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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 subsidies on such basic commodities as petrol, electricity, grain, and fodder.

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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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The idea of holding presidential and legislative elections in Libya by the end of 2018 continues to gain traction, since it was first proposed in late October 2017. A tentative agreement to hold elections on December 10 was reached at a conference held on May 29 in Paris, attended by the main Libyan political figures: the Presidency Council’s Chairman Fayez al Sarraj, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Aghila Saleh, the President of the High State Council Khaled al Mishri, and the Commander of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar. The international community was also present with delegations from most European and regional stakeholders.

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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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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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The reoccurring theme in analyzing the results of Tunisia’s municipal elections is the endless glass half-full or half-empty debate. The country’s first municipal-level elections since the 2011 Arab Spring were carried out in a free, fair, and safe manner, but produced mixed results: some promising and some disappointing.

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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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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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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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The upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election slated for May 12 is significant for many reasons, most notable are the changes to Iraq’s traditional electoral lists. Although these lists are still largely composed along ethno-sectarian lines—whether Shia, Sunni, or Kurdish—differences over policies figure more prominently, with a shift away from an exclusive focus on identity present in previous elections. This change offers the United States a significant opportunity to play an engaged role in post-election negotiations, and to serve as a counterweight to Iranian influence in the country.

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