Foreign Affairs Coverage of the Crisis in the Middle East

Demystifying the Arab Spring: Parsing the Differences Between Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya
Lisa Anderson
May/June 2011
Why have the upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya followed such different paths? Because of the countries' vastly different cultures and histories, writes the president of the American University in Cairo. Washington must come to grips with these variations if it hopes to shape the outcomes constructively.

Understanding the Revolutions of 2011: Weakness and Resilience in Middle Eastern Autocracies
Jack A. Goldstone
May/June 2011
Revolutions rarely succeed, writes one of the world's leading experts on the subject -- except for revolutions against corrupt and personalist "sultanistic" regimes. This helps explain why Tunisia's Ben Ali and Egypt's Mubarak fell -- and also why some other governments in the region will prove more resilient.

The Heirs Of Nasser: Who Will Benefit From the Second Arab Revolution?
Michael Scott Doran
May/June 2011
Not since the Suez crisis and the Nasser-fueled uprisings of the 1950s has the Middle East seen so much unrest. Understanding those earlier events can help the United States navigate the crisis today -- for just like Nasser, Iran and Syria will try to manipulate various local grievances into a unified anti-Western campaign.

The Fall of the Pharaoh: How Hosni Mubarak’s Reign Came to an End
Dina Shehata
May/June 2011
Mubarak's ouster was the natural outgrowth of his regime's corruption and economic exclusion, the alienation of Egypt's youth, and divisions among the country's elites. How those elites and the young protesters realign themselves now will determine whether post-Mubarak Egypt emerges as a true democracy.

The Black Swan of Cairo: How Suppressing Volatility Makes the World Less Predictable and More Dangerous
Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Mark Blyth
May/June 2011
The upheavals in the Middle East have much in common with the recent global financial crisis: both were plausible worst-case scenarios whose probability was dramatically underestimated. When policymakers try to suppress economic or political volatility, they only increase the risk of blowups.

Terrorism After the Revolutions: How Secular Uprisings Could Help (or Hurt) Jihadists
Daniel Byman
May/June 2011
Although last winter's peaceful popular uprisings damaged the jihadist brand, they also gave terrorist groups greater operational freedom. To prevent those groups from seizing the opportunities now open to them, Washington should keep the pressure on al Qaeda and work closely with any newly installed regimes.

Rebels With a Cause: The History of Rebel Governance, From the U.S. Civil War to Libya
Zachariah Mampilly
April 13, 2011
The Libyan opposition based in Benghazi is just the latest in a long history of rebel governments, from the U.S. Confederacy to the recently victorious opposition in Ivory Coast. Is it time for the international community to rethink the process of recognizing such de facto states?

Israel's Dilemma in Damascus: Jerusalem's View on the Syrian Uprising
Itamar Rabinovich
April 11, 2011
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may blame Israel for his problems, but the Israelis are more ambivalent about their sometime antagonist. Yet with little ability to affect the outcome of the uprisings, Jerusalem can only watch nervously as events unfold.

Bahrain's Base Politics: The Arab Spring and America’s Military Bases
Alexander Cooley and Daniel H. Nexon
April 5, 2011
For years, Pentagon officials took comfort in the relative stability of Bahrain, which serves as a major base for the U.S. military. But the protests in the country have raised concerns that it will evict U.S. forces -- part of a broader pattern that is jeopardizing U.S. basing agreements around the world.

Yemen on the Brink: Will Saleh's Resignation Lead to Democratic Reform? 
April Longley Alley
April 4, 2011
Even if Yemen manages to avoid civil war, the country's many economic and security challenges may undermine democratic reform. In setting the post-Saleh agenda, will Yemen's disparate opposition movements be able to outmaneuver the country's established powers?

Meanwhile in the Maghreb: Have Algeria and Morocco Avoided North Africa’s Unrest? 
Azzedine Layachi
March 31, 2011
North Africa is where the Arab world's recent political upheaval began and where it has reached its most violent climax. Beyond Tunisia and Libya, how nervous should the ruling regimes in Algeria and Morocco be about their political futures?

