Middle East Issues: Most Popular Articles
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 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.
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
Beginning in the 1970s, Israel helped to create Hamas in Gaza in an attempt to counterbalance the influence of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The gamble failed.
Who’s in power in the Middle East, what kind of political systems are emerging, and what are the latest developments?
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.
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.
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A list of 10 of the most useful books on Middle Eastern history, society, religion and economy.
What is behind the Syrian uprising? See the root causes of the uprising in Syria
The complete charter of Hamas, the Palestinian militant Islamist organization.
Analysis and background information on the political transition in Egypt: latest developments, the balance of power, profiles of main players.
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.
Description and brief history of the Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall or Kotel, in Jerusalem alongside the Temple Mount.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Facts, causes and consequences of child marriage and the sexual abuse of children.
The Balfour declaration of 1917 was Britain's implicit, but shot-lived, recognition that Jews ought to have a homeland in Palestine.
The Hamas-Israeli conflict is complicating prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It's driven by intransigence on both sides, neither of which recognizes the other as a klegitimate entity. Here's a primer on the Hamas-Israeli conflict.
Latest news, analysis and background information on Syria.
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.
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American policy in the Middle East has had few successes to speak of—fewer still when considering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. One reason: With few exceptions (President Carter certainly, President Clinton occasionally), Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular have not trusted American negotiators. The reason for that is no mystery. American negotiators and mediators have always taken sides—Israel’s.
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.
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.
Definition of Hamas, the militant Islamist Palestinian organization founded in 1987 as a local chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A concise history of the PLO, the Palesti9ne Liberation organization.
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.
Description and brief history of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, also known as the Dome of the Rock, Islam's third-holiest site.
A Guide to American policy in the Middle East since World War II, from the Truman Administration to George W. Bush's
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.
Image gallery of the leaders of the Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
Let's set the record straight about what few Middle East countries produce oil, and what many Middle East countries do not.
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.
What is Zionism? A brief and objective history from Theodor Herzl to modern Israel and its anti-Zionist reactions.
The story of the 1970 hijackings of three jets to Jordan's Dawson Field by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
FAQ: What Is Pakistan's ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence? All you need to know about the rogue intelligence agency termed a
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?
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.
Translation and explanation of Allahu Akbar, the Islamic chant and call to prayer often used in political rallies and stereotyped in the West.
Defining Fatah, the Palestinian party founded in the mid-1950s and led by Yasser Arafat until his death in 2004.
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.
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
A complete list of Israel's prime ministers from 1948 to the present.
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices
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?
An overview of Sunni-Shiite hotspots in the Middle East, and what is driving the tension.
Libya faces a long road toward full stabilization and the presence of autonomous, heavily armed groups poses the biggest threat to the political process.
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?
Explanation and description of white phosphorus, the munitions and bombs designed to give soldiers cover but that Israel used in Gaza as offensive, incendiary weapons.
In power since 2000, Assad is one of the Middle East's most ruthless leaders.
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.
Brief history and explanation of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.
: What Is al-Naqba, or al-Nakba - The Catastrophe? May 14, 1948 marks Israel's declaration of independence.
What are Barack Obama’s top five challenges in the Middle East as he begins his second mandate? Without the pressure of electability, US presidents proverbially get more adventurous in the second term, but the list is daunting.
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.
Full text of January 21, 2010 letter by 54 members of Congress asking the Obama administration to demand that Israel lift the siege of Gaza.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is the focal point of Syria’s armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad: how are they organized and can they defeat the regime?
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.
Brief definition and history of Operation cast Lead, Israel's assault on Gaza (Dec. 27, 2008-Jan. 18, 2009)
Egyptians took to the streets in 2011 to protest against corruption and repression. But are they any closer to living in a democracy?
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.
Brief definition, description and history of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
If people and the media weren't so quick to confuse Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners as one and the same, fewer atrocities would find their source in assumptions, argues Jillian C. York.
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.
Complete guide to the basics about the Iraq war: timelines, causes, costs, objectives, history, profiles of the main actors and frequently asked questions.
What is Arabica coffee? A brief lesson in the origins and history of one of the world's richest and most aromatic coffee beans.
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?
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Five reasons why crisis in Bahrain won't go away,as Bahrain’s Shiite opposition continues its struggle against the Sunni royal family,
Facts & Statistics on Adult Literacy and Illiteracy in the Middle East, country rankings.
Kashmir explained: A brief history and background of the conflict at the heart of Pakistani-Indian tensions and wars.
A definition of Jihad, the Arabic word for
Why was the security fence built? Is it designed to keep Palestinians from attacking Israel--or to give Israel an excuse to grab more land? Has it been effective in reducing suicide-bomber attacks?
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?
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.
Who are the Palestinians, where are Palestinian refugees living, what would constitute a Palestinian nation, what's the economy of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and what are the political institutions there?
The complete charter of Hamas, the Palestinian militant Islamist organization.
Definition and politics of the keffieh, or keffiyeh, the Arab headdress.
