June 17th, 2012
01:26 PM ET

How dictators have evolved with the times

By Fareed Zakaria

We tend to think of dictators as all-powerful leaders who act with naked cruelty and impunity. Think of Bashar al Assad in Syria. Or, for a celluloid reminder, think of Sacha Baron Cohen as Gen. Admiral Aladeen, a North African despot.

But the film "The Dictator" — and our imagination of dictators — is getting outdated. The new dictator is more evolved and more attuned to how people think.

A new book highlights that trend. It's called "The Dictator's Learning Curve" by William Dobson.

Dictators have gotten smart, Dobson writes, to keep pace with changes in technology. Old-school oppressors like Mao, Pol Pot or Idi Amin could keep their atrocities relatively secret. That's not possible today. If a dictator tried to orchestrate a mass killing and keep it secret, he'd likely fail. It would end up on YouTube. FULL POST

June 8th, 2012
10:06 AM ET

Syria’s Christian conundrum

By Hind Aboud Kabawat, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Hind Aboud Kabawat is a Syrian attorney. She is also a conflict resolution specialist and senior research analyst at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, which is based at George Mason University in Virginia. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Hind Aboud Kabawat.

One of the most perplexing aspects of the Syrian revolution is the deep ambivalence felt by so many of the country’s Christians when faced with the prospect of freedom after four decades of authoritarian dictatorship. Some Christians have enthusiastically embraced the prospect of democratic change and a more open civil society, but many have not.

As a Christian, this provokes a great deal of sadness in me and others who are committed to transforming Syria into an open, democratic, inclusive, secular and religiously tolerant society. But the problem is that many, if not most, Christians in Syria do not believe that this will be the outcome of changing the regime.

On the contrary, they believe the present regime — corrupt and repressive as it has been — is the only true guarantor of secularism in Syria and, with it, the acceptance of the Christians as equals to their Muslim neighbors. Further, many Christians firmly believe that what will replace the regime is a fundamentalist Muslim theocracy that will strip Christians and other minorities of their political and civil rights, including their right to practice their religion in peace.


Topics: Religion • Revolution • Syria
Can Saudi Arabia avoid an uprising?
Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
February 27th, 2012
04:35 PM ET

Can Saudi Arabia avoid an uprising?

Editor’s Note: Kathleen Sullivan is an analyst at Ergo, a global intelligence and advisory firm. The article below is based on a report Ergo recently published, entitled The Waning Era of Saudi Oil Dominance. Follow Ergo on Twitter.

By Kathleen Sullivan - Special to CNN

Saudi Arabia has thus far managed to stave off the popular protests that have led to the ouster of four Arab heads of state, chiefly due to its strategic and well-timed disbursements of oil-revenue-funded social giveaways. While so far effective in preserving the status quo, this approach has tied the fate of the monarchy to that of its oil revenues - an increasingly risky linkage.

For decades, Saudi Arabia’s booming oil revenues have been a safe bet in a constantly shifting region.  Proud and longtime holder of the world’s largest proven reserves, highest exports, and most spare capacity, Saudi Arabia maintained an unrivaled position of dominance in global oil markets.  However, a deeper look at Saudi Arabia’s growing domestic pressures and its external challenges reveal signs of decay in the Kingdom’s global oil market dominance, and with it, weakening defenses against a popular uprising. FULL POST

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Topics: Oil • Protests • Revolution • Saudi Arabia
January 11th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Majd: Christmas is no time for an Iranian Revolution

Editor's Note: Hooman Majd is the author, most recently, of The Ayatollah's Democracy: An Iranian Challenge.

By Hooman Majd, Foreign Affairs

It was Christmastime in Tehran, and forecasters were predicting another early snow. On a cold day last December at the bazaar in Tajrish, the wealthy historic neighborhood in northern Tehran, shoppers avoided the exposed alleyway stalls and instead headed for the warmth of the nearby mini-malls, which were as overheated as any in the United States.

