The May 16, 2003 Casablanca terrorist attacks that killed 43 people in five synchronized suicide bombings shattered two myths about Moroccan politics.
Not since the Iranian revolution has the issue of Shiite political development been of such interest to observers of Middle Eastern politics.
At the first annual conference of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), held in Cairo from September 26 to 28, President Hosni Mubarak and his son Gamal tried to give the impression that an end to autocratic rule in Egypt is at hand. Forty-year-old Gamal heads the NDP's influential policy secretariat and many believe he is being groomed to inherit his father's presidential seat.
Is America serious about democracy and political reform in the Arab world? Does the neo-Wilsonian dimension of the Bush administration's policy toward the region presage a decisive departure from the longstanding realist policy of "regime maintenance"?
Amy Hawthorne's article in the September 2003 Arab Reform Bulletin, "The Middle East Partnership Initiative: Questions Abound," is a welcome recognition of President Bush's commitment to reform across the Arab world.
With President Bush's May 2003 announcement that the United States will work to create a US-Middle East free trade zone by 2013, the White House has given free trade a leading role in its strategy for the economic and political transformation of the Arab world. As President Bush declared, "Free markets will defeat poverty and promote the habits of liberty."
Ten years after the 1995 signature of the Barcelona Declaration (which established a European-Mediterranean partnership for peace, stability, prosperity, human development, and cultural exchange), Mediterranean issues are at the heart of the international agenda. Despite the continued relevance of the Barcelona process, its effectiveness has been rather harshly assessed.
Tunisians took to the streets in February protesting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's scheduled visit to their country in November 2005 to attend the World Information Summit. Inviting Sharon, seen as a war criminal by many Tunisians and other Arabs, was an undemocratic decision by the Tunisian regime exercised against the popular will of the Tunisian people.
Anyone who believes that U.S. President George Bush is succeeding in Iraq can believe that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is undertaking reform in Egypt; but neither is happening in reality. Constitutional amendments in Egypt, intended to burnish the state's democratic image, have instead made it a laughingstock.
Truth commissions and other mechanisms of transitional justice usually spring up in the aftermath of civil war or authoritarian rule. They do not thrive where the perpetrators still wield power or enjoy protection.
The adoption of the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative by the Group of Eight Industrialized Nations (G-8) at their June 8-10 summit in Sea Island, Georgia represents a diplomatic victory for the United States. The initiative, however, is extremely unlikely to have a noticeable impact on political reform in the Middle East.
With the ongoing violence in Iraq, the bloody impasse between Israel and the Palestinians, and the new American sanctions on Syria, it was perhaps not surprising that the Arab League's May 23-24 summit in Tunis focused on these regional crises, rather than on political reform inside Arab countries as the United States had hoped.
In reporting on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's April 12 visit to George Bush's Texas ranch, the press focused on Bush's endorsement of Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Nearly all commentators overlooked the more notable aspect of Mubarak's visit: the fact that a U.S. president had for the first time raised the subject of democracy with his Egyptian counterpart.
The Algerian government has billed the country's April 8 presidential election, in which incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika defeated five challengers with a reported 83 percent of the vote, as a "turning point" for democratization. The smooth and mostly peaceful conduct of the vote and the 59 percent turnout mark a distinct improvement over the flawed 1999 polls.
Tunisian President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali's last-minute decision to postpone the Arab League summit scheduled to open in Tunis on March 29 caused a diplomatic earthquake. It called the Arab order into question and shattered the hopes of Arab people for joint Arab action on several critical issues.
There is broad consensus in Washington that a "war of ideas" is a central component of the larger war on terror. And in this war, a prime target is the "poisonous" Arab media environment, particularly the new satellite television channels , which are blamed for spreading anti-American sentiment.
In a series of bold decisions last December, the Libyan government openly acknowledged its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Within days of the announcement Mohamed Al Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visited the country and soon afterward the government in Tripoli turned over its store of acquired literature and hardware to the United States.
Let us dispose of the never-ending argument about whether Islam is compatible with democracy. The relevant question is, what factors will facilitate the Islamic mainstream's acceptance of democracy? The experience of the Catholic Church provides a useful framework for understanding the uphill battle being waged over democracy within the world of Islam.