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8 Mar 2008 - 22 Aug 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: February, 2008
POMED Notes: Human Rights in Syria
February 29th, 2008 by Sharlina
The United States Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion comprised of Radwan Ziadeh, Director, Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies and Senior Fellow, USIP, Joe Stork, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Human Rights Watch, Mona Yacoubian​, Senior Advisor, Muslim World Initiative, USIP, and Steven Heydemann​, Vice President of Grants and Fellowships, USIP. The purpose of the discussion was to examine the implications of Syrian authorities’ engagement in a harsh campaign of repression against leading dissidents and human rights activists, and how the U.S. and the international community should respond.
For POMED’s full notes on the event, click here.
Posted in Events, Human Rights, Syria, US foreign policy | Comment »
A Tough Future for Iraq and the United States
February 29th, 2008 by Kent
Fred Kaplan in Slate describes the dismal situation in Iraq and the problems that the next U.S. president will encounter. He is concerned over a veto of legislation which called for provincial elections, since these elections were supposed to be a sign of reconciliation for opposing parties. Additionally, Kaplan claims that the enthusiasm of the Sunni Awakening is waning and al-Qaeda jihadists may wreck havoc once again on the country. All in all, the situation is as bad as it has ever been. “The way things are going, the next president, whatever his or her preferences, may be stuck with more severe problems than Bush ever was—and will almost certainly have to make decisions that are harder.”
 At Democracy Arsenal, Ilan Goldenberg also points to the problems with the Sunni Awakening Forces and the provincial elections. Goldenberg scoffs at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s comments that Iraq has triumphed over sectarianism. “Maliki must be taking his public speaking lessons from Bush.  If you say it enough times - even if it has no basis in reality - it must be true.”
Posted in Iraq, US foreign policy | Comment »
U.S. Warship Approaches Lebanese Coast
February 29th, 2008 by Kent
In response to the political tensions in Lebanon, the United States has deployed the USS Cole warship to the country’s coast. The U.S. government has maintained that the presence of the warship simply demonstrates America’s commitment to regional stability.
At SyriaComment, Joshua Landis​does not believe that this move signals a more aggressive U.S. policy towards Syria. He claims that the administration is bluffing, since President Bush lacks the credibility to engage in military action against a Middle Eastern regime after the failures in Iraq. “Washington is in no position to pluck even the ‘low hanging fruit’ of Damascus. It has had its one chance at regime change.”
 Laura Rozen at War and Piece argues that the Cole is there to deter Hezbollah from attacking Israel if Israeli forces enter Gaza.
Posted in Lebanon, US foreign policy | Comment »
Musharraf After the Elections
February 29th, 2008 by Kent
Moni Mohsin in The Nation recounts the several positive surprises of the Pakistani elections. The voters expressed their frustration with President Pervez Musharraf, denied religious parties any gains in power, and resisted violence and chaos on election day. “Given their limited choices, the people of Pakistan have chosen wisely. Now it is up to the elected parties to rule wisely.”
In contrast with Mohsin’s optimistic thoughts on the elections, Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek criticizes the Bush administration for standing by Musharraf’s side, even after the Pakistani people had demonstrated their disapproval. He goes on to discuss the possible threats of Jihadism that could exist, in spite of Pakistan’s successful elections. Zakaria encourages Pakistan to play a bigger part in fighting terrorism. “What democracy could do is make Pakistanis understand that this is their war.”
In light of Musharraf’s defeat, Anatol Lieven in The National Interest describes how the Bush administration’s relationship with the Pakistani president had doomed him to electoral defeat. Many Pakistanis are unhappy with American influence within their country. They believe that Musharraf had served as a pawn in Bush’s foreign policy. “…despite the Bush administration’s support for Musharraf, it was also the Bush administration that did the most to destroy him, by forcing him into a subordinate role in a war on terror that most Pakistanis detest.”
