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7 May 2010 - 28 Jul 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: May, 2010
More Reaction to Obama’s National Security Strategy
May 29th, 2010 by Josh
Democracy Arsenal has a very interesting back and forth about the Obama administration’s just-released National Security Strategy. Building upon Heather Hurlburt’s rejection of the political right’s claim that Obama’s foreign policy effectively mimicks the principles first introduced by George W. Bush, David Shorr reminds that this view is only true insofar as the right acknowledges that Bush’s approach underwent a severe reformation in 2006 — well after many of his first-term decisions laid the foundation for years of additional problems. Michael Cohen largely agrees, but notes that the administration’s “platitudinous support for multilateral institutions, diplomacy, democracy promotion, etc.” seems like it’s “built on the shaky foundation of Beltway conventional foreign policy wisdom about US primacy and our habitually broad post-Cold War definition of US interests.”
However, Shadi Hamid pushes back on Cohen’s suggestion that the NSS is needlessly broad, saying that “this seems like an odd time to narrow the scope of our ambition.” He further calls it unwise for the president to announce a concession when the U.S. for years “has not been an agent of change but a dogged protector of the status quo.” Michael Cohen counters by saying that “the simple fact is that America’s relative power IS in decline” and that “what we need is a national security strategy that is not only more prudent, but also reflective of actual US interests and threats (both of which are far smaller than this NSS would have Americans believe).”
Using a different lens, Alex Meixner of Save Darfur is quite pleased with the way the NSS reorients U.S. policy toward genocide, calling it “exactly what Save Darfur, the Genocide Intervention Network, and our other partners have been calling for.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Sudan, US foreign policy | Comment »
Egypt: Is Washington a “Sucker” for Mubarak?
May 29th, 2010 by Josh
Ellen Bork of the Foreign Policy Initiative dives into this question at the Weekly Standard, reflecting upon the time-honored U.S. convention of prioritizing stability in Egypt to explain why Egyptians view the U.S. with a “mixture of resentment, confusion, and hope.” For 30 years, she says, U.S. policymakers have subordinated democracy to Middle East peace and security, with little thought about whether supporting President Mubarak’s personal stability is ultimately futile in the face of economic stagnation, corruption, and incessant repression — all of which contain the “seeds of [Mubarak’s] destruction.” Having just spoken to a number of Egyptian intellectuals and small businessmen, Bork reports that many are surprised at “American credulousness,” a common refrain derived from their rejection of the popular formula that for years has held that free and fair elections will lead to radical Islamist rule. “They think … that granting Egyptians political rights would neutralize the threat,” she writes.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Freedom, Human Rights, Political Islam, Public Opinion, US foreign policy | Comment »
New Poll Shows “U-Turn” in U.S. Favorability
May 29th, 2010 by Josh
After nearly a year of slow but visible gains in U.S. approval throughout the Arab world, the latest iteration of Gallup polling shows significant declines in four of the six states surveyed — perhaps reflecting what some have recently identified as a rather acute disappointment with what they see as a gap between Obama administration rhetoric and action. Egypt experienced the steepest fall from a two-year high of 37 percent approval last fall to 19 percent today. Algeria was next, dipping 13 percent from 43 to 30. Declines were relatively more mild in Iraq and the Palestinian Territories (3 and 4 percent respectively), both within Gallop’s margin of error.
Aside from surface-level favorability ratings, the poll’s so-called “internals” are fascinating as well. When asked what would improve their view of the United States, 55 percent of Egyptians cited “supporting the right of Muslims to elect their own government” as a “very significant” issue. Other priority responses in this category include: “pulling out of Iraq” (64 percent); “removing military bases from Saudi Arabia” (60 percent); “more direct humanitarian aid” (57 percent); and “greater technology transfer and exchange of business expertise” (57 percent).
Posted in Algeria, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Military, Palestine, Public Opinion, Technology, US foreign policy | Comment »
Lebanon: Disentangling Hezbollah from Shi’a Communities
May 27th, 2010 by Josh
Over at the Middle East Channel, Randa Slim of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund offers a fresh perspective on the deeply entrenched relationship between Hezbollah and Lebanese communities. Dismissing the utility of either internal or external military force as a means to disarm the popular Shi’a movement, Slim presents an alternative rooted in an “intra-Lebanese process of political dialogue.” Her recommendation also includes a prominent role for the international community, one that eschews its traditional projection of force in favor of new policies intended to create the “political, security and economic incentives and atmosphere in Lebanon and in the region that help promote and support disarmament.” All actors must reorient their focus away from the “Iranian provider” and toward the “Lebanese consumer,” meaning that the key to marginalizing Hezbollah’s military capacity lies in the ability to create upward pressure from the Shi’a community to demand change. According to Slim, cultivating such an environment requires an approach with four components:
“Only pressure from its Shi’a constituency will change Hezbollah’s cost-benefit calculations,” Slim says. “This pressure will come only after Lebanon’s Shi’a believe that the Lebanese state institutions are the best guarantors of their economic and physical security.”
Posted in Hezbollah, Islamist movements, Lebanon, Military, Public Opinion, Reform, Sectarianism​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Obama Administration Releases its National Security Strategy
May 27th, 2010 by Chanan
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled this afternoon the Obama administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS), a 52 pg. report covering a wide range of issues facing the U.S. from the state of the economy to the challenges of domestic terrorism.
The NY TimesDavid Sanger and Peter Baker point out that this NSS stands in stark contrast to Bush’s 2002 NSS on a number of fronts, including on the right to preemptive strikes, the use of unilateral force and the acknowledgment of burgeoning rival powers. They explain: “Much of the National Security Strategy, which is required by Congress, reads as an argument for a restoration of an older order of reliance on international institutions, updated to confront modern threats.” Newsweek​’s Michael Hirsh, however, appears to offer a different interpretation in a blog post entitled, “Obama’s National Security Strategy: Not So Different From Bush’s.” He argues that “it is unmistakable that there are far more similarities than differences between the two National Security Strategies, though each of them marks the advent of an era that is supposedly as distinct from the other as any two periods in U.S. history.”
The report also devotes a section to the importance of promoting democracy and human rights abroad. It tackles numerous elements of this ideal, including the support of women’s rights, recognition of peaceful democratic movements and practicing “principled engagement” with non-democratic regimes. In an apparent dig at Iran, the Obama administration writes that “when our overtures are rebuffed, we must lead the international community in using public and private diplomacy, and drawing on incentives and
disincentives, in an effort to change repressive behavior.”
Foreign Policy’s Will Inboden​thinks the report - especially this section - is lacking in substance and grit. “While the NSS rightfully devotes more rhetorical attention to the promotion of human rights and democracy, it unfortunately puts too much emphasis on the U.S. example alone…,” he argues. “What they [international reformers] want is active American advocacy and support — even when that support might cause friction in diplomatic engagement with their own governments.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Human Rights, Multilateralism​, Reform, US foreign policy, Uncategorized​, Women | 2 Comments »
POMED Notes: “One Year After Cairo: Has U.S. Engagement Improved the Prospects for Reform in the Arab World?”
May 26th, 2010 by Josh
Earlier today, Freedom House and the Project on Middle East Democracy co-hosted an event at the Capitol Visitor Center to explore the effects of President Obama’s new approach to the Arab World, the current challenges for democracy and human rights in the region, and the prospects for changes in U.S. policy to bring about a lasting impact. Tamara Wittes, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, provided remarks on how the president’s Cairo speech has shaped the last year of Middle East policy. Deputy Director of Freedom House Thomas. O Melia then moderated a group of 3 panelists: Dina Guirguis, Research Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Andrew Albertson, Executive Director of POMED; and Stephen Grand, Director of the U.S. Relations with the Islamic World project at the Brookings Institution.
Click here for POMED’s notes in PDF, or continue reading below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Multilateralism​, Political Parties, Reform, US foreign policy, Women, Yemen | 2 Comments »
Iran: Turkey and Brazil’s Challenge to the U.S. Nuclear Game Plan
May 26th, 2010 by Chanan
Ahmet Davutoglu and Celso Amorim, the respective foreign ministers for Turkey and Brazil, took to the op-ed pages of the New York Times today to spell out the rationale for, and importance of, the May 17th nuclear fuel swap deal. In a piece called “Giving Diplomacy a Chance,” the two argue that they are in full support for a nuclear-free world and that any attempt to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state will only be successful through “result-oriented negotiations.” They explain: “There is only one viable solution to disagreements with Iran over its nuclear program, and that is a negotiated diplomatic solution.”
The day prior, however, Thomas Friedman, expressed his utter disgust for this deal perpetuated by two nascent democracies. “Is there anything uglier,” he asks, “than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?” Friedman continues that while halting Iran’s budding nuclear program should remain a priority for the international community, it mustn’t get in the way of support for the Green Movement, which he believes is “the most important, self-generated, democracy movement to appear in the Middle East in decades.” He concluded that a democratic Iran with a bomb is a far better scenario than an authoritarian Iran with a bomb.
The Arabist’s Issandr El Amrani finds Friedman to be nothing short of hypocritical​. He argues that “the US backs plenty of undemocratic countries for much worse reasons that Brazil’s desire to play a role on the world stage and Turkey doing the same as well as trying to avoid a war on its borders.” He also asserts that he “would rather see a democratic Iran with the bomb rather than an autocratic Iran without it.”
Nonetheless, Foreign Policy’s James Traub thinks the U.S. “overrates the salience of democracy to foreign policy” and that the evolution of independent-minded maturing middle power democracies, such as Turkey and Brazil, is proof that a synonymous type of government won’t necessarily produce synonymous foreign policy interests. This inherent shift away from uni-polarity, writes Graham E. Fuller, should be applauded. “Shouldn’t the world welcome the actions of two significant, responsible, democratic, and rational states to intervene and help check the foolishnesses of decades of US policy?”
Posted in Concert of Democracies​, Diplomacy, Iran, Turkey, US foreign policy, Uncategorized | Comment »
Iran: How Does a “Covert War” Affect Ongoing Negotiations?
May 25th, 2010 by Josh
One day after Iran formally submitted its trilateral nuclear fuel plan to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the New York Times reports that General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command in the Middle East and Central Asia, signed a secret directive to authorize a broad expansion of clandestine military activity to counter threats in Iran and other regional countries. This initiative will, according to the Times’ Mark Mazzetti, intensify the program of covert operations first instituted under former President George W. Bush.
Accusing President Obama of flagrantly discarding his rhetoric of “mutual respect,” Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett  worry that the NYT article “raises urgent and disturbing questions about the direction of America’s Iran policy” under the current administration. They believe that the order needlessly heightens the Iranian regime’s sensitivity toward innocent foreign academics and others who visit for purely innocuous reasons, thereby exacerbating the risks for those Americans who choose to travel to Iran. But this “covert war” may carry other consequences as well. “[The administration is] further eroding the already deteriorating prospects for an improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations—and increasing the chances of an eventual U.S.-Iranian military confrontation,” the Leveretts write.
At The Washington Note, Andrew Lebovich draws attention to a piece by Georgetown professor Charles Kupchan in April’s Foreign Affairs, in which he argues that sustained and persistent dialogue can positively resolve conflicts over time. “Kupchan is right to point out that breakthroughs with hostile countries often occur not as a result of threats or harsh measures alone,” Lebovich says, “but as part of an ongoing and sometimes halting process that utilizes both carrots and sticks to advance our end goal.”
Posted in Diplomacy, Iran, Military, US foreign policy | Comment »
Are Women Losing Power in Turkey?
May 25th, 2010 by Chanan
The answer is yes, according to Soner Cagaptay and Rueya Perincek of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In a one-page graphical analysis replete with bar charts and explanatory captions, Cagaptay and Perincek depict a reality where women have experienced a diminished role in political affairs since the AKP government came to power in 2002. Although women’s share in the Turkish parliament has doubled during this time period, they have also witnessed a drop in holding executive and bureaucratic positions in government. For example, not one woman holds a high-level position in the Justice Ministry. According to the authors, all of these elements account for the fact that women are being pushed out of the workforce. “Under the AKP,” they write, “women are losing power in Turkey.”