Inside one, kids gathered around the window of a Christmas shop to gaze at the ornaments and plastic Santas inside. A few other shops also had Christmas decorations - perfectly legal in the Islamic Republic, even if the religious authorities frown on them. Christians are free to celebrate as they wish - there are even Christmas trees for sale on the sidewalks in the Armenian neighborhoods of Tehran. FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • Revolution
November 14th, 2011
12:37 PM ET

Zakaria: Will the North Koreans rise up?

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

I noticed a strange item in the news this week. An estimated 200 North Koreans are stranded in Libya right now, among them doctors and nurses whose services are much needed back home. Why are they there? Why can't they go back?

Well, it turns out that they were sent to Libya to earn desperately needed hard currency for North Korea's tyrant, Kim Jong-Il. But now, despite Gadhafi's death and the changing circumstances, he'd rather these essential workers stay away. The same goes for hundreds of other doctors, nurses, technicians and other workers in Tunisia and Egypt.

Why? The Arab spring. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show • North Korea • Revolution
Why Tunisia looks much rosier than Egypt
A woman marks one of her finger with indelible ink after casting her vote, on October 23, 2011 at a polling station in Tunisia. (Getty Images)
November 4th, 2011
10:55 AM ET

Why Tunisia looks much rosier than Egypt

Editor's Note: The following article comes from Worldcrunch, an innovative, new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. Bahey el-din Hassan is director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. This article was originally published in Al-Masry Al-Youm.

By Bahey el-din Hassan, Worldcrunch

CAIRO – I traveled to Tunisia last month to witness the country‘s first free elections. As I left Cairo, I had given in to an increasingly shared sense that Egypt had lost its way. I returned to find Egyptians even further engulfed in pessimism about the future.

The Oct. 9 Maspero massacre, which took the lives of more than two dozen Copts, has left many with an overwhelming feeling that the country is moving in a terrible direction, perhaps even to the brink of internal strife. But this does not seem to alarm the generals ruling the country, one of whom said recently in a private meeting that he feared Egypt would “go the way of Somalia.”


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Topics: Egypt • Middle East • Politics • Revolution
September 26th, 2011
02:39 PM ET

Yemen's hijacked revolution

Editor's Note: Letta Tayler is the Yemen and Counterterrorism Researcher at Human Rights Watch.

By Letta Tayler, Foreign Affairs

Last week in Yemen, in the worst bloodshed since anti-government rallies began in January, attacks by government security forces against peaceful protesters devolved into armed clashes in the heart of the capital. Although the spasm of violence looked like the latest case of a brutal government suppressing demonstrators as part of the Arab Spring, it was propelled by an internal power struggle that had percolated for several years - and that took a complicated new twist with the surprise return of the country's wounded president on Friday.

A popular uprising has indeed gripped Yemen for months now, but the movement has been hijacked by three elite factions vying for control of the government. President Ali Abdullah Saleh's impromptu return may simply harden the battle lines, plunging the country into civil war. Since arriving in Sanaa, the president has continued to sidestep accelerating international demands for his immediate resignation and has accused his opponents of supporting al Qaeda. FULL POST

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Topics: Revolution • Terrorism • Yemen
Lessons from East Germany's Stasi files for post-revolution Egypt
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. (Getty Images)
September 16th, 2011
03:08 PM ET

Lessons from East Germany's Stasi files for post-revolution Egypt

Editor's Note: The following article comes from Worldcrunch, an innovative, new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. This article was originally published in Le Monde.

By Géraldine Schwarz, Worldcrunch

Basil Al-Adel suffered no illusions when he decided to enter Egyptian politics in 2005. By co-founding the opposition Al-Ghad political party, Al-Adel knew there would be a price to pay. Up until that point, the then 32-year-old engineering graduate had led a relatively tranquil existence. Overnight, he landed on the radar of the secret police of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, under the code name “a-Muhandis,” The Engineer.

“I always knew they spied on dissidents,” says Al-Adel. But just how closely? Will we ever know?”

