Egypt's Bloody Sunday

by Mariz Tadros | published October 13, 2011

At first, it looked like a repeat of the worst state brutality during the January 25 uprisings that unseated the ex-president of Egypt, Husni Mubarak: On Sunday, October 9, security forces deployed tear gas, live bullets and armored vehicles in an effort to disperse peaceful protesters in downtown Cairo. Joined by Muslim sympathizers, thousands of Coptic Christians had gathered that afternoon in front of the capital’s state television and radio building, known as Maspero, and in many other parts of Egypt, to protest the burning of a church in the Upper Egyptian village of al-Marinab. A few days earlier, their initial demonstrations had also been met with violence.

The Middle Powers Amid the Arab Revolts

by Imad Mansour | published September 29, 2011

The UN Security Council has been a key arbiter of international action regarding the upheavals in the Arab world in 2011. In late February, the Council issued Resolution 1970 calling for an “immediate end to the violence” in Libya, imposing sanctions and an arms embargo, and asking the International Criminal Court to investigate the regime of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. Less than a month later, on March 17, the Council passed Resolution 1973 authorizing NATO “to take all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, leading to Qaddafi’s eventual fall from power. In late September, the Security Council will also take up the request of Palestinian leader Mahmoud ‘Abbas for full UN membership for a state of Palestine.

As If There Is No Occupation

The Limits of Palestinian Authority Strategy

by Nu'man Kanafani | published September 22, 2011

For many months, the streets of downtown Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority (PA), have literally been heaps of earth. Workers have labored intensively to replace water and sewage pipes, repave roads, lay beautiful carved stones at roadsides and install thick chains along the edges of sidewalks in order to better separate pedestrian and automotive traffic. Shopkeepers have been told to reduce the size of their storefront signs; specially designed electricity poles jut skyward. Not every town resident is impressed. As they navigate the mounds of dirt, cynics joke: “The PA is covering the road to self-determination in asphalt.” “We have the sewers; all that’s left is the sovereignty.” “The streets of Ramallah are paved with white stones -- who needs Jerusalem?”

The Question of Palestine in Miniature

by The Editors | published September 16, 2011

The countdown to September 23 has begun. On that day, if he does not renege on his September 16 speech, Mahmoud ‘Abbas will present a formal request for full UN membership for a state of Palestine. The UN Security Council, which must approve such requests, will not do so, because the United States will act upon its repeated vows to exercise its veto. And then?

Libya, the Colonel's Yoke Lifted

by Nicolas Pelham | published September 7, 2011

Half an hour’s drive east of Tripoli, a solitary interim government soldier peers through binoculars, scouring Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s hunting ranch -- known as the farms -- for signs of life. Detritus of war litters the savannah, the remains of recent fighting as Qaddafi’s forces fled east from the Libyan capital to their strongholds in the center of the country. Flies swarm around parts of bodies dismembered when a NATO bomb flattened the colonel’s Moorish villa, replete with its nests for hawks. Wooden cases are strewn amidst the olive trees; all the boxes are empty, save two that house unused heat-seeking missiles six feet long. The cages of the predatory animals raised for hunting lie open, and the anti-Qaddafi fighter seems as concerned by their escape as their owner’s.

The Evolution of Kurdish Politics in Syria

by Christian Sinclair , Sirwan Kajjo | published August 31, 2011

Over the weekend of July 16-17, representatives of the opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad met in Istanbul to choose a “National Salvation Council.” Among the diverse attendees were delegates speaking for Syria’s Kurds, the largest ethnic minority in the country at more than 2 million people, some 10 percent of the population. All of the multiple Kurdish parties in Syria envision a pluralistic state in which their cultural and linguistic rights are recognized. Those at the Istanbul gathering wanted the name of the country changed from the Syrian Arab Republic to the “Republic of Syria.” When the other delegates at the conference refused this request, these Kurds walked out in protest.

