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200920112012
16 captures
15 Jun 2009 - 28 Jul 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: June, 2009
U.S. Troops Pull Out of Iraqi Cities and Towns
June 30th, 2009 by Max
As regional media reported of planned Iraqi celebrations of the the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities and towns, John Hannah of the Los Angeles Times​wondered if President Obama is causing Iraqis to grow “uncertain about America’s long-term commitment to their future.”
On the surface, at least, the Iraqi government does not seem to suffer such uncertainty​. Today was declared a national holiday, with parades and firework displays organized. Still, many Iraqis were hesitant to go out on the streets, as a carbomb killed 24 in Kirkuk. Reassuring doubting citizens, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maiki asserted that “those who think that Iraqis are not able to protect their country and that the withdrawal of foreign forces will create a security vacuum are committing a big mistake”.
Over at The Atlantic, Graeme Wood chronicles a group of U.S. Marines’ pullout from one base. For the Christian Science Monitor, Jane Arraf writes that the U.S.’s new role remains unclear. For example, in Mosul, where daily attacks have been cut in half, U.S. troops will still be located at five small bases within the city. As of today, these bases will be renamed “joint security stations” and although the U.S. soldiers will be assisting the Iraqis under strict rules, they will still be a presence. In the end, Arraf reasons, it will all come down to how effectively the Americans an Iraqis continue to coordinate.
At Brookings, Kenneth Pollack explains the challenges facing Iraqis in maintaining their security after the U.S. pull out.
Posted in Iraq, Middle Eastern Media, Military, US foreign policy | Comment »
Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Under Arrest
June 29th, 2009 by Max
Al Jazeera reports that Egypt has arrested several high-ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in what is generally considered to be a surprise move. No charges have been filed. Those arrested include Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh​, who is considered to be one of the Brotherhood’s more moderate members.
The Arabist adds that, in concert with the arrests, several companies close to the arrested persons and other Brotherhood leaders have been shut down in an attempt to deal a financial blow to the group.
UPDATE: The New York Times​reports that many of those who have been arrested, including Aboul-Fotouh, have been charged with money laundering by the regime. There is suspicion that the state is taking pre-emptive steps to silence the Brotherhood in order to minimize its influence over the succession process.
Posted in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood | Comment »
Bleak Prospects for Iranian Opposition
June 29th, 2009 by Max
On Friday, senior conservative cleric Ahmad Khatami called for the leaders of the Iranian opposition movement to be “dealt with without mercy” for disturbing the peace, adding that “anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution.” He made these remarks during nationally televised Friday prayers at Tehran University.
Contradictory information came out of Iran today. Although the Iranian government initially allowed slight concessions to the opposition​–saying that it would push back its deadline for a partial vote recount back by five days–the Guardian Council has announced that it has concluded the partial vote recount, finding no irregularities and confirming the result of the June 12 poll, according to state-run PressTV. There are likewise reports that protesters have gathered in Tehran this evening, but numbers have been small recently as police have continued to actively disperse demonstrations. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched an inquiry into the “suspicious” murder of Neda Agha-Soltan​, who has become a poster-child of the opposition and representative of the regime’s brutality. Over the past weeks Iranian officials have variously argued that Neda (as she is popularly known by her first name) was killed by the BBC, the CIA and other vaguely-defined outside influences.
In the Washington Post Thomas Erdbrink writes that Mir-Hossein Mousavi is facing a tough choice, as he can either continue to oppose the election results, risking imprisonment, or he can accept defeat and devote himself to building an organized opposition political party. Still, events could take a third direction, as senior clerics in Qom continue to speak out against the government’s repression of popular opinion. It is reported in state media that Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili made the case in a meeting with members of the Guardian Council that “events have weakened the system” and that the regime “must hear the objections that the protesters have to the elections. We must let the people speak.” Another Ayatollah, Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani issued two fatwas on Saturday saying that Islam forbids the beating of unarmed people, calling the protests “the lawful right of the people and their only method for informing the rulers of their requests.” Similar edicts have already been issued by Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.
Over at The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan & Co. have highlighted a year-old propaganda video released by Iran’s Interior Ministry urging Iranians to spy on their loved ones in order to root out any foreign influences. The video is a useful reference point for those wanting to understand the Iranian government’s siege mentality vis-a-vis the U.S.
Posted in Elections, Iran | Comment »
Harold Koh Confirmed
June 26th, 2009 by Max
Harold Koh has been confirmed as the State Department’s legal advisor in a Senate roll call, 62-35. Koh, dean of the Yale Law School, was nominated for the position four months ago but has been under fire from some conservatives for his attitudes towards “transnational law.”
