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4 Oct 2008 - 31 Aug 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: August, 2008
Changes in the Moroccan Opposition
August 29th, 2008 by Adam
In the National, Blayne Slabbert reports how recent changes in Morocco’s Justice and Development Party, especially the election of Abdelilah Benkiran as leader of the party, have seemed to reinvigorate a shift to a more conservative approach. POMED’s Director of Research, Shadi Hamid was quoted as saying that the new leader is a “staunch social conservative” and that the change in leadership reflects “a certain amount of internal discontent.” Some critics have feared that this new leadership will push the party towards a more hard-line Islamist ideology.
Posted in Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Morocco, Political Parties | Comment »
Nuri Knows Best
August 29th, 2008 by Amanda
In this week’s Economist, the diagnosis for the next American commander in chief is to follow President Nuri Al Maliki’s lead on the removal of the US military presence. Maliki is “demanding an agreement” to withdraw all American troops by 2011, which “shows that Iraqis are beginning to believe in their ability to stand on their own feet.” Meanwhile, a contributor at American Footprints displays a tinge of cynicism over the alleged success of “The Surge (TM)”.
Despite the seemingly positive outlook on the developments in Iraq, Juan Cole at Informed Comment reports that the provincial elections once scheduled for October are now not even possible until February 2009.
Posted in Elections, Iraq, US foreign policy | Comment »
Democracy for Oil?
August 29th, 2008 by Amanda
Mike Allen writes at Democracy Digest on the financing of democracies by authoritarian regimes, the possible threats to democracy that this may pose, and provides the example of the US borrowing money from the Chinese in order purchase Middle Eastern oil. Nonetheless, he quotes NED board member Francis Fukuyama as saying that these governments do not possess ‘the combination of brawn, cohesion and ideas’ to present a truly viable challenge to what Allen refers to as “liberal democracy or the globalized economy.” Economist Daniel Drezner agrees by offering that “authoritarian capitalism can thrive over the short to medium term, but it will not outperform more liberal varieties of capitalism in the long term.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in US foreign policy | Comment »
Middle East Matters
August 29th, 2008 by Amanda
At Democracy Arsenal, POMED’s Director of Research Shadi Hamid asks, “How Much Does the Middle East Matter?” while postulating that a more active, present US policy in the region may work as a vehicle for reform rather than that of a negligent one. Although Hamid concedes that “the reasons for the Middle East failings are deep-seated,” he also turns to the failings of the current US presidency. He states that the Bush Administration “was overly focused on the Middle East, and managed, at the same time, and somewhat amazingly, to make it even more screwed up than it already was.”
His commentary stirred a spectrum of opinions including one respondent who declared that “not every Middle East problem is our problem. And not every problem is the result of western intervention.” Nonetheless, Hamid points to the idea that Middle East interests are inextricably linked to US interests by adding that with regard to the deteriorating political freedoms in the region, “we ignore it at our own peril, and at theirs too.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, US foreign policy | Comment »
2008: Daily Star On Biden Pick
August 28th, 2008 by Matt
Lebanon’s Daily Star likes​Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate, not only for his “hands-on experience” in the Middle East, but also because they believe he is “unlikely to let the region’s autocrats get a free ride” while avoiding the “recklessness” of the Bush administration’s attempts to do the same.
The New America Foundation sponsored an event yesterday at the DNC titled, “Can The Next President Make the Middle East Irrelevant?” featuring an all-star lineup of speakers and panelists including John Kerry, Joschka Fischer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Daniel Levy, and Rob Malley, among others.  I’ll try to link to a transcript or video when they put one up.
Posted in Election 08, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
Ayatollah Approval
August 28th, 2008 by Adam
After Monday’s seemingly strong endorsement of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Los Angeles Times reports some Iranian observers believed the press overplayed the Ayatollah’s remarks. The paper reports, “Hassan Rowhani, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator, told reporters Tuesday that Khamenei’s remarks were misconstrued. “The supreme leader did not mean that this government can extend its term for another four years.” The article also claims that Ahmadinejad’s opponents are confident of ousting the leader and replacing him with a more pragmatic conservative.
