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Syria: As Dissident Army Organizes, Revolution May Enter “Militarized” Phase
As Syria’s uprising finishes its sixth month and “protests aimed at overthrowing the regime and ousting President Bashar al-Assad have failed,” Simon Tisdall of the Guardian speculates on whether Syria’s uprising will see a militarization that will propel Syria into a “dangerous winter of discontent.” Tisdall lists several reasons why militarization of the uprising may be an eventual outcome: 1) the lack of a unified opposition with enough credibility to garner international support; 2) the “unexpectedly brutal tactics used by Assad and his security forces;” and 3) the ambivalence of the international community to take concrete steps toward supporting the opposition.  In the meantime, soldiers who refused orders to fire on unarmed protesters and defected are increasingly organizing themselves inside and out of the country.
 
As Washington Post reporter Liz Sly reports, the “Free Syria Army” is one such group that has formed as a result of the continued defections from the ranks of the Syrian army. In an interview with the leader of the  Free Syria Army, Gen. Riad Assad stated that “It is the beginning of armed rebellion…You cannot remove this regime except by force and bloodshed.” The General also explained that he hoped to conduct a strategy reminiscent of the Libyan revolution: take control of a slice of Syrian territory and then request international military aid such as a no fly-zone, and then launch a full-scale attack on President Assad’s forces.  Nonetheless, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford stated that he didn’t think “the numbers are big enough to have an impact one way or another on the government or on the contest between the protesters and the government..the vast majority of protests are still unarmed, and the vast majority of protesters are unarmed.”
By Sasha September 26, 2011 Category: Freedom, Government, Protests, Syria
Abbas: “The Palestinian Spring Is Here”
Upon his return to Ramallah after asking the U.N. to recognize Palestinian statehood on Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas told a crowd of supporters that “the Palestinian spring is here. A popular spring, a populist spring, a spring of peaceful struggle that will reach its goal.” In the wake of Arab Spring uprisings across the region, Bill Spindle of The Wall Street Journal writes that “many Palestinians, especially youths who make up the majority of the population, see the U.N. bid as something else: a sharp break with a peace process and the beginning of a new era.”
Meanwhile, Michael Singh, writing at Foreign Policy, contends that the focus on the Palestinian bid for statehood before the U.N. has “overshadowed the real historic drama that is playing out in the Middle East today,” where “tumult seems to be the rule.” Singh argues that the region has been irrevocably altered, and that U.S. policy makers must sift the fundamental changes from the cosmetic. He outlines three shifts that characterize the region writ large, regardless of where each country’s respective uprising currently stands: internal politics in Arab countries matter, new governments will likely be less amenable to the “West” and Israel, and the region will likely be more “dangerous and volatile” in the future.
By Patricia September 26, 2011 Category: Featured, Mideast Peace Plan, Palestine, Political transition, United Nations, US foreign policy
FY2012 Foreign Ops Budget Could be Significantly Slashed
As the FY2012 budget looms, Congress is under pressure to enact serious cuts, some of which target the FY2012  State and Foreign Operations Budget. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) have submitted a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and ranking subcommittee member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “expressing strong support for the Development Assistance and USAID Operating Expense Accounts.” The Senators made the case that the development assistance program “is a reflection of our moral imperative to assist other in need, a critical demonstration of American leadership in the world.” This use of soft power or as President Barack Obama termed it:  ”smart” power, could be severely restricted should Congress  enact another round of cuts in the amount of  ”$8.6 billion from the budget for the State Department and foreign aid in fiscal 2012, starting October 1.” Coons and Isakson both stated in the letter that while they were “keenly aware of the budgetary pressures facing Congress…reductions to development assistance will undermine U.S. priorities in Africa and throughout the developing world.”
 
 
According to the Washington Post, Congress has also stymied President Obama’s ability to support “the democratic transitions in the Arab world with greater trade and investment” by not passing several bills that would provide funding, including a “$1 billion debt relief package for Egypt” and “economic enterprise” funds for Tunisia and Egypt, which were not included in last year’s FY2011 budget. These cuts are looming despite “repeated pronouncements from top U.S. officials, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on the need to reverse the over-militarization of America’s engagement abroad.”
