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22 Dec 2007 - 5 Aug 2012
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Election 08
Cabinet-Making
November 26th, 2008 by Sarah
President-elect Barack Obama has Defense Secretary Robert Gates in mind to serve again in his post, at least for the first year of his presidency.
According to Politico, the rest of the National Security roster is shaping up as well, with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Jim Steinberg as Department Secretary of State, General Jim Jones as National Security Advisor, and Susan Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations. Some, including Raj Purohit at Across the Aisle, seem to believe that the position of Ambassador to the U.N. will become a cabinet-level position.
Posted in Election 08, US foreign policy | Comment »
The Mantra of ‘Change’ Makes Arab Autocrats Nervous
November 18th, 2008 by Tariq
Daoud Kuttab writes in the Huffington Post about how the Egyptian government sought to expunge a newspaper cartoon that hoped for change in Egypt much like the one seen in the U.S. election. “The weekly stated that 150,000 copies of the paper’s first edition were quickly removed from the streets and destroyed and the ‘troublesome’ phrase disappeared from future prints that day.”
Moreover, “The Egyptian government’s overreaction is a sign of the concern that moderate pro-US Arab regimes fear as a result of the US elections and the de-escalation of the so called War on Terror. As long as ideological Washington was engulfed in this war, repression of genuine democratic activities was ignored. Arab leaders used their special alliance with the Bush Administration in the war on Islamic fundamentalists to act against all opponents including secular opposition like that of Ayman Nour.”
Posted in Egypt, Election 08, Freedom, Journalism, Middle Eastern Media | 1 Comment »
Window of Opportunity
November 12th, 2008 by Sarah
Shadi Hamid, POMED’s Director of Research, argues at Democracy Arsenal that Barack Obama has a window of opportunity to change the region by committing to “real support for democracy and democrats in the Middle East.”  He notes that “for the first time in recent memory, Arabs and Muslims are cheering on an American president” in the hopes that the U.S. will clearly support human rights and political reform in the region.
On the other hand, Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark suggests that perhaps that window of opportunity may have closed a little with the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief-of-staff.  Lynch argues that while Emanuel was chosen for reasons other than his foreign policy views, “the Arab media instantly and overwhelmingly focused on his Israeli origins.” However, Lynch does not believe that this pick will have long-lasting effects, as Obama’s “selections to the key foreign policy positions, and then his actual policies will matter far more.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Election 08, Middle Eastern Media, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
More on Obama and the Middle East
November 11th, 2008 by Tariq
It can’t be avoided so let’s make it quick. First, Scott MacLeod at Time Magazine’s Middle East Blogwrites on Rahm Emanuel and his potential influence on Obama’s Middle East policy; Second, James Brazier at the Diplomatic Courier, offers his take on how the U.S. should play the “Saudi-Iranian Cold War” under an Obama administration, all-the-while hinting at Lawrence J. Korb having a position in the new administration; Third, Daoud Kuttab, former Professor of Journalism at Princeton, writes in the Jerusalem Post on the hope for democracy in the Middle East after Obama’s victory; Fourth, Ximena Ortiz at the National Interest Online tracks Obama’s potential to remain true on campaign promises related to Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan; Finally, fifth, Shashi Tharoor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas H. Kean, Lee H. Hamilton, Linda Chavez, Jeffrey Sachs, et al, give their two cents on what “Job One” should be for the president-elect.
Posted in Afghanistan, Election 08, Iran, Iraq, Mideast Peace Plan, Saudi Arabia, US foreign policy | Comment »
More on Afghanistan
November 7th, 2008 by Tariq
To dovetail with Jason’s post below and mine just before it, the Wall Street Journal offers a piece today that states, “The election of Barack Obama will trigger a significant realignment ofU.S. national-security priorities, with Afghanistan and Pakistan gaining in prominence as resources are redirected from Iraq.” Moreover, “Aides said Mr. Obama is likely to deploy tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, where security conditions have worsened markedly in recent months and attacks by the Taliban and others have risen. They said Mr. Obama also would devote more attention to neighboring Pakistan, whose support is seen as crucial to defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda and stabilizing Afghanistan.”
