On Sept. 5, the International Monetary Fund published a report on Tunisia’s post-uprising economic and social challenges. Tunisia’s economic prospects are now improving due to increased government spending and tourism revenues. But unemployment remains high at 19 percent overall and more than 40 percent among youth.
Three years after Facebook launched an Arabic interface, charismatic Muslim sheikhs are gaining a new generation of followers by tapping into interactive media. Since 2009, hundreds of 21st century preachers have created digital forums that allow distant audiences to communicate with them—and with each other. Tweets and Facebook updates keep the faithful engaged with Islamic content even if they miss their favorite sheikh’s television program.
The United States has maintained its $1.3 billion military aid package, based on the 1978 Camp David Accords. The Obama administration has also tried to promote private investment by U.S. multinational corporations. More than 100 American executives from dozens of top U.S. companies visited Egypt in September 2012. But Washington has also tried to come up with new resources through international institutions and agreements, such as the Deauville Partnership.
On Sept. 10, the Quilliam Foundation in London reported that less than 10 percent of the Syrian rebel forces are now jihadis. Although an increasing problem, the Syrian militants are fragmented into a handful of smaller groups. The following is an excerpt from the report, which identifies key factions, with a full link to the PDF at the bottom.
In just ten weeks, President Mohamed Morsi has gone from political unknown to one of the most powerful leaders in the Middle East. The U.S.-educated engineer—a former parliament member and a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Council—is proving to be both unpredictable and politically savvy.
Hamas never has faced such large challenges and opportunities as presented by the Arab uprisings. It abandoned its headquarters in Damascus, at much cost to ties with its largest state supporter, Iran, while improving those with such U.S. allies as Egypt, Qatar and Turkey. Asked to pick sides in an escalating regional contest, it has sought to choose neither. Internal tensions are at new heights, centring on how to respond to regional changes in the short run. Leaders in the West Bank and exile tend to believe that with the rise to power of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in particular and the West’s rapprochement with Islamists in general, it is time for bolder steps toward Palestinian unity, thereby facilitating Hamas’s regional and wider international integration. The Gaza leadership by contrast is wary of large strategic steps amid a still uncertain regional future. These new dynamics – Islamists’ regional ascent; shifting U.S. and EU postures toward them; vacillation within their Palestinian offshoot – offer both Hamas and the West opportunities. But seizing them will take far greater pragmatism and realism than either has yet shown.
Not all Islamist political parties are to be feared, but an extremist strain called the Salafis have a warped vision of a new order in the Middle East, writes Robin Wright in The New York Times.
On August 10, the Treasury Department sanctioned Hizballah for supporting the Syrian government on the basis of Executive Order 13582. “This action highlights Hizballah’s activities within Syria and its integral role in the continued violence the Assad regime is inflicting on the Syrian population,” the Treasury Department said in its formal announcement.
The Saudi official from the Ministry of Interior’s “ideological security” department was relaxed and confident. The government had uprooted scores of secret al-Qaeda cells, rounded up 5,700 of its followers, and deafened Saudi society to its siren call to jihad to overthrow the ruling al-Saud royal family. For the kingdom, the threat from Islamic terrorists had become manageable. So, what is the main security concern of the Saudi government today? The answer came as something of a surprise: the return of 150,000 Saudis who have been sent abroad to study, nearly one half of whom are now in the United States.
Seven months after an Islamist became prime minister for the first time in Morocco’s history, it remains as nebulous here as in Tunisia and Egypt what the Islamists coming to power really portends. It is a conundrum that Islamist-wary Western capitals and independent analysts are all struggling to fathom.