Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
POMED Notes: Iraq’s New Government:Now Comes the Hard Part
January 5th, 2011 by Naureen
On Wednesday, the United States Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion on the future of Iraq following December elections titled “Iraq’s New Government: Now Comes the Hard Part.” Tara Sonenshine, Executive Vice President of U.S. Institute of Peace introduced the panelists: Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, Minister of State and Spokesperson of the Iraqi Government, Dr. Wisam Al-Ubaidi, the Al-Wifaq Al-Watani Party’s representative to the United States, Qubad Talabani, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United States, and Sean Kane, Program Officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The panel was moderated by Manal Omar, Director of Iraq Programs at the U.S Institute of Peace.
To read full notes, continue below or click here
for a pdf copy.
Iraq: New Government “Good Basis for Setting Out”
December 28th, 2010 by Jason
In a recent interview
with the Council on Foreign Relations, Joost Hiltermann calls the new Iraqi government “a good basis for setting out,” while also expressing concern about the power-sharing agreement. Hiltermann says the newly established National Council for Strategic Policy has yet to be fully defined, and that it remains to be seen whether “Allawi
feels that it satisfies his earlier demands for having a real check against Maliki’s power as prime minister.” Hiltermann goes on to address how Iraq’s various factions, including the Kurds and the Sadrists, are affected by the power-sharing deal, and says that the withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2011 is “definitely on track.”
POMED Notes: “The Realities of Power Sharing in the Next Iraqi Government”
December 7th, 2010 by Jason
The Middle East Institute (MEI) held an event on Tuesday titled “The Realities of Power Sharing in the Next Iraqi Government” with Reidar Visser. The event was held to mark the release of Visser’s new book, “A Responsible End?: The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005-2010.” Visser was introduced by Kate Seelye, the Vice President of Programs and Communications at MEI.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Iraq: The Precarious Kurdish Position
December 6th, 2010 by Jason
writes at The Middle East Channel that the Kurds of Iraq face a number of challenges going forward and that compromising on their “highly-charged nationalist agenda” may be the best way to secure “long-term political and economic prosperity.” Natali argues that the Kurds position has been fundamentally weakened due to their status as “a politically expedient swing vote” and the “ceremonial” nature of the presidency, which is held by a Kurd, Jalal Talabani. Perhaps most importantly, the central government is not recognizing oil contracts negotiated by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). “[G]iven the new role of oil in driving the Kurdistan region’s development and the absence of support from key Sunni and Shia Arab groups for Kurdish control of Kirkuk, the KRG may have little choice but to substitute emotional nationalism for political pragmatism.”
POMED Notes: “Unfinished Business: An American Strategy for Iraq Moving Forward”
December 2nd, 2010 by Jason
The Brookings Institution held an event on Thursday to mark the release of the analysis paper “Unfinished Business: An American Strategy for Iraq Moving Forward.” The event’s participants were all co-authors of the paper and included Kenneth M. Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, J. Scott Carpenter, the Keston Family Fellow at the Washington Institute and director of Project Fikra, and Sean Kane, a program officer with the United States Institute of Peace’s Iraq Programs.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Turkey: Trial of Kurds a “Shame”
November 10th, 2010 by Anna
At the Guardian
’s Comment is Free, human rights lawyer Margaret Owen describes
the trial in Turkey of 151 Kurdish politicians, lawyers, and other leaders as “a trial that would shame any democracy.” Observers have “widely condemned” the process - evidence-gathering and courtroom procedures “breach all international and European standards on human rights and fair trials,” Owen writes, and the trial is essentially political, not legal. She mentions the closure of pro-Kurdish political parties, arrests of Kurdish political leaders, and bans against some civil society organizations. This trial, Owen concludes, “will reveal Turkey’s true status in the context of democracy, justice and the rule of law.” The judge will decide at the end of this week whether the trial will continue or whether the detainees will be released, and Owen calls on the ruling AKP to bring the trial to a close and release the accused.
Iraq: “Hopes Rest on Reconciliation”
October 27th, 2010 by Jason
At a recent policy forum luncheon held by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, three members of the Institute gave their perspectives on the current political situation in Iraq. Ahmed Ali
said that Prime Minister Maliki
is “known to be close with Iraqi president and leading Kurdish figure Jalal Talabani
,” but that Maliki also brought Minister of Planning Ali Baban
along on his recent visit to Turkey, signaling to the Turks that he was not “yielding to Kurdish demands.” Michael Knights focused on the security situation saying that “[s]ecurity metrics are degrading in quality as the U.S. military draws down […] confirm[ing] that stabilization is slowing overall and even regressing in some places.” Michael Eisenstadt reflected on the challenges facing the US and Iraq in the future. “Going forward, hopes rest on reconciliation through politics, with the formation of a broad-based governing coalition that gives elements from every community a stake in political order.”
