Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Dubai: Media Repression and a Bailout
December 15th, 2009 by Zack
writes an op-ed about Dubai’s floundering cultural identity, unable to establish a cohesive Islamic tradition amidst waves of expatriate diversity. As the country feels the growing the pains of economic readjustment, she comments “how Dubai negotiates this rite of passage will determine whether it will ever be taken seriously.” The fact the recent downturn is portrayed merely as negative publicity “is not a promising sign.”
explores how the emirate has responded to negative press about the regime with harsh censorship and authoritarian pressure. He argues that “in Dubai, deep down, they still don’t get it.” The country cannot expect to be a modern financial center and still cling to traditions that give deference to an unelected leader and repress the the media that critique him. Whitaker conclude, “If Sheikh Mohammed wants to be treated with the respect that he obviously feels he deserves, then he can confine himself to being a titular figurehead. But if he wants to combine being royal with life as a politician and as being the centrepiece of Dubai’s business affairs he becomes fair game – just like anyone else.”
reports that Abu Dhabi has provided Dubai $10 billion in order to meet an upcoming debt payment schedule. However, this amount does not come close to settling all Dubai World’s outstanding debt. As such, the UAE has appointed a three judge panel and created new “reorganisation law” that will allow creditors to file claims against the state corporation. The Financial Times
argues that despite these problems, Dubai has faired rather well and that this experience will push investors to back sound businesses instead of businesses backed by the state. Marios Maratheftis
, head of regional research at Standard Chartered Bank, explains investors have shown confidence in the move because it indicates ”there is a one-country approach in dealing with the crisis, which is positive.”
Iran: Zamani Freed, Sanctions Talk
December 2nd, 2009 by Zack
Following an online petition circulated in early November, GroundReport.com has published a statement from Majid Zamani’s family that announced the Iranian activist has been released from prison after the petition received thousands of signatures from academics and friends. Additionally, Iran has released
the five Britons detained after straying into Iranian waters.
Illustrating the growing internal political divide, The NY Times
reports that both President Ahmadinejad
and former-President Rafsanjani failed to attend
a meeting in Parliament aimed at creating political “unity.” A source close to Rafsanjani explained that “Mr. Rafsanjani refused to go because this was not a meeting for unity” because “the opposition leaders should have been invited if this was really going to be a meeting for unity.” On the opposition website www.mowjcamp.com
, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri
has decried the Basiji crackdown against protesters as being “against religion and “in the path of Satan.” In addition, the NY Times
reports on the growing societal tension over Ahmadinejad’s proposal to phase out subsidies in the face of the opposition intention to use Iranian economic failure as a new rallying cry. Ahmadinejad, has presented the measure as a matter of economic justice to helping poorer Iranians.
The Boston Globe
has an editorial arguing strongly against over-reacting to Iran’s posturing and against sanctions. They write “The worst elements in Iran want nothing better than to provoke a new confrontation with the Great Satan. To give them what they want…
would make it harder than ever to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bouncing Checks in Dubai
September 14th, 2009 by Jason
The New York Times reports on the increasing frequency of debtors serving jail time in the boom-gone-bust city of Dubai. In one admittedly unusual case, a diplomat forced a real estate agent to sign checks he obviously could not afford after an investment deal fell through. The diplomat then drove him directly to the police station. Later, the man was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the bounced check. The article emphasizes Dubai’s failure to modernize its legal structures at the same rate of its economic development.
POMED Notes: “Last Chance: The Middle East in the Balance” at SAIS
September 11th, 2009 by Zack
The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) hosted a discussion Wednesday with David Gardner, Chief Leader Writer and former Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times. Mr. Gardner has recently published the book Last Chance: The Middle East in the Balance, which attempts to address underlying currents of Middle Eastern dysfunction. The discussion began with a brief introduction from Mr. Gardner and was followed by a question and answer session.
Posted in DC Event Notes, Dubai, EU, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Iraq, Islam and Democracy, Jordan, Lebanon, Political Islam, Saudi Arabia, UAE, US foreign policy | Comment »
PDA Crackdown in Dubai
March 24th, 2009 by Cecile
An article in the Economisthighlights a recent “commission chaired by the crown prince, Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum
, [which] has proposed a code of public conduct to tighten strictures on dress, drinking, dancing and public displays of affection, such as kissing.” The emirate is trying to carefully balance its traditional values with its 1 million plus foreign residents and scores of tourists.
