Jordan's Risky Business As Usual

by Jillian Schwedler | published June 30, 2010

Political reformers in Jordan are struck by a sense of déjà vu. Jordan has been parliament-free since November 2009, when King ‘Abdallah II dissolved the legislature for not moving fast enough on his program of economic reform. The deputies had yet served even half of their four-year terms. Since then, a hastily assembled rump cabinet has been publishing its own laws, largely the very measures championed by the king but rejected or stalled by the last legislature. The king has done this before; for two years between 2001-2003, Jordan was without an elected assembly, during which time the cabinet introduced more than 200 “temporary laws.”

The Green Movement Awaits an Invisible Hand

by Mohammad Maljoo | published June 26, 2010

It is the custom of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to devise a name for each Persian new year when it arrives. On Nowruz of the Persian year 1388, which fell in March 2009 Gregorian time, he proclaimed “the year of rectifying consumption patterns.” But Iranians would not be content to mark 1388 simply with thrift. That year of the Persian calendar turned out to be the most politically tumultuous since the revolution that toppled the Shah, as the loosely constituted Green Movement mounted massive street protests against election fraud.

Grave Injustice

Maher Arar and Unaccountable America

by Lisa Hajjar | published June 24, 2010

On June 14, the Supreme Court buried the prospect of justice for Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin who was “extraordinarily rendered” by the United States (via Jordan) to Syria in 2002. Arar was suing the US officials who authorized his secret transfer, without charge, to a country infamous for torture. With the justices’ 22-word statement, the case of Arar v. Ashcroft exited the American legal system and entered the annals of American legal history under the category “grave injustice.” Alphabetically, Arar precedes Dred Scott v. Sanford, which upheld slavery, and Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the internment of Japanese Americans. In this case, however, the grave is literal: Arar spent ten months of his year in Syrian custody confined in what he describes as “an underground grave.”

Israel's Palestinian Minority Thrown Into a Maelstrom

by Jonathan Cook | published June 16, 2010

The first reports of Israel’s May 31 commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla surfaced among the country’s 1.4 million Palestinian citizens alongside rumors that Sheikh Ra’id Salah, head of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement of Israel, had been shot dead on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara. Salah is alive, but at the time his demise seemed confirmed when it emerged that large numbers of police had been drafted into northern Israel, where most of the Palestinian minority lives, in expectation of widespread violence.

Cyprus' Continuously Returning Past

by Rebecca Bryant | published June 3, 2010

The April 18 victory of a nationalist candidate in the Turkish Cypriot presidential election threw international observers of the Cyprus negotiations into mourning. They had to bid farewell to Mehmet Ali Talat, the leftist leader who had swept to power in 2004 in the wake of a popular revolution against long-time leader Rauf Denktaş, a man known for his ties to military and ultra-nationalist elements in Turkey and his intransigent stance toward negotiating with Greek Cypriots. Talat’s backers also saw conservatives cement the hold on power they had begun to regain in parliamentary elections in 2009.

The Sectarian Incident That Won't Go Away

by Mariz Tadros | published March 5, 2010

When violence breaks out between Egypt’s Muslim majority and Coptic Christian minority, the Egyptian government is normally quick to deny that the motive could be sectarian. Spokesmen point to “foreign fingers” that are supposedly stirring up sedition, in hopes that the file on the incident can be closed as quickly as possible and the state can resume displaying an image of Egypt as typified by “national unity.” This rhetorical device has been useful in the past for deflecting demands from Copts, who compose roughly 10 percent of the population, that their underlying grievances be redressed. But the government’s act has worn thin.

Confronting Settlement Expansion in East Jerusalem

by Joel Beinin | published February 14, 2010

The neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a 20-minute walk up the hill from the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem, has become the focal point of the struggle over the expanding project of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Egypt's Wall

by Ursula Lindsey | published February 1, 2010

In late December 2009, Arab TV channels aired footage of throngs of demonstrators, surrounded by the usual rows of riot police, on the streets of downtown Cairo and in front of foreign embassies. Street protests in Egypt have been sharply curtailed in the last few years, but the scene was familiar to anyone who had been in the country in 2005, when protests against President Husni Mubarak’s regime and in favor of judicial independence were a semi-regular occurrence. Yet there was something unusual about these protesters: They were all foreigners.

Catcher's Mitt

Obama, Pakistan, and the Afghan Wars to Come

by Graham Usher | published December 31, 2009

Pakistan lies at the heart of President Barack Obama’s plan to wind down America’s war in Afghanistan. If -- as he avers -- the “overarching goal” is to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the war will be fought mainly in Pakistan. With fewer than a hundred fighters, al-Qaeda was defeated long ago in Afghanistan.

Broken Taboos in Post-Election Iran

by Ziba Mir-Hosseini | published December 17, 2009

The on-camera martyrdom of Neda Agha-Soltan, the 26-year old philosophy student shot dead during the protests after the fraudulent presidential election in Iran in June, caught the imagination of the world. But the post-election crackdown has two other victims whose fates better capture the radical shift in the country’s political culture. One victim was the protester Taraneh Mousavi, detained, reportedly raped and murdered in prison, and her body burned and discarded. The other is Majid Tavakoli, the student leader arrested on December 8, after a fiery speech denouncing dictatorship during the demonstrations on National Student Day.

Anatomy of a Nuclear Breakthrough Gone Backwards

by Farideh Farhi | published December 8, 2009

According to the headline writers at the hardline daily Keyhan, October 2 saw “a great victory for Iran” in Geneva. That day, Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili had sat down with representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, the contact group known as the “P5+1,” as well as the European Union, and the hardliners were in a mood for self-congratulation. Arch-conservative Keyhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari titled his commentary, “We Did Not Back Down; They Were Cut Down to Size.”

Damietta Mobilizes for Its Environment

by Sharif Elmusa , Jeannie Sowers | published October 21, 2009

In 2008, Egypt’s Mediterranean port city of Damietta saw escalating protest against EAgrium, a Canadian consortium building a large fertilizer complex in Ra’s al-Barr. Ra’s al-Barr sits at the end of an estuary, where the Damietta branch of the Nile River joins the Mediterranean. It is a prime destination for vacationing Egyptians in the summertime and the location of the year-round residences of the Damiettan elite. Fishermen ply the waters offshore. When plans for the fertilizer complex were announced, a coalition of locals feared that all three sources of income—tourism, real estate and fishing—would be jeopardized by emissions into the air and water.