The year 1998 in the Middle East, it turns out, was one of waiting. With the exception of a new president in Lebanon, leaders lasted out the year (though just barely: King Husayn of Jordan died early in 1999). For Arab-Israeli diplomacy, it was a time of "little process, less peace." The PKK rebellion in Turkey wound down. Saddam Husayn managed to elude the weapons inspection regime.
The Dayan Center is to be commended for undertaking the massive effort of compiling so large a survey each year, like clockwork. Depending mostly on its in-house talent of country specialists, many of whom are long-time MECS authors, the volume, results in entries that are standardized, reliable, and not without character. Here is the place to a pithy review of the Berber protest against Arabization in Algeria, the Qatari-Bahraini border conflict, or the Coptic issue in Egypt. Of particular value are the entries on the more obscure countries—none more so than Yemen, whose internal politics are almost never reported in the Western press but which has been expertly covered in MECS (with the occasional sabbatical) by Joseph Kostiner since 1981. Even in the case of the far better-known topics—Iraq, Israel, and the PA in particular—the documentation and carefully detailed writing will make it possible for everyone to learn much that is new. The strains of meeting deadlines are sometimes apparent, though, as are the difficulties of assuring consistency (p. 5 has Ronald Lauder paying six trips to Damascus, p. 82 has seven or eight), but these are minor blemishes in a truly impressive performance.