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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: December, 2008
“As President, What Should Obama Say to the Middle East?” (Part 6)
December 30th, 2008 by Stephen
Amid all of the speculation about the Obama administration and its approach to the Middle East, POMED has asked a variety of respected voices from the community of Middle East policy experts, democracy promotion practitioners, pollsters, academics, and human rights advocates to answer the following question in 300 words or less:
At the outset of the new American administration, what should President Obama say to the people of the Middle East?
We have been posting responses to this question over the past few weeks. Today, we continue with a response from Radwan Masmoudi, President of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID).
Radwan Masmoudi:
“While the United States has been built on universal principles of equality, justice, freedom, and dignity for all, I recognize that our government has supported repressive regimes across this region that have abused the rights of their citizens, imprisoned and tortured those who dare to criticize them, and prevented participation in even the most peaceful political and civic activities. After 9/11, the Bush administration promised to end decades of U.S. support for tyranny and instead to stand by those who are fighting – peacefully – for freedom, democracy, and dignity.
But our policies have failed to live up to those promises.  Particularly since December 2005, the United States has returned to the ‘realist’ approach of openly supporting ‘friendly’ dictators and tyrants.  This not only destroyed the credibility of the United States and emboldened extremists, but also sent a powerful, anti-democratic message to authoritarian regimes.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in What Should New President Say to Middle East? | Comment »
Egypt–Hybrid, Stable, yet Challenged
December 30th, 2008 by Tariq
Michael Allen at Democracy Digest highlights a new book on Egypt by Bruce K. Rutherford​, “Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World.” Read the first chapter here.
Outlining the tension, Allen says, “The current regime exhibits a growing contradiction: on one hand, it is a “classic example of stable authoritarianism​“, controlling much of the media and political life, while suppressing opponents with legal and extra-legal instruments and monitoring and manipulating political parties and civil society groups; on the other hand, a vibrant judiciary, an assertive Judges’ Club, and a large and well-organized Islamist opposition are poised to take advantage of “a fundamental change in the character of Egyptian politics since the early 1990s”, namely the declining legitimacy and sustainability of the Nasserite statist order.”
Rutherford concludes, Egypt is “likely to remain a hybrid regime that contains some legal and institutional constraints on executive power, but which falls short of Western norms of democracy.”
Posted in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Parties, Publications, Reform, Secularism | Comment »
“Iraq’s Troubled Criminal Justice System”
December 30th, 2008 by Tariq
Greg Bruno at the Council on Foreign Relations interviews​Michael Wahid Hanna of The Century Foundation on Iraq’s criminal justice system.
“On paper Iraq’s penal code has striking similarities to Western criminal law: Suspects have the right to a fair trial, the right to an attorney, and are innocent until proven guilty. But in practice, Iraqi justice is a work in progress, with long trial delays and frequent allegations of coerced confessions, experts say.”
Listen to the audio interview here, or read his report, “The Quality of Justice: Failings of Iraq’s Central Criminal Court” published via Human Rights Watch here.
Posted in Iraq, Judiciary | Comment »
Jordan on the Brink
December 30th, 2008 by Tariq
Here is something that a few of the editorials in my previous post have touched on only generally: the implications of the Gaza crisis on secular Arab autocrats.
Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark​saysKing Abdullah of Jordan has just taken the remarkable step of firing his powerful head of General Intelligence in the middle of a major regional — and potentially domestic — crisis.” Replacing Mohammed al-Thahbi, presumably, will be Mohammed Raqad. “[T]he move suggests a panic at the heart of the Hashemite establishment over the ramifications of the spiraling Gaza crisis.”
Posted in Jordan, Palestine | Comment »
Opinion on Gaza
December 30th, 2008 by Tariq
Here’s a roundup of some articles, editorials, and op-ed’s for today:
Boston Globe: “Ultimately, the only way Israel can achieve true security, and the only way Palestinians can achieve self-determination, is to negotiate a two-state peace agreement. Brokering such a peace should be a priority for President-elect Barack Obama. But the longer the current horrors continue in Gaza, the harder it will be to untie the Israeli-Palestinian knot.”
Timothy Rieger @ The Christian Science Monitor: “If the US is to have any positive impact on finding a resolution to this conflict, we must stop lecturing Israelis and Palestinians about “ending the cycle of violence” and take stock of our own failures. We, the American people, need to end the cycle of abandoning all the innocent people of that region…the US should offer volunteer peacekeeping forces to the Gaza Strip to implement a full scale and state-of-the-art humanitarian relief operation.”