Posted in Congress, US foreign policy | Comment »
Lebanese Released from Syria
June 25th, 2009 by Blake
Although the Lebanese Interior Ministry announced Tuesday that Syria released 23 Lebanese prisoners last month, the Daily Star reports that whereabouts of the prisoners is as of yet unknownGhazi Aad, founder of the Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE) claims that the release last month was kept quiet largely to set the stage for the further release of  107 Lebanese citizens currently jailed in Syria. Lebanese officials have expressed hope that the release will set the precedent for improved Syrian-Lebanese relations.
Posted in Lebanon, Syria | Comment »
Will Iran’s Neighbors Join the Debate?
June 25th, 2009 by Blake
Although Arab leadership and state-run media have been “quiet” in reacting to the present situation in Iran, NPR reports that such quietude is not necessarily shared by locals in these countries. Mahmoud Salem told NPR that Egypt may be hoping for Iranian regime collapse in order to position itself for regional leadership.  Amro Hassan writing in the Los Angeles Times argues that there are signs Egypt is leaning toward the Mousavi camp, but this is likely geopolitical posturing against Tehran rather than overt concern for the rights of Iranians. Similarly, TIME reviews the implications of the Iranian situation for Iran’s other regional neighbors, including Hezbollah.
There are other reasons for for Arab leaders’ silence on the Iran issue writes Mona Eltahawy. She argues that the lack of fair elections in the region undercuts any credibility to criticize Iran. Moreover, governments such as Egypt fear disrupting their own youthful populations.  These populations yearn for rights, and although prevented from taking to the streets they voice their opinions online. Writes Eltahawy: “[t]ired of the Arab world’s embarrassing silence over Iran? Go online…the Web is giving voice to the voiceless and shattering the silence.” The Wall Street Journal claims that this digital trend in on the rise. 
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Hezbollah, Human Rights, Iran, Reform | Comment »
Tension in Tehran
June 25th, 2009 by Max
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized President Obama saying that he was striking the same critical tones as President Bush in meddling with Iran’s internal affairs. His statements come as three Iranian newspapers reported that only 105 of the 290 members of the Iranian Majles (parliament) who were invited to Ahmadinejad’s victory celebration on Wednesday actually attended. Analysts think that the poor turnout may indicate that many Iranian politicians see the elections as a power grab by the hard liners.
Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri has continued to criticize the government’s harsh treatment of protesters, warning that if citizens’ voices are not heard it “could possibly uproot the foundations of the government.”
In Washington, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that the U.S. will no longer be inviting Iranian officials to attend Independence Day celebrations at America’s embassies abroad, “given the events of the past many days”. This announcement occurred concurrent with H.Res.579​, which called for the invitation to be rescinded, and was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani has written an interesting piece for the Brookings Institution on the economic demographics behind Iran’s opposition movement and how high levels of unemployment have affected the country’s youth.
In an interview with Salon, Hooman Majd argues that the Iranian electoral crisis is not really a Twitter revolution” and that people are overestimating Twitter’s importance. He likewise cautioned that nobody at the beginning would have believed accusations of U.S. meddling in the uprising, but that these accusations “could start to stick if Obama or Western governments start coming out strongly on one side.”
Majd likewise argues that those who seek to take an aggressive stance on the election and protests are playing into Ahmadinejad’s hands. Majd criticizes neoconservatives who know “nothing about the culture of Iran” and “have no interest in understanding Iran, in speaking to any Iranian other than Iranian exiles who support the idea of invasions–I’ll call them Iranian Chalabis.”
Posted in Congress, Elections, Iran, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
Silent March and Vigil for Iran in DC
June 25th, 2009 by Max
This information comes from WhereisMyVote for those in Washington who want to show their support for the demonstrators in Iran:
“We want to invite all non-Iranians who wish to stand in solidarity with Iranians to join us for the candle light vigil (and the march if they desire) and to mourn the lost lives of the Iranian demonstrations. Where is My Vote (DC) is organizing another day of protest this Thursday. The first part of the protest will begin at the Daftar once more (2209 Wisconsin Ave), followed by a silent march on ‘Embassy Row’ (along Mass. Ave) ending at Dupont Circle.  The candle-light vigil portion of the protest will start around 8:30pm at Dupont Circle and end at 10:30pm. We have secured a permit for the event, so we will not be kicked out on Thursday.  Also please respect the rules of the organizers, NO FLAGS under any circumstances, and there will be very limited signage and/pictures provided by WiMV so that we may keep the vigil respectful of the lost lives in Iran and not into an opposition protest. Please join us and feel free to invite your Iranian and your American friends.”
