The Bible asserts that Egypt suffered 10 plagues during the Exodus story, and Covid-19 may well have shaped up to be the eleventh. Early news of sustained infections on Nile cruise boats in February raised fears that thousands of undiagnosed cases were floating around in Egypt. If infections were already widespread, whatever Egypt did to encourage social distancing seemed likely to fail because of a late start, poor compliance, crowded housing, and limited health care capacity.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have shown that, when a government lacks legitimacy, its best chance of holding onto power is by suppressing unfavorable information. But the experiences of Iraq and Lebanon suggest that this approach has limits in political systems that depend on power-sharing arrangements.
Lydia Khalil is a research fellow in the West Asia program at the Lowy Institute.
The Middle East broke all records for surprise events in 2019. The unexpected changes of government in Algeria and Sudan, mass protests in Lebanon and Iraq, the sensational election outcome in Tunisia, the never-ending election process in Israel, a new escalation of US–Iran tensions, zigzagging developments in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, and many more – the list may be continued. At the same time, this is not the first time it happens. The situation in the region tended to be changeable in the past as well, and surprise and randomness have long become the landmark of the Middle East political process – as may be clearly seen yet again at the beginning of 2020.
Former Israeli president Peres had a dream of a new Middle East, as a peaceful and successful region. Indeed, we can see currently a very different Middle East, but it came out not exactly according to his vision.
The Middle East is either on the eve of a new round of tensions, which threaten to ignite global conflict, or of a transformation into a successful, developing region.
The United States, Russia, and Iran have chosen markedly different approaches to security assistance in the Middle East, with dramatic implications for statebuilding and stability.
ROBERT SPRINGBORG, F.C. “PINK” WILLIAMS, JOHN ZAVAGE
The peace plan proposed by the United States has been praised and damned in line with political affiliation. But no matter what plan is put forward, the Palestinians must change their strategy. Otherwise, the pattern of recent decades, in which every new offer is worse than the last, will be repeated.
Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007, is Chairman of the Institute for Global Change
Chatham House experts consider the current crisis between Iran and the US and the relations between the two countries going forward.
The Trump administration’s approach to the issue of peace in the Middle East differs from that of previous US administrations in that it is based on facts on the ground as they have evolved over time. The US peace team appears to have jettisoned both the historical “blame game” and the contradictory narratives of the Palestinians and the Israelis, which have combined to frustrate all prior peace initiatives.