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Middle East Issues: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
What Happened with the Arab Spring Protests?
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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.
10 Indispensable Books on the Middle East
A list of 10 of the most useful books on Middle Eastern history, society, religion and economy.
10 Major Factors that Led to the Syrian War
What is behind the Syrian uprising? See the root causes of the uprising in Syria
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.
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.
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.
Sad Facts about Child Marriage You Should Know
Facts, causes and consequences of child marriage and the sexual abuse of children.
Israel and Gaza: A Withdrawal That Did Not End...
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.
"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.
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.
America's Pro-Israel Bias: Why the United...
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.
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.
The Hamas-Israeli Conflict: Background,...
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.
Hamas Charter, Unabridged (1988), Part 1
The complete charter of Hamas, the Palestinian militant Islamist organization.
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.
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.
What Is Happening in Syria?
Latest news, analysis and background information on Syria.
What Is Hamas?
Definition of Hamas, the militant Islamist Palestinian organization founded in 1987 as a local chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
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.
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.
Twelver Shiites' 12 Imams
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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.
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?
Twelver Shiites, or Ithna Ahariyah
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.
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.
What is the PLO - The Palestine Liberation...
A concise history of the PLO, the Palesti9ne Liberation organization.
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.
Leaders of the Middle East: A Photo Gallery
Image gallery of the leaders of the Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
Israel's Prime Ministers Since 1948
A complete list of Israel's prime ministers from 1948 to the present.
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.
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
What Is White Phosphorus?
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.
Letter to Obama by 54 Members of Congress...
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
What Is Zionism?
What is Zionism? A brief and objective history from Theodor Herzl to modern Israel and its anti-Zionist reactions.
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?
What Is Fatah?
Defining Fatah, the Palestinian party founded in the mid-1950s and led by Yasser Arafat until his death in 2004.
Operation Cast Lead
Brief definition and history of Operation cast Lead, Israel's assault on Gaza (Dec. 27, 2008-Jan. 18, 2009)
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Sunni-Shiite Tension in the Middle East
An overview of Sunni-Shiite hotspots in the Middle East, and what is driving the tension.
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.
Glossary: Mujahidin, Mujahid
: Mujahidin is the plural of mujahid , which is Arabic for "one who engages in jihad ." Although the
Glossary: Jihad
A definition of Jihad, the Arabic word for
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Iron Dome Missile Defense
Brief history and explanation of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.
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.
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.
Glossary: Sharia or Shariah
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices
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.
Forced Nudity, a Gitmo and Afghan-Prison Import
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 10.
Routine of Humiliation and Nudity
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 6.
Syrian President Bashar el Assad: Profile
In power since 2000, Assad is one of the Middle East's most ruthless leaders.
Niqab
What is the niqab in islamic dress and how is it different from face veils, burqas and hijabs or keffiyehs.
Kashmir: History and Background
Kashmir explained: A brief history and background of the conflict at the heart of Pakistani-Indian tensions and wars.
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?
Adult Illiteracy Rates (15 Years & Over) in...
Facts & Statistics on Adult Literacy and Illiteracy in the Middle East, country rankings.
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.
Abu Ghraib Photos of Alleged U.S. Torture and...
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
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?
Ehud Barak, Israel's Defense Minister and...
A profile of Ehud Barak, Israel's Defense Minister and Former Prime Minister and Labor Party chief.
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.
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?
Israel's Separation Barrier in the West Bank
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?
Sinai Peninsula
Brief definition, description and history of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
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.
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?
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.
Conflicts in Gaza: Causes and Solutions
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.
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.
Watching al-Jazeera
What's really on the Arab world's most-watched network?
Palestine and the Palestinians: Profile
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?
What Is Ramadan? A Social and Historical...
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.
Israel: Country Profile
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
Dunam or Dunum
Definition of Dunam, or Dunum, the measure of landholdings in the Ottoman Empire and Palestine/Israel.
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.
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.
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.
An Inhuman Pyramid at Abu Ghraib
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 3.
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.
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.
The U.S. and the Middle East in 10 Easy Pieces
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Glossary: Salat or Islamic Prayer
Salat, or prayer, is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.
Ziggurat
Ziggurat: definition and history of the Mesopotamian, temple-like architecture of ancient history.
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for...
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for a referendum on Kashmir's future with India or Pakistan.
Glossary: Sawm, or Siyam - Ramadan Fasting
Sawm, or fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.
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
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?
Glossary: Madrassa or Madrasa
: The word "madrassa" is Arabic for school, and is commonly used throughout the Arab and Islamic world
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.
Glossary: Surah
: Surah is the Arabic, Quranic word for "chapter." When citing the Quran, for example, the first number
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.
Keffieh or Keffiyeh
Definition and politics of the keffieh, or keffiyeh, the Arab headdress.
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.
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.
What Is al-Naqba, or al-Nakba - The Catastrophe?
: What Is al-Naqba, or al-Nakba - The Catastrophe? May 14, 1948 marks Israel's declaration of independence.
Torturing and Parading a Mentally Disturbed...
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 8.
What Is the Golan? What Are the Golan Heights?
An explanation of the geographic and political meaning of the Golan Heights, the Syrian region occupied by Israel since 1967.
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.
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
Iran’s Response To an Israeli Attack
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.
Terrorized by Dogs
Iraqi inmate terrorized by attack dogs. Page 4.
Ivan Frederick, Indecent
Middle East Issues. Page 2.
Predator Drones and other Unmanned Aerial...
Predator drones and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): History, uses, costs, advantages and disadvantages.
Jericho
Brief history of Jericho, in the Palestinian West Bank, believed to be the oldest city in the world.
Shooting at Prisoners
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 7.
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.
The Satanic Verses in Islamic History
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Can Israel Destroy Iran’s Nuclear Program?
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.
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.
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.
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,
Barack Obama and the Middle East: A Guide
Primers Briefings and Explainers on Barack Obama and the Middle East, country by country
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?
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Jordan: Country Profile
Jordan's demographics, government structure, religions, economy, military, human rights record, history and current issues are profiled.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister and...
Why Benjamin Netanyahu Matters: Benjamin Netanyahu, often referred to as “Bibi,” is one of the most polarizing

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