Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Lebanon: Renewed Attempts to Mitigate Tension Amidst Crisis
January 19th, 2011 by Kyle
Following the release of sealed indictments by the United Nations Tribunal and the collapse of the Lebanese Government, Saudi King Abdullah
has declared an end to the Saudi-Syrian initiative due to lack of progress. However, the Turkish and Qatari Foreign Ministers, Ahmet Davutoglu
and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, respectively, are attempting to mitigate tension by meeting with Hezbollah and other high-ranking officials in the Lebanese Government. Fears of potential Hezbollah actions in response to the indictments and renewed sectarian violence remain rife. The group conducted a show of force that began early Tuesday in which Hezbollah members silenty patrolled the streets of Beirut in black uniforms, causing fear and panic among city residents. The US State Department responded
to recent events stating: “We do have ongoing concerns that various elements within Lebanon – both inside Lebanon and outside Lebanon – will continue to try to politicize this process.”
Posted in Civil Society, Diplomacy, Hezbollah, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Lebanon, Political Islam, Political Parties, Protests, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Nations | Comment »
Secretary Clinton’s Upcoming Visit to the Middle East
January 7th, 2011 by Kyle
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
will meet with King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz
of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Saad Harir
i of Lebanon in New York City on Friday. Clinton will then travel to the Middle East from January 8th to January 13th visiting the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. Mark Toner, acting deputy department spokesman, said the focus of the trip is to, “consult with government officials on a full range of regional and bilateral issues and emphasize the importance of government - civil society engagement.” Clinton will, “engage with civil society and community leaders in each country working to help citizens realize shared aspirations for progress.” The topissues in her agenda will be Middle East peace, Iraq, and Iran and will be addressed at the seventh Forum for the Future in Doha, a meeting of government, civil society, and business leaders from around the region to promote reform in the Middle East.
Update: Senior US State Department Officials gave a background briefing on Clinton’s visit, and answered questions regarding recent political developments in the region. In regards to Tunisia, one official stated the US “expressed our concern about both what is happening with regard to the demonstrations and encouraged the Tunisian Government to ensure that civil liberties are protected, including the freedom to peacefully assemble.” In response to criticism that the Forum for the Future had not produced valuable outputs in past meetings, one official noted, “One of the biggest [outcomes] is the Foundation For The Future, which is based in Jordan and which is an independent NGO that supports civil society development throughout the BMENA region.”
Qatar: The Middle Path?
December 15th, 2010 by Jason
In a recent article
for The Atlantic
, Shadi Hamid
uses Qatar’s successful World Cup 2022 bid as an avenue to discuss the course the small Gulf country has taken over the last 15 years. “The World Cup is just the latest success in an impressive run for the Qataris, who currently enjoy the world’s highest GDP per capita as well as its fastest growth rates. More importantly, the win is a vindication of Qatar’s odd, and often creative, foreign policy.” Hamid describes Qatari foreign policy as a “middle path” when compared to its other Arab neighbors, due to the country’s ties with both the U.S. and Iran. “Qatar’s independent and assertive policies defy easy characterization within any of the region’s camps,” but parallels can be made with Turkey, which has traditionally close ties to the U.S., but has recently cultivated ties with Syria, Hamas, and the “Arab public.”
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.
POMED Notes: “Major World Powers and the Middle East”
October 27th, 2009 by Jason
The Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) hosted a discussion panel Friday on major world powers and their strategic interests in the Middle East. The panel included Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institutions, Ambassador Robert E. Hunter of the RAND Corporation, Mark N. Katz of George Mason University and Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. of Projects International Incorporated. Thomas R. Mattair, MEPC’s director of research, moderated the event.
To see POMED’s full notes of the event, please click here
Posted in Afghanistan, DC Event Notes, Diplomacy, EU, Gulf, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, Islamist movements, Israel, Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Multilateralism, Oil, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Taliban, Terrorism, UAE, US foreign policy, US politics, al-Qaeda | 1 Comment »
Women Complete Leadership Program
September 9th, 2009 by Jason
Young, aspiring women from across the Middle East have just finished a 10-day leadership program in Doha. The National Democratic Institute hosts the Young Women Leader’s Academy every year to provide women “with practical skills and knowledge to help them use the political process to make meaningful improvements in their communities.” The women have now returned home to put their newly-learned skills to the test with internships and projects. After completion, the women will meet one more time for a retreat to discuss and share their experiences.
Middle East Journal Looks at Political Reform
August 27th, 2009 by Blake
The summer edition of the Middle East Journal
includes a series of articles about political reform in the Middle East. Lisa Blaydes
and Safinaz El Tarouty
consider the role of women as a pivotal demographic in Egypt’s 2005 election. James N. Sater analyzes the relationship between authoritarian rule and parliamentary elections in Morocco, which is a timely piece, as the unofficially royal-backed Authenticity and Modernity Party swept Morocco’s parliamentary elections in June. Similarly, the royal relationship the with political liberalization is surveyed by Mehran Kamrava
in the case of Qatar
Limits to Liberalization?
May 19th, 2009 by Cecile
The Economist has an interesting article highlighting controversial Frenchman Robert Menard
’s press freedom center in Qatar. The Doha Center for Media Freedom operates two safe houses for journalists under threat and is endorsed and paid for by the Qatari emir and his wife. But recently a rift has opened between Menard and Qatari officials as the government has denied visas to journalists seeking safe haven at the center. In response, Menard wrote an open letter criticizing these activities and blaming particular individuals - a rash move even in a “Gulf autocracy as relatively liberal as Qatar’s.”
The article notes that “Qataris were clearly misguided if they believed Mr. Menard would change his florid and unabashed style of operation to suit his benefactor’s temperament. And Mr. Menard was equally misguided if he believed that a conservative society, not many decades removed from its Bedouin roots, would tolerate the permissive media practices of the West.”
April 24th, 2009 by Jed
Rannie Amiri writes
in Middle East Online
that Hosni Mubarak’s decline in domestic legitimacy has been accompanied with an increase in the autocrat’s paranoia. It reached new heights this week when the state sponsored Al-Ahram released a list of actors conspiring to weaken the Egyptian state which included Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar, Hezbollah, Hamas, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah
, Hamas chief Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Mahdi Akef, and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news network. Amiri writes that while Mubarak is “busy identifying enemies all around, [he] surely has not forgotten his greatest one: the Egyptian people”, who, as Amiri points out, believe that the Egyptian autocracy will not be defeated from outside, but from within.
Drama Ensues at Arab Summit
March 30th, 2009 by Cecile
provides a useful guide
to this week’s Arab Summit taking place in Doha. He points out “[t]his isn’t just another Arab summit. It’s the first real gathering of the Obama era, and it’s a rare chance to put to rest the old habits and establish new ones.”
Unfortunately, if the start of the summit is any indication, it appears old habits die hard. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
will not be in attendance, as he is still angry over Qatari-based Al Jazeera’s critical campaign against Egypt’s position during the Gaza war. Additionally, “Egypt appears annoyed by Qatar’s attempts to project an image of being a key regional player of the same weight as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”
It was also reported that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafistormed out of the summit
this morning after criticizing Saudi’s King Abdullah and proclaiming “I am…the dean of Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims.”Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon
and Omar al-Bashir
for the first time since the ICC ordered Bashir’s arrest.
For an in-depth analysis of the issues being addressed at this year’s summit, check out David Schenker
’s backgrounder at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Lynch on Iraq
March 25th, 2009 by Cecile
has an interesting blog post asking if Iraq will become a “super-charged Qatar.” He suggests the possibility that if Iraq continues on its current trajectory it could develop into “an American ally which has good relations with Iran, a lot of oil money, some endemic problems with Saudi Arabia, and acts as a kind of swing vote in inter-Arab politics.” He also touches on the issue of a “6 + 2 formula for the Gulf: the GCC plus Iran and Iraq” that could have a positive but informal relationship with the U.S. Explaining that while this might be “wildly unrealistic,” Lynch asks “is it impossible as an endpoint for a serious engagement with Iran and attempts to integrate Iraq back into the Arab world?”
Feel free to contribute the debate on Lynch’s blog. So far those who have responded appear skeptical.
The Soft-Touch Statescraft of Bashar Assad
September 4th, 2008 by Jason
Syrian President Bashar Assadspoke today at a summit
in Damascus with the leaders of France, Turkey, and Qatar to discuss Middle East peace. Assad said that he has handed a proposal for peace with Israel to Turkish mediators. No word yet on what it entails.
