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04 Nov 2010 - 28 Jul 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: September, 2010
Iraq: Continued US Military Presence Post 2011?
September 30th, 2010 by Jason
Michael Eisenstadt​, writing in Foreign Affairs, contends that “security is still job number one for the United States in Iraq,” but that the relationship must evolve to include “a strategic partnership with the government and people of Iraq.” Eisenstadt notes that the second election in a new democracy “often determines whether nascent democratic processes will take root and prove sustainable.” Accordingly, the indeterminate results of the March election–Iraq’s second–may portend the failure of the Iraqi system: “Some U.S. officials have hinted darkly that continued political gridlock could inspire a coup led by military officers who are frustrated with Iraq’s squabbling politicians.” Eisenstadt suggests the best leverage the US has to influence events in Iraq is the threat of a full troop withdrawal which would leave the Iraqis to their fates, “Many see a relationship with the United States as the only insurance policy against a return of sectarian militias and al Qaeda in Iraq, government repression and unilateralism […] a military coup, a Baathist revival, or undue Iranian influence.” He goes on to advocate for continued US military presence in Iraq after 2011, provided the Iraqis will allow it. In the end, Eisenstadt says, “The history of post-conflict states suggests that Iraq will gain political strength and cohesion, and will have a better chance of avoiding renewed civil war, if it goes through a national reconciliation process.”
Posted in Elections​, Iraq, Military, US foreign policy | Comment »
Syria: Concerns About Draft Law on Internet Rights
September 30th, 2010 by Jason
Questions are being raised about how a new draft law will affect internet access and freedom in Syria. Obaida Hamad writes in Syria Today that the draft law has been “finalised.” Details about the law are sparse, but Hamad postulates that, “it will entail a voluntary system of registration with the Ministry of Information, by which sites can choose to be officially recognised. Another proposed clause is that sites nominate someone who is ultimately responsible for content.” The efficacy of these controls is questionable. As  Taleb Kadi Amin, a former deputy information minister, points out, “‘Sites are already blocked and people work out how to access them very quickly. Facebook is blocked, but it remains one of the most viewed sites in Syria.’”
In the New York Times, Robert Worth writes that Syrians have “a tenuous measure of freedom” on the internet but that freedom “is threatened by an ever present fog of fear and intimidation, and some journalists fear that it could soon be snuffed out,” due to the new law. Worth notes that the regime maintains a Facebook page for President Bashar al-Assad​.
Posted in Freedom​, Syria, Technology | Comment »
Iran: ICHRI Calls for Suspension of Judge in Derakhshan Case
September 30th, 2010 by Jason
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has called for “the immediate suspension of Judge Abolghassem Salavati​…on grounds of deviation from judicial standards and procedures in this and numerous other cases.” The group also called on an appeals court to overturn the case against Hossein Derakhshan because of the use of “academic connections” to help convict him. ICHRI claims that a letter of recommendation from Gary Sick, a faculty member at Columbia University, was used by the Iranian intelligence services as evidence of “problematic connections with a hostile state.”
Derakhshan, known as the “Blogfather,” is a dual citizen of both Canada and Iran. In today’s Montreal Gazette​, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon commented​: “‘Mr. Derakhshan’s situation is complicated by his dual nationality, which is not recognized by Iranian authorities. Iran must release him and other dual nationals who have been unjustly detained […] We continue to strongly urge Iran to fully respect all of its human rights obligations, including freedom of expression, both in law and in practice.’”

Posted in Freedom​, Human Rights, Iran | Comment »
Egypt: Obama Administration Must Back Up Words with Deeds
September 30th, 2010 by Evan
Following President Barack Obama’s speech at the UN General Assembly on the importance of human rights and democratization, multiple commentators have called on the administration to reinforce its rhetoric by acting to support democracy in Egypt.
An editorial in the Washington Post advocated for the Feingold​-​McCain resolution, which calls on Egypt to allow international and domestic monitors to verify the results of the upcoming elections. “The demand for observers is a reasonable one. Monitors from the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute were present for Egypt’s 2005 elections; the chairs of those groups, Mr. McCain and former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright have written to Mr. Mubarak offering their services for the November balloting. There has been no response.” Instead Egypt has launched an assiduous lobbying campaign to sink the resolution. The question, the editorial says, is whether President Obama will make good on his many verbal commitments to support democracy in Egypt.