Posted in Afghanistan, Democracy Promotion, Election 08, Iraq, Military, Pakistan, Taliban, US foreign policy, al-Qaeda | Comment »
News from Iraq
November 7th, 2008 by Tariq
Before the financial crisis, much of our election hinged on Iraq. Time forcefully returns to the issue and asks the million dollar question: “Will Obama have to adjust his timetable on Iraq?” Pulling nearly all U.S. troops and equipment out of Iraq in 16 months is “physically impossible,” says a top officer involved in briefing the President-elect on U.S. operations…”
Juan Cole at Informed Comment has bundled this piece with other articles on Iraq, including a survey of Iraqi newspapers after the election, and a renewed vigor from Shi’ite politicians to reach consensus on SOFA.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Election 08, Iraq, Military, US foreign policy | Comment »
Middle East Envoy?
November 7th, 2008 by Tariq
An editorial in the Financial Times made a bold suggestion today. If Obama remains serious about the “tough-minded diplomacy” he spoke of on the campaign trail, then “[h]e should signal his intent by naming soon a special envoy for the Middle East with plenipotentiary powers to mediate and negotiate on behalf of his incoming administration. That would be change and it would quickly be perceived as such. Bill Clinton, the former president, is probably the best man for the job.”
Posted in Diplomacy, Election 08, Mideast Peace Plan, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
More on Obama and the Middle East
November 6th, 2008 by Tariq
To do my part to contribute to Obama-mania, Rebecca Frankelat Foreign Policy has an interesting piece up, noting, ” Iran…is holding its own presidential election next June. With Obama — an African-American bearing the middle name Hussein who has spoken openly of his intention to negotiate — in the White House, it will be far more difficult for extremists to demonize the United States, at least at first. This puts incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad​, already losing his grip on the Iranian parliament, at a clear disadvantage and may “breathe life into Iran’s opposition reform camp,” as former Iranian Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi hopes.”
Additionally, Syria Comment has a spectrum of articles on Obama and the Middle East that should satiate your curiosities, though if you have overdosed by now I understand.
Posted in Diplomacy, Election 08, Iran, Public Opinion, Syria, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
The Day After….
November 5th, 2008 by Sarah
For those of you who aren’t glued to TV/internet/radio/civilization, last night Barack Obama was elected President. Check out the latest polls, counts, and punditry. Of course, bloggers didn’t wait long to remind readers that there is a lot of work ahead.
Rob at Arabic Media Shack starts by examining potential National Security Advisors, and suggests Bruce Reidel for the position.
Check out ForeignPolicy.com’s picks for “The Dream Team,” with choices all over the board.
However, Colin Powell has taken his name off the short list, saying he wasn’t interested in serving in a new administration and that he wanted a new generation of leaders to step up.
Rami Khouri says that the first thing he wants Obama to do as president-elect is to “take a moment to look at the world rationally and accurately, analyzing political-social trends that really define the world rather than trends that are ideologically driven.”
Posted in Election 08, US foreign policy | Comment »
2008: Not All About Us
November 3rd, 2008 by Matt
It’s important to note, as we Americans go to the polls tomorrow, that there are many, many people in the Middle East whose lives will be dramatically affected by the outcome of this election.  Even though they lack the voice in this election that we enjoy through our vote, America’s involvement in the Middle East means they often have just as many hopes and concerns for the outcome of this election as we do. If the next president hopes to accomplish anything significant in the region, it’s imperative that he remain keenly aware of this.  So in my last post before the election, I’m linking to several articles that describe what some residents of the Middle East would like to see come out of this election.
For Time, Scott MacLeod​chronicles what many Arabs have expressed: a wariness of John McCain’s fondness for Bush administration policies, but a cynicism that tempers the hope that a Barack Obama administration would be much different.
Souheila al-Jaada captures a similar sentiment, but also the hope from many Muslims that Obama offers the best chance for the U.S. to reconcile with the Muslim world.
Ihsan Dagi hopes that in Turkey’s case, a Barack Obama presidency might add a “democratic vision” to the realist strategies that define Turkish-American relations today.
Democracy Digest compiles the thoughts of several influential Arab democracy activists who offer a number of useful policy prescriptions for the incoming president-elect.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Election 08, Turkey, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
2008: The Same Old National Security Politics
November 2nd, 2008 by Matt
Writing for RealClearPolitics, Gregory Scoblete laments Barack Obama’s inability and apparent unwillingness to bring a new perspective to national security politics that could have helped his party shed the “weak on security” stigma that has stuck in the consciousness of voters for several presidential election cycles.