By Sasha September 26, 2011 Category: Congress, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Featured, Foreign Aid, Government, US foreign policy, US politics
POMED Notes: “Rule of Law in Egypt: Challenges for Democracy”
Partners for a New Beginning hosted a panel discussion at the Aspen Institute on the rule of law in Egypt and the challenges Egyptian democracy is encountering, as it attempts to transition from its current state under a military-led council to a fully functioning parliamentary democracy. Hdeel Abdelhady, the co-founder of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association, moderated the discussion. Panelists included Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, Stephen McInerney, executive director of Project on Middle East Democracy, and Khaled Elgindy, visiting fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute.
For full event notes, continue reading or click here for the PDF. Read more…
By Sasha September 26, 2011 Category: DC Event Notes, Egypt, Elections, Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Government, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, Political Parties, Political transition, Public Opinion, Rule of Law
Yemen: Demonstrators Reject Saleh’s Proposal, Protests Erupt
Thousands of Yemeni citizens returned to the streets, apparently rejecting President Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s latest proposal for a transition of power, and opposition members accused Saleh of political maneuvering. Additionally, bands of tribesman stormed a Republican Guards’ base at Dahrah early Monday, and the defense ministry said in a statement that the base commander, Brigadier Ali al-Keleibi, was killed. Officials told the Reuters news agency the tribesmen captured 30 guards after seizing control of the facility and at least four tribesmen were killed and 27 others wounded in the fighting.
Letta Taylor, writing in Foreign Affairs, speculates that internal political rivalries have eclipsed the Yemeni people’s call for change, and that the crisis in Yemen has “no quick fix.” The United States, the E.U., and the Gulf countries must also place pressure on Saleh, Taylor adds. Omar Mashjari contends that without increased foreign pressure on Saleh, the death toll is likely to rise rapidly throughout Yemen.
By Todd September 26, 2011 Category: Civil Society, Civil War, Elections, Featured, Freedom, Government, Political transition, Protests, Public Opinion, Yemen
Analysis: “Confirm Robert Ford as Syrian Ambassador”
In an op-ed for the LA Times, Max Boot, Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, arguesthat the Senate should confirm Robert Ford as Ambassador to Syria. Ford has been serving as ambassador since December, when President Barack Obama gave him a recess appointment amid Republican opposition. Those opposed to Ford’s confirmation argue that installing a U.S. ambassador in Syria would “dignify Bashar Assad‘s regime.” Boot disagrees, asserting that economic sanctions from the E.U. and other international players will help to cripple Syria’s oil sector. Further, Boot contends that the Syrian opposition must assure minority Christians and Alawites that “that they will not be persecuted in a post-Assad Syria,” and that the opposition must “convince the business community that Assad’s downfall will be good for business.”
Ford is confident that Assad’s supporters, including the armed forces, will not remain resolute indefinitely. The acting ambassador has been “a profile in courage in opposing Assad,” who has pursued tactics of open criticism of Assad rather than “official demarches.” While Ford was confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has not obtained a full Senate vote. Ford’s post will expire at the end of the year if he is not confirmed.
By Patricia September 26, 2011 Category: Congress, Diplomacy, Protests, Syria, US foreign policy
Kuwaiti Faces Jail for Controversial Tweets
Protesters have gathered in Kuwait City to demand the release of Nasser Abul, a blogger facing 3 years in jail after he allegedly tweeted insults aimed at the kings of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam. He has been accused of “state security” crimes for calling the Saudi king “only scum” and an “alcohol drinker,” comparing Bahrain’s ruling family with “Jews” and “pigs”, and equating Salafis to toilet slippers.
Abul maintains that his Twitter account was hacked, and his lawyer, Khalid Al Shatt, believes the ”case is a violation of the law and of freedom of speech,” which is guaranteed in the Kuwaiti constitution. Chairman of the Human Rights Committee MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan called for his release, contending that it “is unfortunate the blogger has remained in detention … while others are left by security forces to insult authorities as well as religious symbols and sects.”
