Moqtada al-Sadr's attempts to keep attention on the United States and to associate his political rivals with it reveal his concerns about remaining relevant in Iraqi politics.
The Israeli war on Gaza simultaneously restored Hamas’s damaged legitimacy as the leader of the Palestinian resistance and pulled the rug out from under President Mahmud Abbas.
Provincial elections in January 2009 will provide insights into the health of Iraq's political system and the shifting balance of power among political parties and factions.
Will President Mahmud Abbas postpone the presidential election? Ghassan al-Khatib, a former minister and Vice President of Bir Zeit University, discusses the implications for Palestinian politics and Fatah-Hamas relations.
The ascendance of a hardliner to leadership of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood was expected to lead to greater tensions with the government, but that is not how things are working out.
Iraq has reached a political plateau. The U.S. troop surge has stopped the downward spiral in sectarian violence, allowing politics to move in a different direction. There are least three processes to watch: the on-going struggle for power among various parties and groups, recent state building efforts, and the cohesion of the four-party (two Shi’i and two Kurdish) coalition currently in power.
During the Arafat era, Israelis were ambivalent, even cynical, about the Palestinian reform process. The election of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who appears to be more genuinely committed to reform, will perhaps produce a more positive Israeli attitude. But for a host of reasons, in some circles the skepticism will persist.
The current crisis in Lebanon, ignited by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, is rooted not only in opposition to the Syrian military presence, but also in frustration at the lack of presidential or parliamentary elections since 2000.
As the reform agenda for the Arab world continues to expand, it is time to integrate the issue of security sector reform into the discussion. Only in Iraq and Palestine is security reform a vibrant topic for local debate and for support or intervention by the international community.
The State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative represents a critical element in the Bush administration's policy of attempting to transform the Arab world into a zone of liberal democracies and free market economies.
Shiite Islamists are likely to ultimately become the dominant power in post-war Iraq. As the Baath Party is dismantled by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the organizational counterweight to Shiite Islamist power is being weakened, and the Shiite Islamist groups have demonstrated that they are better organized and funded than other non-Baathist groups.
The June 17, 2003 Jordanian elections for the House of Deputies (parliament's lower house) were so out of touch with regional events that they might well have been held on a different planet, according to Al Dustour columnist Urayb Al Rantawi.
As the elections end, the hard work of constructing the new Iraq begins. While Iraqi voters can congratulate themselves on a remarkable achievement in the face of extraordinary difficulties, the situation remains precarious.
By adopting free and democratic elections at the presidential, legislative, and local levels, Palestinians may be laying down the foundation of another working democracy in the Middle East. In the January 9 presidential election, none of the seven candidates, including Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), took victory for granted.
After the first large demonstrations organized by Shiite clerics in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked about the possibility that radical Islamists would rise to power. That, he answered, "ain't gonna happen, I just don't see how that's going to happen."
On April 29, 2003 Mahmud Abbas (widely known as Abu Mazen) won a vote of confidence from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to serve as the first prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Beyond its much-discussed implications for a revived Israeli-Palestinian peace process, this step could also mark a departure in Arab governance.
On March 1, the Quartet (the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia) and other donors will meet in London to discuss ways to support the new Palestinian leadership in carrying out political, economic, and security reform, as well as preparing for Israeli disengagement from Gaza.
Though Iraqi political life since the ouster of Saddam Hussein may appear formless, it is following certain patterns familiar from other post-authoritarian settings. All countries where an authoritarian regime suddenly collapses go through a period of decompression in which political oxygen flows very rapidly into a previously closed system, producing disorientation and confusion.
Events since PLO Chairman Arafat’s demise—the unexpectedly smooth transfer of business to a pragmatic leader committed to negotiations and reform, Palestinian security forces’ efforts to stop militant attacks, and the Israeli-Palestinian truce announced at the February 8 Sharm Al Sheikh summit—have brought a wave of optimism to analyses of Palestinian affairs.
Despite its reactive origins, the recent mobilization of the Shiite community in Lebanon does not seem to be an ephemeral episode, but rather a new chapter in an ongoing epic of communal consciousness and activism with far-reaching political implications.