Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Islamist movements
POMED Notes: “After Mubarak: What do the Egyptian People Really Want?”
February 18th, 2011 by Kyle
On Wednesday, the Middle East Institute hosted an event focused on the public opinions of Egyptians in the wake of Mubarak’s fall from power, entitled, “After Mubarak: What do the Egyptian People Really Want?” The Middle East Institute hosted two speakers; Steven Kull, Middle East public opinion expert and director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, along with, Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution.
For full notes, click here
for pdf. or continue below.
Posted in Diplomacy, Egypt, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Muslim Brotherhood, Protests, Public Opinion, Reform, Sectarianism, US foreign policy | Comment »
The U.S. Must Support the Green Movement
February 17th, 2011 by Naureen
Writing in The Washington Post
, Ray Takeyh argues that the only way the U.S. can hope to change Iran’s behavior is to empower the Green Movement. Russia and China are unlikely to agree to more economic sanctions and the Arab states preoccupied with their own revolutions will be reluctant to participate in efforts to isolate Iran. Additionally, the military option is no longer feasible, Takeyh states, as it would likely “radicalize the Arab populace just as forces of moderation and democracy seem ascendant.” The Middle East, he states, is undergoing a momentous transformation that is absent of any ideology but rather speaks to people’s frustrations over repression and corruption. The Green Movement which began in 2009 was “a harbinger of this new epoch,” he says, as it highlights the opposition’s success to de-legitimize the theocratic regime as “a significant portion of the population” contemplates “life beyond the parameters of clerical despotism.” The disenchantment of the populous is also “mirrored by the steady stream of defecting regime loyalists” which may point to inability of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
to enforce rule by fear. The challenge for the U.S., Takeyh states is to find ways to connect with the Green Movement and points to the model of Eastern Europe where the West covertly funneled assistance to dissidents through institutions like churches and labor unions.
Writing A New Political Narrative in the Middle East
February 17th, 2011 by Naureen
Writing at The Huffington Post, Lebanese-American political analyst and POMED board member Randa Slim argues that the events in Tunisia and Egypt have “dealt a heavy blow to old myths about democracy and political transformation in the region” and have constructed a new political narrative for the regime with four major themes emerging. The recent uprisings in the Middle East demonstrate that democracy is not a Western concept. In the past the region has seen democracy in two forms: imposed by the West as in Iraq and the “lip-service democracies of most Arab governments, repressive and corrupt.” We are now seeing a third form emerge in which democracy is “the right of the people to live their lives, and decide their fate without heavy-handed control by a police state.”
These uprisings also show us that real change can come through non-violent means and that a regime which emerges through peaceful uprisings will have “more authenticity and credibility” than those in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. It is also clear that these movements are not Islamist in nature and while Islamists will have “a seat at the table,” moving forward, leaders of both the Ennahda movement and Muslim Brotherhood have announced that they will not seek to gain presidency or majority seats in parliament. These movements were about governance and spurred by the people’s frustrations over corruption, unemployment and poverty and desire for good change and participation in the decision-making process. Now, Slim says, the hard work of nation-building begins; she calls on the West to help these “stories end well.”
Mikhail Gorbachev Calls for a Democratic Future in the Arab World
February 15th, 2011 by Kyle
, former leader of the Soviet Union, in a recent op-ed for the International Herald Tribune, supported the Egyptian people and argued that the only way forward for the Arab World is through democracy. He addressed the concerns of Islam’s role in Egypt’s future, but stated, “democratic processes and genuine socioeconomic achievements in countries like Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia offer optimism.” Gorbachev addressed the apparent “bargain” that Arab regimes have struck with their people exchanging freedom and human rights for economic growth, which has since created a disconnect between the people and their rulers. He believes that the events in Egypt have serious implications across the region and that Arab leaders must take heed: “One needs to muster courage for real change, because power without accountability cannot last. This is what hundreds of thousands of Egyptian citizens, whose faces we’ve seen on television, stated loud and clear.”
Lebanon: Hariri To Join Opposition, Commemorates Father’s Assassination
February 14th, 2011 by Alec
In a speech on Monday commemorating the 6th anniversary of his father’s (former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri) assassination, outgoing PM Saad Hariri announced that his party would be joining the opposition. He also directly challenged Hezbollah, accusing the group of having used the threat of violence to assume power: “Those who are in the leadership position now used their weapons to get there. So good for them. Congratulations on the stolen position.” Hariri spoke to a crowd of about 6,000 people.
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton
, released a statement
calling Rafik Hariri a symbol for Lebanon: “He transcended sect and stood with the people of Lebanon, giving hope to his country after 15 years of ruinous civil war.” The statement also called on the new Lebanese government to honor its obligations to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) and promote justice for the Lebanese people: “Those who would try to block Lebanon’s cooperation should desist and show a measure of human decency. Ultimately, without justice, there can be no peace and stability for Lebanon.”
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.
