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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: May, 2007
New Blog by Daniel Levy
May 31st, 2007 by Shir
Check out Daniel Levy’s new Middle East blog Prospects for Peace, a joint project of the New America Foundation and Century Foundation, on which he’ll provide analysis and commentary on developments in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict. It promises to be a great addition to the policy debates.
Posted in Israel, Palestine, Publications | Comment »
Reactions to Hariri Tribunal
May 31st, 2007 by Stephen
Yesterday the UN Security Council voted 10-0 (with 5 abstentions) to form an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
Saad Hariri, son of the slain former Lebanese Prime Minister, warned that Syria may respond by sparking more violence in Lebanon and attempting to further undermine the democratically-elected Siniora government. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri criticized the measure as interfering with Lebanon’s sovereignty and violating its constitution.
Scott MacLeod writes from Lebanon on the Time Middle East blog and talks to former President Amin Gemayel about the tribunal.
Posted in Lebanon, Syria | Comment »
Josh Marshall on Aim of Iraq War
May 31st, 2007 by Stephen
On his blog, Josh Marshall​continues his discussion of whether democracy is really a “guiding aim” of the war in Iraq, or just cover for trying to control resources.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Iraq, Oil | Comment »
Syrian Referendum Criticized
May 31st, 2007 by Audrey
Allegations of threats and intimidation continue to circle around the May 27 referendum on extending the presidency of Bashar Assad for another seven years. News compiled by researchers from the Center for Liberty in the Middle East about the Syrian Opposition quoted an Assyrian Christian, a Muslim Brother and students who all complained of intimidation or illegal practices conducted during the referendum. Several other English and Arabic sources are linked through the article.
Also, SyriaComment has an interesting look at new polling data on Syrian public opinion from Syriapol.
Posted in Public Opinion, Syria | Comment »
More on Arrests in Iran, Including OSI’s Kian Tajbakhsh
May 31st, 2007 by Stephen
As the Iranian government continues to hold Iranian-Americans Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh, and Parnaz Azima, the Washington Times argues in an editorial today that the arrests prove Iran is not interested in dialogue with the U.S.
The Open Society Institute has released this response to the charges against Tajbakhsh, and there is now a website FreeKian.org that addresses Tajbakhsh’s arrest and calls for his release.
Martin Kramer has this very interesting piece on the situation and the somewhat-ambiguous relation of organizations like the Wilson Center to the U.S. government and policy.
Posted in Iran | Comment »
Prospects for Moroccan Democracy
May 31st, 2007 by Audrey
In its May bulletin, Democracy Digest presents a thorough exploration of Morocco’s prospects for democracy​. As King Mohammed IV pursues incremental modernization, the Moroccan government must struggle with what Samuel Huntington termed the “King’s Dilemma” wherein rulers risk losing power by instituting reforms, yet encounter the same risk by refusing to do so.
The article examines the relationships between the monarchy, secularists and religious parties such as the popular Islamist Justice and Development Party. This party asserts that it is both Islamist and democratic and that it is bringing the more conservative elements into the mainstream in a way that many Middle Eastern nations have been unable to do.
The traditional method of promoting democracy by funding civil society organizations and NGOs is also questioned, as these institutions are often co-opted by the regime under more restrictive systems of government.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Foreign Aid, Morocco, Political Islam | Comment »
Turkey - Parliament Passes Amendment Again
May 31st, 2007 by Stephen
Today the Turkish parliament again voted in favor of a Constitutional amendment providing for election of the President by popular vote. The article passed 369-22, narrowly meeting the required 367 votes for passage (161 legislators did not vote). There will be a final vote later today on a larger package of Constitutional amendments including this article, and assuming passage, President Sezer will have the choice of endorsing the amendments or sending it to a popular referendum. Sezer’s veto of the package last week brought it back to Parliament. But now opposition leaders now threaten that the Constitutional Court will try to annul the vote for procedural reasons.
At Democracy Arsenal, Jerry Mayer​looks at the possibility of a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq to pursue the PKK.
And U.S. News has an interesting piece on Islam and democracy in Turkey, in which they talk to several Turkish political leaders and look at polling data on the coming Parliamentary elections.