Iraq: Parliament’s Absence Ruled Unconstitutional
October 25th, 2010 by Jason
Iraq’s Supreme Court ordered the Iraqi parliament to convene after a seven month delay on Sunday, according to a report from the BBC. While one Iraqi constitutional lawyer called the order a “formality that would do nothing to break the political deadlock,” Reidar Vissercalls the move a “small triumph for Iraqi democracy.” However, Visser points out that “what the main factions are currently doing, i.e. postponing the election of a parliament speaker until the architecture of a more comprehensive deal including prime minister and president is ready, is not in line with the constitution,” either. He goes on to describe the continued negotiations between the Kurdish parties and Maliki
’s coalition, saying that “there is nothing that should prevent the Kurds from picking a winner within a week or so.”
Iraq: Washington Needs to “Press All Sides”
October 20th, 2010 by Jason
in today’s New York Times stresses the importance of a democratic resolution to the political stalemate in Iraq. Referencing the recent spate of state visits by Nouri al-Maliki, the editorial remarks: “Iraq needs good relations with its neighbors. But more than anything it needs a legitimate government able to address its many deep problems.” Reports of backsliding by some in the Awakening is also a point of concern, as are the implications of a Shiite-run government that excludes Sunnis. “Iraq urgently needs a new government that is not mortgaged to Iran but reflects the election results with Mr. Maliki, Mr. Allawi and the Kurds playing major roles.” Ultimately, “Washington needs to press all sides, a lot harder, to make a deal.”
Iraq: “Experiencing Much Movement, But Little Real Progress”
October 19th, 2010 by Jason
and Danial Kaysi write at RealClearWorld that “Sadr’s
support makes it easier for Maliki to gain the numerical majority in parliament he needs to form a government, but is not sufficient to produce a politically viable alliance.” The authors argue that the the ISCI (Islamic Supreme Council) and the Kurdistan Alliance are still skeptical about the chances of a government forming in the near future. Calling the political landscape “confusing and inconclusive”, the authors describe the inherent complexity and apparent incongruities of some of the positions parties have taken: “Talks between Iraqiya and ISCI are continuing, and Abdul Mahdi himself and several Iraqiya members characterize the relationship between the two parties as one aiming to further an “advance project.” However, “[w]hile openly in talks with Iraqiya, opposing a second term for Maliki, and pushing instead the candidacy of Adel Abdul Mahdi, ISCI representatives stress that they remain part of the National Alliance between State of Law and the INA.” Ultimately, the deal between Maliki and al-Sadr has led to “much movement, but little real progress.”
Iraq: Where the Kurds Stand
October 18th, 2010 by Jason
While many assume that Iran stands to benefit most from the current political situation in Iraq, Ranj Alaaldin argues that the involvement of Iran has spurred the US to support the attempt by Ayad Allawi to form a coalition with the Kurds (who hold 57 seats) and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (who hold 18 seats.) “These developments mean that the Kurds have emerged as kingmakers,” because both Allawi and Maliki
are actively courting the group to join their respective coalitions. “They hold the power to determine the future of Iraq’s other groupings, the future of the country itself as well as that of the US role in Iraq,” according to Alaaldin.
provides a look at the demands the Kurds have made in exchange for their cooperation. “We have the ironic situation whereby two declared Iraqi nationalists (Maliki and Allawi) who are theoretically committed to working against the destruction of the Iraqi state in practice are trying to outbid each other in an attempt at satisfying Kurdish aims that are directed precisely at the dismemberment of Iraq as a recognisable and governable state.” The Kurds have released a set of “19 Points” that they wish to be fulfilled prior to their agreement to join a coalition. Visser calls into question the constitutionality of the fourth Point, which entails “the establishment of a senate within the first year of the parliament, and the extension of the veto powers of the presidency council until the senate is up and running.” The problem with this Point is that “[t]his is simply one hundred per cent unconstitutional and against the basic principles of separation of power. It is for the Iraqi parliament, not the government, to draw up the rules of the next senate, with a two-thirds majority.” Visser concludes on an ominous note: “The Kurdish negotiating document is not only a step towards the complete destruction of the Iraqi state, it is also a flagrant violation of the constitution that the Kurds themselves supported back in 2005.”