Posted in Elections, Iran | 1 Comment »
Patience in Pakistan
August 28th, 2008 by Adam
In the International Herald Tribune, Hassan Abbas writes that in order to strengthen Pakistan’s transition to democracy in the wake of the resignation by Pervez Musharraf the West must consistently support democratic reform and demonstrate patience about its pace. He says since Pakistan faces daunting challenges, including reinstating the judiciary, unrest in the tribal areas, and economic stagnation, the West cannot lose patience with the civilian government. Abbas concludes, “Pakistan can indeed be rescued from a further slide into chaos, and its democratic institutions are better placed to tackle this situation than any dictatorship. But this can only happen if the West supports democracy and patience.”
Posted in Pakistan, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Book Review: Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East
August 27th, 2008 by Adam
In the American Interest, Scott Carpenter has a review of Robin Wright’s Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East. Wright looks at the future of the struggle for political reform in the Middle East. According to Carpenter, the three issues that this political struggle will resolve is the renewal of a social contract between governments and their people, reconciliation of women’s rights and Islam, and the integration of Islamists into the political sphere. Overall, Carpenter gives the book a positive review saying, “The next president would therefore do well to read Dreams and Shadows to understand the aspirations of Middle Eastern liberals and moderates, and the opponents they face.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Reform | Comment »
On Arab Dictatorships
August 27th, 2008 by Adam
Khalil Al-Anani writes in the Daily News Egypt that the nature of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world differs from authoritarian systems in other countries in that Arab regimes exacerbate the economic and social conditions that lead to sectarianism and instability. Al-Aanani says that Arab authoritarian states lack institutions to defuse social tensions and grant the government legitimacy, and rely on coercive force. This tendency, according to Al-Anani, causes, “…political arrogance, economic injustice and social oppression, thus leading to tension between different classes and increasing rates of instability.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Reform | Comment »
2008: Holbrooke On Democracy Promotion In Foreign Affairs
August 27th, 2008 by Matt
In a piece in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Richard Holbrooke takes a look at the “daunting agenda” facing America’s next president, evaluating the McCain and Obama platforms in the process.  Holbrooke focuses on a critical five-country arc where Bush administration policies have failed, requiring immediate attention from the new administration–Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  Holbrooke laments (among other things) inconsistent democracy promotion policies in this region, and indeed recommends a major modification of the very idea of democracy promotion.  Money quote:
“Bush did the dream of democracy a huge disservice by linking it to the assertion of U.S. military power. Pressuring other countries to adopt the superficial aspects of a complex and subtle system of governance is simply not the route to follow in promoting American values or security interests. Yet the goal is correct and should not be abandoned — only presented in a style and a tone far more sensitive to how it is perceived in other lands.”
His solution:
“focus more on human rights (a phrase curiously absent from the Bush lexicon) and basic human needs while still encouraging the development of democratic forms of government, accompanied by the evolution of a pluralist political culture, the rule of law, and improvements in material conditions, especially through job creation. If there is progress in these areas, democracy will follow, in ways that countries will determine for themselves — with U.S. encouragement.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Election 08, US foreign policy, US politics | 2 Comments »
Palestinian Division and the Peace Process
August 27th, 2008 by Adam
Gamal A. G. Soltan in the Daily Star describes the nationalist-Islamist divide among Palestinians as “the Middle East’s cold war,” but argues that efforts to reconcile the factions should not be abandoned, as lasting peace cannot occur with rivaling Palestinian “mini-states.” The author argues that “the Middle East peace process is the main factor that could produce the desired effect.”
Daniel Levy in the Daily Star argues political infighting among the Palestinian leadership threatens Israeli interests in a two-state solution and permanent borders. Levy warns that “as Palestinians lose hope in the peace process, and look despairingly at both the Fatah and Hamas leaderships, there is a danger of extremist Al-Qaeda-style alternatives emerging.” As such, Levy recommends that Israel take a “hands-off approach to Palestinian domestic politics,” create “practical working arrangements”, and attend to the “chronic erosion of the rule of law in Israeli society.”
