22 Dec 2007 - 20 Jan 2022
On Friday, the Middle East Policy Council hosted an event entitled “A Reawakened Rivalry: the GCC vs. Iran.” The panel was moderated by Omar Kader, Chairman of the board at the Middle East Policy Council, and featured Thomas Lippman, former reporter, editor, and Middle East correspondent at the Washington Post, Thomas R. Mattair, executive director at the Middle East Policy Council, and Alex Vatanka, a scholar at the Middle East Institute.
For full event notes, continue reading. Or, click here
, for the PDF
Omar Kader started the discussion by noting it was a critical time in the Middle East, and stated that many people are saying this is the beginning of the end for American power in the region. Thomas Lippman began by stating he does not know who is making the decisions in Saudi Arabia and Iran. He gave the example of the decision made by Saudi to put troops in Bahrain. Lippman stated “there is a lot we don’t know…a lot of speculation.” He then discussed the recent wave of unrest of Shi’as in Saudi’s Eastern province, and noted how Saudi blamed it on a foreign power, alluding to Iran. Lippman moved on to discuss Saudi’s fear of a “Shi’a resurgence,” especially in Bahrain, Lebanon, and Iraq. He notes how the Saudi’s feel this uprising is backed by Iran, leading to a regional power struggle between Saudi and the Shi’a. However, Lippman stated the Saudis do not want an armed struggle, and that the rivalry is “a manageable rivalry rather than a hostile one,” as Iran and Saudi have many mutual interests including OPEC, keeping the Gulf shipping lanes open, and a shared dislike of Al-Qaeda. Lippman ended by discussing the recent deteriorated of U.S.-Saudi relations regarding Mubarak and Bahrain, but American security role in the region will remain.
Alex Vatanka started by saying what is going on in Bahrain is not causing the rivalry between the GCC and Iran, but has been going on since 1981, when the GCC was formed in response to the 1979 revolution in Iran. He went further to say the rivalry really exists between Saudi and Iran, as Iran sees Saudi as the biggest player in the GCC. Tensions have been exacerbated when Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003, as Saudi was worried about Iran’s influence in Iraq. Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the arrival of Mahmoud Ahmedinjad have also increased tensions. The recent conflict in Bahrain has put the tensions and rivalry between Saudi and Iran in the forefront. Vatanka also noted on the Sunni Shi’a division in the Arab world, and discussed the rhetoric of forming a Sunni alliance to combat the Shi’a resurgence. The implications of a religious war would be tremendous and that the U.S. would have to step in some how. He stated that decision-making in Tehran is fragmented, and the leadership in Iran do not see “eye to eye.” Vatanka concluded that Iran will continue to act as opportunistic, many people in the GCC do not see the Iranian model as ideal, and Iran will keep up their rhetoric against the GCC to keep them disunited, but Iran’s policy is not effective.
Thomas R. Mattair talked about GCC concerns of Iran before and after the Arab Spring. He noted that Iran has been on a course of isolation from the GCC and that the prospects of improvement were not optimistic, which is especially true after the Arab Spring. Mattair noted that the GCC was very concerned about Iran’s influence in Iraq, as Iran elevated the Shi’a in Iraq, and incited a civil war that could have spread to the GCC. The GCC states have also been concerned with Iran’s influence in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine as well as Afghanistan. These concerns are elevated by Iran’s military and nuclear ambitions. Mattair also stated that by solving the Arab-Israeli crisis is a means to cut Iran’s power and influence in the region. The GCC has taken measures to limit Iran’s power, most notably by forging relationships with various entities and nations in the region. Mattair then moved onto the rivalry in the wake of the Arab Spring, especially Bahrain. He noted that the many of the wealthier GCC states gave economic aid to Bahrain, and Saudi provided troops. Their thinking was that they did not want Iran to establish power in Bahrain, and Saudi did not want to see the uprising in Bahrain inspire a Shi’a uprising in Saudi. Mattair argued that reforms should be introduced in Bahrain, and that these reforms would curb Iranian influence in Bahrain. He concluded by saying many GCC states are playing a more assertive role in the region, in part of limiting Iranian and Al-Qaeda’s influence, and that many of the new governments forming in the region will have more in common with the GCC rather than Iran.
Syria has warned
that they will retaliate against any country that recognizes the newly formed Syrian National Council. Walid al-Moualem
, the Syrian foreign minister, noted ”we will take tough measures against any state which recognises this illegitimate council,” despite many Western countries welcoming the new council.
Moualem’s remarks were the government’s first official comments regarding the council, and he further added
“I am not interested in what they are trying to achieve.”Some believe this is a sign of weakness and fear from the Syrian government, as they are worried the council could play the same role of the TNC in Libya, which helped lead the campaign that toppled Muammar Gadhafi
This announcement comes as Syrian security forces continue to use violent force in response to the pro-democracy demonstrations, as at least 14 people were killed on Saturday. “Gunmen opened fire at the funeral of a Kurdish opposition leader in the northern town of Qamishli on Saturday, killing six people and wounding several others,” activists said.
out between Coptic Christians and Egyptian security forces over the destruction of a church in southern Egypt, resulting in 23 people dead and more injured. Demonstrations took place in Tahrir Square and in Alexandria, forcing the a curfew to be imposed on Tahrir. The demonstrations, led by several Coptic bishops, burnt photos of Mustafa al-Sayed
, the governor of Aswan province where a church was destroyed.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, described the situation as ‘utter chaos”, and “was supposed to be a peaceful protest, demanding that Coptic rights should be fulfilled. But it soon escalated into violence, with people on balconies pelting the demonstrators with stones, clearly disagreeing with the cause of the Coptic demonstrators.” Eyewitnesses said at one point Egyptian security vehicles drove through the crowd and hitting several people, prompting the protesters to start lighting vehicles on fire. Many Christians “blame the country’s ruling military council for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak’s ouster,” and are worried about the possibility of an ultra-conservative Islamist party being in charge.
Senator Ron Wyden
(D-OR) and Representative James McGovern
resolutions in both houses of Congress intended to block the proposed arms sale to Bahrain. The two congressmen, concerned about the way the Bahraini government is handling the popular uprising, want to block the sale ”until meaningful steps are taken to improve human rights.” ”Selling weapons to a regime that is violently suppressing peaceful civil dissent and violating human rights is antithetical to our foreign policy goals and the principle of basic rights for all that the US has worked hard to promote,” Wyden said.
The Pentagon notified Congress last month of a potential arms sale to Bahrain worth $53 million, even as the Bahraini government has violently suppressed the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. Brain Dooley
, of Human Rights First, said
“it cannot be in the U.S.’s interest to be seen to be arming dictators this way. I mean, it sends all the wrong signals.” He also noted there is strong evidence that the Bahraini military has been complicit in human rights violations.
Tension continues to rise as security forces clashed with demonstrators on Friday, in what appeared to be one of the biggest protests in months. “The clashes, which did not lead to any deaths, followed a week in which the government of Bahrain took steps to present a less punitive approach to antigovernment protesters.”
In response to protesters demands, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced
he will step down as president in the coming days. Saleh stated ”I reject power and I will continue to reject it, and I will be leaving power in the coming days,” in an attack against his opponents. However, many Yemenis are skeptical of Saleh’s claim, and note that even if he does step down, he will transfer power to a family member. Tawakul Karman
, a Yemeni activist and recent Nobel Peace Price laureate, said “It’s the same old broken tune with the song that’s I will leave, I will leave, but I will never leave.”
While Saleh never said who he was transferring power to or give any firm commitment on his resignation, he stated he would be meeting with parliament to “transparently discuss” the transfer. Saleh said he returned from Saudi Arabia with “an olive branch and a dove of peace” but said his opponents failed to seize or understand his it or understand it.
On Thursday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted an event titled Post-Revolutionary Egypt: New Trends in Islam. The panel was moderated by Marina Ottaway, a senior associate of the Carnegie Middle East Program, and featured Jonathan Brown, an assistant professor at Georgetown University, Nathan Brown, a professor at George Washington University, and Khaled Elgindy, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. The panelists focused their discussion mostly around Islamist trends in Egypt, notably that of Sufis and Salafis, and what implications this has for the political future of the country.
For full event notes, continue reading. Or, click here for the PDF. Read more…
Amnesty International sent a letter
to the Senate and House of Representatives, calling on the U.S. government to suspend the proposed arms sale because it ”poses a substantial risk of contributing to further grave violations of human rights in Bahrain.” The letters urges the government to “refrain from authorizing other transfers of weaponry, munitions, and related equipment to the Bahraini military, security and police forces as long as there remains a substantial risk that such arms will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of human rights.”
The letter notes that other governments, including the British, French, Spanish, and Belgian governments have revoked arms sales and licenses to Bahrain in wake of their brutal crack down.
The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria have announced
the killing of Mashaal Tammo
, a prominent Syrian Kurdish opposition figure and spokesman for the Kurdish Future Party. Activists have released a video
(warning: graphic) of his body. While it is not known who was responsible for the killing, it was reported
that four gunmen entered Tammo’s house and shot him. Tammo’s death will add another name to the list of prominent activists and intellectuals who have been targeted by “unknown gunmen” over the past month. Starting with the return of the body of prominent human rights activists Ghiath Matar
on September 11th, who died
under torture while in the custody of security forces, at least 7 people have been victims of targeted killings. The victims include 3 scientists
: Dr. Hassan Eid
, the head of the Thoracic Surgery Department at Homs National Hospital; Professor Ali Aqeel
, Deputy Dean of Faculty of Architecture – for Scientific Affair and Professor Nael Dakhil
, Dean of Faculty of Petrochemistry in the Al-Baath University; 1 professor: Mohammad al-Omar
, a history professor
at Aleppo University; 1 engineer: Aws Khalil
, a nuclear engineer and professor from
Homs; Saryah Hassoun
, the son
of Syria’s grand mufti Ahmed Hassoun; and now
, Mashaal Tammo. In all 7 cases, the victims were either shot in the head or the body generally
“in a hail of bullets” from unidentified gunmen.
In response to a number of killings and attacks over the summer -including a singer from Hama, Ibrahim Qashoush in July- Abdul Rahman Al Rashed described “four decades, [in which] the Syrian regime killed numerous journalists, writers and artists. It was the only suspect in a series of bloody crimes.” Rashed also notes several journalists killed or maimed since President Bashar Al’Assad took power including “famous intellectual Samir Qusseir [who] was assassinated; Jubran Twini was killed and TV presenter Mai Shediaq was almost killed when her car exploded, which she lost her leg.” Rahed concludes that “the convoy of intellectuals killed and attacked by the Syrian regime, such as cartoonist [Ali] Ferzat…were killed only because they represented the conscience of a large sector of people who disagreed with the Damascus regime.” Soner Cagaptay
, Director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Center for Near East Policy, writes
that a nation can either make friends or enemies with Turkey based on its appearance through the “PKK prism.” Cagaptay asserts that “Turks judge the world” through the PKK prism: “aid Turkey against the PKK and you become its best friend. Allow perceptions of support for the PKK to build and you invite Turkey’s wrath.” He cites the example of U.S.-Turkey relations with regards to the neglect of the PKK issue in northern Iraq while fighting the Iraqi insurgency.
“The U.S. needs to make its assistance to Turkey against the PKK, including thus far unreported aspects of such aid, the bedrock of its public diplomacy outreach to the Turks,” Cagaptay concludes.
Yemeni journalist and activist Tawakul Karman
is among three women awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize. The two remaining recipients are activists from Liberia. In an official statement, the Nobel committee said, ”We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.”
In regards to Karman, the committee stated, ”In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the Arab spring, Tawakul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.” The 32-year-old activist founded Women Journalists Without Chains and “has been a key figure among youth activists in Yemen” since February. Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland added
, “The Arab spring cannot be successful without including the women in it,” and emphasized the pivotal role of both women and Islam in the regional uprisings.
Jagland asserted that Karman’s membership in an Islamist organization with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood proves that although such groups are often “perceived as a threat to democracy [...] I don’t believe that. There are many signals that that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution.”
The UN Human Rights Council released
an updated number of deaths in Syria, increasing the number to 2,900- an increase of 200 people. The report
found that ”the use of lethal violence against peaceful protestors by the Syrian authorities” had occurred, and called upon the Syrian Government t0 “launch a credible and impartial investigation and prosecute those responsible for attacks on peaceful protesters.” Syria’s deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad
the council for their findings, stating that “his nation is under attack from criminals who have killed 1,100 citizens with arms supplied by neighboring countries.”
Despite a Russian veto of the latest UNSC resolution on Syria, President Dmitry Medvedev
as saying that “if the Syrian leadership is unable to undertake these reforms, it will have to go. But this is something that has to be decided not by NATO or individual European countries but by the people and leadership of Syria.” Protests continued
today after Friday prayers as thousands of people took to the streets in support of the SNC and continued their calls for the toppling of the regime. At least 8 people have been killed, and the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria have also reported that former MP and opposition leader Riad Saif
was beaten in front of Al-Hassan mosque in Medan neighborhood, Damascus. Below is a film showing the wounds Mr. Saif sustained after he was taken to the hospital for treatment.
