Special Correspondent, Middle East
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Jan 15, 2011

Analysis: Arab rulers cagey after Tunisian leader overthrown

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The near-silence of Arab leaders about the popular protests that chased Tunisia’s ex-President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power speaks volumes.

People across the region have watched enthralled as street unrest forced Ben Ali to flee the North African country he has ruled for 23 years — an unprecedented spectacle in the Arab world, where authoritarian leaders can usually only be dislodged by army coup, assassination or their own mortality.

Jan 13, 2011

Q+A: What next for Lebanon after government collapse?

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The collapse of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s “unity” government over a tribunal set up to try his father’s assassins has thrust Lebanon into crisis.

Here are some questions and answers about what lies ahead:


President Michel Suleiman asked Hariri on Thursday to head a caretaker administration, a day after 11 ministers loyal to Hezbollah and its allies resigned from his 14-month-old cabinet — the first time a Lebanese government has fallen in this way.

Jan 12, 2011

Analysis: Lebanon heads for more turmoil after cabinet falls

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The collapse of Lebanon’s “unity” cabinet on Wednesday deepened a political crisis and exposed the failure of Syria and Saudi Arabia to bridge local rifts over a tribunal set up to try the killers of statesman Rafik al-Hariri.

The resignation of 11 ministers from Hezbollah and the armed Shi’ite movement’s allies forced the fall of an already crippled government led by the slain leader’s son, Saad al-Hariri.

Jan 10, 2011

Analysis – Egyptians chafe under Mubarak’s protracted tenure

BEIRUT (Reuters) – After 30 years of President Hosni Mubarak’s ultra-cautious rule, some of Egypt’s 79 million people feel change is overdue — even his claim to be the guarantor of stability has looked shaky since a January 1 attack on Christians.

But restive Egyptians may have to wait a bit longer. Most have known no other leader than the burly former air force commander who was catapulted to power when Islamist militants assassinated his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in 1981.

Dec 20, 2010

Special Report: Why Egypt’s power has dimmed

CAIRO, Dec 20 (Reuters) – At Bayoumy’s, a dingy, smoke-filled tea shop in downtown Cairo, Egyptian football fans groaned at the “biased” referee as they watched their national team lose 2-1 to the Gulf state of Qatar in a friendly last week. Once the television commentary had died away and people turned back to their backgammon games, some pondered an awkward question for Egypt, which prides itself on being the pre-eminent regional power. Why is it that gas-rich Qatar, a football minnow ranked 113 in the world, will host the 2022 World Cup — the first in the Middle East — while Egypt did not win a single vote when it bid for the Cup six years ago?

“Qatar does not have the history that Egypt has, but it has vision, money and the goal to be a leader among nations in the region,” sighed the tea-shop proprietor Mr Bayoumy, reflecting on the past under former president Gamal Abdel Nasser. “Egypt had vision and resolve in Abdel Nasser’s time and was even more independent than Qatar now, which has the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East. But this country has no vision any more, only officials who look after themselves.”

Nov 26, 2010

Thuggery familiar blot on Egyptian elections

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters) – Egyptians wondering whether to vote in Sunday’s parliamentary election must factor in the risk of brawls involving thugs hired by rival candidates.

Renting such gangs of bully boys is so embedded in Egypt’s electoral landscape that one local daily has listed the prices the muscle-men, and their female counterparts, can command.

Nov 14, 2010

Climate change threatens Lebanon’s snow and cedars

FARAYA, Lebanon (Reuters) – Lebanon’s ski resorts have survived civil war but now face an insidious threat from climate change expected to cut snow cover by 40 percent by 2040.

The effects of global warming are still a low priority for conflict-prone Lebanon, where environmental neglect rules.

Nov 14, 2010

Arab world among most vulnerable to climate change

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Dust storms scour Iraq. Freak floods wreak havoc in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Rising sea levels erode Egypt’s coast. Hotter, drier weather worsens water scarcity in the Middle East, already the world’s most water-short region.

The Arab world is already suffering impacts consistent with climate change predictions. Although scientists are wary of linking specific events to global warming, they are urging Arab governments to act now to protect against potential disasters.

Nov 4, 2010

Arab world faces worsening water crisis – report

BEIRUT, Nov 4 (Reuters) – The Arab world, one of the driest
regions on the planet, will tip into severe water scarcity as
early as 2015, a report issued on Thursday predicts.

By then, Arabs will have to survive on less than 500 cubic
metres of water a year each, or below a tenth of the world
average of more than 6,000 cubic metres per capita, said the
report by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED).

Nov 3, 2010

Analysis: Donors strive to avert state failure in Yemen

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A foiled al Qaeda bomb plot has again highlighted the peril to the West posed by Yemen’s slide toward state failure, a fate that would also spell disaster for 23 million Yemenis already mired in hunger and poverty.

Western and Gulf Arab donors have so far failed to brake that downward momentum. Galvanized by an attempt by al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner on December 25, they met as “Friends of Yemen” in January to coordinate aid.

    • About Alistair

      "I cover the Middle East, with an emphasis on political analysis, region-wide stories and in-depth features. I live in Beirut and have been in my current post since June 2006. Outside my main Middle Eastern beat, I have covered Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan."
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