It has begun: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has persuaded the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to engage in direct talks. To induce the Palestinians to come to the table, he put their U.S. aid allotment in play. In addition, the Israeli government has promised to release, in phases, 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners.
Steven Simon, Mona Yacoubian, Erol A. Cebeci, Nabeel Khoury
THOMAS R. MATTAIR, executive director, Middle East Policy Council
In July 2012, the 100 members of the Friends of Syria international group met to call for tougher sanctions on Bashar al-Assad's government and its supporters. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Russia and China to "get off the sidelines"1 and assist the rest of the international community in putting pressure on the regime. Animosity between Syria and the West was not new, but the uprising further cemented Syria's perception as a pariah with the Western world.
A vicious circle of increased sectarian sentiment, escalating violence and outside support has so far prevented any serious attempts to resolve the conflict between the warring factions in Syria. The regime and the opposition disavow each other as rivals in a competitive struggle, but regard one another as an existential enemy to be toppled or destroyed.
Frode Løvlie and Are Knudsen
The Arab Spring is a critical juncture for examining Hamas, a movement created in the context of a popular revolt (against Israeli occupation) similar to those that have reverberated throughout the Middle East. Palestinians have repeatedly protested domination and, like no other group, they embody the image of the popular uprising, the intifada. The first (1987–93) and second (2000–05) intifadas established Hamas as the new Islamist contender for power. As the Oslo accords crumbled, Hamas progressed from movement, to party, to governing body.
A significant dimension of the Arab Spring and its dynamic character is Islamist politics. This Islamism is manifest in both the transition from secular regimes such as Ben Ali's in Tunisia and Mubarak's in Egypt and in a regional shift that has provided opportunities for reformist social-conservative groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin) to work in alliances beyond state borders and their licensing regimes. Furthermore, the Arab Spring has also led to the nascent political characterization of facets of Salafism.
More than two years since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, Iran and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah are still strategic allies of the Syrian regime. Both are providing it with financial and military support, and both are directly engaged in the armed struggle1 that the Syrian army is waging against the revolutionaries in many parts of the country.
In 2009, the relationship between Hamas and the leadership of Fatah (the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO) was frozen. Israel had just assaulted Gaza without any significant protest from the Fatah authorities in the West Bank.1 Subsequently, in a major break with Hamas's political line since its electoral victory in Palestine in 2006, the chief of its Political Bureau, Khaled Meshal, called for the formation of a new organization to replace the PLO, the sole internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people.2
The Arab revolts that started in late 2010 have ushered in a new political era in the region that is likely to affect Arab societies and politics for a long time. Thus far, the revolts have led to the overthrow of five rulers, spread to countries such as Jordan and Bahrain, and severely afflicted Syria, where a bloody internal conflict is being fought. This changing political landscape also has consequences for Palestinian political groups, particularly Hamas.
Emil Souleimanov, Maya Ehrmann
In the past decade, news of lethal attacks carried out by members of various jihadi groups has filled reports from the post-Soviet area; most of them have related to the Islamist insurgency anchored in Russia's volatile North Caucasus. The South Caucasus, located to the south of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, has until recently been considered largely immune to the manifestations of militant Islamism that have shaped the political and socioeconomic landscape of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and other autonomous republics of the multiethnic North Caucasus.
Turkey's first lady, Hayrunnisa Gul, recalls that in the beginning, she was sympathetic to the environmental protesters at Istanbul's Gezi Park, but became concerned when the demonstrations, which shook much of the country, turned violent. Emphasizing that Turkey has achieved progress "in every way" in the last decade, Mrs. Gul wondered whether "all our efforts have been in vain."
There is a strategic connection between Mali and the Middle East: The January 2013 attack by an al-Qaeda splinter group against the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria;1 the looting of Libyan arms in the summer of 2011;2 recruitment to violent extremist groups among refugees from the Western Sahara;3 trans-Saharan smuggling of drugs and other illicit trade;4 and the promulgation of radical Islamism across North, Saharan and Sahelian Africa, allegedly financed in part by backers from Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.5
Thijs Van de Graaf
The longstanding history of sanctions against Iran entered a new phase in late 2011 and early 2012, when the United States and the European Union (EU) introduced a new series of oil sanctions on what was then still the third-largest oil exporter in the world.1 Both sanctions experts and oil-market watchers were initially skeptical that these oil sanctions would work, not only in terms of inducing behavioral change in Tehran on the nuclear issue but even in terms of simply reducing Iran's oil exports.
A wunderkind who earned a PhD in physics at 21, Harold Brown became director of Livermore Laboratory in his mid-twenties after helping develop the Polaris missile. That nuclear weapon, which could be launched from a submarine, changed the balance of nuclear capabilities in the Cold War.
When the Arab Spring erupted in the winter of 2011, the first three countries embroiled were Tunisia, then Egypt and then Libya. While the events in Cairo's Tahrir Square received the vast majority of international media coverage, the upheaval in Libya was in its own way more dramatic.
This book by a leading American Gulf scholar is one of the most comprehensive studies of contemporary Saudi legal and political reforms to appear in some time.
Twelve years have passed since the attacks of September 11, yet too often one gets a sinking feeling that the United States is still desperately trying to work out how best to respond. The Long Shadow of 9/11: America's Response to Terrorism and The Dispensable Nation: American Forei
Islamic activists are using new channels for the political mobilization of Islam and the penetration of new public spaces. This is the theme explored by this thought-provoking collection of essays. According to Oliver Roy and Amel Boubekeur, the ideology of political Islam has evolved.