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22 Dec 2007 - 30 Aug 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: March, 2007
POMED NOTES: Yesterday’s Hearing on Human Rights Reports
March 30th, 2007 by Stephen
POMED’s notes summarizing yesterday’s hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the State Department’s 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights are now available here.
The website of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has transcripts of the full statements by witnesses Harold Koh and Ambassador John Shattuck, and the human rights reports under discussion are available from the State Department​.
Posted in Committee Meetings, Human Rights | Comment »
Interesting Tidbit from The Washington Note
March 30th, 2007 by Jonathan
In his roundup of the “Opinions Award”, Steve Clemons wrote that “[Tucker] Carlson said he’s a ‘paleo’ conservative and that national interests rather than democracy crusades should guide our foreign policy course. Lehrer said that interests should always drive our foreign policy but that didn’t mean rejecting efforts to promote democracy. But he said ‘It’s one thing to have a war to spread democracy and another to just favor democracy.’ Carlson said that he had no problem building strong relations with a benign dictatorship (not sure if that’s an oxymoron) when it was in our national interests”.
I though this was an interesting aside of how some prominent members in the Washington Media feel about the idea of democracy promotion.
Posted in US media | Comment »
National Review on Egyptian Blogger
March 30th, 2007 by Jonathan
Tom Palmer, writing in the National Review, has a piece about the predicament of Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman, famously jailed for insulting the Egyptian President and Islam. He equates Soliman’s struggle to other great libertarian struggles and highlights the fact that moderate Muslims have come to his defense, even though they were offended by his comments about Islam.
Posted in Egypt, Human Rights | Comment »
Democracy at a Standstill in Egypt
March 30th, 2007 by Jonathan
In an opinion article in the Daily Star, Maria Golia writes about the lackluster turnout for the Egyptian constitutional referendum earlier in the week. She states that the lack of enthusiasm, on both the NDP and the opposition side, shows how the repressive tactics of the Muburak regime has squelched any appetite for true participatory democracy. She sees no end to authoritarianism in the near future.
Posted in Egypt | Comment »
US Should Push for Pakistani Elections This Year
March 30th, 2007 by Jonathan
Mort Kondracke​, executive editor of Roll Call, Capitol Hill’s newspaper, writes that the US should work for Pakistani elections because American interests are no longer served by keeping Pervez Musharraf as an undemocratic ruler. Read the whole thing here (subscription required).
Graham Usher writes in the Nation that free and fair elections in Pakistan is the only way to come up with a comprehensive plan for the tribal areas of the country. He believes that United States officials should stand up for legitimate democracy and try to end a culture of political and monetary dependency.
Posted in Pakistan | Comment »
COMMITTEE MEETINGS: HFAC Hearing on Human Rights
March 29th, 2007 by Stephen
This morning the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on The 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the Promotion of Human Rights in U.S. Foreign Policy, featuring two former Assistant Secretaries for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State–​Harold Hongju Koh (now Dean of the Yale Law School) and Ambassador John Shattuck (now CEO of The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation).
Much of the testimony centered on the recent setbacks in the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide, and the role of the U.S. policy in contributing to this regression.
The website of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has transcripts of the full statements by Dean Koh and Ambassador Shattuck, which are worth a read.
UPDATE: POMED’s summary and notes for this hearing are now available here.
Posted in Committee Meetings, Human Rights | Comment »
Further Cuts This Week in U.S. Aid to Palestinians
March 29th, 2007 by Stephen
The White House announced this week that it had reduced its security assistance package for the Palestinian Authority from $86 million down to $59 million, in response to objections from Congress, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA).
An article in last week’s Economist sees the financial boycott of the Palestinian government as producing only slight political gains but great economic damage.
Meanwhile, the AP recently reported that international aid to the Palestinians actually increased by 20% last year, despite the U.S.-led boycott, raising questions that Western aid may just be replaced by other sources. And Stratfor (subscription required) quotes Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad as saying yesterday that the Palestinian Authority expects a pledge of $2.7 billion from this week’s Arab summit in Riyadh.
Posted in Foreign Aid, Palestine | 1 Comment »
Sketch Comedy as Political Expression in the Middle East
March 29th, 2007 by Stephen
This morning’s USA Today highlights the role played by humor and SNL-style television comedy shows in Middle East, in providing a key outlet for political expression and social commentary, as they are afforded greater freedom than more serious forms of expression.