Posted in Uncategorized | Comment »
Kuwaiti MPs Call for Vote of No-Confidence
June 25th, 2009 by Blake
Kuwaiti Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Khaled al-Sabah, was accused Tuesday of involvement in election violations and financial irregularities at the Interior Ministry. Yet the most controversial criticism has come in the wake of his ordering the installation of a security camera installation outside of parliament, which many believe is a means by which to monitor lawmakers. 
Led by MP Musallam al-Barrak, ten Kuwaiti MPs have filed for a no-confidence vote against al-Sabah under the auspices of “wrongdoing.” A block of ten is the minimum required to rule a no-confidence vote in Kuwait, which has in the past consistently caused cabinet resignation. The vote of no-confidence is scheduled for July 1. 
Posted in Elections, Kuwait, Legislation | Comment »
Marrakech Welcomes First Female Mayor
June 24th, 2009 by Blake
Female candidates fared well in Morocco’s municipal elections on June 12. Doubts about whether this marks actual progress for Morocco were allayed by the overwhelming praise for women’s participation​. The elections awarded 3,406 women seats in government, a considerable uptick from 127. This increase may have been bolstered by a new law expanding the number of council seats reserved for women to 12%.
On Monday, Marrakech’s first female was elected mayor by its city council. Fatima Zahra Mansouri, a 33 year-old lawyer educated in France, is the second Moroccan woman to ever hold the position of mayor. Sheikh​Muhammad Biyadillah, Secretary General of the new Party for Authenticity and Modernity which performed well in the elections, praised Mansouri’s election as a reflection of a “Modern Morocco,” reports al-Arabiya.
Click here to view POMED’s recently updated Morocco country page.
Posted in Elections, Morocco, Reform, Women | Comment »
State: American Ambassador Will Return to Syria
June 24th, 2009 by Blake
Today an official at the Department of State revealed unofficially that the U.S. will re-appoint an ambassador in Damascus as the next step in reestablishing positive relations with Syria.  Imad Mustafa, ambassador to the U.S., was informed yesterday of the plan and relayed the information to the Syrian Foreign Ministry. In 2005, the U.S. recalled its ambassador in protest over the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which was widely blamed on Syria.
Scott Wilson at the Washington Post reports that “the loss of U.S. diplomatic leverage in the region has left a vacuum filled in large part by Iran. Returning the ambassador to Syria, senior administration officials said, represents the restoration of a sustained diplomatic presence in a secular Arab country central to many U.S. interests in the region.”
Posted in Diplomacy, Iraq, Syria, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Iran’s Clenched Fist Election” at CEIP
June 24th, 2009 by Max
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a panel Tuesday on Iran’s recent presidential election and its aftermath. The discussion was moderated by David Ignatius with Abbas Milani, Karim Sadjadpour​, and former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. The discussion also focused on what the election meant for the U.S. and how the Obama Administration should engage Iran moving forward.
 For POMED’s notes on the lively and vigorous discussion, click here.
Posted in Elections, Event Notes, Iran, US foreign policy | Comment »
Iranian Source: Obama Reached Out Before Election
June 24th, 2009 by Max
Iranian sources report that in the weeks before the election, President Barack Obama sent a secret letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, requesting dialogue and engagement, according to CNN. Khamenei has yet to respond to the note.
This news comes as U.S. officials report that the White House is considering rescinding invitations for Iranian government officials to attend the 4th of July celebrations at U.S. embassies abroad, in light of the government’s violent reaction to opposition demonstrators.
Posted in Diplomacy, Iran, US foreign policy | 1 Comment »
Corruption Trumps Security as Main Concern Among Iraqis
June 24th, 2009 by Blake
In May, Iraq began a campaign to arrest nearly 1,000 corrupt officials in an effort to clamp down on rampant corruption in the country.  On the eve of American withdrawal from Iraqi cities, al-Arabiya reports that for many Iraqis, corruption has replaced security as the dominant concern facing Iraq.  One Iraqi official reported that $4 billion of Iraq’s 2009 budget is expected to go astray. Ghazi al-Kinani, an economist, says that “Financial and administrative corruption is more dangerous than terrorism because terrorism kills a person or two or even 100, but corruption kills millions by depriving them of projects, from getting access to good quality medicine … and it does not encourage international investors.”
Posted in Iraq, Reform | Comment »
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