Writing at Politico, Laura Rozen describes the growing sentiment in Egypt that Egyptian democracy will once again be forgotten. “Egyptian civil society activists complain the Obama team — like preceding U.S. administrations — has been too muted in its calls for greater democracy and human rights in Egypt. They say the U.S. has placed a greater priority on seeking Egypt’s help to advance fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, as well as Cairo’s lead role in reconciliation negotiations between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas,” Rozen writes, citing statements from prominent Egyptian activists. While the administration responds that it has pushed Egypt on the use of the emergency law and other key issues, Robert Kagan, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and a co-founder of the Egypt Working Group, said that U.S. could be doing much more: “‘At various different times — think about the shah of Iran in the late 1970s — the critical thing is what does the U.S. do when there is a crucial turning point,’ Kagan said. ‘Egypt is in that condition now.’”
Posted in Democracy Promotion​, Diplomacy​, Egypt, Elections​, Foreign Aid, Freedom | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Promoting Political Reform in Lebanon”
September 30th, 2010 by Evan
On Wednesday, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) convened a panel to discuss political reform in Lebanon. The panelists were Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Tamara Wittes, and IFES Chief of Party in Lebanon Richard Chambers​. The discussion and the following question and answer session were moderated by Mona Yacoubian​, the Director of the Lebanon Working Group at USIP.
(To read the full event summary, continue below or click here for the pdf.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion​, Lebanon | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Between Religion and Politics”
September 29th, 2010 by Jason
An event was held today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace celebrating the release of the book “Between Religion and Politics”, coauthored by Amr Hamzawy and Nathan Brown. Marwan Muasher acted as the moderator for the event, where the authors explained the process they utilized in the researching of the book and explored, in depth, the case studies of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here for pdf.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Egypt, Elections​, Freedom​, Hamas, Islam and Democracy​, Islamist movements​, Muslim Brotherhood​, Palestine​, Political Islam, Public Opinion​, Reform | Comment »
Iran: U.S. Sanctions Human Rights Abusers
September 29th, 2010 by Anna
President Obama issued an executive order today imposing financial sanctions and travel restrictions on several Iranian officials that have been accused of grave human rights abuses. Although multiple rounds of sanctions have been levied against Iran over its controversial nuclear program, this is the first time that the Obama administration has announced sanctions against the country for human rights abuses. The individuals named in the order are accused of committing human rights violations – including rape, killing, and torture – against dissidents following last year’s disputed presidential election in Iran. The commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Interior Minister, Intelligence Minister, and other security officials are singled out for sanctions. According to a White House statement​, “the list of names is not exhaustive and will continue to grow.”
The sanctions come in the wake of “mounting evidence of repression,” according to​Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Two reformist political parties were banned this week, and two newspapers were shut down. In addition, more human rights activists and authors have been sentenced to prison terms.
Posted in Civil Society, Elections​, Human Rights, Iran, Political Parties, US foreign policy, sanctions | Comment »
Online Social Media Tools Enable a Different Kind of Activism
September 29th, 2010 by Anna
In an article for the upcoming issue of The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell examines the use of online social media tools for social activism, concluding: “[w]here activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools.” He writes that “[w]ith Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concerns.”
He contends, however, that the “outsized enthusiasm for social media” has caused some to forget the true meaning of activism. Using last year’s post-election protests in Iran as an example (in which Twitter was allegedly “the medium of the movement”), Gladwell notes that this new kind of social activism is built on broad, loose ties between people, organized in a network rather than a hierarchy. Although social networks like Facebook and Twitter can increase participation in social movements, they require a lower level of commitment by activists. The network structure may make movements more resilient and adaptable, Gladwell says, but networks may not be the most effective structure for activists to challenge powerful establishments. In general, expression via diffuse social networks has less impact than the more traditional, boots-on-the-ground organizing that dominated the Civil Rights Movement, for example. Gladwell, in effect, asks readers to critically examine the real efficacy of social media tools for producing change, writing: “They are not a natural enemy of the status quo.”
Posted in Civil Society, Elections​, Iran, Technology | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Towards A Palestinian State : Is Institution Building Succeeding?”
September 29th, 2010 by Anna
On Wednesday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the United States Institute of Peace co-hosted a panel discussion titled “Towards a Palestinian State: Is Institution Building Succeeding?” The discussion was moderated by Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen​, a Program Officer in USIP’s Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution. The panelists were Nathan Brown, a Nonresident Senior Associate of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment, Neil Kritz, the Senior Scholar in Residence in the Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution at USIP, Ghaith Al-Omari​, Advocacy Director at the American Task Force on Palestine, and Howard Sumka, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East for USAID.
For the full notes, continue reading below. Or, click here for the PDF.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in DC Event Notes, Events, Foreign Aid, Hamas, Judiciary​, Mideast Peace Plan, Palestine​, Political Parties, Public Opinion​, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Afghanistan: O’Hanlon Sees “Basis For Hope”
September 29th, 2010 by Jason
Writing in Politico, Michael O’Hanlon​, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, argues that the outlook for that country is more positive than has been reported. “I saw more basis for hope than recent perceptions in the United States would allow.” O’Hanlon describes several reasons for optimism: “Four million in turnout is not bad for a midterm election in a troubled, war-torn country[…]Whatever Karzai’s limitations, there are a number of impressive reformers within his Cabinet and an improving slate of provincial governors.” O’Hanlon does concede that there will be continuing difficulties, including dealing with corruption and the growing insurgency.
