Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Emirati National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan before a meeting in Ankara, Aug. 18, 2021 (Turkish Presidency photo via AP).

This time last year, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey appeared to be on opposing sides of a range of issues spanning the broader Middle East and North Africa region. But recently, leaders from the two countries have started to talk again. Concerns in 2019 and 2020 that a regional “cold war” pitting Emirati and Turkish interests against each other in Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Horn of Africa and even the Caucasus have given way to a thawing of relations. The shift in approach by Abu Dhabi toward deescalating regional points of tension is part of a broader effort […]

Tunisian demonstrators gather outside the Municipal Theater of Tunis during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

It’s a bitter irony that the last embers of the Arab Spring may be snuffed out in the same place, Tunisia, where a spark first ignited massive pro-democracy fires across a region filled with dictatorships. Tunisians, at least some of them, seem to be stirring from their jaded acceptance of a presidential coup. Still, the one country that emerged from the Arab uprisings with a semblance of democracy looks like it’s returning to what was the norm before the revolutions it unleashed in 2010. Last Sunday, thousands of people turned out to protest in the Tunisian capital, where President Kais Saied, […]

Protesters burn representations of Israeli flags during a demonstration in support of Palestinians in Gaza, Baghdad, Iraq, May 15, 2021 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

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.  Iraqis will vote on Oct. 10 for a new parliament at a time when the country faces uncertainties about a host of crises, from the resurgence of the Islamic State terror group and the looting of the country’s treasury by corrupt militias to the future of […]

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks duringing a parliamentary session to confirm the new government, in Beirut, Sept. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

BEIRUT—After 13 months of political paralysis, Lebanon finally has a new government, the first since former Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned along with his entire Cabinet after the Beirut port explosion of August 2020, which killed over 200 and devastated the capital city.  The new administration is led by Lebanon’s richest man, billionaire Najib Mikati, who previously served as prime minister from 2011 to 2014, and for several months on an interim basis in 2005. He was sworn in earlier this month, and his government received a vote of confidence in Parliament on Monday.  His government is technocratic, its ministers […]

The World Bank building, Washington, April 5, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

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. Last week, the World Bank Group announced its decision to end publication of the Doing Business report, its flagship annual publication that rates the business environment of countries around the world, after a probe concluded that senior World Bank management pressured staff to alter data affecting the […]

Turkish security forces apprehend a group of migrants in an operation aimed at stemming the recent influx of migration, in Van, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

In July, British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the U.K. had agreed to pay France roughly $72 million to fund border personnel and equipment that would be used to stop asylum-seekers from crossing the English Channel. The deal came amid a dramatic rise in the number of channel crossings. In the first half of 2021, more than 8,000 asylum-seekers completed the voyage to land on England’s southern shore. The deal with France was controversial, including within Patel’s own Conservative Party. Noting that this was the second such payment to France in the past year, Tim Loughton, a leading Conservative […]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani upon his arrival at the Red Sea city of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, May 10, 2021 (AP photo by Bandar Aljaloud).

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. Talking is good, but how much should expectations and hopes be raised now that Middle East rivals are talking without necessarily putting a pause on their disputes?  Friday saw the unveiling of a new “public display of diplomacy” in the broader region when an aide to […]

A logo for British American Tobacco on a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 24, 2017 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

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.  British American Tobacco, one of the United Kingdom’s largest companies, has been accused of paying bribes to the notoriously corrupt former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. The allegations come amid a number of other reports of Western multinational corporations allegedly engaging in questionable conduct on the African […]

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Almost everything about the conventional narrative of the history of Europe’s Age of Exploration and Empire is wrong, particularly where it concerns the role of Africa and Africans. Africa was a central focus of the early period of European exploration in the late 15th century and continued to be central to the plantation economies established in the European colonies of the Americas. And without the labor of enslaved Africans, none of those economies would have been as profitable, or as transformational, as they were. Howard French joined WPR’s Judah Grunstein this week on Trend Lines to discuss his fifth and […]

Russian and Syrian flags fly over a damaged building in the southern city of Deraa, Syria, Sept. 12, 2021 (AP photo).

For much of the Syrian civil war, the southern city of Deraa and the surrounding Houran Plains, an agricultural region near the Jordanian border, were divided between government forces and armed rebels. Fighting raged back and forth, killing thousands. It was not until Russia backed a government offensive in 2018 that the situation changed in earnest. That year, Moscow brokered a series of agreements with rebel factions that brought the area back under loose government control.  This summer, fighting returned to Deraa—the epicenter of the initial 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that sparked the civil war—when government forces moved to […]

Detail from the Catalan Atlas, a medieval map produced in the 1370s, depicting Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire (Bibliotheque Nationale de France, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

The history of Europe’s Age of Exploration and Empire usually follows a familiar narrative. Starting in the late 15th century, European explorers set out to find maritime trade routes to the lucrative spice and textile markets of Asia. Happening by chance upon the “New World” of the Americas, they quickly established colonies whose wealth, mainly in the form of gold and silver, combined with advances in military technology, propelled what would become known as the West to centuries of global dominance that has only begun to wane today. In this narrative, Africa and Africans are all but invisible, except as […]

Taliban fighters outside Kabul University, in Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2021 (AP Photo by Bernat Armangue).

No one in the Iranian government was sad to see U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan. In fact, Tehran would prefer to have the Taliban next-door than often-hostile Western powers. But Shiite-majority Iran has also been a target of attacks in the past from the Sunni Islamist Taliban, and it worries that if Afghanistan descends into chaos, it could negatively affect Iran’s ability to exert influence and trade with its neighbor—or worse, that the volatility could spill over into Iran. Tehran will have to pull off a delicate balancing act if it’s to benefit from the U.S. and NATO withdrawal.  […]

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati arrives at a Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 13, 2021 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which includes a look at the week’s top stories from and about the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. The long-suffering people of Lebanon might finally have some good news on the horizon. A new government finally has been formed and, critically, the International Monetary Fund will replenish Lebanon’s nearly empty foreign reserves on Thursday, depositing $1.13 billion in IMF Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, in […]

A test of the Tribute in Light rises above lower Manhattan, Sept. 6, 2011 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

Twenty years ago, a major terrorist attack against the U.S. homeland shocked a country many imagined to be as indispensable as it was exceptional. Today, it seems almost fitting that the United States should mark the 20th anniversary of that attack under the shock of the ignominious end to the intervention in Afghanistan. Whether shock will be enough to prompt a reckoning with the mistakes of the past 20 years, though, is far from certain.  That reckoning is necessary, because if the interminable global war on terror that followed 9/11 prevented another terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland, it did so […]

Election officials wait for voters inside a polling station, in Rabat, Morocco, Sept. 8, 2021 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

Wednesday’s legislative elections in Morocco delivered a crushing defeat to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or PJD, a moderate Islamist party that had been the largest in Parliament since 2011. Thanks in part to mandatory quotas for female representation, the new crop of lawmakers is on track to be more diverse, with a greater number of women, as well as young people. But it will also be more deeply fragmented, and with royalist parties emerging as the victors of the vote, the incoming Parliament is unlikely to pose any meaningful challenge to King Mohammed VI, who controls nearly all […]