British officials publicly worried recently that the United States-led coalition occupying Iraq had only about a year before the Shiites of Iraq turned against it. Shiites, the majority in the country, so far have been more welcoming of the coalition military and civilian presence than have Sunni Arabs.
Underlying the political map of the Middle East —those weird straight lines of Sykes-Picot vintage running through the desert— is the real configuration of this enigmatic region: the ethno-religious layout. Kurds, Berbers, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Turks, Armenians, Copts, and more, depending on where one decides the Middle East ends.
To date, the United States-led Coalition Provisional Authority has exhibited a strong tendency to appoint Iraqis to political positions based primarily on sectarian and ethnic considerations.
The Agreement on Political Process signed on November 15 by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III for the Coalition Provisional Authority and by Jalal Talabani for the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) provides a much needed and long overdue roadmap for the restoration of sovereignty to an Iraqi government. Unfortunately, the agreement contains numerous clauses that will make implementation quite difficult.
In the months since the end of the war, the United States has set up scores of local councils in Iraq's cities and main towns, reaching an estimated 51 percent of the country's population. Put together under emergency conditions, the local councils are not elected, but selected by the civil affairs teams in consultation with Iraqis.
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.
On July 15, 2003, the American administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, finally articulated a clear benchmark for ending the Coalition Provisional Authority's administration of Iraq: the governing council's promulgation of a democratic constitution and the subsequent holding of national elections. Bremer has said he expects the constitution writing process to take about six to eight months.
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."
Since the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Shiites of Iraq have come to the forefront of the debate among Western and Arab intellectuals and politicians. A clear majority of more than 60 percent of the population, the Shiites of Iraq have never held a majority or even a powerful minority status in Iraqi politics since the establishment of modern Iraq eight decades ago.
On July 17, 2005, Palestinians are scheduled to elect a new parliament. The stakes are enormously high, especially as groups that sat out the 1996 parliamentary election—notably Hamas but also smaller factions—will field candidates. Various parties have been squabbling over the electoral rules.
In a March 15th interview, ABC's Peter Jennings asked King Abdullah II if Jordan would ever become a constitutional monarchy. “Absolutely,” the king said. When Abdullah came to power in 1999, there was widespread speculation that this young, charismatic Sandhurst and Georgetown-educated leader—and other young monarchs in the region—would be willing to embark on reforms and gradually share power.
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.
With the departure of Syrian troops from northern Lebanon and the approaching withdrawal from the rest of the country by April 27, the electoral balance of power in Lebanon has radically changed in advance of elections scheduled to be held by May 31.
Ten weeks after the January 30 elections, Iraqis have chosen a Kurdish president, Shiite and Sunni vice presidents, a Sunni speaker and Shiite deputy speaker of parliament, and now a Shiite prime minister. Why has it taken so long to form the new government?
Are economic and political reforms an effective way to combat corruption, or do changes such as privatizing state industries actually increase opportunities for corruption? There is not a single answer to the question, but a closer look at the types of corruption
Since his release from prison late last year, the prominent Sudanese Islamist and former Speaker of Parliament Hassan Turabi has been busy preaching democracy as the best possible system for Muslim countries. Many might consider Turabi's ardent espousal of democracy highly suspect, given his repressive record during the decade when he was Sudan's de facto ruler (1989-1999).
Apart from some posters and banners scattered across the streets of Damascus announcing elections on April 22-23, there are few signs in Syria of the sort of election fever seen in some Arab countries recently.Electoral platforms addressing real issues are conspicuously absent.