Scott Horton interviews Pakistani political expert Ahmed Rashid on the elections and their effects on the future in Harper’s Magazine. In the interview, Rashid answers questions on the government’s behavior during the election and the political strength of Musharraf after the elections.
Posted in Elections, Pakistan | Comment »
Is Egypt Really Becoming More Tolerant?
February 29th, 2008 by Kent
While many have applauded the Egyptian government’s new standards for religious designation on identification cards, Paul Marshall in The Weekly Standard says that it’s not enough. He acknowledges that this reform is a step in the right direction, but condemns the mandatory designation of “ex-Muslim” for converts from Islam to another religion. By labeling the apostates, these citizens could be victim to persecution. “Unless the United States, particularly the State Department, overcomes its continuing aversion to treating religion as an integral part of foreign policy, we may watch uncomprehendingly as Egypt, as well as other parts of the Middle East, slide further into radical Islam.”
Posted in Egypt | Comment »
Undemocratic Trend in the Middle East
February 29th, 2008 by Kent
Reinforcing concerns over the state of democracy in the world, Larry Diamond in Foreign Affairs points to specific problems in the Middle East. “And aspirations for democratic progress have been thwarted everywhere in the Arab world (except Morocco), whether by terrorism and political and religious violence (as in Iraq), externally manipulated societal divisions (as in Lebanon), or authoritarian regimes themselves (as in Egypt, Jordan, and some of the Persian Gulf monarchies, such as Bahrain).” To help resolve this backslide, Diamond encourages the West to be stricter with its standards for democratization and to condition aid on marked improvement.
Posted in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco | Comment »
The Wrong Answer for Lebanon
February 29th, 2008 by Kent
In The Daily Star, Tony Badran criticizes an assessment from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for misunderstanding the nature of the Syrian regime. Badran thinks that Carnegie fails to recognize Syria’s explicit intentions to reestablish itself over Lebanese affairs. Bardan also disagrees with Carnegie’s advice to the United States, which calls for an “abandonment” of allies within Lebanon who are seeking for international assistance in resolving the political crisis.
“The Carnegie authors write that the US needs a new approach based ‘less on ideology and more on reality.’ But they don’t heed their own advice, nor do they appear to grasp Lebanon’s reality particularly well either.”
Posted in Lebanon, US foreign policy | Comment »
2008: Ignoring Foreign Policy
February 28th, 2008 by Matt
An op-ed in the Sunday Washington Post by Michael Signer, a former foreign policy adviser to the Edwards campaign, triggered a great deal of discussion in the blogosphere about the mainstream media’s coverage (or lack thereof) of foreign policy issues during this presidential campaign. Signer’s argument was essentially that the mainstream media have been derelict in their duty to provide sustained and incisive analytical reporting on foreign policy issues. Signer’s disappointment was echoed by a number of bloggers, but he also took some heat from others who blamed the campaigns for failing to successfully market their foreign policy ideas.
Anyway, yesterday Signer addressed some of the reaction to his column (entirely from the blogosphere, ironically enough) with a post at Democracy Arsenal defending his original argument. You can follow the whole debate through this one link. Signer also says he was heartened by Tim Russert’s surprise Russia question in the debate the other night which forced both candidates out of their canned responses. One must admit it’s unfortunate when any foreign policy question not dealing with Iraq, Iran, or Pakistan inadvertently becomes a “gotcha” moment.
Posted in Election 08, US politics | Comment »
POMED Notes: Press Freedom in the Muslim World
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
On Tuesday, the American Islamic Congress hosted a panel discussion comprised of Omran Salman, Executive Director of Aafaq, Maneeza Hossain, Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute, and Richard Eisendorf, Middle East North Africa Senior Program Manager at Freedom House. Hussain Abdul-Hussain​, Washington Correspondent for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai, moderated the discussion. The purpose of the discussion was to examine what the status of the media is in the Muslim world, what is allowed and what is prohibited, who decides, and how can the U.S. support free media to help advance reform.
