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Middle East Issues: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
Syrian Civil War Explained
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.
Definition of the Arab Spring
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Current Situation in Egypt
Analysis and background information on the political transition in Egypt: latest developments, the balance of power, profiles of main players.
Arab Spring Uprisings
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.
10 Big Factors that Led to the Syrian War
What is behind the Syrian uprising? See the root causes of the uprising in Syria
The Difference Between Alawites and Sunnis in...
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 Reasons for the Arab Spring
What were the reasons for the Arab Spring in 2011? Read about the top ten developments that both triggered the revolt and helped it confront the might of the police state.
How Are Sunni Muslims and Shiites Different?
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
Arab Spring Impact on the Middle East
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.
Child Marrriage: Facts, Causes and Consequences
Facts, causes and consequences of child marriage and the sexual abuse of children.
Current Situation in the Middle East
Who’s in power in the Middle East, what kind of political systems are emerging, and what are the latest developments?
Current Situation in Iraq
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.
Current Situation in Israel
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.
Who is Winning the War in Syria
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 Oil Reserves By Country and Rank
Let's set the record straight about what few Middle East countries produce oil, and what many Middle East countries do not.
Wailing Wall, or Western Wall
Description and brief history of the Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall or Kotel, in Jerusalem alongside the Temple Mount.
Religion and Conflict in Syria
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 U.S. and the Middle East Since 1945
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Current Situation in Syria
Latest news, analysis and background information on Syria.
Malcom X in Mecca
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.
Why Iran Supports the Syrian Regime
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.
Iran and Saudi Arabia - Middle East Cold War
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 Statue of Liberty's Origins in Egypt
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.
Full Text: President Bush Declares "War on...
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.
Timeline of the Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1990
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.
Ten Indispensable Books
A list of 10 of the most useful books on Middle Eastern history, society, religion and economy.
What Is Al Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock?
Description and brief history of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, also known as the Dome of the Rock, Islam's third-holiest site.
History of the Taliban: Who They Are, What They...
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
Complete Guide to the Abu Ghraib Photos and...
A complete guide to the Abu Ghraib Photos and Torture Scandal: Origins, history, facts, debates, outcomes and photo galleries.
What Is the Balfour Declaration?
The Balfour declaration of 1917 was Britain's implicit, but shot-lived, recognition that Jews ought to have a homeland in Palestine.
Leaders of the Middle East: A Photo Gallery
Image gallery of the leaders of the Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa.
Kashmir: History and Background
Kashmir explained: A brief history and background of the conflict at the heart of Pakistani-Indian tensions and wars.
Profile: Al Jazeera
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.
Sunni-Shiite Tension in the Middle East
An overview of Sunni-Shiite hotspots in the Middle East, and what is driving the tension.
What is the PLO - The Palestine Liberation...
A concise history of the PLO, the Palesti9ne Liberation organization.
Why Does Russia Support the Syrian Regime
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?
Does the Quran Require Women to Wear the Veil?
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?
1979 Seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca
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 Supports the Syrian Regime
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 U.S. and the Middle East in 10 Easy Pieces
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Adult Illiteracy Rates (15 Years & Over) in the...
Facts & Statistics on Adult Literacy and Illiteracy in the Middle East, country rankings.
Reasons for Egypt’s Crisis
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.
Niqab
What is the niqab in islamic dress and how is it different from face veils, burqas and hijabs or keffiyehs.
How the Arab Spring Started
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.
Twelver Shiites, or Ithna Ahariyah
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.
Glossary: Jihad
: Jihad is the Arabic for what can be variously translated as "struggle" or "effort," or "to strive,"
Israeli Position on Syrian Conflict
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?
Is Iraq a Democracy?
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?
Lynndie England Humiliates a Shiite Inmate
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 5.
Shooting at Prisoners
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 7.
Who Are the Syrian Rebels
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?
Black September
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.
Twelver Shiites' 12 Imams
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What Is Pakistan's ISI or Inter-Services...
: What Is Pakistan's ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence? Pakistan ’s Inter-Services Intelligence, known
Why No Solution to Syrian Conflict
The war in Syria is the Arab world's most intractable internal conflict since the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s. What are the obstacles to a peaceful settlement?
Egypt Crisis: Main Players
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.
Black September and the Murder of 11 Israelis...
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.
Options for Intervention in Syria
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.
Arabica Coffee
What is Arabica coffee? A brief lesson in the origins and history of one of the world's richest and most aromatic coffee beans.
The Five Pillars of Islam
The five duties required of every practicing Muslim. Sunnis believe in the Five Pillars. Shiites do as well, though they add two or three.
Abu Ghraib Photos of Alleged U.S. Torture and...
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
Why Hezbollah Supports Syrian Regime
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?
The Assassination of Egypt's Anwar Sadat
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.
Gamal Abdel Nasser: Profile (1918-1970)
Profile of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's revolutionary leader (1918-1970) and the founder of Pan-Arab nationalism.
The 1980 Olympics Boycott Over the Soviet...
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.
Profile: Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali
Why Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali Matters: On Nov. 7, 1987, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali became only the second
How Stable is Saudi Arabia?
Saudia Arabia faces at least five major challenges, that even the world's top oil exporter can't solve with money alone.
Syria's Armed Opposition: Free Syrian Army
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 Quraysh Tribe of Mecca
A definition of Quraysh, the old, powerful tribe from Mecca to which Prophet Muhammad once belonged before his expulsion from it.
Torturing and Parading a Mentally Disturbed...
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 8.
What Is the Powers Act?
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.
Al Qaeda in Syria: Al Nusra Front
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?
Allahu Akbar
Translation and explanation of Allahu Akbar, the Islamic chant and call to prayer often used in political rallies and stereotyped in the West.
The Impact of Syrian Uprising on Lebanon
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.
Forced Nudity, a Gitmo and Afghan-Prison Import
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 10.
Saudi Arabia and Syrian Uprising
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
Syrian President Bashar el Assad: Profile
Syrian President Bashar el Assad, in power since 2000, is one of the Middle East's most ruthless leaders. A profile.
Current Situation in Turkey
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.
Glossary: Ihram
Definition of Ihram, the state of purity required of Muslim pilgrims before conducting the pilgrimage to Mecca.
What Were the Camp David Accords of 1978?
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.
Taliban Rules, Decrees, Laws and Prohibitions
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.
Why is There Still Violence in Libya?
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 1970 Palestinian Hijackings of Three Jets...
The story of the 1970 hijackings of three jets to Jordan's Dawson Field by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Why the Crisis in Bahrain Won't Go Away
Five reasons why crisis in Bahrain won't go away,as Bahrain’s Shiite opposition continues its struggle against the Sunni royal family,
Timeline of Egyptian Crisis in 2013
The timeline of Egyptian crisis in 2013 follows the events that led to the downfall of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, opening a new phase in Egypt’s troubled transition.
What Was Operation El Dorado Canyon, the US...
Operation El Dorado Canyon, the 1986 U.S. Attack on Libya in retaliation for the terrorist bombing at a Berlin discotheque.
Routine of Humiliation and Nudity
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 6.
When the United Arab Emirates Won Independence...
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.
Iraq War Effect on the Middle East
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?
Ivan Frederick, From Virginia to Abu Ghraib
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
What Is the Arab World?
An explanation of the Arab world, its part in the Middle East and the Middle East's non-Arab differences.
Turkey’s Intervention in Syria
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.
Burqa or Burqah
Brief definition and description of the burqa, the
June 5, 1967: Third Arab-Israeli War (the Six...
June 5, 1967, the third Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Six Day War, erupts.
When Arab and Muslim Stereotype Fuels Dangerous...
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.
What Are the Shabiha Militias in Syria?
Shabiha militias are the shock troops of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Where do they come from and can they win the war for Assad?
Glossary: Gulf Cooperation Council
The economic and cultural union between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for...
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for a referendum on Kashmir's future with India or Pakistan.
Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses": Excerpts of...
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Glossary: Sharia or Shariah
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices
An Inhuman Pyramid at Abu Ghraib
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 3.
Ivan Frederick, Indecent
Middle East Issues. Page 2.
Leaders of Syrian Uprising - Syrian National...
Who are the members of the Syrian National Council, Syria's main opposition alliance? What are their objectives and do Syrians support them?
Turkish-Syrian Relations: Overview
Turkey and Syria cooperated well between 2002 and 2011. What is behind the latest confrontation between Ankara and Damascus?
Terrorized by Dogs
Iraqi inmate terrorized by attack dogs. Page 4.
Ronald Reagan and the Killing of 241 U.S....
Caspar Weinbeger describes how Ronald Reagan reacted to the U.S. Marines massacre in a suicide bomb attack in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983.
Islamists and the Arab Spring Uprisings
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?
Mossad's Tunis Assassination of the PLO's "Abu...
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
Turkey’s Role in the Arab Spring
How did Turkey become the champion of democratic change in the Arab world? What is Ankara trying to achieve by backing the Arab Spring uprisings? Read about Turkish foreign policy in the new Middle East.
Who Are the Islamists?
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?
Profile: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's...
Why Ali Khamenei matters: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Iran’s self-styled “ Supreme Leader ,” only the second
Quick Facts on Burj Dubai/Burj Khalifa
Fun facts and figures on Burj Dubai/Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building and skyscraper, in the United Arab Emirates.
Egyptian Military’s Power: Profile of the...
Egyptian military’s power rests on a complex web of intelligence networks, profitable business enterprises and exclusive government budgets. Civilian politicians may have captured the elected state institutions, but real power in Egypt still resides with the opaque Supreme Council of Armed Forces.
Predator Drones and other Unmanned Aerial...
Predator drones and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): History, uses, costs, advantages and disadvantages.
What Is Fatah?
Defining Fatah, the Palestinian party founded in the mid-1950s and led by Yasser Arafat until his death in 2004.
Reasons for Violence in Iraq
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.
Christians of the Middle East: Country-By-Count...
Country by Country Facts and Figures on Christians of the Middle East, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Egypt.
Ziggurat
Ziggurat: definition and history of the Mesopotamian, temple-like architecture of ancient history.
Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque in Mecca
Definition and brief history of Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Five Myths About the Middle East
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.
Kashmir
Brief description of Kashmir, the region disputed by India and Pakistan.
"Black September": The Jordanian-PLO Civil War...
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.
Syrian Opposition: Who Can Replace Assad
Syrian opposition is a diverse mix of exiled political groups, grassroots activists organizing protests inside Syria, and armed groups waging a guerilla war on the government forces.
Who is in Power in Egypt
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.
The Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turkey,...
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What Was the Arms-for-Hostages Iran-Contra...
A bried explanation of the Reagan administration's arms-for-hostages scandal known as the Iran-Contra Affair, which implicated numerous members of the Reagan administration--including Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Israel's Prime Ministers Since 1948
A complete list of Israel's prime ministers from 1948 to the present.
Arab Americans in the United States: Population...
A table graphically breaking down Arab American populations in the United States in California, Michigan, New York and seven other states, according to the Census Bureau and Zogby International estimates.
The 1983 Attack on U.S. Marines in Lebanon
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.
A Brief History of the Iraq War: Gains, Defeats...
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?
Profile: Egypt's Anwar el Sadat (1918-1981)
Why Sadat Still Matters: Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamist fanatics in 1981 for the very reason
Iraq War: Everything You Want (and Need) to Know
Complete guide to the basics about the Iraq war: timelines, causes, costs, objectives, history, profiles of the main actors and frequently asked questions.
Who Are Iran's Protesters and What Do They Want?
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.
When and Why did Bin Laden Declare War on the...
Explanation and context of Osama bin laden's 1996 jihad declaration of war against the United States.
Why Is the United States in Iraq?
The Bush administration has changed its rationale for war in Iraq as the complexions of the war and the occupation have changed.
Al Qaeda in Yemen: Profile
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.
Al Qaeda in Iraq: Profile
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.
Images and the Prophet Muhammad: What Do the...
Muslim tradition generally prohibits the representation of the human figure in art. But does the Koran actually ban representations of Muhammad or others?
Glossary: Madrassa or Madrasa
: The word "madrassa" is Arabic for school, and is commonly used throughout the Arab and Islamic world
Sinai Peninsula
Brief definition, description and history of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Jordan: Country Profile
Jordan's demographics, government structure, religions, economy, military, human rights record, history and current issues are profiled.
Salafism in the Middle East
Salafis are ultra-conservative Islamists advocating a religious revival in Muslim societies. What are the origins of their thought? Are all Muslims in the Middle East Salafis? Whas is their connection to Al Qaeda?
What Is the Middle East?
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.
Barbary Pirates
Definition and capsule history of North Africa's Barbary pirates and privateers of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Second Kashmir War (1965)
Brief history and background of the Second Kashmir War (1965) between India and Pakistan.
What is Blasphemy in Islam
The concept of blasphemy in Islam is contentious, because the holy scriptures offer no unequivocal guidance on the issue.
Hashemite or Hasimi
Brief definition of Hashemite and the Hashemite dynasty, descendded of the clan of Hashim, including the current ruler of Jordan.
Glossary: Operation Desert Storm
Definition and scope of Operation Desert Storm, the offensive phase of the U.S.-led military operation to clear Kuwait of Iraqi forces in the first Gulf War, in January-February 1991.

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