Amnesty International echoed the call for Abul’s release, stating that “on the basis of the information available to it, Amnesty International believes Nasser Abul to be a prisoner of conscience detained for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and has been calling for his immediate and unconditional release.”
By Todd September 26, 2011 Category: Featured, Freedom, Government, Kuwait, Media, Monarchy, Political transition, Reform, Rule of Law
“Real Threat in Egypt: Delayed Democracy”
In a Washington Post op-ed, Jackson Diehl discusses the fate of democracy in Egypt, suggesting that “elections are the most likely means of arresting the downward spiral.” With a struggling tourist industry, and the prospect of Islamist elements taking power, there is talk of  Egypt “imploding.” Diehl proposes that Western governments ought to adopt the demand offered by Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who participated in the revolution: that the military “quickly announce specific dates for the process of transferring complete power . . .to an elected civilian authority that would control everything in the nation.”
James Traub says in regard to democracy that ”Egypt will have a very rough patch to negotiate but will come out more or less OK on the other side.” While Egypt may struggle more with democracy than its neighbors because its politics are more divisive, “millions of people have been mobilized in the name of change and will not easily allow their revolution to be stolen.”
Meanwhile, the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarakcontinued with the testimony of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s former defense chief and current head of the interim military council. The testimony took place behind closed doors with no media presence, and the victims’ attorney requested new judges after alleging extreme bias.
By Todd September 26, 2011 Category: Egypt, Elections, Featured, Freedom, Government, Media, Political transition, Reform, Rule of Law, Uncategorized
Bahrain: Second Round of Elections Set for Oct. 1
Bahrain will hold a second round of elections on October 1 to fill the 9 seats in which no candidate received fifty percent of the vote in Saturday’s by-elections. Of the other seats, “four deputies were elected in the absence of any competitors, and five seats were allocated.” While a government statement reported voter turnout of 17.4%, Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa claimed the turnout was 51.4%.
Amid the by-elections, “many Shia areas” continue to witness violent clashes “nightly,” and the crackdown persists. On Monday, the National Safety Court sentenced Mahdi Abu Deeb, head of the Bahrain Teachers’ Society, to ten years in prison, and his Jalila al-Salman received three years. Their charges include “instigating the committing of criminal acts such as inviting for a teachers sit-in, the stopping of the educational process in the Kingdom, the staging of processions and demonstrations at various locations in the Kingdom.” Others also received jail time for harboring a suspect.
By Patricia September 26, 2011 Category: Bahrain, Elections, Featured, Human Rights, Justice, Protests
Weekly Wire – September 26
POMED’s Weekly Wire for September 26 is now available. This week’s edition includes coverage of the Saudi decision to grant women the right to vote in the 2015 elections. We also looked at Ali Abdullah Saleh’s return to Yemen, intensified protests in Bahrain ahead of by-elections on Saturday, and renewed protests in Morocco. Bashar al-Assad continued to face international pressure, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces extended the emergency law to next June, and Iran released the two American hikers held for two years.
The full Weekly Wire can be viewed here.
 
By Anna September 26, 2011 Category: Weekly Wire
Saleh Calls for Power Transfer
Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for a peaceful transfer of power through early parliamentary and presidential elections. Saleh urged his vice president to start engaging with Yemen’s opposition in order to sign a transition deal, as he is committed to the Gulf initiative for power transfer in Yemen. President Saleh also addressed the renewed violence in Yemen, stating that “This bloodbath will not get you power,” and blamed the violence on al-Qaeda.
Mahjoob Zweiri, an expert on Middle East affairs from Qatar University, is not certain this announcement will appease the opposition. ”I am not sure it will please people in Sanaa. What they were waiting  for was his resignation. This kind of labelling might lead to more confrontation,” stated Zweiri. A freelance journalist reported a very negative mood in Change Square, as people are unconvinced by Saleh’s promise.
