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A U.S. soldier watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein fall in central Baghdad, Iraq, in April 2003.

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Was Iraq a success or failure?

On a visit to Iraq in the spring of 2021, I was chatting with a group of Iraqi and western friends – all current or former advisors to the Iraqi, US, or UK governments – when the conversation turned to whether the 2003 US-led war to depose Saddam Hussein’s regime had been worthwhile. The dogmatism, divisiveness, and emotion that characterized the debate in the run-up to the war were still evident. For some, ending the murderous brutality and atrocities of Saddam’s rule superseded any other concern. Others were more equivocal, pointing to the corruption, violence, and misrule of the US-bequeathed, post-2003 political order and the toll it has taken on the country.

On the 20th anniversary of the war, the question of whether Iraq is better or worse off and whether the cost in coalition lives and money was worth it is, almost inevitably, being revisited. But it is a feckless one. The reality of Iraq’s experience since 2003 cannot be captured by a simplistic dichotomy; the country is — as it always was — more complicated than that.

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Paige Fusco

Can a dictator make democracy work for Tunisia?

The birthplace of the Arab Spring and the only country to emerge from it as a democracy — albeit an imperfect one — is now well on its way to becoming something … different.

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Protesters rally agains the constitutional referendum in Tunis.

Mahjoub Yassine/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

What We're Watching: Tunisian referendum, Lavrov on African tour

Tunisia holds constitutional referendum

Tunisians go to the polls Monday to vote in a referendum over the new constitution pushed by President Kais Saied. The vote is scheduled on the first anniversary of Saied sacking the government and suspending parliament in the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring. At the time, he justified the move as necessary to prevent a bigger crisis, but his opponents called it a coup; since then, Saied has consolidated power by taking it away from any institution or group that challenged him, including judges and trade unions. The president's growing dictator vibes have upset many Tunisians who initially supported him, but he still has fans among younger people tired of corruption and dysfunctional parliamentary politics. Most opposition groups have boycotted the plebiscite, so the "yes" vote is likely to win (albeit with a low turnout). If the new charter is approved, Saied promises to hold legislative elections within six months. But they'll be less decisive under the revised constitution, which vastly expands presidential power at the expense of parliament and the judiciary.

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Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman is received by Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in Doha, Qatar, December 8, 2021.

Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

​​Is a more peaceful Middle East possible in 2022?

The political winds in the Middle East are shifting in favor of greater cooperation among the countries of the region as the US disengages and pivots to Asia. No longer confident they can call on their powerful ally for assistance when the shooting starts, regional powers are seeking to lower tensions in their historically dangerous neighborhood. They are trying to improve relations with erstwhile rivals and to close the chapter of the Arab Spring, which created conflicts within and among countries the region. We asked Eurasia Group analyst Sofia Meranto to explain the recent developments.

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COVID vaccine mandates are coming; political instability in Tunisia
COVID Vaccine Mandates are Coming | Political Instability in Tunisia | World In :60s | GZERO Media

COVID vaccine mandates are coming; political instability in Tunisia

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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People celebrate in the Avenue Habib Bourguiba after Tunisian President Kais Saied announced to assume executive authority in addition to suspending parliament and Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi's government in Tunis, Tunisia on July 25, 2021.

Nicolas Fauque/Images De Tunisie/ABACAPRESS.COM

The only Arab Spring success story on the brink

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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US President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin meet for talks at the Villa La Grange.

Mikhail Metzel/TASS

What We're Watching: Biden-Putin summit, North Korea's food crisis, Tunisian constitutional reform

No fireworks in Geneva: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden sat together for four hours on Wednesday, and as we anticipated in Signal, both leaders agreed to continue to cooperate where they can and to continue to pursue their national interests, as they see them. They're now expected to work together on nuclear disarmament. That's good, since these two countries still account for most of the world's atomic weapons. They're also open to exchanging prisoners, a welcome development. But more importantly, Biden and Putin set down their red lines: for the US it's the critical infrastructure that should be off-limits from hackers, and for Russia it's further expansion of NATO. US sanctions will remain in place. If the summit was a "success," it's only because expectations were low. Curb your enthusiasm indeed. For now, we'll be watching to see whether US-Russia ties enter a period, however brief, of the stable and predictable relations Biden says he wants, or if some new controversy triggers a new war of words.

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Has the Middle East’s “Arab Moment” passed?
Has the Middle East’s “Arab Moment” Passed? | Vali Nasr |GZERO Media

Has the Middle East’s “Arab Moment” passed?

President Biden's approach to the Middle East will have to adapt to the once-in-a-generation power grab occurring between Iran, Israel, and Turkey while Arab nations in the region increasingly lose influence. That's according to Johns Hopkins University Middle East scholar Vali Nasr. "The Arabs are not really deciding the geostrategy of the region. They're not the strongest players right now. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the events of the Arab Spring, the bigger players like Iraq, Syria, Egypt lost their footing—they've collapsed." Nasr spoke with Ian Bremmer on an episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Is the US Misjudging the Middle East's Power Shifts? Vali Nasr's View

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