Michael Young wades deep into the thicket of Syrian-French-Israeli diplomacy in the Daily Star
today. He accuses French President Nicolas Sarkozy of “ostentation and shallowness” in his quest for a share of Arab-Israeli peacemaking glory. Sarkozy rather fatuously declared that Middle East peace “went through France and Syria”, perhaps forgetting what
Assad’s idea of Middle East peace looks like
Qatar’s Diplomatic Influence
July 24th, 2008 by Adam
of Al Jazeera (English) writes an interesting article regarding Qatar’s rise as a serious diplomatic player in the Middle East. According to the article, Qatar has been able to find a distinctive niche due to its economic power, its strategic alliance with the U.S., and a willingness to engage all regional actors. These factors, as well as an understanding of popular regional movements, have allowed tiny Qatar to diplomatically punch above its weight.
The Rise of Qatar
June 11th, 2008 by Adam
has an interesting article about Qatar’s transformation from underdeveloped backwater to a wealthy state with growing influence. Qatar has wisely used its oil wealth to pursue an astute foreign policy, and has become a diplomatic player in the region. Its engagement with America’s regional allies and rejectionist states, such as Syria and Iran has allowed Qatar to flex its diplomatic muscle in Yemen and Lebanon.
And a President Is Elected
May 27th, 2008 by Amanda
Just over a week ago Lebanon witnessed violence unseen since the civil war as Hizbullah took control of many parts of the capital. To end the stalemate, both the Siniora government and Shiite leader Hassan Nasrallah
met for peace talks in Doha, Qatar, upon which they reached an agreement. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provides intriguing analysis on the political deal in Lebanon in a teleconference with Marina Ottaway
and Paul Salem
Four days after the factions made a settlement, the election of President Michel Suleiman (something that is widely seen as a victory for Hizbullah) brought a sense of relief for most Lebanese who welcome the filling of the presidential post as a considerable step forward in the creating peace in the country. The Council On Foreign Relations engaged in the topic by interviewing Michael Young
at The Daily Star. Although Young does not necessarily see the compromise in Qatar as a win for Hizbullah, he posits
that Sunday’s election “will inevitably lead to a new alignment of political parties by next year.”
In a speech at the Presidential swearing in ceremony on Sunday, Nasrallah affirmed his group would not abuse its newfound gains of government control, including its recent acquisition in Doha of the right to veto any cabinet decision. The developments in Lebanon have incited a fury of commentary on the blogosphere and opinion pages.
While Nicholas Blanford
at The Daily Star optimistically considers the “potential for compromises if both sides show a degree of flexibility,”Abu Muqawama reacts negatively to Nasrallah’s speech, referring to it as “dumb.” A regular blogger responds, opining that “it looks like they feel they [Hizbullah] can do what ever they want to the Lebanese government and get away with it.”
Visit Bitterlemmons Internaitonal
for more in-depth analysis. UPDATE: For a great synopsis of the broader Middle East media response on the Doha agreement, read this BBC report
Potency of Kuwaiti Parliament In Question
May 23rd, 2008 by Amanda
In the wake of Kuwait’s Parliamentary elections held last week, The Economist argues that the nation’s efforts toward democratic reform are slowing down democratic reform in the region, not facilitating it. Even though “Kuwait has the strongest and noisiest parliament among the Arab monarchies of the Gulf,” the article claims that “few of their ruling families and friends think the price of democracy is worth paying.” And while the elections have turned over more seats to Islamists who are “just as likely to take on the government” as more secular factions, their long-term viability in the face of the monarchical bulwark is questionable. Other Gulf countries, such as Qatar and UAE that resemble Kuwait’s societal structure have not yet constructed an election process for Parliamentary members. Despite Kuwait’s problems, however, women participate more directly in government than neighboring states like Saudi Arabia.
UPDATE: For analysis on Kuwait’s party participation, read commentary by Nathan Brown
at Abu Aardvark
Deal Reached on Political Crisis in Lebanon
May 21st, 2008 by Stephen
Today it appears that an agreement has been reached
to resolve the political crisis that has gripped Lebanon since five opposition ministers resigned from the Lebanese cabinet 18 months ago. The deal gives the March 14 ruling coalition a majority of 16 seats in the cabinet and the right to elect the Prime Minister, the Hezbollah-led opposition 11 seats, and three remaining seats to be selected by the President. It is expected that General Michel Suleiman will be elected President later this week, filling the Presidential vacuum that has persisted since the expiration of Emile Lahoud’s
term in November.