Just hours before Saleh’s speech, more violence broke out as forces loyal to the government targeted protesters, killing at least 5 people. In a press statement from the U.S. State Department, Victoria Nuland stated “The Yemeni government must immediately address the democratic aspirations of its people. The Yemeni people have made clear their desire for a peaceful and orderly transition that is responsive to their calls for peace, reconciliation, prosperity, and security,” and urged for a full transfer of power with full parliamentary and presidential elections.
By Alex September 25, 2011 Category: Elections, Political transition, Protests, Reform, Yemen
“U.S. Government Urged to Break Silence on Bahrain Abuses”
Brenda Bowser-Soder, of Human Rights First, noted that the U.S. government must stop ignoring the ongoing violence committed by Bahraini security forces.”The Government must break its silence on Bahrain and condemn today’s ongoing violent attacks on peaceful protestors,” wrote Soder. There have been widespread reports of security forces attacking pro-democracy demonstrators with tear gas and bird shot, and hospitals are under military control making injured protesters fear torture or arrest if they go to the hospital.
The government crackdown continues as hundreds of students, faculty, and administrators were dismissed from universities “solely for expressing opinions critical of the government and ruling family or attending overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government demonstrations in February and March of this year,” stated by Human Rights Watch. Many of the students and staff continue to face harassment, intimidation, and dismissal because of their views of the government.
There are now reports of security forces targeting women, as a group of women protesters entered Bahrain’s largest mall, City Centre, and walked around chanting. Police then raided the mall, and “dozens of women were arrested, humiliated and beaten.” The lethal use of tear gas by Bahraini security forces is being criticized by many after several have died from overexposure to tear gas, and video clips of tear gas being used against women.
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley stated “Supporting brutal Middle East dictators – as the U.S. Government must know by now - only invites chaos and human rights abuses. Today, this administration needs to get on the right side of history in Bahrain.”
By Alex September 25, 2011 Category: Bahrain, Human Rights, Protests, Rule of Law, US foreign policy, Women's Rights
Saudi King Gives Women Right to Vote in 2015
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud announced on Sunday that women will have the right to vote and stand in elections. However, women will not be able to participate in next week’s elections, but have to wait until 2015 to exercise their right to vote. The decision comes as pressure for reform sweeps the Arab world, and is a major shift in the ultra-conservative agenda of the monarchy.
“We refuse to marginalize the role of women in Saudi society and in every aspect, within the rules of Sharia,” Abdullah said in his announcement before the Shura Council. The King did not address other issues concerning women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive or leave the country or work without male permission.
Many liberals and human rights activists praised the announcement, as it raised hopes that other social and democratic demands could be met one day. Saudi writer and women’s rights activist, Wajeha al-Huwaider said, “Women’s voices will finally be heard. Now it is time to remove other barriers like not allowing women to drive cars and not being able to function, to live a normal life without male guardians.” The White House also praised the king’s decision, saying “Saudi Arabia is taking an important step ahead in expanding women’s rights by allowing women to vote and run in local elections in 2015
Below is a video clip of the King’s announcement on Sunday (Arabic)
By Alex September 25, 2011 Category: Elections, Human Rights, Saudi Arabia, Women, Women's Rights
Bahrain: Opposition Boycotts By-Elections, Crackdown on Protests Continues
Bahrain held by-elections early Saturday morning to replace the 18 seats abandoned by legislators from the largest opposition party, al-Wefaq, in response to the violent crackdown on protesters by Bahraini security forces. Despite government claims of a large voter turnout, eyewitnesses on the ground have said the turnout has been minimal. “Witnesses told news agencies that lines at polling stations were short or empty throughout the day, making claims of a majority voter turnout unrealistic.”
With the opposition boycott of the elections, the parliament will likely be controlled pro-government supporters once the results of the election are in. Protests increased dramatically in response to the elections, with Bahraini security forces cracking down brutally. When protesters were marching towards Pearl Square, the site where the pro-democracy movement started, security forces attacked the march, and shut down all accesses to the square.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, noted that many areas throughout Bahrain are witnessing violence committed by Bahraini security forces. In Sanabis, where the protests began, “the police used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets against hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters,” witnesses and human-rights advocates said.