Posted in Political Islam, Turkey | Comment »
Views on Pakistani Politics
May 31st, 2007 by Shir
In a letter to the New York Times, Pakistani Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram rejected opinions in a recent Times editorial (subscription required) that the U.S. could decisively influence Pakistani politics, and refuted its labeling President Musharraf a military dictator, assuring his democratic re-election. Akram slammed the Times‘ advocacy of external pressure on Musharraf adding, “Pakistan’s real friend should support the endeavor of our president to ensure peaceful, free, fair and open elections later this year. This would consolidate democracy in Pakistan; what you suggest would subvert it.”
Foreign Policy features this informative analysis of the top aspirants to the Pakistani leadership. The article considers exiled Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto a top contender with countrywide support, but ultimately finds Musharraf’s odds at re-election very good despite the challenges posed by his determined opposition. “Even so,” the article finds, “as long as he still dominates civilian and military politics, he’s the man holding the cards. “
Posted in Pakistan | Comment »
More Views on Whether to Talk to Iran
May 31st, 2007 by Stephen
The debate continues over whether the U.S. should engage Iran, following Monday’s meeting between U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi in Baghdad.
At the Conservative Voice, Craig Chamberlain argues that talking to Iran gets us nowhere, and instead wants to ramp up covert efforts at regime change.
On Across the Aisle, Christopher Preble takes the opposite view in an interesting post with links to a few other opinions.
And don’t miss PostGlobal’s discussion of what the agenda should be for the next U.S.-Iran meeting.
Posted in Iran | Comment »
Low Turnout in Algerian Elections
May 31st, 2007 by Audrey
Low turnout and lack of substantive opposition in Algeria’s recent parliamentary elections suggest that the North African nation remains far from having a genuine democracy. The Economist reports that “the National Liberation Front, the country’s sole legitimate party from independence in 1962 until a political opening in 1989, easily won the day, with its allies in second and third place.” There is also speculation that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika may be intending to institute a constitutional reform that would allow him to run for a third term in 2009.
Posted in Algeria | Comment »
POMED NOTES: Heritage Foundation - Judicial Crisis and Reform in Pakistan
May 31st, 2007 by Stephen
Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation held a fascinating event entitled “Pakistan: Judicial Crisis and the Future of Democratic Reform.” Featured speakers were Najam Sethhi, editor of the Pakistan Weekly The Friday Times, Shuja Nawaz, Pakistani journalist and author, and Hassan Abbas, author and Research Fellow at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The three analyzed the ongoing political crisis in Pakistan, the stability of the Musharraf presidency, and implications for Pakistan’s political future.
For more details, see POMED’s full notes on the event.
Posted in Pakistan | Comment »
POMED Event - “Bringing the World Home” Conferences 2007
May 30th, 2007 by Administrator

(left) Prince Hassan bin Talal speaks with former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali at the opening of the Amman conference. (right) Participants at the Jordan conference develop policy recommendations in small group discussions.
Event Summary
In spring 2007, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) joined with Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) and four regional partners to convene conferences in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, bringing together 152 young Americans and Middle Easterners to discuss America’s impact on political reform in the region. In these conferences, participants discussed the U.S. – Middle East relationship, consequences of American policies in the Middle East, and how the U.S. could better support democratization in the region. Participants also jointly developed, debated and ratified policy recommendations for the U.S. government, regional governments, the media, and civil society organizations.
The conferences provided an open forum for young Americans and Middle Easterners to directly engage each other about U.S. democracy strategy and about Middle Easterners’ hopes and ambitions for political reform in their countries. The conferences included thematic panel discussions featuring regional experts, small group discussions to formulate policy recommendations, and a general session to debate and vote on the recommendations. Conference workshops trained participants on how to hold follow-up events on their own campuses and in their own communities to discuss the policy recommendations and what they had learned.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Events, Jordan, North Africa, POMED | Comment »
Azmi Bishara Criticizes Arab Regimes Including Syria
May 30th, 2007 by Stephen
Former Member of the Israeli Knesset Azmi Bishara, in Qatar for the Second Forum on Democracy and Reform in the Arab World, made some interesting comments criticizing the non-democratic regimes of the Arab world and focusing particularly on Syria following last weekend’s presidential referendum. This came as a surprise because of Bishara’s previous public support for the Assad regime. Bishara also praised the recent elections in Mauritania and implied that Mauritania’s distance from authoritarian regimes in the Arab world facilitated its ability to move toward democracy.
Posted in Mauritania, Syria | Comment »
Some Looks at FY 08 Foreign Aid Request Ahead of Appropriations Debates
May 30th, 2007 by Stephen
Soon after Congress returns from this week’s Memorial Day recess, the House and the Senate will both take up the appropriations for fiscal year 2008.