In contrast, Vygaudas Usackas​, the EU representative in Afghanistan, sees the Afghan electoral system as an impediment to a modern democracy according to a report by Radio Free Europe. Usackas is concerned with the “single non-transferable vote” system, which he believes is complicating the “development of political parties,” and which others describe as “encouraging patron-client relationships within constituencies.” He also emphasizes the need for a new census, saying, “‘We don’t know how many inhabitants [there] are in Afghanistan — is it 20 million or 40 million?[…]How many eligible voters are [there]? There are no proper voters’ register.’”
Posted in Afghanistan​, Elections​, Reform, Taliban | Comment »
Pakistan: Economic Woe Prompts Criticism From Military, US
September 29th, 2010 by Jason
The recent catastrophic flooding in Pakistan has caused tensions to rise between that country’s civilian government and it’s military. Jane Perlez writes in The New York Times that the seeming incompetence of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has brought the question of a return to military rule back into play: “In a meeting on Monday[…]the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, confronted the president and his prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, over incompetence and corruption in the government[…]the meeting was widely interpreted by the Pakistani news media[…]as a rebuke to the civilian politicians and as having pushed the government to the brink.”
Economic factors have also played a role in the row between the military and civilian leaders in Pakistan. Perlez reports that in a recent meeting, finance minister Hafiz Shaikh told a group of civilians and military officers that the Pakistani government had “enough money to pay only two months’ salaries,” due in part to the country’s inability to collect enough taxes. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed this very issue yesterday at a gathering in Washington. Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy’s The Cable quotes Sec. Clinton: “‘Pakistan cannot have a tax rate of 9 percent of GDP when land owners and all of the other elites do not pay anything or pay so little it’s laughable, and then when there’s a problem everybody expects the United States and others to come in and help.’”
Posted in Military, Pakistan​, Public Opinion​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Marwan Muasher on Political Stagnation in the Middle East
September 28th, 2010 by Evan
In a new interview, Carnegie Endowment Vice President for Studies Marwan Muasher argues that the Arab world is stagnating because of a lack of democratic reform: “There is not a single Arab country today that can be seen as adopting a serious and sustained political reform process. And this is really leaving the Arab world behind almost everybody else.”  Power in the region is divided between entrenched regimes and Islamist opposition movements, Muasher explains, neither of which can effectively bring peace and stability. According to Muasher, three elements are necessary for the success of democratic reforms in the Arab world: First, the development of an active middle class; second, greater freedom for civil society; and third, the emergence of political parties that offer a real alternative to both the establishment and the Islamist opposition.
Posted in Civil Society, Islam and Democracy​, Islamist movements​, Political Parties | Comment »
Bahrain: Repression May Radicalize Shi’ites
September 28th, 2010 by Evan
Frederik Richter, writing for Reuters, reports that the recent crackdown in Bahrain may push Shi’ites away from moderate parties: “Analysts say the crackdown is making it harder for Wefaq, the largest Shi’ite bloc in parliament, to maintain its position of advocating dialogue with the government. They say Wefaq supporters could increasingly turn to more radical groups such as Haq, that dispute the legitimacy of reforms and whose leaders have been targeted during the crackdown, seen as the biggest in ten years.” According to Richter, the success Wefaq has had working with the government has been countermanded by the recent oppression and prospects for future cooperation are dim.
Posted in Bahrain​, Freedom​, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy | Comment »
Saudi Arabia: HRW Report “Five Years of King Abdullah’s Reforms”
September 28th, 2010 by Jason
Human Rights Watch has released a new report entitled “Looser Rein, Uncertain Gain: A Human Rights Assessment of Five Years of King Abdullah’s Reforms in Saudi Arabia.” The 57-page report looks at four key areas: women’s rights, freedom of expression, judicial fairness, and religious tolerance.
(To read the full summary, continue below.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom​, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy​, Journalism​, Judiciary​, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Sectarianism | Comment »
Iran: New Student Protests and Crackdown on Opposition Parties, Newspapers
September 28th, 2010 by Jason
Al-Arabiya reports that a series of clashes between students and Basij militia members have occurred in the northwestern city of Rasht. According to the article, there has been an “unprecedented” level of Basij presence on campuses around Iran, with members of the militia group “… prevent(ing) male students from entering the campus for wearing a short-sleeved shirt as well as female students for not covering their head properly.” This follows reports by Reuters and the BBC that Iran has banned two political parties, the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution Mujahideen Organization, and closed two newspapers, Bahar Zanjan and Andishe-ye No. Both parties supported Mir Hossein Mousavi in last year’s elections and were “dissolved” by the judiciary, while the newspapers were banned for “insulting political and religious figures.” 