For POMED’s full notes on the event, click here.
Posted in Events, Human Rights, Middle Eastern Media | Comment »
Iraqi Regional Elections
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
Eric Martin at American Footprints discusses the setback of Iraqi regional elections that were slated for October that might not end up making that timeline, arguing that while it is not fatal yet, issues of “fostering ‘reconciliation’ and fostering democratic norms in Iraq” need to be properly addressed for the elections to occur.
Posted in Elections, Iraq | Comment »
Deeper Analysis of Lebanese Stalemate
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
Michael Young at The Daily Starargues that there continues to exist a lack of comprehension as to why the Lebanese stalemate persists, and that the real backdrop to negotiations over the Arab League plan is “because the opposition is relaying the Syrian position on the distribution of Cabinet portfolios, therefore on the political balance of power in Lebanon.” Young states that the only solution is for the Arab states to set as a “prerequisite for their participation in the Damascus summit prior agreement in Lebanon on Suleiman’s election and the formation of a new government” and thus blocking a Syrian plan to leave Lebanon without any effective leadership.
Posted in Lebanon, Syria | Comment »
Gathering Support for Afghanistan
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
Roger Cohen argues at The New York Times that it is time for Europe to step up their support for Afghanistan, stating, “hauling Afghanistan from the Middle Ages and the Taliban’s vestigial clutches will involve every lever of power — economic, social, diplomatic and military.” Cohen continues that while if NATO does increase its forces, President Hamid Karzai should increase his part as well.
Posted in Afghanistan, Military, Multilateralism​, Taliban, US foreign policy | Comment »
Iranian President’s Imminent Trip to Iraq
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
In the first visit to Iraq by an Iranian president since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes a landmark trip to Iraq on Sunday seeking to show that Iran is an influential player in Iraqi politics. Many comment that this trip’s timeliness is ironic when Washington accuses Tehran of supplying weapons to militias that are killing U.S. troops.
Posted in Iran, Iraq, US foreign policy | Comment »
Turkey’s Military Offensive in Northern Iraq
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
Michael Jansen comments at The Jordan Times on Turkey’s offensive in northern Iraq, arguing that it “has put the U.S. in an awkward position as the country’s occupier and, allegedly, defender of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Quoting U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates in his warning that the Turkish military cannot rely solely on force to resolve the country’s “Kurdish problem,” Jansen states that “a very high price could be paid by Turkey because the generals are using the offensive to reassert their central role in decision making and to sideline the democratically elected AKP government.”
Lt. Col. Abdulkadir Onay of the Turkish Army and Soner Cagaptay at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy argue that continued U.S. assistance against the PKK is not only positively affecting Turkish attitudes toward the U.S., but it is also helping the U.S. in the War on Terror against all terrorists, “not just those most actively targeting the United States.”
Posted in Iraq, Kurds, Military, Turkey | Comment »
Religious Tensions in Egypt
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
Paul Marshall at the Hudson Institute reacts to the newly nominated American ambassador to Cairo, Margaret Scobey’s lack of mention of religious tension in Egypt. Arguing that Hosni Mubarak’s regime is not appropriately dealing with the state’s conflicts with religious minorities, reflecting Mubarak’s “push for, or acquiescence in, an increasingly Islamist state as his regime seeks to avoid being outflanked in its Islamic credentials by its main opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood,” Marshall urges that it is in the U.S.’s best interest to assist Egypt in ending its religious identity politics.
Meanwhile, POMED’s Shadi Hamid remarks on the arrest of an influential member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khaled Hamza. Hamid states, “It provides further proof that the Egyptian regime is terrified of the possibility that there might one day be a rapprochement between the West and groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamza, and other Brotherhood reformers who have been arrested of late, represent that very possibility, and, for that reason, they are seen as too dangerous.”
Posted in Egypt | 1 Comment »
The New Middle East
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
Marina S. Ottaway, Nathan Brown, Amr Hamzawy, Karim Sadjadpour​, and Paul Salem at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published a report that examines what they describe as “the new realities of the region” by focusing on three clusters of countries—Iran–Iraq, Lebanon–Syria, Palestine–Israel, and on the three issues—nuclear proliferation, sectarianism, and the challenge of political reform—”to provide a new direction for U.S. policy that engages all regional actors patiently and consistently on major conflicts to develop compromise solutions.”
Posted in Publications, Reform, Sectarianism​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Saudi Arabia Withdraws Ambassador From Damascus
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
Joshua Landis reacts to the news that Saudi Arabia is withdrawing its Ambassador from Damascus, citing it as an event that causes the Lebanon crisis to become more “dire.” Touching on how the stalemate is negatively affecting the Lebanese economy, Landis also discusses Syria’s claims of urging a third of the Lebanese cabinet to be ceded to the opposition.
Posted in Saudi Arabia, Syria | Comment »
Turkey’s Reinterpretation of Islam
February 28th, 2008 by Sharlina
The recent news that Turkey’s state body for religious affairs, Diyanet, is close to completing a significant revision of the reports and interpretations of what the Prophet Mohammed said and did, is likely to generate fierce debate in the Muslim world and the west. Adrian Hamilton, writing in The Independent​, delves into the ramifications of Turkey possibly creating an Islam acceptable to the West. Hamilton not only analyzes these repercussions but also looks at the fears of bringing Islamic law to secular Turkey.
Posted in Turkey | Comment »
2008: Clinton’s Foreign Policy Speech
February 27th, 2008 by Matt
On Monday, Hillary Clinton delivered a foreign policy address at George Washington University, and most of the media coverage of the speech predictably focused on the not-so-veiled criticisms directed at Barack Obama. When you cut through that, Clinton’s speech was admirably strong on the POMED Principles. Pretty close to the top of the page, Clinton says she believes in “seeding” democracy and winning hearts and minds through work on human rights, democracy, and international development. Shortly thereafter, she talks of building on the “democratic yearnings” of the Pakistani people, as expressed in their repudiation of Musharraf in the recent elections–and repeats her criticisms of Musharraf’s democratic deficit later in the speech. Clinton then brings up women’s rights in a paragraph about China, remarking, “What we have learned is that where women are oppressed and denied their basic rights we are more likely to have regimes that are more adversarial to American interests and values.” She elaborates on the centrality of women’s rights to U.S. foreign policy goals again near her conclusion. In between points on Cuba and a well-known little corner of the same island, Clinton suggests the U.S. must “revive our commitment at a very public level to human rights and individual freedom.”
Of course, there is no direct reference to promoting democracy in the Middle East. It’s unclear exactly how Clinton would react to the regimes she deems “adversarial to American interests and values” that in a number of cases are strategic allies. A commitment to democracy in Iraq is absent. But on the whole, it’s refreshing rhetorical attention to an issue that’s largely gone missing. We’ll likely find out on Tuesday evening whether she’ll have much chance to elaborate.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Election 08, US politics | Comment »
What Comes Next?
February 27th, 2008 by Nicolas
The Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University has released a paper entitled “After the Surge: Next Steps in Iraq?” by Judith S. Yaphe. Yaphe believes in order to build on the achievements of the military surge, the US must “continue to support the elected government in Baghdad, helping it to establish its authority through the consensual exercise of power, encourage provincial elections as a vehicle for political reform and for loosening the hold of sectarian loyalty upon the political process,” reinforce “efforts to build a truly national Iraqi military force recruited from all sectors of the population,” and achieve “tangible cooperation between Iraq and its neighbors on border security.” She concludes by asking  if Iraq will be able to “find a relatively peaceful equilibrium,” or “violently collapses at the cost of the ultimate destruction of the Iraqi state and identity.”
Posted in Iraq, US foreign policy | Comment »
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