An All-Consuming Occupation

by Rebecca L. Stein | published June 26, 2012

On June 6, 2012, the Jerusalem Development Authority launched its fourth annual Jerusalem Festival of Light in the Old City. The previous year’s show had been a resounding success, according to sponsors quoted in the Jerusalem Post, with over 250,000 visitors enjoying “art installations bursting with light and 3-D movies splayed across the city’s ancient walls and buildings.” In 2011, the Muslim Quarter of the Old City was included within the festival’s purview for the first time, with Damascus Gate retooled as the backdrop for a massive video projection.

Libya's Restive Revolutionaries

by Nicolas Pelham | published June 1, 2012

Beneath a golden canopy lined with frilly red tassels and vaulted with chandeliers, hundreds of militiamen from across Libya gathered at a security base in Benghazi, the launch pad of their anti-Qaddafi revolution, at the end of April and called for another uprising. After a lunch of mutton and macaroni, a nod to their former Italian masters, one belligerent revolutionary after another took to the podium to lambast Libya’s would-be governors, the National Transitional Council (NTC). “Thuwwar (revolutionaries) of Libya unite!” cried the chairman, beseeching his fellows to reclaim the country from those who had stolen the revolution. These are no idle threats. My lunch companion from Jufra, one of Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s former garrison towns in central Libya, claimed to have 600 tanks under his command. If push came to shove, the militias could overpower the fledgling forces the NTC have at their disposal.

"Iran Will Require Assurances"

An Interview with Hossein Mousavian

by Aslı Bâli | published May 16, 2012

Hossein Mousavian has served as visiting research scholar at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security from 2009 to the present. Prior to this position, he held numerous positions in the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including director-general of its West Europe department and ambassador to Germany from 1990 to 1997. Ambassador Mousavian was also head of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran during both terms of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency (1997-2005). In this capacity, he served as spokesman of the Iranian nuclear negotiations team from 2003 to 2005.

War Returns to the Two Sudans

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers | published May 9, 2012

After weeks of escalating border violence and heated rhetoric, war has returned to the Sudans. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) formally ended 40 years of civil war between north and south Sudan, and paved the way for the creation of the Republic of South Sudan, Africa’s newest independent state. But the CPA was comprehensive in name only: It left details of border demarcation, economic cooperation and political reform unspecified and without mechanisms for enforcement. During the six years of shared government between north and south mandated by the CPA, little progress was made toward settling these issues; instead of encouraging cooperation, the arrangement functioned further to bifurcate political power in the hands of the agreement’s official partners, the National Congress Party (NCP) in the north and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south. The SPLM came to dominate a sovereign government following southerners’ vote to secede from the Khartoum-centered state in January 2011. Post-secession negotiations hosted in Addis Ababa have only inched along while both governments -- as well as their various allied militias -- have tried to use force to alter the facts on the ground.

Iranian Cyber-Struggles

by Narges Bajoghli | published May 3, 2012

From the Green Movement in Iran in 2009 through the Arab revolts that began in 2011, social media have held center stage in coverage of popular protest in the Middle East. Though the first flush of overwrought enthusiasm is long past, there is consensus that Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 applications, particularly on handheld devices, have been an effective organizing tool against the slower-moving security apparatuses of authoritarian states. The new technology has also helped social movements to tell their story to the outside world, unhindered by official news blackouts, unbothered by state censors and unfiltered by the traditional Western media.

"The AKP's 'New Kurdish Strategy' Is Nothing of the Sort"

An Interview with Selahattin Demirtas

by Jake Hess | published May 2, 2012

Selahattin Demirtaş is co-president of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party of Turkey (BDP), the fourth largest political party in the country. The BDP is not formally tied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been in armed conflict with the Turkish state since 1984, but it shares the PKK’s core political demands and the two groups likely have many supporters in common. As such, the BDP is a pivotal player in the search for peace.

In the Kingdom of Tear Gas

by Gregg Carlstrom | published April 13, 2012

The talk of Bahrain at present is talk -- the possible renewal of dialogue between the government and the opposition -- but the reality is that street protests, after simmering in outlying villages for months, have begun to heat up in the capital of Manama.

Syrian Kurdish Cards

by Denise Natali | published March 20, 2012

Upheaval in Syria has given Kurdish groups new opportunities to advance their nationalist agendas while serving as proxies for neighboring states. In Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has taken advantage of the rift between the regime of Bashar al-Asad and the Turkish government by turning to the former to help it launch its armed operations. In Iraq, after some delay, Kurdish elites have entered Syrian opposition politics as well, highlighting the ironies and internal tensions of their own position. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is keen to persuade Turkey, its key regional patron, that it can contain the PKK elements based in Iraqi territory and moderate Syrian Kurdish demands, while also assuring its Kurdish brethren that it will support their claims. And in Syria itself, Kurds have created the Kurdish National Council in parallel to the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC) -- a reaction to the possibility that the SNC will morph into a successor regime led by Muslim Brothers under Turkish influence.