“Tunisia could be a model for several countries of the region if it managed to achieve the objectives of last January 14 revolution,” Interim Prime Minister Béji Caid Essebsi stated
at a series of talks in Washington with US congress members, including Rep. John Boehner
(R-OH), Rep. Nancy Pelosi
(D-CA), and Rep. Kay Granger
(R-TX). Boehner commended
Essebi and his people for creating a “democratic government that provides political, economic, social, and religious opportunity for all.” At a separate meeting, Daniel Inouye
his support for Tunisia’s democratic process and his admiration for the Tunisian Revolution.
Meanwhile, Ahram Online conducted an interview with Ayyad bin Ashour, the chairman of the Supreme Authority for Achieving the Goals of the Revolution (SAAGR), an independent body tasked with giving advice to ease the North African country’s path to representative government after decades of autocratic rule. Bin Ashour is in charge of examining legislation for political reform and presenting proposals to Tunisia’s interim president and prime minister. On a related note, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy hosted a conference to examine Tunisia’s political discourse and the conditions needed for successful elections. Ali Alekri
, a Bahraini surgeon sentenced to 15 years for treating protesters, expressed
concern over the international community’s silence on the continuing crackdown: “The international community did nothing. We expect pressure from the Americans, and we do not know why they did not do that. Possibly there is a conflict of interest.” The Bahraini Government announced Thursday that the National Safety Court would be disbanded. Alice Fordham
writes that although State Department Spokesman Mark Toner
said the U.S. was “deeply disturbed” about the sentencing of medical professionals, “officials have stopped short of directly condemning Bahrain’s authorities.” Joe Stork
of Human Rights Watch noted, “The U.S. government has plenty to say about human rights in Iran, Syria or Libya but rather loses its voice when it comes to Bahrain.”
Ahmed Jaber al-Qatan, a 16-year-old protester, was killed by security forces, al-Wefaq reported. The group added, ”The martyrdom of young Jaber falls under the systematic oppression of those demanding democracy in Bahrain.” The Ministry of the Interior confirmed Jaber’s death, attributing it to cardiac arrest, and also confirmed that riot police fired tear gas and sound grenades at around 20 youths gathered in Abu Saiba Thursday night.
Deposed Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi implored
“the Libyan people, men and women, to go out into the squares and the streets and in all the cities in their millions” to reject the TNC, making his call late Thursday on Syria-based Arrai television, as the TNC forces pressed their three-week campaign to capture Sirte. ”Make your voice heard against NATO’s collaborators,” he urged
Gadhafi’s statement came as fighting raged
in Sirte, his hometown. TNC fighters have billed
the siege as the “final assault,” while Gadhafi loyalists are reportedly mounting strong resistance. Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said
there is no clear deadline for the end of NATO operations in Libya, though he praised
NATO efforts and did not rule out additional extensions to the mission, which is set to end in late December.
Today NIAC held a policy briefing at the House of Representatives to discuss the impact of sanction on Iran and their potential repercussions for both the United States and the world economy. Barbara Slavin, a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council specializing in Iran moderated the discussion. The panel consisted of three participants, including: Bijan Khajehpour, chairman and co-founder of the Atieh Group of Companies, Robert Pape, political scientist and professor at the University of Chicago and Lucian Pugliaresi, president of the Energy Policy Research Foundation (EPRINC).
For full event notes, continue reading. Or, click here for the PDF. Read more…
Rep. James McGovern
(D-MA) and Sen. Ron Wyden
(D-OR) introduced a joint resolution in both the House and Senate opposing the proposed $53 million arms sale to Bahrain. Human rights groups have rallied
to oppose the sale, noting that it sends the wrong message to the Bahraini regime in the midst of a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. The resolution limits the proposed arms sale, requiring the Secretary of State to “certify to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives” that the Government of Bahrain “is conducting good faith investigations and prosecutions of alleged perpetrators responsible for the killing, torture, arbitrary detention, and other human rights violations committed since February 2011,” among other measures ensuring the Government of Bahrain’s compliance with international human rights standards. For a PDF of the joint resolution, click here
In a Congressional press release, Wyden was quoted saying, “Selling weapons to a regime that is violently suppressing peaceful civil dissent and violating human rights is antithetical to our foreign policy goals and the principle of basic rights for all that the U.S. has worked hard to promote. The Arab Spring has encouraged the citizens of Bahrain to seek those same rights from their government and the U.S. should not reward a regime that actively suppresses its people. This resolution will withhold the sale of arms to Bahrain until the ruling family shows a real commitment to human rights.” In the House, McGovern said, “Human rights ought to matter in our foreign and military policy. Supporting regimes that violate the basic rights of their people is not just morally wrong – it’s also not in our national security interests. Now is not the time to sell weapons to Bahrain.”