Winning Ugly in Libya: What the United States Should Learn From Its War in Kosovo 
Michael O'Hanlon
March 31, 2011
The Obama administration has been criticized for its muddled approach to intervening in Libya. But as the experience of Kosovo suggests, an ugly operation is not the same as a failed operation, and even a mission that starts off badly can end well.

The Iraq Syndrome Revisted: U.S. Intervention, From Kosovo to Libya 
John Mueller
March 28, 2011
Due to the U.S. experience in Iraq, Americans
became skeptical of intervening in overseas conflicts. Much of this
"Iraq syndrome" can be seen in the hesitant approach to the chaos in
Libya.

Flight of the Valkyries? What Gender Does and Doesn’t Tell Us About Operation Odyssey Dawn
Charli Carpenter
March 28, 2011
Commentators are falling over themselves to explain the “gender divide” among Obama’s staff. But these discussions reveal far more about gender misconceptions among foreign policy journalists than about the preferences or influence of Obama’s female foreign policy staff.

The Mythology of Intervention: Debating the Lessons of History in Libya 
Micah Zenko
March 28, 2011
In the debate over whether -- and how -- to intervene in Libya, many commentators and policymakers have relied on a number of garbled lessons from history. Believing in these myths often leads to a more interventionist foreign policy.

Syria's Assad No Longer in Vogue: What Everyone Got Wrong About Bashar al-Assad 
Tony Badran
March 25, 2011
According to many observers, Syria's Bashar al-Assad was supposed to be immune to the kind of popular protest that swept the country today. Ironically, the basis was Assad’s own public relations strategy. With no real legitimacy, his only resort to stop the protests will be violence.

A New Lease on Life for Humanitarianism: How Operation Odyssey Dawn Will Revive the Responsibility to Protect
Stewart Patrick
March 24, 2011
The United States and its coalition partners’ decision to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya seemed to be a vindication of the fragile “responsibility to protect” norm. But just how strengthened RtoP will be depends on how well the intervention turns out.

To the Shores of Tripoli: Why Operation Odyssey Dawn Should Not Stop At Benghazi
Dirk Vandewalle
March 21, 2011
If the hurried diplomatic negotiations leading up to Resolution 1973 seemed a Herculean task, they may pale in comparison to the challenge that comes next: keeping Libya intact and on the road to recovery.

The Folly of Protection: Is Intervention Against Qaddafi’s Regime Legal and Legitimate?
Michael W. Doyle
March 20, 2011
The UN authorization of a no-fly zone in Libya gives teeth to the much-heralded “responsibility to protect." But the intervention poses legal and ethical dilemmas that will plague policymakers in the weeks and months ahead.

The Delusion of Impartial Intervention
Richard K. Betts
November/December 1994
In this 1994 article, Richard Betts argues that when the United States intervenes in other countries' domestic wars, it must take sides among groups to ensure someone is in charge at the end of the day. Interventions that aim to be evenhanded prevent the very peace they seek to create.

Rageless in Riyadh:Why the Al Saud Dynasty Will Remain
March 16, 2011
F. Gregory Gause III
The Saudi Arabian opposition's recent calls for a “day of rage” met with almost no response. So what makes the Saudi case so different from others across the Arab world?

What Intervention Looks Like: How the West Can Aid the Libyan Rebels
March 16, 2011
Robert E. Hunter
With the Libyan rebels now facing a last stand against forces loyal to Muammar al-Qaddafi, now is the time for the West to intervene. What can Washington and its allies accomplish before it's too late?

Out of Africa: EU Immigration Policy and the North African Uprising
Behzad Yaghmaian
March 11, 2011
As most of the world celebrates the revolutions sweeping North Africa, Europe is watching with anxiety, fearing an influx of sub-Saharan African immigrants through borders that Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia once policed.

