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With the high and ever-growing civilian death toll of Yemen’s civil war, the acute need for peace contrasts sharply with the sparse hopes of a peace process. After months of delays, the government and rebel forces announced on November 19 their intentions to temporarily freeze military operations and convene for negotiations in Sweden. The success of these talks will depend on whether the parties can effectively apply the lessons of past peace talks to structure a new peace process for Yemen.

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Reports that the CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi add weight and urgency to something recommended by this writer weeks ago: The United States should undertake a comprehensive, bottom-up national security review of the bilateral relationship with the Saudi Kingdom and its impact on American interests in the Middle East.  Such a review is long-overdue in any event.  The alleged murder of a resident of the United States by order of the de facto Saudi chief-of-state would seem to make it mandatory.  It should be mandatory. 

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Turkey was once the main sponsor of the Syrian opposition’s effort to topple Bashar al Assad. However, beginning in late 2016, Turkish policy has shifted following the Russian defeat of Turkish backed proxies in Aleppo. This change in policy sparked a reassessment of Turkish strategy away from the overthrow of the regime and towards close cooperation with Russia and competition with the United States. Beginning in the summer of 2016, Ankara settled on the pursuit of four closely interrelated goals in Syria: blocking westward expansion of the American backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); frustrating American military operations east of the Euphrates River; working through Russia to ensure that Syria remains a unitary state after the conflict ends; resettling displaced people in Turkish controlled territory in northern Syria.

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An unmistakable sense of despair and gloom accompanies most news reports and literature on the state of affairs in Libya after 2011. The Arab Spring was meant to usher in a period of unprecedented change after decades of notoriously undemocratic leadership across the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, seven years later, there has been very little positive development in terms of transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in the Arab world. No Arab Spring country, however, has fared worse than Libya, whose revolt, ironically, was more of a NATO-supported war than a genuine home-grown revolution with protracted battles which have essentially torn the oil-rich North African nation to shreds.

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The approaching conference on Libyan stabilization hosted by Italy—which will be held on November 12 and 13 in Palermo—will bring together the main Libyan leaders, with the purpose of defining their respective negotiation platforms in advance. Italy must not only navigate the components of Libya's heterogeneous and conflicting political landscape, but also host the most relevant regional and global actors.

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Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi announced in September the official end to the alliance between Nidaa Tounes Ennahda that had been holding on since February 2015. Termed a “mut'ah”—a temporary marriage of traditional Shia origin—by Tunisia expert Dr. Monica Marks, it was a marriage of convenience between the two main parliamentary parties to preserve stability and to focus on counterterrorism, improving the economy, and government efficiency during the critical transitional period following the ousting of former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

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When Sudan’s government was bombing hospitals in one of its own states in 2011, Kareem was among the activists detailing the atrocities. His work tracking the counterinsurgency in South Kordofan made him a target for Sudan’s security services, and in December 2012 he was accosted by two men who sprayed him with a nerve agent that put him in the hospital.

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The murder of Jamal Khashoggi—a resident of the United States and a citizen of a Kingdom that owed him protection—highlights the purely transactional nature of the relationship between Riyadh and Washington. Although the transactions themselves are important—ensuring the secure transit of petroleum supplies to the world market, sustaining intelligence exchanges on terrorist threats, countering Iranian destabilization, and a security assistance relationship that projects protective American power while boosting the American defense industry—Saudi actions undermining the transactions themselves mandate for Washington a time-out and reset.

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On October 2, 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national living in self-exile in the United States, walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That was the last time he was seen alive. The reason for Jamal’s visit to the consulate is familiar to foreigners who marry Turkish nationals. To set-a-date for one’s wedding, the Turkish government requires a document certifying that you are not already married. Ultimately, it was Jamal’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, that alerted Turkish authorities about the disappearance, touching off a gruesome and tragic story, rooted in Saudi incompetence and Turkish opportunism to try and take advantage of global outrage over the reported death of a popular figure.

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Since the apparent murder-disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2, analysts have focused primarily on the implications for US-Saudi relations and the future of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s vision for domestic reforms. Absent from policy discussions and analysis is the impact of brutally silencing a mild critic of an autocratic regime on the psyche of 450 million Arabs, most of whom still live under regimes that severely limit freedoms of speech, protest, political participation, and religion.

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