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18 Sep 2009 - 26 Aug 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: September, 2009
How to Enact Change
September 30th, 2009 by Jason
Rami Khouri of Lebanon’s The Daily Star has published an op-ed about how foreign entities can effectively “achieve advances in areas like human rights, economic growth, social protection, democratization [and] technical advancement” in the Middle East. Currently, foreign assistance in the Middle East has had “few clear success, many wasted efforts, and some counterproductive results.” Furthermore, locals have developed a “dependency culture” that relies entirely on international assistance.
Among other recommendations, Khouri advises groups to form  partnerships spanning multiple fields of expertise, focus narrowly on specific issue aspects, foster legitimacy amongst major Western players as well as local governments and NGOs, build institutional links, seek both local and international financing, be aware of local political and social sensitivities and listen to the needs and advice of local actors.
Posted in Foreign Aid, Lebanon, NGOs | Comment »
Predicting Iraq’s Future
September 30th, 2009 by Jason
The Iraq Pundit reports that “a lot of Iraqis predict that Nouri Al Maliki will win the January election” while other Iraqis fear he stands too close to Iran despite his exclusion from the new Shi’ite alliance. Some Iraqis also worry Al Maliki seeks to consolidate his hold on power, citing unconfirmed reports he appointed a close aid as the chief of the Intelligence Bureau.
Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group has released a report pressing for an Arab-Kurdish agreement as soon as possible, writes The Daily Star. According to ICG analyst Loulouwa al-Rachid, “without a compromise deal, it risks dragging the country as a whole on a downward slope.”
Posted in Elections, Iran, Iraq, Kurds, Political Parties | Comment »
Turkey Takes Turn for Worse?
September 30th, 2009 by Jason
Soner Cagaptay worries that “Turkey’s experiment with Islamists-turned-democrats might be coming to a tragic end.” While the Justice and Development Party (AKP) began its rule with a “pluralist understanding of democracy,” the AKP has now begun to crack down on the media and political dissent. Court hearings have “devolved into a witch hunt, reminiscent of the McCarthy hearings in the United States.” For Cagaptay, only a strong, independent media is “crucial” to guide Turkey out of its current “state of fear and intimidation.”
Posted in EU, Freedom, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Journalism, Political Islam, Political Parties, Turkey | Comment »
How to Help the Iranian Opposition
September 30th, 2009 by Jason
Protests at Iran’s universities continue as students react to an unwelcome visit by Science Minister Kamran Daneshjou​. The chief of the UN IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, has announced Iran is on “the wrong side of the law” for failing to inform the agency about the Qum facility sooner. Meanwhile, the U.S. delegation led by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, William Burns, has arrived in Geneva ahead of tomorrow’s negotiations with Iran. The chief nuclear negotiator for Iran, Saeed Jalili has promised Iran will enter the talks with “good intentions.”
But pundits and analysts in the U.S. are not optimistic. Bruno Pellaud predicts the negotiations will fail and argues the U.S. should look for other diplomatic frameworks to address Iran. Others argue for forgetting negotiations all together. Michael Rubin calls for immediate sanctions and The Washington Times editorial staff urges President Obama to reconsider “his aversion to the use of American force.”
Many analysts, however, are concerned that nuclear negotiations will cast aside issues of democratic reform and regime change. According to Hooman Majd, the Iranian regime let out a “collective sigh of relief” when the nuclear issue began to once again eclipse questions of human rights abuses. Rosemary Righter agrees, arguing that only regime change will solve the nuclear question. For Sateh Sabety of the Tehran Bureau, “The only way to make Iran safe for the world is to make her safe for her citizens.”
The question remains how to best support the democratic movement. Robert Kagan argues the Iranian regime is trying to buy time in order to reassert its control over internal affairs. President Obama should therefore implement sanctions as soon as possible so that “the opposition will press its case that the regime is leading Iran to ruin.” Yet Vivienne Walt casts doubt about the efficacy of gasoline sanctions in Time Magazine. In addition, Michael Ledeen reminds us that over thirty years of talking and sanctioning the regime has not yet produced any results. We should instead “support the courageous opposition movement.”
