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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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As the year winds down, we look back at insight from experts that resonated with our readers. In case you missed them, we have listed our top five blog posts of the year in order of popularity. Take a look at impactful analysis on the MENA region with excerpts from the articles below. 

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Below are remarks by Ambassador Frederic C. Hof at the NATO Parliamentary Forum at the National Defense University on Dec. 11, 2017 that touched upon the evolving US approach to Syria and Iraq.

I’ve been asked to discuss the evolving US approach to Iraq and Syria. I will try to do so as accurately and as briefly as possible. Brevity will not be a problem. Accuracy may be something else. I’ve been out of government for five years, and although I stay in touch with former colleagues and try to offer ideas on objectives and strategy, I do not purport to know what the commander-in-chief has decided on key issues affecting Syria and Iraq.

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In yet another attempt to resolve Libya’s war, on September 20, the United Nations presented a new Action Plan for Libya, supposedly to form a legitimate, functioning, and unified government. But this Action Plan will also fall short of what is needed to end this crisis because it misses a key point: it focuses on producing a government all belligerent parties can agree on, without understanding the financial situation behind the crisis. The UN and the international community should not be narrowly focused on producing a legitimate government that satisfies all the rival groups, but rather should focus on supporting the government’s ability to exercise its power to improve the people’s lives. The crisis in Libya is not a government legitimacy problem, it is a government effectiveness problem. And how can a government be effective when it does not even control its own finances?

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Earlier today, videos showing armed fighters carrying former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s body surfaced online and shocked the region. The General People’s Congress (GPC) confirmed that Saleh and Assistant Secretary General to the party Yasser al-Awadi were killed in a Houthi attack on one of his compounds. This turn of events holds tremendous implications for Yemen’s future and the course of the ongoing conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and led to what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently announced his new war against corruption. In using the term “war,” he intended to convey the difficulty of implementing a productive policy to fight corruption. Abadi hopes to build on his successes in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the crisis with Kurdistan by turning his attention to a popular and persistent demand: fighting corruption. International financial institutions and nonprofit organizations—including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF)- identify rampant corruption as a main impediment to development in Iraq, and Transparency International consistently rank Iraq among the most corrupt countries.

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