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Middle East & North Africa
Egypt is the largest Arab country and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics in modern times. In January 2011, Egypt erupted in large-scale anti-regime demonstrations, resulting in the resignation of President Mubarak and the collapse of the regime that had been in power for 30 years.
Bridging the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey has a strategically important location that has given it major influence in the region - and control over the entrance to the Black Sea. The country is facing major security issues across its borders with warring Syria, and recent tensions with Russia.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the main players in the Arab world. Its stature is built on its geographical size (twice that of France and Germany combined), its prestige as the custodian of the birthplace of Islam and its colossus status as an oil producer - with a quarter of the proven reserves in the world under its deserts.
In September 2014, the agreement in Yemen brokered by the GCC following the Arab Spring events of 2011 fell through. The country spiralled into civil war in 2014 and, despite peace initiatives, fighting continues. Neighbouring Saudi Arabia has intervened in the conflict on the side of the previous President Ali Abdallah Saleh, to fight against the Houthi uprising.
A densely-populated country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Israel is the only state in the world with a majority Jewish population. It has been locked in conflict with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours over ownership of the West Bank and Gaza.
Libya, a mostly desert and oil-rich country, has more recently been known for the 42-year rule of the mercurial Col Muammar Gaddafi - and the chaos that followed his ousting by NATO forces in 2011. The toppling of Muammar Gaddafi led to a power vacuum and instability, with no authority in full control.
Iran became an Islamic republic after the 1979 revolution, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics assumed political control under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Since 2004, Iran has undergone severe economic sanctions from the U.S. and many European countries for its nuclear programme. However, a deal was agreed in 2015 to end the sanctions regime in exchange
Syria is a boiling pot. Since the Arab Spring, the country has been torn by state forces, rebels, terrorism and bombing coalitions by superpowers and neighbouring countries.
Since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country has remained in a vegetative status. The seed of democracy is present, but without foreign military and aids it is a question how long it will last. Iraqi forces are now also fighting Islamic Staten forces in the north west of the country.
President of the advisory board
Head of Department, Middle East Programme