While also skeptical of broad sanctions, POMED’s Executive Director Andrew Albertson and Ali G. Scotten disagree with Ledeen that negotiations are not worth the effort in an op-ed for the Washington Post. According to Albertson and Scotten, extensive sanctions and threats of force will only strengthen the Iranian regime against the “perceived bullying of the United States.” Instead, the U.S. must “broaden the agenda to include a focus on human rights.” Using the Helsinki Process as a model, the U.S. can “tilt the balance of power in its favor” for the upcoming negotiations. After all, “taking a public stance that is respectful of Iranian nationalism while strongly supportive of human rights would further empower and embolden the Iranian people.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Human Rights, Iran, Oil, US foreign policy, United Nations, sanctions | Comment »
Civil Society in Lebanon
September 30th, 2009 by Jason
The Daily Star reports that Lebanon’s Interior Minister, Ziyad Baroud, held a meeting with several key civil society organizations on Monday. According to Rabih Kays, the meeting is one of several taking place throughout the Middle East to formulate a cohesive set of recommendations for enhancing civil society throughout the region. Kays contends the “most important signs of democracy in the world are the freedom and dynamism of civil society.”
Minister Baroud, while content with his ministry’s involvement so far, admitted “there is still more to be done.” During the meeting, he proposed new legislation that will give tax breaks to individuals or organizations who donate to NGOs.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Freedom, Human Rights, Lebanon, Legislation, NGOs, Reform | Comment »
Unity Deal Close in Palestine?
September 29th, 2009 by Jason
Marc Lynch of Foreign Policy reports Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal announced a Palestinian unity document will be signed in October. It will reportedly include plans for presidential and parliamentary elections in June 2010, but there was no suggestion of any potential release of Israeli soldier Galid Shalit.
Lynch, however, still has his doubts. On one hand, Hamas has lightened its tone and has sent the highest level delegates to the latest round of talks, and Fatah feels more self-confident after its recent conference in Bethlehem. On the other hand, Meshaal has demanded the the Palestinian Authority to halt its security collaboration with Israel.
Lynch urges the U.S. to “absolutely support such a Palestinian reconciliation,” without which a two-state solution will remain impossible. Towards this end, the U.S. should offer “massive humanitarian aid into Gaza and the revision of the blockade to make it worthwhile.”
Posted in Egypt, Hamas, Israel, Military, Palestine, US foreign policy | Comment »
Schisms within the Jordanian MB
September 29th, 2009 by Jason
Writing in The Daily Star, Oraib Al-Rantawi describes the current internecine conflict within Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood over relations with Hamas. While originally an offshoot of the MB, Hamas now leads the Brotherhood “in terms of its political, moral, physical, financial and media position.” A group of moderate Brotherhood members have resisted a long-standing trend toward increasing affiliation with the more extreme Hamas. According to Al-Rantawi, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has sought to remain separate from the conflict, and Jordanian politics all together, in an attempt to curry favor with the Jordanian government.
However, The Washington Institute’s Hassan Barari disagrees about Mashal’s intentions, arguing he has recently tried to “exploit the shifting balance of power within the MB to further his own organization’s agenda in Amman.” Furthermore, it is clear that the moderate MB wing is steadily losing ground. Earlier this month, three senior leaders resigned in protest of the growing influence of Hamas. Complicating the political environment, two new forces have joined the MB scene: a “fourth current” of pro-Hamas activists and a group of reformers lead by Rheil Gharibeh. According to Barari, the government fears the latter group even more than Hamas because they are “genuine reformers, and although religious, they are not ideologically rigid.” Barari urges the Jordanian monarchy to “radically rethink its MB strategy” and to help stem the growing Hamas tide.
Posted in Hamas, Islamist movements, Jordan, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestine, Political Parties | Comment »
Yemenese Rebels Not Separatists?
September 29th, 2009 by Daniel
As fighting in Yemen pushes the country toward a humanitarian crisis, the leader of the Shiite rebels today denied government claims that the rebels intend to form a Shiite state in north Yemen. Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said the government is spreading “misleading” accusations and that the rebels are “asking for rights and justice.” Houthi also denied that Iran provided the rebels with their arms. 
