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7 Dec 2009 - 28 Jul 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: December, 2009
Jordan: Electoral Reform Unlikely
December 23rd, 2009 by Jason
In The New York TimesMichael Slackman explores the recent decision by King Abdullah II of Jordan to dismiss his prime minister, dissolve parliament, and postpone elections for a year. The King’s actions were largely perceived as an attempt to remove an intransigent parliament in order to pass needed economic and financial reforms. While Abdullah also ordered the rewriting of the country’s unpopular election law, analysts and even governmental officials admit that it is unlikely the law will be substantively changed at the risk of increasing Islamist influence.
Democracy advocates therefore lament, according to Slackman, the “leadership’s continued intention to manipulate and suppress the political process.”  As Ali Dalian, an independent MP of the dissolved parliament put it, “The nature of humans is they want democracy. Since 1993, democracy in Jordan has been receding.”
Slackman cites political experts who observe, “Jordan’s actions are nothing out of the ordinary in the Middle East, where kings, emirs, sultans and presidents rely on elected institutions to claim legitimacy and give citizens the perception they have a stake in the direction of the state. But those institutions have little independent power or authority.”
Posted in Elections, Jordan, Legislation, Reform | Comment »
North Africa: Human Rights Abuses
December 23rd, 2009 by Jason
Human Rights Watch blasts the recent convictions of Tunisian journalists Taofik Ben Brik and Zouhair Makhlouf after unfair trials. Middle East director of HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson, laments that since his sham electoral victory,  President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has been “on a vengeful campaign to punish the few journalists and human rights activists who dared to question his record.”
Meanwhile, Middle East Online observes that the hunger strike by Western Sahara activist Aminatou Haidar has raised awareness of human rights abuses in Morocco.
Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Journalism, Judiciary, Morocco, NGOs, Tunisia, Western Sahara | Comment »
Iran: Protests Continue, Mousavi Fired
December 23rd, 2009 by Jason
Time reports that security forces fired tear gas and beat opposition protesters who were attending a memorial for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri today.  According to one Isfahan resident who tried to attend the memorial, “tens of thousands gathered outside for the memorial but were savagely attacked by security forces and the Basijis.” Iran’s head of police warned that there would be a “fierce” confrontation if “illegal” protests continued.
In addition to such clashes in Isfahan and elsewhere, Juan Cole cites a militia raid against the office of reformist cleric Ayatollah Yusuf Sanei in Qom, and  Gregg Carlstrom provides more details from several reformist websites. Cole argues such tactics reveal the regime’s concern “about liberalizing clergymen who might assume the mantle of Montazeri, a regime critic with impressive scholarly credentials.”
The Lede blog reports on the raid against Sanei’s office as well, while also relaying the decision of Montazeri’s family to cancel traditional mourning rituals held a week after death, which coincidentally lines up with Ashura, the Shi’ite day of mourning.  The family cited security concerns for their decision. Nonetheless, Nicholas Goldberg contends that Montazeri’s life and death show “that the revolution that was made in Qom could be undone in Qom as well.”
Meanwhile, opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi has been fired from his position as head of the Academy of Arts, apparently at the request of President Ahmadinejad​. In response, the vast majority of faculty members have threatened to quit in solidarity. In a comprehensive piece covering the reaction to Montazeri’s death, Michael Allen observes that both Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi “appear increasingly marginal, trying to defend or revive the Islamic Republic within a green opposition that appears more inclined to push for regime change and a more secular, democratic republic.”
Elaborating further, Mea Cyrus at Tehran Bureau argues that opposition leaders like Montazeri, Mousavi, and Karroubi “are favored by educated, secular elite only because they share a common goal: ousting Ahmadinejad and Khamenei. But until the time comes when the opposition movement is capable of producing leaders of its own, religious figures and ex-officials, dead or alive, are a good base to build upon.”
Marty Peretz believes “that the Iranian regime is trembling, trembling from fear of its own people.” In agreement, John Bolton cites three reasons for the regime’s unpopularity: the poor economy, dissatisfied youth, and ethnic discontent.  While Bolton clamors for military strikes, Nader Mousavizadeh pleads for the U.S. to not give the Iranian regime a “lifeline” by imposing harsh sanctions or undertaking military strikes, actions the hardliners in Tehran hope to provoke. Instead, the U.S. should place the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom “at the core of every policy decision.”
