MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

Abu Mohamed stood outside his shrapnel-scarred gate in the eastern Zahra district of Mosul and pointed to where a mortar round had exploded the day before, killing two of his neighbors.

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Wisam al-Zubaidi is a member of one of Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism troops. But right now he isn’t fighting, he is in a Baghdad hospital nursing a bullet wound in his foot. At a battle east of Mosul, he and his battalion were ambushed by the extremist group known as the Islamic State, which Iraqi forces are currently fighting in northern Iraq. Some of his comrades were killed, others injured and some are still fighting; al-Zubaidi, a member of the elite troops that often fight their way forward into battle before other military units, is still telephoning his colleagues to find out what’s going on.

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In a last ditch effort by the Obama administration to salvage Yemen’s peace talks as the war grinds on, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Oman twice this month, personally meeting with Houthi representative Mohammed Abdussalam. In a statement released after his second visit, Kerry welcomed a 48-hour ceasefire in Yemen, but not all parties appeared to be in agreement.

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With the Libyan city of Sirte almost completely liberated from the Islamic State, the group appears to be adapting rather than collapsing. Despite a significant decline in interactions with outsiders, recent statements by ISIS leaders and the tactics used in its fight in Sirte point to how it might deal with the aftermath. In its fight for survival, the Islamic State is adopting a low profile and building a network of itinerant, covert cells.

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In late September, the Iraqi parliament voted to dismiss Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari over corruption allegations. Zebari had led Iraq’s efforts to secure aid to manage its economic crisis, and most recently, successfully negotiated an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan for Iraq. A day after the vote, the IMF reaffirmed its commitment to work with the Iraqi government to implement the agreed upon loan. This loan is expected to assist Iraq through its current economic crisis and lay the groundwork for overdue economic reforms.

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As the United States recoils from the aftershock of an outsider from the DC establishment—President-elect Donald Trump—winning the presidency, the international community, including the Arab world and the wider Middle East, does the same. There will be those who will favor his victory –Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt being the most obvious example – but by and large, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the region’s leadership. Because, quite simply, it remains to be seen how Trump is going differ from his predecessors. It is not that they doubt he will be different – it is that so few imagine quite how he is going to be different.

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The international media often describes the city of Mosul, the capital of Ninawa province, as the Islamic State’s (ISIS) last remaining stronghold in Iraq. However, there is another major stronghold that may soon be a flashpoint between rival factions of the anti-ISIS coalition. In late October, Iraq’s Shia militias opened a new front in the military campaign against the Islamic State, aiming to liberate the city of Tal Afar, about 35 miles west of Mosul. The entrance of pro-government Shia militias—known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU)—prompted a Turkish warning that it may intervene to protect Sunnis in Tal Afar from potential revenge killings at the hands of Shia militia forces.

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On November 8, Donald J. Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the United States. In transcribed interviews, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East experts weigh in on what a Donald Trump presidency means for the Middle East.

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On August 11 this year, the Egyptian government, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), and an International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff team reached an agreement on a three-year economic program under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility worth $12 billion. The announcement of the agreement was greeted with considerable fanfare, as it showed Egypt was ready, with the help of the IMF, to undertake serious and necessary reforms to bring the economy out of the woods.

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As Iraqi forces continue to push further into the Islamic State’s bastion in Mosul, the looming loss of this key city heralds the end of the Islamic caliphate as a pseudo state. The organization, however, may survive as an insurgency and more importantly through the continuity of its “ideological caliphate.”

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