Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: US politics
Sen. Mark Kirk Calls for a Middle East Stability Package
February 15th, 2011 by Kyle
As the debate continues this week in the House of Representatives on proposed budget cuts, including those to State and Foreign Operations, Senator Mark Kirk
(R-IL) and other senators
are “looking to add a generous foreign aid package for Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and other Middle Eastern countries.” In an interview at The Cable in Foreign Policy, Kirk stated, “A [continuing resolution] that had full year funding for the troops plus an Egypt, Israel, and Middle East stability package of full year funding would send the right signal from the United States.” Kirk states that senators on both sides of the aisle support the initiative which would “fully fund foreign aid accounts for a host of countries in the region at the level requested by the president and pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well.”
Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) the ranking Democrat on the House of Foreign Affairs Committee also supports the proposed plan including increased aid for U.S.-based organizations that promote civil society in Egypt such as the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
USGLC Applauds Obama’s Proposed International Affairs Budget FY 2012
February 15th, 2011 by Kyle
The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition
the Obama administration’s proposed budget for International Affairs in FY 2012 as “a critical investment in America’s national security.” The USGLC goes on to state: “At a time of intense pressure to cut spending and in the context of an overall freeze on non-security funding, the President has presented an International Affairs budget that protects America’s security interests and maintains U.S. global leadership while also encouraging more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”
The USGLC listed the direct effects of the proposed international affairs budget cuts currently being debated in the House of Representatives: Jeopardize critical national security investments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq; reverse efforts of the Bush and Obama Administration to bolster civilian capacity and assume responsibilities that have been carried out by our military at a higher cost; diminish America’s ability to uphold its moral obligation by responding quickly and effectively to global disasters, such the Haiti earthquake last year; cripple the Feed the Future Initiative (a food security investment program); endanger lives (through reductions in global health spending); constrain U.S. leadership and limit the ability to leverage resources from other nations that address common global challenges.
For full USGLC report, click here
US Officials Call for Calm in Egypt, Support for “Democratic Aspirations”
January 26th, 2011 by Kyle
Press Secretary Robert Gibbsurged all parties in Egypt to refrain from violence and called for the Egyptian Government to respond to protests peacefully: “We have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and free of corruption; and the freedom to live as you choose – these are human rights and we support them everywhere.” Phillip J. Crowley, US State Department spokesman, stated: “We want to see reform occur, in Egypt and elsewhere, to create greater political, social, and economic opportunity consistent with people’s aspirations.”
Although President Obama
did not address Egypt directly in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, he did support democratic freedoms generally: “We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people. We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere.”
Forecast of US Aid to the Middle East
January 14th, 2011 by Kyle
On January 10, former Congressmen Dan Glickman
and Vin Weber addressed a special Policy Forum luncheon at The Washington Institute. The discussion focused on the future of US Foreign Policy in the Middle East in regards to the incoming Congress and potential new initiatives under the Obama Administration. Glickman suggested that, “If the President can recapture the agenda in a State of the Union message with a couple of big bold ideas, he can be the prime determiner on a lot of issues including foreign aid and foreign assistance.” Weber addressed fears of an isolationist Congress, “Illeana Ros-Lehtinen…has strong views but she is very definitely an internationalist and she is a passionate supporter for instance of democracy and democracy assistance around the world.”
Addressing the Foreign Aid Budget Debate
January 10th, 2011 by Naureen
, writing at the Huffington Post
, called on Republicans and the Obama administration to join forces to sharpen USAID’s focus, and establish relationships between the agency and the private sector to make it more innovative and effective. In response to calls to dramatically cut foreign aid, Tafel argues: “Bring a butcher knife to US foreign aid? Not a good idea. Sharpen it? Yes, make it a double-edged sword to address America’s economic health and security.”
Appropriations Chairs Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(R-FL) and Harold Rogers
(R-KY) have recently called
for cuts and increased scrutiny on the foreign aid budget. Speaking on the Hugh Hewitt Show
, Rogers stated
, “I’m no big foreign aid person […] we will fund what we have to fund, but not a penny more.”
Reactions to the QDDR
December 16th, 2010 by Jason
The release of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) has so far been received with cautious optimism. Josh Rogin writes that several development NGOs have “praised” the QDDR, while also expressing skepticism
: “Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy campaigns for Oxfam America, noted that while the QDDR clearly puts ambassadors and chiefs of missions at the head of country teams as the so-call ‘CEOs’ of American diplomacy, it doesn’t tackle how the inevitable conflicts between short-term foreign policy objectives and longer-term development goals are resolved.”