Tony Karon blames the current impasse in nuclear negotiations on Iran’s internal turmoil and the Obama administration’s failure to adapt its goals while imposing strict deadlines.  He concludes, “with both Obama and Ahmadinejad having been painted into corners, the deadlock is unlikely to be broken by the sanctions that are expected to be put in place in the coming months.” Finally, Laura Rozen reports on a new simulation from Tel Aviv University that corroborates a previous Harvard simulation’s conclusion that U.S. unilateral sanctions would likely backfire.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Middle Eastern Media, Military, Protests, US foreign policy, sanctions | Comment »
Saudi Arabia: Long War on Yemen Border
December 23rd, 2009 by Zack
Saudi officials have reported that 73 Saudi soldiers have been killed, 470 wounded, and 26 are still missing since fighting against Houthi insurgents in Yemen began in November.  Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan claims that the majority of fighting is now over, and he gave remaining Houthi rebels 24 hours to surrender before the Saudis destroy the border village of Al-Jabiriyah, which remains under Houthi control.
However, Reuters reports that diplomats and analysts believe Saudi Arabia “faces a long mountain war” with the Houthis. At the same time, Saudi Arabia is primarily concerned with al-Qaeda attacks originating from Yemen. While the Houthis have no known connections with al-Qaeda, the fighting with the Houthis may make it easier for terrorists to enter Saudi territory. For example, the fighting has made it more difficult to build a planned fence along the border to prevent terrorist infiltration.
Posted in Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, al-Qaeda | Comment »
Egypt: Moussa Won’t Run for President
December 23rd, 2009 by Jason
In an interview (Arabic) with al-Masry al-Youm, Arab League head Amr Moussa announced he will not run for president in Egypt’s 2011 elections. He explained, “The question is, is it possible? And the answer is, the road is closed.” The current constitution makes it nearly impossible for an independent candidate to run for president, and Moussa refuses to join a political party for pure “political opportunism.”
Meanwhile, President Mubarak met with King Abdullah in Riyadh today before heading on to Kuwait. They discussed the Middle East Peace Process and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen. Al-Masry al-Youm reports that the newly elected members of the MB Guidance Bureau swore fealty to General Guide Mahdi Akef yesterday. Sources within the MB suggest a new general guide will be named within two days.
Abdel-Rahman Hussein and Sarah Carr contend Egypt’s opposition groups are “blighted by internal divisions.” They observe that the Muslim Brotherhood has endured “heavy blows from the regime” as the media focused on the Brotherhood’s internal rifts. Meanwhile, Ayman Nour has been physically attacked, disbarred, and legally prohibited from running for office. While opposition groups banded together in October to campaign against the succession of Gamal Mubarak, the Kefaya movement has already withdrawn its support. Now Kefaya is left “trying to prove that it is still relevant” as it clamors for the election of an “alternative president” separate from the regime.
Babylon and Beyond delves deeper into the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent election, which resulted in a victory for the conservative faction. According to MB analyst Abdul Rehim Aly, “hard-liners couldn’t accept the presence of reformers within the group itself, so how can anyone expect them one day to have a dialogue with other people belonging to different religious and cultural backgrounds?”
Dalia Rabie explores several moral controversies of 2009, including the Ramadan arrests, the niqab ban and virginity kits, that “highlighted the conflict between Egypt’s so-called secular government and its age-old traditions.”
Posted in Arab League, Diplomacy, Elections, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Kuwait, Middle Eastern Media, Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestine, Political Islam, Saudi Arabia, Secularism, Women | Comment »
Christians: Embattled in the Middle East
December 23rd, 2009 by Zack
Nina Shea at National Review Online reports that the Vatican is planning a special synod of Roman Catholic bishops next October to discuss the problem of Christian flight from the region and to promote greater ecumenical unity in the Middle East.  She argues that many Christian communities in the region are forced into social isolation and that the fleeing of Christians signals the disappearance of religious pluralism and the rise of a wholly Islamicized Middle East for the first time in history.  Lastly, she calls on readers to become more informed about the situation and to aid the work of three Christian leaders in particular:  Habib Malik, a Lebanese scholar and lay Roman Catholic, Bishop Thomas of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, and Canon Andrew White, an Anglican priest in Iraq. 
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports on the numerous threats against Iraqi Christians warning to not celebrate Christmas. According to the article, “Christians said they were as fearful as they have been since 2006, when the outbreak of sectarian warfare forced many to leave their neighborhoods for months at a time.”
