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5 Jan 2010 - 28 Jul 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: January, 2010
Iran: A Look at the Spread of Internet Cafes
January 29th, 2010 by Stephen
Persia House has translated an interesting article from the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) on the rapid increase in the number of internet cafes in Iran, adding their own analysis of the report.  Persia House concludes, “The increase in internet cafes is a mixed blessing for the Iranian regime. On the one hand it can boast that the spread of the internet demonstrates the Islamic Republic’s continued technological progress in the face of ‘imperialist’ powers’ efforts to stymie it: with approximately 26 million online users, Iranians make up almost 50 percent of total internet users in the Middle East. On the other hand, the government has long been trying to catch up to its citizens’ ability to access ‘insidious’ information from the West, and to communicate with the outside world. Indeed, the virtual realm is a major arena in which the struggle between the opposition and the government is taking place; control over new media will play a determinative role in Iran’s political future.”
Posted in Iran, Technology | Comment »
Obama Administration Unsupportive of Middle East Democracy?
January 29th, 2010 by Jessica
Steven Stanek and Matt Bradley, in an article for The National, comment on the Obama Administration’s committment to democratic reform in the Middle East.  Stanek and Bradley compare former President Bush’s approach of democracy promotion through the use of military force to President Obama’s more relaxed stance.  The authors comment that democracy promotion is rarely mentioned by President Obama in discussions of foreign policy.  They underscore this view by referring to recent cuts in funding for democracy promotion in Egypt and Jordan.  
The article also quotes Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endownment for International Peace, as vocalizing disappointment, stating, “Certainly there has not been a lot of emphasis on democracy promotion.” Ottaway recommends that the president engage the Arab countries in discussions of political reforms and the best way to enact these reforms while respecting the culture of the region.
In her speech last month at Georgetown Univeristy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the Administration’s approach to democracy promtion as one of of “principled pragmatism,” utilizing tatics that reflect the “realities on the ground.” While strong statements have been made by various members of the administration, Stanek and Bradley report, other parties are concerned that U.S. strategic aims will overshadow moral and ideological considerations. 
In another article for The National, foreign correspondent Matt Bradley explores the ramifications of President Obama’s budget cuts to funds earmarked to support democracy in Egypt in Fiscal Year 2010.  He reports that such cuts will remove programs aimed at teaching people from smaller impoverished towns, many of them women, the importance of democracy.  Citing POMED’s July 2009 report, Bradley states that proposed cuts will also most strongly affect those organizations that remain unregistered with the Egyptian government, an act that many speculate will prove detrimental to democracy promotion in the long run. 
While the article does offer criticism, there are those who voice support of Obama’s policy agenda.  Bradley quotes former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Richard Murphy as saying, “I think it’s the more realistic, pragmatic approach to say that there’s a limit to the number of friends we’ve got in this world, and let’s work with them and hope to inspire them with our own example.” 
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Foreign Aid, Jordan, US foreign policy | 1 Comment »
POMED Report: “Strategies for Engaging Political Islam”
January 29th, 2010 by Josh
Political Islam is the single most active political force in the Middle East today. To offer insights into this critical issue, the Project on Middle East Democracy partnered with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung to bring together scholars and experts from the Middle East, the United States, and Europe. Moderated by Nathan Brown, Director of George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies, guests discussed the topic “Strategies for Engaging Political Islam: A Middle East, U.S. and EU ‘Trialogue.’” Panelists included Ruheil Gharaibeh​, Deputy Secretary-General of Jordan’s IAF; Mona Yacoubian​, Special Adviser to the Muslim World Initiative at the United States Institute of Peace; Zoé Nautré, Visiting Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations; and Shadi Hamid, former research director and current vice-chair of POMED’s Board of Directors, and also currently the Deputy Director of the Brookings Doha Center.
To read the full report, which draws upon the participants’ observations and recommendations, click here. Otherwise, continue reading below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Multilateralism​, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, Reform, Reports, US foreign policy | Comment »
Iran: U.S. Sanctions Following Human Rights Violations, Political Instability, & Nuclear Uncertainty
January 29th, 2010 by Jessica
In a post for The Cable, Josh Rogin comments on the Iran sanctions bill that passed the Senate late last night. During debates over S.7299, Senator John McCain voiced concerns that the bill primarily focused on security issues and did not address sanctions for Iranian officials guilty of human rights violations and abuses against civilians engaging in peaceful political activity. McCain proposed an amendment that would allow visa bans, asset freezes, and financial restrictions on persons found guilty of the aforementioned offenses. Time restrictions led to a compromise: McCain agreed to withdraw his amendment if Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to address the substance of the amendment in the conference report concerning the bill. The bill passed the senate with an overwhelming majority.