David Grossman @ Haaretz: “Israel would do well to stop, turn to Hamas’ leaders and say: Until Saturday Israel held its fire in the face of thousands of Qassams from the Gaza Strip. Now you know how harsh its response can be. So as not to add to the death and destruction we will now hold our fire unilaterally and completely for the next 48 hours.”
Jerusalem Post: “Arab elites need to offer their people an alternative to Islamist extremism. They could begin by redefining what it means to be pro-Palestinian and dissociating the Palestinian cause from anti-Israel rejectionism.”
Bret Stephens @ WSJ: “Hamas believes…that…as Israel exhausts its target list, as eventually it will, the storm will pass. Then the green flag of the movement will fly defiantly over the tallest building left standing, its prestige hugely boosted — and Israel’s commensurately diminished — throughout the Muslim world.”
Daoud Kuttab @ Washington Post: “The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel’s strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.”
Washington Post: “If the Lebanon war is any indication, the bloodshed in Gaza — which is being endlessly looped on Arab satellite channels across the region — will strengthen the Iranian camp at the expense of the secular Sunni forces.”
Finally, Yossi Klein Haveli of The New Republic, gives us a sustained look at “Why Gaza Matters,” speculating on several lines of thought, including “The Jihadist Response,” The Israeli Home Front,” Israel’s Options,” “The Iranian Bomb,” The Fate of the Two-State Solution,” “The Moderate Arab Response,” “Arab Israelis,” and “Israeli Elections.”
Posted in Hamas, Israel, Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Palestine, US foreign policy | Comment »
The Year in Review
December 29th, 2008 by Jason
At that Daily Star, Rami Khouri takes a sobering year-end look at events and trends in the Middle East. Look elsewhere for misplaced optimism: “The core weaknesses, distortions and dysfunctionalities of the Arab world all seemed to worsen during the past year.”
He writes that democratization and political liberalization “remain buried beneath the stultifying weight of corruption-riddled Arab security states, emotion- and fear-driven mass movements, and the debilitating impact of Israeli, American and other foreign interventions.” The only glimmer of hope he offers is that things are so bad that they can’t possibly go on like this for much longer.  
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Islamist movements, Reform, Sectarianism | Comment »
Israel and Gaza
December 29th, 2008 by Jason
Here’s some more analysis from the experts on the violence in Gaza:
At Abu Aardvark, Marc Lynch looks at how regimes and news outlets in the region have reacted. He finds U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt either tacitly or explicitly supporting the Israeli position, while everyone else, including a near-unanimous public opinion, is fiercely on the side of Hamas.
Daniel Levy at Prospects for Peace analyzes the proximate causes of the conflict, and notes that the U.S. is involved deeply whether it wants to be or not. “Today’s events should be ‘exhibit A’ in why the next U.S. Government cannot leave the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to fester or try to ‘manage’ it – as long as it remains unresolved, it has a nasty habit of forcing itself onto the agenda.”
Finally, Juan Cole has an excellent summary of analysis, and includes plenty of his own. He questions Israel’s endgame. “Do the Israelis expect the population at some point to turn against Hamas, blaming it for the blockade and the bombardment?…If the Gaza population doesn’t turn on Hamas, and Israeli measures don’t destroy the organization, then what? They’ll just go on half-starving Gaza’s children for decades?”
Posted in Hamas, Israel, Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Palestine, US foreign policy | Comment »
Bashar Assad on Barack Obama
December 29th, 2008 by Sarah
David Ignatius interviews  Syrian President Bashar Assad in The Daily Star, where Assad expresses his hopes for Barack Obama’s administration’s Middle East policy. First, he hopes Obama won’t start “another war anywhere in the world, especially not in the Middle East,” and will leave the doctrine of “pre-emptive war” to the pages of history.  Second, he hopes for sincere participation in the peace process. Lastly, he hopes to work with the United States to stabilize Iraq.
Assad states that he is ready for direct talks with Israel with two pre-conditions; assurance that Israel with fully withdraw from the Golan Heights and that the U.S. join as a sponsor.