 
By Alex September 25, 2011 1 comments Category: Bahrain, Elections, Human Rights, Political transition, Protests
Senate Releases State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced S.1601, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2012 and its accompanying report.  The press release noted the committee’s difficult task of funding more with less, including “responding to the turbulent events in the Middle East and North Africa,” with a total budget of $44.64 billion, which is $6.15 billion below the President’s request.  On the Middle East and North Africa:  “The Committee fully funds assistance for these countries, including authority for enterprise funds in Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan, and for debt relief for Egypt, and includes conditions on [military assistance to] Egypt relating to free and fair elections. The bill includes a prohibition on economic assistance for the Palestinian Authority if it becomes a member or non-member state of the UN, with a national security interest waiver. The bill also includes a prohibition on assistance to a government over which Hamas exercises undue influence.”
 
By Cole September 23, 2011 Category: Congress, Egypt, Foreign Aid, Hamas, Jordan, Lebanon, Legislation, Palestine, Political transition, Tunisia, United Nations, US foreign policy
POMED Notes: “Building Libya’s Future: A Conversation with the New Minister of Infrastructure and Reconstruction”
USIP hosted Dr. Ahmed Jehani for a conversation regarding his new position as Minister of Infrastructure and Reconstruction with Libya’s Transitional National Council. Dr. Jehani gave a brief speech about a variety of topics, but emphasized what needed to be done to get Libya’s economy going again and also the need to rebuild the infrastructure quickly. The Minister also took questions from the audience during which time he elucidated on some of the points he had discussed in his speech.
For full event notes, continue reading or click here for the PDF. Read more…
By Sasha September 23, 2011 Category: Uncategorized
POMED Notes: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Tunisian Ministerial Meeting”
On Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted several Tunisian Ministers to discuss the future of U.S.-Tunisian relations and cooperation. Mr. Lionel Johnson, Vice President of Middle East and North Africa Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce moderated the discussion and expressed his pleasure at the increase of Middle East and North Africa region events recently due to the Arab Spring.
For full event notes, continue reading or click here for the PDF.
Tunisian Ambassador Mohamed Salah Tekaya briefly discussed the importance of strengthening bi-lateral relations between the US and Tunisia.  Ambassador Tekaya mentioned the need for Tunisian youth to actively participate in this effort and commended the Tunisian American Young Professionals (TAYP) organization and their President Mohamed Malouche for their efforts as a diaspora organization.
Minister of Finance Jalloul Ayed began by mentioning important points in Tunisia’s history, notably the Carthaginian Empire.  These comments were made to display the potential Tunisia has and the heights it has attained throughout history as a respected nation.  This point was used as a spring board for his discourse. He stated that “[Tunisia] is under a magnifying glass every day” referring to the scrutiny from observers around the world awaiting post revolution developments, particularly with the upcoming October 23, 2011 National Constituent Assembly elections. Ayed emphasized the importance of transition and consolidation of democracy, which to him is the first step.
Ayed then discussed the Tunisia economy and job market.  He likened the economic problems of Tunisia to those faced by the US.  “We have virtually the same problems, but on a different scale,” he said – referring to the $405 billion job plan announced by President Obama early this week, in comparison to the much smaller budget that Tunisia is limited to. He added that it is not only a problem of money, but also of resources that potential workers need in Tunisia. These issues are addressed in the ‘Jasmine social and economic plan’ presented in Tunis by Ambassador Ayed early this week.  The ‘Jasmine’ plan also addresses new regulations for private entities, micro financing (loans) and other reforms to ease business in Tunisia and create jobs.
Ambassador Ayed then pointed out that the new “investment vehicles” used by Tunisia are based on US entity plans and aimed at easing doing business in Tunisia. Ayed emphasized the importance of Tunisia’s private sector and how it should be the main engine for economic growth, as private sector specialists are the most knowledgeable and well-connected when it comes to money and investment.  Government can only go so far in its pursuit for investments, whereas private sector specialists can be tasked with these international ventures.
Mr. Ayed stated the need to give entrepreneurs the freedom to grow that hadn’t been given during the former regime. He guaranteed that the government will be active in facilitating this growth and ensuring this freedom, by providing funds and framework for private equity.
