Stories written by Helena Cobban

IRAQ: U.S. Diplomatic Adviser’s Troubling Role in Oil Politics

In 2003, U.S. diplomatist Peter Galbraith resigned at the end of a distinguished, 24-year government career. Over the years that followed, he worked as a contract-based adviser to leaders in Iraq's Kurdish community, while also arguing passionately in public media that Iraq's Kurds should be given maximum independence from Baghdad - including full control over any new sources of oil.

MIDEAST: U.S. Strategy in Doubt as Abbas Loses Popular Support

Just two months ago, many western commentators were jubilant that Mahmoud Abbas, the U.S.-supported head of both the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the interim Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), was making a comeback and reducing the influence in Palestinian society of the Islamist movement Hamas.

IRAN: Non-Western Big Powers Enjoy Growing Influence

Thursday's seven-party talks in Geneva on Iran's nuclear programme resulted in a breakthrough agreement on Russian enrichment of materials Tehran needs for nuclear-medical work.

US-MIDEAST: A Week of Dimming Peace Prospects

Eight months after Barack Obama launched his presidency by promising a speedy push for Palestinian-Israeli peace, that effort has stalled badly. And there are now growing fears that the top levels of Obama's peace team are torn by internal disagreements that may undermine the whole peace effort.

POLITICS: Obama and Netanyahu Still Tussling over Priorities

As world leaders prepare to gather here for the all-star "general debate" at the U.N. General Assembly on Sep. 23, two of them - U.S. Pres. Barack Obama and Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu - are still tussling over whether to prioritise their anti-Iran campaign or the push for a Palestinian-Israeli peace.

MIDEAST: NGO Reports on Gaza War Belie Israeli Claims

This week, two respected human rights organisations - one Palestinian, one Israeli - each came out with very full reports into the extent of the damage caused by the assault Israel waged against Gaza last winter.

IRAQ: Stormy Times as U.S. Withdraws

Political violence in Iraq killed 456 Iraqis in August, the highest monthly death toll since July 2008. And with the U.S. showing no sign it plans to reverse the troop withdrawal that is now well underway, numerous struggles for power are shaping up inside Iraq.

MIDEAST: Can Final Peace Deal Overcome Settlements Roadblock?

The Barack Obama administration - perhaps the president himself - will reportedly be launching a new round of authoritative Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations sometime during the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session, which is scheduled to start in New York on Sep. 15.

MIDEAST: Republicans Attack Obama on Palestine Policy

Former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has been in Israel and the occupied West Bank this week, stridently criticising Pres. Barack Obama's policies of pushing for an Israeli settlement freeze and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

MIDEAST: Big Challenges Ahead for Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas, the 74-year-old leader of the Palestinian Fatah movement, registered a significant achievement in holding the movement’s Sixth General Conference, which has been wrapping up its business in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank this week.

POLITICS: Saudi Arabia May Not Follow Obama’s Plan

Pro-Israeli lobbyists here won the support of 77 senators (out of 100) for a letter sent to President Barack Obama that urged him to "press Arab leaders" to consider making dramatic, upfront peace overtures to Israel.

MIDEAST: Obama Maneuvres Between Jewish Israelis, Jewish Americans

Pres. Barack Obama has repeatedly declared himself a close friend of Israel. But many Israelis inside and outside their country's government have now expressed concern about the lack of closeness, or even just of attention, with which they feel Obama is treating them.

MIDEAST: Fatah’s Leadership Crisis Deepens

Fifty years ago, a small group of Palestinian teachers and engineers living in Kuwait founded a secretive movement aimed at liberating those portions of previously British-ruled Palestine that became the State of Israel in 1948.

MIDEAST: Turkey Gets Boost from Pipeline Politics

The political geography of the modern Middle East has been affected for one hundred years by the appetite of westerners and other outsiders for the region's hydrocarbons.

MIDEAST: Succession Issues Face Key U.S. Allies

Two key U.S. allies in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are now both facing succession crises that may absorb, or even split, their political elites. This promises a period of political unpredictability ahead in both countries.

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