attacked Afrin, a Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwestern Syria. As airstrikes rain down on Afrin’s mountain towns, the conflict is putting both American and Russian plans for Syria to the test. Most of Afrin’s original inhabitants are Kurds, though the population, now estimated at 323,000, has swelled with civilians displaced from other parts of Syria and also includes Arab towns seized by Kurdish forces. Apart from government-controlled Aleppo to the southeast, Afrin is entirely surrounded by Turkish territory and Turkey-backed rebels. A previous Turkish intervention in October set up military outposts all along Afrin’s southern border. […]

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh during the 17th African Union Summit, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, June 30, 2011 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. It’s been a year since former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh fled into exile, and speculation is starting to pick up about his potential return to the country to face charges for crimes committed during his more than two decades in power. In January 2017, as West African troops entered Gambian territory, Jammeh announced he was leaving so Adama Barrow could take office, flying to Guinea before ultimately settling in Equatorial Guinea, where he remains today. Barrow defeated Jammeh in […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah, are greeted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi, Jan. 14 2018 (AP photo).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India last week came at a tense time, or so it seemed. In late December, India voted in favor of a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly rejecting the Trump administration’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Then, in early January, just two weeks before Netanyahu’s trip, India’s Ministry of Defense scrapped a $500 million deal with Israeli defense contractor Rafael to import Spike anti-tank missiles and later produce them under a license in India. But Netanyahu’s government downplayed New Delhi’s vote at the U.N. before his six-day visit, and in […]

A dead camel decomposes in a region hit by persistent drought, Ben Guardane, Tunisia, March 12, 2011 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

With new outbreaks of political protests in Iran and Tunisia, there are questions again about the role played by environmental issues, including human-caused climate change, in stoking unrest and discontent in the Middle East. In Iran, where protests have been underway since late December, observers are making explicit linkages, drawing the connection between water scarcity that displaces farmers and government corruption and incompetence. Many protesters do not believe their government has any credible policy responses to the environmental stress and, instead, encourages water usage policies that make the problem worse. In Tunisia, where demands for political and economic reforms are […]

Residents from Gaza wave Palestinian and Egyptian flags to celebrate the Egypt-backed reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, Gaza City, Oct. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Khalil Hamra).

Earlier this month, the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt released a 22-minute video showing the execution of a man it identified as a Hamas collaborator. The video, characteristic of the group’s macabre propaganda, put the spotlight on the budding conflict between the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since 2007. That conflict has its roots in the changing dynamics on the ground between Hamas and Egypt’s government. Despite years of acrimony, Hamas and Egypt have forged an increasingly cooperative relationship in the past year, driven by the desperate situations both sides are facing. […]

A man sits outside a store selling photos of Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and members of his family, Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2017 (AP photo by Felipe Dana).

In mid-December, at least five people were killed by security forces during anti-government protests in Iraqi Kurdistan. The leading opposition political party, Gorran, responded to the crackdown by withdrawing its ministers from the government. In an email interview, Hannes Cerny, a visiting professor at the Department of International Relations at the Central European University in Budapest and the author of “Iraqi Kurdistan, the PKK and International Relations: Theory and Ethnic Conflict,” explains the protesters’ grievances and the implications for Kurdish politics. WPR: What triggered the recent protests in northern Iraq? Hannes Cerny: When discussing the recent anti-government protests in Iraqi […]

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to French troops at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Dec. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Fay Abuelgasim).

On Dec. 7, French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Qatar for a short yet very profitable visit. It took place in the wake of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s own trip to Paris in September. During his eight-hour stay in Doha, Macron visited al-Udeid Air Base—the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East—where France also has a contingent of soldiers. He was then received at Sheikh Tamim’s administrative office, the Emiri Diwan, to discuss several matters of bilateral interest, as well as the diplomatic standoff in the Gulf, before flying back to Paris. Macron and Sheikh […]

Libyan men displaced from Tawergha pray at a makeshift mosque at a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya, Nov. 26, 2013 (AP photo by Manu Brabo).

