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18 Oct 2009 - 23 Aug 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: October, 2009
Change Lebanon’s System?
October 30th, 2009 by Jason
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri once again failed to reach a deal to create a cabinet. Michel Aoun is now insisting on receiving either the Justice Ministry or the Public Works and Transportation Ministry if he gives up the coveted Telecommunications Ministry. However, MP Walid Jumblatt, who currently controls the Public Works and Transportation Ministry, rejected the suggestion of a trade. Meanwhile, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir declared “weapons and democracy cannot coexist, nor can the majority and the minority meet in one government.”
In addition, the Lebanese watchdog organization Maharat criticized the media’s coverage of this summer’s elections yesterday. According to a report issued by the organization, the media failed to reach minimum standards of objectivity and balance, as required by law.
Osama Gharizi contends in The Daily Star that ”if you want national-unity government in Lebanon, change the electoral system to one of proportional representation.” Currently, Lebanon operates under a majoritarian bloc vote system where the winning party earns the prerogative to form a cabinet of its choosing. However, the opposition is arguing that, because it won the popular vote in the previous election, they should have a share in government. But Gharizi dismisses such a demand as “anathema” under the current system. Instead, he suggests moving to a proportional vote system which “is usually preferred for countries with multiple confessions or ethnicities, like Lebanon, since it alone can guarantee that all groups, or parties that represent those groups, will be represented in Parliament and the Cabinet.”
Rima Merhi argues in The Christian Science Monitor that “Washington only sees Hezbollah as a military wing backed by Syria and Iran. To make any headway, the U.S. must acknowledge the diversity of Hezbollah’s supporters and move beyond the group’s military side to appreciate the religious, political, economic, and social ties that connect Hezbollah with its supporters.” The Daily Star  reports that a Hezbollah delegation asked the Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud to extend greater government control over the southern suburbs of Beirut, a traditional Hezbollah stronghold.
Posted in Elections, Hezbollah, Iran, Islamist movements, Lebanon, Middle Eastern Media, Political Islam, Political Parties, Reform, Sectarianism​, Syria, US foreign policy | Comment »
Discourse in Egypt
October 30th, 2009 by Jason
According to Ashraf Khalil in al-Masry al-Youm, the upcoming National Democratic Party (NDP) convention will not look at the question of succession, but only the upcoming parliamentary elections in November 2010. The NDP was embarassed by the last round in 2005, in which the illegal Muslim Brotherhood won 20 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly. In response, Gamal Mubarak was “placed in charge of reforming the NDP’s image, clearing away the dead wood and making the party more appealing to a younger generation.” Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood “has been severely affected by a steady government crackdown […] and the party faces a potential leadership struggle early next year when its Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef steps down.”
Khalil quotes a professor from the American University in Cairo, Walid Kazziha, who lamented the lack of electoral choices,  ”We have no real political parties. We have been de-politicized.” Meanwhile, a growing political cyber-battle has begun to heat up between a pro-Gamal website called “Participate” and an opposition site, also called “Participate.”
In The Daily News Egypt, Nael Shama discusses the current debate over the niqab and the state of discourse within Egypt. He complains, “the worst thing about the current debate over niqab (face veil) is that it gives the impression of a ‘healthy’ and ‘free’ society that openly discusses all contending views of its most pressing problems. This is an illusion.” According to Shama, “the space for thought and expression has been tightening at alarming rates, with the mind of Egyptian society tilting towards the right.” Yasser Khalil explains how the niqab debate has further tarnished the reputation of Al-Azhar. Khalil explains that Egyptians believe Al-Azhar is “more concerned with upholding the current regime than religious principles.” To regain Al-Azhar’s prestige as the world’s preeminent center of Sunni thought, the government must “draw a clear line separating religion from politics” and let Al-Azhar reassert its independence.
Finally, Khaled Diab discusses the recent controversy over a Beyonce concert in Egypt: “Many may rightly wonder why, with all the major challenges facing Egypt - poverty, corruption, authoritarianism, overpopulation and environmental degradation - religious conservatives, and even secular Arab activists, are so obsessed with sexy women.”