Posted in Syria, US foreign policy | Comment »
Responding to Bombing in Gaza
December 29th, 2008 by Sarah
An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor reminds readers that when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006 world opinion turned against Israel while strengthening Hezbollah’s power. While noting the differences between now and then, the editorial argues that Israel is putting its “​immediate concerns ahead of long-term peace prospects. Elections are coming in February, and political leaders undoubtedly feel compelled to prove their security credentials.”
Rami Khouri in The Daily Star outlines the inevitable results of the Israeli attacks. First, temporarily shattering Palestinian military and civilian infrastructure, “only to see the bludgeoned Arabs regroup and return a few years later -with much greater technical proficiency and political will to fight Israel.” Second, more moderate peace-making partners, such as Fatah, will be replaced by those less willing.  Third, generating new enemies in countries that once were strategic allies. And lastly, transforming a civilian population into “a recruiting pool for militants” and encouraging the spread of Islamism.
The Financial Times cautions its effects when both Israelis and Palestinians go to the election booth in coming weeks. Additionally, the FT argues “it further enrages Arab and Muslim opinion against Israel and its US allies, and strengthens the appeal of Islamist radicals. And just as Hizbollah was aggrandised by Israel’s misfired 34-days war on Lebanon in 2006, so Hamas now stands to gain if it can hold its ground.”
A Haaretz editorial calls for Israel to employ military force  proportionally in order to reach reasonable goals. “Reestablishing the case-fire on better terms and with better supervision is a reasonable goal. Toppling the Hamas regime, or eradicating the last rocket factory where the last Hamas member is making the last Qassam rocket, are not reasonable goals, in part because they are unachievable without a prolonged presence on the ground in Gaza.”
Check out other responses from Akiva Eldar, Amir Oren, Natasha Mozgovaya​, and Tom Segev at Haaretz and from Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi in the Wall Street Journal.
Posted in Elections, Hamas, Hezbollah, Israel, Military, Palestine | Comment »
All About Iran
December 29th, 2008 by Jason
Plenty of debate on Iran policy this morning:
In the Daily News Egypt, Karim Sadjadpour writes that though there is a strong current of reform in Iran, there remains an entrenched political elite that has little interest in endangering its privilege through rapprochement with the U.S.  Sadjadpour notes that engagement runs right through the office of Ayatollah Khamenei, and even an unsuccessful attempt at dialogue will work to America’s strategic advantage.
In the Post, Ray Takeyh analyzes what Iran would want out of engagement with the U.S. He sees overlapping interests on Iraq, but is much less sanguine about the nuclear program and patronage of Hezbollah. In another report, Arab League head Amr Moussa makes clear that the Arab nations will want a seat at any dialogue table.
Posted in Arab League, Diplomacy, Hezbollah, Iran, US foreign policy | Comment »
Happy Holidays!
December 24th, 2008 by Stephen
We at POMED wish everyone a great holiday season.  The POMED Wire will return Monday, December 29.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comment »
The Jewish Right on Syrian-Israeli Peace
December 23rd, 2008 by Tariq
Josh Landis at Syria Comment​says​, “Syria is the only game in town for those wishing to advance peace between Arabs and Israel. This has the Jewish right apoplectic.”
Thereafter, he rounds up the usual hawkish suspects advocating such a position, while also giving special emphasis to an interview in Now Lebanon of Andrew Tabler, a new appointment at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Posted in Diplomacy, Israel, Lebanon, Mideast Peace Plan, Syria | Comment »
Muammar Ghaddafi on U.S.-Russian Relations
December 23rd, 2008 by Tariq
I have to admit, I didn’t expect to see an article like this, but here it is.
Muammar Ghaddafi says in the Washington Times  “[a]s America reassesses its role in the world under a new president, it should consider a return to the Monroe Doctrine, which called for non-interference in problems or relations with Europe, and non-expansion by European countries of their colonial hegemony toward America. This principle of non-interference should be extended by and for all countries of the world.”
Posted in Diplomacy, Libya, US foreign policy | Comment »
Iraq in the Obama Administration
December 23rd, 2008 by Tariq
Daniel Serwer and Sam Parker at the U.S. Institute of Peace just released a briefing entitled, “Iraq in the Obama Administration,” focusing on what he can do as early as possible, since “due to declining U.S. leverage, the Obama Administration will be best positioned to affect the situation in Iraq during its first year.”
Also of interest should be this article by Matt Duss at the American Prospect, which addresses how “[t]he recently negotiated security agreement reveals who really as the power in the new Iraq.” Hint: it’s not us.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Iraq, US foreign policy | Comment »
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