Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Kerry-McCain Draft Resolution Calling for Transition to Interim Government in Egypt
February 3rd, 2011 by Naureen
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry
(D-MA) and Senator John McCain
a resolution calling
on Egypt President Hosni Mubarak to “immediately begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political system,” including “the transfer of power to an inclusive interim caretaker government in coordination with leaders from Egypt’s opposition, civil society and military.” While they hope that Egypt will “hold free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year,” they also expressed their “concern over any organization that espouses an extremist ideology, including the Muslim Brotherhood.” They also noted that it is vitally important that any new government continue “to fulfill its international obligations, including commitments under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”
On Wednesday, McCain also released a statement calling for Mubarak’s resignation: “The rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt leads me to the conclusion that President Mubarak needs to step down and relinquish power…I urge President Mubarak to transfer power to a caretaker administration that includes members of Egypt’s military, government, civil society, and pro-democracy opposition, which can lead the country to free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year as part of a real transition to democracy.” While he remained concerned about the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, he stated that “Egypt must have a democratic future. It is the will of the Egyptian people. It is in the interest of the United States. And the greatest contribution that President Mubarak can make to the cause of democracy in his country is to remove himself from power.”
Turkish and Israeli PMs Voice Support for Egyptian Protesters
February 1st, 2011 by Kyle
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuexpressed his cautious support for the protesters in Egypt, encouraging, “the advancement of free and democratic values in the Middle East.” Netanyahu also stated: “Israel believes that the global community must demand that any Egyptian government preserve the peace treaty with Israel.” This claim came in the context of a broader appeal to the protesters if they succeed, to maintain Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. This comes from the fear of the possibility of radical elements assuming control, which Netanyahu believes would be “a blow to peace and democracy.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
, gave explicit comments
in support of the Egyptian protesters stating: “We hope that these incidents come to an end as soon as possible, without leading to great suffering, and that the people’s legitimate and sensible demands are met.” Erdogan went further asserting: “Our greatest wish in Egypt and Tunisia is that reforms are implemented as soon as possible, but also that peace and security are established.”
January Marks Shift in Issues Central to the Middle East
February 1st, 2011 by Kyle
Elliott Abrams wrote at his blog that the opportunity for Gamal Mubarak to succeed his father has passed. He states: “Efforts to cram him into that position would give rise to public discontent far greater than we are seeing already,” thus succession in Egypt is uncertain. Abrams also highlights that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issue is no longer central in the Middle East in light of recent uprisings across the region, stating, “What unites these events is their relationship to the democracy deficit and to internal social and economic problems, not to Israel.”
An End to Arab Victimhood
February 1st, 2011 by Kyle
in the New York Times, comments that Israel has notably been left out of the conversation regarding popular uprisings and protests across the Middle East. He states: ”It is an immense journey from a culture of victimhood to one of self-empowerment, from a culture of conspiracy to one of construction.” He argues that the dichotomy between Muslim suicide bombers and Arabs who have recently self-immolated, shows that the directions of grievances of Arabs in the Middle East have truly shifted inward toward their own regimes rather than Israel and the West. Cohen believes this renewed spirit will play an important role in bringing democracy and freedom to the region and that a democratic Egyptian government will, “carry a vital message for Arabs and Jews: Victimhood is self-defeating and paralyzing — and can be overcome. “
POMED Notes: “A Statesman’s Forum with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh”
January 26th, 2011 by Alec
The Brookings Institution hosted a forum on Monday with moderator Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy program at Brookings and featured speaker Foreign Minister Nasser S. Judeh. Martin Indyk made brief introductory remarks acknowledging the presence of the ambassadors from Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority in the audience.