Posted in Judiciary, Political Parties, Turkey, Uncategorized​, Women | Comment »
Sen. Russ Feingold Criticizes Administration’s “Uncritical Support” for Egypt
May 25th, 2010 by Chanan
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) penned a letter to President Obama criticizing his administration’s “insufficient” response to Egypt’s decision to extend the highly controversial Emergency Laws and encouraging it to support “fair, free and peaceful” parliamentary and presidential elections in the coming months. To pursue a strong, strategic and sustainable working relationship with the Egyptian government, Feingold stressed that “we must engage more broadly with the Egyptian people and support efforts in the country to push for human rights and democratic reform.” By ignoring these much needed reforms, the U.S. administration risks “undermin[ing] our credibility as champions of political and civil rights and creates tensions, particularly in the Muslim world.” This, he continued, threatens U.S. national security. He concluded with the following advice: “we must be strong and consistent in advancing human rights, good governance and the rule of law while also addressing security and economic concerns.  And we should make sure that message is being reinforced by all U.S. government officials and programs in Egypt.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, US foreign policy, Uncategorized | Comment »
Arab Attitudes One Year After Cairo
May 24th, 2010 by Chanan
As the one year anniversary of President Obama’s address in Cairo soon approaches, the folks over at Bitter-Lemons hosted four perspectives to debate the state of Arab public opinion and the United States.
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, writes that the “Obama bounce” in favorability ratings among Arab public opinion is still in evidence, though attitudes toward the president himself are down since its peak during his Cairo address. He explains: “Arab attitudes one year after Cairo are both cautious and mature. They are neither unrealistically hopeful nor excessively deflated. They are still waiting for needed change and open to recognizing it when it comes.”
Mohamed A.B. Yossif, a Cairo-based journalist, stressed that Arab public opinion toward the US is passing through a transitional phase where new and more complex standards are used to judge US polices in the region.” Whereas the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at one time the primary prism through which Arab attitudes toward the U.S. were formed, now millions of Arabs are judging the U.S. based on its support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. Many want the U.S. to apply pressure on Arab governments to reform and “a prioritization of democracy promotion on the agenda of Arab citizens.”
David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy cites a number of intriguing findings about the state of Arab opinion toward the U.S., but highlights that perhaps the most striking finding is that “the US is just not that much on people’s minds in the region.” And Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research, explains the even though Palestinians see the United States as inherently biased toward Israel, they still predominantly support strong U.S. intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine, Public Opinion, Reform, US foreign policy, Uncategorized | Comment »
Jordan: Judging the New Electoral Law
May 24th, 2010 by Josh
At the Middle East Channel, Curtis R. Ryan discusses Jordan’s new electoral system and what it demonstrates about the Jordanian regime’s “commitment to liberal reforms.” While the new law does accede to some of the demands of reformists, Ryan believes that “it is not at all transformative and at most makes some minor adjustments to the status quo.” In an effort to mollify reformists — a community increasingly tossed aside in favor of the “more reactionary traditional elite” — the regime puts a good deal of effort into slogans and marketing campaigns that merely present a superficial layer of change. One reformist complained to Ryan that the monarchy’s “words are with the reformers, but its actions are for the status quo.”
Conspicuously absent from the new legislation is one of the primary recommendations from the 2005 National Agenda commission — a group appointed by King Abdullah to create the “architecture for political and economic reform in the kingdom for years to come.” The commission had called for amending Jordan’s existing Single Non-Transferable Vote system (SNTV) by adding elements of proportional representation and party lists. As things currently stand, however, “the 2010 elections will be contested in a way that, despite the minor reforms, should minimize the development of political parties and encourage localized rather than national voting,” meaning that the “regime will therefore get the conservative, traditional, tribalistic, and pro-regime parliament that it wants.”
Posted in Elections, Jordan, Legislation, Political Parties, Reform | Comment »
Obama’s West Point Speech: A Preview of the National Security Strategy?
May 24th, 2010 by Chanan
Several days after President Obama’s commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, pundits from across the political spectrum painted the speech as a preview for the U.S. National Security Strategy, which will be unveiled later this week. According to a piece of analysis by the New York TimesPeter Baker, such a strategy will include four main overarching principles: “to build strength abroad by building strength at home through education, clean energy and innovation; to promote “the renewed engagement of our diplomats” and support international development; to rebuild alliances; and to promote human rights and democracy abroad.”
Baker also characterized the speech as a public break with the Bush administration’s “emphasis on unilateral American power and the right to wage pre-emptive war.” Foreign Policy’s Will Inboden, however, thinks that Baker “overshoots” in his analysis. This speech, according to Inboden, actually reflected a structural continuation of the previous administration’s foreign policy. For example, “After spending much of his first year in office downplaying if not ignoring democracy and human rights promotion, he is now making democracy and human rights promotion one of the four pillars of his national security strategy.” In short, based on a variety of different factors “the President Obama of today acts and sounds considerably different than the one elected in November 2008.”
