World

There's No Nate Silver in Middle Eastern Politics

AP Photo/Israeli Army Photo, File

Sipa via AP Images

Two months ago, no one was forecasting that Egyptian democracy activists and generals would join forces to overthrow the country's president. Two months ago, sensible experts all knew that Kerry's Folly—the secretary of state's attempt to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks—would never succeed.

Kerry's Heavy Lifting Begins on Israel-Palestine

Preliminary peace talks begin in Washington next week amid hopes that the U.S.'s efforts will engender much-needed change in the region. 

 

AP Images/ Fadi Arouri

Defying the skeptics, Secretary of State John Kerry announced last Friday that Israelis and Palestinians had “established a basis” to return to peace talks, which have stalled since 2010. Kerry is wisely keeping a close hold on details so as not to create opportunities for spoilers in advance of negotiations actually taking place, but the latest is that preliminary talks, in which the Palestinians will be represented by longtime negotiator Saeb Erekat and the Israelis by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu’s “personal envoy” Yitzhak Molcho, will begin in Washington next Tuesday.

Our Passivity Surplus

As recent calamities show, change takes empathy—plus insisting on making yourself heard.

AP Images/A.M. Ahad

Once in a while, disparate news events make visible a thematic convergence, something wonderful or disturbing that had been coursing unseen through the culture. Since the mass murder of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the nation’s attention has frequently been riveted by events that call into question what we owe to one another and what we owe to ourselves. Can we, like the inspiring, relentless parents of those dead kids, rouse ourselves to care about our fate?

Obama's Silence on LGBT-Rights Abuses in Russia

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Russian President Vladimir Putin wasn't kidding about cracking down on LGBT rights. On Sunday, four Dutch filmmakers were arrested under the country's new "gay propaganda" law. Signed by Putin on June 30 after passing unanimously in the State Duma, the measure bans both private and public expressions of support for gay rights deemed to be accessible to minors and prescribes fines of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,000) for violations. The filmmakers, who came to the country earlier this month to shoot a documentary about gay life in Murmansk, were taken into custody after police went through their footage and found an interview with a 17-year-old gay man (a minor under Russian law). While the foursome was fined for visa violations and let go, it is the first instance of the anti-gay law being enforced against visitors to the country.

Netanyahu versus the EU

EU sanctions against Israeli settlements are a warning from friends that their patience has run out.

Sipa via AP Images

"This is the chronicle of a crisis foretold years in advance," said the Israeli ex-ambassador to Germany, in that petulant tone of a diplomat working very hard not to sound infuriated. Shimon Stein was trying to explain new European Union sanctions against Israeli settlements. Neither journalists nor politicians should sound so shocked by the EU move, he lectured the anchor of state radio's morning news program. He was right, but he was trying to outshout a hurricane of public anger and disbelief. The anchor herself had begun the show with a riff of indignant surprise that the EU considered her Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem to be a settlement.

Transatlantic Trouble

How much has America's spying on European allies damaged the transatlantic trade deal once thought to be one of Obama's best opportunities for shaping his foreign policy legacy?

AP Images/Charles Dharapak

Recent revelations that the U.S. government had been spying on European allies continue to rile public sentiment on the continent, just as officials from both sides of the Atlantic sit down for talks in Washington on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a wide-ranging deal that the Obama administration has been pushing as a key foreign policy initiative. If successful, TTIP would deepen the economic ties between North America and the European Union and represent the biggest trade deal in over two decades. But with public trust in the United States ebbing throughout the core countries of the European Union, President Obama will probably have to do more than simply downplay the scandal as a hyped-up, misunderstood policy detail.

Drawing the Wrong Lessons from Egypt

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

The military coup that removed Egypt’s elected President Mohamed Morsi from power last week marks a significant setback for Islamist movements in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood—to which Morsi belonged—is the most prominent and important. But, the coup also returns the Brotherhood to a situation in which they are quite used to operating: Unfairly marginalized voice of the silent, oppressed majority.

Celebration and Confusion in the Cairo Streets

AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

CAIRO, EGYPT—People started filing into Tahrir Square in the early afternoon on July 4, the first full day after President Mohamed Morsi was deposed by the Egyptian military. Though it was a tumultuous day—which saw new interim President Adli Mansour sworn in, the arrest of many Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and the mass migration of Cairo’s residents to the square which became synonymous with the Arab Spring’s ebullient upheaval—Cairo was calmer than many expected. Once again, most Egyptians were celebrating as one disliked leader exited the stage, while their country’s future remains deeply uncertain.

