Middle East and North Africa Publications
Military action in Iraq and Syria is moving ahead without a political strategy to accompany it. Although the administration argues that defeating ISIL requires the formation of inclusive governments, neither Iraq nor Syria has such government. The absence of a real political strategy will undermine any military success.
After three years of constant discord, relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia have taken a definite turn for the better as they team up to lead a coalition of Arab and Western nations in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But the two old partners have different goals and immediate concerns that could come to test once again their long-time tangled relationship.
In the quick move to resolve the nuclear issue, Rouhani’s calculation was that navigating Iran’s highly contentious domestic environment will become easier with the resolution of Iran’s external issues first. Without a nuclear agreement in hand, his platform of “moderation and prudence” will become more difficult to pursue and implement, but not impossible.
For this issue of Viewpoints, the Middle East Program reached out to a number of its regular contributors and invited them to share with us their thoughts and concerns on the treatment of women and girls by ISIS.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan unquestionably won the presidential poll, the first ever direct election of a president by the populace in Turkey. His score of 51.7 percent represents a first round victory, but it is likely to have disappointed the Prime Minister and his close supporters. In fact, less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the contest, the political jockeying that has started reveals Erdogan’s hand may not be as strong as his die-hard supporters claim. Turkey may be entering a period of political turbulence for which there is no precedent.
The new Middle East Program monograph "Iran's Nuclear Chess: Calculating America's Moves" by Robert Litwak, vice president for scholars and director of international security studies at the Wilson Center, addresses the nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran and the implications for U.S. policy toward Iran.
The momentum of the Arab Spring has weakened, at least temporarily, in Jordan. This has returned the relationship between Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Jordanian regime to its historic position of limited engagement rather than full cooperation. Having survived the initial wave of Arab Spring unrest by relying on its traditional political formula, the regime is now confident that it can maintain stability without making major compromises on political or institutional reforms.
The Lebanese Parliament failed to elect a president for the sixth time since the term of President Michel Sleiman expired on May 25, 2014. Due to the lack of Christian consensus, Lebanese sectarian divisions, and regional discord, an early resolution to the vacant presidency is difficult. Despite the void in the presidency, several internal and regional factors, unique to Lebanon, are likely to ensure stability.
Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is marking the end of his first year in office. He has made a resolution of the nuclear issue and the lifting of sanctions against Iran the center-piece of a broader strategy. He hopes a breakthrough here will open the door for a revival of the Iranian economy, the reintegration of Iran into the international community, a recognition of Iran’s major role in the region and perhaps the loosening up of domestic restrictions on politics and basic freedoms. But he faces formidable opposition from an entrenched ruling elite.
The election of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the presidency brings Egypt one step closer to the full implementation of the transitional road map. The last step, the holding of parliamentary elections, is also on schedule. Yet Egypt is not getting closer to democracy. The lopsided result of the presidential elections, with 96.91 of the votes going to al-Sisi, is not a sign of healthy pluralism. The draft of the new parliamentary election law will further hamper pluralism and it will promote fragmentation by reserving about 70 percent of parliamentary seats for independent candidates.