MENASource

  • Tripoli: A Kaleidoscope

    In the wake of Libya’s 2011 revolution, militias built a powerful role for themselves by filling the security vacuum left by the overthrow of strongman Muammar Qaddhafi. Armed groups emerged in all corners of Libya, but the complexity and prevalence is especially noticed in and around the capital, Tripoli.

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  • Yemen: The Battle for al-Hodeida Between War and Peace

    There are three possible outcomes to the ongoing battle for Hodeida. First, the Saudi-led coalition succeeds in ousting the Houthi fighters from airport, seaport, and city. Second, the Houthi forces succeed in thwarting the land assault, but remain surrounded from the south and the east. Third, both sides accept a UN sponsored compromise, placing airport and seaport under an international force to keep the flow of humanitarian assistance going and provide a lifeline to civilians across the country. In all three options, the war continues grinding agonizingly on, though obviously the compromise option would not only provide relief to the civilian population of Hodeida, but also serve as a possible stepping stone to a broader peace agreement in the war-torn country.

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  • The Superficial Removal of Iranian Troops from Southern Syria

    Much has been said in the last week of a possible Israeli-Russian arrangement in Syria aimed at curbing Iranian presence in strategic areas like the country’s southern border with Israel. Contradictory reports of troop movements in Qusayr by Tehran’s proxy, Hezbollah, do not change geopolitical realities: the militant group is there to primarily protect Iranian security interests, which remain focused on a long- term presence across the borders, even if this translates into possible dissensions with its tactical ally Russia.

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  • Jordan’s Austerity Protests in Context

    The protests that have spread to every corner of Jordan since May 30 are the largest since 2011. Tens of thousands have taken to the street in opposition to proposed changes to the tax code and increased prices for fuel and electricity, beginning with a call from professional associations to their members but quickly spreading to small and large urban centers across the kingdom.

    These protests are not so much the latest wave of protests that emerged in Jordan since the outbreak of the Arab uprisings, but rather the newest incarnation of the nationwide protests against economic austerity measures that date back to 1988. These protests have emerged in response to numerous reforms mandated by Jordan’s agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), particularly but not only in opposition to the lifting of government...

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  • Factbox: Jordan's Austerity Protests

    Jordan, a key Western ally and major recipient of US aid, has recently experienced its largest protests since 2012. The ongoing protests began in May as a direct response to the new tax bill backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which increases tax brackets, widens the tax base, and penalizes tax evaders. The IMF is pushing Jordan to enact austerity measures and address its ongoing economic crisis in an effort to lower public debt and reduce public sector financing needs. Jordan faces ongoing challenges in securing energy supply and foreign investment, requiring significant IMF assistance since the Arab Spring.

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  • Turkey’s Election: Anything is Possible

    After sixteen years in power, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is facing a serious challenge from an allied opposition in the run-up to the June 24 national election. In a first, Turkish voters will head to the polls that Sunday to vote on candidates for parliament and the presidency. The election is the first up-or-down vote for the AKP’s leader and current Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following a national referendum last April. In the referendum, voters narrowly passed a series of changes to the constitution to transform the Turkish political system from a parliamentary model to a highly centralized presidential system of governance.

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  • The Truth About Iraq’s Democracy

    Some commentators recently celebrated the Iraqi election as a sign that democracy is taking root in Iraq’s soil. This optimistic view is justified given the bleak situation of democratic transformation in the region. Authoritarianism in the Middle East persists as the common model of governing, even in countries that witnessed popular uprisings and demands for regime change just a few years ago.

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  • Standard Arabic is on the Decline: Here’s What’s Worrying About That

    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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  • Iraq: The Reinvention of Muqtada al-Sadr

    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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  • Killing the JCPOA: Opportunity Missed?

    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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