Anti-government protesters try to force their way into the Green Zone area in Baghdad, Iraq, May 25, 2021 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

There is serious doubt as to whether Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections in October will be free and fair, or have any meaningful level of voter turnout, yet the outcome is easy to foresee. Iraqi elections inevitably produce no clear winner: Major parties compete as parts of alliances, and once results are announced, several of these blocs engage in a protracted period of negotiations that yields a fragile ruling coalition. These weak governments, hobbled by political divisions and corruption, are designed to maintain the political elite’s grip on power and protect the system from internal and external pressures. The prime minister, […]

A U.S. soldier stands guard at the K1 Air Base near Kirkuk in northern Iraq, March 29, 2020 (Photo by Ameer Al Mohammedaw for dpa via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Sunday’s overnight air strikes by the U.S. on militia targets in Iraq and Syria immediately rekindled an important debate about deterrence and sovereignty, but also the frustrating persistence of America’s “forever wars.” How should America handle militia attacks on its forces in Iraq, a country where […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at the Heliopolis Presidential Palace, in Cairo, May 26, 2021 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

During his first four months in office, U.S. President Joe Biden did not speak with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi—a notable departure from precedent given the history of close security ties between the two countries. But after months of silence, Biden spoke with Sisi twice over the course of five days in May, extending his “sincere gratitude” to Egypt “for its successful diplomacy” in securing a cease-fire that ended 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that runs the Gaza Strip. Two days later, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Egypt and Jordan as […]

Ebrahim Raisi, a candidate in Iran’s presidential elections, waves to the media after casting his vote at a polling station in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2021 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

As the regime-anointed candidate in Iran’s presidential election charade last Friday, Ebrahim Raisi’s victory was thoroughly expected. Even so, it managed to be jarring. It’s not every day a country chooses a man accused of crimes against humanity for such a powerful post, with all signs pointing to Raisi acquiring even greater, unrivaled power in the near future. For the Iranian people, Raisi’s presidency, followed by his projected ascension to the post of supreme leader once the ailing 83-year-old Ali Khamenei dies, promises to bring even more repression. For Iran’s neighbors, Western powers—particularly the United States—and the rest of the […]

People celebrate the swearing-in of the new government in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 13, 2021 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

The sight of thousands of secular, liberal, cosmopolitan Israelis descending on Rabin Square in Tel Aviv last week to celebrate the appointment of a religious, conservative nationalist as their new prime minister perfectly captures the peculiar state of Israeli politics today. One can only imagine the horror that would have swept over those demonstrators had Naftali Bennett been elected under any other circumstances. But such is the political mood in Israel as the new government takes the helm: Settlers mourn the election of the former head of the Yesha Council—the umbrella organization of Jewish settlements in the West Bank—as prime […]

A new border wall stretches along the landscape near Sasabe, Arizona, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Ross D. Franklin).

Back in 1990, when the Soviet bloc was crumbling into new nations, Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, had the audacity to suggest that humankind was on the cusp of a new “borderless world,” in a book of the same name. Ohmae’s goal was mainly to sketch out new ways for businesses to adapt and take advantage of a world that he argued would be increasingly globalized, where nation-states and the borders that help define them would become less and less relevant. For more than two decades, the world seemed to be moving in the direction of […]

Algerian demonstrators protest the 2019 presidential election with banners in French that read “reject the election” and “the street will not be quiet,” in Algiers, Dec. 12, 2019 (AP photo by Toufik Doudou).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. As “weapons of the weak” go, boycotts hold a special pedigree. Gandhi used them in India’s struggle for independence to leverage overwhelming popular will against the British colonizers’ military superiority. The Montgomery bus boycott, organized by Martin Luther King Jr. from 1955 to 1956, showed white […]

An Iranian woman casts her vote at a polling station inside the Iranian consulate in Karbala, Iraq, June 18, 2021 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which uses relevant WPR coverage to provide background and context to the week’s top stories. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. I gave a preview of U.S. President Joe Biden’s European tour in last week’s newsletter. It’s worth following up briefly, as there were some notable outcomes from his whistle-stop summitry. To begin with, he very clearly succeeded in resetting relations with America’s European allies and putting the […]

From the left, Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, hold a first Cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, June 13, 2021 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

After 12 uninterrupted years in charge, Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer Israel’s prime minister. A new coalition government comprising eight ideologically diverse parties has ended a prolonged period of political gridlock, albeit with a razor-thin majority of just one seat in the country’s legislature, the Knesset. Netanyahu, who had earlier decried “the greatest election fraud” in the history of democracy, later took to Twitter to promise supporters, “We’ll be back—and quicker than you think.” The final weeks of the Netanyahu era saw a huge upsurge in violence between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza. An 11-day conflict with Hamas and […]

