- BBC: Social media brings change in Gulf despite efforts at control (Bill Law, December 6)
"The Saudi blogger, Ahmed al-Omran, says that when he set up his Twitter account in 2006 virtually no-one in his country was using the micro-blogging service. "Now it has exploded," he told the BBC from Jeddah. "Saudi Arabia has the fastest growing population of Twitter users in the world. In one month last year it increased by 3000%."
- The Guardian: Kabul's $100m mosque: a sign of a heavyweight battle for post-2014 Afghanistan (Catriona Luke, December 9)
"The AfPak region has been defined by a Saudi proxy war since the 1970s. The huge oil wealth of Saudi Arabia, and the US dependency on it, is complicated by Saudi Arabia's battle for supremacy with Shia Iran. In the western Middle East this is being fought out through client states."
- The Guardian: In Egypt the elite may have changed, but the revolution continues (Jack Shenker, December 6)
- The Economist: Islamist and secular Egyptians go head to head in the run-up to a referendum (December 8)
- The New York Times: Morsi turns to his Islamist backers as Egypt’s crisis grows (David D. Kirkpatrick, December 7)
"That authoritarian conception of the state remained entrenched regardless of the differing ideologies and motivations of those who ruled, from colonial officials to the post-1952 military dictatorship, from Hosni Mubarak's kleptocrats to the army junta that managed the so-called "transition" to democracy."
"The most populous and politically pivotal Arab state stands on the brink of prolonged civil strife, or a descent into a form of veiled dictatorship not unlike the one so recently overthrown, only this time in drab Islamist garb."
"Mr. Morsi appears to believe that he and the Brotherhood can deliver a strong vote for the draft constitution in next Saturday’s referendum — strong enough to discredit the opposition, allow him a fresh start and restore some of his authority."
- Reuters: Netanyahu's Israeli settlement push could be ballot box boon (Jeffrey Heller, December 4)
"Standing up to Europe, where a string of Israeli diplomats were summoned for reprimands by the governments of Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark on Monday, could help cement right-wing voter support for the conservative prime minister."
- BBC: Damascus - a tale of two cities (Jeremy Bowen, December 9)
- The New York Times: Syrian rebels tied to Al Qaeda play key role in war (Tim Arango, Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, December 8)
- Sky News: Rebel Prisoners On Their Religious War (Tim Marshall, December 8)
"Damascus is not about to fall, but its centre - the regime's hub - is starting to feel as if it's under siege. That's not literally the case. The regime controls plenty of roads in and out. But security zones to keep bombers away surround government buildings and military HQs."
"As the United States pushes the Syrian opposition to organize a viable alternative government, it plans to blacklist the Nusra Front as a terrorist organization, making it illegal for Americans to have financial dealings with the group and most likely prompting similar sanctions from Europe."
"Interviewing people who, under different circumstances, might kill you is a strange experience. To the soundtrack of multiple rocket launchers and small arms fire, I met six men who the Syrian authorities told us were jihadist rebel fighters captured by the army."
- Foreign Policy: Reading Turkish politics from a soap opera (Lisel Hintz, December 7)
"Amidst intense public controversy, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is moving to ban the widely popular television series Muhtesem Yuzyil (The Magnificent Century). Critics of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP government have been expecting, with a fair dose of cynicism, such a move ever since he denounced the series as an inappropriate characterization of Turkey's ancestry."