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.

Israel’s Religious Right and the Peace Process

by Nicolas Pelham | published October 12, 2009

It would be easy to describe the residents of the outpost of Amona as radicals. In February 2006 they led protests of 4,000 settler activists, some of them armed, against 3,000 Israeli police who were amassed to make sure that nine unauthorized structures in the West Bank were bulldozed as ordered. In the ensuing clashes, 80 security personnel and 120 settlers were wounded, more than the entirety of the casualties during the 2005 “disengagement” from settlements in Gaza, in a showdown that became the symbol of the West Bank settlers’ resolve to resist the state’s efforts to tear down encampments, like their own, that were erected without the state’s permission.

Norse Code

by The Editors | published October 10, 2009

A Minnesota farm boy gets accepted to Yale. On his first day on campus, ambling down the oak-shaded lanes, he meets a toothy young swell whose blood matches his navy blazer. The two exchange words of praise for the pleasant autumn afternoon, and then the Minnesotan ventures a query.

“So,” he says, with rounded vowel, “could you tell me where the library is, then?”

The Yankee’s smile fades. “Here at Yale,” he remarks, with clipped consonant, “we do not end our sentences with conjunctions.”

“Oh,” the Minnesotan replies, pausing briefly before continuing. “Well, let me rephrase that. So, could you tell me where the library is, then, asshole?”

A Precarious Peace in Northern Iraq

by Quil Lawrence | published October 1, 2009

On a stifling August afternoon in 2008, just as Iraq was recovering from the worst of its sectarian civil war, the Arab and Kurdish parties allied with the United States came to the edge of an ethnic bloodbath whose consequences for Iraq and the region would have been every bit as frightening. The trouble started when the mayor of Khanaqin, a predominantly Kurdish city in the Diyala province along the Iranian border, received a frantic call from a police station beyond the Alwand River on the west side of town. “They told me that the Iraqi army was on its way,” said the mayor, Muhammad Mula Hassan. “No one had informed me. A minute later we heard that the Iraqi army was surrounding Khanaqin.

Dismantling the Matrix of Control

by Jeff Halper | published September 11, 2009

Almost a decade ago I wrote an article describing Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It consisted then of three interlocking systems: military administration of much of the West Bank and incessant army and air force intrusions elsewhere; a skein of “facts on the ground,” notably settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, but also bypass roads connecting the settlements to Israel proper; and administrative measures like house demolitions and deportations. I argued in 2000 that unless this matrix was dismantled, the occupation would not be ended and a two-state solution could not be achieved.

Democracy, Lebanese-Style

by Melani Cammett | published August 18, 2009

Just as reports from Lebanon were indicating that a cabinet would be finalized within days, the notoriously fickle Druze leader Walid Jumblatt announced, on August 2, that his Progressive Socialist Party would withdraw from the governing coalition. Jumblatt criticized his coalition partners in the March 14 alliance, which had claimed victory in the June 7 parliamentary elections, for a campaign “driven by the re­jection of the opposition on sectarian, tribal and political levels rather than being based on a political platform.”[1] This view could apply to the campaigns of both major alliances that ran in the elections.