Over the past few years, urban centers have emphasized their critical sociopolitical relevance. From Madrid to New Delhi, from Manama to Cairo, cities have proven to be seminal flashpoints of battles of iconic status. But with cities in the Arab world having witnessed particularly explosive signs of discontent, many have wondered if the Gaza Strip would ever jump on this ‘bandwagon’. Voices of opposition have largely been silent since the Hamas’ violent take over in 2007, but the Strip’s distraught urban landscape is beginning to indicate that winds of change may be nigh.
Does Israel have a little-known ally within the supposedly ‘Arab’ world? Due to opposing currents regarding the role of pan-Arabism in pro-Palestinian activism, one population in the MENA region stands out on politics of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Although it began as an angry protest as part of the Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war has since intensified to the destruction of the entire country. Recent estimates put the death count over 100,000, as entire communities are wiped off the map, and refugees in the millions are seeking shelter in nearby countries. As the war intensifies it has an increasing effect on neighboring countries.
As global attention remains focused on those regions freshly emerging from popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, there unfortunately persists a lack of genuine insight into the value shifts and motivating factors that drove each individual revolution. Today we are faced with varying degrees of similar transitional tensions in Syria, Turkey, and reigniting now in Egypt. Global public opinion on these events is often clouded when a nation’s external communications are dominated by an elite discourse that effectively marginalizes true popular sentiments. So how do we attempt to understand the contours of public unrest? By finding opportunities to ask questions.
The military coup in Egypt that overthrew Mohamed Morsi has raised mixed feelings in the international community—Morsi was democratically elected. The Muslim Brotherhood has made its position clear: elected officials must be voted out of office, not forcibly removed. Many have criticized the United States’ for its support of the new interim government, even though that support has been half-hearted at best. There is ample evidence, however, to support the contention that Morsi’s administration failed its office with willful negligence by acting contrary to the common good of the Egyptian people.
In recent months protests have erupted in Turkey, Bulgaria, and most recently in Brazil. These new protests add to the increasing number of countries that are experiencing poor government-to-citizen relations. As the list grows longer it becomes easy to focus only on the biggest and most recent protests, but in doing this we tend to forget about the smaller, but no less important corners of the globe.
The small island nation of Bahrain has been in the depths of political unrest for years. Protests have been increasing in number and ferocity since the start of the Bahraini Uprising of 2011, sparked by the Arab Spring, but Bahrain’s protests have seen coverage drop off in mainstream media since 2012. Contrary to what this lack of attention implies, the issues that sparked the protests initially have not been resolved in Bahrain.
Lebanon, a small, cosmopolitan country on the Mediterranean that shares borders with Syria and Israel, is once again suffering from political deadlock. Apart from external sources of instability—the conflicts raging around both the Syrian and Israeli borders—Lebanon also has internal political problems worth considering, especially after the uprisings of the Arab Spring, which led previous autocratic but somewhat stable systems to collapse.
The causes of Lebanon’s internal political instability, which saw the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Miqati’s 30-member cabinet in March, predates the Lebanese civil war (1975 to 1990) and the rise of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). To understand the Lebanese political system, one has to look back in history to before the origins of the Lebanese Republic.
Last month, Israel allegedly bombed what was believed to be a conventional weapons transfer from the Syrian government to the Hezbollah network in Lebanon, as well as the Jamraya “research facility” which is close to the Lebanese border in Damascus.
While a previous strike by Israel within Syria happened in January, this recent attack occurred in what is arguably the nerve-center of the Bashar al-Assad regime, making it a significant turning point, a calculated risk, and a strong warning – especially in light of President Barack Obama’s wavering “red line” statements.
The strikes show that Israel is prioritizing the Hezbollah threat in Lebanon over a Syria without Assad. Most analysts predict a leadership vacuum post-Assad could make way for extremist groups, like the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra front, to increase in numbers or even seize power.
There are rising questions about the relations between the United States and the nations of the Persian Gulf. Tensions have been high between the two regions for decades; wars have erupted, the energy sector has been rocky at best, and countless lives have been lost. There has been a strong American presence in the area for the past decade, and even before then, the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait proved a recruitment point for Islamist radicalists. The Gulf is still riddled with problems, including social rights, energy, political stability, and everything Iran, but relations between the Gulf and the Western Hemisphere are trending towards a more peaceful coexistence.
The “Arab Spring” reached Syria in March 2011, and since then, the situation in the country has worsened dramatically, with both the government and armed opposition groups committing massacres over the course of a civil war that has left an estimated 70,000 to 120,000 people dead by April 2013. In response to the escalating violence, the United Nations (UN) and the League of Arab States (LAS) in February 2012 initiated a mediation process by appointing Kofi Annan as their joint special representative for Syria.
Annan’s Failure and Brahimi’s Struggle
It soon became clear that Annan’s six-point proposal would not bring about a solution to the conflict, and the plan’s failure eventually led Annan to resign in mid-2012. Shortly after, Lakhdar Brahimi was appointed as the new special representative on the Syrian crisis. Over the course of his tenure, Brahimi has made notable efforts to reconcile the American and Russian positions over Syria and has promoted the idea of a Syrian-led political transition based on the so-called Geneva Communiqué—yet he too has so far achieved little in terms of halting the violence and reaching a peace agreement between the warring parties.
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