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Middle East Issues: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
What Is the Arab Spring?
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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'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.
Sad Facts about Child Marriage You Should Know
Facts, causes and consequences of child marriage and the sexual abuse of children.
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 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 the Middle East
Who’s in power in the Middle East, what kind of political systems are emerging, and what are the latest developments?
10 Indispensable Books on the Middle East
A list of 10 of the most useful books on Middle Eastern history, society, religion and economy.
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.
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 Is Happening in Syria?
Latest news, analysis and background information on Syria.
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 Does Inshallah, or Insha'Allah, Mean?
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Hamas Charter, Unabridged (1988), Part 1
The complete charter of Hamas, the Palestinian militant Islamist organization.
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 Major Factors that Led to the Syrian War
What is behind the Syrian uprising? See the root causes of the uprising in Syria
Twelver Shiites, or Ithna Ahariyah
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.
Twelver Shiites' 12 Imams
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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 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 the Arab World?
An explanation of the Arab world, its part in the Middle East and the Middle East's non-Arab differences.
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
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?
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,
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.
"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.
Kashmir: History and Background
Kashmir explained: A brief history and background of the conflict at the heart of Pakistani-Indian tensions and wars.
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.
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.
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 PLO - The Palestine Liberation...
A concise history of the PLO, the Palesti9ne Liberation organization.
Burqa or Burqah
Brief definition and description of the burqa, the
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
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.
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.
Niqab
What is the niqab in islamic dress and how is it different from face veils, burqas and hijabs or keffiyehs.
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.
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.
Glossary: Sharia or Shariah
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices
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.
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 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.
The U.S. and the Middle East in 10 Easy Pieces
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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 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.
Glossary: Surah
: Surah is the Arabic, Quranic word for "chapter." When citing the Quran, for example, the first number
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lynndie England Humiliates a Shiite Inmate
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 5.
Routine of Humiliation and Nudity
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 6.
Sunni-Shiite Tension in the Middle East
An overview of Sunni-Shiite hotspots in the Middle East, and what is driving the tension.
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?
Forced Nudity, a Gitmo and Afghan-Prison Import
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 10.
Ziggurat
Ziggurat: definition and history of the Mesopotamian, temple-like architecture of ancient history.
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.
Michael Jackson in Bahrain: Pop Meets Islam
When Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, re-dicovered Islam in Bahrain to escape the glare of child molestation publicity.
US-Egyptian Relationship After Hosni Mubarak
US faces a difficult balancing act reconciling respect for Egypt’s democracy with its strategic interests in the country. What challenges lie ahead?
Saudi Arabia: Country Profile
Saudi Arabia's demographics, absolute monarchy, oil economy, religious order, military, human rights record, history and current issues are profiled.
What Is Egypt's Suez Canal?
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.
An Inhuman Pyramid at Abu Ghraib
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 3.
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?
Torturing and Parading a Mentally Disturbed...
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 8.
Sinai Peninsula
Brief definition, description and history of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Current Situation in Tunisia
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.
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.
Arak
Definition and history of arak, the Lebanese drink also consumed in other parts of the Eastern mediterranean
Ivan Frederick, Indecent
Middle East Issues. Page 2.
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.
Shooting at Prisoners
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 7.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
Riyal or Riyals: Saudi Arabian Currency
Royal: Brief definition and history and exchange rate of the Riyal, the Saudi Arabian currency.
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.
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for...
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for a referendum on Kashmir's future with India or Pakistan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Nicolas Sarkozy, France and Islamic Dress
Islam and the West: Nicolas Sarkozy, France and the wearing of the Islamic veil, or burqa.
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.
Turkey: Country Profile
Turkey is a country of contradictions: Politically European and secular but culturally Asian and Islamic, a member of NATO at loggerheads with other NATO members like the United States and Greece and a powerful economy still teetering on the edge of chaos.
Barbary Pirates
Definition and capsule history of North Africa's Barbary pirates and privateers of the 18th and 19th centuries.
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.
Terrorized by Dogs
Iraqi inmate terrorized by attack dogs. Page 4.
The Second Kashmir War (1965)
Brief history and background of the Second Kashmir War (1965) between India and Pakistan.
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.
Glossary: Mujahidin, Mujahid
: Mujahidin is the plural of mujahid , which is Arabic for "one who engages in jihad ." Although the
Glossary: Madrassa or Madrasa
: The word "madrassa" is Arabic for school, and is commonly used throughout the Arab and Islamic world
What Is Dubai?
Brief portrait of Dubai, the most populous of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates in the Arabian Gulf.
Takfir
Definition of takfir, the controversial concept, in perverted interpretations of Islam, of excommunicating unbelievers or apostates and, in some cases, justifying their killing.
Bahrain: Shiite Majority, Sunni Rule
Bahrain is the last country in the Middle East with a majority Shiite population still ruled by a minority, and authoritarian, Sunni family. The small Persian Gulf country is a study in restlessness.
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.
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.
Kashmir
Brief description of Kashmir, the region disputed by India and Pakistan.
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.
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.
The Satanic Verses in Islamic History
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American Interests in Bahrain
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.
Glossary: Jihad
A definition of Jihad, the Arabic word for
Blackwater Worldwide
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.
Ivan Frederick, From Virginia to Abu Ghraib
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
Glossary: Gulf Cooperation Council
The economic and cultural union between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates
Morocco: Country Profile
The basics on Morocco: people, politics, religion, King Mohammed VI's monarchy, the situation in Western Sahara-the most pressing current issues
United Arab Emirates: Country Profile
The United Arab Emirates is among the Persian Gulf's wealthiest, most stable states. Here's the story on its oil-rich but diversifying economy, its few political and religious freedoms. Its military, demographics and history are also profiled.
Top 10 Middle East Stories of the Decade
The the top 10 Middle East stories of the decade from 9/11 to George W. Bush's war on terror to the Middle East's descents into chahos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine-Israel and Pakistan.
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
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.
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.
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.
Al Qaeda Organization After Osama bin Laden
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.
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.
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?
What Is Zionism?
What is Zionism? A brief and objective history from Theodor Herzl to modern Israel and its anti-Zionist reactions.
Predator Drones and other Unmanned Aerial...
Predator drones and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): History, uses, costs, advantages and disadvantages.
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
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.
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.
Is Turkey a Democracy?
Turkey has one of the healthiest democratic systems in the Muslim world, although with considerable deficits on the issue of the protection of minorities, human rights, and the freedom of the press.
Glossary: Ihram
The state of purity required of Muslim pilgrims before conducting the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Knafeh or Kunafeh Cheescake
A definition of Knafeh or Kunafeh, the cheescake and Levant favorite.
Syria: Country Profile
The basics on Syria: people, politics, religion, relations with Lebanon and Israel-the most pressing current issues
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.
What's a "Supreme Leader"?
Shiite Islam, the Iranian Revolution and the Concept of Supreme Leader: an invention of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini.
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?
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?
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.
The Iranian Hostage Crisis, 1979-1981: Origins...
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.
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