, writing at the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance blog, says that there are “many things to like,” including a “focus on improving hiring, staffing, and filling the mid-level gap through more flexible mechanisms.” However, she does list several points of “unfinished business,” including “how will State and USAID grapple with managing more than two dozen government agencies engaged in some type of foreign assistance program?” Siddartha Mahanta
sounds a pessimistic note: “the United States diplomatic corps might get a major boost in power and personnel. Realistically? They probably won’t.” He goes on to describe the political roadblocks facing the reforms, and how Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has advocated for cuts in the State Department budget and is set to become the chairperson of the House Foreign Services Committee, may prove to be uncooperative.
Senate Releases FY2011 Budget Text
December 14th, 2010 by Jason
The Senate Appropriations Committee has released the text of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Act
late Tuesday. Under the $1.1 trillion spending bill, $53.5 billion would be spent on State, foreign operations, and related programs, $3.1 billion less than requested. Should the language of the bill remain unchanged, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) would receive $128.5 million, $23.5 million more than requested and $10.5 million more than FY 2010 levels, while bilateral economic assistance would be funded at $22.97 billion, $1.6 billion below the requested amount and $1.12 billion above the FY 2010 level . Egypt, Israel, the West Bank/Gaza, and Jordan would be funded at the level requested, while Lebanon would be funded at the level requested, “subject to conditions.” The House and the Senate have until Saturday to either agree on an omnibus bill or pass a continuing resolution.
“Quiet Diplomacy Has Not Succeeded”
December 9th, 2010 by Jason
Writing at the Arab Reform Bulletin, POMED’s former executive director Andrew Albertsonexamines the Obama administration’s efforts towards promoting democracy in the Middle East. Albertson praises the administration for it’s “mulitlateral” approach and for “work[ing] with Congress to make the necessary investments in democracy assistance,” by increasing support for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. However, the administration has also fallen short in several areas. The pursuit of human rights and reform through “disconnected bureaucratic pathways” has led to a “struggle to integrate serious, long-term thinking about development into interagency policy planning.” Also, the president’s rhetoric has “at times seemed disconnected from the bureaucratic machinery necessary to back up words with action.” Ultimately, the Obama administration needs to “demonstrate stronger linkages between its rhetoric on human rights and political reform on the one hand, and policy consequences on the other.”
Republican Gains Will Likely Mean Cuts in Foreign Aid
November 3rd, 2010 by Anna
At Foreign Policy
, Marc Lynch asserts that “there are real reasons to worry about the effects of a GOP-controlled Congress for Middle East policy.” He expresses concern that a Republican Congress might mean more hawkish policy on Iran, deference to Israeli settlement policies, and cuts in funding for the U.S. civilian mission in Iraq, “forcing the administration to scramble to deliver on its promise of a long-term civilian and political commitment.”
At the Council on Foreign Relations
, Senior Vice President James Lindsay similarly predicts that foreign aid will suffer under a Republican Congress, and at the Huffington Post
, Marc Ginsberg writes: “the Obama Administration’s foreign aid program faces a very bleak future.” In Foreign Policy’s The Cable
, Josh Rogin writes that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be more conservative following Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold
’s loss. In another piece, Rogin adds that the next head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida, “is likely to seek cuts in the foreign-aid budget in her authorization bill.”
Egypt: Senate Resolution Success in Question
October 15th, 2010 by Jason
Ashraf Khalil writes
in Al-Masry Al-Youm
that the Egyptian efforts to scuttle S.Res. 586 appear to have worked, at least temporarily. “Washington observers say the measures carry an impressive roster of supporters from both major US parties, and were being fast-tracked to approval late last month […] In the end, the Senate failed to bring the resolution up for a vote before going into recess last month.” This inaction has frustrated the bill’s proponents. POMED’s executive director Andrew Albertson: “‘I think what you’re seeing here in Washington is growing, bipartisan frustration with the Obama Administration’s approach to this particular country […] The renewal of Emergency Law in particular was seen as a real slap in the face. The Senate’s resolution is just a reflection of that broader, growing frustration.’” The Washington Post
published an article in September detailing
Egyptian efforts to derail the bill.
Democracy Promotion: A U.S. Policy Tradition?
