Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
POMED Notes: “Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities and Needs Amidst Economic Challenges”
March 2nd, 2011 by Naureen
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held an open hearing to assess U.S. foreign policy priorities in light of the country’s current economic challenges. The Committee — chaired by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and with Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) in attendance — requested the testimony of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
To see full notes, continue below or click here
for pdf. To see webcast, click here
Posted in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Congressional Hearing Notes (House), Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Protests, Reform, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, US foreign policy, Yemen, sanctions | Comment »
Jordan: The King Survives for Now
March 1st, 2011 by Kyle
Writing at Foreign Policy
, Dominic Dudley argues that while “the cataclysmic elements of government overthrow don’t appear to be present” in Jordan, ”some early fissures are nonetheless visible.” Locals, with whom Dudley spoke, state that public opinion of the King is high. However, he believes that this could be an overstatement as Jordan, like other countries in the region, suffers from high unemployment, corruption and the lack of a political voice, all of which must be addressed for continued stability. King Abdullah II, who has promised political reform and announced a package of reforms including subsidies and public-sector pay raises, “does not have a strong history as a reformer.” The failure of reform is due to Abdullah, and not the parliament, Dudley argues. Failed reforms and the creation of a vibrant democracy in Egypt could become increasingly attractive to Jordanians and lead to revolt, he states.
Clinton Discusses Situation in Libya, Expresses U.S. Support for Democratic Aspirations
February 28th, 2011 by Naureen
On Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed
U.S. support for the aspirations and rights of the Libyan people and called for Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi
to “go as soon as possible without further bloodshed and violence.” She also reiterated U.S. support for the Security Council resolution which makes clear there will be accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes being perpetrated against the Libyan people and opens the door for humanitarian relief. She also congratulated the leaders of Bahrain and Jordan for outreach and efforts to bring about change.
On Monday, Clinton spoke at the UN Human Rights Council commending the council’s establishment of an independent commission of inquiry and calling on the UN General Assembly to suspend the Gadhafi government’s participation in the council when they meet on Tuesday. She commended the Arab League for suspending Libya’s membership and made recommendations to the council as they begin an internal review. Clinton also expressed U.S. support for the “Arab Spring”: “[S]upporting these transitions is not simply a matter of ideals. It is also a strategic imperative. Without meaningful steps toward representative, accountable, and transparent governance and open economies, the gap between people and their leaders will only grow, and instability will deepen.”
Jordan: Balancing Act For King Abdullah
February 23rd, 2011 by Alec
, writing for The Washington Post
, discusses the dichotomous nature of Jordanians’ calls for reform. Jordan’s population is largely split between those of Palestinian descent and those of East Bank bedouin ancestry, creating two separate voices in society. For Jordanians of Palestinian origin, reform usually means less bureaucracy, more freedom of expression, and more representation for their community. In contrast, for East Bank Jordanians, reform means rolling back what they view as unsuccessful privatization coupled with more limits on citizenship and voting rights for Palestinians. In this way, Ignatius argues, King Abdullah II finds himself caught in the middle of these two groups. The Palestinian business elite is vital for the country’s economy but the bedouin tribes of the East Bank are essential to the military and national security. Ignatius also warns that the King and his wife Queen Rania’s Western outlook, success, and style threaten to disconnect the monarchy from the local population. The Queen’s Palestinian origins also irk many East Bankers. Ultimately, says Ignatius, the King will have to find a way to get ahead of the problems that are arising but maintain his ability to balance the two centers of Jordanian society which will remain a difficult task.
Paying Attention to the Rules of the Game
February 22nd, 2011 by Naureen
, writing at Foreign Policy
, argues that we need to pay careful attention to new electoral rules in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen to ensure that the structure and rules of the game are changed and that the transitional electoral systems do not simply diffuse power and reinforce clientelism. He states that the laws may play a significant role in stifling democratic change citing examples of past electoral reform in Jordan and Tunisia which allowed Ben Ali and Jordan’s monarchy to maintain control over their parliaments. He also states that we should be cautious in promoting proportional representation as it “could result in fractious legislative bodies that are unable to push for more far-reaching constitutional reforms” and may hinder the formation of electoral alliances. He agrees with Marwan Muasher
’s assessment that unless new electoral laws actually strengthen elected parliaments, “the ruse of electoral reform may repeat itself,” but cautions against liberal electoral reforms that allow open party lists, multi-member districts and preferential voting as they may allow old party elites a ticket back to power.
Jordan: Pro-Government Forces Attack Protesters
February 18th, 2011 by Kyle
AFP reports that eyewitnesses in Jordan confirm that nearly 2,000 protesters took to the streets in Amman. The protesters which includes hard-line leftists, Muslim conservatives and students called for reduced power for the king and the chance to elect members of the Cabinet. Pro-government supporters have also attacked the protesters, injuring eight. Tareq Kmeil
, a student protester stated: “They beat us with batons, pipes and hurled rocks at us.” He went on to state that the police forces simply stood by and watched as the clashes took place. The BBC reports that after prayers at the Husseini Mosque in Amman protesters left and chanting: “It’s not about bread, but dignity. We prefer death to humiliation.”