Souheila Al-Jadda describes Arab media outlets “increasingly using satire and humor to help people cope with the harsh realities on the ground while sending blatant and sometimes provocative political messages to captive audiences,” citing examples from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iraq. Also provided is an excerpt of dialogue from Saudi comedy program and a brief description of five such comedies.
Posted in Middle Eastern Media | Comment »
EVENT: At GW’s Elliott School, The Arab States of the Gulf: Under Pressure
March 28th, 2007 by Stephen
Tomorrow evening at the Elliott School, Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm, former Ambassador to Kuwait and Jordan, now Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs and Director of the Middle East Policy Forum, will speak on The Arab States of the Gulf: Under Pressure
ThursdayMarch 29, 2007, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
The Elliott School of International Affairs,
Harry Harding Auditorium, Room 213
1957 E Street, NW
Please RSVP to
Sponsored by The Middle East Policy Forum
And don’t forget, Thursday, 9 am - 1:30 pm, also at the Elliott School:
Future of Democracy Initiative: Is Democracy In Peril? A Global and Regional Assessment

For the latest information on these and other Elliott School events, see the Elliott School Events Calendar.
Posted in Events | Comment »
COMMITTEE MEETING: Two Hearings on Thursday:
March 28th, 2007 by Stephen
Here are a couple Congressional Hearings of interest tomorrow, Thursday, March 29:

9:30 am, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Iran: An Update, featuring:
Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
419 Dirksen Senate Office Building
10:00 am, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Oversight Hearing on:
The 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the Promotion of Human Rights in U.S. Foreign Policy, featuring:
Lorne W. Craner, President, International Republican Institute
Harold Hongju Koh, Dean, Yale Law School
John Shattuck, CEO, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation
2172 House Rayburn Office Building
Posted in Committee Meetings | Comment »
Egyptian Democrats Feel Betrayed by U.S.
March 28th, 2007 by Stephen
In today’s Chicago Tribune, Liz Slyreports from Cairo that democracy activists there feel “betrayed by a U.S. government that appears to have turned its back on hopes for democracy in the region,” in the aftermath of Egyptian constitutional reforms pushed through by the Mubarak regime this week with only mild criticism from the U.S. government.
Sly quotes Egyptian Judge Hisham Bastawisi,
“It’s not so much that we believed America was genuine about democracy, but there was a belief that U.S. interests happened to coincide with the need for democracy in Egypt…It’s because American interests have now changed that the U.S. has turned its back on reforms, and our government has taken advantage of this.”
Meanwhile the editorial page at the Daily Star expresses its own disappointment in the constitutional amendments and cautions the Egyptian regime against such steps, which undermine its legitimacy.
Posted in Egypt | 2 Comments »
Musharraf Not the Only Game in Town
March 28th, 2007 by Jonathan
In a piece for The American Prospect, Blake Hounshell writes that the United States unfailing support for President Musharraf of Pakistan is foolish. He argues that other potential leaders would not change much and that the fear of an Islamist takeover of the government is overblown. Hounshell argues that Musharraf’s lack of democratic reform, as well as his failures in the War on Terror, now render him useless as an American ally.
Posted in Pakistan | 2 Comments »
Bush Rejected by Middle East Royalty?
March 28th, 2007 by Stephen
In the Washington Post, Jim Hoagland discusses the meaning of Saudi King Abdullah’s recent cancellation of a White House gala to be held in Abdullah’s honor in mid-April. This, on the heels of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s angry rebuff of unacceptable “interference” by Condoleezza Rice in Egyptian affairs, indicates an increased willingness by Middle East allies to reject the White House, or as Hoagland suggests, an increased political need to do so.
UPDATE: Saudi King Abdullah continues his public rejection of the U.S. as he opened the Riyadh Arab Summit today by slamming the “illegitimate foreign occupation” of Iraq.
Posted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
Any Signs of Hope for Arab-Israeli Peace?
March 28th, 2007 by Stephen
As the Arab summit opens today in Riyadh, discussion abounds over the prospect for progress on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the Christian Science Monitor, John Hughes sees signs of hope in the recent actions of Condoleezza Rice and Saudi King Abdullah.
In the LA Times, Milton Viorst​describes Rice’s two-front battle for Arab-Israeli peace–not only must she convince the players in the Middle East to negotiate in good faith, but she must also confront Dick Cheney and Eliot Abrams to win over the White House. Viorst compares this to Nixon’s Secretary of State William Rogers, whose efforts for a balanced Arab-Israeli peace plan were thwarted internally by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger.
