For the past 30 years, the United States has treated Saudi Arabia as its primary partner in the Persian Gulf and perhaps even the Middle East at large. While the two countries have cooperated on a number of issues, including preventing Soviet expansion and counterterrorism, the relationship at its core is based on a simple bargain: Saudi Arabia receives a U.S. security guarantee in exchange for ensuring the stability of global oil prices. Of course, Saudi Arabia is an autocratic Salafist state and the United States is a multiethnic democracy so they have naturally long differed on a variety of issues. But such divergent interests -- never insignificant -- were papered over, ignored, or resolved by unilateral compromise in the interests of preserving the basic bargain.
However, as the Middle East has changed over the last decade (the Iraq War, the Arab Spring, the diversification of energy supplies), these disagreements have grown both more public and frequent. Bitter rows over Egypt and President Barack Obama's unwillingness to intervene in Syria have led senior Saudi officials to question U.S. resolve and commitment to the region.
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Iraq is Disintegrating... Again!
Iraqi nationalism, Iraqi social cohesion - "Iraqiness" -- is in disarray if not completely dead and buried. It is all too easy to mention that, after 10 years, the new Iraq lacks a unifying flag, a national anthem, internal sovereignty, external sovereignty, or a functioning central government. Indeed it often seems as if the national football team might be the last surviving vestige of Iraqi nationalism. Iraqis kill other Iraqis by the hundreds every month and the murderers are callously cheered on by some Iraqi demographic or another in the name of retributive violence.
Meanwhile the voices calling for the division of Iraq into almost always absurdly named entities seem to be on firmer ground than ever -- their arguments taking on a "we told you so" tone. The survival of the Iraqi nation-state, even without the Kurdish north whose independence seems to be an inevitability constrained by time alone, is once again being debated. In short, many may conclude that, as 2013 draws to a close, the only thing more baffling than the levels of violence and cruelty is the fact that, 10 years on, Iraq still exists at all. Yet, as intuitive as such conclusions may seem, they remain fundamentally flawed in that they allow the violence and the profound social and political divisions of Iraq to obscure Arab Iraqis' tenacious belief in "Iraq."
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images; Fanar Haddad
The recent court ruling calling for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to be outlawed comes as no surprise. The move was expected since the removal of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3. The ruling reveals the current regime's determination to exclude and undermine the Brotherhood. The crucial questions are whether the ruling will be harmful to the movement's activities and network and to what extent it will affect the movement's future.
But before delving into these queries, at least two legal points are worth mentioning. First, the ruling orders a "ban" on all of the Brotherhood's activities and not a "dissolution" of its structure and network. The distinction is important, as with the former interpretation the Brotherhood can still operate and do business as usual but in a more cautious and secretive manner. It appears that the ruling aims at nothing more than putting more pressure on the Brotherhood. This is particularly evident considering that the ruling is silent on the fate of the Brotherhood's political arm the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), and thus does not clarify whether it would be banned.
On September 5, 2012, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the United States "lacked initiative" in dealing with the crisis in Syria. "There are certain things being expected from the United States. Obama has not yet catered to those expectations," he said. A year later Erdogan finds himself at sharper odds with the U.S. administration, whose decision to head off planned strikes on Syria has left him in a lonely spot both at home and in the region.
To Erdogan, a strong advocate of regime change, anything short of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ouster carries the risk of further weakening his hand domestically and regionally. Only a few years ago Turkey was praised as a non-sectarian actor mediating regional conflicts through its access to various actors from Iran to Israel, Hamas to Fatah. The Syrian conflict, however, has dealt a blow to its image as a regional superpower pursuing non-sectarian foreign policy. Turkey's active support for the Sunni-majority Syrian opposition in what has become a largely sectarian civil war has projected Turkey as a Sunni power with a sectarian regional agenda, thus making it appear less impartial and leading to a slide in its regional influence. With the Saudis taking over the Syria portfolio from Turkey and Qatar and the establishment of the recent Russian-U.S. deal, Turkey has been marginalized in regional and international efforts to tackle the Syrian crisis.
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There have been more stirring declarations of independence, but in Egypt's constricted political environment, this one was still bold. Article 18 of the bylaws of Egypt's "committee of 50" drafting constitutional amendments proudly proclaims that the committee will complete its work in 60 days "not counting official holidays."
The 50 members now hard at work in Egypt are assigned the task of taking the very extensive list of amendments drafted by an earlier committee (consisting of 10 jurists) and developing a proposed text to submit to voters in a couple months. All committee members were appointed by interim President Adli Mansour, himself appointed by the military. The composition of the committee reflects a cross-section of Egyptian society but hardly a representative one. The last parliamentary elections resulted in a body that was two-thirds Islamists, but Islamist parties claim only one seat in the current committee. Various unions, syndicates, and state bodies were allowed to choose their own representatives, and the president peppered the body with some prominent politicians and intellectuals.
On September 24, Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani will make his debut at the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). He is far from the first Iranian president to make this appearance. For a quarter century, Iran's top elected leaders have all used the green marble dais in the cavernous General Assembly to lay out Iran's vision for the Islamic Republic, the Middle East, and the world. Indeed, before becoming the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, even then-President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei traveled to New York for the opening of the United Nations in 1987.
Rouhani's appearance this year may be particularly momentous. For the first time, both Iran and the United States are in sync about serious diplomacy -- and the bargaining may well begin in public but even more behind-the-scenes in New York. Rouhani has made clear that he will use the gathering of heads of state to announce a new era in Iran's relations with the outside word, especially with the United States and Europe. In his brief six weeks in office, the president has already talked extensively about moderation and "constructive engagement" on international disputes.
As part of a series of attacks on police and security personnel, a bomb targeting the convoy of General Mohamed Ibrahim, the Egyptian minister of interior, exploded on Thursday leading to at least one death and the injury of over 20 people. The bombing comes at a critical time as negotiations between the interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood falters, making the future of political reconciliation all the more uncertain. The attack has serious repercussions on police reform efforts in light of the increasing securitization of the political crisis.
The bombing took place in Cairo's eastern suburb of Nasr City, a few miles away from the famous Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque where thousands of ousted President Mohamed Morsi supporters camped for weeks. While Ibrahim escaped harm, several of his guards and civilians who happened to be in the area were severely wounded as a result of the massive explosion. Early reports suspect that a car implanted with a heavy dose of TNT and parked near the minister's residence was the cause, raising fears of the introduction of roadside explosions into the country.
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It wasn't too long ago when Yemen launched its ostensibly inclusive National Dialogue process. The conference, which started on March 18, was meant to mend the wounds of the society and lead to the promulgation of the Yemeni constitution. But whoever thought that six months were sufficient for reconciliation and change was overly ambitious. The conference uncovered deep-rooted differences that confounded its participants and further polarized discussions, leading to a further indefinite delay.
In order to salvage the situation, the government of Yemen issued a statement on August 21 apologizing to the people of the southern, eastern, and northern provinces of the country for the wars and military campaigns launched during the Saleh regime. At the outset, the move seemed to be mature and reconciliatory, but it had counter effects on the ground. The apology came across as insipid at a time when the government has been either aggressive or ambivalent toward these areas. To make matters worse, the government exerted no effort in conducting consultations on the draft prior to issuing the statement. If it had done so, it would have probably been advised to remove some of its belligerent language that has inflamed, rather than quelled, the fury of many Yemenis.
Fatima Abo Alasrar
Boxed into a corner by U.S. President Barack Obama's "red line" that the Assad regime has crossed with its apparent use of chemical weapons on August 21, the United States finds itself on the verge of intervening militarily in Syria's increasingly brutal and complex civil war.
Whatever the United States and its allies decide to do in Syria, scant attention has been paid to the few important lessons that can be drawn from the multilateral intervention in Libya two years ago. Libya teaches us three things: 1) any intervention has to have a clear political strategy defining the mission's objectives as well as plans to counteract the undesirable but foreseeable consequences that are natural byproducts of any intervention 2) limited intervention -- like the kind under consideration for Syria --could have very dangerous consequences, potentially more dangerous than a less limited intervention 3) the political legitimacy conferred by Arab and regional powers, such as Turkey or Qatar, is essential for the success and public relations aspect of the intervention, but also creates its own difficulties which must be actively counteracted.
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Twin car bombs exploded outside packed mosques in Tripoli killing at least 47 people and wounding hundreds. This horrific attack came on the heels of a car bomb in Beirut's southern suburbs on August 15 that killed 27 people and wounded more than 300. Lebanese are more fearful than ever that their country is being dragged into yet another civil war. A return to all-out civil war remains unlikely, but the prospects for stability and security in Lebanon have never been dimmer.
Alarmist messages have sounded furiously in recent days. Lebanon's Minister of Interior Marwan Charbel recently warned of the danger of partition as religious leaders in Tripoli called for establishing vigilante groups to protect their neighborhoods and streets. Resident of Beirut's southern suburbs, considered a Hezbollah stronghold, are now subject to a daily search of their cars at checkpoints manned by Hezbollah men, every time they exit from or return to their homes. There is fear of more explosions in the near future that could drag the country into an irreversible cycle of tit-for-tat retaliatory violence.
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The United States government has had to make some tough calls on Egypt over the last few years. Did the events of January 25, 2011 constitute a revolution? Was the election of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi to the presidency the beginning of a revolution of a different kind? Did General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's non-coup constitute the real revolution? These definitional questions were not merely academic. As the director for intelligence and research for the Middle East at the State Department over the last few years, I saw firsthand that the administration was preoccupied with such questions at the highest levels of government. Our inability to answer them even for ourselves has been crippling. The Hamlet complex has been stifling decisions, from Egypt to Syria to Iran, and now back to Egypt. In every case, actions not taken were merely deferred, only to be taken at a later time at the least propitious moment, when a Shakespearean denouement was all but inevitable.
The truth is that government analysts were caught flat-footed by the events in Tunisia and Egypt as they first unfolded. The magnitude and import of Tunisia eluded even the most astute among us. By the third day of events in Egypt in 2011, however, we were sure Hosni Mubarak was going to fall. Seeing, on live TV, the total lack of fear among protesters as they chased after and burnt police vans was sufficient to underline that something fundamental had changed. Those who discounted Tahrir Square as a genuine revolution argued for staying the course, out of loyalty to Mubarak and for safeguarding U.S. security interests from the unknown to follow should he be toppled. Values and accurate forecasting fortunately won the day, and Mubarak's denying the will of his people was decried.
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Egypt's Interim President Adli Mansour issued a new constitutional declaration on July 8 following President Mohamed Morsi's removal from office. This declaration laid out a three-step process for amending Egypt's constitution. First, a 10-member technical committee would be given one month to propose changes to the 2012 constitution. Following that, a 50-member constituent assembly (which will have only six political party representatives and which shall consist mostly of representatives from state institutions) will have two months to debate the proposed changes. Finally, a referendum will be organized to ratify the new constitution, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.
The first step in that process has now been completed, and the results are profoundly disappointing. The technical committee, which consisted of six judges and four academics (three of whom are retired), finalized its proposals on August 20. An official version of its proposed changes has not yet been released, but what looks like a final version has been circulated to various news outlets, and gives a good idea of what the technical committee has planned for the country's future. While a few of the changes that the technical committee offers are significant, the vast majority are not. The draft constitution that the committee has prepared merely tinkers with the 2012 constitution, which itself offered only minor departures from the 1971 constitution.
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In the wake of the recent carnage in Egypt some observers have declared the Arab Spring dead and buried. Its epitaph has been splashed across the pages of the New York Times and other publications, along with calls for the United States to give up efforts to promote competitive politics in the Arab world. A democracy agenda must now give way to an agenda of "responsible governance." This eulogy is animated by the assumption that Egyptian politics represents merely one extreme version of a shared political pathology for which there is no remedy. If democratization has failed in Egypt, it is bound to collapse in every Arab state now undergoing struggles for political change.
What happens in Egypt does matter. The epicenter of the Arab world, its political struggles are being closely watched by rival political forces throughout the region. Egypt's failure might be repeated, particularly if those groups that fear that democratization is giving rivals unchecked power decide to emulate Egypt's "Tamarod" movement by revolting against fragile transitions. But the carnage in Egypt could also encourage rival political leaders to revive efforts to forge political consensus. Not only is the game far from over: Egypt's struggles might help save what is left of the "Arab Spring."
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Upon first reading the short news item in the highbrow daily al-Shuruq that the judicial committee drafting amendments to Egypt's 2012 constitution is completing its work, a reader would likely have felt satisfied that it answered the Egyptian equivalent of the American question, "And apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" With the number of killed entering four digits and a political atmosphere in which Islamists and security forces appear locked in a deadly battle; with an overheated public atmosphere in which adversaries appear caught in a spiral of outlandish conspiracy theories and dehumanization; with foreign journalists subject to verbal abuse and harassment and Christians subject to much worse -- with all this, what is the point of talking about constitutional reform? The contours of Egypt's political future seem starkly clear: an abusive security state, operating (at least for the short term) in an atmosphere of panicked public approval; an Islamist opposition increasingly alienated from the political process and willing to use thuggish force; and ongoing civil strife. What does the constitutional process have to do with this? Can it even continue under such circumstances? Can a constitution written in 2012 largely by people now decried as terrorists really be amended to serve Egypt in 2013? Isn't the new regime's "road map" to restore constitutional rule and elections superseded by recent events?
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It is ironic that a state claiming to rule according to Islamic principles, Saudi Arabia, fears the rise to power of Islamists -- both at home and in neighboring countries. One regional Islamist trend worries the Saudi leadership, the Muslim Brotherhood which has decided to engage in politics through elections and the democratic process.
Saudi legitimacy is based on an appropriation of Islamic symbols such as claims that "our constitution is the Quran" and the application of sharia. The Saudi leadership fears losing its unique Islamic credentials as Islamists in other countries reach power. It wants to remain the sole Islamic model in the Arab region. The possibility of neighboring states combining Islamist politics with democracy threatens the Saudi model and seriously alarms the Saudi state.
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It is troubling how predictable and expected the consequences of last week's decisions in Egypt have been. It is troubling because it indicates that those who made such decisions either had little or no idea that these consequences were likely -- or that they did not care about those consequences. In the midst of this crisis, however, it is important to see where there may be a path out and who can -- and who cannot -- help.
The public demand of the pro-Morsi camp (although privately, they are somewhat more nuanced) is the reinstatement of President Mohamed Morsi. In doing so, it is chasing after a scenario that is not only unlikely, but also dangerous. The best case for the July 3 military takeover was the aversion of widespread violence and civil war. This case has now been defeated -- widespread violence has already taken place, and while it is not in a civil war, Egypt is in a very dark place.
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For the first time in their modern history, the Kurds can look beyond the mountains for friends. This was not the case just a short time ago. The failure to negotiate statehood, largely due to an inability to present a united front following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the post-World War I new regional order, isolated their communities into four separate states (Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran) and silenced their voice on the international stage for much of the 20th century. During this time, as minorities at the behest of Arab, Turkish, and Persian nationalisms, they were subjected to discrimination, segregation, and at times, genocide.
Today, however, the situation of the Middle East's largest ethnic group without a state has improved and the 40 million or so Kurds are again confronted with an opportunity to take charge of their own affairs. In Iraq, the Kurds have experienced autonomy since the United States, Britain, and France established a safe haven in 1991 that led to the creation of a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). This lasted through the 2003 Iraq war and the Kurdistan Region has developed into a semi-autonomous and economically thriving de facto state with a national force, the peshmerga (literally meaning "those who face death"), that maintains sovereignty over its territory and a crafty diplomatic corps that frames a Kurd-friendly Iraqi state-building process and wins allies in the strategic cities of Ankara and Washington.
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Bahrain's contested politics transcends almost everything to do with national identity, historical narrative, and popular discourse. The uprising that began in 2011 is an attempt to subvert all that is state imposed, everything from road names to "national" days of celebration. The opposition has long called for August 14, when the British officially withdrew from Bahrain, to be the official national day. The ruling family however has designated the day that the king first took the throne on December 17 to be the official national day. It is no surprise, therefore, that August 14 has been chosen for Bahrain's Egyptian inspired "Tamarod" (Rebellion campaign). Analyzing the uprisings from a different perspective, we can ask ourselves are the so-called Arab Spring uprisings a quest for full sovereignty? And what do various foreign interventions in Arab countries in response to uprisings say about sovereignty of states?
