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Cecily Hilleary

Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for Dubai-TV English. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf regions, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA and MEV a keen understanding of the region's top social, cultural and political issues.

QUICKTAKE: Saudi ‘Hidden Hand’ Steering Iran Nuclear Talks?

The first round of Iran nuclear talks in Geneva broke down earlier this month after the P5+1 failed to reach consensus on a short-term deal that would have eased up sanctions and allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium at reduced levels.  Talks apparently ended over France’s demand that Iran stop construction on a heavy More »

QUICKTAKE: US Military Aid to Egypt – ‘Subsidizing Tyranny’

The Obama administration continues to deliberate over whether the U.S. should continue its policy of providing roughly $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt.  Many argue that the U.S. gets a lot for its money – priority passage through the Suez Canal, military sales and insurance that Egypt will continue honoring its peace More »

QUICKTAKE: US Military Aid to Egypt – Maintain Existing Leverage

The United States is still undecided on whether it should continue providing $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt.  President Barack Obama says he doubts any U.S. action – or inaction – will have much impact on Egypt’s military, which appears determined to put down supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.  So what factors More »

QUICKTAKE: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Vows to Continue Protests

This week witnessed some of the worst violence in Egypt since the armed forces removed Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, from power in early July.  As the death toll rises – as many as 500 were reported dead Thursday – observers are not only focusing on the role the military and security More »

QUICKTAKE: Close Guantanamo, Says Facility’s Former Chief Prosecutor

More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to close the controversial detention facility for suspected terrorists and enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. Of the nearly 800 men held there over the past decade, 166 remain today; many of them are currently on a hunger strike. Retired U.S. More »

QUICKTAKE: Former Bush Official Says No Viable Alternative to Guantanamo

A  hunger strike by Guantanamo Bay detainees has now passed the 100-day mark, increasing pressure on President Barack Obama to shut down the controversial detention facility – something he promised to do even before he took his first oath of office.  During an April 30 press briefing,  Obama reiterated that promise, telling  reporters that More »

QUICKTAKE: PLO’s Envoy to US Says Arab Land Swap Initiative Nothing New

In a fresh bid to jumpstart long-stalled Middle East Peace talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Arab League officials in Washington this week to discuss possible changes in the 2002 Peace Initiative that might attract the parties back to the negotiating table.  Following the meeting Monday, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, More »

QUICKTAKE: US Doctor Sees Credible Evidence of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, an American physician and president of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS),  has just returned from his sixth mission to Syria. While there, he visited half a dozen hospitals where doctors claim they have treated patients for exposure to chemical nerve agents. VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary reached him by phone in More »

QUICKTAKE: What’s Really Stalling Middle East Peace?

New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in the Middle East; President Barack Obama is scheduled to make his own trip to the region soon. Syria and Iran are high on the U.S. agenda but the Middle East peace process is not off the table. Kerry would even want to move it higher More »

‘Harlem Shaking’ It Up Across the Middle East

Just when the Gangnam Style craze began to fizzle, and we thought that the world would be spared another viral dance phenomenon, enter the Harlem Shake.   It began as a 2012 heavy bass instrumental music track produced by Baauer, the stage name of American music producer Harry Rodrigues,  uploaded to YouTube in August 2012.  More »

QUICKTAKE: Israeli-Palestinian Peace During Obama’s 2nd Term?

The new U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, has openly affirmed his commitment to achieving peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Iran and the Syrian crisis may be topping the agenda his current visit to the region, but most analysts believe he will use his first trip as America’s top diplomat to signal his More »

QUICKTAKE: Three Big Issues Facing a New Israeli Government

With Israel’s new Knesset polarized and, in broad strokes, almost evenly divided between right and center-left following recent parliamentary elections, it remains to be seen what type of government will emerge to lead the country into the near future – or whether a government can be formed at all. A final tally of the vote More »

QUICKTAKE: With Israel’s New Knesset Equally Split, What’s Next?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fared worse than expected in this week’s election.  His Likud-Beitenu Party won just 31 seats.  The right-wing religious HaBayit Yehudi Party (leader – Naftali Bennett), claimed 11 seats. The real surprise was the second place win by the centrist Yesh Atid Party, led by Yair Lapid, the former television news presenter, More »

QUICKTAKE: Is an Alawite State in Syria’s Future?

It is an idea that was first introduced more than a year ago: If President Bashar al-Assad were to fall or be remove himself from power, would Alawites, for decades a ruling minority in Syria, retreat to their traditional western mountain enclaves and form a breakaway state?  As rebels gain more ground in Syria, More »

QUICKTAKE: Is Russia Changing Its Stance on Syria?

Russia is now hedging a statement made by its Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who said Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be losing control of the country to rebels.  It was the first time a Russian official publicly acknowledged the possibility of an opposition victory in the crisis which so far has More »

QUICKTAKE: The Complexities of Kingmaking in Saudi Arabia

Recent reports that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has been in poor health have fueled new questions about royal succession, an issue that has been looming over the Kingdom for years. Six kings have ruled Saudi Arabia since its creation in 1932, including its founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman al-Saud. All of his successors have More »

SOCIAL STREAM: Palestinians Win UN Bid

The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly endorsed a Palestinian Authority bid to upgrade its status of “non-member observer entity” to that of a “non-member observer state.” The Palestinians sought the upgrade despite stiff opposition from Israel and the United States. Both countries have insisted that the move will not advance peace or change More »

SOCIAL STREAM: The Palestinian Statehood Vote

Anticipation – and apprehension in some quarters – is building as the United Nations General Assembly prepares to take up a vote to upgrade Palestinians at the U.N. from observer to non-member state status. The change bears huge significance as it would for the first time recognize Palestinians as a state entity affording them More »

SOCIAL STREAM: Jordan Friday – Protest or Prelude to Revolution?

As Middle East protests go, it was hardly a blip on the radar screen:  2,000 people staged a rally in downtown Amman Friday to protest the cutting of fuel subsidies earlier in the week.  The protest was largely quiet – and the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and best-organized opposition group, did not participate. Reporter Paul More »

QUICKTAKE: Jordanians Rally Against Fuel Subsidy Cuts

Jordanians have gathered in the streets for a second day, protesting their government’s announcement Tuesday that it would cut fuel subsidies and raise the price of gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene and natural gas, used for heating and cooking.  Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour appeared on national television Tuesday evening and announced the decision would go More »