Understanding Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
February 9th, 2011 by Alec
Mohammed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood’s media office, said on Wednesday that the Brotherhood was not seeking power and only sought to participate in the process and that the group would not be fielding a presidential candidate. Morsi also stated the group’s rejections of the “religious state” and further distanced the Brotherhood from recent statements made by Iran’s Ayatollah and Supreme Leader Ali Khameini that protests in Egypt were part of a wider “Islamic awakening” in the Middle East. Jack Shenker
and Brian Whitaker
of The Guardian published
an exclusive interview with Essam el-Erian, a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, on Tuesday, outlining the history of the group and its stated political intentions in Egypt. Although the authors outline the Brotherhood’s previous history of violence, they say the group has long since renounced violence as a means to achieve its objectives. They claim that decades of repression and semi-illegal status have created a genuine concern within the organization for human rights issues, often agreeing in principle with European notions of the concept. El-Erian was careful to stress however, that “each country has its own particulars” when it comes to human rights promotion, thereby excluding gay rights. The go on to quote el-Erian, “an outspoken reformist,” that the group has no plans to run a candidate for the presidency nor even seek a majority in parliament, instead opting to seek out “wide coalitions” and support “unity” candidates for President. Shenkar and Whitaker also argue that the Brotherhood itself is fractured between members who view “social evangelism” as the group’s main function and those who see political power as the ultimate goal.
, Senior Fellow and Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, has seemingly remained skeptical of the Muslim Brotherhood, posting at the institute’s NRO Corner blog, that the group remains the likely winner in free and fair elections in Egypt, especially in parliament. Shea also posted a report by Palestinian Media Watch on former Brotherhood director Mustafa Mashhur’s book Jihad Is The Way. She states that the book itself reveals much of the Brotherhood’s true ideology that it keeps hidden from public view.
Morocco: Banned Islamist Group Calls for Reform, Protests Planned on Facebook
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
Justice and Charity, a banned Moroccan sufi-inspired Islamist group, has called for “autocracy” to be “swept away” and that the government should undertake “deep democratic reform.” The group is believed to be the country’s biggest opposition force and draws its primary support from university students and could have up to as many as 200,000 members throughout the country, mostly in poor districts. Reuters reports that a group on Facebook has received hundreds of supporters for a protest planned for February 20th. Moroccan Telecommunications Minister Khaled al-Nasiri
apparently welcomed the report stating that protests were a normal feature of “democratic life” in Morocco and that the government has, “for years been open to freedom of opinion and expression.” Standard and Poor’s has rated Morocco as the least likely of the North African states to be affected by unrest.
Tunisia: Ben Ali’s Party Banned As Interim PM Receives Emergency Powers
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
The new Tunisian Interior Minister, Farhat Rahji
ousted President Zine Ben Ali’s former party, the Constitutional Democratic Assembly (RCD), to close its offices and cease all activities. Rahji has been viewed as a “zealous advocate” of forcing regime loyalists from power. The order is viewed as a first step to fully dissolving the party which is viewed as an impediment to reform. Meanwhile, legislation was introduced
into the lower house of parliament to give interim President Foued Mebazaa emergency powers allowing him to rule by decree, thereby sidestepping the RCD dominated legislative body. Rachid Ghannouchi
, leader of the Islamist Ennahda party, has said that the group is being shut out of the interim government. Ghannouchi called for a more inclusive cabinet and the dismantling of the police state. He also stated that Tunisia should adopt the parliamentary system of government in order to ensure that power is not concentrated into a singular head of state and government.
Yemen’s Fate Will Not Be Decided In The Streets
February 4th, 2011 by Alec
Writing at The Guardian’s
Comment is free, Jeb Boone argues that talk of revolution in Yemen is exaggerated and unrealistic. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in order to counter revolutionary sentiments, has already announced this will be his last term (to end in 2013) and that his son will not assume power, the two main demands of the opposition. Boone also notes that the protests in Yemen are being led by the political opposition bloc JMP (Joint Meeting Parties) and that the ordinary citizens of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest, are aware of the political games “being played by both sides.” Pro-government protesters equaled the number of anti-government protesters (only 10,000 attending) on Thursday which fizzled by noon: “In Yemen, regime change takes a break for the weekend.” Boone argues that Saleh will probably look to solidify his legacy by placating the opposition further, as well as take less harsh measures on Houthi rebels in the north and secessionists in the south. Such actions may incidentally buttress the ruling GPC party’s claim to the Presidency. He ends by stating that both the JMP and the Islamist Islah Party may try to contest elections in 2013, with Islamist chances of defeating the ruling GPC party high as long as the GPC does not stuff the ballot box as it has been apt to do in the past.
POMED Notes: “From Tunisia to Egypt: Protests in the Arab World”
February 4th, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a discussion of the developments in Egypt and their implications of the Arab world, where protests began in Tunisia and have spread to Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and Algeria. Marwan Muasher, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment, moderated the event and introduced the other panelists: Amr Hamzawy, Research Director and Senior Associate of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut who joined the panelists from Midan Tahrir in Cairo, Michele Dunne, Senior Associate in the Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment, and Marina Ottaway, Director of the Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment.
To read full notes continue below or click here
Egypt: Iran 1979 or Indonesia 1998?
