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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: 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: Youth Unemployment in Middle East, North Africa

As the graph below makes painfully clear, the Middle East and North Africa face significant challenges when it comes to youth unemployment. A World Economic Forum report from 2012 notes, “Unemployment in the MENA region is the highest in the world…and largely a youth phenomenon.” I’ve previously highlighted troubling trends in youth employment, including the More »

INSIGHT: Iraq – New Strategic Pivot in Middle East

It is hard to determine why Iraq receives so little U.S. attention as it drifts towards sectarian conflict, civil war, and alignment with Iran. Tensions in Iraq have been rising for well over a year, and the U.N. warned on June 1, 2013, that “1,045 Iraqis were killed and another 2,397 were wounded in More »

INSIGHT: Yes, Iraq Is Unraveling

As American troops were pulling out of Iraq in 2010, the U.S. effort to stabilize the country resembled the task of an exhausted man who had just pushed a huge boulder up a steep hill. Momentum had been painstakingly built up and the crest approached. Was it safe to stop pushing and hope that More »

INSIGHT: Iraq’s Dangerous Relapse Needs US Attention

The month of April marked the tenth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, the third provincial election of the post-Saddam era – the country’s first without the presence of U.S. troops – and seven years since a relatively unknown Nouri al-Maliki emerged as the prime minister of Iraq. Nevertheless, after a period of relatively More »

INSIGHT: Women in the Workforce in the Arab World

A great debate has been raging over whether the so-called Arab Spring has been good or bad for the women of the region. Some argue that the rise of Islamist governments in places like Egypt and Tunisia has led to a stark reversal of women’s rights. Others believe that the vibrant social and political More »

INSIGHT: Iraqi Kurdistan’s Syrian Refugees – Between Rock and Hard Place

Duhok, Kurdistan Region, Iraq — Somehow the children who had toys to play with were a more depressing sight than those with none at all. I watched as a girl, about three or four years old, dragged a pathetic block of now-grey polystyrene through the dust by short string, as if taking a pet for More »

INSIGHT: Women’s Security in the Middle East and North Africa

“It is time for an uprising of women in the Arab world,” writes Hanin Ghaddar, managing editor of NOW News in Lebanon in the second annual publication to mark International Women’s Day by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. Last year, Haleh Esfandiari, the program’s director, asked a diverse group of women from business, 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 »

INSIGHT: The ‘Chicken and Egg’ of Skills, Jobs in the Arab World

A new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – Rethinking Economic Growth: Towards Productive and Inclusive Arab Societies – examines employment issues, the relative lack of dynamic private sectors, broken social contracts, and more in the Arab world. The chapter on education is particularly interesting. The report More »

INSIGHT: The Disintegration of the Levant

One hundred years after the Levant embarked on a journey to build modern political societies, our experiment has failed and we are now back to square one.  Lebanon collapsed in the 1970s, Iraq disintegrated in the 1990s and 2000s, and Syria is in the process of tearing itself apart. Unlike Egypt, Tunisia, and several More »

INSIGHT: Iraq’s Tensions Heightened by Syria Conflict

Almost ten years after the fall of Saddam Hussein and one year after the withdrawal of American forces, Iraq is still struggling to build political stability and bolster its national security. Differences over federalism, the management of oil and gas resources, and control of the armed forces are strong, and tensions along Kurdish-Arab and More »

INSIGHT: The Middle East Distraction That’s Obscuring Asia

Asia specialists will not openly admit it, but they hate the Middle East. To them, the Middle East is the great distraction that keeps people from focusing on what’s really important – their own area in the Western Pacific. The media are primarily to blame, according to this narrative. The media love sudden drama, even More »

INSIGHT: US Middle East Policy – Caution and Partial Retreat?

The conventional wisdom is that American presidents who win a second term are less bound by domestic electoral considerations that may impose constraints on their foreign policy. But in his second term, President Barack Obama is unlikely to take any bold initiatives in the Middle East. Indeed, he is far more likely not only More »

Images of the Week: October 27 – November 2

The week began with the collapse of the cease-fire in Syria and many more reported deaths. The U.S. calls for stronger leadership in the Syrian opposition. With the docking of Iranian military ships in Sudan, analysts scrutinize their relationship. Despite new laws banning demonstrations, protestors take to the streets of Bahrain.  A series of More »

INSIGHT: Malala Yousafzai and the Role of Women in Muslim History

As someone who writes and lectures about women and gender in Islam, I am often asked if women had any role in the making of the Islamic tradition. Happily, the answer is always yes. There were in fact many prominent women in the early history of Islam. At the top of the list would have More »

‘Let Girls Be Girls!’ – UN Marks First-ever Day of the Girl Child

October 11, 2012, marks the United Nation’s first-ever observance of the International Day of the Girl Child. According to the U.N., selected as this year’s theme was “Ending Child Marriage.” Organizers say it was chosen because the practice is seen as a phenomenon that violates millions of girls’ rights, disrupts their education, jeopardizes their More »

Arab Women Launch Online Uprising

On October 1st, 2012, women organizers launched a Facebook page, “The Uprising of Women in the Arab World,” to highlight the discrimination against them which they don’t feel comfortable – or safe – enough to protest in the streets.  In just ten days, the page has generated nearly 35,000 “likes” and conversation among more More »

Images of the Week: September 22 – September 28

This week in the Middle East, fighting continued in Syria, Jews throughout the world celebrated Yom Kippur, protests against the anti-Muslim film produced in the U.S. continued, Basra governor Mohammed Musabih Al-Waili was killed in Iraq, and 15 militant Islamists were sentenced to death or life imprisonment in More »