Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Turkish Voters Upset Erdoǧan’s Competitive Authoritarianism

Nabil Al-Tikriti 04.22.2019

Turkish voters sent a strong message to its long-standing ruling party and its leader on March 31, 2019 that the government’s authoritarian turn has not fully succeeded. In nationwide municipal elections, for the first time in a quarter century, the political movement largely associated with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan lost control over both the country’s economic and political capitals, as well as numerous other districts throughout the country. The symbolic and economic significance of losing both capitals, especially Istanbul, cannot be discounted. This article explains why this happened.

Protesting Politics in Algeria

Since February 22, 2019, Algerians have mounted massive protests in cities across Algeria. While calling for President Bouteflika’s resignation has been a focal point of demonstrations, the protests are more broadly a political contestation against a byzantine, status-quo politics upheld by an elite that is out of touch with the worsening realities in the country.

Making the Economy Political in Jordan’s Tax Revolts

The Jordanian citizenry remain unwilling to pay more taxes. The old system no longer works, but the way forward demands that Jordan’s leaders address the need for substantive reforms in both the economic and political systems that currently govern Jordanian lives. Any new social contract between the ruler and ruled cannot function by raising taxes while withdrawing services to struggling lower and middle classes.

The Manufactured Controversy About Ilhan Omar and the Israel Lobby

The firestorm that greeted newly elected Congresswoman (D-MN) Ilhan Omar’s tweets about the Israel lobby’s clout in Congress reveals as much about her critics as it does about the rising tide of progressive politicians who no longer show deference to establishment prohibitions on criticizing Israel.  Having lost the moral argument about Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinian people, Omar’s critics pounced on the allegedly antisemitic tone of her comments rather than address her criticism of the US’s one-sided support for Israel.  We asked several commentators to reflect on this largely manufactured controversy and what it tells us about the current limits of debate about Israel in the US today. 

Egypt’s Arrested Battlegrounds

Wael Eskandar 02.7.2019

While mass arrests and arbitrary detentions are nothing new to Egypt, the escalation and widening pattern of arrests over the past year indicate that the authoritarian mindset of the Egyptian regime has significantly changed. Egypt under President Sisi has succeeded in reestablishing authoritarianism in a manner that is far more brutal—and far-reaching—than that of the deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. Once contested, albeit controlled, battlegrounds for politics are being decimated.

Protesting Clerical Welfarism in Iran’s Pious City

Mehdi Faraji 01.28.2019

Protests in Iran’s holy city of Qom reveal that social fragmentation in Iran runs so deep that even within a community as intimately related to religious learning and the state as Qom, the divisions and boundaries go beyond easy distinctions between regime and opposition, hardliner and reformer or secular and pious. The uneven nature of Iranian society, which is being exacerbated by international sanctions and ever-expanding modes of privatization and deregulation, has worked its way into all sectors of a society that is at once cognizant of this condition and also still divided.

Business as Usual in Western Sahara?

The end of 2018 witnessed potentially promising peace talks in Geneva between the Polisario Front liberation movement of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco in an effort to kickstart the stalled peace process for the nearly 45-year conflict over this North African territory. Nevertheless, the forces protecting the status quo, and thus Morocco’s ongoing colonization of Western Sahara, remain durable, and it is unclear whether this new round of talks will presage a broader resolution to one of the oft-forgotten conflicts of our times.

Trump’s Full Spectrum Assault on Palestinian Politics

Ilana Feldman 12.2.2018

The attack on UNWRA is part of a full-spectrum assault on the Palestinian people’s rights and capacity to engage in politics undertaken by the Trump administration since entering office in 2016. While the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is reportedly developing a Middle East peace plan, dubbed the “deal of the century,” the administration has been preempting negotiations by imposing “resolutions” to final status issues such as Jerusalem and weaponizing financial aid to coerce the Palestinians into compliance with the US and Israel’s demands.

Overstating Climate Change in Egypt’s Uprising

Jessica Barnes 10.1.2018

Although climate change is a major issue of global consequence, blaming climate change for the 2011 uprising in Egypt fails to account for the political and economic issues that were behind the uprisings across the region and distracts from the factors that produced bread shortages in Egypt.

From the War of National Liberation to Gentrification

Robert P. Parks 08.10.2018

Demonstrations about gentrification in Oran, Algeria are linked to a broader tension over collective versus individual rights to colonial-era properties abandoned by the French, occupied by citizens, nationalized by the state and now subject to varying strategies of individual appropriation in the wake of the broader gentrification of Algerian urban space since the 1990s.

From Gaza to Jerusalem to Iran

Joel Beinin 07.12.2018

By forging a regional alliance aimed at confronting Iran and its allies, the new coalition of the US, Israel and allied Sunni Arab regimes intend to relegate the Palestinian issue to collateral damage in order to succeed.

The Fiscal Politics of Rebellious Jordan

Pete Moore 06.21.2018

Activism in the modern Arab world saw its peak in the Spring of 2011, but Jordanians have returned to the streets in a new round of protests triggered by recent economic policies and long standing grievances. How should we understand these protests?

The Lebanese Elections and Their Consequences

Rayan El-Amine 06.14.2018

Nine years since the last national parliamentary election, many in the country expected the emerging civil society groups to challenge the tradition sectarian-based parties. Despite the rumblings for change, the status quo prevailed.

A Brief History of a Teacher’s Strike

In early 2016, nearly 35,000 Palestinian teachers initiated a series of strike actions across the West Bank. Classes were dismissed and students sent home as teachers marched through Ramallah’s streets and organized sit-ins in front of Ministry of Education field offices. What was behind the strike?

The United States’ Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and the Challenge to the International Consensus

On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that the US was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would be moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv in fulfillment of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act (henceforth Embassy Act). In one fell swoop, the US has seriously challenged 70 years of international consensus enshrined in international law as regards the status of the city, and put the potential for a two-state solution into a tail-spin. What are the consequences of this major policy change?

Recognizing Annexation

Joel Beinin 05.12.2018

The White House announcement distinguishes between recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establishing an embassy there and recognizing “the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.” In other words, the Trump administration, like all those before it, seeks to avoid acknowledging how Israel, in defiance of UN resolutions, has altered the demographic and geographic realities of the city.

Preservation or Plunder? The ISIS Files and a History of Heritage Removal in Iraq

The removal of the ISIS files from Iraq is only the latest episode in a long history of seizures of Iraqi archives and artifacts by Europeans and Americans. Rather than dismiss Iraqi critics as unreasonable, everyone with a stake in the study of Iraq—including all journalists, historians, and archivists—must reckon with the enduring legacies of two centuries of Western removal of Iraqi heritage.

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