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23 Jun 2009 - 28 Jul 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: January, 2009
The Iranian Revolution at 30
January 30th, 2009 by Cecile
The Middle East Institute is launching a year-long series of its publication, Viewpoints​, devoted entirely to the tumultuous and influential events of 1979 in the Middle East. The first installment focuses on the Islamic Revolution in Iran, with diverse essays from 53 policy experts. The essays “discuss the Revolution’s effects on many different facets of life in Iran, including gender issues, education, media, the environment, energy, and foreign policy [and] provide an opportunity for reflection on the Revolution’s positive and negative outcomes, as well as its long-term influence and future prospects.”
Posted in Iran, Publications | Comment »
Iraq’s Provincial Elections
January 30th, 2009 by Cecile
With all eyes focused on tomorrow’s provincial elections, here are a few solid reports analyzing how this will affect the future of democracy in Iraq…
Greg Bruno at CFR provides a good background on the political landscape leading up to the elections. He outlines the major parties involved and explains that over 15 million Iraqis have registered to vote out of an estimated 17.2 million eligible voters. Additionally, 14,400 candidates have been cleared to run for 440 seats, with 4000 of these candidates being women.
The International Crisis Group offers an extensive analysis of the stakes involved, expressing cautious optimism over progress made in the last few years. After highlighting some of the shortcomings these elections will surely face, ICG reminds us that “even an imperfect outcome is bound to begin to redress some of the most severe problems associated with the 2005 elections.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Duss and Peter Juul at the Center for American Progress are less optimistic as they focus our attention to the fractured Shia of Iraq. They outline the “religious and political legacy of persecution of the Shia of Iraq” and examine the internal power struggle that has taken place after the U.S. invasion. They argue that “the success of U.S. policymaking in Iraq will hinge on understanding these Shia dynamics.”
Posted in Elections, Iraq | Comment »
Krauthammer on U.S.-Muslim Relations
January 30th, 2009 by Jed
In The Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer questions President Obama’s understanding of U.S.-Muslim relations over the past thirty years.  Krauthammer argues that suggesting U.S. foreign policy has been disrespectful to Muslim countries is not consistent with reality. U.S. troops have given their lives in humanitarian operations in the Balkans and in Somalia over the timeline Obama puts forth and have liberated Muslim populations in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Krauthammer, suggesting the Iranian revolution of 1979, the thirty year mark President Obama references,  symbolized a period of good faith between U.S. and Muslim nations is a fallacy.
Posted in Iran, US foreign policy | Comment »
Living Up to Campaign Promises
January 30th, 2009 by Jed
The Christian Science Monitor editorial board wonders how much President Obama is willing to invest to ensure democracy’s success in Afghanistan. While on the campaign trail President Obama spoke of his unswerving commitment to bolster the Afghan democracy, since that time administration officials have worked to lower expectations. Obama’s three pronged strategy includes a troop surge, putting pressure on European allies to commit more civilian aid, and appointing a special envoy to the region in Richard Holbrooke. The monitor suggests Obama’s success rests on his ability to form a clear timetable prior to the upcoming NATO meeting.
At Red State,  Warner Todd Huston explains how President Obama made a wise decision by backing off his campaign promise to engage Pakistan and India in regards to Kashmir. In doing so, Obama has bolstered ties with the Indian democracy which was weary of his campaign rhetoric.
The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto comments on an article in the Guardian Daily which explains a letter the Obama administration plans to send to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or release as an “open letter” to the Iranian people. While Taranto chides Obama’s campaign promises on Iran as naive, he believes the letter holds some merit, as it sidesteps the dangerous rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad​. According to Taranto, the letter could serve to isolate the Iranian regime, however, he doubts the Obama administration will pull it off.
Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, US foreign policy | Comment »
The Obama Factor in the Israeli Elections
January 30th, 2009 by Jed
What role does President Barack Obama play in the upcoming Israeli elections? In Haaretz, Daniel Levy explains how President Obama has become a centerpiece of Kadima’s campaign message. Kadima is putting forth the argument that they are better suited to work with the Obama administration on the peace process.  Of course, Likud has denied these propositions. Levy explains how the argument is flawed due to the Israeli government’s lack of a grand strategy. In order to work effectively with Obama, whoever emerges from the upcoming election will need to articulate a more coherent strategy.
At Middle East Online, Patrick Seale foreshadows the outcome of the Israeli election and paints a grim picture of the future of the region. According to Seale, the probabal outcome is a victory for Binjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party, who will likely form a coalition government with the hard right Israel Beiteinu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman​. Seale asserts that Israelis may come to regret the choice they will make at the polls soon.  If a right wing government is elected, it will be more difficult to work with President Obama, who has already signalled a change in tone and direction from that of President Bush. In Seale’s opinion, Obama’s determination in the region my be the only hope given the current state of affairs.