Beyond the Fall of the Syrian Regime

by Peter Harling , Sarah Birke | published February 24, 2012

Syrians are approaching the one-year anniversary of what has become the most tragic, far-reaching and uncertain episode of the Arab uprisings. Since protesters first took to the streets in towns and villages across the country in March 2011, they have paid an exorbitant price in a domestic crisis that has become intertwined with a strategic struggle over the future of Syria.

The Myth of Israel's Liberal Supreme Court Exposed

by Jonathan Cook | published February 23, 2012

Little more than a decade ago, in a brief interlude of heady optimism about the prospects of regional peace, the Israeli Supreme Court issued two landmark rulings that, it was widely assumed, heralded the advent of a new, post-Zionist era for Israel. But with two more watershed judgments handed down over the winter of 2011-2012 the same court has decisively reversed the tide.

Bahrain's Sunni Awakening

by Justin Gengler | published January 17, 2012

Bahrain’s bout with political unrest is nearing its one-year anniversary. Though there are multiple parties to the protracted conflict, analysts continue to focus almost exclusively on a single dyad, Sunni vs. Shi‘i. To some, the ongoing mobilization of Bahraini Shi‘a since February 14, 2011 is a continuation of a decades-long struggle for basic social reform. To others, it is an opportunistic attempt at wholesale takeover of the country, supported in spirit if not in deed by foreign sympathizers. By either of these readings, the heart of the matter in Bahrain is the standoff between the Sunni state and the Shi‘i-led opposition. Many see the revolt on this small island as but a microcosm of the competition for regional dominance between the Arab Gulf monarchies and Iran, as well as their respective great power patrons.

Sightings of the Egyptian Deep State

by Issandr El Amrani | published January 1, 2012

The turbulence that has hit Egypt since mid-November seems, at first glance, mostly a testament to the poor performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in handling the transition away from the rule of Husni Mubarak. Having assumed power on February 10, the SCAF moved quickly to attain the stamp of popular legitimacy through a March 19 referendum on constitutional amendments. Since then, however, the conclave of generals has stumbled over the flawed logic of its own plan for the transition, as well as ad hoc decision making and a high-handed, dismissive attitude toward the new politics of the country. The SCAF’s plan, in brief, was to engineer a restoration of civilian rule that shielded the army’s political and economic prerogatives from civilian oversight, and perhaps bolstered those roles, yielding a system not unlike the “deep state” that prevailed for decades in Turkey. Such was the system in Egypt, in fact, under Mubarak.

Narrowing the Options on the Table

by Farideh Farhi | published December 8, 2011

Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister and former representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is not usually a sarcastic man. But he became one in early November following several days of leaks about the negative content of a pending IAEA report on Iran. “Marg yek bar, shivan yek bar,” he said, using an age-old Persian expression. Literally, the phrase means “You die once, you are mourned once,” but here it might be translated, “Get it over with.”

Egypt's Intense Election Eve

by Nate Wright | published November 10, 2011

Residents of Cairo’s Darb al-Ahmar neighborhood have gathered at a streetside café on a late October Friday night to get their first glimpse of a political party founded by revolutionary activists. Men play backgammon and sip from their glasses of tea as members of al-‘Adl, one of 35 new parties vying for a role in Egypt’s next government, rush to set up a table and microphone at the café entrance. The first round of parliamentary elections, scheduled to commence November 28, is only a month away, but the campaign season has just begun. In the eight months since widespread demonstrations and Egypt’s military leadership forced former President Husni Mubarak to flee to Sharm al-Sheikh, the country’s political class has been caught up in divisive battles over election laws, party alliances and timetables -- all complicated by the ruling military council’s thorough mishandling of the rocky transition. As a result, many parties have turned to electioneering with the sudden intensity of a student doing his homework on the morning ride to school. When it makes its debut at the Nasif café, al-‘Adl will be only the fourth party that Darb al-Ahmar residents have seen in their area. The others -- the Muslim Brothers, al-Wafd and al-Ghad -- are all Mubarak-era opposition parties with experience running in parliamentary elections.

Tunisia Moves to the Next Stage

by Issandr El Amrani , Ursula Lindsey | published November 8, 2011

Tunisia was the first Arab country to have a pro-democracy uprising in the winter of 2010-2011, and now it is the first to have held an election. Tunisians took to the polls on October 23 to choose a constituent assembly that will be tasked with drafting the country’s first democratic constitution and appointing a new transitional government. The elections were judged free and fair by a record number of domestic and foreign observers, testimony to the seriousness with which the interim government approached the poll. In the eyes of many observers, Tunisia is lighting the way forward where others -- notably Egypt -- are faltering.