Middle East Issues: Most Popular Articles
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The difference between Sunni and Shiite Islam, the origins of the split between the two sects, and demographics about the two sects throughout the Middle East
Brief history of the rise and fall (and rise again) of the Taliban in Afghanistan, its relationship with al-Qaeda, Pakistan and the United States, and its designs on Islam through Mullah Omar Muhammad
Civil war in Syria grew out of the anti-government uprising that started in March 2011. Who are the main players and their foreign sponsors? Who supports the government? Is the conflict in Syria a religious war? See here for all the latest background information on the conflict.
What is behind the Syrian uprising? See the root causes of the uprising in Syria
Analysis and background information on the political transition in Egypt: latest developments, the balance of power, profiles of main players.
How did the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 change the Middle East? Explosion of political activity and people power, but also political tension, economic uncertainty, instability, and even conflict.
Facts, causes and consequences of child marriage and the sexual abuse of children.
Let's set the record straight about what few Middle East countries produce oil, and what many Middle East countries do not.
A country-by-country guide to the protests and uprisings in the Middle East that began with unrest in Tunisia in late 2010, with links to other background information.
A Guide to American policy in the Middle East since World War II, from the Truman Administration to George W. Bush's
Who’s in power in the Middle East, what kind of political systems are emerging, and what are the latest developments?
A list of 10 of the most useful books on Middle Eastern history, society, religion and economy.
What is currently happening in Iraq? Who is in power and who is behind the ongoing bomb attacks? Read about the background and analysis of latest events in Iraq.
From its launch in 1996 Al Jazeera has revolutionized the rules of Arab television news while challenging western dominance in setting the agenda of perceptions about the Middle East.
It was in mecca that Malcolm X experienced the epiphany that would change his worldview, away from hatred for whites and toward a more universal brotherhood of men--but a brotherhood possible only under Islam.
Ziggurat: definition and history of the Mesopotamian, temple-like architecture of ancient history.
Israel is a military and economic powerhouse in the Middle East. Read here about the latest developments in domestic politics, Israel's rivalry with other regional powers, and the fate of the peace process with the Palestinians.
Latest news, analysis and background information on Syria.
Are the differences between Alawites and Sunnis doctrinal or political? Read about the Alawite beliefs, their place in the Syrian regime, and their alleged links to Iran.
The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government uprising that shook the Middle East in 2011. Read about the first protests and how they grew into a mass movement that brought down one of the most corrupt Arab regimes.
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The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 5.
Image gallery of the leaders of the Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 8.
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The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 6.
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.
Read the full text of George W. Bush's speech to Congress on Sept. 20, 2001 declaring a War on Terror after the 9/11 attacks.
Middle East Issues. Page 9.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 7.
Description and brief history of the Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall or Kotel, in Jerusalem alongside the Temple Mount.
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The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 3.
Iraqi inmate terrorized by attack dogs. Page 4.
FAQ: What Is Pakistan's ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence? All you need to know about the rogue intelligence agency termed a
Is the conflict in Syria a religious war? Why Alawites and other religious minorities tend to support the regime? Read about Syria's religious map and how it relates to the country's political faultlines.
What is currently happening in Libya? Who is in power, and why is there still violence in the country? Read about the latest news and analysis.
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The Balfour declaration of 1917 was Britain's implicit, but shot-lived, recognition that Jews ought to have a homeland in Palestine.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 10.
Kashmir explained: A brief history and background of the conflict at the heart of Pakistani-Indian tensions and wars.
Middle East Issues. Page 2.
The veil is one of the most contentious issues in Islam and the Western world. But is the veil, or any form of head covering, actually required by the Quran, or is it an Islamic convention?
At its core, the Iranian-Saudi rivalry is about power and money: two oil-rich giants, vying for control of the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow water passage that accounts for almost 20% of all oil traded worldwide.
Egyptians took to the streets in 2011 to protest against corruption and repression. But are they any closer to living in a democracy?