Of "Instructors" and Interests in Iraq

by Reidar Visser | published August 22, 2011

The Obama administration repeatedly declares that it is “on track” to withdraw all US military forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, in keeping with candidate Barack Obama’s signature promise to “end the war in Iraq.” But, even as the White House avows this intention, policymakers in Washington repeatedly express their hope that the Iraqi government will ask some US troops, perhaps 10,000 or more, to stay past December. In an ideal world, US strategists would like the Iraqis to decide to extend the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in late 2008, which provides legal cover for the US military presence in post-invasion Iraq. A series of summertime developments in Iraq have now made it clear that no such straightforward extension is forthcoming.

Syria's Torment

by The Editors | published August 10, 2011

There are two political-intellectual prisms through which the recurrent conflagrations of the modern Middle East are conventionally seen. One casts the region’s stubborn ills as internally caused -- by the outsize role of religion in public life, the persistence of primordial identities like sect and tribe, and the centuries-long accretion of patriarchal norms. The other espies the root of all evils in external interference, from European colonialism to the creation of Israel and assorted ventures of the imperial United States.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Arab Awakening

by Joel Beinin | published August 1, 2011

The March 15 Youth Movement, whose name comes from demonstrations held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that day to demand unity between Fatah and Hamas, is the most direct Palestinian expression of the “Arab awakening” of 2010-2011. The next day, March 16, Fatah’s leader, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, announced his willingness to travel to Gaza to conduct unity talks with Hamas. A reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo on May 4.

Pakistan, the Army and the Conflict Within

by Pervez Hoodbhoy , Zia Mian | published July 12, 2011

Pakistan’s generals are besieged on all sides. Like never before, they are at odds with their own rank and file. According to the New York Times, the discontent with the top brass is so great as to evoke concerns of a colonels’ coup. The army also is losing support from its domestic political allies and subject to the increasing hostility of the Pakistani public. The generals are even at risk of being dumped by their oldest and most generous supporter, the United States.

Weighing Morocco's New Constitution

by Paul Silverstein | published July 5, 2011

2011 has been a year of unprecedented political tumult in Morocco. As neighboring North African regimes collapsed under the weight of popular pressure, demonstrators have convened in Moroccan cities as well, naming their uprising after the day of their largest initial gathering, February 20, and calling for greater democracy.

The Fateful Choice

by The Editors | published May 6, 2011

When 19 al-Qaeda hijackers attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the United States faced a strategic dilemma that was unique in magnitude, but not in kind. Terrorists had killed numerous civilians before, in the US and elsewhere, with and without state sponsorship. Al-Qaeda was not the first non-state actor to present no coherent demands alongside its propaganda of the deed or to have no single fixed address. Nor were Americans the first victims of unprovoked terrorist assault to set aside political differences, at least for a time, in search of a unified self-defense.

No Exit

Yemen's Existential Crisis

by Sheila Carapico | published May 3, 2011

A venal dictatorship three decades old, mutinous army officers, dissident tribal sheikhs, a parliamentary opposition coalition, youthful pro-democracy activists, gray-haired Socialists, gun-toting cowboys, veiled women protesters, northern carpetbaggers, Shi‘i insurgents, tear gas canisters, leaked State Department cables, foreign-born jihadis—Yemen’s demi-revolutionary spring has it all. The mass uprising in southern Arabia blends features of the peaceful popular revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia with elements of the state repression in Libya and Syria in a gaudy, fast-paced, multi-layered theater of revolt verging on the absurd.

The Reawakening of Nahda in Tunisia

by Graham Usher | published April 30, 2011

Casbah Square in Tunis has the feel of the morning after. Strewn around the plaza are the odd, drooping Tunisian flag and other relics of the mass demonstrations that forced the fall of the ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January and then two “interim governments” deemed too closely associated with his regime. There are still a few protests in the Tunisian capital. But they are no longer transformative of the political order. They are small, sectional, partisan -- almost routine.

The Colonel, the Rebels and the Heavenly Arbiter

by Nicolas Pelham | published April 20, 2011

To the average American, the NATO intervention in Libya may look like another Iraq: another US-led adventure aiming to dislodge a would-be totalitarian Middle Eastern state with lots of oil and sand. The topography of the two countries is similar: The land is flat and parched, and the architecture dun and unloved. Even the terminology sounds the same, with the “no-fly zone” subject to “mission creep” that is rapidly turning its goal into “regime change.”