This echoes Monday’s Daily Star​editorial​, urging Rice to sell her peace plan to the White House first. And Rami Khoury doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at what he sees as Rice’s insincere efforts.
Posted in Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia | 1 Comment »
House Foreign Affairs Committee Unanimously Approves Key Democracy Act
March 27th, 2007 by Stephen
Today the House Foreign Affairs Committee met for markup of a number of bills, among them HR 982, the ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007 (see this morning’s post below). After strong statements in support of the bill by Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Republican Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the motion to report the bill was approved unanimously by a voice vote, with no amendments offered.
In his statement, Lantos stressed the need to establish through legislation “a strategic framework” for U.S. efforts to promote democracy worldwide. Lantos also declared the need for the U.S. to focus “on the building of democratic institutions, not just elections.”
Representative Ros-Lehtinen praised the State Department’s adoption of several aspects of this bill in the past year, but stressed the need to pass the Act into law, to ensure that needed changes will become permanent and that key funding for the promotion of democracy will not be abandoned by future administrations.
A brief description of this bill can be found at Congressional Quarterly.
Posted in Legislation | Comment »
Marc Lynch’s Analysis, a Day After Few Egyptians Vote
March 27th, 2007 by Stephen
Marc Lynch has a good discussion on the day following the very low turnout in the referendum in Egypt on a series of amendments to the Egyptian Constitution, widely seen as undermining democracy in Egypt. Lynch sees the regime’s victory in achieving their desired amendments and thumbing their nose at American criticism as balanced by their defeat in the international media and obvious lack of legitimacy bestowed by yesterday’s poor turnout.
Posted in Egypt | Comment »
Economist on Presidential Election in Mauritania
March 27th, 2007 by Stephen
The Economist has this brief look at Mauritania’s first Presidential election, completed over the weekend. While it’s too early to know how newly-elected President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdellahi will change policy, the Economist expects positive results in terms of democratic and economic reform, along with a possible cooling-off of relations with Israel in an attempt toward rapprochement with other Arab countries.
Posted in Mauritania | Comment »
House Foreign Affairs Committee Markup of ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007
March 27th, 2007 by Stephen
This morning at 10:30 am, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will markup more than a dozen bills, including HR 982, the ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007.
This is the key piece of democracy legislation that if passed into law, would for the first time state officially that US policy shall be “to promote freedom and democracy in foreign countries as a fundamental component of United States foreign policy.”
A version of this bill was passed last year by the House as part of the overall Foreign Affairs authorization bill, but stalled in the Senate.
This bill includes many important provisions, including a commitment to use foreign assistance to encourage democractic movements, requiring the US Mission “in every nondemocratic or democratic transition country” to carry out a program for democracy promotion in that country, and finding that
“it is in the national interest of the United States, including for humanitarian, economic, social, political, and security reasons, to forge alliances with democratic countries to work together to promote and protect–
(1) shared democratic principles, practices, and values; and
(2) political, social, and economic freedoms around the world.”
Posted in Legislation | Comment »
NYTimes Oped: Don’t Resist Desire for Democracy in Pakistan
March 27th, 2007 by Stephen
In this morning’s New York Times, Mohsin Hamid admits to supporting President Musharraf after his 1999 coup, describing himself as “one of the few Pakistanis who actually voted for Gen. Pervez Musharraf in the rigged referendum of 2002.” And although Hamid still maintain that the Musharraf regime, he acknowledges that,
“People like me are realizing that the short-term gains from even a well-intentioned dictator’s policies can be easily reversed. General Musharraf must recognize that his popularity is dwindling fast and that the need to move toward greater democracy is overwhelming. The idea that a president in an army uniform will be acceptable to Pakistanis after this year’s elections is becoming more and more implausible.”
Hamid urges the West not to fear the Pakistani people, but to encourage Musharraf to accept this inevitable transition toward democracy.
Posted in Pakistan | Comment »
The United States Complicit in Democracy Demotion in Egypt?
March 26th, 2007 by Jonathan
In a piece at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Andrew Exum and Zack Snyder write that the United States has not been vocal enough against Muburak’s democracy rollback initiatives. They write that “this is the latest evidence that the Bush administration has all but abandoned the policy of democracy promotion articulated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo in June 2005″.
Speaking of Secretary Rice, commenting in Aswan today, she said “It’s not a matter to try to dictate to Egypt how this unfolds, but it is a matter to say that Egypt is an extremely important country – that when Egypt leads, people listen…[a]nd so that’s the spirit in which the democracy agenda has been followed by the United States”.
Posted in Egypt | Comment »
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