One of Scoblete’s explanations for Obama’s failure on this subject is that U.S. public opinion is declining for many of the soft power initiatives that were foundational to Obama’s early vision that Scoblete argues has been compromised as the campaign has advanced:
“on many soft-power issues vital to redefining the political landscape, Obama is simply swimming against the tide of public opinion. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found declining support for measures such as stopping genocide, strengthening the United Nations and promoting human rights – initiatives that were not terribly popular to begin with. As Senator Biden hinted at during his debate, the government’s multi-billion dollar bail-out of Wall Street will effectively doom increases in foreign aid.”
Georgetown’s Daniel Brumberg argues that Obama ought to focus on getting America’s own democratic house in order before he can hope to effectively promote political reform overseas.
Posted in Election 08, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
2008: Who Would The Middle East Vote For?
November 2nd, 2008 by Matt
Some interesting speculation two days before the U.S. election:
In the latest “Doha Debates” episode, a monthly forum in Qatar broadcast by BBC World, 87 percent of the audience voted against the closing motion, “This House believes the Middle East would be better off with John McCain in the White House.” While that sounds like a resounding endorsement of Barack Obama, Mona Eltahawy reports that many members of the audience “expressed ambivalence about both candidates” and their ability to bring positive change to the Middle East.
On the LA Times’ Middle East blog, Caesar Ahmed and Tina Susman do some informal polling in Baghdad, finding a slight preference for Obama, accompanied by a strong dose of apathy and ambivalence.
Bernard Haykel, writing on Harvard’s Middle East blog, believes the Saudis are rooting for a McCain presidency​, mainly because of closer ties with the Republican party.
Posted in Election 08, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
2008: Palin On Petro-States
October 29th, 2008 by Matt
Sarah Palin delivered an energy policy speech today, hitting on one of POMED’s prime equities in moving toward diminishing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil:
“In the worst cases, some of the world’s most oil-rich nations are also the most oppressive societies. And whether we like it or not, the money we pay for their oil only makes them more powerful and more oppressive. Oil wealth allows undemocratic governments to crush dissent and to subjugate women. Other regimes use it to finance terrorists around the world and criminal syndicates in our own hemisphere.”
Posted in Election 08, Oil, US foreign policy, US politics, Women | Comment »
2008: The Iran Question
October 27th, 2008 by Matt
In a column for Newsweek​, recently-retired no. 3 official in the State Department Nicholas Burns makes the case for talking to our enemies, specifically recommending this strategy vis-a-vis Iran.  Anne Bayefsky of the National Review makes the exact opposite argumentReihan Salam, writing in Forbes, sees an Iran “in a state of slow-motion collapse” reminiscent of the Soviet Union just before perestroika. He moves the focus away from the debate over talking to our enemies and the Iranian nuclear program, instead recommending to the next president that “the most important step would be to launch a comprehensive campaign on behalf of Iranian political prisoners and independent labor unions and student groups” and to boldly “stand up for human rights in Iran”.
Posted in Election 08, Iran, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
2008: Memo To The Next President
October 27th, 2008 by Matt
Richard Haass, in a memo to the next president about the world that awaits him and what he should do about it, offers the following advice on democracy promotion to John McCain and Barack Obama:
“One area, however, where you would be wise to put some distance between yourself and “43″ involves democracy. America does not have the ability to transform the world. Nor do we have the luxury. We need to focus more on what countries do than on what they are. This is not an argument for ignoring human rights or setting aside our interest in promoting democracy. But we should go slow and focus on building its prerequisites—the checks and balances of civil society and constitutionalism—and not rush elections or impose political change through force. Bush was right when he called for a humble foreign policy. You should practice what he preached.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Election 08, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
2008: Wesley Clark on Democratization After Bush
October 26th, 2008 by Matt
In the new issue of Washington Monthly, Gen. Wesley Clark writes about how we should advance democracy in the post-Bush era during a review of James Traub’s new book tackling the same subject.  Here’s Clark’s main formulation of how Barack Obama and John McCain’s approaches to democratization might differ:
“Regardless of who takes office in January, American foreign policy will continue to seek a higher, more legitimate purpose than the simple protection of American interests. But a McCain presidency is likely to have a sharper edge in this than an Obama administration. Candidates who speak of strengthening a society of democracies to sidestep the United Nations and expelling Russia from the G8 sound naive and exclusionary. I would hope that an Obama administration would show more tolerance and patience while we built the institutional framework at home and beefed-up teams of civilians abroad to augment the nonmilitary aspects of American foreign policy, including preventive diplomacy and support to fledging democracies. But neither candidate is likely to persist in the simplistic illusion that the act of voting will, in itself, prove a silver bullet in defeating terrorism.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Election 08, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
2008: How Will They Lead On Foreign Policy?