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.
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.
Hamas has no viable objective to gain by bombing Israel other than to provoke a full-scale war. Israel has no viable objective to respond militarily. The solution to conflicts in Gaza is political.
Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula fights to overthrow Yemeni and Saudi governments, and expell Western presence from the Arabian peninsula. It is one of the most aggressive Al Qaeda's branches in the Middle East.
: Mujahidin is the plural of mujahid , which is Arabic for "one who engages in jihad ." Although the
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 10.
What is the niqab in islamic dress and how is it different from face veils, burqas and hijabs or keffiyehs.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 5.
The basics on Israel's government structure, its population, religious and ethnic breakdown, the military, the economy, and a summary of Israeli history going back to ancient times
Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Muslim lunar calendar. For those 29 or 30 days, Muslims, as a spiritual exercise designed to bring them closer to God through contemplation and humility, but not without joy and festivities, are required to abstain from food, drink and sex of any sort during daylight hours.
Why Benjamin Netanyahu Matters: Benjamin Netanyahu, often referred to as âBibi,â is one of the most polarizing
Brief history of Jericho, in the Palestinian West Bank, believed to be the oldest city in the world.
: Intifada is an Arabic word that, like many Arabic words, has more than one meaning. Literally translated,
The five duties required of every practicing Muslim. Sunnis believe in the Five Pillars. Shiites do as well, though they add two or three.
A primer on why Iran's Green Revolution protesters are and what they want -- namely, an end to the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but not an end to the Islamic Republic.
Full text of the Oslo Accords' declaration of principles between the Palestinians (PLO) and Israelis, September 1993.
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.
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.
The original set of Muhammad cartoons images that exploded in controversy in 2006, after publication in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Israel has the capacity to launch long-distance missions to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites, but the extent of damage it could inflict is unclear. Here are scenarios for an Israeli attack on Iran.
Ziggurat: definition and history of the Mesopotamian, temple-like architecture of ancient history.
Saudia Arabia faces at least five major challenges, that even the world's top oil exporter can't solve with money alone.
An explanation of the Arab world, its part in the Middle East and the Middle East's non-Arab differences.
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.
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.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
Russia has frustrated the US by supporting the Syrian regime. But could Moscow really threaten US influence in the Middle East? Is the region really that important to Russia?
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.
On October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber slammed his truck into U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines. It was the emergence of Hezbollah--and the signal failure of Reagan administration policy in Lebanon.
Scenarios for Iran’s response to an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities range from a limited exchange of missile fire, outsourcing of terrorist attacks on Israeli targets, to the scenario of a wider regional war involving US forces – wreaking havoc on the global economy.
A definition of Quraysh, the old, powerful tribe from Mecca to which Prophet Muhammad once belonged before his expulsion from it.
The Bush administration has changed its rationale for war in Iraq as the complexions of the war and the occupation have changed.
Hezbollah, Lebanese Shiite party and militia, has intervened in Syrian civil war on the side of the government. What are the group's motives, and how does that involve Iran?
A briefing and primer including numbers, population statistics and international law regarding Israel's illegal settlements and outposts in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories
An explanation of the geographic and political meaning of the Golan Heights, the Syrian region occupied by Israel since 1967.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 6.
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Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for a referendum on Kashmir's future with India or Pakistan.
Salat, or prayer, is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.
Muslim tradition generally prohibits the representation of the human figure in art. But does the Koran actually ban representations of Muhammad or others?
UNRWA - A definition and brief history of the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the Palestinians' principal refugee relief organization.
The louder the drumbeats of war between Israel and Iran, and the deeper the slide toward civil war in Syria, the more we’ll be nervously looking at Lebanon in 2012.
Country by Country Facts and Figures on Christians of the Middle East, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Egypt.
an analytical overview of the last five years, framed by attempted answers to three questions: What’s been gained? What’s been lost? Where to go from here?
Sawm, or fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.
What's really on the Arab world's most-watched network?
A definition of the many meanings and applications of the Arabic word hijab, or veil, in the Middle East and the Islamic world.
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.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal 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.
Predator drones and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): History, uses, costs, advantages and disadvantages.
Explanation and context of Osama bin laden's 1996 jihad declaration of war against the United States.
Middle East Issues. Page 2.
US and NATO forces helped Libyan rebels bring down Col. Qaddafi's dictatorship. Have Libyans managed to build a democratic order?
The impact of the Syrian uprising on Lebanon will be as closely watched as the events in Syria itself. Have a look at 10 developments that can draw Lebanon into the fight.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 8.
Caspar Weinbeger describes how Ronald Reagan reacted to the U.S. Marines massacre in a suicide bomb attack in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983.
Brief definition and description of the burqa, the
Primers Briefings and Explainers on Barack Obama and the Middle East, country by country
Definition of Dunam, or Dunum, the measure of landholdings in the Ottoman Empire and Palestine/Israel.
A guide to Middle East basics - The basic facts about the Middle East, the best books, country profiles and briefings on US-Middle East relations