When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

As the region's perennial conflicts burn on, other emerging trends and turns of events will grab our attention this year

King Abdullah of Saudia Arabia (Mohammad Bahareth)


EYES INSIDE - THE MIDDLE EAST

The US-Iran showdown, the terminally unresolved Palestinian question, Egyptian elections and the ongoing fallout from the Wikileaks cables are sure to generate many of the headlines coming out of the Middle East this year. But here are five other stories buzzing just below the radar that you ought to look out for:

1.Saudi succession: With more than 20,000 male members of the Saudi royal family, there is no shortage of potential pretenders to the throne. As King Abdullah, 86, undergoes a lengthy treatment and rehabilitation in New York for herniated disks in his lower back, the royal palace issues regular health bulletins about the monarch. But the more palace statements seek to reassure the public that the king will recover, the more intense the speculation becomes about who will replace him.

Crown Prince Sultan himself is ailing from a long battle with an unknown illness believed to be cancer. Many observers seem to agree that Interior Minister Prince Nayef, a hardline conservative and one of the most feared and powerful men in Saudi Arabia, will likely take the throne. Among other indications of his worldview, the prince, 76, once charged that "Zionists' were behind the 9/11 attacks. In March 2009, he also stated that he saw no need for elections in Saudi Arabia or female members of Parliament. He believes in ruling by fiat, with all government officials appointed by the royal family. With Prince Nayef on the throne, look for a country already struggling with the modern age to go back even further in time.

2.Hariri indictments: Arabic papers this week arereporting high-level Lebanese sources as saying that the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon will issue indictments very soon, perhaps as early as this month for the February 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Members of the heavily armed militia and powerful opposition party Hezbollah are expected to be convicted for carrying out the bombing in downtown Beirut that killed 22 people.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been issuing contradictory statements, stoking and then calming fears of civil war in Lebanon. But he has consistently denounced the tribunal as a stooge of Israel and Western powers. Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of Rafiq, has repeatedly said he will stand by the tribunal's findings. Ultimately, there are two key unknowns in play: how far Hezbollah will go to prevent its members from being hauled before an international criminal court, and how far Hariri's government will go to try to arrest them.

3. Qatar's ascendance: Sitting on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf, the emirate of Qatar is using its seemingly bottomless natural-gas revenues to raise its profile around the world. Last month, Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup, the first Arab country to host the tournament, but it was just one of many achievements in 2010. Leaked Wikileaks cables sent from the American embassy in Doha reveal Qatar to be stubbornly independent in pursuing its national interests, even at the expense of relations with its Arab neighbors. Whether its courting Iran, setting up a financial hub designed to surpass Dubai, mediating in Yemen and Lebanon or cleaning out the international Islamic art market for its new museum, Qatar appears poised in 2011 to break out as a regional powerhouse.

4.Jordanians targeting Americans: The Associated Press reported last month on a growingJordanian presence in Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, with eight Jordanians killed or arrested in recent weeks in Iraq, Yemen (for throwing a small bomb at a U.S. embassy vehicle) and Afghanistan. All had attacked or were planning to kill American diplomats or soldiers. In the most recent incident, medical school dropout Haitham al-Khayat, 26, who ran an online jihadi forum, was reportedly killed in an American airstrike in Afghanistan before Christmas. At the end of December 2009, a double-agent recruited by Jordanian intelligence to inform on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan detonated himself after entering Camp Chapman in Khost, killing his Jordanian handler and seven CIA agents. While Jordan remains a vocal American ally, certain Jordanians seem to have a different opinion.

5. Growing Sectarian hostility in Egypt: Last weekend's bombing of a church in Alexandria, Egypt just 15 minutes into 2011 was an inauspicious beginning of the year for Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt. Last year began with a drive-by shooting of a church during the Coptic Christian celebrations in early January. Six people were killed, and the accused, three young Muslim men, are standing trial in security court. Other instances of sectarian tension marred the year, including riots in a village following rumors of a young Christian-Muslim couple meeting secretly at night in the local cemetery. Christians scuffled recently with authorities when the government stopped the building of a church, and controversy ensued after a court ruled that Christian couples could divorce, a ruling expressly forbidden by the Church. With Al-Qaeda now involved in targeting Christians, things might get even worse, fast.

Kristen Gillespie

Worldcrunch

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Economy

In Uganda, Having A "Rolex" Is About Not Going Hungry

Experts fear the higher food prices resulting from the conflict in Ukraine could jeopardize the health of many Ugandans. Take a look at this ritzy-named simple dish.

Zziwa Fred, a street vendor who runs two fast-food businesses in central Uganda, rolls a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex.

Nakisanze Segawa

WAKISO — Godfrey Kizito takes a break from his busy shoe repair shop every day so he can enjoy his favorite snack, a vegetable and egg omelet rolled in a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex. But for the past few weeks, this daily ritual has given him neither the satisfaction nor the sustenance he is used to consuming. Kizito says this much-needed staple has shrunk in size.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Most streets and markets in Uganda have at least one vendor firing up a hot plate ready to cook the Rolex, short for rolled eggs — which usually comes with tomatoes, cabbage and onion and is priced anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 Ugandan shillings (28 to 57 cents). Street vendor Farouk Kiyaga says many of his customers share Kizito’s disappointment over the dwindling size of Uganda’s most popular street food, but Kiyaga is struggling with the rising cost of wheat and cooking oil.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has halted exports out of the two countries, which account for about 26% of wheat exports globally and about 80% of the world’s exports of sunflower oil, pushing prices to an all-time high, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a United Nations agency. Not only oil and wheat are affected. Prices of the most consumed foods worldwide, such as meat, grains and dairy products, hit their highest levels ever in March, making a nutritious meal even harder to buy for those who already struggle to feed themselves and their families. The U.N. organization warns the conflict could lead to as many as 13.1 million more people going hungry between 2022 and 2026.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