Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) meets with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Istanbul, Dec. 22, 2010. Turkey is vying with Iran to be the most influential regional power in Iraq. Tolga Bozoglu/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Retired Army Sgt. Alexander Reyes (right), from Miami, responds to applause at Camp Liberty in Baghdad after sharing the story of how he was wounded by an IED in 2007. He is one of seven wounded veterans who recently returned to Iraq as part of Operation Proper Exit, a program aimed at helping soldiers heal from traumatic injuries. Deborah Amos/NPR hide caption

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An Iraqi man holds a sign reading "Baghdad will not be Kandahar" in Arabic as he takes part in a Dec. 3 protest in Baghdad organized by poets and intellectuals against the closure of nightclubs and a ban on alcohol sales. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Dean Obeidallah,an Arab-American comedian, performs at the Amman Stand-Up Comedy Festival last year in Amman, Jordan. Demand for American-style stand-up comedy has exploded among young Arabs in the Middle East. Mohammad Abu Ghosh/AP hide caption

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Mahmoud Jamal (right) sits with a student at Jerusalem Kindergarten. Rick Davis for NPR hide caption

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Construction crews work at the site of Palestinian security forces facilities Thursday in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' state-building measures include forming police and security forces to help keep order in the territory. Saif Dahlah/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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A screenshot of Egyptian riot police, taken from a video about protests on the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights' YouTube channel. EIPR/YouTube hide caption

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Egyptian couples celebrate during a mass wedding organized by a charity organization in Cairo in December 2009. A housing shortage is driving the exorbitant price of marriage, which means weddings are often delayed for years. Amr Nabil/AP hide caption

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Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (center) receives Saudi King Abdullah (left) and Syrian President Bashar Assad upon their arrival at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, on Friday. The leaders of Syria and Saudi Arabia launched an unprecedented effort Friday to defuse fears of violence over upcoming indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Bilal Hussein/AP hide caption

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Women wear the niqab, a face-covering veil, as they shop in Damascus' oldest market on Monday. The Syrian Education Ministry's ban on the veil comes as similar moves in Europe spark cries of discrimination against Muslims. Bassem Tellawi/AP hide caption

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