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, Public Opinion, Secularism, Women | Comment »
Should U.S. Care about Iraqi Elections?
October 30th, 2009 by Jason
Juan Cole questions the purpose of keeping so many American troops in Iraq to protect the upcoming elections: “why should the Obama administration care if the election is held or not? Saudi Arabia hasn’t held any elections lately and it is our ally.” Besides, previous elections were “highly flawed and artificial.” He concludes, “I’m as in favor of democracy as anyone else. But I’m also skeptical that it can be imposed at the point of a gun on a deeply divided society that is at the moment dirt-poor.”
The Iraq Pundit responds, “It may come as a great disappointment to Cole, but Iraq functions. It is not where it should be, but it’s getting there.” In the end, Iraqis “just want a better government.” He goes on to express his dismay, but not surprise, that Iraq’s politicians have once again failed to pass an election law. The main sticking point remains the Kurdish insistence on a closed ballot. He explains, “with a closed ballot, no one can see who the party will bring in with it when it wins. Any party, whether Kurdish or otherwise, includes unsavoury characters.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Elections, Iraq, Kurds, Legislation, Military, Political Parties, US foreign policy | Comment »
Nuclear Deal Unlikely
October 30th, 2009 by Jason
Iran has rejected the deal to externally enrich its stockpile of uranium, reports The New York Times. The rejection came shortly after President Ahmadinejad claimed “we are ready to cooperate” with the West. The article suggests the rejection “could unwind President Obama’s effort to buy time to resolve the nuclear standoff.”  Ben Katcher at the Washington Note reminds us negotiations will “be a long and difficult process.”
Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) released a statement after the unanimous approval of new sanctions in the Senate Banking Committee, observing “it is clear than an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress now supports the imposition of tough new sanctions on the government of Iran.” It is also clear, according to Yossi Klein Halevi in The Wall Street Journal, that the majority of Israelis have reached a consensus about military strikes: “Ein breira, there’s no choice.”
Dilip Hiro argues ”the continuation of a policy of destabilization, coupled with ongoing threats of ‘crippling’ sanctions and military strikes (whether by the Pentagon or Israel), can only drive the Iranians toward a nuclear breakout capability.” Andrew Sullivan also laments the lack of policy options, suggesting that “some kind of policy that assumes Iran’s future nuclear capacity (at some point) makes sense.”
Jennifer Rubin calls for affirmative action in response to Iran’s intransigence and criticizes President Obama for treating the Iranian opposition like a “fly at the engagement picnic.” However, David Shorr stresses “the need to choose between two mutually exclusive policy goals: stopping Iran from getting the bomb or regime change. You simply can’t pursue both at the same time.” In fact, Robert Dreyfuss argues opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is trying to sabotage a nuclear deal out of “pure political opportunism” in order to prevent President Ahmadinejad from taking credit for a deal that most Iranians want, including Mousavi himself. In a recent meeting with Mehdi Karroubi, Mousavi called the Geneva deal ”the result of adventurism and bypassing principles and national interests.”
In Iran, Mohammad Ghoochani​, the editor of the opposition-run newspaper Etemad Melli, was released from prison without ever receiving a formal charge. But at the same time, an Iranian employee of the British Embassy, Hossein Rassam, was sentenced to four years in prison ”on charges of fomenting violence.” The embassy condemned the sentence as “deeply concerning” and “an attack against the entire diplomatic community in Iran.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (h/t Tehran Bureau)  reports a surprising encounter between Supreme Leader Khamenei and a student from Sharif University. During a meeting, the student “criticized the Iranian leader, state broadcast media, the postelection crackdown, and the closure of the reformist press - for a whole 20 minutes.”  According to Khamenei’s own website, the Supreme Leader responded by welcoming the criticism and acknowledging there has been plenty of it.
