Voters lining up at polling place near Tunis (AP Images)

Tunisia's revolution was the first among its neighbors, and voters are choosing an assembly to write a new constitution and pick a new president.

Through Vote, Tunisians Took “Important Step Forward,” Obama Says. By Stephen Kaufman | DOS Staff Writer | 24 October 2011

Washington — Nine months after their revolution toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime, the Tunisian people exercised their right to freely choose an assembly that will oversee their country’s political transition and write their country’s new constitution. President Obama congratulated Tunisians in an October 23 statement, saying “Less than a year after they inspired the world, the Tunisian people took an important step forward.”

Readout of the President’s call with Egyptian Field Marshal Tantawi. The White House, October 24, 2011

President Obama called Egyptian Field Marshal Tantawi today to reaffirm the close partnership between the United States and Egypt and to underscore his full support for Egypt’s transition to democracy. The two leaders agreed that Egypt’s upcoming elections must be free and fair and be held in accordance with democratic standards.

Participants in WEF 2011 (photo: © WEF)

Pushing for Progress in the Middle East and North Africa, from the Department of Commerce Blog

I was honored to be one of the 1,000 people, from more than 50 countries, who participated in the (WEF) event.  In particular, I was proud to be a part of a panel discussion focused on how Arab governments can use regional and global trade to restart growth and drive economic and social development. My message was clear:  The United States encourages trade liberalization and increased bilateral trade as a tool to create economic growth and jobs for all citizens in the Middle East.”

Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed Who’s the Next Saudi King? Bruce Riedel from Brookings, October 24, 2011

Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed – The sons of Saudi Crown prince, Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, embrace each other as they bring his body down from an airplane at Riyadh Military Air Base in Saudi Arabia

The death of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan after a long illness begins the kingdom’s royal succession process, a family affair with major implications for the stability of the nation and the region.

After Qaddafi’s Death, Jubilation and Hard Work Ahead for Libya. Shadi Hamid. Brookings, October 20, 2011

Libya was the Arab Spring’s first true revolution, the only one in which the revolutionaries now hold the levers of power. And, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Libya does not have to contend with old, decaying institutions. The old regime does not need to be adapted to the new. But as promising as blank slates are, they are also dangerous.

Media Conference Call: Unrest and Insecurity in Egypt. Speaker: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies. Council on Foreign Relations, October 18, 2011

“We’re talking about an extraordinarily complex and nuanced political situation in which none of these groups, whether it’s the military which has been out of politics essentially since the aftermath of the June ’67 war, or the brotherhood itself, which had grown comfortable and used to operating within the contours of an authoritarian political system, and others — are having a very, very hard time managing this more open political arena.”

Tunisia’s Election Results, by Isobel Coleman. Council on Foreign Relations, October 25, 2011

The bottom line is that Tunisians can celebrate legitimate elections ten months after Ben Ali fled the country, a significant achievement. This, however, is just the beginning.

Turmoil in Syria: Reshaping the Middle East? USIP publishes a series of briefs on how the Syrian uprising is affecting the regional neighborhood. October 2011

The Institute invited leading experts from the U.S. and across the Middle East to identify key vectors of influence Syria’s neighbors are bringing to bear on the conflict; to forecast how the on-going conflict in Syria will affect the delicate and volatile regional balance of power; and to examine how the Syrian opposition and the Syria regime are factoring in regional and cross-border dynamics. The series was edited by USIP’s Steven Heydemann, Senior Adviser for Middle East Initiatives; and Scott Lasensky, a Senior Program Officer.

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