The Islamic State, which is run by a deviant strain of Sunni fanatics, has been a disaster for all Sunnis across the region. Sunnis account for as much as ninety per cent of the Arab population and almost a fifth of the global population ... Now their world is in ruins. They have suffered the largest losses in lives and property and make up the largest percentage of refugees. They are under attack from other sects and have little to fall back on politically, despite their numbers.

Saudi Arabia is critical because of its unique position in the Afghan conflict: It is on both sides. A longtime ally of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has backed Islamabad’s promotion of the Taliban. Over the years, wealthy Saudi sheikhs and rich philanthropists have also stoked the war by privately financing the insurgents ... the Saudis — through private or covert channels — have tacitly supported the Taliban in ways that make the kingdom an indispensable power broker.

The suspension of Morsi’s sentences comes in the wake of proposals by some Muslim Brotherhood leaders to reach a rapprochement with the Egyptian state. According to rights lawyer Negad al-Borai, “A reconciliation agreement could not be reached between the state and the Brotherhood so long as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is in office. Sisi is building his political regime on the basis that he saved the country from the Brotherhood’s rule.”

U.S. officials have warned the country will likely face a higher risk of... attacks as IS urges supporters to launch attacks at home instead of joining its fight in the Middle East. Even if Trump tones down his anti-Muslim comments... analysts say his statements during the campaign trail were enough to fuel the militants' propaganda machine. "Militant groups... depend on... convincing Muslims in the Western world that the West hates them and won't ever accept them as part of their society."

Even if the Islamic State is defeated tomorrow, the damage cannot be undone. The Islamic State has set a new standard for extremist groups, demonstrating that capturing and holding large swaths of territory is possible and that it can be achieved without the benefit of widespread popular support. This, in addition to the terror and barbarism, is what the Islamic State means.

Despite regional authoritarian backsliding as some of the former ruling elite regain power, women’s social organization and political mobilization continue to have an impact in the region... new forms of activism and large-scale expansion of satellite media have begun to change the public discourse concerning sexual violence in Egypt... the Truth and Dignity Commission in Tunisia... has given women the opportunity to tell their stories of systematic state sexual violence under the Ben Ali regime

Morocco...initiated a sweeping overhaul of the country’s family law, known as the Moudawana, as part of efforts to forge a more inclusive society. Among the revamped document’s signal achievements was a dramatic enhancement of the status of women, who gained equal legal standing in the household, the power to initiate divorces, and the right to inherit equally. They also became (nearly) equal players in the country’s religious life, a role unthinkable elsewhere in the Middle East.

While the Majlis is institutionally separate from the Guardians’ Council, an appointed body of 12 Islamic jurists, the Council plays a large role in the parliament’s elections and its legislative role. The 290 members of the Majlis represent Iran’s 207 electoral districts ... The main responsibilities of the Majlis are legislation and oversight ... the Guardians’ Council ultimately calls the shots on who is qualified to run ... many ... candidates were barred ... due to their political beliefs

The accession of King Salman a year ago and the decision to lead a military intervention in Yemen mark a new phase for Saudi foreign policy ... the traditional assumptions about Saudi Arabia’s behaviour – for instance, that it would rely on arms only for deterrence, while basing its foreign policy on diplomacy and financial influence – can no longer be relied upon ... Meanwhile, Iranian diplomats are increasingly trying to pitch their country to the West as an ally against terrorism.

Almost 12,000 candidates have registered for Iran's February parliamentary election ... A supportive legislature could give Rouhani a stronger mandate to push through domestic reforms to increase social and political liberties -- an area where his efforts have so far been checked by the judiciary and security forces ... The Guardian Council ... vets candidates on technical and ideological grounds ... Grounds for disqualification include rejecting Islam or having links to banned political parties