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04 Oct 2008 - 26 Aug 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: July, 2008
AKP Triumph
July 31st, 2008 by Sarah
An editorial in The Times Online (UK) lauds the Turkish Court’s decision to not ban the AKP party as“showing moderate Islamists in other countries that Islam is compatible with democracy​, and that they should and can work within a secular legal framework to achieve their spiritual ends.”
Meanwhile, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal Europe argues that the “Court’s ruling is an opportunity for E.U. leaders to re-engage their large Muslim neighbor” and cites the prospect of E.U. membership as having “done more than anything else to solve some of Turkey’s fundamental problems.”
Posted in Islam and Democracy​, Islamist movements​, Political Islam, Political Parties, Secularism​, Turkey | Comment »
Stimson Center Releases New Publication
July 31st, 2008 by Sarah
In the recent publication by The Henry L. Stimson Center, entitled “​Transnational Trends: Middle Eastern and Asian Views,” Rami Khouri examines the competing and overlapping ideologies, identities, and governance systems at play in the region and two Islamists movements that have responded to these trends, while Paul Dyer analyzes the powerful impact of large-scale demographic changes on security in the region, and Ellen Laipson and Emile El-Hokayem investigate the rapid social and economic changes to the region and the likely effect on state-society relations and regional cooperation and conflict.
Posted in US foreign policy | Comment »
Response to Wittes
July 31st, 2008 by Sarah
Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations responds to Tamara Cofman Wittes’ article for the Journal of Democracy. Wittes puts forth some criteria to distinguish those Islamist groups that have a genuine commitment to democracy and those who don’t. Cook, however, is skeptical and argues that perhaps Islamist participation in elections “is the result of strategic calculation​,” as the “most efficient means of accumulating political power as opposed to say, fomenting revolution or embracing democracy.”  
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Elections​, Islam and Democracy​, Islamist movements​, Political Islam, US foreign policy | Comment »
Less Support for Nationbuilding in Afghanistan
July 31st, 2008 by Sarah
The International Crisis Group notes that the Taliban’s successful media campaign has resulted in a  ”​weakening of public support for nation-building, even though few actively support the Taliban.”  To best compete in the War of Ideas, the ICG recommends that the Afghan government increase dialogue and transparency by “responding quickly to civilian casualties and other alleged abuses that are likely to feed into insurgent propaganda,” and “speaking out strongly and consistently about Taliban killings and attacks, while holding the international community and Afghan national security agencies proportionately accountable for their actions.”
Posted in Afghanistan​, Taliban, US foreign policy | Comment »
A Grand Strategy
July 31st, 2008 by Sarah
Kenneth Pollack joins WashingtonPost.com readers online to discuss his recently published book “A Path Out Of The Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East.” Pollack answers questions about America’s dependence on foreign oil, missed opportunities to develop a relationship with Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In regard to U.S. influence in the region, Pollack recommends that the U.S. “help ALL of the Muslim Middle Eastern states, including the rich Gulf states, begin a long-term process of reforming their economic, political and social systems to deal with the underlying problems that generate the endemic instability and terrorism of the region, and that create the greatest threats to us and to them.”
Posted in Iran, Israel, Oil, Palestine​, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: Subcommittee Hearing: Update on the Situation in Lebanon
July 30th, 2008 by Sarah
Yesterday, the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs invited Jeffrey Feltman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in the U.S. Department of State to discuss the current political situation in Lebanon in light of the recent Doha Agreement.  Feltman welcomed the election of President Sulieman and the formation of a new cabinet under Prime Minister Siniora, and reiterated President Bush’s policy of non-engagement with Hizbullah and Syria.
Rep. Gary Ackerman made opening remarks.
For POMED’s full notes, click here.
Posted in Elections​, Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Hezbollah​, Iran, Lebanon​, Political Parties, Syria, US foreign policy | Comment »
Turkish Court Decision Upholds AKP Party
July 30th, 2008 by Sarah
Turkey’s highest court has just announced that it will not ban the AKP party as unconstitutional on charges of undermining the country’s secular system. However, Hasim Kilic, the head of the constitutional court, says that the party would instead be deprived of half of its funding from the state treasury and says that “the decision was a warning, a serious warning [to the party].”
Likewise, Wolfgango Piccoli, an analyst with the Eurasia Group, notes “It is certainly a strong warning. The AK Party was not just cut off from funding but also the actual voting of 6 to 5 is a signal. Has it let the AK Party off the hook? That depends on whether they have learned a lesson from what has happened and whether they will be able to show that they are committed to secularism.”
