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
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?
Facts, causes and consequences of child marriage and the sexual abuse of children.
Analysis and background information on the political transition in Egypt: latest developments, the balance of power, profiles of main players.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is behind the Syrian uprising? See the root causes of the uprising in Syria
Let's set the record straight about what few Middle East countries produce oil, and what many Middle East countries do not.
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.
FAQ: What Is Pakistan's ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence? All you need to know about the rogue intelligence agency termed a
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.
Latest news, analysis and background information on Syria.
A list of 10 of the most useful books on Middle Eastern history, society, religion and economy.
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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.
Image gallery of the leaders of the Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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.
Description and brief history of the Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall or Kotel, in Jerusalem alongside the Temple Mount.
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.
Country by Country Facts and Figures on Christians of the Middle East, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Egypt.
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.
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.
Facts and brief history of the Blackwater/Nisoor Square massacre iN Baghdad, Iraq, on Sept. 16, 2007.
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.
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.
The story of the 1970 hijackings of three jets to Jordan's Dawson Field by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
On June 8, 1967, Israel attacked the USS Liberty as it was sailing in international waters in the Mediterranean, killing 34 and wounding 170. The attack is never investigated. Page 2.
The Balfour declaration of 1917 was Britain's implicit, but shot-lived, recognition that Jews ought to have a homeland in Palestine.
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?
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.
Kashmir explained: A brief history and background of the conflict at the heart of Pakistani-Indian tensions and wars.
History and meaning of the Shiite Houthi Rebellion in Yemen.
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.
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.
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 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?
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.
Ziggurat: definition and history of the Mesopotamian, temple-like architecture of ancient history.
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for a referendum on Kashmir's future with India or Pakistan.
An overview of Sunni-Shiite hotspots in the Middle East, and what is driving the tension.
Egyptians took to the streets in 2011 to protest against corruption and repression. But are they any closer to living in a democracy?
Complete guide to the basics about the Iraq war: timelines, causes, costs, objectives, history, profiles of the main actors and frequently asked questions.
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?
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 Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 6.
Explanation and context of Osama bin laden's 1996 jihad declaration of war against the United States.
Five reasons why crisis in Bahrain won't go away,as Bahrain’s Shiite opposition continues its struggle against the Sunni royal family,
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 5.
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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.
Middle East Issues. Page 9.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 8.
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?
A concise history of the PLO, the Palesti9ne Liberation organization.
Royal: Brief definition and history and exchange rate of the Riyal, the Saudi Arabian currency.
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 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 Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 7.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 10.
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 3.
Saudi Arabia's demographics, absolute monarchy, oil economy, religious order, military, human rights record, history and current issues are profiled.
The proclamation by Ronald Reagan on the 1981 Holocaust Remembrance Day, in which Reagan also recognized the Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks.
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.
Middle East Issues. Page 2.
What is Arabica coffee? A brief lesson in the origins and history of one of the world's richest and most aromatic coffee beans.
What is the niqab in islamic dress and how is it different from face veils, burqas and hijabs or keffiyehs.
An explanation of the Arab world, its part in the Middle East and the Middle East's non-Arab differences.
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices
Facts & Statistics on Adult Literacy and Illiteracy in the Middle East, country rankings.
Full text of the Oslo Accords' declaration of principles between the Palestinians (PLO) and Israelis, September 1993.
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?
Iraqi inmate terrorized by attack dogs. Page 4.
The original set of Muhammad cartoons images that exploded in controversy in 2006, after publication in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
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.
Profile of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
How the Suez Canal came to be in the 19th century, how and why Egypt nationalized it in 1956, and what it has meant to Egypt since.
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.
OPEC: History and member countries of the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries.
Why Muammar el Qaddafi Matters: In power for 42 years after orchestrating a bloodless coup in 1969 until
The original set of Muhammad cartoons images that exploded in controversy in 2006, after publication in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Page 6.
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Background, details and consequences of the Mossad's assassination of the PLO's Abu Jihad, or Khalil al-Wazir, in Tunis on April 16, 1988
Profile of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's revolutionary leader (1918-1970) and the founder of Pan-Arab nationalism.
Brief portrait of Dubai, the most populous of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates in the Arabian Gulf.
Caspar Weinbeger describes how Ronald Reagan reacted to the U.S. Marines massacre in a suicide bomb attack in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983.
Translation and explanation of Allahu Akbar, the Islamic chant and call to prayer often used in political rallies and stereotyped in the West.
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.
: Mujahidin is the plural of mujahid , which is Arabic for "one who engages in jihad ." Although the
The Bush administration has changed its rationale for war in Iraq as the complexions of the war and the occupation have changed.
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?
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.
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.
: Surah is the Arabic, Quranic word for "chapter." When citing the Quran, for example, the first number
Predator drones and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): History, uses, costs, advantages and disadvantages.
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?
Brief description of Kashmir, the region disputed by India and Pakistan.
Is Kuwait a democracy? A briefing on how Kuwait's parliamentary democracy is far better than its neighbors' autocracies, but Kuwait's ruling al-Sabah family knows how to impose its will by decree.
Brief definition and description of the burqa, the
Definition and brief history of Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
US and NATO forces helped Libyan rebels bring down Col. Qaddafi's dictatorship. Have Libyans managed to build a democratic order?
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.
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?
Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the United States led a 61-nation boycott of the Summer Olympics held in Moscow in 1980.
How U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia beef up the Saudi Kingdom--and U.S. arms manufacturers.
Image Portrait of Iraq’s Nouri or Nuri al Maliki. Page 4.
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.
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.
Why Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali Matters: On Nov. 7, 1987, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali became only the second
Saudia Arabia faces at least five major challenges, that even the world's top oil exporter can't solve with money alone.
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 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?
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
Fun facts and figures on Burj Dubai/Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building and skyscraper, in the United Arab Emirates.
Definition of takfir, the controversial concept, in perverted interpretations of Islam, of excommunicating unbelievers or apostates and, in some cases, justifying their killing.
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.
Definition and capsule history of North Africa's Barbary pirates and privateers of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Al Qaeda’s core leadership is relying increasingly on its affiliates in Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, to carry on the fight.
Description and brief history of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, also known as the Dome of the Rock, Islam's third-holiest site.
Egypt’s transition to a democratic system has come down crashing. What went wrong?
A timeline of the events leading up to the first Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) and through the end of the administration of the first George Bush in 1993.
A definition of private security contractors, the euphemism used to describe mercenaries providing guard and fighting services in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
: The word "madrassa" is Arabic for school, and is commonly used throughout the Arab and Islamic world
Basics: Official country name: Republic of Yemen Area: 203,850 sq miles (527,970 sq km) Population: 22.2
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.
Image Portrait of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Page 3.
Tunisia is the birthplace of the Arab Spring protests that in 2011 shook the Middle East. What is currently happening in Tunisia? Read about the people in power, the latest developments, and what lies ahead.
Origins and Background of the 444-day Iranian Hostage Crisis during the Carter administration, Nov. 4, 1979-Jan. 20, 1981: the political climate, the lethal infighting of the Carter administration and the repercussion on American prestige.
A definition of Jihad, the Arabic word for
The original set of Muhammad cartoons images that exploded in controversy in 2006, after publication in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Page 7.
In power since 2000, Assad is one of the Middle East's most ruthless leaders.
The five duties required of every practicing Muslim. Sunnis believe in the Five Pillars. Shiites do as well, though they add two or three.
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.