The Minister then transitioned and stressed the push to eradicate corruption from the Tunisian government.  Removing the corruption that marred Tunisia under the former regime would serve to create a vibrant Tunisia that would appeal to outsiders. Ambassador Ayed closed his discourse by bringing up Tunisia’s central location and the possibility of Tunisia becoming a main hub in the region. He talked about Tunisia’s importance as a role model for other countries affected by the Arab Spring.  He also focused on Tunisia’s humanitarian effort towards Libya, recalling a Libyan NTC official who declared that “without the help from Tunisians, the Libyans would not be in a democratic transition now.” He concluded by stating that Tunisia still faces an uphill democratic transition, however Tunisia is in far better shape than other countries since Tunisia has the infrastructure and institutes readily available for a transition.  Tunisia has a strong civil society that will continue to push for democratization until it is achieved.
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Abdelhamid Triki then spoke very briefly, mainly pointing at the need to ease international enterprise entry into Tunisia.  He declared the importance of incentivizing market entry for International entities to Tunisia. Next, the Minister of Labor & Professional Training Said Aydi, who was not slated to attend, spoke briefly. Aydi touched on the staggering unemployment rate that is a main focus of the interim government, and mentioned the work being done with American organizations towards education in Tunisia.  He announced that a focus is being put on language skills as well as IT skills, hinting at official education partnerships with the US in the near future. Aydi also described how Tunisian-Libyan relations are essential for the democratic transition.
In attendance were representatives from the Department of Commerce, the president and representatives from the Tunisian American Young Professionals, international trade law professors and specialists, World Bank senior advisors and economists (Tunisia), Tunisian embassy representatives, a representative from Project on Middle East Democracy, and fidelity investment organizations, amongst others.
 
By Todd September 23, 2011 Category: Event Notes, Events, Political transition, Tunisia
Ambassador Ford: “Syria Crackdown Risks Sectarian Strife”
Ambassador Robert Ford told Reuters that even though time is against President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian opposition need to come to an agreement on the details of a transition and type of government that would replace Assad.”The government violence is actually creating retaliation and creating even more violence in our analysis, and it is also increasing the risk of sectarian conflict,” he said.
Although Ford did not mention any groups in particular, the tensions have risen between the Sunni majority and Assad’s Alawite sect. He also noted that the Assad government is not close to collapse, as the Alawite-controlled military is still very strong, but economic issues continue to plague Syria, pushing some groups to dissent against Assad. Regarding the military Ford noted that ”its cohesion is not at risk today, but there are more reports since mid-September of desertions than we heard in April and May or June. And this is why I am saying time is not on the side of the government.”
Protests continued on Friday in the province of Homs where Syrian security forces fired live ammunition to disperse the non-violent gathering, killing at least two people. There are also reports of Syrian students becoming increasingly active in pro-democracy protests. On Thursday, Syrian students marching outside the capital after class chanting for revolution were beaten and detained by security forces.
By Alex September 23, 2011 Category: Human Rights, Political transition, Protests, Rule of Law, Sectarianism, Syria
U.S. Embassy Reopened in Libya
Ambassador Gene Cretz delivered his first public remarks from Tripoli since he left the post nine months ago, marking the reopening of the U.S. embassy. At the official opening ceremony of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli on Thursday, Cretz noted that Libyans are “going through the natural throes of a democratic process,” and he doubts they will “let their revolution be hijacked.” Cretz expressed enthusiasm about Libya’s future, adding that “it’s a very exciting time but it’s a massive undertaking.” With regards to Gadhafi’s whereabouts, Cretz asserted that while his being brought to justice is important, “this country is moving forward.” He also said one of the U.S.’s main priorities would be to “secure the proliferating array of weapons” that has emerged.

After capturing Sabha, the NTC announced that it would present its interim government “within the next few days.” The “crisis government” will consist of 22 ministerial positions and a vice premier.