Finally, Muhammad Sahimi at the Tehran Bureau explores the political career of Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, the head of the leftist Association of Combatant Clerics (ACC). Khoeiniha was a very close adviser to Supreme Leader Khomeini and the spiritual advisor of the students who stormed the U.S. embassy in 1979, yet he is also a harsh critic of the fraudulent elections and subsequent crackdowns of dissent. Therefore, he “has put the hardliners in a very difficult position.” After his newspaper Salaam was shut down in the year 2000, he blasted the state of Iranian politics: “The conservatives advocate a political system that has no compatibility with democracy. [In their system] God selects a man, whom the people must obey, who is not accountable to the people, or any institution, or more generally, to anyone.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Journalism, Judiciary, Military, US foreign policy, US politics, United Nations, sanctions | Comment »
UN Loses Track of Millions of Dollars
October 30th, 2009 by Jason
T. Christian Miller and Dafna Linzer report (h/t Mother Jones) the U.N. cannot account for tens of millions of dollars provided to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission. According to Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, “Nobody put the brakes on. U.S. taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a fraudulent election.” Total election costs are estimated to exceed $300 million, with the U.S. providing up to half of the total funding.
Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, calls Afghanistan “one of the most difficult environments in which we work. Yet we have seen real, measurable progress.” He enumerates five lessons that have been learned. One, create a strong link between security and development. Two, “corruption can be fought better though design than though calls for virtue.” Three, locally led projects are the most effective. Four, we must build responsibility and capacity at the national level as well. Five, ordinary Afghans must see improvements in their daily lives or they will not invest in the government.
Writing for The Hindu, C.R. Gharekhan predicts that eventually “the Taliban will form part of the governing structures in Afghanistan.”
Posted in Afghanistan, Democracy Promotion, Elections, Foreign Aid, Multilateralism​, Pakistan, Taliban, US foreign policy, United Nations | Comment »
POMED Notes - “Bill Markup: Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act”
October 30th, 2009 by Zack
The House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194).  The meeting was opened with remarks from Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ranking Member leana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) who then opened the floor to comments from members of the committee. The bill was widely supported by the committee with three representatives that offered dissenting speaches.  Ultimately, the measure was passed by a voice vote with the promise that Berman will push the bill to the House floor as soon as possible.
To read a PDF version of POMED’s notes, please click here. Or keep reading below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Congressional Hearing Notes (House), Diplomacy, Iran, US foreign policy | Comment »
Political Threats to Iraq
October 29th, 2009 by Jason
Iraq arrested dozens of security officials in the aftermath of the bombings that killed 155 people this week. Meanwhile, the  parliament once again failed to pass an election law, after a Kurdish boycott prevented a quorum from being reached.
The Kurds have been at the center of recent developments in Iraq. A new Kurdish government took office this week as officials insisted on playing a role in foreign oil deals.  Michael Rubin laments recent crackdowns by the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Kurdish leadership’s insistence on a closed-list ballot that will spur corruption and patronage. Such corruption is being addressed by the Iraqi Interior Ministry with mixed success, reports The New York Times.
All together, Joost R. Hiltermann worries the political threats to Iraq are more dangerous than bombs, specifically citing the failure to pass an election law and the conflict of Kirkuk. He asks, “Will the security forces and state institutions hold up as politicians bicker and the US troops pull out?” Robert Dreyfuss is pessimistic​, contending “as US forces draw down, Iraq is perched on the brink of renewed civil war.” As is Nir Rosen, who argues “talk about a post-sectarian future is premature.”
Former Iraqi mayor Najim Abed Al-Jabouri explains “While things are far better than a few years ago, one huge task remains: getting the public to trust the Iraqi security forces.” One of the main problems facing the security forces is they “are often loyal not to the state but to the person or political party that gave them their jobs.” He also adds, “The Iraqi government also made a huge mistake by failing to find a place for the Sons of Iraq in the national government.”