Posted in Egypt, Human Rights, Iraq, Lebanon, Public Opinion, Sectarianism | Comment »
Afghanistan: MP Mistakenly Killed by Police
December 23rd, 2009 by Zack
Time reports that Mohammad Yunos Shirnagha, a member of the Afghan parliament, was mistakenly killed in a shoot-out with police who were attempting to ambush a Taliban transport.  The New York Times reports that President Karzai has called for an investigation into the murder of his 18 year-old cousin Waheed Karzai. Waheed’s family believe he was murdered by another Karzai family member as part of an old family feud, leading President Karzai to cover up the incident for political reasons.
Mark Major in Foreign Policy discusses Lt. Gen. William Caldwell’s new strategy to whip the Afghan army into shape by focusing on the quality of the army, rather than the quantity of troops.
Gregg Carlstrom at The Majlis rebuffs Ann Friedman​’s argument (see our previous post that the mission in Afghanistan has never been about humanitarianism, especially concerning the liberation of women. Carlstrom argues that even though the military does not work toward humanitarian goals, the greater stability brought by a troop increase will engender more protection and freedom for Afghan women. He also asks that the media stop using activist Malalai Joya as the representative voice “of everyone with ovaries between Herat and the Khyber Pass.”
Lastly, Der Spiegel carries an editorial by Olaf Ihlau about Germany’s defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg​’s change of heart and his new willingness to engage moderate Taliban elements.  Ihlau argues that engaging the Taliban is the only way to adequately start a German exit strategy.
Posted in Afghanistan, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Freedom, Islam and Democracy, Military, Reform, Taliban, US foreign policy, Women | Comment »
Lebanon: Contesting Hezbollah’s Arms
December 23rd, 2009 by Zack
The Daily Star reports that the Phalange party is filing suit with the Constitutional Court contesting the legitimacy of article six of the Cabinet policy statement that upheld the right to Resistance.  Hezbollah MP Nawaf Moussawi rejects the suit and claims that the party’s right to maintain an arsenal “is part of the national charter; thus we do not need approval from this side or another.”
At the same time, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is calling for a “​psychological war” against Israel designed to counter recent Israeli maneuvers aimed at convincing the region of the Israeli army’s invincibility.  In response, The Daily Star editorial staff contends that while Nasrallah is well-intentioned, he seeks to draw the entire country into Hezbollah’s camp. Instead, the paper pushes for a national diplomatic-defense initiative to build trust in the nation.
Posted in Freedom, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Political Parties, Reform | Comment »
Iraq: A Critical Year Ahead
December 22nd, 2009 by Jason
Kenneth Pollack warns that “while [Iraq] has made tremendous progress in both the security and political realms, all of those gains are fragile and could evaporate quickly if strained.”  Pollack argues “the mistake we are in danger of making in Iraq is that as our military steps back, our civilians are not always stepping up.” If Iraqis begin to question our resolve, then ordinary Iraqis will have no choice but to support militias who might protect them in what they perceive as an impending civil war.
Fareed Zakaria also warns against forgetting the war in Iraq, contending that while the surge was a military success, Iraq has yet to resolve its fundamental political differences that preclude a stable future.  Therefore, the Obama administration should maximize this opportunity to realize Iraq’s potential as an “extraordinary model for the Arab world.” While more pessimistic than Zakaria, Andrew Sullivan agrees this year will be “critical” in determining the ultimate success or failure of the war in Iraq.
John Hannah responds to the Iranian incursion into Iraqi territory. He argues that the incident proves that the Iraqi government is increasingly confident in protecting its sovereignty and Iraq has the potential to emerge as a “central pillar” in America’s struggle against violent Islamist extremism. Given the “flaccid U.S. response” to the incident, Hannah urges to “do far more to support our Iraqi friends.”  While the incident has since died down, George Friedman argues Iran showed it might not wait for the U.S. to initiate a conflict. Now that Prime Minister Maliki has proven he is not an Iranian puppet but an Iraqi patriot, Hussain Abdul-Hussain argues the Gulf countries should “embrace a neighbor currently emerging from years of tyranny followed by civil strife.”
Finally, the AP reports a suicide bomber in northern Iraq has killed a city council chief, a member of the Turkmen minority affiliated with the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Elections, Freedom, Iraq, Kurds, Military, Oil, Political Parties, Sectarianism​, Terrorism, US foreign policy | Comment »
Afghanistan: Who Will Head the U.N. Mission?
December 22nd, 2009 by Jason
Laura Rozen explores who will replace Kai Eide as the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. She reports rumors that Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura is the “top contender” for the position and is an American favorite. At the same time, there are reports that French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has expressed interest in the job, but other sources explain Kouchner is looking to serve as an E.U. envoy equivalent to Richard Holbrooke. In a follow up post, Rozen discusses the idea to have a “dual-hatted U.N./NATO chief in Afghanistan.”  
