It would be irrational to conclude that U.S. actions and inactions hadn’t contributed to the messes in the Middle East. But the region’s challenges are rooted in internal, religious, and sectarian problems that are not amenable or conducive to U.S. military power or political persuasion; and they are spread among allies who have their own needs and agendas. Three recent events underscore this.
"Even if Islamic State is dealt a devastating defeat, it is just the current chapter in a line of modern concepts of jihadism since Iran's 1979 revolution. Three broad trends indicate that the fight to overcome this strain of violence will be a long one," writes Henri Barkey.
An unusually large number of women have organized and registered to run in Iran’s February elections. The record turnout among would-be candidates for parliament and the Assembly of Experts, a body that selects the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, is causing unease among the conservative clerical hierarchy. The question for now is whether a significant number of women will be allowed to compete.
Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow and former Middle East Program Director Haleh Esfandiari describes the significance of Saudi Arabia’s historic election.
"Women’s participation in this weekend’s elections is an important step in the struggle for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, but formidable obstacles remain," writes Haleh Esfandiari.
"But until Arab leaders govern their own societies with representative institutions that reflect sectarian inclusion and balance, there will be jihadis with grievances against their own leaders and the West," writes Aaron David Miller.
This week in Oslo, amid a state of emergency in Tunisia, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
After the final runoffs in parliamentary elections this week, Egyptians seem to be settling in for an indefinite waiting period, with no particular expectations of progress. There is a strong sense here that people fear that change would make a difficult status quo even worse.
This week, Egypt detained Ismail Alexandrani, an Egyptian researcher, investigative journalist, and former Wilson Center Fellow. The Wilson Center is deeply concerned by his arrest, and we have reached out to senior U.S. officials for more information. Although we do not know yet what the charges against Mr. Alexandrani are, we strongly urge the government of Egypt to deal with his case in full accordance with the country's constitution that guarantees Egyptian citizens freedom of speech and the media.
Can French President Francois Hollande turn a coalition of the risk-averse, self-interested, and unwilling, into a functional coalition finally willing and ready to defeat the Islamic State? To succeed, Hollande will have to overcome four key obstacles.