Middle East and North Africa Publications
On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2013, the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center invited a cross-section of women activists, politicians, academics, and entrepreneurs to give us their views on the challenges women face to their security. This publication, “Challenges to Women’s Security in the MENA Region” includes pieces from 42 women from 20 countries including the United States, Malaysia, Indonesia, and countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region shared with us their concerns, disappointments, and hopes for women.
Some call it the Islamist winter while others talk of revolution betrayed. Neither claim portrays accurately what is happening in Arab countries in the throes of popular uprisings and rapid political change. The rise of Islamist parties in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings took most by surprise, including in some cases the Islamist parties themselves, which were more successful than they dared to hope. Coupled with the disarray of the secular opposition, the success of Islamist parties augurs poorly for democracy, because a strong, competitive opposition is the only guarantee against the emergence of a new authoritarianism.
The Syrian refugee issue in Lebanon is threatening to become the real humanitarian crisis in the region. There are more Syrian refugees in Lebanon than in any other country in the region. Straddled by a weak economy, domestic political infighting, and internal divisions over the crisis in Syria, Lebanon is finding it hard to cope with the evolving problem inside its borders. In the absence of a quick and sustained international support, the refugee issue in Lebanon could become a full blown crisis with domestic and regional implications for Lebanon.
The complexity of Arab attitudes toward Iran before and after the start of the Arab uprisings is reflected not only in the gap of perception between the Arab people and Arab governments, but also in important differences on Iran across those governments. Even among Arab governments most threatened by Iran and most inclined to see it weakened, their sense of threat and how to address it differs substantially from Israel’s sense of threat.
After several months of uncertainty, the Iranian government finally agreed to meet again with the P5+1 group in Almaty, Kazakhstan on February 26 for negotiations over its nuclear program. Iran’s economy is suffering the effects of the severe sanctions imposed by the West, but the government is not yet prepared to change course on the nuclear issue. Iran needs to be certain of a positive outcome from the negotiations before it commits itself to meeting the West’s concerns over its nuclear intentions.
The pronounced role of sanctions in creating shortages of life-saving medical supplies and drugs in Iran may have been unintentional, but it is also irrefutable. Iran’s own mismanagement of the situation has aggravated the problem, but it is not the root cause of it. While the list of issues leading to the supply crunch is long and complicated, at the heart of it all are the obstacles that sanctions have created in denying Iran the necessary banking operations and limiting its access to hard currency. Namazi presents findings based on a recent study that he and a number of Iranian consultants carried out.
Many young Saudis admire the youthful protesters of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Bahrain. But they don’t seek to imitate their tactic of massive street protests. One reason why is that they still hope—despite the lack of available evidence—that the Saudi royal family will voluntarily begin to share power with the Saudi people. Presumably then, the government can rest easy? Not necessarily.
Iran's presidential elections will take place in June against a background of crisis. The ruling elite is deeply divided, reformist leaders remain under house arrest, economic problems are mounting and the stand-off with the West over Iran's nuclear program remains unresolved. Shaul Bakhash discusses the potential candidates, the major issues and vexed question of electoral freedom that are likely to dominate the election campaign.
As the Arab Spring enters its third year, the contours of a new strategic landscape are taking shape in the Middle East. Reflecting the disordered state of regional politics, this landscape is far from stable. Yet it contains features that will pose significant challenges for U.S. diplomacy.
Since Tuareg nationalists and al-Qaeda seized control of northern Mali in February 2012, the world has been dithering about what to do. Neither the United States nor Algeria, two potentially key actors in the unfolding drama, has decided on its role yet. Mali’s neighbors, the African Union, and the UN Security Council have not wanted to take any risky action and have found ways to put off a military response in the slim hope of finding a political solution.