The passing of S.7299 follows the hanging of two Iranian activists, who were reported to be active participants in anti-government protests. Evan Hill reports that the two protesters, Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour​, were accused of attempting to overthrow the Iranian government and being enemies of God. Nasrin Sotoudeh, Rahmanipour’s lawyer, told sources that she was only allowed to meet with her client once and her participation in the court proceedings was denied.  Sotoudeh also said that allegations leveled at Zamani and Rahmanipour were false and that their confessions were made in light of threats against the accused’s families. Nine more Iranians have been accused of similar crimes with identical sentencing being imposed.
White House spokesman Bill Burton commented harshly on the hanging of the two individuals, “We see this as a low point in the Islamic Republic’s unjust and ruthless crackdown on peaceful dissent. Murdering political prisoners exercising their universal rights will not bring the respect and legitimacy that Iran seeks.” Previously critical of a hard-line stance on Iran, the Obama administration has begun to favorably consider tougher sanctions. In an interview with CNN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented, “Our assessment is that sanctions will be tough and clearly aimed at the Iranian economy, but that the international community does not have a choice . . . This is not meant to punish Iran; it’s meant to change their behavior, and it’s not meant as a target at any one person. It’s meant to change the calculation of the leadership.”
Posted in Congress, Human Rights, Iran, Legislation, US foreign policy, sanctions | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Bahrain’s Vision Amidst Regional Realities”
January 29th, 2010 by Josh
The Middle East Policy Forum along with the Distinguished Women in International Affairs Series sponsored an event featuring Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Nonoo presented remarks on the relationship between the United States and Bahrain and commented on Bahrain’s role in the Persian Gulf.
Ambassador Nonoo began with an overview of Bahrain’s diplomatic posture towards a number of pertinent issues. She echoed Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s call for a fresh start to peace talks and quoted the king as saying: “The biggest mistake has been to assume that you can simply switch on peace like a light. We should move towards real peace now by consulting our people and by reaching out to Israelis to highlight the benefits of a genuine peace.”
For POMED’s notes in PDF, please click here. Otherwise, continue below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Bahrain, DC Event Notes, Human Rights, Islamist movements, Israel, Mideast Peace Plan, Palestine, US foreign policy | Comment »
Egypt: How Significant is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Election?
January 28th, 2010 by Josh
Hitching onto Shadi Hamid’s earlier comments on the rise of Muhammad Badie to General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood — namely that the MB’s “organizational commitments trump the beliefs of individual leaders” — Gregg Carlstrom of The Majlis doubts that the “election has much external significance, despite widely-publicized concerns that Badie (a conservative) will push the group to the right.” Expounding upon this point, Carlstrom echoes a Fawas Gerges post at The Guardian predicting that “the Brotherhood will be more preoccupied with increasing its membership…than lending a helping hand to the opposition.” If the MB maintains its non-violent rhetoric and avoids provoking the regime, Carlstrom believes that President Mubarak may tolerate the organization — but only if it doesn’t become more conservative. And in light of the MB’s “institutional inertia” and instinct for self-preservation, he expects the Brotherhood’s short-term politics to “remain largely unchanged.”
Posted in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, Political Parties | 1 Comment »
POMED Notes: Iraqi Ahrar Party Leader Speaks at Press Club
January 28th, 2010 by Maria
Ayad Jamal Aldin, leader of the Iraqi Ahrar (Liberal) party, spoke at the National Press Club this afternoon on the upcoming Iraqi elections.  Aldin spoke on his party’s support of a secular Iraqi state and how he hopes this election will prove to be the turning point for Iraq. He forecasts doing well in the election and promised to participate fairly, advocating progressive measures like freedom of thought, women’s rights, civil society organizations, agriculture, the environment and responsible international relations. He also took questions on how his party will tackle some of the pressing issues Iraq faces as it begins to reshape the structure of its government.
Members of the media asked Aldin several questions about how his party intends to handle Iraq’s challenges, given the decision by President Obama’s administration to pull all U.S. combat troops by the end of August this year. Aldin responded that Iraq has been the “cradle of civilization” and survived an 8,000-year history; he invites the U.S. to remain in the country if it seeks to support Iraqi civilians in rebuilding their own government, but that they should not stay if they intend to interfere with the process. He cited that building a strong Iraqi army as well as a strong central government is especially crucial to Iraq’s future as an independent, sovereign nation. Aldin acknowledged the weaknesses of the country, but said that Iraqi citizens still wished to defend their country, land, and rights against any outside aggression.
The event was part of a week-long visit to the U.S. in which  Aldin has met with the press, policymakers and congressional staff. He told members of the press that his trip to the United States was coordinated in order to exchange views with U.S. policymakers as well as gather support from the U.S. administration in support of the rebuilding of Iraq.
Posted in Elections, Iraq, Political Parties, Women | Comment »
Afghanistan: The London Conference Begins
January 28th, 2010 by Josh
The much anticipated London Conference got underway this morning, with delegations from more than 60 countries gathering to tackle issues of Afghan security, governance and development, and regional support.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown opened with remarks on the collaborative effort to bring Afghanistan greater stability and prosperity. To perhaps assuage concerns over the recent rise in troop levels, Brown affirmed that “the increase in our military efforts must be matched with governance and economic development — a political and civilian surge to match and complement the current military surge.” Along those lines, he announced an initiative to train “12,000 sub-national civil servants in core administrative functions in support of provincial and district governorships by the end of 2011.” He further noted significant increases in British and German foreign aid directed toward Afghan agriculture development and infrastructure.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai​hailed the conference as an opportunity to develop an “Afghan‑led, Afghan‑owned initiative” that ensures peace and stability in Afghanistan. To achieve that goal, he advocated a six-point framework: 1) peace, reconciliation and reintegration; 2) security; 3) good governance; 4) fight against corruption; 5) economic development; and 6) regional cooperation.
Among the agreed-upon conference outcomes were: Targets for significant increases in the Afghan Army and Police Force supported by the international community; the establishment of an independent Office of High Oversight and an independent Monitoring and Evaluation Mission to tackle corruption; a civilian surge to match the military surge; and an enhanced sub-national government to improve delivery of basic services to all Afghans.
A full and comprehensive summary of the day’s discussions can be found here.
Posted in Afghanistan, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Multilateralism​, Taliban | Comment »
SOTU: Reaction to the Foreign Policy Sections
January 28th, 2010 by Josh
Despite the relative dearth of foreign policy pronouncements in last night’s State of the Union, some are voicing displeasure with what they see as the speech’s simplistic view of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. IraqPundit is astonished that President Obama implied a forthcoming end to the Iraq war simply by virtue of withdrawing the remaining U.S. troops. “Surely he must know that just because he pulls some U.S. troops out of Iraq not much will change. The terrorists will continue to murder.”
Over at The Cable, Josh Rogin​interprets this brief passage as Obama taking “credit for the one problem that seems to be resolving itself.”
Contrary to IraqPundit, Juan Cole views the Iraq line as Obama’s strongest foreign policy declaration within the speech, noting that it signals Obama’s recognition of Iraq as “irrelevant to the war on terrorism” and makes it “quite clear that the U.S. military is departing Iraq on the timetable worked out with the Iraqi parliament.” However, Cole is less pleased with Obama’s rhetoric on Iran, which he sees as “essentially a capitulation to Neoconservative themes on Iran, rather than retaining Obama’s central plank of keeping negotiating lines open to Tehran.” He also dismisses the efficacy of sanctions to do anything other than “keep a country weak and harm civilians.” They can not, according to Cole, produce regime change.
Commenting on the Obama’s priorities, Laura Rozen isn’t surprised with the “downgrading of foreign policy emphasis in the speech.” She relays a revealing conversation she had last week with a Democratic strategist who predicted that by early mid-summer, it will only be Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan on the president’s agenda. “The president is now a war president and an economy president,” the strategist said.
Posted in Afghanistan, Congress, Diplomacy, Iran, Iraq, Neocons, US foreign policy, sanctions | Comment »
Saudi Arabia: Study Shows Most Saudis Are Concerned About Corruption
January 28th, 2010 by Maria
data set released by Princeton-based Pechter Middle East Polls conducted on Saudi Arabian citizens shows they are a moderately satisfied constituency, but most of whom are concerned with corruption (63 percent) and religious extremism (54 percent) in Saudi Arabia. The polling was done on 1,000 Saudi Arabian citizens residing in three main urban areas of the country: Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam/al-Khobar. Interestingly enough, most also responded that they would like new and additional political changes, like local elections. The research organization that conducted the study analyzes that the Saudis are open to accepting “a gradual pace of reform” as well as “modest measures” toward reform within the next few years.
Posted in Elections, Public Opinion, Reform, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
Afghanistan: Human Rights Violations Must Be Addressed
January 28th, 2010 by Maria
Navi Pillay writes in the Daily Star that today’s conference on Afghanistan in London will be best-served by tackling human rights concerns in the country, where “even the modest human rights gains achieved in the last eight years are under threat.” Pillay argues that groups like the Taliban have benefited from an environment of lawlessness which has enabled them to organize and intensify their operations. Afghan disillusionment with democratization is not surprising, says Pillay, as more and more Afghans are perceiving government processes and structures to be “undemocratic, unfair, and unable to deliver the most basic services or the most fundamental protection.” Pillay believes that these human rights violations are “neither accidents of fate nor unchallengeable occurrences. They are rather the blatantly violent and unmitigated manifestation of how roles are structured…and how power is distributed in Afghanistan.”
Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted an event on Monday to preview the conference in London.
UPDATE:  Democracy Digest reports that there is some speculation that a “forgive and forget” policy might be implemented for some members of the Taliban in order to incorporate the group as part of a legitimate government in Afghanistan. However, advocates of democracy and human rights are pushing against such a move, arguing that human rights shouldn’t be traded in for the sake of security.
Posted in Afghanistan, Human Rights, Taliban | Comment »
State of the Union: Excerpts on Foreign Policy
January 28th, 2010 by Josh
President Obama delivered his first State of the Union Address last night, focusing mostly on domestic issues such as job creation, alternative energy investment, and the budget deficit. Although foreign policy took a back seat, the speech did include a few notable passages, including one on the potential for Iranian sanctions should Iran’s leaders continue their diplomatic belligerence:
Now, these diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons. That’s why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions — sanctions that are being vigorously enforced. That’s why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise.
Obama’s only mention of Iraq and Afghanistan came in the context of troop deployments and deadlines. For Iraq:
We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.”
For Afghanistan:
In Afghanistan, we are increasing our troops and training Afghan Security Forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans - men and women alike.
With regard to universal principles of justice, Obama briefly alluded to America’s history of supporting those who seek empowerment:
America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores… That’s why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran… For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. Always. Abroad, America’s greatest source of strength has always been our ideals.
We will highlight commentary on the speech and its significance throughout the day.
Posted in Afghanistan, Congress, Freedom, Iran, Iraq, US foreign policy | 1 Comment »
Iran: New Opposition to Sanctions, More Pushback on Haass
January 27th, 2010 by Josh
Laura Rozen of Politico catches an interesting development in the ongoing debate over the Iran sanctions bill. Leery of the legislation’s current construction, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers and the National Foreign Trade Council sent a joint letter[PDF] to National Security Advisor Jim Jones and National Economic Council Chairman Larry Summers voicing opposition to the bill. The letter decries the “unilateral, extraterritorial, and overly broad approach” of the proposed sanctions which would “undercut rather than advance [the] critical objective.” Rozen points out that these groups also seek a greater degree of presidential discretion as part of any legislation — a point which the administration has itself been quietly pushing in negotiations with congress.
Elsewhere in Iranian policy, Richard Haass’ Newsweek​column continues to ignite a firestorm of debate. Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett issue a response on their blog, The Race for Iran, pointing to Haass’ role in formulating policy toward Iraq in the months leading up to the U.S. invasion in 2003. They see eerie similarities between Haass’ erstwhile pronouncements (via then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, whom Haass helped to advise) of “enough” with respect to Iraq and his rhetoric toward Iran today. Highlighting the sizable disconnect between Haass’ level of certainty about Iranian politics and his relative lack of factual evidence in support of those judgments, the Leveretts fear that the recent Newsweek piece “is likely to do real damage to American interests in Iran and the Middle East more broadly.” They issue an ominous warning that following Haass’ advice will put the United States on a “similarly misguided and counterproductive policy course” to that of Iraq seven years ago.
Posted in Diplomacy, Human Rights, Iran, Multilateralism​, US foreign policy, sanctions | 1 Comment »
Iraq: New Legislation Restores a Degree of Hope
January 27th, 2010 by Josh
Amidst the mounting pessimism over Iraq’s forthcoming election, Michael Allen of Democracy Digest takes heart in the recent passage of a “new and notably liberal Law on Non-Governmental Organizations.” The legislation, expected to soon be signed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, is a “relatively rare victory for democracy advocates” which Allen believes may create greater political space for independent civil society actors. Among the many provisions are a relaxation of start-up requirements, an elimination of fundraising restrictions, and a decriminalization of punishments from imprisonment to administrative sanctions for those who break the law.
Posted in Freedom, Iraq, Legislation, NGOs, Reform | Comment »
Yemen: Debating What the U.S. Approach Should Be
January 27th, 2010 by Maria
Following the failed Christmas day attack, analysis on how to best deal with Yemen continues in the press. The New York Times reports that some analysts worry that, if handled incorrectly, a sudden rush of aid to Yemen “could reinforce patterns of patronage that have contributed indirectly to Yemen’s culture of extremism.” The Majlis speculates that, given some of the statements U.S. officials have made about Yemen’s security situation, that the U.S. might like the Yemeni government to “increase its ability to take care of its own security threats.” The Center for American Progress’ Danya Greenfield argues for the investment of “much needed U.S. assistance in good governance, anti-corruption efforts and economic reform alongside military assistance” as the “best chance at enhancing the long-term stability of Yemen and preventing radicalization.”
Today’s conference on Afghanistan in London will include a look at Yemen and its likelihood of becoming a failed-state in the Middle East. The Majlis is skeptical about how effective the conference will prove to be, and writes that the main outcome for Yemen will be an international “Friends of Yemen” organization — as opposed to any additional monetary aid from Western countries. Mai Yamani cautions that the conference will potentially do more harm for Yemen if it choses to focus only on its al-Qaeda problem, rather than tackle issues of greater concern: its “political and social stability within the country.” Egypt says it will support Yemen at the conference, while Iran says it is boycotting the conference altogether.
Posted in Egypt, Iran, US foreign policy, Yemen, al-Qaeda | Comment »
Iran: More Calls for Regime Change
January 27th, 2010 by Josh
Echoing Richard Haass’ recent piece in Newsweek (covered here), Robert Kagan — a senior associate for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — uses his column in the Washington Post to unequivocally call for President Obama to prioritize regime change in Iran above all other diplomatic options. Claiming that Obama has a “once-in-a-generation opportunity over the next few months to help make the world a dramatically safer place,” Kagan promotes regime change as “the best non-proliferation policy.” But the longer Obama waits, he says, the greater the risk that Israel may lose patience and feel compelled to attack — a scenario which Kagan warns may only strengthen the pillars of the regime.
Gregg Carlstrom at The Majlis comments that Kagan “makes some good points” about both the futility of airstrikes as well as the short-term nature of a nuclear deal. However, he tends to think that Kagan’s prescriptions are “overly optimistic, to say the least.” He continues, “Iranian reformists are sharply divided on whether economic sanctions — even targeted ones — would help or hurt the Green Movement.” Much like Hooman Majd and Blake Hounshell, Carlstrom also senses a degree of uncertainty towards revolution within the reform movement itself. Regardless of any policy’s potential efficacy in the abstract, “The U.S. government cannot steer the Iranian people towards regime change,” he says. “If the regime falls, it will be because Iranians decided to topple it — not because of anything that happens on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
In other Iran news, a foreign ministry spokesman announced Iran’s intention to boycott the upcoming London Conference on Afghanistan​, calling it a futile effort which will not rectify “past erroneous approaches.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Iran, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Journal of Democracy: “Why Are There No Arab Democracies?”
January 27th, 2010 by Josh
Larry Diamond, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the director of Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, penned a piece[PDF] for the latest edition of the Journal of Democracy in which he highlights, and attempts to explain, the dearth of democracies throughout the Arab world. Alarmed that the “third wave” of democratization produced a “critical mass” of democracies in every region save one — the Middle East — Diamond considers the possible reasons behind the region’s collective reticence toward meaningful reform.
Though many attribute this “democracy deficit” to the region’s religion or culture, Diamond dismisses this argument by pointing to eight non-Arab, Muslim-majority countries currently rated by Freedom House as electoral democracies. Muslim-majority states outside of the Mid-East also rated considerably higher than their Arab counterparts on two of Freedom House’s most important measurements​. Further dispensing with the culture claim, Diamond notes that many African countries with similar traditions of autocratic rule have in recent years embraced modern democratic principles of governance.
With regard to sectarianism, and those who presume that deep social fissures within the Arab world preclude democratic progress, Diamond counters by highlighting war-torn Lebanon and Iraq as the two Middle Eastern countries closest to full electoral democracy. He claims that Arab populations do, in fact, want representative governments, pointing to an Arab Barometer survey that revealed overwhelming support for democracy over authoritarianism​. Yet, despite social and even economic similarities between the Arab world and other, more democratized regions, Middle Eastern states have not succumbed to the wave of democratic globalization.
Continue reading below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Freedom, Human Rights, Sectarianism | 1 Comment »
Muslim Brotherhood: Analyzing the Group’s Pick for its New Leader
January 27th, 2010 by Maria
Since the leadership change of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on January 16, some have speculated as to the impact on the region’s most influential Islamist group. Shadi Hamid writes that group’s decision to elect Mohammed Badie as the new General Guide — the Muslim Brotherhood’s most senior position — has drawn a consensus reaction that a turn toward a more a radical direction can be anticipated. However, Hamid believes these interpretations are misguided, and that the group’s concern for how it is perceived by the rest of the world is too important for it to abandon what has been its “increasingly moderate force.” Accordingly, “for a group very much affected by how others perceive it, organizational commitments trump the beliefs of individual leaders.”
The Guardian’s Fawaz Gerges writes that the election of Badie has actually been a blow for those in the group who have been advocating for “reformist tendencies.” Unlike Hamid, Gerges believes “the reformist wing, which calls for transparency and joining ranks with the small, but active secular opposition, has therefore suffered a major setback.”
Al Masry Al Youm is reporting that the head of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, called Badie in order to wish him “all the best” and pledge Hamas’ support for the Brotherhood’s new leader.
UPDATE: An English translation of Badie’s acceptance speech has been released. Hamid has also just published portions of an interview Badie gave with Al Jazeera last week.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, Reform | 3 Comments »
Egypt: Mubarak’s Promises of Fair Elections are Met With Doubts
January 26th, 2010 by Jessica
In a post for The Majlis, Gregg Carlstrom reports on an interview with Hosni Mubarak with an official Egyptian police magazine.  During the course of the interview, Mubarak pledged that the upcoming Egyptian elections would be more “free and fair” and reaffirmed that the elections would be held with integrity.
Many remain skeptical of Mubarak’s dedication to free and fair elections. Carlstrom voices concerns that Mubarak will allow cosmetic changes, such as international monitoring, while failing to address the problems at the heart of the issues: the lack of independent candidates in the Egyptian elections.  The text of the Egyptian constitution makes it very difficult if not impossible to run as an independent.
In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Mohamed ElBaradei former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, comments on Egypt’s political climate and the upcoming elections. A respected international figure and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, ElBaradei has confessed that there has been pressure to become engaged in domestic politics in Egypt, by running for president in 2011. ElBaradei goes on to say, “I would not even consider running for president unless there is the proper framework for a free and fair election — and that is still the major question mark in Egypt. I don’t believe the conditions are in place for free and fair elections. . . . These guarantees [include] an independent judicial review, international oversight, and equal opportunity for media coverage . . .  and of course, the ability to run as an independent. The Constitution is written in a way that I cannot run unless I join an existing party, which, to me, is not how a democratic system works.”
ElBaradei goes on to comment on the positive impact that a democratic Egypt with a transparent regime might have on the Arab world.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt | Comment »
Iran: Interpreting Karroubi’s Recent Remarks
January 26th, 2010 by Maria
A debate has ensued over reports from earlier this week that Iran’s opposition movement leader Mehdi Karroubi officially recognized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president. The New York Times reported yesterday that “Iran Opposition Leaders Drop Demand for New Election,” writing that while they still view the June, 2009 elections as illegitimate, opposition leaders are now accepting the current Iranian regime as the official head of state, citing “Iranian news sources.” is also reporting today that this is the first time Karroubi has made a public acknowledgment of the regime’s leadership. Associated PressReuters, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty are making similar reports.
However, early this morning the Los Angeles Times‘ Middle East blog offers a bit of a different interpretation of these events, writing that the “brouhaha” created by journalists over Karroubi’s comments can now be “put to rest” because of an “unambiguous denunciation” by Karroubi of the June elections. They use the Iranian news Web site to cite Karroubi as having said: “The more we go ahead, the more I’m convinced the election was massively rigged…I get new information every day, and it is regrettable to see certain officials tampered with people’s votes in this way.” The L.A. Times says a “Tehran analyst” is refuting any interpretation that Karroubi has recognized President Ahmadinejad​. “Karroubi had not budged at all,” says the analyst. “Karroubi said the government is the government of the system. So it does not imply he has recognized it.”
Posted in Elections, Iran, Middle Eastern Media, Protests, Reform | Comment »
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