Posted in Iran, Military, Political Islam, Yemen | Comment »
New GAO Report on Democratic Assistance
September 29th, 2009 by Jason
A newly released GAO report concludes that U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Labor and Human Rights (State DRL) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) must increase information-sharing and improve coordination in order to efficiently pursue the “important objective” of democracy promotion.
The report seeks to accomplish three goals. First, it depicts democracy assistance funding from USAID, State DRL and the NED. The report finds $2.25 billion in democracy assistance was given in FY2008. Taking a sample of 10 representative countries, the average country received the vast majority of their annual assistance from USAID, with the average USAID project costing $2 million.  In addition, the report breaks down Governing Justly and Democratically (GJD) aid in FY2008 by subset, with Good Governance (34%) receiving the most, Political Competition and Consensus (13%) receiving the least, and the Rule of Law and Human Rights (27%) and Civil Society (26%) in the middle.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Foreign Aid, Publications, Reform, US foreign policy | 1 Comment »
Lebanese Cabinet Talks Continue
September 29th, 2009 by Daniel
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri will begin another round of talks with the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Phalange Party on Thursday as part of his continued efforts to form a cabinet. Opposition parties continue to call for a national-unity cabinet after talks on Monday made no progress. After a meeting with top Lebanese officials, French Foreign Minister Francois Fillon also urged the speedy formation of a unity government.
Posted in Lebanon | Comment »
Broadcasting to Combat Authoritarianism
September 29th, 2009 by Daniel
The president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Jeffrey Gedmin, argues for a renewed focus on surrogate broadcasting to promote U.S. aims abroad, specifically in Afghanistan and Iran. Citing Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s call for more effective applications of U.S. soft power, Gedmin argues that broadcasting into countries like Iran can help bring about democratic reform by creating a more informed population.
Posted in Afghanistan, Democracy Promotion, Iran, Journalism | Comment »
Debating Iran Sanctions
September 29th, 2009 by Daniel
This week’s revelation that Iran possesses a second, secret nuclear facility near Qom confirms that Iran cannot be persuaded not to seek nuclear weapons, writes Rich Lowry of The National Review. Jennifer Rubin of Commentary writes that the Qom facility discredits the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which argued Iran did not want a nuclear bomb. Iranian officials announced today they would open the Qom facility to inspectors, though U.S. officials doubted this move would lead to much progress in nuclear negotiations. Matthew Levitt and Michael Jacobson also argue that Iran has proven itself to be undeserving of the world’s trust. The real challenge the disclosure presents, however, may be to President Obama, argues Blake Hounshell. The threat of an Iranian nuclear program may undermine his policies in the Middle East.
Iran test-fired its Shahab 3 missiles — which have a range long enough to hit Israel — on Monday, as a show of force ahead of talks in Geneva. This display might improve the hardliners’ morale, writes Simon Tisdall, but it won’t be enough to quell dissent within Iran. Monday also saw more protests on the streets of Iran (videos included) as students returned to universities, chanting anti-government slogans.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev seems eager to work with President Obama to impose sanctions on Iran, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar​. David Makovsky worries, however, that Medvedev’s statements might have been merely empty words, and that Obama’s preference for multilateralism might lead to weaker sanctions.
Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi announced he does not support sanctions on Iran, which he says will harm the reformist movement without affecting the regime. An op-ed in today’s New York Times by two former NSC staff members argues that sanctions will be weak and ineffective. To change Iran’s security calculus, the Obama administration must seek a strategic realignment with Iran instead. Pat Buchanan disagrees and calls for a policy of containment similar to that used against Russia. NPR’s Weekend Edition interviewed Karim Sadjadpour​, who insisted sanctions would not change much, but that the Obama administration’s less hawkish approach to international relations has already made it clearer to the world and to Iranians that Tehran is the irresponsible actor in the dispute. Anne Applebaum writes in The Washington Post that the most effective approach to Iran is “a sustained and well-funded human rights campaign” that publicly criticizes the regime’s abuses.
UPDATE: Another video from the student protests can be found here. Renard Sexton lays out the complexities of imposing sanctions on Iran, including the fact that China gets 15.2 percent of its crude oil from Iran.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Iran, Multilateralism​, US foreign policy, sanctions | 1 Comment »
Will Obama’s Words Translate into Actions?