Posted in Elections, Israel, Mideast Peace Plan | Comment »
CSIS Report: Getting it Right in Pakistan and Afghanistan
January 30th, 2009 by Cecile
CSIS has a new report out providing recommendations for building peace and security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Frederick D. Barton and Karin von Hippel argue that fighting extremism and strengthening governance in the region will involve a multi-layered approach.  This strategy should incorporate a comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign that will include development, security, and governance activities; bilateral and multilateral cooperation; and a partnership with the people and governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: Foreign Assistance in a Time of Crisis
January 29th, 2009 by Cecile
POMED and the SAIS International Development Program co-hosted a panel discussion focused on the issue of foreign assistance in light of the current economic crisis. Will the new administration increase or decrease aid to the Middle East? Will institutions such as MEPI and the MCC be preserved? How can development institutions affect political reform? Addressing these questions were Navtej Dhillon, Director of the Middle East Youth Initiative at Brookings; Daniel Brumberg, Acting Director of the Muslim World Initiative at USIP; and Jim Kolbe, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1985-2007. The discussion was moderated by POMED’s Executive Director Andrew Albertson.
For POMED’s notes on this event click here.
Posted in Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Waiting with Bated Breath in Iran
January 29th, 2009 by Cecile
At Foreign Policy, Geneive Abdo​discusses the cool reception President Obama’s overtures have received in Iran. From the usual rhetoric of Ahmadinejad to skepticism over Obama’s cabinet appointments - many are waiting for deeds to follow words. “There is little question that many factions within the regime want to reconcile with Washington. And although this new Obama script migt be kinder, gentler, even self-deprecating, Iranians have seen this American movie before.”
Posted in Diplomacy, Iran, US foreign policy | Comment »
Afghanistan: Reassessing the Civil-Military Relationship
January 29th, 2009 by Cecile
At U.S. News and World Report​Antonia Chayes and Dipali Mukhopadhyay caution that an increase in foreign military forces in Afghanistan may not necessarily prove effective. Instead, they argue for a re-balancing of peace-building and reconstruction efforts that will shift more responsibility to international civilian organizations. While the temptation to turn to the “high esteem, enormous budget, and unparalleled capabilities of the military” may be great, it is important to capitalize on the well-established expertise of NGOs and foreign donor agencies.
Meanwhile, Mother Jones reports on the so-called stand off between the New York Times and the White House on Wednesday, in which NYT noted that President Obama was adopting a policy in Afghanistan that favored waging war over development. The White House denounced this claim, saying that no decisions had been made but a reevaluation of policy was taking place.
Posted in Afghanistan, Foreign Aid, Military, NGOs | Comment »
POMED Notes: Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World 2009″
January 28th, 2009 by Cecile
Yesterday, Freedom House hosted an event discussing the findings from its recently published Freedom in the World 2009​survey​. The report shows that global freedom is continuing its retreat, with 34 countries registering declines. Participants in the discussion included Arch Puddington​, Director of Research for Freedom House; Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; Josh Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute; and Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post.
For POMED’s notes on this event click here.
Posted in DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion, Freedom | Comment »
Reactions to Obama’s Al Arabiya Interview
January 28th, 2009 by Cecile
The blogosphere is abuzz with talk of President Obama’s interview yesterday with Al Arabiya’s Hisham Melhem. Here’s a brief round up of what people are saying…
Marc Lynch discusses the fall out from the interview, highlighting both positive and negative reactions. Touching on the “wait and see” attitude of many, he points to the fact that Obama will be judged by “deeds and not just words.” Paul Schemm at Townhall.com echoes this sentiment, discussing how the interview was received at home and in the Arab world and highlighting the choice of granting the interview with Al Arabiya over Al Jazeera.
At Democracy Arsenal, Heather Hurlburt emphasizes her view that Obama should take a “show don’t tell” approach to the region (a view which she also expressed at a recent POMED event). She argues that, “a speech should follow some substantive initiatives, not precede them.” Additionally, Babylon and Beyond, Juan Cole, the L.A. Times, and the Financial Times provide an analysis of what Obama said during his discussion with Melhem.
A few posts on Arabic Media Shack​examine the question of how this interview will measure up in the Arab world. They reflect on what some top Arab intellectuals are saying. And the New York Times​highlights some opinions from the right and the left in the U.S.
Andrew Sullivan alerts us to Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Hisham Melhem in which Melhem notes that “the main message [in the Obama interview] is that a new wind is blowing.” Meanwhile, Scott Macleod at Time offers an interesting anecdote on how the Obama interview came to be.
Matthew Yglesias uses the interview to highlight America’s image problem in the Middle East. He explains the need for shifts in policy that will narrow the gap between U.S. and Arab perspectives and the need for gestures that will set a context of mutual respect in which disagreements over policy will not be seen as a deeper reflection of religio-cultural differences.
James S. Robbins at NRO compares Obama’s address on Al Arabiya to earlier ones by George W. Bush, arguing that it does not represent much of a change as there is more commonality than variance between the two.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg praises Barack Obama’s initial steps in the Middle East, claiming “a new era in U.S.-Muslim reconciliation has dawned with the election of President Obama,” but also cautioning that “tangible actions and recalibration of certain policies” are needed.