Turkey: Democracy is “Unresolved,” “Not Yet Consolidated”
October 18th, 2010 by Anna
James Traub writes
in Foreign Policy that Turkey’s democracy remains “unresolved” eight years Erdogan came to power. The AKP’s commitment to the rule of law and minority rights is doubted by some secular Turks, who also fear that the country is becoming more conservative (the country’s
Higher Education Board’s recent decision to stop teachers from expelling women wearing headscarves from classrooms may
suggest otherwise, however). The recent constitutional referendum, moreover, is viewed by some as “a dangerous ploy by the AKP to increase its control over the state.” These ongoing debates – about national policy and about identity – illustrate that “Turkey’s democracy is not yet ‘consolidated,’” Traub writes.
The Kurdish role in Turkish politics and society is highlighted today as the trial of 151 pro-Kurdish politicians and activists begins. Reuters reports that the process could take months. The defendants are charged with joining and spreading the propaganda of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) which prosecutors say is a branch of the PKK, as well as unlawfully demonstrating.
Iraq: Parliamentary Maneuvering
October 13th, 2010 by Jason
Reidar Visser writes that there are “three races” towards government formation in Iraq at present: The Maliki Project, the Allawi Project, and what could be called the American Project. Visser describes the Maliki Project as “the 89 SLA (State of Law) deputies, the 40 Sadrists plus Ibrahim al-Jaafari
and Ahmad Chalabi […] which would bring the total number to a minimum of 131. On top of this, Maliki is obvious angling for the support of the Kurdish parties (58), which would easily bring him above the magical 163 mark required to have a majority in parliament. […] Maliki is also hoping to lure a new coalition between Unity of Iraq and Tawfuq (sic) into his coalition (10 deputies altogether with promises of more), in order to serve a symbolic ‘Sunni representation’.”
The Allawi Project would consist of “building a coalition between Iraqiyya and as many INA (Iraqi National Alliance) breakaway elements from the NA (National Alliance) as possible plus Tawafuq and Unity of Iraq; then convincing the Kurds that this kind of coalition would be favorable compared to a deal with Maliki.” Visser points out that these two options are “competitive” and that any invitation to form a coalition from State of Law or Iraqiyya to the other is “tongue in cheek.”
The American Project would require a rapprochement between all of the parties: “The Americans still seem to be hoping that all the original four big winning blocs – Iraqiyya, SLA, INA and the Kurds – will somehow eventually get together in a single coalition to form the next government, preferrably (sic) without the Sadrists in a too-dominant role. In doing so, the Americans are actually raising the threshold for government-formation…” Visser goes on to list several problems in pursuing the American path. First, it is simply more difficult to form a four party coalition than a three party coalition. Second, “almost all American proposals on the subject of government formation seems to involve simultaneous measures of constitutional reform, since redefining the powers of the presidency now appears to be an aim.” Constitutional referendums are risky and take time, Visser says, leaving the “competitive” projects as the “more realistic” options.
Iraq: Shifting Political Blocs?
October 11th, 2010 by Anna
, a top Kurdish politician, says that the Kurds
will join whatever bloc responds best to their demands. So far, he adds, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition has been the most accommodating to the Kurdish agenda. Some issues, like the national census and the future of oil-rich Kirkuk, remain unresolved. The Sunni-backed Iraqiyya coalition, meanwhile, appeared “to be giving up its demand for the premiership,” according to the New York Times
. Sheik Adnan al-Danbous
, who is close to Ayad Allawi expressed that the bloc wants an equal share of power in parliament, adding: “We have reached a position that we don’t care anymore about posts…Posts are not as important to us as having participation in decision-making.”
Iraq: A Coalition of Compromises
October 6th, 2010 by Jason
The recent deal
between Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Sadrist majority National Iraqi Alliance (NA) continues to provoke conversation in the Middle East policy community. Fouad Ajamiwrites
in the Wall Street Journal that “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now all but sure to form and lead the new government,” and that Iraq, in spite of the political deadlock, is now a “far cry from the ways of the Arab autocracies and despotism” that surround it. In an interview
with CFR.org, Joost Hiltermann sounds a cautionary note about the nature of the compromise, calling the situation in Iraq “thoroughly confusing and confused.” When asked about the possibility of a quick resolution to the outstanding problems in forming a government, Hiltermann said, “Oh, I am not so sanguine. It will take a long time.” Reidar Visser describes the new-found power of the Kurds: “The recent nomination dynamics within the all-Shiite National Alliance (NA) played out in (a) way that suited the Kurds more perfectly than they could have ever dreamt of.” Visser explains that the inability of Iraqiyya to even speak to State of Law, prefering instead to pursue a coalition with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), has made the Kurds “kingmakers,” and the formation of the government dependent on a list of Kurdish demands that will end up “emasculating Baghdad.”
