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The Middle East

Saudi Arabia has been omnipresent in the headlines recently. By detaining several significant business figures and senior ministers, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has demonstrated the scope of his newly-inherited authority and violently asserted his power. What followed since, if not utterly unexpected, has been greatly intriguing and perplexing. Developments, however, are not limited to internal Saudi affairs, but also have regional implications. There are signals of a growing Saudi-Israeli cooperation and aligning of interests in their wish to counteract Iran. Two weeks ago, Ayoub Kara, Israeli Communications Minister invited Saudi’s Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh to visit Israel, and a few days later, Saudi online journal Elaph, recorded Israel’s chief-of-staff Gadi Eizenkot saying that Israel is ready to share intelligence …

Following his surprise appointment as crown prince back in June, 32-year-old Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud has been thrust into the spotlight. The events surrounding his rapid rise to power sound like something straight out of Hollywood, involving secretive plots and political intrigue, however, the consequences of his dramatic ascent to power could be very real for Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole. Tensions within the extensive network of royalty have existed for decades, yet, up until recently, have been kept relatively under control. Stability and gradual change were seen as key in maintaining the complicated structures of Saudi Arabian society and politics. In a region wracked by war and turmoil stability and survival were emphasized. This …

On 13 March 2017, the legal saga of the trial of Hosni Mubarak ended. The deposed autocrat, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his complicity in the killing of hundreds of demonstrators and embezzlement on a grander scale, was acquitted by Egypt’s Court of Cassation and freed from his detention. “The trial of the century”, as Egyptians have dubbed Mubarak’s prosecution, began soon after millions of Arabs took to the streets all over the Middle East, and it was concluded against the backdrop of the deep frustration of most from the results of the Arab Spring. This legal ordeal is but one prominent manifestation of the decisive role that the legal system played during the struggle …

On the ninth of June, Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, arrived in Mosul to congratulate the armed forces for the liberation of the city. Mosul had been conquered by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014 and served as its Iraqi capital. This significant victory is not yet the end of ISIS in Iraq, however, both in Iraq and in Syria its territorial dominance has strongly diminished—by about 60 % since January 2015—and is likely to continue. The power vacuum emerging from this rapid decline has heated up competition between the numerous parties in the conflict—regular forces of regional states and great powers, as well as various militias often acting as their proxies—to control former …

“When you kill innocent children – innocent babies – babies – little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines,” Trump said when asked about Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed some 80 civilians and injured many more. Thursday night he swiftly followed through with his remarks, launching missile strikes on Shayrat airfield in Syria, where the attack is suspected to have originated. Commentators have been quick to point out Trump’s remarkable U-turn on Syria. From his ‘America First’ rhetoric, to his cosying up to Putin and repeated statements that he thinks ‘many very bad things …

Last week’s coup attempt by military forces in Turkey — the military’s first overt attempt to take power since 1980 — came as a great shock to the international community. At least 290 people were killed and 1,440 wounded. The coup also spurred a dramatic wave of purges; less than 24 hours after the turmoil began, 2,839 army members and a member of the constitutional court were arrested, while 2,745 judges and five members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors were removed from their posts. The purges only intensified thereafter; within a week, about 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers found themselves detained, suspended or under investigation. The government’s rhetoric and consistent inaction, contextualized within its wider response to the …

After Uruguay courageously legalised the use of cannabis under a new drug policy, could Iran be the next country to make it legal? From the outside, the image of Iran as retrograde and inherently conservative hardly fits with the reality of a more dynamic domestic political debate within. But drug policy is one of the areas of debate in which the Islamic Republic has produced some interesting, yet paradoxical, policies. Iran has a conspicuous drug addiction problem – which officially accounts for more than 2m addicts (though unofficial figures put this as high as 5-6m). Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty. Yet Iran also has very progressive policies towards drug addiction, which include distribution of clean …

As I am sitting here writing this contribution at 8:50 in the morning, I can already hear signs of the relentless fighting that has been going on for over ten days around Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem: Soldiers shooting tear gas canisters, military jets are flying over the area, ambulances rushing to the scene and hundreds of impatient drivers waiting to cross the area honking without let-up. Riots had kicked off in the area in response to the current dispute between Israeli Jews and Arabs about the administration of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Muslim religious site is administered by Jordan and Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray there. Increased Jewish visits in recent times have raised …