A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company,
near the southern Israeli town of Sapir, Aug. 24, 2021 (AP Photo/Sebastian
Scheiner).

The international trade in digital surveillance tools has long been controversial, particularly their sale to repressive governments that have allegedly used them to target dissidents and journalists. That controversy reached a new level last year, when a handful of Israeli cyber firms were accused of selling highly sophisticated spyware to authoritarian regimes. One firm, in particular, the NSO Group, became the focus of an international investigative consortium, composed of 17 leading media organizations, including the Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and Haaretz, as well as Amnesty International and a media nonprofit. The consortium’s dozens of articles detailing its investigation were further amplified […]

A woman holds up a banner during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Tunisia, April 10, 2022 (AP photo by Hassene Dridi).

In the fall of 2012, as Syria plunged into civil war and the Eurozone crisis generated panic across global markets, a parliamentary election in Ukraine signaled trouble ahead to those who were paying attention. The results that trickled out on Oct. 28, 2012, indicated that then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions had secured a strong position through dubious constitutional maneuvers and ballot manipulation. In the aftermath of the elections, Yanukovych’s corrupt and Russia-friendly clique tried to bend Ukraine to their whims. The simmering discontent among large parts of the population over Yanukovych’s power grab was the first escalation in political […]

An anti-government protester waves a Lebanese flag in front of a burning barricade on a road leading to the parliament building, Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

The events of recent years have made it increasingly clear that the assault on human rights and democracy in the West and the Middle East are not merely parallel phenomena—they are directly connected. As both regions experience an intense surge of authoritarianism as well as the resulting popular resistance to it, it’s imperative for sound analysis and policymaking to identify the dynamics linking today’s crises across national borders and geographic regions. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problems with exceptionalism and the limitations of regional frameworks, after decades of writing about the Middle East and U.S. policy there. And […]

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, attends World Government Summit at the Dubai Expo 2020, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 29, 2022 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Dubai’s Expo 2020, the international fair hosted in the United Arab Emirates, closed last month to rave reviews. The mega event, which was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic but retained its official name for marketing and branding purposes, ran from October 2021 to March 2022. In that time, it recorded more than 24 million visitors from more than 190 countries, according to the fair’s official website, with hundreds of millions more visiting virtually. That traffic reflects Dubai’s status as an emerging global hub between the Middle East and Europe on one hand, and Asia—particularly South Asia, from where more than a third […]

Armed Houthi fighters attend the funeral procession of Houthis who were killed in recent clashes with the Yemeni government, in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Earlier this month, the lead U.N. representative for Yemen announced a two-month cease-fire, the first major breakthrough since 2015 in the conflict between the Houthi rebels and Iran on the one side and the Yemeni government and its Gulf backers on the other. The news was a ray of hope in an otherwise unremittingly troubling international context. Or was it? Coming on the heels of the Taliban’s assumption of power in Afghanistan and the normalization of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, the cease-fire, which appears to be the product of Houthi advancement rather than international diplomacy, suggests that, in many cases, it […]

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 22, 2021 (Saudi Press Agency photo via AP).

April has been quite a dramatic month in Yemen, with the first major cease-fire reached between the government, the Houthis and other smaller combatant parties since the early stages of the war in 2015. Combined with a change in leadership among the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, the quieting of the guns, though temporary, could open a window of opportunity for resolving the conflict. But both developments also underscore the difficulty of ending a war that has resisted efforts to do so for years, with no relief in sight for the long-suffering civilians who are bearing most of its deadly cost. The […]

Workers work at Lusail Stadium, one of the 2022 World Cup stadiums, in Lusail, Qatar, Dec. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Last week, the draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup stoked the excitement of football fans worldwide. But it also reignited debates about the appropriateness of the event’s host, Qatar, which has frequently come under fire for human rights abuses. Gareth Southgate, the manager of the English national football team, reportedly hosted meetings with his current squad in order to discuss how the team could show its opposition to Qatar’s human rights abuses. Unsurprisingly, news of this meeting was poorly received by the CEO of the Qatari partnership that is organizing the tournament, Nasser al-Khater, who urged Southgate to “pick his words carefully.” Full disclosure: I […]

Bank customers hold up a defaced poster of Central Bank chief Riad Salameh, right, reading, “Stole my future,” in Arabic, during a protest in front of the Central Bank, Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

The lack of accountability can explain a lot of the worst behavior of state actors around the world. This is especially true in the Middle East, where elite impunity has been an ongoing driver of the cycles of conflict and destruction that have eviscerated the region in recent decades. And rarely is the connection between impunity and harm done by the state as clear as it is in Lebanon’s ongoing, epic economic meltdown. Since February, the symbol of that meltdown has been the head of Lebanon’s central bank, Riad Salameh, who is currently on the lam, fleeing the criminal charges […]

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi attends a press conference during the G-20 Compact with Africa, August 27, 2021 (DPA photo via AP Images).

At a virtual summit held Tuesday, the leaders of the East African Community’s member states approved the Democratic Republic of Congo’s admission into the bloc. Congo joins Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda as the trade bloc’s seventh member, giving a significant boost to the country’s trade and security prospects, as well as to regional and continental integration efforts. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who serves as the EAC’s rotating chairperson, described the occasion as “historic” for the bloc and the continent at large, pointing to its potential to increase trade and investment opportunities for the EAC’s citizens, while providing its […]