Fissures in Hizballah's Edifice of Control

by Mona Harb , Lara Deeb | published October 30, 2012

On August 15, Beirut awoke to the news that more than 20 alleged members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had been captured by a group calling itself “the military wing of the al-Miqdad family.” The group had sent footage to the al-Mayadin television network, which was quickly picked up by other local and international channels. In the clip, men dressed in camouflage and black ski masks, and gripping Kalashnikovs, surrounded two prisoners seated in a dark room. A man with his back to the camera posed questions to the prisoners, who replied that they worked for the FSA, on orders from Khalid al-Dahir, a Lebanese parliamentarian affiliated with the Future Movement, the Sunni-majority political party led by Saad al-Hariri.

A Separation at Iranian Universities

by Nazanin Shahrokni , Parastou Dokouhaki | published October 18, 2012

On August 6, with the new academic year approaching, the government-backed Mehr News Agency in Iran posted a bulletin that 36 universities in the country had excluded women from 77 fields of study. The reported restrictions aroused something of an international uproar.

Egyptian Politics Upended

by Mona El-Ghobashy | published August 20, 2012

When he took office on June 30, President Muhammad Mursi of Egypt looked to have been handed a poisoned chalice. The ruling generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had tolerated a clean presidential election but then had hollowed out the presidency, saddling Mursi with an executive’s accountability but little of the corresponding authority. The country resigned itself to the grim reality of dual government, with an elected civilian underdog toiling in the shadow of mighty military overlords. Then, just over a month later, Mursi turned the tables, dismissing Egypt’s top generals and taking back the powers they had usurped. The power play crystallizes the new dynamic of Egyptian politics: the onset of open contestation for the Egyptian state.

Tripoli's Troubles to Come

by Maren Milligan | published August 13, 2012

Tripoli is the epicenter of a high-stakes conflict unfolding in Lebanon. In 2012 alone, armed clashes have erupted six times, in mid-February, thrice in May, again in early June and most recently in late July, between Sunnis and ‘Alawis there. The firefights in Lebanon’s second city, a port town of some 500,000 on a head of land jutting from the northern coast, have added to fears stoked by the proximity of the increasingly lethal civil war in Syria. The three days of battles in May left 11 dead; the July skirmishes took two more lives, and have put the population on edge.

Ordering Egypt's Chaos

by Joshua Stacher | published June 29, 2012

To the left of a makeshift stage in a Cairo five-star hotel, the waiting continued. Ahmad Shafiq, the last prime minister of the deposed Husni Mubarak and one of two remaining candidates in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak presidential race, was three hours late. Fewer than 60 hours were left until voting was to start in the June 16-17 runoff. But the atmosphere, beside the burgundy backdrop with its decorative maple leafs flanking the podium, felt more like a garden-variety junket than a last-minute campaign stop. It was not clear why Shafiq would choose on this of all days to address the Egyptian-Canadian Business Council.

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.