Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

Where Are We Heading in Egypt?

by Ed Husain Thursday, May 24, 2012
A soldier talks to a woman outside a polling station in Cairo (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters). A soldier talks to a woman outside a polling station in Cairo (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

A good friend of mine is a prominent Egyptian business man. As the board member of a national charity, he travels frequently to what he calls “real Egypt.” Last week in rural Asyut, his NGO distributed three hundred cows. Each time the head of a local family walked away with a cow, the women burst into howls of ululation. Their joy, he said, was visibly equal to that of guests at an Arab wedding. Read more »

The Week Ahead: Egyptian Elections, Uneasy Calm in Lebanon, Yemen Reacts to Attack

by Ed Husain Monday, May 21, 2012
Lebanese mourners and gunmen carry the body of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid, a Sunni Muslim cleric, during his funeral in northern Lebanon (Mohamed Azakir/Courtesy Reuters). Lebanese mourners and gunmen carry the body of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid, a Sunni Muslim cleric, during his funeral in northern Lebanon (Mohamed Azakir/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt. The country’s first presidential elections since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak will take place this Wednesday and Thursday, May 23 and 24. Candidates Amr Moussa and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh are the current front-runners, although it is difficult to predict the results based on limited available polling data. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi fared well in early voting by Egyptians abroad. Read more »

The Week Ahead: Egyptians Abroad Vote, Gulf Countries Strengthen Ties, and Syria Announces Election Results

by Ed Husain Monday, May 14, 2012
An Egyptian boy living in Kuwait smiles as his mother casts her ballot at the Egyptian embassy in Kuwait (Stephanie McGehee/Courtesy Reuters). An Egyptian boy living in Kuwait smiles as his mother casts her ballot at the Egyptian embassy in Kuwait (Stephanie McGehee/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt. Egyptians living abroad—many in the Gulf, the United States, and Canada—have begun voting in the presidential elections. Turnout has been low thus far, but voters will have until May 17 to cast their ballots. The latest poll numbers from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies have Amr Moussa maintaining a strong lead, with Ahmed Shafiq overtaking Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh for second place. The survey was conducted on May 8 and 9, however, before last week’s widely viewed debate between Moussa and Aboul Fotouh. Read more »

Will Egypt Make History Again?

by Ed Husain Wednesday, May 9, 2012
A man walks past campaign posters of presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A man walks past campaign posters of presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt is set to broadcast a televised debate between two top presidential candidates, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Amr Moussa. One was once an inmate in Mubarak’s prisons, and the other Mubarak’s foreign minister.

I have met both men, and they are equally adept at the art of deflecting questions. The next president of Egypt will serve his term competing with the Egyptian military for influence—both men know this, and have bent over backward to be seen as cooperative. Neither candidate clearly represents the generation or ideas that gave birth to the Tahrir Square protests last year, but just as rumors were spreading that the elections would be cancelled and further doom was capturing the new Egyptian political space, the idea of monazarat, debates, has helped lift spirits. Read more »

The Week Ahead: Elections in Algeria and Syria, Egypt’s Presidential Race, Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike

by Ed Husain Monday, May 7, 2012
Algeria's National Liberation Front leader Abdelaziz Belkhadem attends a parliamentary election campaign rally in Algiers (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters). Algeria's National Liberation Front leader Abdelaziz Belkhadem attends a parliamentary election campaign rally in Algiers (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters).

Algeria. Elections for Algeria’s parliament, scheduled for May 10, are being met with cynicism by many Algerians seeking reform. In a country whose leaders are under pressure but have thus far managed to avoid the fate of their regional neighbors, the elections are being heavily promoted by the government as a step in the right direction. While the elections are expected to be free and fair in comparison with decades of rigged polls, voter skepticism and apathy may result in low turnout. Read more »

Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain: The Prince and the Ayatollah

by Ed Husain Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa (Hamad I Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters).) Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa (Hamad I Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters).

When I was invited to visit Bahrain by members of the royal family, I hesitated. They had crushed peaceful protesters last year, and their police had used tear gas against human rights activists. Like everybody else, including some of the Bahraini policemen I later spoke with, I was appalled at the violence and thought the monarchy had blood on its hands. But I felt that declining the offer was irresponsible. I wanted to know the monarchy’s side of the story. So I accepted the invitation—on the condition that I was free to meet Bahrain’s opposition. Read more »

The Week Ahead: Egypt’s Cabinet Reshuffle, UN Monitors in Syria, Lebanon’s Parliament

by Ed Husain Monday, April 30, 2012
Army soldiers and riot police stand in line as they block off a road leading to the Saudi Arabia Embassy during protests in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Army soldiers and riot police stand in line as they block off a road leading to the Saudi Arabia Embassy during protests in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt. Bowing to continued pressure from the Islamist-dominated Egyptian parliament, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has agreed to reshuffle Egypt’s cabinet. Although the reshuffle is less than parliament leaders had previously demanded—dismissal of the entire cabinet—parliament speaker Saad el-Katatni has accepted the outcome as a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, following protests calling for the Saudi government to release Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawy and the subsequent closure of the Saudi embassy in Cairo as well as consulates in Suez and Alexandria, King Abdullah has assured SCAF it will consider reopening the Saudi embassy in the coming days. Read more »

Iran’s Man in Bahrain

by Ed Husain Friday, April 27, 2012
Bahrain's leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassem takes part in an anti-government rally in Budaiya on March 9, 2012 (Hamad I Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters). Bahrain's leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassem takes part in an anti-government rally in Budaiya on March 9, 2012 (Hamad I Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters).

The dominant narrative in the West, that Bahrain’s opposition figures are somehow deserving of unconditional support because they are opposing an unelected monarchy, deserves scrutiny—the situation on the ground is more complicated than many recognize. In an interview with CFR today, I explain some of the complications and the geopolitical implications of empowering the Bahraini opposition without them first rejecting sectarianism, embracing women’s rights, abandoning violence, distancing themselves from Iran, and returning to the negotiating table. Read more »

Taking the Political Temperature Inside Saudi Arabia

by Ed Husain Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The sun sets behind a minaret in the center of Riyadh (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters). The sun sets behind a minaret in the center of Riyadh (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters).

During my visit to Saudi Arabia last week, Saudi friends from various sectors of Saudi life were candid in expressing their sentiments toward government, society, and reforms. I do not wish to divulge their identities, and think that the quotes below from many conversations are self-explanatory about Saudi approaches to issues of domestic concern. While this is not a representative sample, the sentiments being expressed are reflective of one strand of sensitivities on the ground in Riyadh. I know from my own Saudi family members in Jeddah and Medina that their and their neighbors’ views are different from most of what appears below. Nevertheless, most of the quotes below are from English-speaking Saudi men who are educated at Western universities: Read more »

Iran Versus Saudi Arabia: Cold War in the Middle East

by Ed Husain Friday, April 20, 2012
Saudi security forces march during a parade in preparation for the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi security forces march during a parade in preparation for the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Three countries were on top of the agenda for the many Saudis I met with in Riyadh last week. Again and again, and in passionate terms, Saudi political leaders were keen to stress the importance of arming Syrian opposition players, bombing Iran’s alleged nuclear facilities, and unflinchingly supporting the al-Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain. In their minds, these are not political options, but rather realities on the ground that they worry Washington does not understand. Read more »