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Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the US President Donald Trump, is on his way to six countries in the Gulf states to discuss and present part of his long awaited Israel-Palestine peace process plan in private meetings with foreign diplomats. He is expected to visit Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey over the next few days. While the plan is still held tightly secret, experts are speculating on the selection of countries Kushner is to visit and what that implies for the plan. Below are Atlantic Council’s Middle East experts analysis on the implications of this visit and what it means for the later unveiling in April this year.

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Read in Italian here. The military forces under the command of General Khalifa Haftar launched a large-scale attack on the Fezzan region in January, with the aim of taking control of the main areas of local oil production. Officially motivated by the need to strike at terrorist units operating in the region, the mission led by General Haftar has two main objectives. The first consists of securing the local oil installations, thus subtracting a substantial quota of production technically under the control of Tripoli—even if operated by the National Oil Corporation (NOC), which continues to exercise its functions in a paradoxical dual mode at the service of both political entities. The second objective is to extend the territory under the control of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), thereby lessening an opportunity for the Tripoli authorities to maneuver while consolidating the political and military capacity of Benghazi’s forces.

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Former ISIS members continue to emerge wanting to repatriate to their country of origin, in most cases Europe or the United States. Yet, for many countries, this poses a complex problem given the individual’s admitted involvement in a terrorist group. Many seeking repatriation are women with children that likely faced abuse and torture at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS) militants via husbands or soldiers. Disillusioned and traumatized, they no longer want to associate with ISIS and seek to rejoin their families. However, for many, that is no longer an option. Hoda Muthana, a twenty-four year old American of Yemeni descent, born and raised in the US, is now in the spotlight. A college student living in Alabama, Hoda became radicalized by ISIS online and left to join them in Syria around November 2014; despite intense objections from her family. 

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Top officials of the administration of Donald J. Trump love to talk tough on Iran. Last year Trump warned in an all-capitals tweet that Iran “would suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before” if it threatened the US.  

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Spending the last two weeks of 2018 in Iraq offered a window into Iraqi politics, the economy, and how Iraqis are coping on a variety of issues. My trip began with a conference, and despite the socially and politically contentious issues under discussion—citizenship, identity, inclusive governance, human development, education, among others—and the diverse ethno-sectarian background of the participants, there was a consensus on the most fundamental issue: that Iraqis must build their own nation together and focus on the future, rather than dwell on the injurious past.

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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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