Walid Salem also touches upon the conflict between Fatah and Hamas in relation to the Israeli release of prisoners. Because Israel is dealing with the Palestinian Authority for Fatah prisoners, and Hamas for the rest, Salem warms that “a side effect of this is that it will certainly give Hamas a new weapon in its propaganda war against Abbas, enabling the Islamist movement to portray him as the representative of Fatah only and not all the Palestinian people.”
Posted in Hamas, Israel, Mideast Peace Plan, Palestine | Comment »
Change in the Gulf
August 27th, 2008 by Adam
Rami Khouri in the Daily Star​examines the Gulf region and its unique combination of economic success (oil money has helped these countries build cities at break-neck speed) and political stalemate (marked by few civil society organizations and impotent legislatures). As its Arab neighbors suffer from “increasingly serious political violence, ethnic and sectarian tensions, corruption, mismanagement, and rickety states,” “the implications of the growing gap between the Gulf Arabs and the rest of the Arabs are unclear, but probably will be consequential.”
Posted in Gulf, Oil, Reform | Comment »
Tough Times in Pakistan
August 27th, 2008 by Adam
An editorial in the Financial Times (registration required) laments that in less than a week after Musharraf’s resignation, Pakistan’s coalition government has collapsed after Nawaz Sharif walked out. The editorial cautions that the parties “may simply be resuming the visceral and partisan winner-takes-all contest for power” seen under Musharraf. However, “that is a luxury a poor, nuclear-armed, fragile democracy beset by insurgency definitely cannot afford.
Meanwhile, political uncertainty and violence has undermined the confidence of investors, causing Pakistani stocks to fall to their lowest level in 2 years.
Posted in Pakistan | Comment »
The Sons of Iraq and Sectarian Reconciliation
August 26th, 2008 by Adam
In the Los Angeles Times, Shawn Brimley and Colin Kahl warn that the recent crackdown on the Sons of Iraq by Prime Minister Maliki threatens to reverse recent security gains and inflame sectarian tensions. They say that plans to integrate them into the Iraqi security forces have been delibarately slowed and the Iraqi army has arrested or harassed members of the Sons of Iraq. The U.S. can pressure Maliki to reconcile by using its remaining leverage to, “…make continued security assistance conditional on Maliki carrying through on his commitments to integrate and gainfully employ the Sons of Iraq.”
Similarly, Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark provides a run-down of recent analysis on the subject and provides some interesting commentary of his own.
Posted in Iraq, Sectarianism | Comment »
Age of the Autocrat
August 26th, 2008 by Sarah
Francis Fukuyama in the Washington Post contests the claim that we are entering the “Age of the Autocrat,” despite the rise of countries employing a combination of “authoritarianism and modernization that offers a clear challenge to liberal democracy.” Fukuyama recommends a more nuanced conceptual framework for understanding the non-democratic world. “​Democracies don’t automatically all have the same interests (just look at the clashing U.S. and European views on Iraq), and neither do autocracies. Nor does the fact that a country is authoritarian determine the way it will behave internationally.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, US foreign policy | Comment »
2008: Biden’s Liberal Realism
August 26th, 2008 by Matt
Now that Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his VP has settled, several analysts have taken a look at Biden’s foreign policy experience with the apparent assumption that he might have an influence on a potential Obama administration’s international behavior, as Dick Cheney asserted his influence in the Bush administration.
Blake Hounshell likes Biden’s “lack of ideology”, arguing that he doesn’t fit either the realist (pro-intervention in Darfur) or the “liberal hawk” stereotypes, with his disdain for “sweeping rhetoric…about bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq”.
Writing for al-Jazeera, Marwan Bishara agrees, calling Biden both a foreign policy liberal and a realist who “doesn’t believe in promoting democracy in the world when it conflicts with US national interests.”
Ilan Goldenberg takes issue with a WaPo op-ed by Michael Rubin critical of Biden’s policies on Iran.
CFR has a quick run-down of some more analysis from the past few days.
Posted in Election 08, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
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