February 3rd, 2011 by Alec
In an opinion piece for The New Republic
, Thomas Carothers argues that those who compare the situation in Egypt to Iran in 1979 are making a “dangerously misleading” comparison. He claims that Egypt is more analogous to Indonesia after President Suharto stepped down in 1998. Carothers argues that the Muslim Brotherhood is “significantly different” from the Islamist movement of Ayatollah Khomeini as it has renounced violence, undergone decades of moderation, and lacks a charismatic central leader like Khomeini: “Egypt is not ripe for a radical Islamist revolution.” While admitting it is not a perfect analogy, the economic and social situation in Egypt more closely mirrors that of Indonesia than it does Iran: “[…] from its newly assertive mix of idealistic young protestors, civic groups, and political opposition parties to its longstanding effort to balance secular and Islamist values […] Indonesia’s democratization offers some hope for Egypt.” Shadi Hamid
, writing in Slate
, says the the U.S. has an “Islamist dilemma” that paralyzes American policy in the Middle East. He echoes Carothers sentiments that, “the [Muslim] Brotherhood of today is not the Brotherhood of yesterday.” Hamid says that the U.S. can deal with the group through “creative policymaking” and calls for the U.S. to begin a substantive dialogue with them: “It is always better to have leverage with opposition groups before they come to power, rather than afterward. Afterward is, often, too late.”
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.”
Samer Shehata Discusses Egyptian Unrest on Colbert Report
February 1st, 2011 by Kyle
Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mubarak Mu Problems - Samer Shehata
POMED Notes: “The Breakdown of Autocracy in Tunisia”
January 31st, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, The Maghreb Center hosted a discussion at Georgetown University on the causes of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the role of the United States and France before, during, and after the revolution. Dr. Néjib Ayachi, founding President of the Maghreb Center and International Development Consultant at the World Bank, opened the discussion and introduced the panelists: Stephen King, Professor of Government at Georgetown University, Robert Prince, Lecturer in International Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and Rust M. Deming, former Ambassador to Tunisia from 2000 to 2003. The event was moderated by Ahmed El-Hamri, Economist at the World Bank and Associate at the Maghreb Center.
To read full notes continue below, or click here
Threat of Islamist Takeover in Egypt Exaggerated?
January 31st, 2011 by Alec
, writing for The Daily Caller
, argues that U.S. fears of a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood are overblown. He argues that the U.S. has a chance to, “fundamentally change the political fabric of the region,” but calls current U.S. response, from both sides of the aisle and the administration, “shockingly slow and apprehensive.” Harnisch states that Mubarak has carefully crafted the illusion that there is no moderate opposition in the country and that the Muslim Brotherhood is the only alternative to his National Democratic Party by silencing nearly all secular and moderate political opposition through the Political Parties Law. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged Islamic extremism and ties to Al-Qaeda are false as the group has been heavily criticized by Al-Qaeda for “not recognizing the authority of Shari’a” over the Egyptian constitution. The group, Harnisch says, is an Islamic social movement representing a variety of views and also has a number of detractors within Egyptian society, including the military and business community.
Only Muslim Brotherhood Will Benefit From Mubarak Downfall
January 28th, 2011 by Alec
Michael Brenden Dougherty
, writing for The American Conservative
against Jackson Diehl’s
assertion that “secular forces” in concert with Mohammed ElBaradei are well positioned to assume power in democratic elections should the Mubarak regime fall. Dougherty argues that even during the Bush administration’s pushing of its “freedom agenda,” officials privately admitted that the liberal and secular Egyptian oppositions was “insignificant” and that betting on such groups is an “untested fantasy.” He further claims that any non-NDP government will be run by the “anti-American, anti-Israel” Muslim Brotherhood: ” […] prepare to hear more pundits rhapsodize about Elbaradei and the coming reign of righteousness, democracy, and prosperity in Egypt. It is the same tune we heard for Chalabi in Iraq, Karzai in Afghanistan, and free elections in Palestine.”
POMED Notes: “Tunisia: Protests and Prospects for Change”
January 27th, 2011 by Kyle
On Tuesday, the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Institute for Middle East Studies at The George Washington University hosted an event focused on reactions to the popular uprising in Tunisia entitled , “Tunisia: Protests and Prospects for Change.” Marc Lynch, associate professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University, and director of the Institute for Middle East Studies moderated the event. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. The two other speakers were Christopher Alexander, Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean for International Programs at Davidson College and John P. Entelis, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Middle East Studies Program at Fordham University.
To read full notes continue below, or 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.”
Analysts Question US Officials’ Calls for Reform in the Middle East
January 24th, 2011 by Kyle
Robert Kaplan chronicles Tunisia’s unique history that helped lead to revolution and also discusses the potential for reform in the region, but warns that the outcomes might not be desirable given these countries’ weak institutions, high levels of sectarianism, and likelihood to elect Islamist groups. James Traub also called for U.S. policymakers to not only make statements calling for reform, but also to prepare quickly for the outcomes of the looming governance crises around the region.
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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