VOICES: Inhumanity and the Moral Limit in Syria

At the start of the “Arab Spring,” I was so optimistic about the prospect of democracy in the Middle East and heartened by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. On my mind was the oppression of millions of Syrians by the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime. Also on my mind was my experience during Lebanon’s More »

INSIGHT: Bahrain Uprising – Three Years In, Still No Way Out

Three years after Bahrain joined the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, human rights defenders are left wondering when the Obama Administration will put action behind its flamboyant 2011 rhetoric about rights, freedom and the rule of law. Those who took to the streets in the small Gulf kingdom on February 14 that More »

INSIGHT: Tunisia – What to Expect from Its New Constitution

Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) is voting on a new constitution.  The approval process is expected to be finalized this week. Tunisia has become an oasis of optimism in an otherwise tumultuous region. Egypt recently approved a new constitution, but its drafting was hardly a process of consensus, never mind the fact that this is More »

VOICES: Syria’s Children – the Lost Generation

A few minutes late, he wanders in to join the group. All the other children have started dancing to the music blaring from the iPod speakers.  He doesn’t have a name tag, so one of the volunteers takes his hand and leads him over to a table in the corner of the room. “What’s More »

QUICKTAKE: Syria Extremists Restricting Women’s Rights

In Syria’s now nearly three-year-old conflict, certain armed extremist opposition groups are imposing strict and discriminatory rules on women and girls that have no basis in Syrian law, Human Rights Watch says in a new study. The findings have been drawn from interviews with 43 refugees from Syria in Iraqi Kurdistan and two in Turkey, More »

INSIGHT: Egypt – a Tinderbox Waiting for a Spark

Nearly six months after the mass uprising-cum-coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi, the key cleavages of Egypt’s domestic political conflict are not only unresolved, but unresolvable. The generals who removed Morsi are engaged in an existential struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood: They believe they must destroy the Brotherhood – by, for instance, designating it a More »

INSIGHT: A Year of Too-great Expectations for Iran

If all goes according to plan, sometime during 2014 Iran will sign a comprehensive final agreement to end a nuclear crisis that, over the course of a decade, has threatened to escalate into a war in the Middle East. But in light of the unresolved issues that must be addressed, it would be unwise More »

INSIGHT: Pluralism Key to Real Change in Arab World

Three years after the start of political upheaval across the region, transitional governments are struggling to maintain popular support amid rising sectarianism, poverty and violent extremism. Of six Arab countries that have experienced revolts since late 2010, only tiny Tunisia and Yemen appear to be making fitful progress toward political pluralism. Libya is plagued by More »

INSIGHT: The Government Cracks Down, and Egypt Shrugs

Egyptians say the mood is different now. Gone is the call of the revolution demanding justice for the brutal torture and killing of a young man and an end to the police abuse his case exemplified. In its place is a weary, national shrug toward brutal attacks, now that they’re directed against the Muslim More »

INSIGHT: Year Four of the Arab Awakening

How will history judge the uprisings that started in many parts of the Arab world in 2011? The label “Arab Spring” proved too simplistic from the beginning. Transformational processes defy black-and-white expectations, but in the end, will the awakenings be more reminiscent of what happened in Europe in 1848, when several uprisings took place More »

INSIGHT: Syria – Talk to Assad?

Commenting recently to The New York Times, Ryan Crocker (the former United States ambassador to Syria and several other places) suggested, “We need to start talking to the Assad regime again… It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who More »

INSIGHT: Saudi Arabia’s War on Twitter

Two studies released in November show once again Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary appetite for Twitter compared to that in other countries. This has renewed interest in the potential for social media to facilitate political mobilization in the kingdom. Indeed, the Saudi Twittersphere reveals significant public discontent with the government’s performance on addressing domestic problems like unemployment More »

INSIGHT: Egyptian Women – Between Reports and Reality

I was not surprised by the contents of a report published recently by the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the status of women’s rights in the Arab world. Reactions to the report among Egyptians, however, were interesting, ranging from support to opposition to complete dismissal. Egypt was found to be the worst state for Arab More »

INSIGHT: Egypt Disorganization

For the first time since Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow five months ago, street protests erupted in Egypt last week that were not specifically the work of the Muslim Brotherhood aimed at restoring the deposed leader to the presidency. The protagonists this time were another group of familiar faces.  The different groups that are commonly lumped together More »

INSIGHT: Dealing Away the Middle East?

In the abstract and in isolation, a U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal is a welcome development. While it does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, it does complicate any future Iranian efforts to develop a robust nuclear military capability. It also shows that the United States and Iran, two sworn enemies, are capable of rationally pursuing their More »

INSIGHT: Nuclear Deal a Win-Win for US, Iran – Even Israel

The ink was not dry on the historic Geneva nuclear accord with Iran before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it as a “historic mistake”  that would allow Iran to cheat and get closer to nuclear weapons. Netanyahu may have been doing Iran a favor. By criticizing the deal so harshly, he will make it More »

INSIGHT: Time for a US-Moroccan Reset

When President Obama hosts Morocco’s King Mohammed VI today, he will have an opportunity to repair the damage from an ill-advised initiative on Western Sahara earlier this year, compounded by the sudden postponement of Secretary of State John Kerry’s scheduled visit to Rabat earlier this month. Lacking a surfeit of strong Arab allies these More »

INSIGHT: Beirut Bombings Point to New Escalation

Earlier this week, double explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut killed at least 23 people, including an Iranian diplomat. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Islamist group with links to al-Qaida, took responsibility for the attack. This is not the first event of its kind. There was a car bomb attack in the southern mainly-Shi’ite More »

INSIGHT: Yemen – Another Battlefield in Saudi-Iran Proxy War

In addition to Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Syria, Yemen represents yet another chessboard in the tactical maneuvers between Tehran and Riyadh in the Arab world. The current tide of the sectarian militancy between Shi’ite rebels and Sunni Salafi fighters, which began sweeping the northern provinces of Yemen on October 30, has once again put the More »

QUICKTAKE: New Approach Needed for Peace in Syria

A Syrian peace conference has been repeatedly delayed as U.S., Russian and U.N. diplomats struggle to get all parties involved to agree to take part.  Rebel brigades have voiced their opposition to the so-called “Geneva Two” process if the conference does not stipulate President Bashar al-Assad’s removal. Given the deadlock, some are calling for a More »