President El-Sisi’s Egypt: Quietly rebuilding economic strength
Following his 2013 coup d’etat that was sternly criticized in Washington and European capitals, Egypt’s former defense minister, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, was elected the country’s president by an overwhelming margin. After five years in charge of the most populous Arab country, Mr. El-Sisi has accumulated a predictably shoddy record on human rights but a surprisingly strong one as an economic reformer and agent of stability in the turbulent region.
Gaza and the Hamas problem
Cut off by their neighbors, the people of the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip suffer from high unemployment, low investment and only sporadic electricity. With Hamas having proven itself dangerous to Egypt, Israel and the Ramallah-based Palestinian government, it is not difficult to see why the sanctions continue. Qatari aid may give temporary respite, but Gaza’s fate remains sealed by the terrorist organization’s determination to destroy Israel.
Saudi Arabia’s key role in the Middle East
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has upset the Middle East’s geopolitical balance in two dimensions: the three-sided rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and stable monarchies in the region. For the Saudis, the crisis poses an unexpected opportunity to improve governance. For the West, it presents a choice between triggering chaos and a possible radical takeover, or helping the kingdom make a difficult transition.
GIS Dossier: Europe as a global player – the Middle East and North Africa
Europe’s influence as a great power is nowhere more apparent than in the attraction it exerts on the poorer countries to its south – in the Middle East and Northern Africa. This is the region where European Union member states, often without U.S. support, have deployed their full foreign-policy arsenal, from diplomacy and military intervention to financial aid and investment, with mixed success. Yet as migration and terror show, problems the EU fails to address “out there” tend to wind up on its doorstep.
Middle East regimes challenge religious order, move toward modernization
In Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, leaders are chipping away at religious traditionalism to make way for the economic and social reforms their peoples demand. Usually, the vehement backlash to such attempts has thwarted any momentum toward modernization. But this time, the leaders are taking slow, careful steps, and have popular support. They just may pull it off.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have diverging goals in Yemen
The United Arab Emirates is part of a Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis in Yemen. But recently, it has become clear that Abu Dhabi’s and Riyadh’s goals are diverging. While both the Emiratis and Saudis want to roll back Iran’s growing influence in the region, the UAE wants to divide Yemen, so it can gain more control around critical access points to the Red Sea. The tensions that will arise will further complicate the Yemen conflict.
Jordan’s admirable stability – can it last?
Surrounded by a sea of instability and with few natural resources, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has its share of challenges. So far, however, it has met them with considerable success. Western assistance has helped, especially support from the United States. But Jordan’s leaders – first King Hussein and now King Abdullah II – carefully steered the country toward peaceful coexistence and even security cooperation with Israel, while keeping terrorism at bay. The question is whether this linchpin of the Middle East can continue to hold.
Opinion: Long-simmering tensions over Qatar come to a boil
Qatar has quarreled with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states before, but this latest flare-up is far more serious. While the cause of the crisis – an allegedly fake news report – seems a flimsy justification for a diplomatic and economic blockade, Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and friendly ties with Iran have put it in this fix. Qatar will have to agree to at least some of the 13 demands made by Saudi Arabia and its allies, and the U.S. will probably help broker a compromise to end the impasse.
Erdogan’s ‘new Turkey’ resembles an old stereotype
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now unleashed, having consolidated full power over Turkey’s ruling party, parliament and the judiciary. After sweeping away the remnants of democracy and the Kemalist state, he has reached the point of no return. Which raises a simple question: what happened to the “new Turkey” – the assertive, prosperous Islamic powerhouse – that he promised?