In an effort to answer these questions, Basil Al-Adel traveled last month from Cairo to Berlin to visit the office in charge of managing the files of the Stasi, East Germany’s infamous former secret police network. Other representatives of Egyptian democratic parties also came with him at the invitation of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation to explore this temple to the memory of totalitarianism, located in the Stasi’s former headquarters. FULL POST

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Topics: Egypt • Germany • Intelligence • Revolution
Obama's Bahrain backpedalling
Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain's crown prince on April 23, 2009.
September 8th, 2011
04:49 PM ET

Obama's Bahrain backpedalling

Editor's Note: Joost R. Hitlermann is Deputy Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group.

By Joost R. Hiltermann, Foreign Affairs

Ever since the Arab Spring began, Washington has been faced with the question of how to ease autocrats from power. After former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in February, President Barack Obama said that the United States had been on the "right side" of history, suggesting that that is where Washington would position itself in the Arab world's transition to democracy. What exactly this should mean in practice remains an unsettled question - especially in states presided over by dictators whose stable rule and pro-U.S. orientation were long-standing cornerstones of U.S. strategy in the Middle East.

This dilemma is particularly salient in the case of Bahrain, a small island kingdom in the Gulf and a longtime U.S. strategic ally. For months now, Bahrain has been engulfed in protests against the repressive rule of the Khalifa family; the most recent demonstrations in late August claimed the life of a 14-year-old boy, the latest casualty in the regime's drive to restore order. FULL POST

The Al Jazeera revolution
Al Jazeera's logo.
August 29th, 2011
11:48 AM ET

The Al Jazeera revolution

Editor’s Note: Shashank Joshi is a doctoral student at Harvard University and an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

By Shashank Joshi – Special to CNN’s Global Public Square

There is some way to go in Libya – but Tripoli has all but fallen, and only a few major centers of resistance remain standing. Why did the Libyan war get here, rather than withering into just one more of the abortive coups and rebellions that have flecked Colonel Gadhafi’s forty-two years in power? After all, the same British special forces now hunting the deposed leader were, scarcely a few years ago, training his elite troops. In 2008 and 2009, the U.S. government authorized $71 million in arms sales to Libya.

In understanding how the fall of Tripoli will create its own ripples, we have to understand why Libya was affected in the first place. Longstanding political economy grievances were certainly present, but these had not suddenly worsened. And despite widespread accounts of the Twitter revolution, the answer is not social media. Only 5.5 percent of Libya enjoys Internet access and a pitiful 0.96 percent is on Twitter. FULL POST

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Topics: Media • Middle East • Revolution
August 15th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Inequality: Why so many feel left behind

Editor's Note: Branko Milanovic is Lead Economist in the World Bank research group and a visiting professor at University of Maryland School of Public Policy. For more excellent long-form analysis, visit Foreign Affairs.

By Branko Milanovic, Foreign Affairs

As income inequality increased in the past quarter century in most parts of the world, it was strangely absent from mainstream economic discussions and publications. One would be hard-pressed, for example, to find many macroeconomic models that incorporated income or wealth inequality.

Even in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, when income inequality returned to levels not seen since the Great Depression, it did not elicit much attention.

Since then, however, the growing disparity in incomes between the rich and poor has taken a place at the top of the public agenda. From Tunisia to Egypt, from the United States to Great Britain, inequality is cited as a chief cause of revolution, economic disintegration, and unrest. FULL POST

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Topics: Economy • Global • Revolution
Why no Iranian Spring?
Defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi waves to the crowd during a massive demonstration in Tehran in June 2009. Protests in Iran were not able to produce the rapid changes that were in seen countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. (Getty Images)
August 1st, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Why no Iranian Spring?

A wave of protests have toppled, reformed or at least shaken governments all across the Arab world.  But the winds of change seem to come to an abrupt stop outside Iran. Why? Here are 7 reasons:

1. Iranians rose up in 2009

In the summer of 2009, millions of Iranians rose up to protest the contested election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To this day, thousands of protesters and activists remain imprisoned. Indeed, Wael Ghonim, the internationally renowned Egyptian activist and Google executive said Egyptians learned from the Iranian people.


Topics: Iran • Middle East • Revolution
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