22 Dec 2007 - 20 Jan 2022
Photo Credit: Associated Press
The New York Times
, citing unnamed American officials, reported
the U.S. military secretly dispatched a task force of more than 150 “planners and other specialists” to a Jordanian military training center near Amman. The task force will help
the Jordanian military “handle a flood of Syrian refugees, prepare for the possibility that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons and be positioned should the turmoil in Syria expand into a wider conflict.” The news came on the heels of Sen. Bob Corker
‘s (R-TN) visit
to Jordan, where he met with ministers, businessmen and senators, and “hailed
steps taken by the Kingdom to achieve reforms that fulfill aspirations of the Jordanian people.” Corker also traveled
to the Syrian border to evaluate the situation there and expressed concerns that al-Qaeda remains a “serious threat” to the United States.
King Abdullah II established
a constitutional court by royal decree on October 7, which will be the only court authorized to verify that laws comply with the constitution. The committee is comprised
of nine members sworn in before the King and chaired by Taher Hekmat
, a legal expert and head of the board of directors of the National Center for Human Rights. In a letter to members of the court, Abdullah stressed
the institution “offers an important guarantee of the separation of powers and respect for the rights and freedoms of citizens.”
Over the weekend, protesters gathered in downtown Amman in the largest demonstration since the Jordanian Arab Spring began. The government dissolved the parliament on Thursday and promised more political reform in response to the protests, a common tactic that has led to 11 prime ministers since 1999. ”It is now clear that the King is in no mood for compromise,” wrote Osama Al Sharif in Gulf News. “The Islamists and their allies have shown that they too are determined to challenge the regime.” However, “Jordan deserves some credit,” said an op-ed in ammonnews.net. “Unlike in some Arab states, protests have been met with a peaceful response. It is now crucial that the government gets ahead of events and own the process.”
Photo Credit: Foreign Press Centers
The State Department has announced
that is continuing to work with Congress to remove
a block on $450 million of aid to Egypt. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland
said, “We are continuing our regular consultations. We had a number of folks from this building, including [Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions William Taylor
] up talking to Hill staff about the request, [and] about how it fits into our overall strategy of supporting the democratic transition in Egypt.” She added, “We feel very strongly that now is not the time to pull back from supporting these fragile democracies in North Africa and the Middle East. It’s time to support those who are trying to take their countries in a democratic direction.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Friedman writes
, “The worst message we can send right now to Middle Easterners is that their future is all bound up in what we
do. It is not. The Arab-Muslim world has rarely been more complicated and more in need of radical new approaches by us — and them
.” He suggests the U.S. “start by making clear that the new Arab governments are free to choose any path they desire,” but U.S. support is predicated on a country’s action to “1) educate [its] people up to the most modern standards; 2) empower [its] women; 3) embrace religious pluralism; 4) have multiple parties, regular elections and a free press; 5) maintain [its] treaty commitments; and 6) control violent extremists with security forces governed by the rule of law.”
Finally, Daniel Levy offers a critique of Mitt Romney’s recent foreign policy speech, saying “the speech did tell us quite a bit about the tensions inherent in doing Republican foreign policy in the post-Bush era.” Among other arguments, Levy suggests Romney’s promise to “deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf” will be difficult to reconcile with his desire to support ”the dignity that comes with freedom, and opportunity, and the right to live under laws of our own making.” He also labels Romney’s articulated policy as “Weaponized Keynesianism.”
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
In an op-ed, professor Mark LeVine describes
why democratic transitions have been so drastically different across the Middle East. He argued that the initial movement in Syria was not as successful as Egypt or Tunisia due in part to a lack of a “well developed and organized public sphere.”LeVine posits that the current level of violence in Syria is a product of non-intervention and external protection of the Assad regime. Now that the conflict has threatened
neighboring countries, intervention is justified on the grounds of humanitarian law, he said. Likewise, fear of punishment for crimes against humanity ensure the regime will not reconcile with the opposition. LeVine points out that the Syrian regime benefits from the U.N. Security Council membership of China and Russia, and likewise Bahrain has the liberty of violently cracking down on protesters due to its strategic importance to the U.S. and Gulf monarchies.
In an update from Bahrain, imprisoned rights activist Nabeel Rajab recently ended a hunger strike that protested his poor treatment. In Libya, authorities faced off with the International Criminal Court over who would best provide Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, son of Muammar Qadhafi, a fair trial regarding accusations of war crimes. By Chris October 10, 2012 Category: Bahrain, Civil Society, Egypt, Featured, Gulf, Human Rights, Libya, NGOs, Political transition, Protests, Reform, Syria, Tunisia, UN Security Council
Photo Credit: Arab Times Online
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabeh al-Ahmad al-Sabah
upon all people to work together to maintain stability, security and national unity,” after he issued
a decree dissolving parliament. In response, opposition groups warned
“the current intentions of the political authorities … could severely undermine political stability and the historical relations binding the people with the al-Sabah ruling family.” Fourteen detainees were also released
in Kuwait today after being arrested in relation to demonstrations organized by stateless people, or Bedouns, pressing for more rights. The release came after some Bedouns accused
of inciting public revolt admitted to calling for protests through Twitter.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan urged collaboration between the gulf countries to stop the Muslim Brotherhood from plotting to undermine governments in the regime. Al-Nahayan denounced the Muslim Brotherhood as “an organization which encroaches upon sovereignty and integrity of nations.” Roughly 60 local Islamists have been arrested this year for accusations of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in the UAE, and conspiring to overthrow the government.
