After more than nine months of deadlock following parliamentary elections last year, Iraq appears to be on the verge of forming a government. The Coordination Framework, a parliamentary bloc that includes Iran-backed Shiite militias, has nominated Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as its candidate for prime minister. The nomination of al-Sudani by the Shiite bloc could thread the needle, as analyst Hamzeh Haddad writes, by producing an Iraqi government stable enough to make tough but necessary policy decisions, but not so polarizing as to spark a renewed round of civil conflict between rival Shiite camps.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s “summer of diplomacy” continued last week, this time with stops in the Middle East, where he visited two long-term U.S. regional partners, Israel and Saudi Arabia. But unlike recent stops in the German Alps for the annual G-7 meeting or in Madrid for the NATO leaders’ summit, Biden’s meetings in Riyadh, in particular, generated a great deal of criticism and even opprobrium. Ahead of the trip, critics had warned that visiting Saudi Arabia went directly against Biden’s campaign promise to no longer give the kingdom a “blank check” when it comes to its human rights record. […]
Last week, 13 African heads of state and government attended the African Union’s Mid-Year Coordination Meeting, the principal forum for the AU and Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, or RECs, to align their priorities and coordinate implementation of the continental integration agenda. This year’s meeting, the fourth since the format was launched in 2017 to replace a mid-year leaders’ summit, was focused on issues like the status of regional integration in Africa; the division of labor between the AU, its member states and RECs; a tripartite free trade agreement between the East African Community, The Common Market for Eastern and Southern […]
On July 5, Algeria celebrated the 60th anniversary of its independence with a military parade in the capital city, Algiers, complete with tanks, helicopters and missile launchers, moving along roads lined with the national flag. The event was meant to celebrate a pivotal day in 1962, when the country officially bucked French colonial rule after fighting a brutal, eight-year war of liberation. But for many, the vision of military hardware parading across the capital that sunny, summer day served instead as a reminder of all that has gone wrong since independence. According to Mourad Ouchichi, a professor of political science […]
Three days after U.S. President Joe Biden returned to Washington from a controversial visit to Saudi Arabia, Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Tehran with a complex set of goals of his own. Much like Biden, who aimed to strengthen Washington’s ties in the region, Putin sought to bolster Russia’s relations in the Middle East. The meeting in Iran showcased the awkward relationship between these two dictatorial regimes and their oil-rich nations, both of which have been subjected to Western economic sanctions. By embracing one another, Putin and Iran’s supreme leader aimed to show that they are not pariahs.
Two weeks ago, I returned to Beirut for my first visit to Lebanon since an economic crash transformed the country into a perverse lab experiment on the limits of human tolerance for completely avoidable privation and abusive governance. The human impact of the crisis, which began in October 2019, has been thoroughly chronicled, but it’s still stunning to see it in person. Every individual and household in the country runs a daily obstacle course to secure what food, fuel and medicine is available. Meanwhile, the ultra-rich continue to live in style, packing into clubs and luxury shops in full view […]
U.S. President Joe Biden made his first presidential trip to the Middle East this week, stopping in Israel for a three-day visit that was refreshingly uncontroversial, before heading on to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that has raised hackles in Washington since it was announced several weeks ago. The contrasting atmospherics of the two legs of Biden’s trip serve to underscore how much has changed in the region in recent years, but also paradoxically how much has stayed the same. Coming a year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, […]
I had planned this week to write about my impressions of Beirut from my first visit there in more than three years. But I’ll save that for next week’s newsletter, because U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the Middle East is screaming out for corrective analysis. The problem with the trip is not so much the fact of its occurrence, but the framing of its purpose by U.S. officials, which appears to be based on an outmoded understanding of how foreign influence works in the region’s functional but eroding system of states. Biden is scheduled to make stops in […]
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, was dissolved last Thursday, triggering new elections in November that will be the country’s fifth in four years. The elections, which extend an unprecedented streak of instability in Israel’s electoral politics, became inevitable after the coalition government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett lost its razor-thin majority a little over a year after it took office. Billed as the “government of change,” the unwieldy coalition that Bennett helmed comprised parties from across the political spectrum, held together only by the common interest of unseating Bennett’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Netanyahu was a decisive figure […]
International condemnation is growing against Morocco and Spain as more details emerge about the violent deaths of at least 37 migrants during an attempt last week to cross Morocco’s border with the Spanish enclave of Melilla. According to media reports, more than 2,000 people attempted to enter the enclave from the Moroccan city of Nador. Moroccan authorities initially claimed that the migrants died in a stampede or as a result of falling from the high, barbed-wire fence that separates Melilla from Moroccan territory. But human rights groups threw cold water on those claims, and video footage quickly emerged and circulated on […]