Posted in Elections, Iraq, Kurds, Military, Sectarianism​, Terrorism, US foreign policy | Comment »
CIA Fallout in Afghanistan
October 29th, 2009 by Jason
Tim McGirk of Time Magazine claims allegations that Ahmed Wali Karzai is on the C.I.A. payroll will not impact the runoff because “most Afghans are set in their views of President Karzai and see him and his clan as so close to the U.S. that the CIA allegations would scarcely raise an eyebrow.”
Yet Andrew Sullivan argues the revelation will further damage government legitimacy: “Ahmed Karzai isn’t just a crony governor of a failing state in a spiraling war. He’s the opium kingpin of Afghanistan, the Pablo Escobar of the Hindu Kush.” He continues, “By leaking a connection between the C.I.A. and the Karzai family, the United States has given tacit approval for regime change in Afghanistan.” Fred Kaplan agrees, calling the revelation “at best appalling and at worst a harbinger of doom.”
Writing in the Prospect, Adam Serwer argues that while there are synergies between the interests of human rights and military doctrine in Afghanistan, there are also difficulties of implementation​. He quotes Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress, who explains “It’s one of the weak points of the implementation of COIN ideals […] It’s not necessary our own actions or what our own troops do; it’s also what our partners are capable and willing to do.”
Finally, the resignation of State Department foreign service officer Matthew Hoh continues to reverberate in the pundit world, as summarized by James Dao for The New York Times.
Posted in Afghanistan, Military, Taliban, Terrorism, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
Senate Banking Committee Passes Iran Sanctions
October 29th, 2009 by Jason
The Senate Banking Committee unanimously voted in favor of tightening sanctions on Iran. The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2009 (S. 908) builds upon the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 by strengthening controls against sensitive technology exports to Iran, freezing assets of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, banning all Iranian imports and imposing sanctions on companies who help Iran acquire refined petroleum products. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) stated the legislation provides “probably the only worthwhile sanctions that are left before we potentially take military action,” but also admitted that unilateral sanctions would have “almost no effect.”
According to Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, “the legislation provides real teeth to a comprehensive economic warfare strategy against the Iranian regime.”  While popular in Congress, the plan to increase sanctions also has its critics, most notably opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi (see our previous post), who worry sanctions will disproportionately hurt the Iranian people while not affecting the regime.
Posted in Congress, Iran, Oil, US foreign policy, US politics, sanctions | Comment »
Reframing Democracy
October 29th, 2009 by Zack
Democracy Digest has published highlights from an interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter,  the State Department’s head of policy planning.  She explains that the Obama administration has downplayed but not downgraded democracy.  Asking for patience in response to charges of backtracking, she argues the “administration is changing the discourse and framework in which it articulates its support for promoting democracy.”  She conceded that democratization efforts are likely to be integrated into the development agenda, but that she would be “surprised if it [democracy assistance] was subordinated.”
In a related piece, Democracy Digest is reporting on a new analysis of revolutions worldwide that claims shifts in power do not deliver sustainable democracy: “many of the countries where electoral revolutions take place lack important prerequisites for democratization, including high per capita income and high linkage with the international community. Electoral revolutions are powerful moments of mass protest and civic participation, but their lack of effectiveness requires rethinking this strategy of democratization.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Foreign Aid, Reform, US foreign policy | 1 Comment »
POMED Notes - “Implications of the Promotion of Defamation of Religions”
October 29th, 2009 by Zack
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a meeting to discuss recent movements in the international community to create resolutions against the defamation of religion.  The event hosted Joseph Cassidy, Director of the Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy; Leonard Leo, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Angela Wu, international director of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; Tad Stahnke, director of Policy and Programs at Human Rights First; Zainab al-Suwaij, cofounder and president of the American Islamic Congress; and Felice Gaer, director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee.  Panelists focused on the recent U.S.-Egyptian draft resolution protecting the freedom of speech as well as other anti-religious defamation efforts in the international community.
For POMED’s full notes of the event, please click here.
Posted in Congressional Hearing Notes (House), DC Event Notes, EU, Event Notes, Freedom, Pakistan, Reform, US foreign policy, United Nations | Comment »
Who Will Reform Egypt?
October 29th, 2009 by Jason
Two years from the 2011 Egyptian presidential election, speculation over who will run continues to run rampant. Cynthia Johnston of Reuters explains President Mubarak’s silence has “fueled doubts over whether [he] has settled on a successor and will secure a smooth transition in his lifetime.” She quotes Cairo University professor Moustapha al-Sayyed: “Unless the will of God intervenes, I think if he is alive in 2011 he will seek a sixth term.” If he does not run, it is widely assumed his son Gamal Mubarak will take his place. But Johnston cites American University of Cairo professor Walid Kazziha who warns “It is not going to be an easy ride for Gamal. He will have a very hard time until he proves himself, and if he doesn’t, there are many challengers around.”
Recently, the ruling National Democratic Party denied reports they have launched a campaign to support Gamal for the presidency. However, a recent Facebook chat between Gamal and Egyptian youth has sparked controversy, as an independent MP has accused Gamal of calling poor Egyptians “lazy.”
In response to Mohammed Hassanein Haikel’s recent interview on political reform (see our previous post), Amr el-Shobki reflects on the current prospects for such reform. He asks, “who will dare to call for re-arranging the house from inside. Who are these reformers within the state who are willing to ‘take a scalpel’ and ’start a surgery’ for the reform of this country without demolishing the system or defaming the government? Do these reformers exist or are they just in our imagination?” While there are “thousands” of Egyptian politicians and officials who desire reform, “there is a state of unprecedented apathy as the regime has succeeded in deflecting the elite’s attention toward minor issues.” He concludes, “Egypt will not succeed at sports, cinema or theater, and will not be back on its feet economically without political reform.”
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Military, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Parties, Reform | Comment »
Hamas Rejects Call for Elections
October 29th, 2009 by Jason
Hamas announced it will not allow elections to take place on January 24th as declared by President Mahmoud Abbas, arguing Abbas has no authority to declare elections.
Writing for the National Interest, Khalil Shikaki discusses Palestinian politics since Fatah’s party conference earlier this year. He argues the days where “Palestinian leadership was weak, governance was dysfunctional, and the capacity and willingness to deliver security were absent” may be over, as new blood begins to lead Fatah. The younger leadership want a “highly functioning, democratic, economic and social movement committed to peace with Israel.” Complimenting this change in Fatah leadership, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad​“has created a better-functioning, better-governed PA.” Shikaki goes on to explain the challenges Abbas faces, such as balancing Fayyad with Fatah insiders, reconciliation with Hamas, and the question of elections. He concludes that “Abbas needs to convince the average Palestinian that independence can be delivered through diplomacy” in order to stay in power.
Writing in The Daily Star, Ron Pundak argues “there is no ideology that can bridge” the gap between secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas. Therefore, a reconciliation deal is not necessarily the best approach to Palestinian unity, as Hamas stands the most to gain.  Rashid Khalidi suggests that the Egypt-brokered reconciliation process broke down because both Hamas and Fatah “have a sort of comfort with the status quo.” The two sides are too weak to do anything, therefore we should look to the “failure of outside actors to do anything.” While Khalidi agrees with Shikaki that the Fatah conference “rejuvenated the Fatah leadership,” the handing of the Goldstone report “really, really hit a nerve” with the Palestinian people. Thus Abbas currently garners only a 12% approval rating, but Hamas remains less popular than Fatah overall.
In the GuardianAhmad  Samih Khalidi criticizes Fayyad’s plan to create a de facto Palestinian state: “while it claims to be building a state against the occupation, it is in practice building state-like structures within the occupation.” Finally, The New York Times explores life in Gaza under the blockade, arguing “many of the professionals here reject Hamas’s ideology, although some voted for the party in 2006 out of rage over the corruption in Fatah.” According to the article, some Gazans believe “the rejection of Hamas by the world meant it made no sense for it to stay in power, but they had no idea how to effect a change.”
Posted in Elections, Hamas, Israel, Mideast Peace Plan, Palestine, Political Parties, Terrorism, sanctions | Comment »
POMED Notes - “A Regional Overview of the Middle East”
October 29th, 2009 by Zack
The House Foreign Affairs Committee received testimony from Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. The committee questioned Feltman about U.S. policy and diplomatic efforts regarding Iran, Israel and Palestine, Lebanese government develop, Syrian relations, and other issues confronting American interests in the Middle East.
For POMED’s full notes of the event, please click here.
Posted in Afghanistan, DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, EU, Egypt, Elections, Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Hamas, Hezbollah, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Islam and Democracy, Israel, Lebanon, Legislation, Mideast Peace Plan, Multilateralism​, North Africa, Political Islam, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Terrorism, US foreign policy, United Nations, sanctions | Comment »
Preserving the Islamic Republic
October 29th, 2009 by Jason
While still transmitting conflicting messages, it appears Iran will accept the uranium enrichment plan with two important changes: Iran will only gradually ship its uranium stockpile and will only send exactly as much required to fuel its research reactor. Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which has 330 sponsors.
At World Politics Review, Jordan Michael Smith explores who has the ear of President Obama when it comes to Iranian policy. Robert Kagan argues Iran seeks to drag on negotiations as “a way of putting off any Western sanctions that could produce new and potentially explosive unrest in their already unstable country.”
In fact, several developments display that very instability. According to Tehran Bureau, protests continue throughout Iran’s universities. At Ahwaz University, a pro-Ahmadinejad politician was forced to cancel a speech after being bombarded by water bottles and green peppers. Michael Ledeen observes we are one week away from the pending demonstrations of November 4th, the 30th anniversary of the storming of the American embassy. According to Ledeen, “the opposition is calling for a monster demonstration against the regime, and the regime is plainly concerned, perhaps even frightened.” Ledeen reports that Russian experts have been brought in to help jam communications and social networks.
In addition, Ayatollah Khamenei has declared that questioning the election results constitutes “the biggest crime,” which may imply the Supreme Leader is “running out of patience with the opposition” according to niacINsight. Furthermore, the official website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps quotes their commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari who asserts “preserving the Islamic Republic establishment is even more vital [a duty] than performing namaz [daily prayers].”
The New York Times reports that such preservation has entailed the detention of scores of political prisoners. Kian Tajbakhsh, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison last week, has been moved to solitary confinement according to family members. In addition, Britain has filed a protest to the four-year prison sentence of an Iranian political advisor, Hossen Rassam, who works at its embassy in Tehran.
Posted in Congress, Democracy Promotion, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Judiciary, US foreign policy, US politics, sanctions | 1 Comment »
Western Sahara Talks Stalled
October 29th, 2009 by Jason
Western Sahara’s independence movement threatens to pull out of talks with Morocco unless seven detained activists are released from jail. At a press conference, a spokesman for the the Polisario Front stated, “the detention of the seven Sahrawi activists and human rights abuses in the occupied Sahrawi territories are a threat to peace and to the negotiations with Morocco.” The seven activists were arrested after disembarking from a plane in Casablanca on October 8th.
Posted in Diplomacy, Freedom, Morocco, United Nations, Western Sahara | Comment »
Afghanistan Continued
October 28th, 2009 by Jason
Writing in The Financial Times, Paul Fishstein describes the discrepancy between the American definition of democracy and how Afghans have thus far experienced democracy. He explains, “Our ‘democracy’ is about accountability, citizen participation and leaders serving at the discretion of the people. But unfortunately, many Afghans perceive ‘democracy’ as impunity, abuse of power and a new political and business class exploiting its position to enrich itself.” Fishstein argues that the Afghans need to acknowledge the current model of democracy is not working and therefore they should convene a loya jirga to create a model that would fit their country better.
As Michael Allen reports at Democracy Digest, a new poll by the Asia Foundation shows “Afghan confidence in the Hamid Karzai government and democracy in general was falling even before August’s tainted elections.”