To read full notes continue below, or click here
for pdf. For full audio, click here
POMED Notes: “Crisis in Lebanon: Sectarian Politics, Regional Dynamics, and the U.N. Special Tribunal”
December 8th, 2010 by Jason
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) held a panel discussion Wednesday titled “Crisis in Lebanon: Sectarian Politics, Regional Dynamics, and the U.N. Special Tribunal.” The speakers were Aram Nerguizian, a scholar with the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Randa Slim, an independent consultant and a board member of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and the Project on Middle East Democracy, Andrew J. Tabler, a Next Generation Fellow in the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute, and Mona Yacoubian, head of the Lebanon Working Group at USIP and special adviser to USIP’s Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Hezbollah, Israel, Judiciary, Lebanon, Military, Political Parties, Saudi Arabia, Sectarianism, Syria, US foreign policy, United Nations | Comment »
POMED Notes: “A Changing Middle East: Iran, Turkey, and Prospects for Peace”
November 16th, 2010 by Jason
On Monday evening, as part of the 2010 Foreign Policy Initiative Forum, a panel discussion was held titled “A Changing Middle East: Iran, Turkey, and Prospects for Peace.” The discussants were Elliot Abrams, of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Eric Edelman, of the Foreign Policy Initiative and Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and Reuel Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The discussion was moderated by Lee Smith of the Weekly Standard.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Posted in DC Event Notes, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Islamist movements, Israel, Middle Eastern Media, Palestine, Political Parties, Reform, Turkey, US foreign policy | Comment »
Jordan: Israel as a Campaign Issue
November 8th, 2010 by Jason
, writing for the Associated Press, explains the role that Israel and the failed peace process have had in the run-up to tomorrow’s parliamentary elections in Jordan. “Behind the anger expressed by candidates and voters lies U.S. ally Jordan’s greatest fear: that if peacemaking collapses, Israel will try to force it to take in the residents of the West Bank and stand as the Palestinian state.” According to Halaby, “[i]ssues of rising inflation, steep increases in fuel and food prices and unemployment,” have all been featured in the campaign, but “anger at Israel,” has been a primary political tool for some standing for election. “Many candidates trumpet denunciation of Israel on their campaign banners, and on the stump they call for “political resistance” to defend Jordan from the Israeli threat - avoiding any calls for violence - and for ending the peace treaty, a step King Abdullah II
is highly unlikely to take.”
Transparency International Releases Corruption Rankings
October 26th, 2010 by Evan
Transparency International (TI) released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index today. In the Middle East, little changed over the past year. Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and Libya continued to experience dangerous levels of corruption all scoring 2.2 or under on TI’s 10 point scale (10 being “very clean” and 3, “very corrupt”). Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Israel once again led the region in transparency, all scoring above 6.
Egypt: Gamal Mubarak’s DC Visit Draws Criticism
September 2nd, 2010 by Evan
In the Daily Star
, Jamil K. Mroue writes
that while Gamal Mubarak should have the right to run for president, his candidacy “illuminates the deep-seated and systemic problems afflicting Egypt.” According to Mroue, there is little that is genuine about the younger Mubarak’s campaign: “Gamal Mubarak is little more than another crown prince awaiting succession to the throne of a purported Arab democracy.” The American Coptic Union also recently criticized the Obama administration’s decision to invite both Hosni and Gamal Mubarak to this week’s Israeli-Palestinian peace talks: “His son plans to inherit his father’s position as if he were entitled to it. This invitation is a slap to the face of those who believe in the US position on promoting democracy in Egypt.”
Western Media: Enabling Arab Autocracy?
August 16th, 2010 by Jennifer
Khaled Abu Toameh writing for the Hudson Institute in New York lambasts what he describes as Western media’s “hypocritical approach” to covering human rights abuses in the Arab world. According to Toameh, the media leaps to report on stories of Israeli abuse against Arabs, while largely refusing to cover human rights violations committed against Arabs by their own dictatorial states. Toameh says that “the mainstream media in the US, Canada and Europe are turning a blind eye to recent developments in Jordan, where the government has introduced a law that restricts media freedom.” Further, he cites the Palestinian Authority’s recent arrest of seven Palestinian university lecturers in the West Bank– a story that only one of “at least a dozen foreign correspondents and newspaper editors in North America and Europe” chose to run –as an example of the media’s “double-standards” approach to news items, stating, “One can only imagine the reaction of the international media had the Palestinian academics been arrested by Israel.” Toameh also asserts that this pattern is “not a new phenomenon,” arguing that “many Western correspondents based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv refused to publish stories about bad government, abuse of human rights and rampant financial corruption under Yasser Arafat’s administration.”