October 23rd, 2008 by Matt
David Sanger had a good piece in today’s New York Times taking a macro-level view of the candidates’ foreign policies and how they might be carried out once in office.  Sanger focuses on broad issues such as each candidate’s view of humanitarian aid, their willingness to consider military intervention in conflict zones, and the prism through which they each view great power relations.
Al-Jazeera has a piece arguing that much of the initial excitement in the Arab world about Barack Obama’s candidacy has faded away as he has adapted more traditional views on foreign policy and has tip-toed around the Muslim community in the face of anti-Muslim rumors.
Kurds, however, are still enthused.
Posted in Election 08, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
The Future of Arab-American Relations
October 22nd, 2008 by Tariq
The fall 2008 issue of Arab Insight from the World Security Institute has been released, and at over 130 pages, there is much to cover. The “latest edition investigates the political transformation from the George W. Bush administration’s war on terror and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, controversial in the United States and the Arab world alike, to a new presidency, asking what actions from the next American administration would best serve Arab-American relations.”  Radwan Ziadeh has an excellent article entitled, “Promoting Democracy in the Arab Countries: Practice Makes Perfect?” Salah al-Nasrawi and Sadiq el-Faqih seem to be speaking directly to Barack Obama, as their articles target specific promises he’s made: al-Nasrawi shows how to exit Iraq in, “Before Leaving Iraq: A Responsible Withdrawal,” and el-Faqih offers his take on “Improving U.S. Standing in the Arab World: Can Public Diplomacy Do the Trick?” On perennial questions in Middle Eastern politics, Mustapha Khalil provides insight on “Engaging Islamist Groups: How to Talk to the Elephant in the Room,” and Samir Ghattas tackles the “Palestinian -Israeli Conflict: Searching for Peace on the Roadmap”
All articles, mentioned and unmentioned, can be found here (pdf).
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Election 08, Islamist movements, Mideast Peace Plan, Publications, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: The Influence of Domestic Politics on U.S. Policy
October 21st, 2008 by Tariq
Yesterday the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a panel discussion entitled, “McCain, Obama, ahd the Middle East: The Influence of Domestic Politics on U.S. Policy.” Participants included Graeme Bannerman, Adjunct Scholar at the Middle East Institute; Hussein Ibish, Executive Director of the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab-American Leadership and Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine; Richard Strauss, editor of the Middle East Policy Survey; moderated by Aaron David Miller, Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Panelists agreed that domestic lobbies certainly do influence policy in Washington, but cannot override the will of a determined president.
For POMED’s notes on this event, click here.
Posted in Election 08, Mideast Peace Plan, US foreign policy | Comment »
2008: Lugar’s Words of Wisdom
October 16th, 2008 by Matt
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) gave an insightful speech at National Defense University yesterday intended to lay out the foreign policy agenda for the next president. Of course, at this stage of the campaign we should expect something this interesting to go largely ignored—and the coverage it has garnered has mainly sought to extrapolate an endorsement​, which Lugar studiously avoided. The remarks focus on how the next president can recalibrate U.S. foreign policy to a less reactive and more forward-thinking posture. While Lugar doesn’t mention democracy in the Middle East, I’m going to extrapolate my own endorsement based on the following quote:
“If the United States is to remain secure and prosperous it must seek to shape the diplomatic and economic conditions in the world. We should be asking how do we change the rules of the game in ways that benefit a stable global order based on commerce, open borders, secure sea and air routes, adequate food and energy supplies, and the free flow of information? How do we organize the world and raise costs for those pursuing a course inimical to our interests? How do we avoid repeatedly being confronted with nothing but bad options - one of which usually is military force?”
Posted in Election 08, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
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