The Sturdy House That Assad Built: Why Damascus Is Not Cairo
Michael Bröning
March 7, 2011
Despite various parallels with Tunisia and Egypt, a close look at Syria reveals that the Assad regime is unlikely to fall.

Rage Comes to Baghdad: Will Iraq's Recent Protests Lead to Revolt
Raad Alkadiri
March 3, 2011
Although the current protests in Iraq are unlikely to lead to the country's collapse, Iraqis’ patience with their government’s inadequacies is wearing thin. Should Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki be nervous?

Bahrain’s Shia Question: What the United States Gets Wrong About Sectarianism
Kristin Smith Diwan
March 2, 2011
The democratic uprising taking place in Bahrain has been accompanied by concerns of Shia insurrection and resurgent Iranian influence. The United States should not buy into this fear.

Q&A on Egypt's Post-Mubarak Future
Steven A. Cook
March 1, 2011
This week, Steven A. Cook answers readers' questions about Egypt after the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Bahrain's Re-Reform Movement: Will Bahrain’s Protesters Still Accept a Constitutional Monarchy?
Jane Kinninmont
February 28, 2011
Bahrain has a longstanding consensus in favor of moderate reform, including reinstating a constitutional monarchy. After last week's violence, however, it remains to be seen whether the moderate project can yet be salvaged or if the window to establish a popularly accepted constitutional monarchy is now closing.

Libya's Terra Incognita: Who and What Will Follow Qaddafi? 
Frederic Wehrey
February 28, 2011
For decades, the outsized personality of Muammar al-Qaddafi has obscured the many rivalries among Libya's domestic groups, from the tribes to the military. With the Qaddafi era coming to a likely end, how will these actors now vie for supremacy?

Letter From Sana’a: Saleh on the Edge
Abdullah al-Qubati
February 25, 2011
Inspired by uprisings throughout the Middle East, opposition activists in Yemen have begun confronting the regime in the streets. Can the country's disparate opposition factions find a common language -- and will the Saleh government listen?

Transformation in the Middle East: Comparing the Uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain
Robert H. Pelletreau
February 24, 2011
This is a threshold moment across the entire Middle East. It is too soon to know how far revolution will spread in the Middle East, but the president’s deft handling of the crisis so far has strengthened his foreign affairs record. 

A Tunisian Solution for Egypt’s Military: Why Egypt's Military Will Not Be Able to Govern
Clement M. Henry and Robert Springborg
February 21, 2011
Egypt’s military does not have the stranglehold on power that many think, and a real Tunisian solution -- a civilian government free of military involvement -- could form in Egypt as well.

Green Movement 2.0? How U.S. Support Could Lead the Opposition to Victory
Geneive Abdo
February 18, 2011
Taking a cue from the Egyptian revolution, opposition activists in Iran reinvigorated their beleaguered protest movement on Monday. Could Washington's public support help Iranians face down their regime?

Egypt's Constitutional Ghost: Deciding the Terms of Cairo’s Democratic Transition
Nathan J. Brown
February 15, 2011
Egypt has a long constitutional history -- some of it liberal, some of it authoritarian. As Egypt's reformers look to create a new political order after Mubarak, what sort of basic document will they need?

Postcolonial Time Disorder: Egypt and the Middle East, Stuck in the Past 
James D. Le Sueur
February 14, 2011
Hosni Mubarak came of age at a time when leaders in the postcolonial world saw a strong, repressive state as necessary to secure national liberty. That era, however, has passed. Will the region's other autocrats now meet similar fates?

Egypt and the Longue Durée: What Braudel Has to Teach About the Crisis
Robert Zaretsky
February 12, 2011
The world won't begin to understand the implications of Egypt's revolution until it stands still long enough to explore the deeper currents of the country's history, instead of falling for the superficial froth of the news, which insists that the waves move the depths.