Arab Public Opinion: No Love for Liberal Democracy?
August 11th, 2010 by Jennifer
Barry Rubin writing at the blog for the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center argues that the data in the recently released 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll reveal “the realities of the Arabic-speaking world: the hegemony of radicalism among the masses, passionate hatred for Israel and the West, and lack of sympathy for democracy or liberalism.” Noting that participants in the survey registered high approval ratings for the Turkish and Iranian premiers, but not for any moderate Arab leaders, Rubin points to “a decline in Arab nationalism that would have been unthinkable during the 1950-2000 era.” He goes on to harshly criticize the poll’s conductors at Brookings, who he said attempted to spin the study’s results to suggest that the Obama administration’s overly “friendly” stance toward Israel was the primary cause of negative sentiment toward the U.S. He says that this conclusion is untenable, arguing that the real problems faced by the Arab world are not Israel, but the “failure of Arab statist dictatorships and Arab nationalist ideology”; a “stifling traditional culture that clashes with modernity”; and “internal group conflicts,” among other challenges. According to Rubin, the U.S. cannot change trends in Arab public opinion by distancing itself from Israel, achieving a two-state solution, or practicing engagement and “appeasement,” since “the only solution is internal and it will take decades at best.” Instead, he urges the West to “defend itself, help the most relatively moderate forces (both governments and mass opposition movements as in Lebanon and Iran), and stand up for its own values.”
Palestine: It’s Not Just About Economics
July 6th, 2010 by Farid
In a new piece
in Foreign Policy, Carnegie’s Michele Dunne argues that any U.S. efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process have to go far beyond simple economic agendas. She proposes that U.S. policy on this issue revolves around two basic, yet false assumptions: first, that negotiations between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will eventually “outmaneuver Hamas”; and second, that international funding will enable Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
to build more efficient and stronger institutions
Pointing out the internal divide between the Hamas-led Gaza and Fatah-controlled West Bank, Dunne explains that “without a unified Palestinian community behind him or even a valid electoral mandate, Abbas cannot take risks in negotiations with Israel.” She also notes that “Fayyad’s hands are tied in building durable, democratic institutions” due to a variety of reasons, including the inability of the legislative branch to convene for over 3 years. Dunne suggests that U.S. policy has historically exacerbated such problems of illigitimacy and ineffectiveness through its “inclination to delay, ignore, or manipulate internal Palestinian politics in the service of short-term goals related to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.” Instead, Dunne proposes promoting Palestinian reconciliation as the key to Gaza’s future and the peace process.
In that regard, Dunne makes the following suggestions for U.S. policy: first, prioritizing “Palestinian reconciliation and institution-building”; and second, supporting efforts for a power-sharing arrangement between Gaza and the West Bank. Dunne argues that as long as the emerging Palestinian government is dedicated to achieving peace and allows the PLO to negotiate with the Israelis, the U.S. should not reject a Palestinian “modus vivendi” even if it fails to fulfill some of the principles laid out by the Middle East Quartet.
Obama in the Middle East: “Mixed” Success, Divergence with Israel
June 30th, 2010 by Jennifer
today released the first section of a two-part series of analyses on President Obama’s policy in the Middle East. The article included commentary from four regional experts: Elliott Abrams
of the Council on Foreign Relations, Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group, Dore Gold
of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and Andrew Exum
of the Center for a New American Security.
Abrams proposes that the administration’s approach to the region is creating a “diminished America” and a power vacuum. He argues that the administration has overemphasized the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in U.S. policy; according to Abrams, the key struggle in the region is not territorial, but ideological– pro-Western moderateness vs. Islamist-jihadism. To him, America’s main challenge is not Israel, but Iran.
Malley calls the success of the administration’s policy “mixed,” and suggests that Obama has succeeded in improving the image of the U.S. abroad, but not its credibility. He points to a number of factors inhibiting concrete results. Most of all, Malley blames what he characterizes as the administration’s mistaken, overly black-and-white perception of the region as divided into two camps– militants vs. moderates, whom the U.S. must support.