Posted in Afghanistan, Elections | Comment »
Protests Continue in Iran
October 28th, 2009 by Jason
The relatives of jailed opposition leaders gathered outside the prosecutor’s office in Tehran yesterday, calling for the release of their family members. Meanwhile students continue to protest at Azad University, chanting “Coup government, resign, resign!” and “Death to the dictator!”
Writing for The Guardian, Meir Javedanfar sends a birthday letter to the now 53 year old President Ahmadinejad. Javedanfar “congratulates” the president for becoming “one of the most scorned presidents Iran has ever had.” He continues, “your presidency has led to the creation of the biggest gap between Tehran’s political circles and the clergy in Qom.” In conclusion, Javedanfar warns Ahmadinejad: ”The people of Iran are the country’s most powerful asset. Ignoring and abusing them has been perilous before, and could be again. Happy Birthday.”
Michael Allen at Democracy Digest argues the Iranian opposition “wants democratic solidarity” with the West, despite claims that such assistance might taint the movement. He quotes activist Roya Boroumand, who explains, “Ask yourself why Iranians who protest in the street write things in English. They’re not just practicing language skills.”
Posted in Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Judiciary | Comment »
The Brotherhood in Crisis
October 28th, 2009 by Jason
The Daily News Egypt reports a Cairo court has adjourned until January 12 the appeal hearing of 13 Muslim Brotherhood members who were tried in a military court in 2007. According to the article, “the military tribunal had raised several due-process concerns and attracted international condemnation because the men were acquitted of the same charges before a civilian court, only to be rearrested inside the court room and immediately re-charged with the same crimes before a military court.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, just emerged from a significant leadership crisis last week, writes Khalil al-Anani. The MB’s highest executive body refused to give a seat to Essam El-Erian, as the MB’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Mahdi Akef insists. The confrontation led to a (publicly denied) threat of resignation by Akef, an “unprecedent event” according to al-Anani. Al-Anani contends the crisis has revealed the “weakness and fragility of the structure of decision-making within the Muslim Brotherhood” and smashed the aura of “divinity” MB leaders try to cultivate to maintain cohesion. The crisis will be resolved quickly with an election for a new Supreme Guide within three weeks; Akef will not be in the running.
According to Haaretz, the philosopher-historian Mohammed Hassanein Haikel has declared Gamal Mubarak unfit for the presidency, not necessarily because of any lack of skill, but because of the unacceptability of heredity rule. Instead, Heikal calls for “a council of experts […] whose job it will be to formulate a new constitution and prepare the transition period between the current government regime and the new system.” He suggests several well known Egyptians to sit on the council, including Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail, heart surgeon Magdi Yacoub, director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Omar Suleiman and the International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei. Furthermore, Heikal suggests that these men, given their accomplishments, will not personally seek the presidency but instead help transfer power to a younger generation of leaders: “They are the leaders who can take Egypt from the stage of despair it is in now in to the stage of hope.”
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Lebanon Deliberations Continue
October 28th, 2009 by Jason
Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned the current legislative session to elect Parliament’s committees after failing to reach a quorom. Many politicians have declared they will not participate in deliberations until a government is formed. Berri is expected to hold a meeting with President Sleiman and Premier-designate Hariri to negotiate over the cabinet. The main obstacle likely remains the Telecommunications Ministry, which Michel Aoun has demanded to keep in his portfolio against the wishes of Hariri. Once a cabinet is finally formed, Hariri has promised to make fostering business a priority of the new cabinet.
As part of the International Religous Freedom report (see our previous post), the United States has called Lebanon’s confessionalist system “inherently discriminatory,”  reports The Daily Star. The article quotes Paul Salem of the Carnegie Middle East Institute, who explains the system tries to accomodate Lebanon’s “delicate” sectarian balance, but at the same time it is widely recognized as having “inherent problems.”
Posted in Elections, Lebanon, Political Parties, Sectarianism | Comment »
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