John Esposito has a good article on Huffington Post outlining how Obama’s “new way forward” in the Middle East should look. Also on Huffington Post, Shadi Hamid​focuses our attention to Scott Carpenter​’s earlier recommendation at a POMED event where he stated Obama should “in his first few months have an exclusive interview with Hisham on Al Arabiya.”
Posted in Diplomacy, Public Opinion, US foreign policy | Comment »
More on Mitchell
January 28th, 2009 by Cecile
Yesterday, new Middle East envoy George Mitchell stopped off in Cairo on the first leg of his trip to the region. In a discussion with Hosni Mubarak he stressed the importance of supporting Egypt’s efforts in extending and consolidating the Gaza ceasefire.
In the Guardian, Gerry Adams​highlights Mitchell’s accomplishments in negotiating a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, but points out that ultimately “the U.S. and the international community have to engage with this issue in a concentrated way and treat the participants on the basis of equality.”
Posted in Mideast Peace Plan, US foreign policy | Comment »
Pakistan’s Calls for Partnership
January 28th, 2009 by Cecile
In the Washington Post today, President Asif Ali Zardari​called on President Obama to increase U.S. aid to Pakistan in order to defeat extremists, urging Congress to pass the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act. He highlighted that this fight cannot be won without a stable Pakistan, arguing “for democracy to succeed, Pakistan must be economically viable. Assistance to Pakistan is not charity; rather, the creation of a politically stable and economically viable Pakistan is in the long-term, strategic interest of the United States.”
Posted in Foreign Aid, Pakistan, US foreign policy | Comment »
The Brotherhood and the Gaza Crisis
January 28th, 2009 by Cecile
In Egypt’s Daily News, Khalil Al-Anani addresses the inadequacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamists in general, to constructively engage with the international community over Gaza. He writes, “[the Muslim Brotherhood] was incapable of addressing or convincing global public opinion of their just cause on the one hand, and of the brutality of the Israeli occupation on the other.”
Al-Anani argues that the Brotherhood has not attempted to differeniate between its support for Gaza and its opposition to the Egyptian regime and this has lead to a “miscalculation and misunderstanding of the regional and international game.”
Posted in Egypt, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood | Comment »
Advice for George Mitchell
January 27th, 2009 by Cecile
At the Middle East Times, Mark Silverberg offers some words of advice to new Middle East envoy George Mitchell, cautioning “the only characteristic the IRA and Hamas share in common is that both are terrorist organizations.” Silverberg argues that dialogue with Hamas will not prove fruitful as its stated principles and objectives appear to be non-negotiable. He claims, “granting Hamas legitimacy and access to the prerogatives of state power (even in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority) will prove to be a costly strategic error for all parties concerned.”
Posted in Hamas, Mideast Peace Plan, US foreign policy | Comment »
More on Iraq’s Elections
January 27th, 2009 by Cecile
Scott Carpenter and Michael Knights over at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy provide a concise analysis of the upcoming Iraqi provincial elections, discussing logistics from voter registration to the competing political parties. While the Iraqi Higher Election Commission has been working hard to prepare the public for a smooth day at the polls, Carpenter and Knights argue that in the future there needs to be a larger supporting role for operations such as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq.
Meanwhile, an article in the NYT by Alissa Rubin discusses how the elections will affect those living in Diyala province; an area “riven by sectarian violence” and an Al Qaeda stronghold.
And The Washington Post points to the active participation of Sunni parties in the upcoming elections (a departure from the Sunni boycott of the 2005 elections) , stating “this means the Sunni politicians will be far better represented in local government and that the leaders themselves will be more popular, secular and diverse.”
Posted in Elections, Iraq | Comment »
Obama Addresses Middle East in Al Arabiya Interview
January 27th, 2009 by Cecile
President Barack Obama has granted his first televised interview as president to Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya, aired early this morning across the Arab world. In it, he outlined the new approach his administration would take toward the Middle East, “we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest.”
Stephen Webster at the Raw Story notes, “For his first, formal, televised interview as President of the United States, Barack Obama could have gone anywhere. But instead of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS or any other major American outlet, he’s spoken to al-Arabiya, the largest network news provider in the Arab world.”
Sam Stein at the Huffington Post observes, “the interview itself is as much a signal to the Muslim world as the words he said.” Andrew Sullivan reacts, “What Obama is doing is appealing over the heads of Muslim leaders directly to Muslim populations. I cannot think of any other president with the same kind of personal credibility in such a critical time.”
This approach of going over the heads of autocratic leaders to address the people of the region directly was recommended by Scott Carpenter in a December submission to a POMED publication​: “Obama should consider making a well-advertised address to the people of the region on al Hurra or perhaps grant an exclusive, early interview to Hisham Melham of al Arabiya.”
Video of the interview is available here.
Posted in Middle Eastern Media, US foreign policy | Comment »
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