Gold observes that Obama began his term at a time of increased divergence between American and Israeli policy priorities, as Israel’s government has moved to the right and focused more on security issues, while the U.S. administration’s approach has emphasized diplomacy and dialogue. He notes that while Obama focused on the Israel-Palestinian conflict early in his administration, Israel’s chief concern has become Iran.
Finally, Exum comments that the administration’s policies in the region have centered on the “three I’s”: Israel, Iran, and Iraq. Citing Obama’s overall record on Israel and Iran as a failure– noting that relations with Israel’s leaders have been “badly managed,” while Iran appears poised to continue its nuclear program despite the new UN sanctions –Exum interestingly counts Iraq’s fragile stability as “the lone U.S. success story in the Middle East.” On the other hand, he points to Obama’s focus on Afghanistan as evidence that the administration is placing less interest and importance in the Arab world.
Palestine: “If You Build The State, It Will Come”
June 18th, 2010 by Farid
In a very interesting new piece
in Foreign Policy
, Hussein Ibish diverts the general attention from the Gaza flotilla to Palestinian domestic developments. According to Ibish, Palestinian financers are have been meeting in Bethlehem for the second Palestine Investment Conference, “in which Palestinians are increasingly turning to the mundane, workaday tools of governance and development as their principal strategy for ending the occupation.”
Most notable of these domestic developments is the commitment to build institutions in order to enhance state administration, infrastructure, and economic goals. “The idea is that, if you build the state, it will come,” says Ibish. Ibish argues that by depending on a bottom-up strategy rather than waiting for American and Israeli commitment to a Palestinian state, Palestinians are able to determine their own future. The motivation is very simple, Ibish argues – self-determination and self-governance.
According to Ibish, there are significant tangible developments: the establishment of two new telecommunication companies, the first planned Palestinian city, and a growth rate of 8.5 percent in the West Bank last year. Additionally, half of the Palestinian Authority’s budget comes from Palestinian taxes rather than international economic support, he explains. Nevertheless, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are still in disagreement over the Palestinian identity and objectives and “the future of Hamas will likely be determined by the success or failure of the PA’s state-building project, and its diplomatic efforts,” Ibish explains.
However, Ibish’s assessment of the future is not entirely reliant on the domestic political forces in Palestine. Instead he argues that according to the World Bank and IMF, the development and prospects for a viable state are limited as long as Israeli occupation of the territories continues.
Freedom of the press for Palestinian journalists?
June 17th, 2010 by Jennifer
Yossi Melman writes
that Nasser Laham, a Palestinian journalist who is founder and editor-in-chief of the Ma’an news agency and is close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
, was denied access by Israeli authorities to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. Laham was attempting to obtain a visa to join Abbas in his visit to the United States to meet with President Barack Obama about two weeks ago. Israel cited security considerations but did not provide details on the motivation for its refusal to allow Laham to enter the Israeli city.
Laham served time in an Israeli jail from 1985 to 1991 due to his membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but since has become an advocate of peace. Laham questioned the Israeli decision, commenting, “I have visited Israeli many times; I’ve interviewed Israeli leaders, including president Ezer Weizman at his residence in Jerusalem. So why now do I pose a security risk? I support the Palestine Liberation Organization, support the authority and President Abbas. I support a peace agreement with Israel, so why specifically do you harm people like me?”
Laham further accused the Israeli administration of oppressing journalists and restricting freedom of the press, saying, “Israeli journalists can visit us, but we aren’t allowed to visit Israel? Is that your freedom of the press?”
Melman calls the action to restrict Laham’s movements “the latest gimmick of the Israeli occupation under the guise of “security considerations.’”
Palestine: The Need for Institution Building
June 7th, 2010 by Farid
In the context of the Gaza flotilla crisis, Michele Dunne argues in an interesting new Carnegie Endowment paper that American strategy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been short-term with traits of neglect and manipulation of the domestic Palestinian political sphere. Instead, the U.S. should take a strategic approach by encouraging an all-inclusive political establishment where competition is welcomed rather than ignored or rejected. Click here
for the full PDF version of the paper.
