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Middle East Issues: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
How Are Sunni and Shiite Muslims 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
What Is the Arab Spring?
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All You Wanted to Know about the Syrian Civil War
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.
10 Major Factors that Led to the Syrian War
What is behind the Syrian uprising? See the root causes of the uprising in Syria
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.
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.
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?
What's Currently Happening in Egypt?
Analysis and background information on the political transition in Egypt: latest developments, the balance of power, profiles of main players.
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?
8 Countries That Had 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.
Twelver Shiites, or Ithna Ahariyah
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.
6 Ways Arab Spring Impacted 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.
The U.S. and the Middle East Since 1945
A Guide to American policy in the Middle East since World War II, from the Truman Administration to George W. Bush's
10 Indispensable Books on the Middle East
A list of 10 of the most useful books on Middle Eastern history, society, religion and economy.
What Is the Western Wall and Why Is It So...
Description and brief history of the Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall or Kotel, in Jerusalem alongside the Temple Mount.
What Is Happening in Syria?
Latest news, analysis and background information on Syria.
Sad Facts about Child Marriage You Should Know
Facts, causes and consequences of child marriage and the sexual abuse of children.
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's Winning the Civil 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.
George W. Bush's Declaration of the War On Terror
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.
Ziggurat
Ziggurat: definition and history of the Mesopotamian, temple-like architecture of ancient history.
Current Situation in Libya
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.
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?
What is the Taliban and What Does It Want?
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
Twelver Shiites' 12 Imams
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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.
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?
Is the Conflict in Syria a Religious War?
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 in 10 Easy Pieces
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Kashmir: History and Background
Kashmir explained: A brief history and background of the conflict at the heart of Pakistani-Indian tensions and wars.
"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.
How Malcolm X Became a Real Muslim
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.
What Is Pakistan's ISI or Inter-Services...
FAQ: What Is Pakistan's ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence? All you need to know about the rogue intelligence agency termed a
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.
What Is The Dual-Meaning of 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Jyllands-Posten Muhammad Cartoons, 12
The original set of Muhammad cartoons images that exploded in controversy in 2006, after publication in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Page 12.
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.
Glossary: Sharia or Shariah
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunni-Shiite Tension in the Middle East
An overview of Sunni-Shiite hotspots in the Middle East, and what is driving the tension.
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.
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?
Full Text of House Resolution Recognizing the...
Text of the U.S. House Resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. Page 2.
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.
Return of Religious Repression in Afghanistan
The ouster of Afghanistan's brutal Taliban regime in 2001 was supposed to usher in freedom and democracy respectful of civil liberties and human rights. Reality is proving assumptions wrong.
Is Egypt a Democracy?
Egyptians took to the streets in 2011 to protest against corruption and repression. But are they any closer to living in a democracy?
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.
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?
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.
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.
Syrian President Bashar el Assad: Profile
In power since 2000, Assad is one of the Middle East's most ruthless leaders.
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.
What is the PLO - The Palestine Liberation...
A concise history of the PLO, the Palesti9ne Liberation organization.
The Muhammad Cartoons Controversy
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.
What Is Zionism?
What is Zionism? A brief and objective history from Theodor Herzl to modern Israel and its anti-Zionist reactions.
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.
Glossary: Jihad
A definition of Jihad, the Arabic word for
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.
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.
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.
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?
The Muhammad Cartoons: Complete Set
The original set of Muhammad cartoons images that exploded in controversy in 2006, after publication in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for...
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for a referendum on Kashmir's future with India or Pakistan.
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.
Obama’s Top Five Challenges in the Middle...
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.
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.
Niqab
What is the niqab in islamic dress and how is it different from face veils, burqas and hijabs or keffiyehs.
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.
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.
Current Situation in Iran
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.
Lynndie England Humiliates a Shiite Inmate
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 5.
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?
Routine of Humiliation and Nudity
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 6.
What Are Hama Rules?
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.
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.
Glossary: Safavid Dynasty
Read a concise definition of Persia's (Iran's) Safavid Dynasty, which ruled Iran from 1501 to 1722.
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.
The Peres Center for Peace
Brief description and history of Israel's Peres Center for Peace, established in 1996 by former prime minister and Nobel laureate Shimon Peres.
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.