U.S. President Joe Biden, right, speaks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a NATO summit in Brussels, June 14, 2021 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

Weeks before U.S. President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Erdogan vowed that the meeting would be transformative. In a virtual gathering with American investors last month, he predicted that the encounter would “herald a new era.” It was no surprise, then, that after the Monday meeting in Brussels concluded, Erdogan took pains to stretch the truth and describe it as a major success. Whatever happened to the provocateur, the pugnacious politician whose words and actions so frequently put him at odds with his neighbors and his allies? Where did […]

A supporter of presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi during a rally in Tehran, Iran, June 14, 2021 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Iranians will go to the polls this Friday to choose the successor to centrist President Hassan Rouhani, who is winding down his second four-year term and cannot run for reelection. The polls will take place in an atmosphere of widespread public apathy, as voters choose from a list of presidential candidates that has been heavily vetted beforehand. Of the seven contenders approved last month by the Guardian Council—an oversight body of 12 clerics who are closely aligned with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—five are regarded as hard-liners, while the other two are uncharismatic moderates with relatively low profiles. Ebrahim Raisi, a […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, meets with his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, right, in Tehran, Feb. 3, 2021 (Iranian Foreign Ministry photo via AP).

Dialogue seems to be in vogue in today’s Middle East. Iranian and American negotiators are in Vienna to find a way to restore the 2015 nuclear deal that President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. Iranian and Saudi security officials recently held meetings in Baghdad to mend their relations. and United Nations-led efforts to deescalate and end the war in Yemen are picking up steam. While these processes remain fragile, they present an important opportunity to establish a broader regional dialogue that aims to lessen tensions by opening new channels of communication, the time for which is ripe. Part of […]

A demonstration in front of a mural of Adama Traore and George Floyd, who both died in police custody, in Stains, north of Paris, June 22, 2020 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

I first met Salim, a 35-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin, about 10 years ago at a cafe near Levallois, the Parisian banlieue—or peri-urban ghetto—where he lived at the time. In the course of our wide-ranging discussion about French history and identity, part of the fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation, he told me that while it is possible for some immigrants to become “French,” that isn’t the case for everyone. “To actually be French, you have to forget yourself a little bit [and] adopt the behaviors that are imposed on us,” he said. “There is a path to follow to […]

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to right-wing opposition party members a day after a new government was sworn in, at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, June 14, 2021 (AP photo by Maya Alleruzzo).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Benjamin Netanyahu ruled Israel longer than any previous leader because he represented a powerful political consensus—one that opposed peace with Palestinians, supported settlement expansion and undermined democratic institutions and due process for Israelis. Much has rightly been made about Netanyahu’s personal corruption and lack of any […]

Protesters take part in a Campaign to Ban Killer Robots demonstration in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, Germany, March 21, 2019 (Photo by Wolfgang Kumm for dpa via AP Images).

In late May, news broke that a Turkish-made Kargu-2 drone had possibly taken action without the intervention or command of a human operator to hunt down, engage and possibly kill or injure human beings in the Libyan desert last year. The incident, described in a recent United Nations report, spurred a rash of media coverage and commentary along the lines of an Axios article, titled, “The Age of Killer Robots Has Already Begun.” Though some observers argue that what happened, as described by the U.N. report, is less serious than what the media is reporting, the event represents a watershed […]

A crowd of protesters in Algiers, Algeria, April 2, 2021 (AP photo by Fateh Guidoum).

On May 21, Algerian authorities arrested some 800 protesters who had gathered to decry continued economic hardship and political stagnation across the country. It was one of the regime’s most visible shows of force yet against the yearslong popular uprising—known as Hirak, Arabic for “movement”—which resumed weekly mass demonstrations in February after suspending activities for almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hirak activists first began organizing in 2019 to demand the resignation of then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but their demands quickly evolved to include calls for an overhaul of the political system. More recently, the protests have also been […]

People mainly from Morocco stand on the shore as the Spanish Army cordons off the area at the border of Morocco and Spain, at the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, May 18, 2021 (AP photo by Javier Fergo).

As it has unfolded over the past several years, the migration crisis linking Europe and Africa has revealed many facets. At its simplest, it is one of the worst ongoing human tragedies in the world today, but one that only commands the attention of a broad public under specific circumstances. One is when it is discovered that a large number of Africans have died at sea while trying to reach Europe, whether from thirst or after their boat capsizes. The other episodic way we learn about the fate of these desperate people is when their overloaded vessels are intercepted close […]

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