August 19th, 2010 by Jennifer
Michael Allen writing at Democracy Digest defends the importance of American democracy promotion abroad. Allen notes that democracy promotion as a key U.S. policy initiative does not currently enjoy popular support among policymakers, pointing to a July 2009 poll that found that 51% of Republicans, 63% of Democrats, and 62% of Independents do not believe that democracy promotion is America’s responsibility. Against allegations by some that former President George W. Bush’s Freedom Agenda represented a radical departure from traditional American realist policy, Allen quotes Colin Dueck, author of the forthcoming novel Hard Line: The Republican Party and U.S. Foreign Policy Since World War II, who states, “A common assumption or animating vision throughout the history of American diplomacy has been that the spread of democracy and trade overseas will create a more peaceful, transformed international system, friendlier to U.S. interests and to the democratic way of life.” However, Allen notes that Dueck also cautions that “democracy promotion overseas cannot be divorced from a truly well-informed sense of local political and cultural conditions.”
Iraq: Changing of the Guard
August 16th, 2010 by Jennifer
Last Thursday, American Ambassador to Iraq Christopher R. Hill ended his 16-month tenure there, after having postponed his departure from his post in order to address the ongoing Iraqi political deadlock, and following the Senate’s confirmation of James F. Jeffrey, former Ambassador to Turkey, to fill his position. Immediately prior to leaving the country, Ambassador Hill announced that the main winners from the March elections are now only weeks away from a power-sharing deal. In an interview, Hill said that though Iraqi government formation remained “a very difficult proposition,” he felt that “the process is going forward, and as I get ready to leave here I see, really, frankly, the prospects that we’re going to see a new government as early as a few weeks from now.” Nevertheless, Anthony Shadid
writing in The New York Times
notes that “some Iraqi officials remained pessimistic about a deal” between Iyad Allawi
and Nuri al-Maliki, since the potential arrangement would push influential players such as cleric Moqtada al-Sadr
and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq to the sidelines. Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a candidate for prime minister and a leader of the Supreme Council, reportedly commented, “We are not happy about [the deal],” adding that it may ultimately “solve something and create a bigger mess.” Hill’s term as ambassador sparked criticism and controversy over the Ambassador’s personal lack of experience in the Arab world. According to Shadid, “The disagreements over Mr. Hill’s tenure speak to a far wider debate over the withdrawal from Iraq and the engagement of the administration in the future of a country that is no longer occupied, but not really sovereign, either.”
Steny H. Hoyer: Democracy Should Be A Pillar of U.S. Foreign Policy
June 28th, 2010 by Jennifer
Speaking on national security policy at Center for the Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer
(D-MD) highlighted democracy promotion as one of four “crucial tools” to safeguard national security and combat threats such as international terrorism. Calling democracy, human rights, and economic freedom “the most powerful weapons in an ideological struggle,” Rep. Hoyer pointed to the fall of the Berlin Wall as evidence that “experience shows that the values of free societies can break down the strongest walls of oppression. And American foreign policy has, at its best and most creative, taken advantage of that fact to keep our nation more secure.”
Hoyer went on to detail lessons learned on democracy promotion from the Bush era, arguing that “democracy cannot be imposed by force; that elections alone do not equal democracy; that democratization and economic growth do not always go hand-in-hand; and that failing to lead by example weakens democracy around the world.” In that light, he called for a renewed U.S. commitment to recognizing and supporting democratic movements publicly, mentioning Iran and Egypt specifically in that regard. Hoyer emphasized his belief in a dovetailing of U.S. interests and values on this issue, proposing that working to enable greater democracy and freedom worldwide would bring American foreign policy into line with national ideals, while ultimately making the country safer as well. “All of our presidents have understood the value of pragmatism,” he stated, “but they have also understood that it must be balanced with America’s historic role as the advocate of democratic values and democratic movements around the world.
Hoyer also criticized policies that violate the rule of law and human rights on the home front, including use of torture, rendition, and extrajudicial detention.
Iran: Green Movement Still Moving?
June 14th, 2010 by Farid
Despite the opposition’s cancellation of Saturday’s protests marking the one-year anniversary of the disputed presidential elections, there were nonetheless small, scattered protests, during which 91 people were arrested in the streets of Tehran. In an e-mail interview
between reformist leader Mehdi Karoubi and CNN, Karoubi proclaimed, “the Green Movement today is stronger and more mature than last year.” Karoubi added that the future of Iran is in the hands of the people and the success of the Green Movement is secured by the diverse participation of its population.