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While the security situation continues to worsen in Libya, over the past few months, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (ASL) has been taking advantage of the lack of state control by building local communal ties, which is strengthening its ability to operate in more locations than Benghazi. Although Benghazans protested against ASL in response to the consulate attack, which led many in the media, commentariat, and government to believe it had been outright discredited, contrary to this narrative that formed that ASL was marginalized and kicked out of the city, in fact, it is thriving and expanding.
Following the September 11 attack, many Libyans, especially in Benghazi, were embarrassed that the operation on the consulate that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other Americans occurred. Many believed Stevens was doing a great job and helping out the local community. As such, citizens went into the streets to repudiate these actions and called for stripping weapons from militias. They also stormed ASL's base. While this might have been a short-term set back, ASL has since been able to alter perceptions of its intentions even if it has not fundamentally changed its ideology.
The recent wave of anti-Shiite rhetoric and sectarian polarization has caused profound concerns across the Middle East. Sectarian tensions are not new, of course, but the vocabulary of anti-Shiism in the Middle East has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Shiites who used to be accused of ethnic otherness are now being cast as outside the Muslim community itself. Exclusion on doctrinal grounds was a mostly Saudi exception in the framing of Shiism. It is now increasingly becoming the regional rule.
Prior to 2003, anti-Shiism in Iraq was perhaps best encapsulated in the term ajam. Ajam (singular ajmi) is an Arabic phrase meaning non-Arab; however, in the modern Middle Eastern vernacular, particularly in Iraq, "the ajam" is usually understood as "the Iranians." Throughout the 20th century this term was used to discredit Shiite activists and political opponents by casting doubt on their national loyalty and Arab pedigree. Sectarian otherness was framed in distinctly national and ethnic terms with scant, if any, reference to sectarian dogma, doctrine, or beliefs. In other words, prior to 2003, Middle Eastern Sunni-Shiite dynamics were more often manifestations of nationalistic and ethnic rather than religious expression.
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They're the determinators -- the politically savvy, socially sassy, and media astute young of Iran. And they count, quite literally, as never before as a new president takes over.
President Hassan Rowhani owes his election to the young, who are Iran's largest voting bloc. At the last minute, vast numbers opted to back him rather than boycott the poll. They're also now the centrist cleric's biggest headache, as he has to meet their expectations. Two-thirds of Iran's 75 million people are under 35 -- and they vote again in four years.
The sound of Tunisians chanting, "the people want the fall of the National Constituent Assembly" abound in a suburb of Tunis where the constitution drafting has been underway. A substantial portion of those protesting for the second week, in the wake of the assassination of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi, are the same young faces that poured out of high schools and universities at the start of the Tunisian Revolution two and a half years ago. In late December 2010, these university activists pulled together putting pressure on the regime and distracting police attention from protests taking place around the country. However, their warring calls are anything but unified this time around.
In June, I spoke with Tunisian university students representing a range in levels of student activism and an equal number of Islamists and leftists. The general consensus indicates that sentiments of discontent and polarization are not new and have been festering due to frustration with the transitional process. It seems that recent events have only given momentum to a previous trend and this preexisting mechanism of control has outlived dictatorship and is holding youth activists back from embracing a pluralistic Tunisia.
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At dawn on July 26, one day after the assassination of National Constituent Assembly (NCA) member Mohamed Brahmi, the opposition -- led by Jibhat Shaabia (the Popular Front), Nidaa Tounes (the Call for Tunisia), and a number of civil society activists -- demanded the dissolution of the Tunisian government and the NCA in order to "correct the course of the revolution and to spare the country further economic and security afflictions."
Despite the absence of a clear connection between Brahmi's murder and the policies of the government -- which has been cracking down harder on Salafi jihadi extremism and trying to provide more security -- and despite that the opposition had no plans to create a democratically legitimate body to replace the NCA, this announcement was received with great euphoria by many Tunisians. Ongoing protests in the Bardo neighborhood of Tunis, just outside the Constituent Assembly, have been fueled by emotion and the shortsighted power hunger of opposition elites, including figures in Nidaa Tounes, Jibhat Shaabia, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) -- the country's largest trade union -- and the media.