Mithat Sancar, a law professor of Ankara University, suggests that “Cutting the party’s treasury funds means that the evidence for their anti-secular activity was there but not substantial enough to impose a ban. Therefore they warned the party to be careful in their actions to avoid closure in the future.”
Although other parties have been banned in the past by the Turkish Court, Radio Netherlands reports that the case against the AK party was unusual because it marked “the first time it concerned a ruling party with an extensive power base.”
In regard to the decision’s economic consequences, Market Watch reports that after the decision came down, “Turkey’s stocks and currency soared…​the decision was among the most market-friendly possible outcomes since it reduces political uncertainty, which had escalated sharply in Turkey in recent months.”
Meanwhile,​Win Thin, a senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. remarks that “it’s ironic that the mildly Islamic AKP has been the best thing to happen for the economy and so investors can look forward to a continuation of orthodox policies.”
Others, such as Turkey’s Labor Minister Faruk Celik, said ruling not to ban the ruling AKP Party “was a victory for Turkish democracy.”
E.U. Parliament member, Joost Lagendijk signaled his relief, noting that “closing down AKP on the basis of this indictment clearly goes against European rules on closing down political parties and would have been an anti-democratic decision​,” while a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana expressed “hope that the decision by the court will contribute to restore political stability.”
Posted in Islam and Democracy​, Islamist movements​, Political Islam, Political Parties, Secularism​, Turkey | Comment »
New Plans for Pakistan
July 30th, 2008 by Sarah
As Pakistan’s new civilian prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani visits Washington this week, an editorial in the New York Times urges President Bush to prove “that he is committed to strengthening both Pakistan’s democracy and its ability to fight extremism.” This is especially important as “Mr. Gilani’s constituents deeply resent the United States for propping up and enabling their former dictator, Pervez Musharraf​.”
Along those lines, the newspaper advises Congress to pass legislation introduced by Senators Joseph Biden and Richard Lugar that would provide long-term increases in economic assistance to Pakistan and tighter monitoring of American military assistance.
Posted in Foreign Aid, Military, Pakistan​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Egyptian Media Law
July 30th, 2008 by Sarah
Arab Media and Society provides an unofficial translation of Egypt’s draft legislation regarding the media. POMED previously blogged on concerns that the legislation could be used as a pretext to crack down on journalists, political opponents, and others, including Facebook activists and bloggers who have been important in mobilizing Egyptian opposition forces.
For the unofficial translation, click here.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comment »
Bush’s Tragic Flaw
July 30th, 2008 by Sarah
David Mikhail in The Hill derides the Bush administration’s failure to understand how its ”rejection of all things international” diminished America’s global influence and currently prevents the U.S. from being able to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat. “Our lead-up to the Iraq war, Guantanamo and the sanctioning of torture have made allying with the U.S. toxic to foreign governments, and separation from American policy safe. Our security interests have been undermined.”
Posted in Iraq, US foreign policy, United Nations | Comment »
Incentives to Bring Syria Closer to the West
July 30th, 2008 by Sarah
Andrew Tabler in the Daily Star examines the ambiguous relationship between Syria and Iran, especially in light of indirect talks between Israel and Syria.  Tabler argues that improving Syria’s economic woes would allow the U.S. to “help Syria attract much-needed foreign investment, integrate it into the global economy, reduce unemployment and earn the US points with the Syrian people,” thereby giving the country incentives to distance itself from Iran.
Posted in Iran, Syria, US foreign policy | Comment »
Setback to Democracy Promotion
July 30th, 2008 by Sarah
Rami Khouri in the Daily Star looks to the advice of Robert Pelletreau, former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and ambassador to three Arab countries, to review why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the oil situation, and efforts to expand democracy are worse off now than before Bush became President.  Democracy promotion “has been set back by our headlong push for elections in countries with little or no popular experience in political participation. The result has been clerical-led factions being elected in Iraq, Hamas winning parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories, the Muslim Brotherhood gaining ground in Egypt, Hizbullah becoming a stronger political force in Lebanon and even the word ‘democracy’ now being widely treated in the region as an American implant.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Egypt, Hamas, Hezbollah​, Iraq, Israel, Muslim Brotherhood​, Palestine​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Banning Books in Egypt?
July 30th, 2008 by Adam
Nathan Field at the Daily News Egypt has a very intriguing interview with John R. Bradley​, author of the book “Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs On the Brink of a Revolution.” The book became the subject of controversy after a July 23 Associated Press article quoting Bradley and his publisher said that the book had been banned for distribution in Egypt after American University in Cairo’s bookstore canceled an order for 15 books. However, after international and local attention, the Ministry of Information denied the ban and the book was given the green light.
