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Many warn that Standard Arabic, or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), is on the decline, and some are happy to see it go. However, it is important to note the factors driving this decline, and what this means for the region.

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Muqtada al-Sadr—often dubbed a firebrand cleric—has come a long way from the days in 2003 when he was an outcast and a hunted man, to the victor in the 2018 Iraqi elections. Early results suggesting a surprising lead for Sadr are a personal vindication for him, certainly, but a challenge for Iraq’s political elite which for years was at a loss as to how exactly to deal with him, and a governance challenge for Iraq moving forward after the election to the next phase, the formation of a government.

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As reported previously by this writer, senior Iranian former officials repeatedly told him and other Americans in unofficial, track II discussions preceding the nuclear deal, that Iran had no intention of weaponizing nuclear energy. The reason offered had nothing to do with Koranic proscriptions. To paraphrase one of the Iranian ex-officials, “Look at all we have been able to accomplish in the region—in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and now Yemen—without nuclear weapons. Now imagine us going nuclear and provoking nuclear proliferation everywhere in the neighborhood. Do you think we want a nuclear war crisis every time we dispatch General Soleimani somewhere?” When the ex-official was asked “What then is the purpose of these negotiations?” he quickly replied, “We need relief from sanctions.”

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The upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election slated for May 12 is significant for many reasons, most notable are the changes to Iraq’s traditional electoral lists. Although these lists are still largely composed along ethno-sectarian lines—whether Shia, Sunni, or Kurdish—differences over policies figure more prominently, with a shift away from an exclusive focus on identity present in previous elections. This change offers the United States a significant opportunity to play an engaged role in post-election negotiations, and to serve as a counterweight to Iranian influence in the country.

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Iraqis will go to the polls for the first time in four years on May 12. The vote will determine Iraq’s next prime minister at a critical time for the country as it emerges from a three-year war with the Islamic State (ISIS).

Will the significant shifts in electoral lists bring about change for the country? Four experts share their views.

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Iraqi citizens will vote in their fourth parliamentary election on May 12th, 2018, since the 2003 US invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power. There is an increase of cross-sectarian and pro-reform parties this election. Experts predict this will prevent a single coalition from winning an outright majority in parliament, and that alliances will likely be formed after elections in order to gain a majority and elect a prime minister.

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In the ongoing effort by international and domestic actors to solve the political deadlock in Libya, the spotlight is on UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame. Since the second anniversary of the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in December 2015, Salame’s well-thought and defined Action Plan for Libya has morphed into a confused and mainly reactive approach. When discussing his plan with media, Salame oscillates between three different priorities: securing a deal between Libya’s two rival governments to modify the LPA; holding a National Conference as early as June; holding legislative and presidential elections by the end of the year.

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Tunisians will go to the polls to vote in the country’s first municipal elections on May 6. The vote is an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition and decentralization process; which aims to bridge the gap between the central government in Tunis and the Tunisian people.

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An international fundraising conference for Yemen took place at the United Nations (UN) offices Geneva in early April. Co-chaired by Sweden, Switzerland, and the UN, the conference succeeded in securing humanitarian funding worth over $2 billion, doubling the previous year’s pledges of $1.1 billion. Despite optimism that the donations represent a “success of international solidarity to the people of Yemen,” as stated by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his closing statement, the current humanitarian response presents more problems than solutions.

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Iraq’s 2018 parliamentary elections, simultaneously embodying continuity and change, will be held in a particularly divisive atmosphere. The elections are taking place in the shadow of the devastation left behind by the conflict with ISIS and serious splits within the governing Shia party. As a result, voting on May 12 will be a litmus test for the mood of the country in the wake of a tumultuous few years.

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