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Bessma Momani Dr. Bessma Momani is Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo’s Balsillie School of International Affairs and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance and Innovation. She has been Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s Mortara Center and at the Amman Institute, a research centre to improve local governance in the Middle East. She has authored and co-edited over six books and of over 50 scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters that have examined the IMF, the World Bank, petrodollars, regional trade agreements in the Middle East and economic liberalization throughout the Arab Gulf and the Middle East. Dr. Momani has received a number of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council awards and prizes for her research on global economic governance and political economy of the Middle East. More recently, Dr. Momani has been a public commentator and analyst on the Middle East and the Arab Spring. She is a regular contributor to CBC radio and a Middle East analyst on CTV News, CBC The National, Al-Jazeera English, Bloomberg TV, BNN and TVOs the Agenda. She has also published numerous op-ed articles on the Arab Spring in Canadian and international news outlets as well maintaining her own CIGI blog and Huffington Post column.

Erdogan’s Next Move

| April 15, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Tayeb Erdogan will claim he won the recent municipal elections that took place on April 4th, but his name was not on the ballot. The big question is, will Erdogan put his name forward to serve as President in the expected presidential elections in August? Has he been emboldened by his party’s win at the municipal elections or will he shy away from the ballot box in light of the corruption scandals plaguing both him and his inner circle? More …

Seeing Syria’s Horrors: A Message for Finance Ministers

| April 11, 2014

At the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings, there are often many fascinating debates and discussions that draw you in. This week I was drawn into a most unusual panel about the art of resilience into the horrors of war in Syria. In the main atrium of the World Bank were a dozen or so artistic works and photographs that provided powerful visual imagery of the enormous human toll and suffering of the Syrian people.

A Syrian artist and founder of the Art Residence in Aley, Raghad Mardini, recalls how as a recent refugee of Lebanon she craved to find a workspace for displaced Syrian artists in Lebanon. Her program assembles young Syrian artists from all ethno-religious communities to create “a family,” in her words, who can resume apprenticeships pursuing their artistic passions. Unable to divorce their pain and suffering from their art is not surprising, Mardini noted; and the result are haunting creations. More …

Sisi: Egypt’s Drug of Choice

| February 20, 2014

The Egyptian people are in a state of hysteria—mixed with nationalistic fervour—that makes it difficult to have a rational conversation about the state of affairs with many in the country. Indeed, the June 30, 2013 overthrow of a democratically-elected Islamist president—Mohamed Morsi—was a moment of national pride for many Egyptians.

To deny the many Egyptian people the hope and pride they feel is akin to being a buzz-killer—though coup critics have been called worse, specifically a terrorist-sympathizer who is undermining the security of the great Egyptian revolution. Egyptian prisons are full of these buzz killers; their crime was nothing more than to report, criticize, tweet, or offend the current regime. More …

Egypt’s Referendum Redux

| January 16, 2014

Once again, Egyptians have gone to the polls to vote on a constitution. Only it’s not just a constitution they were being asked to consider. What this is really about is legitimizing a military coup.

The Egyptian military has always maintained that it was acting according to the will of the people when it overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi last summer. Indeed, the military went to great lengths to show the international community that it had the support of the 30 million people who poured into the streets to celebrate the end of Morsi’s government. Exactly how many Egyptians actually support the coup, however remains unknown. More …

The War in Syria Spills Over

| December 30, 2013

The assassination of Mohamad Chatah, a prominent critic of Assad, in Beirut last week is a testament to the fact that Syria is not just imploding, it is also exploding. Its first victims are Lebanese, but I doubt they will be its last. The entire region could slide into further chaos while the international community watches with distaste, yet seems impotent to help militarily.

Few doubt that Hezbollah or its proxies are responsible for the bombing that killed the former Lebanese finance minister. Mr. Chatah was a vehement critic of the Assad regime and Hezbollah’s military and logistical support for it. He paid the ultimate price for that criticism. More …

The Cost of Selling Intervention

and | September 9, 2013
Obama's Dilemma

The world has little patience for the Assad regime at this point. With hundreds of thousands of dead, 2 million refugees, half of which are children, and 4 million internally displaced throughout the Syrian territory, there is no shortage of victims and witnesses to President Assad’s brutality. Assad’s attempt to counter Obama’s media offensive with a television interview will not redeem his image.

And yet it is the Obama administration’s image, and that of the United States, that are guaranteed to suffer as a result of President Obama’s decision to ‘sell’ intervention in Syria. Why? Because the case for intervention cannot be made in a way that will get Obama the votes he needs without further alienating the Arab world. More …

Is Syria a Terminal Case?

| August 30, 2013

The world has watched Syria being destroyed from within for more than two years. The death toll has mounted steadily, month after month, and refugees continue to pour into neighbouring countries. The country’s infrastructure is being obliterated. With 100,000 dead and likely more to come, millions internally and externally displaced, and thousands imprisoned, injured, maimed, and psychologically scarred, it is getting worse everyday. More …

In Egypt, Reconciliation Fades Into the Distance

| August 15, 2013

Events in Egypt are going according to script as each actor in the tragedy embraces their assigned post-coup role. The military has vilified the Muslim Brotherhood and all those who support it and deposed President Mohammed Morsi. The Brotherhood refuses to accept the outcome of the June 30 protests, denouncing all who marched against their leader. The ‘us versus them’ narrative propagated by both sides is becoming entrenched and what little middle ground was left after the coup has eroded. Egyptians are internalizing contrasting versions of what has happened to their country since Hosni Mubarak fell. And with each impassioned telling, reconciliation recedes further into the distance. More …

Democracy’s Losing the Streetfight

| August 14, 2013

Should we have democracy on demand?

In Egypt, protestors who have been in the streets for weeks trying to reverse the outcome of June 30 are being dispersed by bulldozers and bullets, and the future of democracy is no more secure than when they first set up camp.  

Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt have experienced forms of democracy on demand. What other country might be next to feel the wrath of people power? In the past few years, TV news cameras have gone from capital to capital to film the anger of people demanding change from their governments. Europeans have taken to the streets to oppose economic austerity policies demanded by the IMF and eurozone powerhouses in exchange for sorely needed money to shore up public finances. More …

Egypt’s Costly Marriages of Convenience

| August 12, 2013

Twice in the past two years Egypt’s young democrats endorsed a marriage of convenience between the military and a new ‘saviour’ government ─ mistakes that will only harm Egyptians in the long run.
When the April 6 movement of youthful liberal, secularist-leaning activists promoted their cause to oust the Mubarak government in the revolution of January 25, 2011, they epitomized the  democratic ideals of Egypt. Camped out in Tahrir, they wrote their own progressive demands for what the Egyptian state ought to look like, including a draft constitution. Some might say they were dreamers or idealists with little understanding of the realpolitik  within their country ─  a situation of deeply entrenched interests  among Egypt’s economic elite, military, and Mubarak’s political cronies. But   as true revolutionaries, the movements demanded no less than real change. They wanted more than cosmetic musical chairs between Mubarak and regime remnants (or felouol). More …