Humanities › Issues Current Situation in the Middle East What is currently happening in the Middle East? Share Flipboard Email Print Issues The Middle East Basics Middle East & The U.S. Policy The U. S. Government U.S. Foreign Policy U.S. Liberal Politics U.S. Conservative Politics Women's Issues Civil Liberties Terrorism Race Relations Immigration Crime & Punishment Animal Rights Canadian Government View More By Primoz Manfreda Politics Expert M.A., Near and Middle Eastern Studies, London University Primoz Manfreda is a researcher and political risk analyst who covers political and economic trends in the Middle East. our editorial process Primoz Manfreda Updated November 05, 2019 The situation in the Middle East has rarely been as fluid as today, the events seldom as fascinating to watch, as well as challenging to comprehend with the barrage of news reports we receive from the region every day. Since early 2011, heads of state of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have been driven to exile, put behind bars, or lynched by a mob. Yemeni leader was forced to step aside, while the Syrian regime is fighting a desperate battle for bare survival. Other autocrats dread what the future might bring and, of course, foreign powers are closely watching the events. Who’s in power in the Middle East, what kind of political systems are emerging, and what are the latest developments? Obama’s Top Five Challenges in the Middle EastRussia's Middle East InfluenceArab Spring Uprisings in the Middle EastSunni - Shiite Tension in the Middle EastWho are the Islamists? Weekly Reading List: Latest News in the Middle East November 4 - 10 2013 Country Index: 01 of 13 Bahrain In Februrary 2011, the Arab Spring re-energized the largely Shia anti-government protesters in Bahrain. John Moore/Getty Images Current Leader: King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa Political System: Monarchical rule, limited role for a semi-elected parliament Current Situation: Civil unrest Further Details: Mass pro-democracy protests erupted in February 2011, prompting a government crackdown aided by troops from Saudi Arabia. But unrest in the Middle East continues, as a restless Shiite majority confronts a state dominated by the Sunni minority. The ruling family has yet to offer any significant political concessions. 02 of 13 Egypt The dictator is gone, but Egyptian military still holds real power. David Degner/Getty Images Current Leader: Interim President Adly Mansour / Army Chief Mohammad Hussein Tantawi Political System: Political System: Interim authorities, elections due early 2014 Current Situation: Transition from autocratic rule Further Details: Egypt remains locked in a protracted process of political transition after the resignation of the long-serving leader Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, with most of the real political power still in the hands of the military. Mass anti-government protests in July 2013 forced the army to remove Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, amid deep polarization between the Islamists and secular groups. 03 of 13 Iraq Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks during a press conference on May 11, 2011 at the green zone area in Baghdad, Iraq. Muhannad Fala'ah /Getty Images Current Leader: Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Political System: Parliamentary democracy Current Situation: High risk of political and religious violence Further Details: Iraq’s Shiite majority dominates the governing coalition, placing growing strain on the power-sharing agreement with Sunnis and Kurds. Al Qaeda is using the Sunni resentment of the government to mobilize support for its escalating campaign of violence. 04 of 13 Iran Current Leader: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei / President Hassan Rouhani Political System: Islamic republic Current Situation: Regime infighting / Tensions with the West Further Details: Iran’s oil-dependent economy is under severe strain due to sanctions imposed by the West over the country’s nuclear program. Meanwhile, supporters of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vie for power with factions backed by Ayatollah Khamenei, and reformists who are placing their hopes in President Hassan Rouhani. 05 of 13 Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, draws a red line on a graphic of a bomb while discussing Iran during an address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2012 in New York City. Mario Tama/Getty Images Current Leader: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Political System: Parliamentary democracy Current Situation: Political stability / Tensions with Iran Further Details: Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party came on top of the early elections held in January 2013, but faces a hard time keeping its diverse government coalition together. Prospects for a breakthrough in peace negotiations with Palestinians are close to zero, and military action against Iran is possible in Spring 2013. 06 of 13 Lebanon Salah Malkawi/Getty Images Current Leader: President Michel Suleiman / Prime Minister Najib Mikati Political System: Parliamentary democracy Current Situation: High risk of political and religious violence Further Details: Lebanon’s governing coalition backed by the Shiite militia Hezbollah has close links to the Syrian regime, while the opposition is sympathetic to Syrian rebels who have established a rear base in northern Lebanon. Clashes erupted between rival Lebanese groups in the north, capital remains calm but tense. 07 of 13 Libya Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images Current Leader: Prime Minister Ali Zeidan Political System: Interim governing body Current Situation: Transition from autocratic rule Further Details: July 2012 parliamentary elections were won by a secular political alliance. However, large parts of Libya are controlled by militias, former rebels that brought down the regime of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. Frequent clashes between rival militias threaten to derail the political process. 08 of 13 Qatar Current Leader: Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani Political System: Absolutist monarchy Current Situation: Succesion of power to a new generation of royals Further Details: Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani abdicated from the throne in June 2013 after 18 years in power. The accession of Hamad’s son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, was aimed at invigorating the state with a new generation of royals and technocrats, but without affecting major policy shifts. 09 of 13 Saudi Arabia Pool/Getty Images Current Leader: King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud Political System: Absolutist monarchy Current Situation: Royal family rejects reforms Further Details: Saudi Arabia remains stable, with anti-government protests limited to areas populated with the Shiite minority. However, growing uncertainty over the succession of power from the current monarch raises the possibility of tension within the royal family. 10 of 13 Syria Salah Malkawi/Getty Images Current Leader: President Bashar al-Assad Political System: Family-rule autocracy dominated by minority Alawite sect Current Situation: Civil war Further Details: After a year and a half of unrest in Syria, conflict between the regime and the opposition has escalated to full-scale civil war. Fighting has reached the capital and key members of the government have been killed or have defected. 11 of 13 Tunisia Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Current Leader: Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh Political System: Parliamentary democracy Current Situation: Transition from autocratic rule Further Details: The birthplace of the Arab Spring is now ruled by a coalition of Islamist and secular parties. A heated debate is underway on the role that Islam should be accorded in the new constitution, with occasional street scuffles between ultra-conservative Salafis and secular activists. 12 of 13 Turkey Current Leader: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Political System: Parliamentary democracy Current Situation: Stable democracy Further Details: Ruled by moderate Islamists since 2002, Turkey has seen its economy and regional influence grow in recent years. The government is battling a Kurdish separatist insurgency at home, while supporting the rebels in neighboring Syria. 13 of 13 Yemen Marcel Mettelsiefen/Getty Images Current Leader: Interim President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi Political System: Autocracy Current Situation: Transition / Armed insurgency Further Details: Long-serving leader Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned in November 2011 under a Saudi-brokered transition deal, after nine months of protests. Interim authorities are battling Al Qaeda-linked militants and a growing separatist movement in the south, with moot prospects for a transition to a stable democratic government.