Mubarakism Without Mubarak: Why Egypt’s Military Will Not Embrace Democracy
Ellis Goldberg
February 11, 2011
Now that Mubarak has stepped down, the army may step in as a transitional power, recognizing that it must turn power over to the people quickly. More likely, however, is the return of the somewhat austere military authoritarianism of decades past.

Uniting Egypt's Opposition: Who Are the Protestors and What Do They Want?
Khairi Abaza
February 9, 2011
Egypt’s various reform factions share a belief in an orderly transition to representative government but have wildly divergent political ideologies. How will these groups coexist in the post-Mubarak era?

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety in Tel Aviv: How Israel Can Turn Egypt's Unrest Into an Opportunity 
Aluf Benn
February 8, 2011
The popular revolt against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt has made many Israelis uneasy. But could the Egyptian crisis in fact offer the Israeli government a new opportunity for regional diplomacy?

Egypt's Democratic Mirage: How Cairo's Authoritarian Regime Is Adapting to Preserve Itself
Joshua Stacher
February 7, 2011
By playing the role of both arsonist and firefighter, the Egyptian government has forced protesters fleeing the regime to seek refuge with the regime. In so doing, has the government ensured its survival?

The Muslim Brotherhood After Mubarak: What the Brotherhood Is and How it Will Shape the Future
Carrie Rosefsky Wickham
February 3, 2011
Portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as eager and able to seize power and impose its version of sharia on an unwilling citizenry is a caricature that exaggerates certain features of the Brotherhood and underestimates the extent to which the group has changed over time.

The U.S.-Egyptian Breakup: Washington's Options in Cairo
Steven A. Cook
February 2, 2011
With the political era of Hosni Mubarak coming to an end, is the strategic relationship between Cairo and Washington similarly finished? The Obama administration must scale back its ambitions to affect change in Cairo.

Israel's Neighborhood Watch: Egypt's Upheaval Means that Palestine Must Wait
Yossi Klein Halevi
February 1, 2011
With Hezbollah calling the shots in Lebanon and Islamists poised to gain power in Egypt, Israel sees itself as almost completely encircled by Iranian allies or proxies. Where does this leave the future of a sovereign Palestine state?

Letter From Cairo: The People's Military in Egypt?
Eric Trager
January 30, 2011
As protests continue in Egypt, both sides -- the protesters in the streets and the Mubarak regime -- are wondering exactly which side the Egyptian military is supporting. Does the army hold the key to the country's political endgame?

The Psychology of Food Riots: When Do Price Spikes Lead to Unrest?
Evan Fraser and Andrew Rimas
January 30, 2011
The connection among rising prices, hunger, and violent civic unrest seems intuitively logical. But there was more to Tunisia's food protests than the logic of the pocketbook. The psychological element -- a sense of injustice that arises between seeing food prices rise and pouring a Molotov cocktail -- is more important.

Letter From Beirut: Crime and Punishment in the Levant: Lebanon’s False Choice Between Stability and Justice
Michael Young
January 26, 2011
In bringing down its government last week, did Lebanon just witness a coup d’etat or did it narrowly dodge civil war? Either way, Damascus, Tehran, and Washington are all watching.

Morning in Tunisia: The Frustrations of the Arab World Boil Over 
Michele Penner Angrist
January 16, 2011
Last week's mass protests in Tunisia were less a symptom of economic malaise than of a society fed up with its broken dictatorship. Should the other autocratic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa be afraid?

Is El Baradei Egypt's Hero? Mohamed El Baradei and the Chance for Reform
Steven A. Cook
March 26, 2010
The return of Mohamed El Baradei to Egypt has raised questions about the country's political system and the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Is reform possible, and if so, is El Baradei the man to lead it?

Back to the Bazaar
Martin Indyk
January/February 2002
The United States has an opportunity to set new terms for its alliances in the Middle East. The bargain struck with Egypt and Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War seemed successful for a decade, but now the United States is facing the consequences: Washington backed Cairo's and Riyadh's authoritarian regimes, and they begat al Qaeda. The Bush administration should heed the lesson.