September 29th, 2009 by Jason
Hassan al-Barary of Jordan’s al-Rai newspaper (Arabic) analyses the “four pillars” that President Obama put forward in his speech to the UN general assembly: nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace and security; the preservation of the planet; and a global economy that advances opportunity for all people. Al-Barary agrees, in theory, with Obama’s statement that democracy and human rights are essential to achieving each of the four goals of the speech, however, he is concerned that the Obama administration is not prepared for a clash with non-democratic governments. He further claims that it is clear to all that democracy in the Middle East is no longer a priority for the current administration.
 
Al-Barary also voices the doubts of the Middle Eastern people that Obama’s words regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict might not be effective without the necessary pressure to force the Netanyahu government to halt all settlement expansion. While he thinks the principles that drive the vision of President Obama are great, he questions how Obama will translate his appealing words into policies, and he suggests that what is needed is a position supportive of this rhetoric that creates progress and prosperous dynamics for all.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Events, Jordan, US foreign policy | Comment »
Muslims and U.S. Foreign Policy
September 29th, 2009 by Jason
Mohsin Mohi-Ud Din, an American Muslim, explores Muslim-American relations in an article for The Huffington Post. According to the piece, both the Muslim Community and non-Muslim Americans tend to “let the negative marginalize the good and true” about all involved. Among many factors explored, Mohi-Ud Din describes how Muslims “are often confused by your (America) political and military actions, which sometimes contradict the pro-freedom, pro-democratic, pro-human rights rhetoric.” He cites specifically civilian deaths throughout the Muslim world as well as the CIA supported 1953 coup against the democratically-elected Mohammad Mossadeq in Iran. While many Muslims disagree with American politics, Mohi-Ud Din insists America is “not just a country” but an “idea that is looked up to by the world.”
That idea was manifest this Friday when thousands of Muslims descended upon the Capitol Building for the weekly Friday prayers. The event was aimed to address negative Muslim stereotypes and affirm the patriotism of Muslim Americans.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Public Opinion, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
Solidarity with Activists in Iran and Afghanistan
September 28th, 2009 by Zack
Michael Allen has written a piece about the Solidarity Center’s efforts to highlight the deteriorating health of Iranian union leader Mansour Osanloo and a near-kidnapping of the Pajhwok Afghan News editor Farida Nekzad.  Iran has refused to allow independent labor unions, which were a key element of the Islamic revolution.  Allen also cites an editorial from Beny Weinthal and Eric Lee questioning the trade union movement’s decision to boycott Israel, when that country enjoys the most union freedoms in the region.  Nekzad was recently awarded the International Press Freedom Award. 
UPDATE: Allen has posted another article exploring Egypt’s recent Muslim Brotherhood crackdowns and the growing occurence of labor unrest.  He cites Myriam Benraad and Mohamed Abdelbaky who believe, “with this little latest crackdown, what space there is to legitimately influence domestic politics through nonviolent means has been closed off for the Islamists.”  Allen also talks about the forging of labor activists and cyber-activists to coordinate protests.  Egypt consistently ranks as one of the worst offenders to deny workers the right to association and as Ayman Nour explains, behind these protest “there is real social anger in Egypt…It’s erupting for economic reasons, but in the womb of this social anger, there is political anger.”
Posted in Afghanistan, Human Rights, Iran | Comment »
Bribery in the UAE
September 28th, 2009 by Zack
The Khaleej Times is reporting that the UAE has seen 36 cases of public bribery this year, most involving traffic police.  Last year saw only 37 cases and the rise has prompted Dubai police to step up efforts to arrest both the seeker and the giver of bribes.  Rashid bin Dhaboi Al Falasi, director of the Criminal Records Section in Dubai Police’s General Department of Criminal Investigation, attributes Dubai’s relatively low levels of corruption to “transparency, fair salaries and the absence of red-tapism in government departments in the UAE and in Dubai,” which ”paved the way for a near-bribe free atmosphere.”