More Amendments Proposed to Cut State and Foreign Operations Funding in the House
February 16th, 2011 by Kyle
By Monday evening, members of the House proposed their final amendments to H.R.1, the continuing resolution to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) proposed cutting funds appropriated to the president’s economic support fund by $200 million. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) called for cutting all funds for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, the Foreign Military Financing Program which includes grants to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, as well as the International Security Assistance Funds appropriated to the president. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) called for an amendment which would condition economic aid to Egypt so far as “the new Government of Egypt fulfills its commitment to the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty signed on March 26, 1979, and to freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal.”
State Department Presents FY2012 Budget
February 15th, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Thomas Nides presented the 2012 budget for the Department of State and USAID stating that this is “a lean budget for lean times” in which foreign assistance and programs in several countries have been eliminated. He stated that this budget differs from those presented in the past as it is divided into two parts. The first is the core foreign assistance and operations budget which constitutes $47 billion and the second part which covers “extraordinary temporary costs” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Nides stated that the budget addresses the QDDR recommendations that “we move forward on an integrated national security budget.” He also noted that the budget will include funding to support allies such as Israel, the West Bank and Jordan and for military-to-military partnerships with countries like Egypt, where funding will be contingent on how the situation evolves. In response to a question on aid to Egypt, Nides stated that $1.57 billion dollars had been allocated with $1.3 billion going to the military and $250 million for economic assistance and that ”We are willing and ready to help the Egyptian people. As it relates to 2011, we’ll have funds available as well until we hear exactly what the Egyptian people will need.”
Jordan: Royal Court Threatens Legal Action Over AFP Report
February 14th, 2011 by Alec
Jordan’s Royal Court denied
reports from last week stating that 36 tribal leaders had openly accused Queen Rania of corruption. The Court has claimed that the “tribal leaders” are not in fact the leaders of their respective tribes and that details in the original Agence France-Presse (AFP) report were entirely false. AFP Amman bureau chief, Randa Habib
, was explicitly criticized by the Court and accused of not accurately investigating her sources. The Court also said it would pursue legal action against the agency and Ms. Habib unless she was removed from her post. Jordanian officials have been vocal about their grievances against foreign news media’s portrayal of protests in the country as part of wider Arab unrest against autocratic regimes.
POMED Notes: “After the Uprisings: U.S. Policy in a Changing Middle East”
February 11th, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) hosted a discussion on recent and ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt and their influence on U.S. relations with the region’s governments and people and what steps the U.S. government can take to support democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney made opening remarks and introduced panelists: Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford University and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy; Tom Malinowski, Washington Director at Human Rights Watch; and Mona Yacoubian, Special Adviser at the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, United States Institute of Peace.
To read full notes continue below, or click here
Posted in Algeria, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Event Notes, Events, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Jordan, POMED, Protests, Reform, Tunisia, Yemen | Comment »
Jordan: King Swears In New Government Amid Criticism
February 9th, 2011 by Alec
King Abdullah II
has sworn in the new government with newly appointed Prime Minister Marouf al Bakhit. Bakhit was given orders to implement “genuine political reforms,” but his appointment is largely seen as appeasement of the Jordanian bedouin tribes that are “the bedrock of the monarchy.” Bakhit will serve as both PM and Defense Minister while Foreign Minister Judeh Nasser and Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour both kept their portfolios in the reshuffling. Bakhit has named
several leftists to his new cabinet as well as Abdelrahim Akur, an independent Islamist who was once the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. Akur received the portfolio of Islamic Affairs and Endowments. The main Islamist opposition, the Islamic Action Front, reacted cautiously to the new government, with its leader Hamzeh Mansur stating that the new government was “just like its predecessors” but that the group would reserve final judgement based on the new government’s actions.
, at The AtlanicWire
, asks if appointing Bakhit, an ex-general, is really a good idea. She states that Bakhit was previously the PM from 2005 to 2007 with a relatively “inert” track record and was accused of corruption, government mismanagement, and electoral fraud. Quoting Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations, Weinstein writes: “Jordanians weren’t looking for a replacement, they were looking for an election to choose their replacement.” Political and social unrest in Jordan in the wake of events in Tunisia and Egypt prompted both S&P and Moody’s to downgrade their ratings, cutting the local currency to junk status and the government bond rating to negative.
Jordan: King Abdullah Meets With Muslim Opposition
February 4th, 2011 by Kyle
For the first time in 10 years King Abdullah II
of Jordan met with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front, in an attempt to open dialogue with opposition groups. The Jordanian Royal Court released a statement: “The king reaffirmed in a meeting with a delegation from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front that it is important for them to work together to press political reform that will increase the role of citizens in decision making.” This comes amidst other attempts at reform including those led by new Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit who offered the Muslim Brotherhood a role in the new government. This was rebuffed by a MB representative, Zaki Bani Rsheid
, who responded to this offer: “We refused because we want the prime minister to be elected, not appointed by the king, and we want real elections.”
