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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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The impression that the political situation in Libya is stalled is widespread. The lack of productive movement from national-level actors is undeniable: the UN-led mediation is faltering, the transitional government in Tripoli is not moving forward as fast as it should, and the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk continues to under-perform, plagued by a constant lack of quorum. The HoR continues to face the usual accusations of being under the control of General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army. The General himself is not moving much beyond releasing a series of interviews and declarations in which he affirms his acceptance of the UN-led mediation to the international stage, but at the same time professes his pessimism about its potential success, and threatens to directly intervene, assume control, and “save” the country.

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Seven years after the autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali fled, Tunisia civil society today is best characterized by its sheer courage. It is not blind, blunt courage, but sharp and calculated. What started as a popular movement of individuals taking to the streets to kick out a dictator slowly self-organized into non-profit organizations and political parties. Around 11,400 civil society organizations (CSO’s) formed after the revolution in 2011. These organizations work on everything from governance and accountability in the public sector, such as Al Bawsala, to protecting minority rights, such as Mnemty. Luckily, and unlike the government, these organizations exist all over the country too. I-Watch, another CSO, works to combat corruption in all four corners of Tunisia, and has several offices throughout the country. As protests break out to address economic woes, it’s important to remember that the development and evolution of CSOs in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution continues to play a vital role in the democratization of the state, and represents a foundational pillar in Tunisian society.

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The riots that have occurred in many Tunisian cities and villages at the beginning of 2018 have caught by surprise many experts and observers of Tunisia’s political and socio-economic evolution. Tunisia has been presented to the world as the only success story in the framework of the so-called Arab Spring. Unfortunately, judging it as a success is premature and ignores the country’s situation and the depth of its problems. 

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Seven years after the 2011 Arab uprisings, Tunisia remains the only country to have emerged from the sweeping changes that took hold in the region as a fledgling democracy. Since then-President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali stepped down from power of January 14, 2011, Tunisia has accomplished a number of major successes, including holding free and fair national elections, fostering political compromise, implementing reforms to institute equal protection for men and women under the law, and making progress on freedoms of expression and belief. Economic challenges and political setbacks, however, could upset Tunisia’s advances.

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Following the 2005 election of Iraq’s National Assembly, the winning Shia Islamist coalition selected Ibrahim al-Jaafari, then a senior leader in the Dawa party, for the position of Prime Minister in the transitional government. Dawa is the oldest Shia Islamist party, but not the largest. Competing groups within the Shia alliance selected a member in the party for the position to sustain minimal unity, which was threatened by the fierce competition between the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and the Sadrist movement.

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The end of Saleh-Houthi alliance marks a new chapter in Yemen’s intractable conflict. Two weeks after Saleh’s death, warring parties intensified their military escalation, increasing an already abominable human cost. Despite Saleh’s legacy of subversive tactics and coercion, his death undermines efforts to resolve the conflict. The Houthis, an irrational movement lacking in political experience, make for a highly emotional and unreliable party at the negotiating table. With the passing of Saleh, the ultimate pragmatist with longstanding political and diplomatic ties both locally and internationally, an opportunity has passed with him. In a post-Saleh Yemen, the question remains: is a political solution still feasible?

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