Global Politics

Who's in charge in the new Middle East and North Africa?

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Ismail Zitouny/REUTERS

Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted by milita gunmen and was released after few hours on Thursday.

The brief abduction of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan suggests that in the new Middle East, any sort of "authority" is up for grabs. 

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

So argues Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, a correspondent for The Guardian.  

"For a long time in the Middle East, our problem was the central authority, the dictator," Abdul-Ahad says. "We've reached a point now where even a prime minister of a country, even a sheik cannot protect himself." 

Abdul-Ahad has spent a lot of time in Libya, including a stint in one of Muammar Gaddafi's prisons during the first few weeks of the uprising in 2011.

He sees a tectonic shifting of plates in the region, with the rise of "jihadi" fighters. It's changing the map of the Middle East, from Libya to Syria and Iraq.  

"Always they were tiny little groups hiding in a mountain somewhere," Abdul-Ahad says. "It's not like this anymore. They have a lot of resources. They control a lot of land. They seem to be very strong. And they have controlled warehouses, wheat silos, weapons, all these resources, making them a very strong united force." 

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