Freedom House has this excellent detailed analysis of portion the President’s budget request for democracy and human rights. The Freedom House report applauds budget increases for such programs in a few regions including the Middle East, but expresses concern that “the overall proposed decreases of 9 percent in funding for human rights and 7 percent for civil society in the FY 2008 budget request sends precisely the wrong message about America’s commitment and will have a negative impact on those who are taking courageous steps to push for reform in their own societies.” The 38-page report also includes valuable recommendations and breakdown of budget numbers by country and by the types of programs.
Congressional Quarterly also has an interesting article on the budget request and coming apporpriations debates, noting that in recent years Congress has not granted the full amounts requested by President Bush for foreign aid, deferring instead to domestic programs.
Posted in Congress, Democracy Promotion, Foreign Aid | Comment »
CFR Interviews Sadjadpour on Iran
May 30th, 2007 by Stephen
Definitely take a look at this insightful Council on Foreign Relations interview with Carnegie’s Kareem Sajadpour that covers a wide array of topics related to Iran, including possible motivations for the Iranian government’s recent arrest of Iranian-Americans (see this morning’s post below), the changing role of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran’s government and society, Iranian political reform efforts, and thoughts on next year’s parliamentary elections.
Posted in Iran | Comment »
Economist Looks at Syria After Presidential Referendum
May 30th, 2007 by Stephen
The Economist interprets what the presidential referendum in Syria over the weekend may reveal about the Assad regime, detecting an effort to mask the regime’s anxiety amid fighting in Lebanon and the looming possibility of a Chapter 7 U.N. tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Reports this morning indicate that the Security Council expects to vote (and narrowly pass) on such a tribunal later today.
Posted in Syria | Comment »
Washington Times op-ed on Turkey Amid Tensions at Border, in Parliament
May 30th, 2007 by Stephen
Tensions are rising at the Turkey-Iraq border as the Turkish military continues to mass troops and many fear a Turkish military strike against PKK militants in northern Iraq. In the Washington Times, Tulin Daloglu has an interesting look at the role here of Turkish parliamentary campaigning and politics, as well as the delicate balance between the Turkish military and its Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Parliament has expressed continued support for a package of Constitutional amendments vetoed by President Sezer on Friday. The most controversial part of the amendments calls for the President to be elected by direct popular vote. Debate in Parliament this week is so heated that a fistfight broke out on the Parliament floor between supporters of the amendments and those opposed. A decisive second vote is expected on the amendments tomorrow.
Posted in Turkey | Comment »
Laor in Haaretz: Israel Undermining Its Democracy
May 30th, 2007 by Stephen
Writing in Haaretz, Yitzhak Laorsees serious problems with Israeli democracy, which he fears is being overtaken by racism and discrimination encouraged by the Israeli security service Shin Bet. Laor: “Israeli law defines the state as Jewish and democratic. The Shin Bet is now trying to turn the ‘and’ into an ‘or.’ “
Posted in Human Rights, Israel | Comment »
Esfandiari, 2 Others Charged with Espionage
May 30th, 2007 by Stephen
Yesterday the Iranian courts announced that three Iranian-Americans have been charged with espionage​: Haleh Esfandiari, the Director of the Wilson Center’s Middle East program who has been detained in Evin Prison since early May; Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and journalist Parnaz Azima.
In the New York Times (subscription required), Tom Friedman sees the arrest of Esfandiari as evidence of the paranoia and insecurity of the Iranian regime. Friedman discusses three basic options for dealing with Iran (military action, tougher economic sanctions, & diplomatic engagement), concluding that our best hope is to work for “a stronger Iranian middle class that demands a freer press, consensual politics and rule of law” through a combination of harsher sanctions and engagement.
In the Christian Science Monitor, John Hughes discusses the arrests in a broader context of “psychological warfare” underway between the U.S. and Iran.
Posted in Iran | Comment »
Gordon Adams Calls for Reevaluation of U.S. Aid
May 29th, 2007 by Stephen
In the new issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Gordon Adams writes this insightful look at U.S. foreign aid programs. Adams gives an interesting breakdown of the excessively complex, fragmented structures for distributing U.S. foreign aid, and calls for reflection on this system and the image that it projects to the world.
Posted in Foreign Aid | Comment »
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