Nonetheless, the National Review’s Arthur Herman takes issue with Obama’s speech for two reasons: one, Obama appears to be sacrificing American military power for American diplomacy and multilateral institutions. Second, unlike other former presidents that advocated visions of a new world order following foreign policy successes (such as WWI and WWII), this president is “pushing his new multilateral “international order” hot on the heels of two important failures — in Iran and North Korea.” The Atlantic’s James Fallows sees the historical comparisons quite differently. He sees strong similarities with President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1960, where he advocated the importance of disarmament and diplomacy. In this respect, Fallows believed that Obama’s address “is a return to the best and most sustainable tradition of post-World War II American foreign policy.” He also, for the record, equates Obama’s governing ideology with “the intellectual father Obama doesn’t talk about” — Jimmy Carter.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Multilateralism​, US foreign policy, US politics, Uncategorized | Comment »
Egypt: Regime Cracks Down on Activists, Evangelicals
May 24th, 2010 by Josh
Responding to the demonstrations on May 3 in protest of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, an Egyptian court sentenced Ahmed Saad Douma, an activist from the 6 April Youth movement, to six months in jail for assaulting a police officer. One day later, Egyptian authorities arrested 13 evangelical Christians for allegedly violating the Emergency Law by proselytizing in Alexandria. Naguib Gobrail, president of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, accused the government of wildly misapplying Emergency Law provisions — which only address terrorism and drug-related activities — to illegally arrest young Christians.
Meanwhile, Amro Hassan at Babylon & Beyond points to the ongoing debate surrounding Mubarak’s succession, particularly a recent case where Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif appeared to raise doubts about plausibility of President Mubarak’s son, Gamal, taking power. “The [political] system has not put forth an alternative [to Mubarak], who can be comfortably placed in this field,” he said. Hassan suspects that this reflects a broader view within both the opposition and the ruling National Democratic Party that Gamal Mubarak harbors radical ideas and lacks the experience to run Egypt.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Human Rights, Judiciary, Political Parties, Protests | Comment »
Iran: Are Sanctions and Engagement Compatible?
May 21st, 2010 by Josh
Echoing the frustrations of others earlier this week, Roger Cohen uses his most recent New York Times op-ed to question the wisdom of the Obama administration’s “bristling” response to the trilateral nuclear fuel swap deal. Cohen believes that the president should have exclaimed, “Pressure works! Iran blinked on the eve of new U.N. sanctions. It’s come back to our offer. We need to be prudent, given past Iranian duplicity, but this is progress. Isolation serves Iranian hard-liners.” Instead, the administration not only distanced itself from the deal, but also insisted “on a prior suspension of enrichment that was not in the October deal.”
Over at World Politics Review, Nikolas K. Gvosdev asks “Where does this process go from here?” One possibility, he says, is that “the Obama administration could run up against a growing domestic U.S. consensus that both a U.N. resolution and congressional legislation are needed — that having one without the other is insufficient.” Gvosdev predicts that such a scenario may complicate diplomatic overtures in the future. But Time’s Tony Karon isn’t so sure, writing that a “two-track” complementary approach of punitive pressures and diplomatic engagement “may be Washington’s answer to Iran’s strategy of negotiating while steadily adding to its stockpile of nuclear material.”
Posted in Congress, Diplomacy, Iran, Legislation, US foreign policy, US politics, sanctions | Comment »
Turkey: FM Ahmet Davutoglu and the Principles of Turkish Foreign Policy
May 21st, 2010 by Chanan
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu capped off a high-profile week of diplomatic engagement and summitry with an article in Foreign Policy outlining his country’s newfound principled approach to foreign affairs and Turkey’s role in the world. In a post-Cold War era devoid of new global political or legal systems concomitant with the challenges of a new world order, the solutions to any potential or existing problems must be imagined and implemented by nation-states themselves. “In this new world, Turkey is playing an increasingly central role in promoting international security and prosperity,” he wrote.