Iraq: Maliki’s “National Government of Futility”
October 5th, 2010 by Jason
writes at TheGuardian’s
Comment is Free that the deal reached to make Nouri al-Maliki
the Prime Minister is one of compromises and back room deals. “This had always been the likely outcome,” Alaaldin writes, noting that the deal between Maliki’s State of Law party, the Sadrists, and the Kurds was based on “strategic bluffs and manoeuvring,” meant to force more concessions from Maliki. Alaaldin suspects that the Sadrists will receive “a total of six service ministries,” the release of many Sadrists currently in prison, and possibly one of the deputy prime minster positions. The Kurds want “disputed territories, oil and power-sharing,” and possibly the presidency. The Kurds desire to control Kirkuk is extremely controversial and “could slow the entire process down.” Alaaldin concludes that the deals necessary to form the government may doom it to ineffectiveness: “The forthcoming multi-party coalition government will ensure the politics will be paralysed and the disputes remain unresolved.”
POMED Notes: “What’s Next? Prospects for Iraq’s Democratic Future.”
September 20th, 2010 by Jason
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) held a panel discussion today to discuss the ongoing political impasse in Iraq. The event was moderated by Michael Svetlik, the Vice President of Programs for IFES. The speakers for the event were Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy at the CATO Institute, Perry Cammack, a professional staff member for Senator John Kerry who focuses on the Middle East, and Sean Dunne, IFES Chief of Party in Iraq.
(To read full notes continue below the fold or click here
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Iraq, Judiciary, Kurds, Military, NGOs, Political Parties, Public Opinion, Sectarianism, US foreign policy | Comment »
Coverage of POMED Turkey Event
September 14th, 2010 by Evan
POMED’s recent event, “Is Turkey Becoming Less Democratic?”, received coverage from Voice of America’s (VOA) Turkish service and Istanbul-based Ihlas News Agency (IHA). The VOA report (in Turkish) emphasized panelist Daniel Brumberg’s suggestion that the real effect of the constitutional reforms will be determined by how the AKP government governs in the coming years. IHA focused
(in Turkish) on panelist Gonul Tol’s comment that while the reforms represent a significant step forward, they still fail to address fundamental challenges like the resolution of minority issues.
POMED Notes: “Is Turkey Becoming Less Democratic?”
September 13th, 2010 by Anna
On Monday, September 13th, POMED hosted an event entitled “Is Turkey Becoming Less Democratic?” The event was moderated by Bill Schneider, Distinguished Senior Fellow and Resident Scholar at Third Way and the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. The discussion featured three panelists: Gonul Tol, Executive Director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute; Daniel Brumberg, Director of the Muslim World Initiative at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and W. Robert Pearson, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and President of the International Research and Exchanges Board.
POMED’s full notes continue below or read
them as a pdf.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Judiciary, Kurds, PKK, Political Islam, Political Parties, Reform, Secularism, Turkey | Comment »
Turkey: Resolving the Kurdish Issue Through Democracy
September 10th, 2010 by Anna
, Director of Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute, wrote at Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel yesterday that the Kurdish issue in Turkey “is primarily an issue of democracy and should therefore be resolved through democratic means.” The PKK has become an actor in national politics, not solely an insurgent group – as such, matters of equality, minority rights, and rule of law must be approached through democratic channels. Tol asserts that “this requires a new constitution.” In addition, leaders must shift away from thinking about the Kurdish issue in military and security terms and acknowledge that it is really a political problem. Tol commends the broadening of the public debate in Turkey to include issues about cultural rights and education, and points out that Kurds have “come to understand that…change will come through effective use of democratic means – not violence.” She also notes that Kurdish civil society has been growing, and that the PKK has pursued political paths in the resolution of the conflict.
Tol cautions, however, that “a few cosmetic changes” will not satisfy the increasingly politically-vocal Kurdish community. “The national awareness has been rising among Kurds,” she asserts, and their faith in the democratic process remains high. As such, she argues that there is growing momentum to resolve the Kurdish issue through civilian means.
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