Jalal Talabani has been the President of Iraq since 2005. The first ethnically Kurdish man in this position, he has a long history of defending Kurdish rights against a pan-Arabist ideology that frequently denied their rights. After completing his compulsory military service, he joined Kurdish forces fighting against the government, commanding troops in several offensives across three decades of conflict. Off the battlefield, he advocated for the Kurds to various European and Middle Eastern nations.
23 February 2012
Adel Safar has been the Prime Minister of Syria since his appointment in April 2011. Trained in agriculture and biotechnology at universities in Syria and France, he was a professor and later Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at Damascus University before becoming secretary of the university's branch of the ruling Baath Party. In 2003, he became Minister of Agriculture. Safar is Shia, a minority both in the largely-Sunni nation and the largely-Alawi government.
22 February 2012
Shimon Peres has been the President of Israel since 2007. After immigrating to Israel as a child, he joined the military during the War for Independence. After the war, he was a key negotiator, securing funding for the Dimona nuclear reactor, which some believe produces nuclear weapons. A Knesset member for nearly 50 years, he was Prime Minister twice. He shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in secret negotiations leading to the Oslo Accords.
21 February 2012
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been the vice-president of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai since his brother Maktoum's death in 2006. He also serves as the nation's Minister of Defence. Immensely wealthy from oil profits, his philanthropy includes the building of mosques around the world and an initiative to prevent blindness. He also owns many horses that compete in races around the world and is known in the region for his poetry.
20 February 2012
Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi has been the vice president of Yemen since 1994 and its acting president since Ali Abdullah Saleh's resignation in November 2011. A former soldier, he rose to the rank of General before serving as Minister of Defence and soon after becoming vice president. Originally from South Yemen, he was a key southern ally to Saleh, a Zaidi Shia from the North.
08 February 2012
Mohamed Abdelaziz has been the leader of the Polisario Front, a claimant to the control of the disputed territory of Western Sahara, since 1976. After Spain granted Western Sahara independence in 1975, it was split between Mauritania and an independent country, which Morocco annexed. After a long civil war, a stalemate remains wherein Morocco has de facto control of most of Western Sahara's territory while the so-called Western Saharan government is exiled in Algeria.
24 January 2012
Najib Mikati has been the Prime Minister of Lebanon since June 2011. A billionaire, he made his fortune from the telecom company he founded during the Lebanese Civil War. A member of Parliament for several years, he was appointed interim Prime Minister for three months in 2005 amid the fallout from Rafik Hariri's assassination and Syria's subsequent exit from Lebanon; his cabinet was mostly technocrats, and he did not stand in the 2005 elections.