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On February 17th, Libyans will celebrate the anniversary of a revolt that ultimately toppled and killed Muammar Qaddafi, ending his forty-two-year oppressive rule. This anniversary and others in the region are regrettable reminders of how the expectations in the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring compare to the reality on the ground seven years later. Many countries that sought to depose a tyrannical leader now find themselves in worse circumstances. Libya and Syria in particular have faced extreme violence since 2011. In both states, the political and security vacuums from internal fractures allowed the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) to rise and thrive. In Syria, this same vacuum allowed Russia to gain military influence and involvement in the conflict. Russia is likely to use current unstable conditions in Libya today for its own interests, much as it has done in Syria, beginning over two years ago.

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Since 2011, Libya’s path to democracy has been unclear. The United Nations’ (UN) inability to bring warring factions to the negotiating table has left the country in chaos. While negotiations have failed, the UN is pushing to hold elections in 2018. Given the chaos in the country, however, will the UN overcome the challenges needed to execute elections successfully?

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The situation on the ground in Libya is fluid and complex. Militias in the West and South police their own local communities but few have regional control. The only exception is in eastern Libya under the leadership of strongman General Khalifa Haftar and his self-declared Libyan National Army (LNA). In his campaign to eradicate terrorism, Haftar emerged as a potential strongman who could bring security to Libya. That possibility, however, is becoming less likely.

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In 2016, in the face of low oil prices and rapidly declining foreign reserves in an unsustainable, oil dependent rentier state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) was faced with two scenarios: an ‘Open Road’ where social and economic reform would transform the country into a diversified, moderate, and prosperous society; or the ‘Rocky Road’, where the sclerotic government would fail to reform and the country could plunge into a deep recession amid rising internal conflict and a monarchy in peril.

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The presidential decree issued on October 10, 2017 re-declaring state of emergency for three months, raised widespread debate. This decree was the third of its kind in 2017. Egypt has a long history of exceptional laws (the emergency law being among the most prominent of them). Since the 1952 Officers Movement, Egypt has been governed for decades by many regulations and exceptional laws that are considered a violation of public law. Public law is all general legislations issued by parliament to regulate public affairs based on honoring the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. Public law is normally applied by the regular (non-military and non-exceptional) judiciary.

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On January 10, 2018 the United Nations endorsed the UN Support Mission in Libya’s (UNSMIL) intention to hold national elections by the end of 2018, led by the new UN Special Envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame. So far, more than 2,000,000 citizens (about 32 percent of the adult population) are already registered to vote. Many Libyans are hopeful that elections will finally bring stability and order to a state which has been plagued with violence, corruption, and lawlessness for almost seven years. However, it will be extremely difficult to meet these expectations if a mandated constitution does not exist to check elected officials, or if there is no legal framework of action for newly established institutions.

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Both Iran and the United States have been pushing Iraq and the KRG to normalize their relationship, but Baghdad’s maximalist approach means the KRG is likely to hold out until after the May 2018 elections to make a deal.

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The city of Aden was ostensibly the only part of Yemen where post-conflict reconstruction was viable, especially since the area of the conflict has been declared a Houthi-free zone since July 22, 2015.  Subsequently, the residents of the city were seemingly united in that the majority are southern, Sunni, and anti-Houthi/Saleh. But now the conflict is occurring amongst Aden “allies,” not just nationally but regionally as well, as they are now divided based on the claim that President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government is “corrupt.”  

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Last week it was reported that the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh would start taking reservations again on February 14, after months of serving as a detainment facility for Saudi elites accused of graft. In a dramatic blitz in the middle of a November night in Riyadh, Saudi security forces moved to detain dozens of powerful suspects in a dramatic anti-corruption drive. The bulk of the suspects were transported to Riyadh’s opulent Ritz Carlton Hotel, which was closed for business and converted into a detention facility, albeit a comfortable one. Critics of the move dismissed it as a political power-grab by Saudi Arabia’s young and ambitious Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, while more optimistic observers lauded it as the possible beginning of the end of the rampant corruption that plagues Saudi Arabia. Lost in the discussion was the economic context of this most remarkable development. Given the new political landscape in the Kingdom and the structural changes in its governance, it would be hard to argue that such a dramatic crackdown has no political dimension, but it also has significant economic implications for the country. Rooting out corruption is necessary for the political and economic survival of the Saudi state.

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We asked several Egypt experts where they think Egypt stands seven years after the January 25, 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. A common takeaway has been that Egypt is continuing to regress to its pre-2011 days.

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