Putin Loves Me, Putin Loves Me Not

A conversation with the author of a new book about the Russian president, touching on fomenting dissent in the country, Syria, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File

Russian President Vladimir Putin has earned Western fascination with his over-the-top motorcycle riding and judo-fighting public persona, aggressive foreign policy, and his seemingly captivating power over the Russian people. However, Putin’s third term has quickly proven that, with a restless Moscow middle class increasingly discontent with his authoritarianism and local activists fed up with the corruption of the capital, the love affair between Russia and Putin may not be one for the ages. In his new book, Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In And Out Of Love With Vladimir Putin (Yale University Presss) Ben Judah, who grew up the son of a Balkans reporter and whose earliest memories are of the collapse of communism in Bulgaria, explains Putin’s fall from popularity and its context in the greater narrative of modern Russia. Judah, a former reporter and current Russia analyst for the European Council on Foreign Relations, spoke to the Prospect about Syria, dissent outside of Moscow and what the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games mean to one of the world’s most enigmatic and athletic world leaders.

Is the World Facing the Next Pandemic?

A new deadly respiratory disease out of the Middle East is making the World Health Organization plenty nervous.  

AP Images/Anat Givon

GENEVA—Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, is a slight, Chinese woman prone to power shades of lipstick. At the World Health Assembly in Geneva, where ministers of health from the U.N.’s 194 member countries gathered to discuss the world’s most pressing illnesses, Chan’s lip-color ranged from a light rose to fire-engine red, but her attitude never swayed.

Turkish Delight No More

The protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan mark a turning point in the country's democracy but find their roots in a complicated Cold War and Ottoman past. 

AP Images/Jodi Hilton

Observers of modern Turkey have long been fascinated by the rise of political Islam and uneasy about its ultimate trajectory under the leadership of Turkish prime minster, Tayyip Erdogan. While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been instrumental in democratizing the country and ushering in key market reforms, success has bred contempt for the opposition and delusions of grandeur, which has a distinct pedigree in Turkish history. The ghosts of Turkey’s Ottoman past are haunting the streets of Istanbul, as the ongoing protests demonstrate that Erdogan might finally be losing his grip on power.

The War Next Door

Horrifying as the Syrian civil war is, Israel's best policy option is to stay out.

AP Images/Ariel Schalit

In an age-long past—we're talking about more than two years ago—the country to Israel's northeast was ruled by a stable but despotic regime. After the battering that it took in its 1973 war with Israel, Syria carefully kept the de facto border quiet. But the regime outsourced the conflict to proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, so that the bloodletting between the countries never really stopped. Meanwhile the ruling Assad dynasty stockpiled missiles and poison gas.

Istanbul Rising

A stroll through the feverish streets of a city in turmoil.  

AP Images/Kaan Saganak
AP Images/ Kaan Saganak

Revolution Until Imprisonment

The documentary The Revolutionary, which documents the life of Charleston native and Chinese Communist Party member Sidney Rittenberg, looks at how political zeal becomes zealotry.

Flickr/ Rosario Ingles

Sidney Rittenberg's face fills the screen in a college auditorium where The Revolutionary is being shown. His eyebrows are bold brushstrokes of white above narrowed, intent eyes. His lips are firm. He has the wrinkles and gnarled neck of an old man. He does not, however, look like a man who is 90 years old, or like one battered by spending 16 of those years in solitary confinement in China for the offense, ultimately, of believing too deeply in the Party and the revolution. "If you put one drop into the long river of human history, that's immortal ... You either make a difference or you don't make a difference," Rittenberg says to the camera in his Southern gentleman's drawl. This is his credo. Outside the auditorium windows, night has fallen. Rittenberg's larger-than-life face is reflected, translucent, in the glass, as if his memory were speaking out of the darkness. "History," he says wryly, "rolled right over me."

"Pussy Riot Secret Headquarters,” Revealed

HBO’s documentary of the Russian performance artists is a riot for punk rock lovers and politicos alike.

AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

"These people made all of you say it out loud," Vladimir Putin tells a foreign interviewer he's just discomfited by asking for a Russian translation of "Pussy Riot" in HBO's remarkable new doc, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, airing Monday and well worth your time. He thinks he's scoring a point against Western media's vestigial squeamishness, and he's actually got one: The New York Times might never have printed the word "Pussy" otherwise. Still, could activists ask for a better endorsement from their nemesis? "These people made all of you say it out loud" ought to be carved on a monument someday, and it won't be Putin's.

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