Ann Friedman  observes the difference in opinion between Afghan and U.S.-based women’s rights groups. While Afghan-based groups tend to call for an American withdrawal, U.S.-based groups believe that military intervention can be used to promote women’s rights. But for Friedman, “it doesn’t matter whether U.S. military intervention can be a force for humanitarianism because, in Afghanistan, it never has been and won’t become one.”
Max Boot responds to a video from Guardian films that “presents a dire picture of the Afghan National Army.”  According to Boot, the video has been overblown because “we can’t expect many Third World militaries to meet the standards of the 21st century US. armed forces.” In short, “the Guardian clip presents a slice of reality, not all of reality. It should not be dismissed, nor should it be given the last word.”
M.J. Rosenberg of TPMCafe points to an Al Jazeera English video about the difficult choices U.S. soldiers face in delivering medical care to Afghan nationals. Finally, Doctors Without Borders lists Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen among its annual list of the year’s worst humanitarian crises.
Posted in Afghanistan, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Human Rights, Military, Taliban, US foreign policy, United Nations, Women | Comment »
Egypt: Brotherhood Divisions
December 22nd, 2009 by Zack
The election of new members to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Executive Guidance Bureau (see our post) illustrates growing rifts in the movement.  The Christian Science Monitor writes that the MB is divided largely along generational lines about how to oppose President Hosni Mubarak.   The older conservatives seek to focus on building organizational strength, while younger members who entered the MB in the 1970’s are more committed to external outreach. The Brotherhood’s General Guide Mahdi Mohammed Akef has tried to bridge the gap between the two camps.  With Akef planning to step down in January and his successor likely to be from the old-guard, the article warns the next general guide will put an end to the in-fighting and will likely drive reformists out of the party.
BikyaMasr presents an in-depth interview with Gamal Al Banna, the brother of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founding member Hasan Al Banna.  The article discusses Gamal’s role as a progressive thinker in the “ever-growing radicalism of Egyptian society.” Recently, Al Banna stirred a new controversy about the hijab and public displays of affection, arguing “that Islam is a religion of the people and that it should be the individual who chooses how to practice their faith outside movements or religious groups.”
After Egyptian officials confirmed that they will build an underground barrier next to the Gaza border, Al Masry Al Youm reports the government has denied a request by international activists to stage a march from Egypt to the Gaza Strip to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Gaza war. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit has given an interview with Al-Arabiya in which he argues that Egypt, as a sovereign state, has the right to do whatever it wants to guarantee its full security, including building security barriers and using eavesdropping equipment.
The FreeKareem blog reports that Egyptian blogger AbdelKareem Nabil Soliman’s final appeal was rejected and he will remain in prison until November 2010.
BikyaMasr also highlights increasing Coptic persecution ahead of Christmas and the U.S. Copts Association’s efforts to pressure the Obama administration to take action.  Discussing sectarian violence, one interviewee argues that large-scale violence tends to grow out of personal revenge attacks.  In response the Copts Association’s demands include the removal of religious affiliation from national ID card to prevent discrimination.
Posted in Diplomacy, Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, Sectarianism​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Yemen: The Need for a Broader Perspective?
December 22nd, 2009 by Jason
Time Magazine explores the potential fallout from U.S. assistance in strikes and raids against Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. The article quotes Gregory Johnsen who warns “you can’t just go kill a few individuals and the al-Qaeda problem will go away,” especially when such attacks result in civilian casualties. As Mohammad Quhtan of Yemen’s opposition Islamist al-Islah party explains, “Al-Qaeda will be able to recruit a lot more young people, at least from the tribes that were hit.”
Instead, Johnsen repeats his call for (see our previous post) a broader American foreign policy that will undermine Al-Qaeda. He points to a Reuters article that describes how, in addition to al-Qaeda,  falling oil income, water shortages, humanitarian crises, the Houthi conflict, and a southern separatist movement all contribute to Yemen’s instability.
