“Egypt had been seeking aircraft quickly, due to the threats that it faces,” said French President François Hollande to journalists in Brussels in early February 2015, after France concluded a 5.2 billion euro deal to sell fighter jets to Egypt. Shortly afterwards, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that France would partially finance the sale with a 3.2 billion euro loan. According to military experts, however, the terrorist threats in Sinai cannot be dealt with using fighter jets. Instead, attack helicopters, which Egypt possesses hundreds, including American Apaches and French Gazelles, are better suited for attacks within the challenging topography of the Sinai.
Egypt’s transition to democracy has gone awry. It has been four years since Egyptians brought an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s oppressive regime, raising an outcry against tyranny that reverberated across the Arab world. At the time, the path to democracy appeared wide open. Egypt’s 2014 presidential elections were supposed to mark a successful conclusion to the Arab Revolution. Instead, the clouds of despotism have returned to darken the political horizon, and the country’s hard-won democratic gains are now in doubt.
Arab youth is driving an evolution of the Middle East media market, which is poised to be one of the world’s fastest growing, with rapid digitization, growth in population size and consumer spending far above the global average. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) media sector is expected to grow annually by 7 per cent from 2014 to 2019, with the value of the end consumer media market rising to $21.5 billion in 2019 from $15.5 billion this year.
Although Iran has claimed that the aims of its nuclear program are peaceful, these statements have not been viewed as credible in the West. These fears worsened in 2012 after reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Iran was producing uranium enriched at a 20 percent level. As talks regarding Iranian uranium enrichment continues, the dilemma that arises is how much of uranium enrichment should be allowed by the United States.
In the ongoing regional Sunni revolt against the Shia and Alawite dominated governments of Iraq and Syria respectively, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are separately becoming involved in what amounts to a war within a war, but with an ideological tone to it. Riyadh and Ankara are engaged in an ideological version of a proxy war that shares some common strategic objectives such as curtailing Iranian influence and undermining the latter’s regional interests. However, in a separate theatre, the two Sunni heavyweights—to use a phrase reflective of the region’s increasingly sectarian dynamics—have grown far apart over some key regional developments such as containment of ISIS/ISIL, support for anti-Assad rebel forces, developing a policy to address the Muslim Brotherhood, and the future of a post-Assad Syria.
Nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) failed to meet their self-imposed November 24th deadline to reach a final deal over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Key contentious issues remain: the United States would only tolerate a much smaller Iranian nuclear program with far fewer centrifuges. Iran would like to see a much faster sanctions relief program for every concession it is going to make.
Against a backdrop of political uncertainty and the recent instability in places like Gaza, Syria, and Iraq, another revolution is quietly shaping the future of the Middle East. The global proliferation of mobile technology has brought with it a historic opportunity to improve access, accountability, and services for large swaths of the population. Nowhere is its transformative power greater than in the Middle East. In his latest book, author Christopher Schroeder tells the story of a new generation of young entrepreneurs, frustrated by broken systems, who are channeling their energy into creative enterprise through technology. In doing so, they are determined to carve out a new golden age of invention and social innovation.
After escalating conflicts over the past two weeks between Israel and Palestinians, Israel announced late Thursday night that it was initiating a ground invasion of the Gaza strip. The Israeli Defence Forces' actions came after 10 days of exchanging missile fire that has resulted in the deaths of 237 Palestinians and one Israeli.
In December 2013, the Kurdish autonomous government in Erbil signed a series of energy agreements with Turkey, provoking anger in Baghdad. These agreements, potentially, allow the Kurds to export oil by bypassing the Iraqi government, thereby, making a significant step towards achieving political independence. One key question, however, is whether the Iraqi Kurds are well advised to invest in a Turkish government, which seems to be sinking deeper into a fully-fledged political crisis.
On June 10th, Meridian International Center awarded Shafik Gabr, Chairman of the ARTOC Group for Investment and Development, the 2014 Meridian Global Citizen Award. Declared by Forbes magazine as one of Africa’s most successful businessmen and by Daily News Egypt as the richest known millionaire in Egypt, Shafik Gabr splits his time between Cairo, Washington, Paris, and other major cities around the world. But it is not his travels that make him a global citizen, but rather his consummate work in bridging cultures.
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