VOICES: Inhumanity and the Moral Limit in Syria

At the start of the “Arab Spring,” I was so optimistic about the prospect of democracy in the Middle East and heartened by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. On my mind was the oppression of millions of Syrians by the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime. Also on my mind was my experience during Lebanon’s More »

VOICES: Syria’s Children – the Lost Generation

A few minutes late, he wanders in to join the group. All the other children have started dancing to the music blaring from the iPod speakers.  He doesn’t have a name tag, so one of the volunteers takes his hand and leads him over to a table in the corner of the room. “What’s More »

QUICKTAKE: Syria Extremists Restricting Women’s Rights

In Syria’s now nearly three-year-old conflict, certain armed extremist opposition groups are imposing strict and discriminatory rules on women and girls that have no basis in Syrian law, Human Rights Watch says in a new study. The findings have been drawn from interviews with 43 refugees from Syria in Iraqi Kurdistan and two in Turkey, More »

INSIGHT: Egypt – a Tinderbox Waiting for a Spark

Nearly six months after the mass uprising-cum-coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi, the key cleavages of Egypt’s domestic political conflict are not only unresolved, but unresolvable. The generals who removed Morsi are engaged in an existential struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood: They believe they must destroy the Brotherhood – by, for instance, designating it a More »

INSIGHT: A Year of Too-great Expectations for Iran

If all goes according to plan, sometime during 2014 Iran will sign a comprehensive final agreement to end a nuclear crisis that, over the course of a decade, has threatened to escalate into a war in the Middle East. But in light of the unresolved issues that must be addressed, it would be unwise More »

INSIGHT: Pluralism Key to Real Change in Arab World

Three years after the start of political upheaval across the region, transitional governments are struggling to maintain popular support amid rising sectarianism, poverty and violent extremism. Of six Arab countries that have experienced revolts since late 2010, only tiny Tunisia and Yemen appear to be making fitful progress toward political pluralism. Libya is plagued by More »

INSIGHT: Syria – Talk to Assad?

Commenting recently to The New York Times, Ryan Crocker (the former United States ambassador to Syria and several other places) suggested, “We need to start talking to the Assad regime again… It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who More »

INSIGHT: Dealing Away the Middle East?

In the abstract and in isolation, a U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal is a welcome development. While it does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, it does complicate any future Iranian efforts to develop a robust nuclear military capability. It also shows that the United States and Iran, two sworn enemies, are capable of rationally pursuing their More »

INSIGHT: Nuclear Deal a Win-Win for US, Iran – Even Israel

The ink was not dry on the historic Geneva nuclear accord with Iran before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it as a “historic mistake”  that would allow Iran to cheat and get closer to nuclear weapons. Netanyahu may have been doing Iran a favor. By criticizing the deal so harshly, he will make it More »

INSIGHT: Beirut Bombings Point to New Escalation

Earlier this week, double explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut killed at least 23 people, including an Iranian diplomat. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Islamist group with links to al-Qaida, took responsibility for the attack. This is not the first event of its kind. There was a car bomb attack in the southern mainly-Shi’ite More »

INSIGHT: Yemen – Another Battlefield in Saudi-Iran Proxy War

In addition to Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Syria, Yemen represents yet another chessboard in the tactical maneuvers between Tehran and Riyadh in the Arab world. The current tide of the sectarian militancy between Shi’ite rebels and Sunni Salafi fighters, which began sweeping the northern provinces of Yemen on October 30, has once again put the More »

QUICKTAKE: New Approach Needed for Peace in Syria

A Syrian peace conference has been repeatedly delayed as U.S., Russian and U.N. diplomats struggle to get all parties involved to agree to take part.  Rebel brigades have voiced their opposition to the so-called “Geneva Two” process if the conference does not stipulate President Bashar al-Assad’s removal. Given the deadlock, some are calling for a More »

INSIGHT: US, Iran Find Nuclear Breakthrough Hard to Achieve

In the lead-up to last week’s negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue, all signs seemed to herald the possibility of a historic breakthrough. Officials in both Washington and Tehran were careful to try to suppress irrational exuberance, but in private briefings and official media statements, they could not help but convey an air of More »

INSIGHT: Why the Narrative You’ve Heard About Syria Is Wrong

In the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian women are afraid to go to the restrooms at night, using the desert-like conditions around their homes rather than risk sexual assault. In neighboring Lebanon, since August, numerous Syrians have been turned back from the border, forcing them to return to dangerous conditions where their lives are More »

INSIGHT: The Syrian War in Three Capitals

More than ever before, the Syrian war is being played out in Moscow, Tehran and Washington. After a series of actions taken by Russia and the United States, the current situation is somewhat hopeful. The positions of the three major players have begun to evolve: Russia may have started looking at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad More »

INSIGHT: Iran Nuclear Talks in Geneva Get Down to Details

From the European venue to the power point presentation in English, this week’s nuclear negotiations with Iran showed a new seriousness that bodes well for a future agreement, even if it does not guarantee one. Iranian officials, from U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on down, spoke in English, dispensing with time-consuming translations, and outlined More »

INSIGHT: 10 Ways the Syrian Opposition Can Help Fight Extremism

Reports are growing of a sharp increase in the number of extremist groups operating in rebel-dominated areas of Syria. This has raised eyebrows in Washington, where policymakers continue to grapple with the question of how to support the opposition without inadvertently helping jihadists expand their destabilizing impact across the Middle East. These concerns are More »

QUICKTAKE: Can Israel Block a Deal With Iran?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to reassure the Israeli people that his positions regarding Iran’s nuclear program have not changed. He told an audience at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University that the international community should tighten rather than relax economic sanctions against Iran until Tehran completely ends its suspected nuclear weapons program. Israel sees More »

QUICKTAKE: Distrust Iran But Verify Its Intent

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed cautious hope about engaging with Iran over its nuclear program, but says the country must take concrete steps to prove its sincerity. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is continuing a “vast and feverish” effort to acquire nuclear arms and that his country is ready to More »

INSIGHT: Bahrain in Egypt’s Shadow

The popular movement to overthrow the Mubarak government in Egypt in 2011 served as motivation for a political uprising in Bahrain. Now, after two and a half years of political unrest and social polarization, another Egypt-inspired campaign – Bahrain’s “Tamarod” (Rebellion) – has unwittingly facilitated the expansion of security measures that threaten to curtail More »