 
By Patricia September 23, 2011 Category: Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Featured, Libya, Political transition, US foreign policy
POMED Notes: “Axis of Abuse: U.S. Human Rights Policy toward Iran and Syria, Part II”
On Thursday, the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing about U.S. approaches to human rights policy in Syria and Iran. The panel included Michael Singh of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mehdi Khalaji, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Alireza Nader of the RAND Corporation, Tony Badran, a Research Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Jon Alterman, Director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Chairman of the Subcommittee Steve Chabot (R-OH) moderated the hearing.
For full event notes, continue reading or click here for the PDF.
Michael Singh gave his opening remarks, calling the situation in Syria is a matter “not only of moral urgency, but of vital importance to U.S. national security.” He asserted that the U.S. must do more to highlight the ongoing human rights abuses in both Syria and Iran and that in order to generate meaningful opposition to these abuses the United States must support transitions to systems of government in which citizens’ opinions and aspirations are respected. Singh added that the U.S. must work to “expose the illusions upon which these regimes are based.” Shedding light on human rights abuses in Iran and Syria must become more frequent and clear, particularly with regards to individuals, Singh said.
Next, Mehdi Khalaji offered his assessment, explaining that the organizations responsible for human rights abuses in Iran are closely associated with the military and nuclear programs. He gave a list of individuals that ought to be targeted for sanctions, including many members of the office of the Supreme Leader and members of the clergy. Khalaji mentioned that any individual that attempts to impede internet and satellite services should also be sanctioned. He encouraged the U.S. government to promote democratic reform in Iran and better publicize the positive effects of individual sanctions.
Alireza Nader followed up, saying that “conditions in Iran suggest that a ‘Persian Spring’ is quite possible.” He suggested that the Green Movement is indeed committed to the Iranian constitution, and therefore will ultimately “preserve the same system of government that oppresses it.” However, he added, the regime still enjoys support among core supporters, and that the tendency of the U.S. to focus solely on Iran’s nuclear program has strengthened the core supporters who resent past U.S. interference. Additionally, the U.S. must broaden its foreign policy focus concerning Iran in order to convince ordinary Iranians that it is concerned with the plight of Iran’s citizens, instead of being solely concerned with American interests in the Middle East.
Tony Badran then proffered his opinions regarding the situations in Iran and Syria, raising the question of whether peaceful protest will be enough to dislodge Assad’s regime since momentum has apparently stalled. In addition, Badran suggested that must no longer defer to the authority of Turkey, and that the United States must promptly take a more active role with regards to Syria to balance the agendas of Iran and other actors. Ultimately, he concluded, the situation in Syria must be viewed as an opportunity to break the influence Iran.
Finally, Jon Alterman posited that the U.S. must not turn domestic political turmoil in the Arab world into confrontations with the United States, which he believes would provide a lifeline for these autocratic governments. He urged committee members that the United States must approach the situation “in the company of other [regional] governments,” because “regional voices have far more credibility with the targeted populations.” He called this a quiet and confident leadership approach, dismissing the idea that it was instead “leading from behind.” He finished by stating that “the quiet and difficult work of building broad coalitions is likely to yield much better results than noisy condemnations that can be easily tuned out.”
In a brief Q&A session, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) asked the panelists to give suggestions regarding the U.S. approach to Iran. Nader said that isolation benefits the Iranian regime and that greater diplomatic efforts will engage the Iranian government and highlights their inherent instability. He also suggested that the United States use the Iranian government’s own rhetoric about human rights against them. Khalaji urged the use of wider public diplomacy to appeal to the Iranian people, offering ideas such as easing visa restrictions and increasing funding for VOA Persian.
By Todd September 23, 2011 Category: Event Notes, Events, Government, Human Rights, Iran, Political transition, Syria, US foreign policy, US politics
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Syria: As Dissident Army Organizes, Revolution May Enter “Militarized” Phase
Abbas: “The Palestinian Spring Is Here”
FY2012 Foreign Ops Budget Could be Significantly Slashed
POMED Notes: “Rule of Law in Egypt: Challenges for Democracy”
Yemen: Demonstrators Reject Saleh’s Proposal, Protests Erupt
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