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 »

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: 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: 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 »

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 »

INSIGHT: Why the Narrative You’ve Heard About Syria Is Wrong

In the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian women are afraid to go to the restrooms at night, using the desert-like conditions around their homes rather than risk sexual assault. In neighboring Lebanon, since August, numerous Syrians have been turned back from the border, forcing them to return to dangerous conditions where their lives are More »

INSIGHT: The Syrian War in Three Capitals

More than ever before, the Syrian war is being played out in Moscow, Tehran and Washington. After a series of actions taken by Russia and the United States, the current situation is somewhat hopeful. The positions of the three major players have begun to evolve: Russia may have started looking at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad More »

INSIGHT: 10 Ways the Syrian Opposition Can Help Fight Extremism

Reports are growing of a sharp increase in the number of extremist groups operating in rebel-dominated areas of Syria. This has raised eyebrows in Washington, where policymakers continue to grapple with the question of how to support the opposition without inadvertently helping jihadists expand their destabilizing impact across the Middle East. These concerns are More »

INSIGHT: Quotas and Women in Egyptian Politics

Last week, Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, charged with amending the country’s constitution, announced that 25 percent of municipal seats will be reserved for women. There is no word yet on when municipal elections will be held, or if a similar quota will be established for parliament, but the move is a positive step toward improving More »

INSIGHT: Bahrain in Egypt’s Shadow

The popular movement to overthrow the Mubarak government in Egypt in 2011 served as motivation for a political uprising in Bahrain. Now, after two and a half years of political unrest and social polarization, another Egypt-inspired campaign – Bahrain’s “Tamarod” (Rebellion) – has unwittingly facilitated the expansion of security measures that threaten to curtail More »

INSIGHT: Syria’s Chemical Weapons – the Russia Factor

Russian diplomacy has dramatically changed the trajectory of the Western response to the Syria crisis and put the Kremlin at the center of international negotiations to control Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. But the Russian government’s insistence that chemical weapons were used by rebel forces now places it on the fringes of a serious debate More »

INSIGHT: Could US, Iran Agree on Syria Without Assad?

More than two years after President Barack Obama said it was time for Syria’s president to go, Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Damascus. But new evidence from the United Nations pointing to his regime’s large-scale use of chemical weapons makes it more plausible that Assad could leave office as part of an More »

INSIGHT: Why Syria Is Like Iraq

I supported the war in Iraq. It was an agonizing mistake. I made the mistake because I did something a serious foreign policy thinker should never do: I allowed my emotions to affect my thinking. My emotions were stirred by several visits to Iraq I had made as a reporter in the 1980s, when More »