Jordan: King Appoints New PM Amid Protest from Islamist Group
February 2nd, 2011 by Alec
King Abdullah II
has appointed Marouf al-Bakhit as Prime Minister on Tuesday in an effort to appease some of the country’s powerful tribes. Bakhit is a conservative former army general and has begun
talks with Senate President Taher Masri on government reforms according to Jordanian news agency Petra. The appointment angered the the Islamic Action Front, a Jordanian Islamist group, who called Bakhit an “inappropriate” choice due to alleged involvement in election fraud from 2005 - 2007. The group held a protest outside the PM’s office on Wednesday that attracted 150 people. IAF Secretary General Hamzeh Mansu
has stated that the group does not seek regime change in Jordan and recognized the legitimacy of the Hashemite royal family.
Jordan: King Sacks Cabinet Amid Street Protests
February 1st, 2011 by Naureen
On Tuesday, after thousands of Jordanians including Islamists, leftists, and union members took
to the streets again last week for the third Friday in a row, Prime Minister Samir Rifai resigned from the government. Protests had occurred in Amaan and six other cities. King Abdullah II
nominated ex-army general Marouf al-Bakhit as prime minister-designate and asked him carry out “true political reforms” and form a new government. A palace statement said, “Bakhit’s mission is to take practical, quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms, enhance Jordan’s democratic drive and ensure safe and decent living for all Jordanians.” On Monday, Jordan’s Islamist opposition said that it had started negotiations with the state and did not seek regime change, like those in Egypt. The opposition demands had included: the resignation of the government, an amendment to the electoral law and the formation of a national salvation government headed by an elected prime minister.
POMED Notes: “Tunisia and the Arab Malaise”
January 31st, 2011 by Naureen
On Tuesday, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a discussion on the uprising in Tunisia and the prospects for the Tunisian example spreading across the Arab World. Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center moderated the event and introduced the speakers: Alan Goulty, former British Ambassador to the Republic of Tunisia and current Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and David Ottaway, Senior Scholar at the Wilson Center and former Cairo Bureau Chief of the Washington Post.
To read full notes continue below or click here for pdf.
Jordan: Thousands Protests, Call for PM to Resign
January 28th, 2011 by Alec
Thousands of protesters gathered
in Jordan on Friday for a third day of protests. Islamist groups, trade unions, and other leftist groups joined the protests calling for Prime Minister Samir Rifai to step down. Political Development Minister Musa Maayta said that Jordanians have the right to express their opinion without fear of reprisal in response to a Human Rights Watch accusation that the government was stifling dissent. King Abdullah II
had urged Jordanian MPs on Thursday to speed up reform efforts in order to restore faith in government institutions.
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
Islamist Parties Choose Preservation Over Political Contestation
January 24th, 2011 by Kyle
In the new issue of the Journal of Democracy
, Shadi Hamid
argues that Islamist parties across the Arab world have a tendency to “lose elections on purpose.” He examines the behavior of Islamist opposition parties in six Arab countries and concludes that the roots of Islamist parties in broader social movements compel them to prioritize self-preservation over political contestation. However, “as Islamists have grown comfortable losing elections—and with much of the world comfortable watching them lose—Arab democracy has drifted further out of reach.”
Rentier States and Arab Exceptionalism
January 24th, 2011 by Alec
, in a piece for Today’s Zaman
, analyzes the lack of democracy in the Arab world in the context of the recent uprising in Tunisia. Using culture and religion to explain democratic deficit is erroneous, he argues, citing the examples of Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia as Muslim majority democratic nations. Rather, the rentier state theory is a better explanation for authoritarianism in countries like Saudi Arabia, a country that relies entirely on oil wealth and thus does need to tax its citizens. He draws a direct link between taxation and representative democracy: “when a state has no need to tax its people, the most important part of the social contract that defines the democratic relationship between state and society is missing.” He extends this argument to Egypt and Jordan, with foreign aid functioning in place of a natural resource. Both countries have what is called “strategic rent,” proximity to oil-producing states and proximity to Israel: “In that sense, foreign aid is just like oil. It creates unearned easy income, unrelated to economic productivity.”
Jordan: Anti-Government Protests Spread
January 21st, 2011 by Kyle
On Friday, thousands of Jordanians took to the streets in non-violent protests against worsening economic conditions in the country. The protests are directed against
Prime Minister Samir Rifai and parliament, who have been blamed for the recent economic turmoil. In response, Rifai announced plans to attempt to alleviate economic woes by raising government employee salaries and increasing pensions, while also subsidizing basic goods and fuel. Commentators see distinct undertones of the Tunisian revolution amongst protesters, including a common chant at protests, “A salute from Amman to proud Tunis.”
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization