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From the abuses of the male guardianship in Saudi Arabia to arrest and torture of dissenters in Egypt and the jailing of environmentalists and journalists in Iran, the Middle East is rife with human rights abuses. Nor is this something new. Authoritarian regimes in the Arab world, both monarchical and republican, since their independence from colonial powers have routinely used repressive measures to keep their opposition at bay and their broader population quiescent. Saddam Hussein notoriously put down a Kurdish rebellion in Halabja in 1988, gassing 5,000 people during the larger campaign of al-Anfal which reportedly killed over 50,000 Kurds. Syria, even before Assad’s bloody war against his opposition in 2011, routinely jailed, tortured, and killed opposition figures; and had no compunctions against tracking them into neighboring countries, particularly Lebanon, in order to do so.

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The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has just heard the closing arguments in Ayyash et. al, on September 21, 2018; a case in which prosecutors charged four members or associates of Hezbollah with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. Thirteen years after the assassination, judges are in the process of making their judgement. In a series of pieces to be published from now until the judges reach a verdict, Atlantic Council resident senior fellow Faysal Itani and non-resident fellow Anthony Elghossain will consider Hariri’s killing, the context around the case, the evolution in the effort to bring the killers to justice, and the politics of the Levant since 2005.

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The people from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) headed to the polls this week to elect 111 members of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. This is the fifth general election following the creation of the regional legislature in 1992, and it was the first since last year’s controversial independence referendum. The effects of the failed attempt at independence continue to reverberate among the powerful establishment parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), who have shared control of the region since the establishment of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in early 1990s.

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If passed by the country’s two parliamentary chambers, an expedited draft law 44.18 would reinstate mandatory military service for both Moroccan men and women between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five by the end of next year. The announcement fell on the same day as King Mohammed VI’s speech on the 65th Anniversary of the King and People’s Revolution, August 20—a public holiday commemorating a turning point in the country’s struggle for independence from the French—in which he urgently appealed to the nation and government to address the country’s persistent youth issues including unemployment, idleness, and lack of opportunity.

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When over $2 billion was pledged for the 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) earlier this year, it was considered not only a success but also the best funded response plan worldwide according to anonymous aid workers who spoke to the author during the UN General Assembly. So far, 65% of the pledged funds have been delivered. The delivery of the remaining funding is expected throughout this year.

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For decades, Egypt focused primarily on its foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa, and in the process neglected its Horn of Africa policy. Meanwhile, Ethiopia began construction on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River. Problems along the Nile continue for Egypt as droughts, rising temperatures, and general effects of climate change demand a response to Egypt’s growing water needs.

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Civilian unrest in Iraq has refocused its attention on Haider al-Abadi and the Islamic Dawa party. Ongoing demonstrations this month in the southern city of Basra indicate trouble ahead for the Iraqi federal government and foreshadow an end to Haider al-Abadi’s run as prime minister, as he does not seek a second term.

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In September 2017, on the sidelines of a gathering of global leaders at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Libya Ghassan Salame presented an “action plan” for Libya that aimed to surmount Libya’s political stalemate and address persistent instability. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed optimism at the General Assembly regarding the crisis in Libya, calling on all parties to “seize” the moment to move the country forward. However, one year later the situation in Libya is characterized not by progress, but by further deterioration and insecurity.

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The Saudi government shelved plans in late August for an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in Saudi Aramco, the state’s mammoth oil company. King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman had intended the proceeds from the sale of a portion of the company’s stock to underwrite their “Vision 2030” program, an ambitious roadmap to move the Kingdom beyond its dependence on oil by building a more diversified economy, more robust society, and a more effective government.

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There is no denying that Libya is in a far worse state than at any time since the 2011 revolution. In a country of vast oil and gas wealth, basic services are frequently interrupted as armed gangs control the capital in the west. In the east, once feared leaders like Khalifa Haftar find their forces cornered in an uneasy truce with militias that were the corner stone of his quest for power. Meanwhile, southern Libya is now overrun by Touareg and Toubou migration as well as African mercenaries. In short, Libya is not one failed state, but more closely resembles three failed states with dozens of groups vying for control.

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