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In the aftermath of the military takeover of the Egyptian government on July 3, much of the world's media reacted characterizing the move as a coup. Defenders of the move argued that the "coup" description could not apply because it received widespread public support, in contradistinction to former President Mohamed Morsi's unpopularity. Both supporters of the move and its detractors argued that their side spoke for the silent majority -- something that no one could thoroughly substantiate. However, data from the recent "TahrirTrends" survey and additional data from Gallup shed some light on at least part of the public discourse.
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It was a terrible day for Tunisia. Yesterday morning, Mohamed Brahmi -- a leftist politician and Constituent Assembly member -- was shot dead outside his home in the al-Ghazala neighborhood of Tunis. His wife and daughter witnessed the gruesome scene. News of the murder, Tunisia's second political assassination in less than six months, spread quickly, triggering a chain of increasingly disruptive events throughout the country -- events likely to have a much more destabilizing effect than the assassination itself.
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A year ago, Hamas's strategic realignment away from Syria and Iran and closer to emerging regional powers like Qatar and Egypt increased the organization's regional standing while partially alleviating the economic pressure on the group and on Gaza. Today, in an ironic twist of fate, initial celebrations have gradually turned sour as Hamas stands alone, isolated and vulnerable.
With the imminent resumption of political negotiations between Israel and Palestine, it would seem a perfect time for the international community to further cripple the organization and undermine its grip on Gaza. Prominent analysts have indeed urged the United States to pressure Hamas's main financial backers -- including the Palestinian Authority (PA), Turkey, and Qatar -- to cut back on funding. These measures, combined with Egypt's increased border restrictions and with the ongoing campaign to crack down on underground tunnels, could place significant financial pressure on Hamas (and Gaza with its over 1.5 million residents). Those who support this strategy argue that it would severely undermine Hamas's capacity to govern, while encouraging people in Gaza to get rid of the Palestinian Islamist group.
But implementing yet another policy of "suffocation" of Hamas is misguided and can easily backfire.
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President-elect Hassan Rowhani
will assume office on August 3 with a mandate thanks to his decisive first
round election victory on June 14. But in his first 100 days, Rowhani will face
a daunting agenda: he must address a struggling economy, form a unity government,
send the right signals abroad, and start rebuilding the regime's legitimacy.
Most importantly, he must convince Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that his
agenda is worth blessing.
Rowhani's top concern will be Iran's economy. The new administration is tasked with reversing years of mismanagement and, as Rowhani puts it, "brutal pressures exerted on us externally." Indeed, Rowhani has already begun the hard work of curbing expectations. On July 14, he told the Majlis, Iran's parliament, that Iran's economic situation was far worse than the current administration dared admit.
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On Monday, European Union foreign ministers reached a unanimous decision to classify the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. On the face of it, supporting efforts to rile anti-Hezbollah sentiment in Lebanon might also appear to be in U.S. interests. However, the civil war that might ensue, and the empowerment of radical Sunni elements that it would engender, would quickly reverse any short-term gains.
Between the continued bloodshed in Syria and the military takeover in Egypt, it might be easy to overlook recent events in Lebanon. But Middle East watchers need to keep a sharp eye on the current turmoil in Lebanon because spillover from Syria could cause the security situation to flame up quickly into a full-scale sectarian civil war. Several stabilizing factors have kept the situation in Lebanon from escalating out of control, one of these being Hezbollah's resistance to being drawn into conflict with other Lebanese. However, recent attacks on Hezbollah interests, coupled with the EU's decision this week to blacklist the organization, are backing Hezbollah into a corner. Feeling its position in Lebanon to be under threat, the organization may change course, and decide to take up the fight against its domestic rivals.
The (possible) resumption of direct and high-level talks between Israel and Palestine has generated a wide range of reactions among analysts and pundits. Much of it has been negative, particularly when it comes to presumptions about Israeli intentions. The standard assumption among observers is of a stronger rightwing government, with a couple maybe-centrists here and there, facing off against a weaker leftwing opposition -- a formula that many assume can only mean the continuation of the status quo.
Things may turn out that way, but we simply cannot know at this point. Information is contradictory and incomplete. More importantly, the domestic politics of peacemaking in Israel encompasses multiple considerations among a variety of parties. It is too simplistic to contend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a rightwing ideologue who is only stalling for time, while Israel's intra- and inter-party struggles and politicians' personal ambitions will exert considerable influence over how committed Israel is to talks.
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