Posted in Middle Eastern Media, Military, Oil, Political Parties, Public Opinion, Terrorism, US foreign policy, Yemen, al-Qaeda | Comment »
Iran: Montazeri’s Funeral Turns into Massive Protest
December 22nd, 2009 by Jason
As reported yesterday, tens of thousands of mourners flocked to Qum to attend the funeral procession of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. As The New York Times reports, the funeral “turned into a huge and furious anti-government rally.” The Lede blog has posted a timeline of yesterday’s events. Additional videos and photos are available herehere and here.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was simultaneously one of the highest-ranking clerics in Iran as well as a fierce critic of the Islamic regime. As such, Michael Rubin observes “the real Achilles Heel to the Iranian regime is Shi’ism. Simply put, it is hard for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to claim ultimate political and religious authority when he is outranked by many clerics who oppose him and his philosophy of government.”
This tension was clear during the reading of a statement from Khamenei during the funeral yesterday. Juan Cole posts a translation, explaining the statement “accused [Montazeri] of having been tested by God and of failing the test, but in which Khamenei went on to pray for divine forgiveness for his departed foe.” The thousands of mourners drowned out the statement with loud booing and opposition slogans.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Diplomacy, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Journalism, Protests, US foreign policy, sanctions | Comment »
Syria-Lebanon: The Return of the Strong Horse
December 22nd, 2009 by Zack
The meeting between Saad Hariri and Bashar Asaad (see out post)is being viewed by many as a turning point in Lebanon-Syria ties.  AFP reports on several reactions to the visit. Paul Salem, head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, contends “through his visit, [Hariri] has announced the end of the confrontation.” Ghassan al-Azzi, political science professor at the Lebanese University, said Hariri’s visit to Damascus marked a radical change in the foundations on which he had built his political alliances.
Meanwhile, Babylon and Beyond reports that while many Lebanese politicians have publicly praised the visit, it “comes as a disappointment for many supporters who remember the heady days of the so-called ‘Cedar Revolution’ following Rafik Hariri’s assassination, when tiny Lebanon appeared to have beaten back Goliath Syria.”
Michael Totten argues that Hariri has been backed into a political corner by Hezbollah and by a lack of international support.  As such, the meeting indicates that Syria has “re-emerged as the strong-horse in Lebanon.”  Totten takes exception with the American and French moves to “engage” Syria, which ultimately threatens to empower Hezbollah and collapse the anti-Syrian government in Lebanon.
Laura Rozen also writes that rumors of Adam Ereli being named envoy to Damascus are unfounded and that the name speculation for a “Syria envoy is all a bit premature.”  James Denselow, however, argues that the absense of a U.S. ambassador to Syria remains an insult to the country and that President Obama must correct this in order to “better assess whether there is any hope of Syria opening up” and engage in the slow process of pushing for change.
UPDATE: David Schenker argues that “Hariri’s trip to Damascus represents the return of Syrian influence to Lebanon, and perhaps, the end of the Cedar Revolution.”
Posted in Hezbollah, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Lebanon, Public Opinion, Syria, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED: Follow us on Twitter
December 22nd, 2009 by Jason
POMED has launched our Twitter account, PomedWire​. Follow us to keep up to date with the latest debates and developments concerning U.S. foreign policy and the prospects for democratic reform in the Middle East. We will also highlight POMED’s ongoing activities, events, and publications, as well as other relevant happenings in Washington.
Posted in Technology, Weekly Wire | Comment »
Egypt: Brotherhood Chooses New Guidance Bureau
December 21st, 2009 by Jason
The Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Mahdi Akef, announced the results of the elections for the organization’s Executive Guidance Bureau. According to Akef, the Shura Committee used elections to show “the Movement’s ideology promotes the adherence to democracy, respect of freedom of opinion and expression.”
The new members are: Dr. Ossama Nasr el-Deen, Gomaa Ameen Abdul Aziz, Rashad Albayoumy, Saad Esmat Elhosseiny, Dr. Abdul Rahman Albar, Dr. Essam Eleryan, Dr. Mohamed Badee, Dr. Mohamed Saad Alkatatny, Dr. Mohamed Abdul Rahman Almorsy, Dr. Mahmoud Morsy, Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Dr. Mahmoud Hussein, Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat, Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan, Dr. Mohyee Hamed, and Dr. Mustafa Alghoneimy.
According to Marc Lynch, “the election has produced a dramatic turn towards the conservative end of the spectrum.” Notably, both Abdel Mounim Abou el-Fattouh  and Mohammad Habib failed to win a seat in the Guidance Bureau. At the same time, Lynch notes that “virtually no other Arab political movement, party, or government holds such free or fair internal elections to positions of real power.” Lynch predicts the Brotherhood will now likely disengage from democratic politics in the face of regime pressure and instead focus on religious outreach. Meanwhile, Akef has rejected claims from some MB members that the elections are illegitimate because they did not adhere to typical procedures as a result of fears for arrest. Furthermore, Lynch notes that the elections are notable from the level of media scrutiny they have received, prying open internal Brotherhood differences.
Finally, Lynch observes that the Brotherhood must still decide who will replace Akef as the new Supreme Guide and argues this election will increase the likelihood that new leader will take a “less politically engaged stance, concentrating on social work and religious outreach rather than public politics.” This change of course will please the Egyptian regime “which wants no turbulence as it manages the transition from Hosni Mubarak to his successor. If a conservative is chosen as the next Supreme Guide, then Lynch believes the “real question is whether the frustrated reformists will split” from the Brotherhood.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, Political Parties | 1 Comment »
Kuwait: Confidence Vote “Unprecedented”
December 21st, 2009 by Jason
Gregory Gause III has written a guest blog at Abu Aardvark about last week’s confidence vote in Kuwait. As he explains, it was the first time in history Kuwait held a vote of confidence on the prime minister, which Sheikh Nasir al-Muhammad won  35-13. Admittedly, it would have been better if the session had been open to the press, but Gause still contends it was an “unprecedented” step in Kuwaiti politics.
Meanwhile, AFP reports that over 5,000 Kuwaiti tribesmen have staged a protest against a television program that alleged the bedouin are not true Kuwaitis.
Posted in Kuwait, Political Parties, Protests | Comment »
Women: Struggle for Rights Continues
December 21st, 2009 by Jason
Paul Handley in Middle East Online reports on a new survey of Saudi university students. While the majority of male graduates believe women should enter the workplace, only 22 percent agree that female graduates should compete with men directly. However, 80 percent of graduate women seek to enter the same professional fields as men.
Josie Ensor explores the “modern-day slavery” endured by many female domestic workers in the Middle East. She observes “up to 30 women have committed suicide, or died trying to escape intolerable working conditions in the last few weeks alone.”
Finally, an Egyptian administrative court has annuled a decree from the education minister banning the niqab in dormitories on the Ain Shams University campus. The judge declared the niqab a “personal freedom” so long as it did not threaten public order.
Posted in Egypt, Freedom, Human Rights, Judiciary, Legislation, Saudi Arabia, Women | Comment »
Lebanon and Syria: Hariri Meets With Assad
December 21st, 2009 by Jason
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited Syria this weekend in an attempt, in his words, to “open new horizons between the two countries.” In turn, President Assad insisted he is “very attached to sincere relations based on common understanding.” In response, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah observed the trip has helped make the “atmosphere comfortable” between the two countries. Hariri returned to Beirut Sunday night ahead of Monday’s first meeting of the new cabinet.
Many Lebanese politicians expressed their approval of the historic trip, except for Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt who refused to comment. The New York Times focused on how “the trip epitomized a national story with anguished, almost operatic dimensions: a young leader forced to shake hands with the man who he believes killed his father.”
Meanwhile, Nasrallah also dismissed anyone who questions Hezbollah’s arsenal as “mercenaries” during a speech in the preparation for the Day of Ashura.  
Finally, Joshua Landis reports that Ambassador Joseph Adam Ereli may be the next U.S. representative in Damascus, but admits that there are many other possibilities as well.
Posted in Diplomacy, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Political Parties, Syria, US foreign policy | 1 Comment »
Yemen: U.S. Assisted Raids on al-Qaeda
December 21st, 2009 by Jason
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. “provided intelligence and other assistance to Yemeni forces in attacks Thursday against suspected al-Qaeda targets.”  According to The New York Times, President Obama approved the request for support from the Yemeni government for the raids which killed at least 34 militants. 
Waq al-Waq worries that the U.S. is not only providing assistance against al-Qaeda, but against the Houthis as well, which he calls a “mistake.” In addition, he questions the success of the raids given the high number of civilian casualties,the blowback in the Yemeni press, and the failure to kill the main target, Qasim al-Raymi. Instead, he urges the U.S. to do “a lot more prep work and development work to […] undermine al-Qaeda.” Finally, he points to a report by Alistair Harris and Michael Page that warns against narrowly focusing on al-Qaeda to the exclusion of the other problems that confront Yemen.
Meanwhile, a Houthi spokesman is claiming Saudi air strikes killed 54 civilians, as local tribal sources have informed that the rebel leader Abdul  Malak al-Houthi has been seriously injured. Neither of these reports have been confirmed independently.
Posted in Military, Publications, Terrorism, US foreign policy, Yemen, al-Qaeda | 1 Comment »
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