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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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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.
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 Happening in Syria?
Latest news, analysis and background information on Syria.
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.
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?
10 Major Factors that Led to the Syrian War
What is behind the Syrian uprising? See the root causes of the uprising 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.
Sad Facts about Child Marriage You Should Know
Facts, causes and consequences of child marriage and the sexual abuse of children.
10 Indispensable Books on the Middle East
A list of 10 of the most useful books on Middle Eastern history, society, religion and economy.
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?
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
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.
Ziggurat: definition and history of the Mesopotamian, temple-like architecture of ancient history.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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'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.
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.
Turkish-Syrian Relations: Overview
Turkey and Syria cooperated well between 2002 and 2011. What is behind the latest confrontation between Ankara and Damascus?
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.
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.
What is the niqab in islamic dress and how is it different from face veils, burqas and hijabs or keffiyehs.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
Reasons for US intervention in Syria
What are the real reasons behind the US decision to prepare for military action in Syria? Was it really about Syria's chemical weapons, or where there other motives in play?
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Syrian President Bashar el Assad: Profile
In power since 2000, Assad is one of the Middle East's most ruthless leaders.
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 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.
Afghanistan's "Rape Law" and Women's Protests
What Afghanistan's rape law says and how women got stoned protesting it in Kabul.
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.
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?
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?
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
Leaders of the Middle East: A Photo Gallery
Image gallery of the leaders of the Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa.
What Does Inshallah, or Insha'Allah, Mean?
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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.
Kashmir: History and Background
Kashmir explained: A brief history and background of the conflict at the heart of Pakistani-Indian tensions and wars.
Sunni-Shiite Tension in the Middle East
An overview of Sunni-Shiite hotspots in the Middle East, and what is driving the tension.
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.
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, or Ithna Ahariyah
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is the PLO - The Palestine Liberation...
A concise history of the PLO, the Palesti9ne Liberation organization.
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's a "Supreme Leader"?
Shiite Islam, the Iranian Revolution and the Concept of Supreme Leader: an invention of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twelver Shiites' 12 Imams
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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.
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.
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: Sharia or Shariah
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices
Syria: Country Profile
The basics on Syria: people, politics, religion, relations with Lebanon and Israel-the most pressing current issues
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 Ajman of the United Arab Emirates?
Brief portrait of Ajman, the smallest of the United Arab Emirates' seven federated, autonomous mini-states.
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.
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.
Osama bin Laden in the United States
In 1978, Osama bin Laden, a young newlywed, visited the United States with his wife. They stayed in Indiana. He went to Los Angeles.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
Gamal Abdel Nasser: Profile (1918-1970)
Profile of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's revolutionary leader (1918-1970) and the founder of Pan-Arab nationalism.
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.
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.
The Satanic Verses in Islamic History
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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?
Ellis Island, Arabs and Middle East Immigrants
A brief history of Arabs and Middle Eastern immigrants who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954.
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.
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?
Glossary: Jihad
A definition of Jihad, the Arabic word for
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?
The Second Kashmir War (1965)
Brief history and background of the Second Kashmir War (1965) between India and Pakistan.
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.
Iraq War Timeline, Part 1: 1973-1993
A timeline of the events leading up to the first Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) and through the end of the administration of the first George Bush in 1993.
Forced Nudity, a Gitmo and Afghan-Prison Import
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 10.
What Are the UN's Arab Human Development Reports?
Explanation and brief history of the UN's Arab Human Development Reports providing a stark picture of Arab society, culture and politics.
Profile: Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf
The controversial self-proclaimed former president of Pakistan took over the country in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled until 2008 with a mixture of authoritarianism and very occasional enlightenment.
Why Lebanon Matters to Israel
The louder the drumbeats of war between Israel and Iran, and the deeper the slide toward civil war in Syria, the more we’ll be nervously looking at Lebanon in 2012.
Glossary: Surah
: Surah is the Arabic, Quranic word for "chapter." When citing the Quran, for example, the first number
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: 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.
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?
Saudi Arabia: Country Profile
Saudi Arabia's demographics, absolute monarchy, oil economy, religious order, military, human rights record, history and current issues are profiled.
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.
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.
Definition of takfir, the controversial concept, in perverted interpretations of Islam, of excommunicating unbelievers or apostates and, in some cases, justifying their killing.
Routine of Humiliation and Nudity
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 6.
September 7, 1970: A Pan Am 747 Is Blown Up in...
Pan American Flight 93 was hijacked to Cairo, emptied of passengers and crew, and blown up the morning of Sept. 7, 1970. Page 8.
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.
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.
Who is Leader of Egypt?
Who is the president of Egypt? See who really holds power in the Arab world's most populous country.
Lebanon: Country Profile
More interested in commerce than empire, the people of Lebanon have historically been more inclined to play host to a succession of invaders than build a national identity. That’s been as true since Lebanon got its independence from France in 1943 as it was in the past.
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for...
Text of 1949 UN Resolution Calling for a referendum on Kashmir's future with India or Pakistan.
Lynndie England Humiliates a Shiite Inmate
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 5.
3 Obstacles to a Peaceful Resolution in Syria
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?
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?
Torturing and Parading a Mentally Disturbed...
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 8.
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 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.
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.
De3finition and geograp-hic command of CENTCOM, the military's United States Central Command over the Middle East.
March 16, 1984: Hezbollah Takes the CIA’s...
March 16 1984 CIA’s William Francis Buckley Taken Hostage in Beirut. Page 4.
Funeral for Murder Victims from the 1972 Munich...
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.
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.
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.
Who Are Egypt's Copts and Coptic Christians?
Brief explanation and history of Egypt's Copts and Coptic Christians, minus the misconceptions and misapplications of the terms.
Is Libya a Democracy Now?
US and NATO forces helped Libyan rebels bring down Col. Qaddafi's dictatorship. Have Libyans managed to build a democratic order?
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.
Adult Illiteracy Rates (15 Years & Over) in...
Facts & Statistics on Adult Literacy and Illiteracy in the Middle East, country rankings.
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)
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.
Sinai Peninsula
Brief definition, description and history of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
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.
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.
Shooting at Prisoners
The Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: Sampling from a scandal Page 7.
President George W. Bush and the Middle East:...
What went wrong with President George W. Bush's Middle East policy? It was never thought out strategically or tactically. Only ideologically. And only half-heartedly at that.
The Muslim Veil: A Guide
Islamophobia or assimilation? A guide to the Muslim veil and burqa controversies in Europe, the United States and the Muslim world.
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.
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.
What Is the Shiite Crescent?
The Shiite Crescent is a contentious notion of an emerging alliance of Shiite political forces in the Middle East, backed by a resurgent Iran, with the specific aim of countering the Sunni Arab, US-backed states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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