At the end of December, Libya’s prime minister in Tripoli, Fayez Serraj, announced that Libyan families displaced from the town of Tawergha since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011 could return home. The people of Tawergha allegedly fought on the side of deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Their return to Tawergha, in western Libya, will mark one of the first successful reconciliation efforts between embattled communities in the country. In an email interview, Jalel Harchaoui, a doctoral candidate in geopolitics at Paris 8 University focusing on Libya, discusses the ongoing obstacles to communal reconciliation. WPR: What has […]

Unemployed protesters take to the streets, Tunis, Tunisia, Jan. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Nearly seven years to the day after Tunisia’s so-called Jasmine Revolution forced the departure of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country was once again rocked by widespread protests this week—this time sparked by austerity measures including price and tax increases. According to the BBC, protests had occurred in at least 10 locations, including Tunis, the capital, as of Thursday. Hundreds of people were arrested; 50 police officers were injured; the army was deployed in some places; […]

A demonstrator shouts slogans near the flag of the former Imperial State of Iran as he gathers with opposition supporters outside the Iranian embassy in Rome, Italy, Jan. 2, 2018 (AP photo by Gregorio Borgia).

The popular demonstrations that erupted in Iran in late December, the largest since the Green Movement protests in 2009, have created a pretext for the Trump administration to renege on the nuclear deal, which it has tried to nix throughout its first year in office. But breaking the 2015 agreement by piling on sanctions pressure would likely have only a minor economic effect on Tehran, especially in the short term, while undermining the very protesters the administration has vocally supported. The threat of new U.S. sanctions would also limit American leverage in pursuing regional stability and nonproliferation. Media coverage has […]

The Organization of Iranian American Communities holds a demonstration across from the White House in solidarity with protesters in Iran, Washington, Jan. 6, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

The momentum has tapered off in the remarkable weeklong protests across Iran. But if it seems that the regime has prevailed, despite its legitimacy eroding a bit, do the demonstrations have a deeper meaning and long-term foreign policy consequences? Will policies in Tehran and Washington change? Most outside observers, even those at opposite sides of the ideological spectrum on Iran, agree on the basic facts. These protests, which broke out in the northeastern city of Mashad on Dec. 28, were triggered by economic distress. But as they spread to dozens of locales across the country, they took on a direct […]

A boat passes by the skyline of downtown Dubai featuring the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, UAE, Dec. 18, 2016 (AP photo by Jon Gambrell).

After more than three years in the doldrums, the economy of the United Arab Emirates is headed for a recovery. Spurred on in part by the highest oil prices since December 2014, the UAE has also taken strides to implement important, if long overdue, structural reforms aimed at liberalizing and diversifying its economy. One expected boost to revenue in 2018 will come from a 5-percent value-added tax that was rolled out Jan. 1. While all six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council initially intended to adopt the VAT initiative together, only the UAE and Saudi Arabia moved forward at the […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference at his office, Jerusalem, Nov. 14, 2015 (AP photo by Tsafrir Abayov).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli media has seen a disturbing trend of increased political interference. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, faces a growing list of political scandals, including his attempts to manipulate the Israeli media and interfere with press coverage. In one case, Netanyahu is alleged to have offered the owner of the popular newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Arnon Mozes, a deal for more positive coverage in exchange for curbing the circulation of one of its competitors. In […]

Visitors and Russian military police officers walk toward the Citadel, the famed fortress in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Nataliya Vasilyeva).

Thousands of Russian private military contractors are reportedly fighting in Syria, and there are increasing reports about such contractors being killed in action. Despite a Russian ban on the use of mercenaries, Moscow has turned to private military contractors as part of its assertive foreign policy. In an email interview, Michael Kofman, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, discusses Russia’s use of contractors in Syria, and the risks and opportunities they pose for the Kremlin. WPR: Russia is reportedly using private military contractors in Syria. How do such contractors figure into Russia’s general operational approach, […]

A student participates in a protest inside Tehran University as a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot police, Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017 (AP photo).

The protests that have sprung up in cities across Iran over the past week have taken many observers by surprise. It was no secret that the underwhelming and unevenly distributed economic gains from the lifting of international sanctions after the 2015 nuclear deal had led to widespread discontent. But there was no catalyzing event to explain the public demonstrations on display this week, which are rare in Iran. For now, the protests raise more questions than they answer, beginning with what the protesters want and who—if anyone—is organizing and leading them. The first spontaneous demonstrations focused on economic grievances. But […]