Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary election will not bring about any decisive changes. Elections do not cause significant power shifts; they can only reflect the power shifts that have already taken place.
Mohamed ElBaradei has an opportunity to help Egyptians achieve a more democratic government. To succeed, he must do three things: remind Egypt that democracy requires an engaged citizenry, call on the opposition to formulate well-defined political programs, and move back to Egypt so that he can engage directly with its citizens.
While officials are quietly suggesting that indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel may resume, escalating tensions between Israel, Syria, and Lebanon are sparking concerns about the possibility of a regional war.
After a year long hiatus, the rhetoric of a war on terror has returned to the fore, following the failed attack on an American plane on Christmas Day. Both the American far right and al-Qaeda have seized upon that attack to push forward their agendas, aided by the resurgence of more militant rhetoric.
While an ad hoc committee has lifted the ban barring candidates suspected of ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from participating in the Iraqi elections, it did not dismiss the charges against those candidates and is widely seen as the result of internal and external political pressures.
The Obama administration’s deadline for Iran to enter discussions on the nuclear issue has passed. In spite of claims from Washington that “all options are on the table,” the economic crisis makes a military response to Iran infeasible.
The steady rise of sectarian tensions over the past few years in Egypt is the result of an indecisive state, an incendiary media, and a failure of civil institutions to stand up for the equal rights of all Egyptians.
The Muslim Brotherhood was once the most dynamic opposition force in Egypt, but the government’s efforts to exclude it from political participation and internal conflict within the Brotherhood itself have made it practically indistinguishable from the country’s other opposition parties.
Islamist parties and movements in Arab countries have gained political influence by making the difficult strategic decision to participate in the existing legal political process, forcing them to confront thorny ideological issues.
The Arab world is at a dangerous juncture, with domestic, regional, and international challenges creating a state of crisis that could lead toward the disintegration of the Arab nations and the fragmentation of society.
While the current political elite is likely to remain in power, by 2020 the dynamics of modernization will have changed Egypt fundamentally.
Yemen’s stability is threatened by multiple security and economic challenges, ranging from a rapidly growing population to imminent economic collapse, and immediate and sustained international attention is needed to prevent Yemen from becoming a failed state.
Lebanon’s domestic and regional politics remained relatively calm in 2009, but with Hezbollah’s refusal to disarm and Syria’s continuing determination to ferry arms into Lebanon, the nation lacks full sovereignty and remains vulnerable to sudden shocks.
Yemen’s stability and security situation is rapidly deteriorating, threatening the entire region, and without the help of Yemen’s neighbors and international partners, the situation will only continue to worsen, with potentially catastrophic results.
President Obama has had some major accomplishments in the past year, but serious challenges still lay ahead: strengthening the nonproliferation regime, climate change, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, and Afghanistan.
As Iraq’s second parliamentary election approaches, Sunnis appear as uncertain about what strategy to pursue and as divided among themselves as they were in 2004 and 2005.
Engagement with Iran over its nuclear problem has become increasingly complicated; not only has the regime backed away from previous commitments, but internal political developments require the Obama administration to call for engagement without undermining the opposition.
While a Nobel Peace Prize seems the occasion to address an international audience, Obama must use this opportunity to speak to his domestic constituency on the three great present challenges to world peace: nuclear proliferation, climate change and the allure of radical Islam.
Opposition groups can only counter the regime’s hegemony by letting go of their obsession with Gamal Mubarak’s succession and addressing other issues at the core of the upcoming elections.
The trouble in northern Yemen should serve as a wakeup call to the global community to help Yemen deal with the political, security, and economic crises it faces, before the confrontation escalates and further destabilizes the region.