“Even if the proposed rules are enforced, confining dancers to enclosed places, drinkers to designated bars, swimsuit-wearers to beaches and would-be hand-holders to their legitimate spouses, Dubai will still look ragingly liberal compared with its neighbours.”
Economic Turmoil in Dubai, Less Transparency
February 12th, 2009 by Mehdi
Amidst the collapse of the global economy, even wealthier Gulf nations are having trouble coping. Dubai in particular is witnessing thousands of foreigners inundated with debt flee the country. But what is particularly interesting as the piece
points out -
“No one knows how bad things have become, though it is clear that tens of thousands have left, real estate prices have crashed and scores of Dubai’s major construction projects have been suspended or canceled. But with the government unwilling to provide data, rumors are bound to flourish, damaging confidence and further undermining the economy. Instead of moving toward greater transparency, the emirates seem to be moving in the other direction. A new draft media law would make it a crime to damage the country’s reputation or economy, punishable by fines of up to 1 million dirhams (about $272,000). Some say it is already having a chilling effect on reporting about the crisis.”
Past and Future
October 21st, 2008 by Tariq
has begun the inevitable task of assessing “The Bush Legacy
.” Michael Young
, Raymond Tanter
, and Philip Carl Salzman weigh in, and discuss the issue over the vast terrain of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Lebanon–not surprisingly, without consensus.
Unmentioned was Bush’s Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA), but an editorial
in UAE’s The National highlighting the conclusion of the Forum of the Future event in Dubai fills the gap, offering, “the initiative has never really had the impact or support that it should have, mostly due to its association with Mr Bush. Regional governments remain wary of the intentions behind US involvement.” For more on those intentions, and a general overview of the forum, watch Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Kent Patton
in this video interview
Pessimism on Democracy’s Future in the Middle East
October 17th, 2008 by Tariq
at Democracy’s Digest
has an excellent summary
of sentiments expressed at Dubai’s Forum for the Future
, but the impressive skyline of the boom town has done nothing to stem growing pessimism at prospects for democratic reform in the region.
Consider the following excerpts:
“I have only bad news regarding democratic reform
in the region,” said Hafez Abu Seada, the secretary general of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights. “Political parties work in a very complex environment, where they are subject to imprisonment and the denial of civil liberties. …. there is no framework to give any rights to political parties and movements.”
Similarly, via Harvard’s Middle East Strategy
, J. Scott Carpenter muses about the future of another one of Bush’s Middle East programs–The Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative–after Condoleezza Rice decided not to attend the aforementioned Forum of the Future event.
Dubai and the Future of the Arab World
September 22nd, 2008 by Jason
has a very interesting report on the experience of young Arabs who have descended upon Dubai in search of the economic and social opportunity denied them in their home countries. Dubai, 80% expats from 200 nationalities, is seen by many as a vision of what the Arab world could become. The report chronicles the changing nature of religion and personal identity amid Dubai’s economic vitality, social diversity, and permissive cultural landscape.
The story finds that Dubai offers young Arabs a chance to lead a modern life in an Arab Islamic country. Says one, “We like that it’s free and it still has Arab heritage.” Another: “The Arabs have a future here…Where are we going to go back to? Egypt? Jordan? This is the future.”
2008: A Debate Showdown in Dubai; Obama’s Weakness on Iraq, Strength on Iran
June 30th, 2008 by Matt
floats the idea of a presidential debate in Dubai, both as great political theater and as a way of changing the perception that we don’t care what the world thinks. Both campaigns obviously express some apprehension.
In the New Yorker
, George Packer
addresses the brewing political problem
facing the Obama
campaign as Iraq continues to move toward some amount of sustained stability.
In Sunday’s Washington Post
, Ivo Daalder
and Philip Gordon make the argument that Obama’s plan for engaging Iran is the correct course, considering the failures of the past 7 1/2 years.
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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