Egyptian farmer Makhluf Abu Kassem, center, sits with farmers under the shade of a dried-up palm tree in Fayoum, Egypt, Aug. 5, 2020 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan has long been a hotbed of civil unrest and instability. In 1979, at the height of the Islamic Revolution led by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, segments of the province’s large minority Arab population led a violent push for autonomy. The oil-rich province on the border of Iraq was also at the center of the first major offensive in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. In 2005, a wave of bomb attacks set off by Arab separatists rocked Khuzestan’s provincial capital, Ahvaz. Six years later, in 2011, an Iranian government crackdown on protests inspired by […]

Candles lit by activists protesting the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are placed outside Saudi Arabia’s consulate, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 25, 2018 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

When FBI agents first showed up at Masih Alinejad’s Brooklyn home to warn her that she was the target of an Iranian state-backed kidnapping plot, she was incredulous at first. As a journalist and outspoken critic of the regime in Tehran, she is accustomed to threats and harassment. But the brazenness of the plot was startling. “What surprised me is the fact that the regime felt confident enough to resort to kidnapping me here, on American soil,” Alinejad told me in a direct message on Twitter. “I used to think I was safe here.”  According to an indictment unsealed earlier this month, […]

Candles on the graves of people killed during the Syrian war, in the town of Qamishli, Syria, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Baderkhan Ahmad).

Since 2011, Syria has been ravaged by a civil war that has seen numerous atrocities committed against its civilian population, including torture and war crimes. In the face of such abuses, there have repeatedly been calls for accountability. But how can perpetrators be held accountable, and by whom?  In criminal law, including international criminal law, the state is primarily responsible for seeking and carrying out justice. But the idea that the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad would hold credible trials—especially into his regime’s own conduct—is fantastical at best.  Another option, then, might be to seek accountability through the International Criminal […]

A man holds a banner showing the eyes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a protest against the government’s alleged use of powerful spyware to spy on opponents, Budapest, Hungary, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Anna Szilagyi).

Like picking up a rock in the garden, the NSO Pegasus spyware scandal exposes a repulsive world teaming with life in the muck and mire—so much so that it is tempting to put the stone back in place and pretend that world doesn’t exist. There are many layers to the story: the human cost, the murky ethics of selling powerful spy tools to states with poor human rights records, and the complexities of trying to regulate the global market for such software. They all point to a challenge that will be with us for some time, despite the popular outrage […]

Soldiers of the Tunisian army guard the entrance of the parliament building during a protest a day after Tunisian President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended the parliament, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Khaled Nasraoui).

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. Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament Sunday night and placed travel bans on opposition politicians. Reports quickly documented the usual authoritarian playbook: raids on journalists, threats to jail those who impugn the state, and a raft of edicts concentrating judicial, legislative and executive power in his own hands. Saied’s decisions […]

A nurse at Kenyatta National Hospital fills a syringe from a vial of the Covid-19 Covishield vaccine in Nairobi, Kenya, March 24, 2021 (AP photo by Robert Bonet).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. We are all in this together. COVID-19 is the great leveler. The pandemic knows no borders. Build back better together.  The coronavirus pandemic has yielded enough shopworn cliches to last an entire lifetime of Model United Nations speeches. Yet, nearly 18 months after Africa’s first recorded case […]

A screen displays a notice on an iPhone in New York, Oct. 29, 2019 (AP photo by Jenny Kane).

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. Explosive revelations this week from the Pegasus Project detailed the widespread use of the Pegasus surveillance software program by repressive governments and three democracies—Hungary, India and Mexico—to spy on their own citizen activists and journalists, but also on foreign journalists and even heads of government. The software, developed and sold by the Israeli […]

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, second from right, chairs the first weekly Cabinet meeting of his new government in Jerusalem, June 20, 2021 (pool photo by Emmanuel Dunand via AP).

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been in office for just over a month, but his government is moving quickly to set a new tone on foreign policy. Earlier this month, Bennett quietly visited Jordan on a mission to repair a relationship that had deteriorated under his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. At the same time, the new Israeli government is seeking to build on Netanyahu’s accomplishments, particularly the diplomatic normalization agreements with some Arab states, known as the Abraham Accords. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, Michael Koplow, policy director at the Israel Policy Forum, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman to […]

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, center, chairs the weekly Cabinet meeting as Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, looks on, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 19, 2021 (pool photo by Gil Cohen-Magen via AP).

Over the course of his 12 uninterrupted years as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu left a profound mark on Israel’s foreign policy. Since taking the reins from him last month, his successor, Naftali Bennett, has tried to capitalize on some of Netanyahu’s accomplishments—such as the diplomatic normalization agreements with Arab states that are known as the Abraham Accords—while also charting a new course when it comes to relations with traditional partners like the United States and Jordan. This week on Trend Lines, Michael Koplow, a WPR contributor who serves as policy director at the Israel Policy Forum, joins WPR’s Elliot Waldman […]

Mounds of rubble, remnants of the battle to retake the city three years ago from the Islamic State group, remain in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Samya Kullab).

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. MOSUL, Iraq—Last week, the inhabitants of Mosul observed the fourth anniversary of their city’s liberation from the Islamic State, in a cityscape scarred as much by the military operation to dislodge ISIS as by the rule of ISIS itself. The now-defunct caliphate, which governed Mosul from 2014 to 2017, still […]

The Red Sea port, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 14, 2020 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

On June 30, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, announced a wide-ranging National Transport and Logistics Strategy. Billed as a “key pillar” of Riyadh’s sweeping development blueprint known as Vision 2030, the strategy calls for $147 billion in investments over nine years, including plans for a second national airline and new logistics zones. The operator of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Gateway Terminal also plans to spend $1.7 billion to expand its main port in Jeddah and invest in at least three international ports—with each investment totaling some $500 million—over the next five years.  Sustaining such international partnerships will be critical if […]

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during a news conference at the Grand Palais Ephemere in Paris, May 17, 2021 (pool photo by Sarah Meyssonnier via AP Images).

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok didn’t mince words about his country’s future during a press conference last month, putting his concerns about the growing tensions between the civilian and military sides of the fragile transitional government in existential terms. “The big question today is will Sudan exist or not exist,” he said. The week before, Hamdok delivered a rare televised address in which he warned the country could fall into civil war between multiple armed groups and different factions of the Sudanese military.  The alarming remarks come at a pivotal time for Sudan, which next month will mark the second […]

The border fence that separates Spain, left, and Morocco, right, as seen from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, June 3, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

CEUTA, Spain—In March 2020, Morocco closed its land borders around Spain’s North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, citing the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They have remained closed since, and with no indication of when they might reopen amid diplomatic tensions between Spain and Morocco, the two enclaves have been forced to confront their dependency on a newly assertive Morocco and come up with a radically different economic model. The economic picture in the enclaves, each of which hosts some 85,000 residents, has rarely been pretty. Today, about half the salaried workers in each are employed by […]

Pakistani activists take part in an International Women’s Day rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Oct. 9, 2020 (AP photo by K.M. Chaudhry).

Of the many injustices in the contemporary world, modern slavery is among the most shocking. The trade in humans is a worldwide phenomenon. It spans the poorest and wealthiest countries and is deeply embedded in global supply chains. This is not only an ethical outrage but a threat to international security, prosperity, good governance and development. As the world seeks to “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic, it must tackle the scourge of human bondage. Slavery is one of the oldest human institutions, and it remains stubbornly persistent. The global abolitionist movement, which originated in the late 18th century, […]

Demonstrators light candles to mark the first anniversary of the anti-government protests in Basra, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2020 (AP photo by Nabil al-Jurani).

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. KARBALA, Iraq—Iraq’s weak democracy has fallen under direct threat from internal militias, and its economy and infrastructure have reached a breaking point. The country’s political system—a makeshift workaround to manage persistent ethno-sectarian divisions—seems unable to make even the slightest course correction. Is it about to unravel? And if it does, […]

Supporters of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami at a rally against the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas, in Peshawar, Pakistan, April 23, 2011 (AP photo by Mohammad Sajjad).

On June 30, a coalition of 100 NGOs delivered a concise letter to the office of President Joseph Biden demanding “an end to the unlawful program of lethal strikes outside any recognized battlefield, including through the use of drones.” The letter arrived at an important political and symbolic juncture, just as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, initially scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, was nearing completion. The attacks of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan that followed kicked off the massive expansion of America’s military footprint abroad, from which the drone program emerged and grew. […]

African leaders pose for a group photo at the opening session of the 33rd African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

One of the most important problems in modern African history is also among the most widely misunderstood. For decades, both journalists and scholars have lamented that Africa’s borders were drawn up by outside powers, beginning with Europe’s so-called Scramble for Africa, between 1881 and World War I. This threw all sorts of linguistically, religiously and politically disparate groups into newly formed colonies and, soon afterward, new African nations, in which they were suddenly forced to try to get along together in the task of building independent republics. The mistake in this logic isn’t that these things didn’t happen. If one […]