In a region where tensions, animosity and outright violence often abound between different communities and also different faiths (let alone between communities and the 'state' itself), Qatar has been one of those encouraging and forward-looking stories of relative conviviality, learn-as-you-go openness and consequential growth.
There are serious questions to be asked about the unity pact between the two Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas, says Harry Hagopian. But meanwhile the Israeli prime minister remains dwarfed by the real significance of the Arab Spring, and a huge block to progress towards a just peace for all. He is still a tactician at best, with precious little strategic foresight.
No matter which way the winds blow in the weeks ahead, it is clear that the majority of Syrians desperately seek reform but they also fear sectarianism and foreign intervention, says Harry Hagopian. Much will depend upon how parties both inside and outside the country, including the power-brokers, choose to respond. An approach which feeds hope at the base rather than replicating top-down diplomacy is needed.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's call on the Taliban and al-Qaida to renounce violence in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden is a statement from the heart of a world power which feels a renewed sense of vigour in the light of what is being called a "policy success". But it does not strike one as arising from a very thoughtful, perceptive or accurate view of the world.
Osama Bin Laden may be dead, but if Americans and Europeans now think that they can begin to relax over the prospect of ‘international terror’, they are very mistaken, says Michael Marten. US policy in particular is catastrophically misaligned in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia. The 'clash of civilisations' thesis is also gravely misleading, and religion (not least Islam) is not implicated in all this in the way simplistic analyses presume.
How should one respond to decades of subjugation, oppression, marginalisation, imprisonment, brutalisation, torture, rendition, murder and unenlightenment? Harry Hagopian examines the case of Syria, and finds complexity and long-term struggle, as well as immediate rebellion and repression, in the picture.
People in the Middle East and North Africa are struggling to change the lexicon of their erstwhile realities with a series of trial and error policies, says Harry Hagopian. But whether the uprisings go the bumpy way of the 1848 European revolutions, emulate the South African path of truth and reconciliation, follow the East European fast lane of 1989, or entrench the violence we have been witnessing lately, surely freedom cannot be snuffed out forever?
As we approach the Sacred Triduum in Holy Week, when Christians reflect on the profound sacrifice Christ made for humankind, and at a time when the Jewish community has started the feast of Passover, a focus on the Middle East and North Africa region seems religiously natural - as well as politically topical.