By Patricia October 6, 2011 1 comments Category: Bahrain, Congress, Democracy Promotion, Featured, Freedom, Government, Human Rights, Military, Protests, US foreign policy
The SCAF’s latest announcement of its timetable for presidential elections has drawn
concern from several of Egypt’s presidential hopefuls. The new schedule, agreed upon at the SCAF’s recent meeting with 13 political parties, says that the People’s Assembly will meet in January 2012, followed by a meeting of the Shura Council in March 2012, after which both houses of parliament will meet to draft a constitution for approval through public referendum. Finally, “the process of accepting presidential candidacies will begin” upon completion of the constitutional referendum, effectively delaying presidential elections until “as late as April 2013.”
Presidential hopefuls Amr Moussa, Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, Mohamed Salim El Awa, Hazem Abu Ismail, Hamdeen Sabahi, and Hisham El-Bastawisi have demanded that parliamentary elections be held before the end of 2011 and that the presidential vote take place “no later than March 2012.” Mohamed ElBaradei, however, feels that a constitution must be drafted before presidential elections, and that the extension of the transitional period is no cause for concern. Moussa said that the drawing out of the transitional period ultimately begets economic trouble and intensifies political tension. U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne W. Patterson said Tuesday, “I don’t think, frankly, the military knows or anyone else knows” their plan for ceding power to a civilian government. Gregory Aftandilian released a report entitled “Presidential Succession Scenarios in Egypt and Their Impact on U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Relations.” The monograph, written prior to the January 25 revolution, outlines possible political outcomes after Mubarak. Aftandilian’s work also examines the power structure in Egypt under Mubarak as well as the constitutional system and the limitations it poses for political inclusion. After discussing issues like the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, Aftandilian offers policy recommendations for U.S. officials, each tailored to the different political scenarios. He also addresses possible consequences for the broader strategic relationship between Egypt and the U.S.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has generated
a petition to “protest the ongoing violations towards students, teachers, and university faculty and staff in Bahrain.” The petition contends that “the Ministry of Education has conducted a sectarian campaign directed towards those who supported or participated in the pro-democracy movement since the declaration of a state of emergency in March. More than 500 students have been expelled, 117 of University of Bahrain’s faculty and staff were dismissed, and tens of students and teachers have been subjected to torture in detention and unfair trials and sentences.” The text of the petition calls ”to promptly help set up a full, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of torture and other mistreatment the [university] detainees have been subjected to, announcing the findings publicly and ensuring that all those responsible for such acts are brought to justice.”
Additionally, President of Middle East Studies Association Saud Joseph wrote a letter to Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi, Bahrain’s Minister of Education, to ”protest the ongoing abuses against faculty, staff, and students at Bahraini educational institutions, as well as Bahraini students studying abroad.” This is the latest in a series of letters. Josh Rogin writes
that “a growing group of lawmakers and non-governmental organizations are gearing up to oppose the State Department’s” proposed $53 million arms sale to Bahrain, and that “Sen. Ron Wyden
(D-OR) and Rep. Jim McGovern
(D-MA) are circulating a resolution that would stop the sale from going through.” Senator Wyden told Rogin that ”providing arms to a government that is actively committing human rights violations against peaceful protestors is at odds with United States foreign policy goals,” adding that ”we should be promoting democracy and human rights in the region and not rewarding a regime that is jailing and in some cases killing those who choose to peacefully protest their government and anyone who supports them.” Sen. Joe Lieberman
(I-CT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham
(R-SC) also expressed reticence about the proposed arms sale.
Cole Bockenfeld, the Director of Advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy, attests that “failure to [re-energise diplomatic efforts toward Bahrain] risks an escalation of violence that could endanger the relationship both parties hold dear.” Bockenfeld suggests that the Obama Administration can assist the reconciliation process by encouraging the withdrawal of GCC forces from Bahrain and expediting the confirmation and deployment of Ambassador-designate Thomas Krajeski. Bockenfeld concludes that “the U.S. Administration and the Bahraini government have a responsibility to act and deliver meaningful reform and accountability, or risk the very scenario both wish to avoid.” By Todd October 6, 2011 Category: Bahrain, Democracy Promotion, Featured, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Government, Military, Political transition, US foreign policy, US politics
From the Executive Director
Project on Middle East Democracy 1611 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 300 Washington, DC 20009 (202) 828-9660
All Rights Reserved, POMED 2011