This does not mean that the U.S. should negotiate directly with Hamas, which Dunne says would have “the unfortunate effect of validating the group’s violent and rejectionist tactics.” However, she argues that the United States must “develop a strategy that patiently supports Palestinian institution building and tolerates the internal Palestinian political competition and bargaining that must accompany it.”
, Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, voices a different argument, asserting that Hamas should be included in the peace negotiations. Nevertheless, Kuttab recognizes that while Hamas has recently shown willingness to commit to a long-term cease-fire, it must agree to a complete cease-fire for talks to proceed.
Obama’s Cairo Speech, One Year Later
June 4th, 2010 by Farid
Today marks the anniversary of President Barack Obama
’s remarkable speech to the world’s Muslim communities in Cairo. While the speech received widespread positive reactions from Arabs, Muslims, and Americans at the time, now, a year later, many observers are disappointed that the speech did not in fact bring the “new beginning” that it promised.
According to a Washington Postop-ed
by Michele Dunne
and Robert Kagan, a year later Egyptians have lost much confidence in Obama. As Dunne and Kagan see it, the U.S. has continued to unconditionally support a highly unpopular regime under President Hosni Mubarak and has failed to adhere to the voices of the Egyptian populace. The Obama administration has cut democracy spending by half in Egypt and has not pressed the Egyptian government over its human rights record. They describe the Obama administration as succeeding in engaging with governments in the Middle East, but not its people. As Egypt prepares for upcoming elections, the U.S. has an opportunity to end this trend and save America’s image in the Middle East by privately and publicly pushing for free and fair elections.
The Foreign Policy Middle East Channel features three interesting articles looking at U.S. engagement with the Muslim world in the year since the Cairo speech. Kristin M. Lord
and Marc Lynch caution that although the administration has finally begun to deliver on the promises made in Cairo through a number of initiatives, its broader engagement with the region is severely undermined by the lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, underscored by this week’s Gaza flotilla crisis. They warn that if President Obama fails to seize this crisis as an opportunity to reinvigorate the peace process and address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, then this will defeat any hope of new engagement with the Muslim world.
Fawaz A. Gerges is more hesitant to put all the responsibility on the American president, instead calling for Arab populations and leaders to understand that one man in the White House is not omnipotent and that they too must help to steer Obama in the right direction. Peter Mandaville explains that to reverse the negative perceptions and disappointment across the region, the U.S. must focus on three broad areas: First, the U.S. must genuinely act to establish peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Second, Obama must show his support for moderate Islamist parties. And third, the U.S. must avoid the danger of exceptionalism in its relations with Muslim communities, but must aim to normalize and integrate these relationships into its broader global outreach.
Obama’s Cairo Speech: Assessing the Relationship Between Rhetoric and Action
June 2nd, 2010 by Josh
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of President Obama
’s Cairo address, Scott Carpenter
and Dina Guirguis of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy unpack the last twelve months of Middle East engagement with respect to the seven core issues identified in the speech as paramount to U.S.-Muslim relations: the need to confront violent extremism; the Arab-Israeli conflict; Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons; democracy; religious freedom; women’s rights; and economic development.
Overall, Carpenter and Guirguis conclude that “tangible deliverables from the Cairo address were in short supply.” Perhaps recognizing this reality, the administration has spent the last few months “reframing the speech’s intent and legacy” away from “outreach to Muslims” and toward a notion of “global engagement” that articulated a “generational mission statement” rather than a series of initiatives. “In this context,” the authors write, “the issuance of a new National Security Strategy (NSS) just days before the Cairo anniversary is apparently no coincidence.” Yet even though the NSS strengthens what Carpenter and Guirguis view as the speech’s relative deficiencies, “Washington’s strategy remains open to the same critique as the original Cairo address.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Mideast Peace Plan, Reform, Terrorism, US foreign policy, Women | 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.
, 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.
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