Davutoglu also articulated the methodological and operational principles that guide Turkey’s foreign policy, including the oft-discussed concept of zero problems toward neighbors as well as ensuring a balance between democracy and security. “The legitimacy of any political regime comes from its ability to provide security and freedom together to its citizens; this security should not be at the expense of freedoms and human rights in the country.” He also consistently expressed his belief that Turkey is a “mature democracy” and that Turkey will continue to “deepen and strengthen its democracy” in the coming era.
Posted in Turkey, Uncategorized | Comment »
Egypt: Mubarak on Succession: “Only God Could Know”
May 20th, 2010 by Josh
This was Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s response to a question about the future of the presidency during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi​. A Mubarak spokesman clarified afterward that the transfer of political power in Egypt is secured by “clear constitutional and legal mechanisms,” adding that “The people are to choose freely from the competing presidential candidates who is the [next] president.”
But one potential challenger in next year’s presidential contest, former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, is under increasing attack for running what some activists are describing as an “aloof, absent and out of touch” campaign that has failed to leverage any electoral concessions from Mubarak’s regime. A prominent member of Kafiya called ElBaradei’s effort a “fiasco,” and the Egypt’s 6 April Youth Movement, previously supportive of the ElBaradei phenomenon, has since backed off, calling the campaign’s clashing ambitions and lack of substance a “huge disappointment.”
Shifting the focus to U.S. policy, Michael Allen points to a piece by Adam Shatz in The London Review of Books, in which he argues that President Obama was eager to break with George W. Bush’s “messianic talk about spreading democracy.” And in the course of rebuilding trust with the Mubarak government, Obama has done “little more than express mild criticism of Mubarak for extending the Emergency Law, and his administration has reverted to the pre-2004 position of reserving USAID funds for NGOs approved by the Egyptians.” Further, Shatz senses that Obama is wagering that continued support for the current regime decreases the relative expense of exercising American power in the region — bad news for the Egyptian people, he says, “who fear that they will never know democracy because of the ‘American veto’.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Elections, Political Parties, US foreign policy | Comment »
Iraq: Despite Affirming Results, Recount Brings Little Clarity
May 20th, 2010 by Josh
Michael Wahid Hanna of The Century Foundation has a piece up on the Middle East Channel surveying Iraq’s political landscape in the wake of a reassuring recount and the just-resolved de-Ba’thification battle. The good news? The preliminary post-election stage may be nearing a “merciful end” with the prospects for a coalition government looking better than at any point since the elections. The bad news? “The election results and post-election maneuvering offer a grim reminder that ethno-sectarianism is still the organizing principle of political division despite tentative moves toward cross-sectarian politics.” These forces, Hanna says, have inflicted “long term damage … on the country’s supposedly neutral institutional superstructure and the political process.” Insofar as Iraq can achieve a long-term stability, it will require a “consensual and inclusive national compact.”
While the Christian Science Monitor senses similar progress in recent days, it predicts that impasse over participation in the governing coalition will continue for months. To that end, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill told reporters that “Our concern is that they do it sooner rather than later and that they understand there is much to be done to rebuild this country.” But earlier today, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused rival political bloc Iraqiyya of delaying the political process and rejected Ayad Allawi’s right to form a coalition, raising fears that Iraqiyya’s exclusion from the government could reignite violence.
Posted in Diplomacy, Elections, Iraq, Political Parties, Sectarianism | Comment »
Do Western Countries Want Middle East Democracy?
May 20th, 2010 by Josh
Searching for the geopolitical forces that prevent a more serious move toward democracy in the Middle East, Khaled Hroub — director of the Arab Media Project at Cambridge University — settles on what he views as an “unholy alliance” between Western interests and regional autocrats that tends to reward expedient diplomatic tradeoffs. “For example,” he writes, “the Western emphasis on reform and democracy in recent years has been used more often than not as a threat,” used to leverage cooperation on more urgent issues such as terrorism and regional security. Compounding the situation is a lingering Western fear that opening political space in Arab societies will lead to the rise of hostile political movements. Rather than seizing upon opportunities to support Arab liberal and democratic forces, “The West’s blind support for autocratic Arab rulers has reduced all hope of peaceful change,” Hroub says. He goes on to insist that the Middle East Partnership Initiative was “too little too late,” and decries “cultural specificity” as a convenient construction used to justify the West’s “value-free” policy.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Political Parties, Reform | Comment »
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