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With the new Start-Up Act, passed on April 2, 2018, Tunisia has started to clear the path for innovation that could lead to economic growth. The Act removed several bureaucratic hurdles that innovative projects faced when creating new business structures—vestiges of a system implemented in colonial times. While the French mostly moved right along modernizing their systems, Tunisia remains stuck in a Kafkaesque maze that is present across every single state office and institution. The Start-Up Act aims to alleviate some of these frustrations. It is a positive and hopeful development for young entrepreneurs looking to change the world around them.

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When Yemen’s last peace talks in Stockholm took place in December 2018, only one female delegate was at the negotiation table. Assistant Secretary of the Yemeni Popular Nasserist Party, Rana Ghanem was the only female member, in the Yemeni government delegation. Over the past three Yemen peace talks, only three women have sat at the negotiation table. “One of the reasons why I was able to be in the negotiations was my leading position in the Nasserist Party,” explains Ghanem who has been involved with the Nasserist Party since 1991.

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Eight years ago today, a small group of Egyptians protested against their government. The protest grew, and led to millions of Egyptians coming to the streets across their country, eventually resulting in Hosni Mubarak resigning the presidency. His rule of three decades came to an end, but the revolutionary uprising was eventually subject to a counter-revolutionary wave. The final result of Egypt’s uprising cannot yet be measured, just as any uprising is eventually judged in decades, not years—but it is clear that the international community has moved beyond treating Egypt as a country in the throes of a democratic transition. The question is—how does engagement now compare to the revolutionary period?

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The conference on Libya held in Palermo, Italy last November saw neither the rising of a new dawn in terms of security and political consensus nor the development of a strong agreement around a well-defined plan. Instead, what emerged was the reiteration by all the Libyan and European delegations of their support for the actions of the United Nations Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and a vague definition of a roadmap to a solution to the country’s crisis. In other words, there were minimum results but results nonetheless.

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As we bid adieu to 2018, we look back at the events of a challenging year both domestically and abroad. Below are our most viewed articles hitting on pressing issues. In case you missed them, read our biggest hits of 2018. 

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On December 10, 2017, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the battle to liberate Iraqi territories from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Iraqi Army, Special Forces, and Federal Police, supported by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs) and the Peshmerga, fought for every inch of territory that was occupied by the terrorist group. Iraq was not alone in this fight. An international coalition, led by the United States, offered significant military help in the form of air support, logistics, and invaluable advisory assistance on the ground.

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Hezbollah has been instrumental to Iran’s power play in the Middle East, and its behavior is often evocative of Iran’s priorities in Syria and Lebanon. As the United States ramps up sanctions against Tehran and the war winds down in Syria, Hezbollah has adapted by scaling back and shifting its role in regime areas while escalating its political rhetoric and activity in Lebanon. 

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In a piece published last year, I examined the interaction of water and conflict in Yemen and Syria, two countries whose severe water shortages have enabled competing actors to wield this precious resource as a weapon in violent conflict to the detriment of millions of civilians.

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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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