Covid-19 hasn’t unleashed its full force on the Middle East — yet. If or when it does, it is expected to overwhelm the region’s fragile health services and leave behind a trail of pain and destruction.
Common sense suggests that such a crisis should rearrange priorities in the Middle East. It should help rulers and opposition groups understand that good governance, not identity feuds, is their main challenge, and that improving health services, expanding access to clean water and ensuring safe housing cannot be achieved by repression or Islamization.
The covid-19 crisis should also remind Middle Eastern states that protecting national security requires regional integration, not rivalry with neighbors.… Seguir leyendo »
The death on Tuesday morning of Hosni Mubarak is a reminder of where Egypt’s authoritarian regime stands. The man whose figure overshadowed Egypt for 30 years, whose death has been the subject of speculation for nearly 20 of them, has passed away quietly, years after he lost relevance.
I am from the generation that was in high school when Anwar Sadat was president. Sadat was hailed internationally as a modernizer, a courageous Arab leader who brought peace. But for the people of Egypt, he was an egocentric tyrant who imprisoned his opponents, presided over a corrupt regime that enriched the privileged and was more interested in impressing foreign audiences with fake signs of modernity while the country reeled in decay.… Seguir leyendo »
One didn’t need to read 25 books to predict that the Palestinians would reject President Trump’s Middle East “peace plan.” Palestinians have a reputation for rejecting offers, knowing quite well the next could be worse. They rejected the 1947 United Nations partition plan that gave them less than 45 percent of Mandatory Palestine, Ehud Barak’s “generous offer” at Camp David in 2000, and Ehud Olmert’s even “more generous” offer in 2008 after the Annapolis process. The world has grown weary of this perceived lack of pragmatism; many feel that, given their weak position, Palestinians should accept what they can get or “shut up,” as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman so eloquently put it in 2018.… Seguir leyendo »
The Islamists and secularists of the Middle East have been fighting each other for a century. Their conflict has achieved nothing but perpetuating authoritarian rule. Yet, calling on them to unite and set aside their differences is naive at best, for their differences are real and fundamental. Faking unity during the Arab Spring backfired and left both sides more distrustful of each other.
What Islamists and secularists need to do is not seek an impossible alliance but rather build a framework for coexistence that allows them to break away from their zero-sum relationship. This is a critical first step toward laying foundations for democratic governance in the Middle East.… Seguir leyendo »
The powerful images of pro-democracy protests emerging from Beirut, Baghdad and Algiers remind us once again that Arab authoritarianism has outstayed its welcome. But, in the eyes of many, it hasn’t yet outlived its usefulness. The weakness of Arab states has reached a point where authoritarianism has become the only glue keeping them together. The challenge for Arab democrats is to move beyond simply calling for democracy and instead focus on building realistic pathways for democratic change.
Arab authoritarianism is not traditional despotism. It has morphed into a complex strategy to cope with state weakness. Arab states were not strong to begin with: They have never been able to provide policy frameworks that foster economic development and social justice; manage social and political conflicts; and protect their standing in the world.… Seguir leyendo »
In less than two weeks, the Egyptian parliament suggested, debated and approved “constitutional amendments” that would allow President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to stay in office until 2034, make him head of the judiciary and subjugate the political system to a military “guardianship.” These extraordinary amendments will be subject to a referendum after a 30-day “public debate” (in a country where a tweet could land you a five-year sentence). Article 226, which defines the constitutional amendment process, explicitly prohibits the amendment of presidential term limits or the provisions related to freedoms “unless the amendment offered more guarantees” to these freedoms. In other words, Sissi’s proposed amendments are unconstitutional.… Seguir leyendo »