Posted in Freedom​, Human Rights, Iran, Journalism​, Political Parties | Comment »
POMED Notes: “The Struggle for a Democratic Future in Afghanistan: The 2010 Parliamentary Elections”
September 27th, 2010 by Anna
On Monday, September 27th, the Middle East Institute held an event entitled “The Struggle for a Democratic Future in Afghanistan: The 2010 Parliamentary Elections.” Kate Seelye, Vice President of Programs and Communications for MEI, introduced the two speakers: Marvin Weinbaum​, scholar at the Middle East Institute, and Caroline Wadhams​, Director for South Asia Security Studies at the Center for American Progress. Both recently returned from trips to Afghanistan, where they were monitoring the recent elections there. Seelye asked the speakers to discuss what they saw, as well as address the impact that the elections and their results might have for Afghanistan and for Washington’s engagement there.
(To read the full event summary, continue below. Or click here for the pdf.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Afghanistan​, DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion​, Elections​, Foreign Aid, Taliban, US foreign policy | Comment »
Sudan: Khartoum Appeals for International Monitors
September 27th, 2010 by Evan
Amidst growing uncertainty, the Sudanese government in Khartoum called on the international community to monitor the country’s January 9 referendum. The referendum, which if successful would grant independence to the Christian south of Sudan, faces significant opposition from the parties in the north, including President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s National Congress Party. Each side has accused the other suppressing dissent and threatening activists in advance of the vote.
Posted in Elections​, Foreign Aid, Sudan, United Nations | Comment »
Egypt: No Free and Fair Oversight of Elections
September 27th, 2010 by Jason
The lack of independent judicial oversight during the November parliamentary elections “raises expectations of fraud,” according to an article in Al-Masry Al-Youm​. The lack of oversight can be traced to the 2000 elections when “‘…the country experienced its first ever free elections, as the constitutional court had decided that each ballot box had to be supervised by a judge,”’ says Nasser Amin, the general director of the Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession.  In part because of this rule, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to mount a real challenge to the NDP in 2005. This precipitated the amendment of Article 88 of the Egyptian constitution in 2007, which established an “11-member official electoral monitoring committee, composed of judges and non-partisan public figure,” that the opposition views as corrupt.  Leftist Tagammu Party leader Refaat al-Saeed said the committee resembles a secret organization: “’Where is the headquarters of this committee? What phone number does it have, or email address?’”
The article goes on to list other concerns, including the presence of government backed NGOs, the use of manual voting lists rather than computerized lists, and the possibility that the NDP is actively negotiating with opposition groups to simply award them a set number of seats in parliament:  “‘…it (the government) will distribute the 100 seats that it won’t keep for the NDP between the Wafd, Tagammu and Nasserist Parties as well as independents, keeping 344 seats for members of the dominant party,’” Amin, told Al-Masry Al-Youm​.
Posted in Civil Society, Egypt, Elections​, Freedom​, Judiciary​, NGOs, Political Parties | Comment »
Syria: Human Rights Worsen Under Bashar al-Assad
September 27th, 2010 by Evan
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in partnership with Human Rights Watch, recently released  a report documenting continued human right abuses during Bashar al-Assad’s rule entitled “The President’s 10 Year Anniversary: Curbing Worsening Repression and Human Rights Abuses in Syria.” While many hoped that al-Assad would be a moderating and modernizing force, the opposite has been true: “In these ten years, he has further entrenched a system of policies and practices that ensure the continued monopolization of authority and control by the Ba’ath Party, which has held the reins of power for the past 47 years. In this decade, Bashar al-Assad has proven his ability to suppress every appeal for democratic reform coming from within Syria, and successfully deflecting the various international pressures for democratization that began to be felt seven years ago.”  The authors call on the international community to “take action to encourage the Syrian authorities to respect its international obligations to strengthen and respect human rights and rapidly institute reform measures.”
Posted in Human Rights, Syria | Comment »
Bahrain: Backing a “Brave Experiment” in Democracy
September 27th, 2010 by Evan
Writing at the Telegraph’​s blog, Con Coughlin defends the Bahraini government’s recent crackdown on what he describes as “Shia hardliners.” According to Coughlin, Bahrain should be congratulated for its attempts to pursue reform: “For years the ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa family have been working hard to reach an accommodation with its Shia Muslim population, who form the majority of the kingdom’s population.” Coughlin adds that “the kingdom has become a key regional ally, and it is in the West’s interests that next month’s elections are a resounding success.”
Posted in Bahrain​, Civil Society | Comment »
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