A concise history of the PLO, the Palesti9ne Liberation organization.
War Powers Act FAQ: How the War Powers Act of 1973 requires US presidents to seek congressional authorization to engage US troops in hostilities for longer than 60 to 90 days.
Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and the Statue of Liberty's Egyptian Origins: How Lady Liberty was imagined as an Egyptian peasant lighting the entrance of the Suez Canal.
The United Arab Emirates won independence from Britain in December 1971. Here's a brief history of the founding of the UAE, formekly known as the Trucial States.
The story of the September 1970 civil war between King Hussein's Jordanian military and Yasser Arafat's PLO, what became known as Black September.
The 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by some 500 fundamentalist militants had nothing to do with al-Qaeda--and everything to do with what al-Qaeda became a decade and a half later.
Who is really in power in Iran, and who are the opposition? Read about the system of government in Iran, latest developments and analysis of current events.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
A definition and explanation of Black September -- the September 1970 Jordanian crackdown on the PLO and the movement of the same name that the civil war spawned.
What is Arabica coffee? A brief lesson in the origins and history of one of the world's richest and most aromatic coffee beans.
Can the Middle East be precisely defined? Not quite. The term can be as contention as the region, but between convention and history, a fair definition is possible.
Who is winning the civil war in Syria: the regime of President Bashar al-Assad or Syria’s disparate opposition? Read about the balance of power on the ground, and why the conflict might drag on for a long time.
A year-by-year timeline of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), which claimed the lives of some 200,000 people and left Lebanon in ruins and divided.
The US-led invasion in 2003 toppled the dictatorship of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But is Iraq really a democracy today? How was the civil war affected the political system?
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices
Libya faces a long road toward full stabilization and the presence of autonomous, heavily armed groups poses the biggest threat to the political process.
A complete guide to the Abu Ghraib Photos and Torture Scandal: Origins, history, facts, debates, outcomes and photo galleries.
Explanation and context of Osama bin laden's 1996 jihad declaration of war against the United States.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
The story of the 1970 hijackings of three jets to Jordan's Dawson Field by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The people of the Middle East are constantly battling western stereotype, mis-characterization, false assumptions and gross generalities. Here are a few common, and in Middle Easterners' eyes, quite offensive, myths, and their correctives.
Fun facts and figures on Burj Dubai/Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building and skyscraper, in the United Arab Emirates.
What is the niqab in islamic dress and how is it different from face veils, burqas and hijabs or keffiyehs.
In 1996, when the Taliban took over large portions of Afghanistan, it imposed strict and severe religious decrees and prohibitions on the population, women especially. Here is a list of those decrees and prohibitions.
Let's have a look at the Middle East ten years after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Did the region change the way its planners intended? What was the reaction of Iran? What did it mean for Al Qaeda?
The alliance between Iran and Syria is one of the most resilient strategic partnerships in the Middle East, based on a unique convergence of interests.
Definition and capsule history of North Africa's Barbary pirates and privateers of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The five duties required of every practicing Muslim. Sunnis believe in the Five Pillars. Shiites do as well, though they add two or three.
The Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 unleashed great political change in the Middle East. Did Islamist groups participate in the protests? How did they get involved, and how have they benefited from the changes?
Russia’s support for the Syrian regime is motivated by extensive trade and military interests that go back to the Soviet era. But how far is Russia willing to go in its suport for the regime?
Read about the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and see why we should worry about the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
: Surah is the Arabic, Quranic word for "chapter." When citing the Quran, for example, the first number
Updated list of the 47 countries serving on the UN's Human Rights Council.
At 4:30 a.m. local time on Sept. 5, 1972, in Munich, Germany, Palestinian commandos armed with automatic rifles broke into the quarters of the Israeli team at the Olympic Village, killed two members of the team and took nine others hostage. Twenty-three hours later, the nine hostages had also been murdered. So was a German policeman. So were five of the Palestinian terrorists.