Posted in UAE | Comment »
Report on Lebanon Elections Released
September 28th, 2009 by Jason
The European Union Election Observation Mission to Lebanon 2009 has released a final report about this year’s elections with a list of 36 proposed electoral reforms. Among the most essential reforms, the report promulgates a move towards proportional representation as opposed to the current winner-take-all system, as well as standardized balloting, an independent election monitoring institution and campaign finance reform. Overall, the EOM considers the election a success despite its shortcomings. According to the Chief Observer of the EOM, Jose Ignacio Salafranca​, the June elections “mark an important step in the consolidation of Lebanese democracy.”
In other Lebanon news, the Center for Arab Christian Research and Documentation (CEDRAC) has raised concerns about increasing Christian flight from Lebanon due to the growing Islamization of Lebanese society. Christians, who once constituted half of the Lebanese population, are designated half of the seats in the Lebanese parliament. However, CEDRAC estimates Christians now make up only approximately 34% of the country.
Posted in Elections, Islam and Democracy, Lebanon, Publications, Reform | Comment »
Iraqi Elections and Recommendations for Unity
September 28th, 2009 by Zack
With Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2010, the IraqPundit explains that, despite media reports to the contrary, the Iraqi people are very engaged in the election process.  In the pundit’s opinion, Baghdad is leaning towards supporting a secular candidate, despite expectations that a majority of voters will elect religious lists. He is also surprised by growing public opinion in favor of Ayyad Allawi.
Babylon and Beyond reports that the Shiite cleric Sheik Jalaluddin Saghir, a senior member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, used this Friday’s prayers to lay out the SIIC’s political platform against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and to recruit new members into the party.  “Give us your ideas,” he said, “don’t be shy. We want to listen to you. We want changes. A majority in [our list] will not be from SIIC, but the new talented faces and elements, and this is in our agenda.”
The International Crisis Group has released a report on the struggle in Iraq between Kurds and Arabs over Ninewa province.  The group details the increasing tensions over oil and administration that threaten to destabilize northern Iraq and puts forth a number of recommendations for all parties considered.  Some of these recommendations include calls for political power-sharing arrangements, new security and administrative protocols, increased national pressure for compromise and American support for minority rights.
Posted in Elections, Iraq, Islam and Democracy, Political Islam, Political Parties, Public Opinion, Reform | Comment »
How to Negotiate with Iran
September 28th, 2009 by Jason
In the aftermath of last week’s revelation of a secret nuclear facility in Qom as well as new Iranian missile tests, the debate now turns to the October 1st meeting of the P5+1 nations and Iran. Tariq Alhomayed of Asharq Al-Awsat warns that the Iranian regime’s illegitimacy and weakness may make negotiations a “dangerous proposition” as he predicts Hezbollah might seek to enflame the Lebanese front to distract attention. Congressman Howard Berman (D-Cali.), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, writes in the Washington Post that he doubts negotiations will prove successful and therefore reiterates his intention to press forward with the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. In light of such pressure for sanctions from Rep. Berman and other key Congressional leaders, Muhammad Sahimi wonders whether they view the Iranian people “as collateral damage” despite their previous rhetoric in favor of the democratic opposition movement.
But others see the upcoming negotiations as an opportunity, if handled correctly. Roger Cohen contends the U.S. must “broaden the context” of the negotiations to include regional, bilateral and human rights issues. Ray Takeyh agrees: “The notion that we cannot marry strategic concerns with moral values is belied by America’s Cold War experiences. Ahmadinejad should not be afforded the luxury of international forums and dialogue with the great powers without being held accountable for his country’s flawed electoral processes and its entanglements in terrorism, as well as its nuclear violations.”
Meanwhile in Iran, one female protestor has recounted her experience marching on Quds Day last Friday for the Tehran Bureau. According to an anonymous analyst inside Iran, Quds Day is one more example how “even religion has turned against” the regime. Yet this has not stopped the hardline clerics from continuing to crackdown on Western influence, as Bablyon and Beyond reports that Iranian mannequins must now be veiled according to Iranian police.
UPDATE: In an op-ed for the Financial Times, Paul Wolfowitz implores the U.S. to support Iranian dissidents “symbolically and practically” while also imposing “the toughest possible sanctions” as soon as possible.
Posted in Diplomacy, Freedom, Hezbollah, Human Rights, Iran, Lebanon, Military, US foreign policy, US politics, Women, sanctions | Comment »
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