In today’s interview
with Mehdi Karroubi by LeMonde, he stated, “I am determined to bear everything to continue the fight…what is happening in Iran is a real betrayal of the people and the ideals of the revolution.” This was said after the attack on him by a group of thugs in Qom. In contrast to this optimism, Con Coughlin argues
in the Telegraph that “the Green Movement, of course, is nothing like the force it was last year, when it succeeded in mobilising hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters, who brought large swathes of the country to a standstill.”
However, according to an interesting piece by Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the obstacles facing the Green Movement are not simply the lack of mobilization into the street. Sadjadpour lists five key challenges that the Green Movement must overcome:
1. Go beyond street protests- also to emphasize the percentage of people willing to sacrifice for their cause rather than the mere number of protesters.
2. Organize abroad
3. Reach out to “Ali the plumber”- meaning that the the Green Movement must reach out to the working-class Iranians who are currently in favor of Ahmadinejad
4. Steer clear of Khomeini’s legacy- as Sadjadpour argues “No matter how you slice it, Khomeini can never be a credible or inspiring symbol for a movement that purports to champion democracy and human rights.”
5. Pick up the pace
In today’s piece
by Juan Cole, the Green Movement is neither dead or unimportant. “It can survive and be influential if it finds new tactics or repertoires of sustainable collective action that cannot so easily be forestalled by the security forces, and if it identifies some simple, practical change it wants legislated other than the holding of new elections.”Nevertheless, Cole points out several concerns to the Obama administration in its policies to Iran: The U.S. will probably need to engage with a fairly stable regime in Iran and direct negotiations do not constitute betrayal of the Green Movement, do not expect any radical change in the nuclear issue if the Green Movement comes to power, and any strike on Iran by the U.S. or Israel will destroy any hope for political change reforms in Iran.
Obama’s West Point Speech: A Preview of the National Security Strategy?
May 24th, 2010 by Chanan
Several days after President Obama
’s commencement address
at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, pundits from across the political spectrum painted the speech as a preview for the U.S. National Security Strategy, which will be unveiled later this week. According to a piece of analysis
by the New York Times
‘ Peter Baker, such a strategy will include four main overarching principles: “to build strength abroad by building strength at home through education, clean energy and innovation; to promote “the renewed engagement of our diplomats” and support international development; to rebuild alliances; and to promote human rights and democracy abroad.”
Baker also characterized the speech as a public break with the Bush administration’s “emphasis on unilateral American power and the right to wage pre-emptive war.” Foreign Policy’s Will Inboden, however, thinks that Baker “overshoots” in his analysis. This speech, according to Inboden, actually reflected a structural continuation of the previous administration’s foreign policy. For example, “After spending much of his first year in office downplaying if not ignoring democracy and human rights promotion, he is now making democracy and human rights promotion one of the four pillars of his national security strategy.” In short, based on a variety of different factors “the President Obama of today acts and sounds considerably different than the one elected in November 2008.”
Nonetheless, the National Review
’s Arthur Herman takes issue with Obama’s speech for two reasons: one, Obama appears to be sacrificing American military power for American diplomacy and multilateral institutions. Second, unlike other former presidents that advocated visions of a new world order following foreign policy successes (such as WWI and WWII), this president is “pushing his new multilateral “international order” hot on the heels of two important failures — in Iran and North Korea.” The Atlantic
’s James Fallows sees the historical comparisons quite differently. He sees strong similarities with President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1960, where he advocated the importance of disarmament and diplomacy. In this respect, Fallows believed that Obama’s address “is a return to the best and most sustainable tradition of post-World War II American foreign policy.” He also, for the record, equates Obama’s governing ideology with “the intellectual father Obama doesn’t talk about” — Jimmy Carter.
Iran: Are Sanctions and Engagement Compatible?
May 21st, 2010 by Josh
Echoing the frustrations of others earlier this week
, Roger Cohen
uses his most recent New York Times
op-ed to question the wisdom
of the Obama administration’s “bristling” response to the trilateral nuclear fuel swap deal. Cohen believes that the president should have exclaimed, “Pressure works! Iran blinked on the eve of new U.N. sanctions. It’s come back to our offer. We need to be prudent, given past Iranian duplicity, but this is progress. Isolation serves Iranian hard-liners.” Instead, the administration not only distanced itself from the deal, but also insisted “on a prior suspension of enrichment that was not in the October deal.”