Bradley sees two possible explanations for the reversal of the ban. One possibility was that some low-ranking official that disagreed with the book forbade the bookstore’s order. This possibility, according to Bradley would reflect, “…the chaotic nature of the regime as I describe it in ‘Inside Egypt,’ where there is no accountability or transparency — let alone respect for the rule of law and the values of free expression.” The other explanation posited by Bradley is the fact that the government was forced to backtrack after the ban gave the book international recognition.
Posted in Egypt, Publications | Comment »
The Battle Over Turkey’s Political Future
July 30th, 2008 by Adam
Writing in the Daily Star,​Fadi Hakura sees the current crisis in Turkey surrounding the AKP as representing a groundbreaking ideological shift in Turkey’s political system. He sees the emergence of a secularized Islam and the electorate’s desire for a focus on economic issues rather than narrow religious ones as evidence of the formation of a new political order. Hakura’s best evidence of this political change and the shift away from the nation’s past ideological battles is the military’s silence. Their inaction is due to the fact that, “…Turkey is fast becoming a diverse society, as opposed to a once-monolithic bloc of secularists and Islamists, the military is adapting to altering political, economic and societal conditions.”
However, an editorial in Financial Times sees the Turkish crisis as dire and a setback to the progress the country has made. The editorial says, “To argue the country can muddle through a deposition of its government because the army has closed four Islamist parties in the past misunderstands the scale of the crisis. The battle between secularists and conservatives has reached a critical point.”
Posted in Political Islam, Reform, Secularism​, Turkey | Comment »
What of the Sons of Iraq?
July 30th, 2008 by Adam
In the Christian Science Monitor, Tom Peter writes an important article about the difficulties of transitioning the Sons of Iraq from an auxiliary police force into other forms of employment. Only 17,000 of 103,000 (roughly 15%) have been integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). However, the high rates of integration into the ISF the U.S. envisioned has been stalled by the Iraqi government that is reluctant to integrate a Sunni armed force into an army that is predominately Kurdish and Shiite. Peter asserts that officials are worried that if the Sons of Iraq are not transferred into employment after the force is dissolved that security could suffer.
Posted in Iraq, Military, Sectarianism | Comment »
POMED Notes: Subcommittee Hearing On The Extension of The U.N. Mandate in Iraq
July 29th, 2008 by Sarah
Last week, the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs invited Steven Kull, Michael J. Matheson​, and Danielle Pletka to testify before Congress on options for a possible extension of the U.N. mandate for Iraq. Steven Kull is director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes. Michael J. Matheson is a Visiting Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School. Danielle Pletka is Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.  Ayad Allawi of the Iraqi Council of Representatives and Former Prime Minister of Iraq was invited to brief the subcommittee on the current status of Iraq political reform.
All of the speakers addressed a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops and the need to recognize Iraqi sovereignty.
For POMED’s full notes, click here. 
Posted in Event Notes, Iraq, Military, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Democratic Development in the Middle East and North Africa”
July 29th, 2008 by Adam
Today, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), the Middle East Institute (MEI), and Americans for Informed Diplomacy (AID) hosted a discussion with representatives from three conferences sponsored this spring by POMED and AID, in which young Middle Eastern and American leaders developed and ratified policy recommendations on how to improve America’s impact on Middle East reform. The participants included Erika Spaet and Sara Ait Imoudden from the Rabat Conference, Dina Elshinnawi and Mohamed Sabbah from the Cairo Conference, and Emily Crawford and Tharwat Alazab from the Amman Conference.
For POMED’s complete notes on the discussion, click here.
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Event Notes, Events, Foreign Aid, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
China and Russia Isolate Iran
July 29th, 2008 by Sarah
In a fascinating article, M K Bhadrakumar in the Asia Times asks why Moscow and Beijing are edging closer to the West, by denying Iran membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. “The short answer is, they seem to be apprehensive that Tehran has found a new interlocutor for communicating with Washington - Turkey.”
Nikolas K. Gvosdev at The Washington Realist agrees with Bhadrakumar’s assessment. Gvosdev argues that this “shows the limits to which states like China and Russia are prepared to shield Iran from Western pressure​–and I see this as a positive.”
Posted in Iran, Turkey, US foreign policy | Comment »
No Democratic Cure-All
July 29th, 2008 by Sarah
Lee Smith at Slate responds to Kenneth Pollack’s recently published book entitled “A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East.”  “The paradox is that one of our sharpest limitations is that we believe democracy is a universal cure-all, good for all people at all times, when that is almost certainly not the case. However, as Pollack argues, democratic reform seems to be the only thing that will save the Middle East from consuming itself in violence​, for the region can get worse than it is now, much worse.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, US foreign policy | Comment »
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