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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: Kurdistan – Just Being Independent

Iraq is going to break up.  It is already happening, but no one wants to acknowledge it because no one wants to be perceived as being responsible for the disintegration of a major Middle Eastern country. There is not much about the Kurdish region of Iraq that is Iraqi.  When you arrive at Erbil’s brand More »

INSIGHT: Saudi Tiff with Washington Latest of Many

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) is seen with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Reuters file).

Once again, Saudi officials are on a rhetorical rampage against the United States. Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the United States and current Saudi intelligence chief, has warned that the kingdom will make a “major shift” away from its 80-year alliance with Washington. Turki al-Faisal, another former ambassador to the United States, said More »

INSIGHT: Saudi Women Jump-start Driving Rights Campaign

On October 26, Saudi women are expected to answer their sisters’ call to support women’s driving rights by driving cars in the kingdom – an act that can lead to detention, a fine, and in the worst case scenario, imprisonment. The campaign has garnered significant support on the internet, with an online petition attracting 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 »

INSIGHT: Quotas and Women in Egyptian Politics

Last week, Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, charged with amending the country’s constitution, announced that 25 percent of municipal seats will be reserved for women. There is no word yet on when municipal elections will be held, or if a similar quota will be established for parliament, but the move is a positive step toward improving 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 »

INSIGHT: Syria’s Chemical Weapons – the Russia Factor

Russian diplomacy has dramatically changed the trajectory of the Western response to the Syria crisis and put the Kremlin at the center of international negotiations to control Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. But the Russian government’s insistence that chemical weapons were used by rebel forces now places it on the fringes of a serious debate More »

INSIGHT: Breakthrough Possible in Iran Nuclear Stalemate?

The moment of truth is coming. All the optics from Tehran – even from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – indicate that Iran is gearing up for a new attempt at a nuclear deal. If a deal can’t be made in the next few months, it’s hard to see another opportunity when the chances would More »

INSIGHT: Could US, Iran Agree on Syria Without Assad?

More than two years after President Barack Obama said it was time for Syria’s president to go, Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Damascus. But new evidence from the United Nations pointing to his regime’s large-scale use of chemical weapons makes it more plausible that Assad could leave office as part of an More »

INSIGHT: Why Syria Is Like Iraq

I supported the war in Iraq. It was an agonizing mistake. I made the mistake because I did something a serious foreign policy thinker should never do: I allowed my emotions to affect my thinking. My emotions were stirred by several visits to Iraq I had made as a reporter in the 1980s, when More »

INSIGHT: Rights Groups in Egypt Face Withering Assault

Human rights groups are routinely tarred in today’s Egyptian media – including social media – as either “traitors supporting terrorism” or “mercenaries selling their services to the highest bidder.” They are being denounced for treachery despite their utter dedication and consistency in standing by the principles of human rights and democracy through all the More »

INSIGHT: Syria Framework Agreement – the Least-Bad Result

The good news about the new U.S.-Russian framework agreement on Syria is that it could remove the Assad regime’s chemical weapons (CW) stocks, eliminating a major tool against the insurgents. This result would have been unimaginable if Washington had not threatened military action. The bad news begins with the major obstacles the agreement places More »

INSIGHT: 4 Things the US Should Do to Regain Credibility in Egypt

Last week, Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim was the target of an assassination attempt that took place just steps from where protesters gathered last month in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. The bomb blast – reported to have injured 10 policemen and 11 civilians, including a child – is the latest in a More »

QUICKTAKE: Complexities of Providing Aid to Syria’s Refugees

According to the United Nations, earlier this month the number of Syrian conflict refugees topped two million, putting an enormous strain not only on the people affected but also the host countries which have absorbed the vast majority of Syrians fleeing their homeland. Among the organizations providing assistance to the refugees – both to the More »

INSIGHT: Syria – Keeping Hope for Peace Alive

There can be no prospect for a negotiated end to the Syrian nightmare so long as Syrian civilians are targeted by Bashar al-Assad’s regime for terror, death, injury, and flight. If His Holiness the Pope, the secretary-general of the United Nations, the president of Russia, and members of Congress think otherwise, they should specify how More »