Full text of the Oslo Accords' declaration of principles between the Palestinians (PLO) and Israelis, September 1993.
Who is in power in Qatar, and what role does this Gulf Arab emirate play in the Middle East? Read about the background to Qatar's politics, along with all the latest developments and analysis.
Image Portrait of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Page 3.
Several options for intervention in the Syrian crisis are on the table, but none of them promises a quick end to the Syrian tragedy. Here's a list of pros and cons of intervening in Syria.
Brief history and background of the Second Kashmir War (1965) between India and Pakistan.
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for a referendum on Kashmir's future with India or Pakistan.
Hama Rules is an expression coined by Thomas Friedman to describe Syria's ruthless repression of dissent, emanating from Hafez el Assad's massacre in Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Hama in February 1982.
The Syrian regime has survived the 2011 uprising for longer than many people assumed it would. Why do so many Syrians support President Bashar al-Assad? And what are the motives behind foreign suppport for his regime?
A definition of Jihad, the Arabic word for
In power since 2000, Assad is one of the Middle East's most ruthless leaders.
What went wrong in Egypt after the 2011 uprising that brought down the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak? Read about the root causes of Egypt's political crisis.
An explanation of the Arab world, its part in the Middle East and the Middle East's non-Arab differences.
What is behind the ongoing Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq? See here for an ovreview of Sunni-Shiite relations, and how they were poisoned by the struggle for power and outside interference.
An overview of Sunni-Shiite hotspots in the Middle East, and what is driving the tension.
: The word "madrassa" is Arabic for school, and is commonly used throughout the Arab and Islamic world
Brief portrait of Dubai, the most populous of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates in the Arabian Gulf.
The United Arab Emirates is among the Persian Gulf's wealthiest, most stable states. Here's the story on its oil-rich but diversifying economy, its few political and religious freedoms. Its military, demographics and history are also profiled.
Predator drones and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): History, uses, costs, advantages and disadvantages.
US and NATO forces helped Libyan rebels bring down Col. Qaddafi's dictatorship. Have Libyans managed to build a democratic order?
A definition and brief profile of Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor and trainer of police and mercenary personnel that gained notoriety from incidents involving abuse of power in the Iraq war.
The 1978 Egyptian-Israeli Camp David Accords sealed an eventual peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and remain the single-greatest American achievement for peace in the Middle East.
Complete guide to the basics about the Iraq war: timelines, causes, costs, objectives, history, profiles of the main actors and frequently asked questions.
The original set of Muhammad cartoons images that exploded in controversy in 2006, after publication in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Saudi support for the Syrian opposition is motivated by a decades-long desire to break the alliance between Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Brief definition and description of the burqa, the
A definition of the many meanings and applications of the Arabic word hijab, or veil, in the Middle East and the Islamic world.
Facts & Statistics on Adult Literacy and Illiteracy in the Middle East, country rankings.
The story on Ethiopia: current issues, Ethiopia's relations with Somalia, Sudan and the Horn of Africa, including backgrounders on Ethiopian culture and religion.
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Facts and figures on the Dubai Metro subway system, the Middle East's and the world's longest unmanned mass-transit system.
Vital Statistics for Pakistan's Economy, Literacy, Poverty, Women and other Social Indicators
Saudia Arabia faces at least five major challenges, that even the world's top oil exporter can't solve with money alone.
Five reasons why crisis in Bahrain won't go away,as Bahrain’s Shiite opposition continues its struggle against the Sunni royal family,
Israel and Syria are old enemies, but over the years they have learnt to avoid open warfare. How can Israel benefit from the downfall of the Syrian regime? Can the chaos in Syria be a threat to Israel?
Portrait of Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman or Sleiman
Egypt’s crisis is a result of a failed transition to democracy after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Read about the key political actors and alliances.
Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 have changed the political map of the Middle East. How did Al Qaeda react to these upheavals? Was Arab Spring a threat or an opportunity for the terrorist network?
Translation and explanation of Allahu Akbar, the Islamic chant and call to prayer often used in political rallies and stereotyped in the West.
Abu Ghraib Prison Inmates testify of abuse and torture in their own words.
The worst days of violence in Iraq may be over, but Al Qaeda in Iraq remains a major destabilizing factor for the wider region. Read about its organization, goals and strategy.
Brief description of Kashmir, the region disputed by India and Pakistan.
The Shiite Crescent is a contentious notion of an emerging alliance of Shiite political forces in the Middle East, backed by a resurgent Iran, with the specific aim of countering the Sunni Arab, US-backed states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
Definition and brief history of Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Buy Direct As in many religions or ideologies that stray from their foundersâ intent, Islamâs establishment
Muslim tradition generally prohibits the representation of the human figure in art. But does the Koran actually ban representations of Muhammad or others?
Understanding the details behind the Anwar Sadat assassination in Cairo on Oct. 6, 1981, by a Muslim brotherhood offshoot that would later be identified with al-Qaeda.
In 2005, a Danish newspaper published a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons were of astonishingly bad taste. The newspaper's point was to test freedom of expression. The Islamic world didn't see it that way. Repercussions have been far-reaching.
Image gallery of the leaders of the Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa. Page 2.
Islamism is probably the most powerful political force in the Middle East today. Where does this ideology come from, and how does it relate to Islam?
The original set of Muhammad cartoons images that exploded in controversy in 2006, after publication in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Page 6.
June 5, 1967, the third Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Six Day War, erupts.
In 2005, Israel officially withdrew from the Gaza Strip. But the withdrawal did not end Israel's effective control of the Palestinian territory in all vital regards, thus inflaming Palestinian resentment rather than diffusing it.
A look at the main players involved in the struggle for power in Egypt as the military gradually steps aside for an elected civilian government.
Some 2,300 U.S. personnel are stationed at the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, anchoring vast and rich American interests there.
Why is Turkey reluctant to intervene in Syria? What could force Turkey to go to war and what would the invasion look like? Read about scenarios on Turkey's intervention in Syria.
It has an unquestionably terrorist past, but is Lebanon's Hezbollah still a terrorist organization? The answer isn't as simple, or stereotypical, as the United States makes it out to be.
Al Nusra Front is a Syrian rebel group with links to Al Qaeda in Iraq. What are the group's goals, and what tactics is it using to get there?
What is Zionism? A brief and objective history from Theodor Herzl to modern Israel and its anti-Zionist reactions.
Image Portrait of Iraq’s Nouri or Nuri al Maliki. Page 4.
The Truman Doctrine explained: How US-Middle East policy in Turkey and Greece gave rise to the Truman Doctrine and Soviet Containment in six decades of cold war.
What is currently happening in Turkey? WHo is power, who is in the opposition? Get all the background and the latest analysi of the current developments in Turkey.
Image Portrait of Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai. Page 5.
Definition and brief history of Peshawar, Pakistani capital of Northwest Frontier Province.
America's dependence on foreign oil, not as much from the Middle East as generally assumed, foreign sources of Petroleum products and percentages of domestic product supplied
What Are the Abu Ghraib Prison Photos? How many are there? How many are public? How many aren’t? Why is President Obama wanting to suppress the release of additional pictures?
United Arab Emirates: guide to the seven emirates and UAE issues.
The rebels in Syria have been fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad since 2011. Who are they really and what do they want? Are they linked to Al Qaeda?
: Mujahidin is the plural of mujahid , which is Arabic for "one who engages in jihad ." Although the
Islam and the West: Nicolas Sarkozy, France and the wearing of the Islamic veil, or burqa.
: What Is al-Naqba, or al-Nakba - The Catastrophe? May 14, 1948 marks Israel's declaration of independence.