In a brief statement
, Secretary of State Rice declares that the United States government “welcomes the agreement reached by Lebanese leaders in Doha, Qatar.” In a press briefing, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch described the deal as an overall “setback” for Hezbollah, while acknowledging their political gains in the cabinet. The agreement was also reportedly welcomed by France
as well as Saudi Arabia and Syria
Tamara Cofman Wittes writes at the MESH blog that Hezbollah’s largest gain in the deal is not in the cabinet makeup or the changes to the electoral law, but “in safeguarding their weaponry from any efforts at disarmament of political factions by the Lebanese state.” She concludes that this reveals Hezbollah’s priorities as being maintaining their armed capabilities rather than political hegemony in Lebanon.
In the context of the deal, Matthew Yglesias
, quoting Fareed Zakaria
, looks at Hezbollah from the perspective of the politically underrepresented Shi’a, “Talk of democracy in Lebanon needs to be put in this context. The pro-western, March 4 Coalition is not, for example, “pro-democracy” in the sense of favoring moves toward a fair voting system. But under the circumstances, it’s hardly surprising if Lebanese Shiites decide that they don’t really need democracy.”
Babylon and Beyond lauds the debut
of Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani
as a diplomatic rock star. Al-Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister and prime minister, managed to sequester leaders of Hezbollah and the Lebanese state to negotiate and reach an agreement while telling the people of Lebanon, “…this is your wound. You will have to heal it…”
Rami Khouri urges peaceful coexistence in Lebanon, using the unusual example of the cats and pigeons
on the campus of the American University of Beirut to draw several lessons for Lebanese politicians.
Qataris as Political Peacemakers?
May 19th, 2008 by Amanda
at the Daily Starcomments on the role of Qatari-led Arab negotiators in the mediation process between the Sinoira government in Lebanon and the Hizbullah. He states that while Lebanon’s leaders have agreed to “keep meeting until they resolve their current political impasse,” policymakers should address the “real issue” at hand, which is “the viability, credibility and legitimacy of Arab statehood.”
Also at the Daily Star
, Chibli Mallat
also provides analysis
on Doha’s role in the conflict, saying that “the government must also insist that Parliament is the only constitutional place for the dialogue between the Lebanese factions. Doha and other locations are unconstitutional as alternatives to parliamentary sessions.”
The Muslim Divide and Western Perceptions
May 5th, 2008 by Amanda
Over the weekend BBC World
broadcast “The Doha Debates
” hosted by Qatar Foundation, on the Sunni-Shia conflict as portrayed in the media. Sayyed Hassan al-Qazwini
, imam of the largest mosque in North America, is disconcerted by the widespread radicalization of Muslims by Western press. He also affirms that the media misinterprets the Sunni-Shiite split that has historically been, and continues to be motivated more by politics than religion.
Speakers included Informed Comment contributor Juan Cole
, former advisor to Jordanian King Hussein General Ali Shukri
, and Dr. Hisham Hellyer
, fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.
At Dipnote, the official State Department blog, the “Question of the Week
: What Impact Would Press Freedom Have on People Without It?
Carnegie’s Arab Reform Bulletin for April
April 3rd, 2008 by Amanda
Be sure to check out the April issue
of the Arab Reform Bulletin from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This month’s edition features a fascinating interview with three key female political actors from the Gulf on women’s political participation: Rola Dashti
(Kuwait), Fatin Bundagi
(Saudi Arabia), and Munira Fakhro
Also included are a critical look
at next week’s municipal elections in Egypt by Khalil al-Anani
, an examination
of the fairness of Morocco’s electoral system by Michael Meyer-Resende
, and an article
on President Bush’s budget request for fiscal year 2009 and what it means for democracy in the Arab world, by POMED’s Stephen McInerney
Their news roundup also covers many fascinating developments such as the opening of the first church in Qatar, a constitutional amendment in Tunisia that should make it possible for more candidates to run in the presidential election next year, and labor unrest in the UAE.
Posted in Bahrain, Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Gulf, Journalism, Kuwait, Middle Eastern Media, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE, US foreign policy | Comment »
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