Guide To Al Qaeda in the Middle East
An overview of Al Qaeda's main branches in the Middle East, their leaders, organization, and recent activities.
Glossary: Madrassa or Madrasa
: The word "madrassa" is Arabic for school, and is commonly used throughout the Arab and Islamic world
Barbary Pirates and Wars: A Timeline (1625-1815)
Piracy, the United States and the Middle East: The Barbary pirates, privateers and wars, a timeline (1625-1815)
Adult Illiteracy Rates (15 Years & Over) in...
Facts & Statistics on Adult Literacy and Illiteracy in the Middle East, country rankings.
Shooting at Prisoners
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 7.
Torturing and Parading a Mentally Disturbed...
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 8.
Glossary: Mujahidin, Mujahid
: Mujahidin is the plural of mujahid , which is Arabic for "one who engages in jihad ." Although the
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?
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,
Barbary Pirates
Definition and capsule history of North Africa's Barbary pirates and privateers of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Burqa or Burqah
Brief definition and description of the burqa, the
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.
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.
Russia's Middle East Influence
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 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.
An Inhuman Pyramid at Abu Ghraib
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 3.
Abu Ghraib Photos of Alleged U.S. Torture and...
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
What Is Hamas?
Definition of Hamas, the militant Islamist Palestinian organization founded in 1987 as a local chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
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.
Terrorized by Dogs
Iraqi inmate terrorized by attack dogs. Page 4.
Last Words from the Towers
A 9/11 photo gallery of Manhattan in the days immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Page 6.
Takfir
Definition of takfir, the controversial concept, in perverted interpretations of Islam, of excommunicating unbelievers or apostates and, in some cases, justifying their killing.
Forced Nudity, a Gitmo and Afghan-Prison Import
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 10.
U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
How U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia beef up the Saudi Kingdom--and U.S. arms manufacturers.
Syria: Country Profile
The basics on Syria: people, politics, religion, relations with Lebanon and Israel-the most pressing current issues
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.
Middle East Countries With Nuclear Weapons
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.
Glossary: Surah
: Surah is the Arabic, Quranic word for "chapter." When citing the Quran, for example, the first number
Hakawati
Definition of hakawati, the Arabic word for teller of tales popularized by Lebanese novelist Rabih Alameddine.
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.
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
Hamas Charter, Unabridged (1988), Part 1
The complete charter of Hamas, the Palestinian militant Islamist organization.
Kashmir
Brief description of Kashmir, the region disputed by India and Pakistan.
Middle East Basics: A Road Map
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
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.
Glossary: Hajj or pilgrimage
Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.
Barack Obama and the Middle East: A Guide
Primers Briefings and Explainers on Barack Obama and the Middle East, country by country
Glossary: Hijab, or Veil (Burqah, Chador)
A definition of the many meanings and applications of the Arabic word hijab, or veil, in the Middle East and the Islamic world.
The Second Kashmir War (1965)
Brief history and background of the Second Kashmir War (1965) between India and Pakistan.
Keffieh or Keffiyeh
Definition and politics of the keffieh, or keffiyeh, the Arab headdress.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Image Portrait of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Page 3.
Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader,
Image gallery of the leaders of the Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa. Page 2.
Latest News in the Middle East November 4 - 10...
A weekly selection of news reports and analysis of the latest issues in the Middle East.
Latest News in the Middle East November 18 - 24...
A weekly selection of news reports and analysis of the latest issues in the Middle East.
Ivan Frederick, Indecent
Middle East Issues. Page 2.
How Israel Helped Create Hamas
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.
Imam
Definition of Imam, or Khalifah, in Islam.
Glossary: Ihram
The state of purity required of Muslim pilgrims before conducting the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Text of the Palestinian Declaration of...
Complete text of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, also known as the Algiers Declaration, issued by the Palestinian National Council on November 15, 1988 in Algiers
The Buddha Statues of Bamiyan, Afghanistan
A brief history of the magnificent Buddha statues that stood at Bamiyan, Afghanistan, for almost 1,500 years until the Taliban destroyed them in 2001.
Current Situation in Qatar
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 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.
The National Joins Media Landscape in the...
The National is the latest of a half-dozen English-language newspapers and on-line publications to join the diverse media environment of the United Arab Emirates. But diversity doesn't necessarily mean press freedom.

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