Over at World Politics Review
, Nikolas K. Gvosdev asks “Where does this process go from here?” One possibility, he says, is that “the Obama administration could run up against a growing domestic U.S. consensus that both a U.N. resolution and congressional legislation are needed — that having one without the other is insufficient.” Gvosdev predicts that such a scenario may complicate diplomatic overtures in the future. But Time
’s Tony Karon isn’t so sure, writing that a “two-track” complementary approach of punitive pressures and diplomatic engagement “may be Washington’s answer to Iran’s strategy of negotiating while steadily adding to its stockpile of nuclear material.”
Sen. Conrad Receives Ire of Foreign Policy Community
April 30th, 2010 by Chanan
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has not been in good stead with the foreign policy community since announcing last week his decision to slash some $4 billion from the Obama administration’s $58.5 billion budget request for State and USAID for fiscal 2011.
The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) recently expressed their “deep disappointment
” in Sen. Conrad’s proposal and also organized a letter signed by all eight living former Secretaries of State encouraging Congress to express their support for the full international affairs budget. The same argument
has been made over the last week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Sen. John Kerry
and even U2 front-man, Bono. ”Development gets even less if Senator Conrad gets his way,” Bono said in a speech at the Atlantic Council’s annual awards dinner on Wednesday night. “So you peaceniks in fatigues have a job to do over the next few weeks.”
Mounting Pressure to Fully Fund Administration’s Foreign Affairs Request
April 28th, 2010 by Josh
You can read more about the Middle East-related components of the Obama administration’s FY2011 budget request in POMED’s recently released report
Arab Media: Increase in Human Rights Reporting vs. House Bill That Limits Media Coverage
February 17th, 2010 by Maria
Committee to Protect Journalists reports that human rights reporting in the Arab media has seen an increase despite efforts to curtail such coverage by repressive Arab regimes. The release provides a good overview of the development of human rights reporting in Arab countries, noting key contributions from Al Jazeera, online journalism, and blogging. Developments have been particularly crucial in this region “where dictatorships far outnumber democracies.” Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, and Robert Mahone, CPJ’s deputy director argue that, “In the past year or so, [Arab] governments have pushed back against independent reporters and bloggers, but journalists believe that in the long run technology will make it impossible for all but the most authoritarian regimes to stem the tide of information.”
They cite Egyptian bloggers like Mohamed Khaled and Wael Abbas for having opened up human rights reporting in Egypt when they began posting video clips of police brutality in 2006. “Once people saw the footage, they had to know more,” Khaled told CPJ. “The story became so big that much of the broadcast and print media eventually covered it.”
Deyam and Mahone point to challenges many bloggers face from governments that have been putting up a counterattack to halt open reporting on human rights issues. “Egypt Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, among others, have at times suspended the operations of satellite news channels, particularly Al Jazeera, for highlighting sensitive human rights, political, or religious issues.”
Interestingly enough, the House recently passed a bill designed to prevent Arab satellite networks from broadcasting any material deemed to incite violence against Americans. NPR’s On The Media
recently interviewed Marc Lynch
about the bill, who criticized what he believes are provisions that would essentially outlaw Arab journalism. “Arab governments really don’t like Al Jazeera
. They don’t like media freedoms and they want to control the media. They score some political points by telling the United States to back off, but I don’t believe for a second that they would be sad to see Al Jazeera
muzzled,” he argues. “The strange thing is that the United States would put itself on the side of the muzzlers.”
Lynch has blogged
that the bill runs counter to the principles Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted in her speech
on Internet freedom last month.
Iraq: Election Fever, Calls for Active U.S. Engagement
February 5th, 2010 by Josh
Over at The Cable, Josh Roginreports
that Hill Democrats sent a letter
[PDF] to President Obama urging the administration to maintain active engagement in Iraq to avoid letting “recent gains slip away.” Congressman Bill Delahunt, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, told Rogin that the recent election ruling prompted concerns among Congressional Democrats, who want Obama to not lose focus in the midst of “one of the most critical moments in terms of the Iraq adventure.”
Stephen Biddle, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, echoes the concerns voiced in the letter, saying that continued diplomatic engagement was crucial for the success of Iraq’s political reconciliation once U.S. troops withdraw.
Meanwhile, the New York Timeseditorializes that although the Iraqi appeals court correctly overturned a “disgraceful decision,” the ruling was not as “legally pure as one might like.” The crisis isn’t over, the Times
says, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki should encourage parliament to start the campaign. “Instead of trying to keep competitors off the ballot, Iraq’s leaders should be debating their country’s many serious problems and telling voters how they will fix them.”
U.S. Government-Related Resources
The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization