MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

The board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is due to meet sometime in the next two to three weeks, at which point it will formally sign off on the deal for Egypt. It’s a deal wrought with challenges, but is likely to go forward anyway. Cairo insists that the IMF deal ties in well with its own economic reform agenda, which then allows it to internally dissuade nationalistic opposition to the IMF plan. Nevertheless, it is expected that prior to the board actually meeting, Cairo will present evidence that is serious about the reform program – and one of the most delicate parts of that program is the devaluation of the Egyptian pound.

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Although oil-rich, Kuwait has modest gas reserves. Consequently, the Arab Gulf state has been a net importer of the resource since 2008, and in 2009 Kuwait became the first Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member to import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). As a host of obstacles (contract structures, geological challenges, etc.) have hindered rapid expansion of Kuwait’s natural gas production, it has an increasing need for foreign natural gas supplies to meet domestic demand for electricity, water desalination, and petrochemicals, in addition to enhanced oil recovery techniques to increase oil production, which Kuwait depends on for 90 percent of government income.

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Although age and infirmity had already curtailed the impact of Shimon Peres on Israel and its neighbors, his passing nevertheless measures high on the Richter scale of Israeli and regional affairs. For decades he represented his country and its citizens with great skill and impressive finesse. Yet the polish and sophistication he projected masked underlying toughness and determination. Although the name Shimon Peres will always be associated with the Oslo process and with grand projects reflecting a broad and constructive vision for the future of the Middle East, his eye never wandered from task number one: the security of the Jewish State and its people.

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The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has witnessed considerable strain over the past few years, but increasing reports documenting poor targeting practices and disproportionate collateral damage in the Saudi-led coalition’s conduct of the war in Yemen has sparked an unprecedented outcry in the US Congress.

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On May 1, 2003, then-President George W. Bush stood in front of a large crowd aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego and famously pronounced with a draped “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him the end of US combat operations in Iraq. The declaration, it turned out, was wildly premature, for Washington’s direct military involvement in the war would go on for another eight costly years. It was an embarrassing if not deceitful moment in the history of US foreign policy, one that America’s friends in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, took turns to mock and decry.

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On the sidelines of the 71st session of the United States General Assembly on September 19, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Sisi’s meetings with Trump and Clinton sparked considerable discussion around what the US-Egyptian relationship would look like under either presidency. Meanwhile, as in 2015, Sisi conducted interviews with a number of prominent American news outlets, including PBS and CNN. In both his meetings with the US presidential candidates and his interviews, Sisi praised the US-Egyptian relationship and emphasized the need to fight terrorism in the face of ongoing security concerns.

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This Hajj season, the modern religious culture wars among Muslims were prominent again, and are set to continue. With the Syrian quagmire deepening, such conflicts have deep consequences; one could imagine a way to traverse through that set of profoundly sectarian questions – but the answers are acutely political. Without that political settlement – which goes far beyond Syria – there is no space in which to have meaningful and genuine conversations.

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Youssef Chahed, the Arab world's youngest head of government and a 41-year-old PhD holder in agricultural economics, led the decentralisation program as Tunisia’s Minister of Local Affairs under the government of his predecessor, Habib Essid. This experience arms him in his new role as prime minister with an understanding of Tunisia's deep bureaucracy and uneven resource distribution among the country's regions. This is one of the areas where his newly formed government has to make major reforms to respond to increasingly urgent local demands.

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In today’s Iraq, political movements and politicians shy away from promoting secularism or proclaiming to be secularists. The reasons for this—and the reasons for the rise of religious (and religious identity) politics in Iraq after the 1958 coup in which the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown—are numerous and complex. Some of the main factors that may lie behind the demise of secularism and the rise of Islamism include: the failure and brutality of secular governments, including that of Saddam Hussein; the suppression of religious political movements; successive wars; international sanctions and their effect on society at large; the Saddam Regime’s "Faith Campaign" in the mid-90's during which the regime attempted to pacify the population struggling under the harshness of international sanctions by promoting religion; and the lack of public political discourse.

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The situation in Libya seems to be heading toward a military confrontation between forces loyal to the UN-sponsored Government of National Agreement (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of General Khalifa Haftar. The General is nominally under the authority of the House of Representatives (HoR), the parliament seated in Tobruk and of the government headed by Abdullah al-Thinni seated in al-Bayda. In reality, Haftar is his own commander and has been encouraged by strong support from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to launch his bid to take control of as much Libyan territory as possible. The General’s strategy has been apparent for a long time; the latest events, the sudden and rapid attack to conquer the oil infrastructure in the Gulf of Sidra, offer empirical confirmation of such a plan.

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