Learning from the Past in the Iranian Nuclear Dispute

by Tytti Erästö | published April 16, 2014

The controversy over the Iranian nuclear program is in many ways a product of the US-Iranian conflict. The United States and Iran are in the grip of mutual negative perceptions that, in turn, have been reinforced by the escalatory dynamics of the nuclear dispute. After years of seeming diplomatic deadlock, these dynamics suddenly changed for the better in the autumn of 2013. The positive trends culminated in November, when Iran agreed with the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, the so-called P5+1, on a confidence-building deal known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Given the record of diplomatic non-achievement, the deal is a historic development.

Refugee 101

Palestinians in Lebanon Show Refugees from Syria the Ropes

by Sarah E. Parkinson | published April 3, 2014

Crossing the border at Masna‘, al-‘Abboudiyya or Mashari‘ al-Qa‘a, Syrian refugees entering Lebanon face an immediate choice: Stay in the tented settlements in the north and the Bekaa Valley or make their way to coastal cities such as Beirut and Sidon. Their experiences will vary greatly depending on the choice they make. The tented settlements are exposed to the elements, lack privacy and have virtually no job opportunities, but are accessible to aid providers. By contrast, refugees from Syria often have family connections in the coastal cities. Though Beirut and Sidon are expensive and crowded, there are more varied accommodations, schooling options and limited chances for employment.

Saudis' Mass Expulsions Putting Somalis in Danger

by Laetitia Bader , Adam Coogle | published March 18, 2014

In 2013, Mohamed, a 22-year old Somali, was making a living washing cars in Saudi Arabia. Late that year, due to increasing government pressure on employers of undocumented workers, he was fired. In December, after several weeks without a job, Mohamed handed himself over to the police. He spent the next 57 days detained in appalling conditions. “In the first detention center in Riyadh, there was so little food, we fought over it,” he said. “So the strongest ate the most. Guards told us to face the wall and then beat our backs with metal rods. In the second place, there were two toilets for 1,200 people, including dozens of children.” Mohamed is now in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

The Battle Over Higher Education in Iran

by Mohammad Ali Kadivar | published February 20, 2014

The educated middle class that played an influential role in electing Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian presidency in June 2013 is anxious to see his promises of “prudence and hope” fulfilled. One area that Rouhani’s administration is expected to reform is higher education, which was targeted for political and intellectual purges under the hardline conservative administrations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

(No) Dialogue in Bahrain

by Toby Matthiesen | published February 13, 2014

In the run-up to the third anniversary of the Bahraini uprising on February 14, 2011, mass protests with tens of thousands of participants again engulfed the small kingdom. At the same time, a number of contacts between the opposition and the royal family sparked hopes of renewed high-level negotiations leading to the resolution of the long-standing conflict.

Collective Frustration, But No Collective Action, in Qatar

by Justin Gengler | published December 7, 2013

In late June 2013, as neighboring Arab states continued their struggles against popular pressure for political reform or regime change, the Gulf emirate of Qatar undertook its own, voluntary transfer of power. Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, patriarch of modern Qatar, appeared on state television to name as successor his 33-year old son, Sheikh Tamim. The outgoing leader was hobbled by serious health problems, it was said, and in any case most observers agreed that a recalibration of Qatar’s domestic and international agendas was perhaps just what the doctor ordered.

Handshakes in Geneva

by The Editors | published November 30, 2013

Everyone is happy with the interim agreement reached with Iran in Geneva on November 23 -- that is, everyone who really wants to defuse the tensions over Iran’s nuclear research program.

Breaking Point

The Crisis of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

by Omar S. Dahi | published September 25, 2013

One of the many plot lines lost in the summertime discussions of a US strike on Syria is the pace of refugee movement out of the country. As it stands, the refugee crisis is overwhelming and likely to stay that way. Another external military intervention would further accelerate the mass flight and exacerbate what is already a humanitarian emergency.

Egyptian Workers After June 30

by Joel Beinin | published August 23, 2013

The independent labor movement that has flourished in Egypt since the ouster of former president Husni Mubarak enthusiastically supported the Tamarrud (Rebel) campaign for the huge June 30 demonstrations asserting a popular vote of no confidence in President Muhammad Mursi. The Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), Egypt’s most experienced (and during the 1990s only) labor-oriented NGO, claims to have gathered 200,000 signatures for the Tamarrud petition through its six regional offices.

An "Electoral Uprising" in Iran

by Kevan Harris | published July 19, 2013

“Last night I sat in traffic with my wife and daughters for three hours,” a Tehran office manager recounted, “and the car did not move one meter.” The day before, Iranians had chosen Hassan Rouhani as the Islamic Republic’s seventh president. “All the cars honked their horns, and people danced and celebrated next to us in the streets.” The last time the manager had beheld such a scene was in June of 2009. “Four years ago I was also in my car with my wife and daughters, and traffic did not move, and cars were honking. But that time security men on motorbikes rode through the street smashing windows with their batons.” The contentious events of 2009 not only ensured four more years for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the president’s office but were also heralded as signaling the death of reformist politics in Iran. Yet as another presidential election approached, the three-decade political improvisation called the Islamic Republic once again went off script.

Egypt in Year Three

by The Editors | published July 10, 2013

Was the gathering of millions in Egypt on June 30 the continuation of a revolution or the occasion for a coup d’état? The answer is “both,” but the question is not the right one to ask.

The Syrian Crisis in Jordan

by Matthew Hall | published June 24, 2013

An hour and a quarter north of Amman the rural highway rolls through the remote desert hamlet of Zaatari without slowing. The town’s lone intersection is too sleepy to need a stop sign.

In Search of the Building Blocks of Opposition in Turkey

by Joseph Logan | published June 10, 2013

In early May, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- flush with a decade of electoral triumphs and a track record of economic growth dwarfing that of the European Union he once vowed to join -- had the luxury of being magnanimous.

Syria's Disabled Future

by Edward Thomas | published May 14, 2013

Jamal is not yet a teenager. His school closed in 2011, soon after the Syrian revolution turned into an armed conflict, and his father found him a factory job. One day in 2012 as he returned from work there was a battle going on in the main street near his home. Jamal immediately started carrying wounded children smaller than he is to shelter in a mosque. Then Syrian army reinforcements arrived, clearing the streets with gunfire and hitting Jamal in the spine. The youngsters who took him to the hospital advised him to say that “terrorists” had caused his injury. But Jamal did not want to lie -- he told the doctors that a soldier had fired the bullet. The doctors told him to shut up and say it was the terrorists. But they treated him anyway.

The Syrian Heartbreak

by Peter Harling , Sarah Birke | published April 16, 2013

There was a distinctive sense of national pride in Syria. It flowed from the confidence of a civilization dating back to the times of the earliest alphabets and visible in the country’s wealth of archaeological sites, including some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It came from the depth of local culture. It stemmed from the music of Syrian Arabic, the elegance of Syrian manners, the finesse of Syrian cuisine and the sincerity of Syrian hospitality. It proceeded from modern geopolitics, too, as Damascus carved out for itself a role bigger and bolder than its scarce resources should have allowed.