On Thursday, the Center for National Policy hosted a panel discussion entitled, “Death from Above: Drones and Targeted Killings.” The panel featured Peter Bergen, Director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, and Christopher Swift, Adjunct Professor of National Security Studies at Georgetown University. Gregory Aftandilian moderated the event.
For full notes continue reading, or click here
for the PDF.
The Brookings Institution published
a study of American opinions on the Middle East, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes and Anwar Sadat Chair Shibley Telhami
. The study sought to gauge American first impressions and public opinion of the attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East, and whether attitudes on other issues have changed since the attacks.
A poll conducted as part of the study found that a majority of Americans do not believe that a majority of Libyans or Egyptians supported the attacks. However, a majority of those polled felt that the respective governments did not do enough to protect the missions or respond to the attacks. The number of Americans who wish to reduce aid to Egypt has substantially increased, though only a small number of respondents advocate for cutting aid completely. Egypt is mostly seen as “somewhat unfavorable,” while Libya is seen as “largely unfavorable.”
According to the study, most Americans value a U.S. role in the Middle East, while a minority think that the the U.S. ought to disengage. A nearly equal number of respondents either favored or were opposed to continued support for democracy, even if it lead to a less pro-western government. In addition, “the perceptions of the popular uprisings in the Arab world have changed. They have shifted away somewhat from a view that the uprisings are about ordinary people seeking freedom and democracy to a perception that they are more about Islamist groups seeking power.” In general, “views of Arabs and Muslims are divided and have not changed significantly” in light of recent events.
Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, most Americans think that a preemptive Israeli strike would do little or nothing to slow progress, and that Israeli engagement could hurt U.S. strategy in the region. However, “a slight majority favored taking a neutral stance toward the possibility of Israel carrying out such a strike, though more favor discouraging Israel than encouraging from doing so.” On Syria, a majority of Americans support a joint effort to ratchet up sanctions and implement a no-fly zone, although there is still broad opposition to arming anti-regime groups in the country, as well as undertaking a full-scale ground invasion.
By Brett October 9, 2012 Category: Egypt, Foreign Aid, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Israel, Libya, Political transition, Syria, US foreign policy
Photo Credit: Ahram Online
On his 100th day as president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi issued
a general amnesty for all protesters and political prisoners arrested between January 25, 2011 and June 30, 2012 in connection to the revolution, excluding those charged with murder. Morsi had promised to take this step before he became president and the announcement was met with overwhelmingly positive press in Egypt. Egyptian journalist Hamdi Kandil said
, “Revolutionaries have not waited for any decision as much as they have waited for today’s decision by Morsi to pardon all political prisoners.” Morsi has been criticized
for failing to deliver on many of his other 100-day promises, but Morsi generally gave
himself high marks on his initial work.
On the one-year anniversary of a march that ended in the deaths of scores of protesters, hundreds of Egyptians gathered
to commemorate the lives lost and call for military accountability. The October 9, 2011 demonstration was a response to the torching of a church in Upper Egypt, but YouTube videos and firsthand accounts from the march captured
the violent response by soldiers in armored vehicles.
Egypt and Turkey began a week-long war games exercise in the Mediterranean on October 8, emblematic of the close economic and military ties between the two countries. An anonymous source in the Egyptian military said that a similar U.S.-Egypt exercise is slated for next year.
Photo Credit: OC Family
The Obama campaign responded
to Mitt Romney
’s Virginia Military Institute speech, citing it as lacking “meaningful specifics or outline” and “full of platitudes.” The website quoted James Lindsay
of the Council on Foreign Relations, who argued
that the speech failed to answer two key questions: what Romney would do differently than Obama and why his plan should be expected to work. A New York Times
Romney’s policies as “wrong and dangerous,” accusing Romney of making false accusations and failing to provide alternatives to Obama’s strategy. A Washington Post
op-ed generally agreed with Romney’s views that Obama has been “too cautious” in supporting reform and stabilization, but echoed
Lindsay’s assessment in that both candidates have failed to offer a “robust Mideast policy,” appearing vague and fearful that they might offend voters.
Christian Whiton of the DC International Advisory vindicated Romney’s critique of Obama’s record in Libya, Syria and Iran, writing that “Obama…has been asleep at the wheel as revolutions have swept the Middle East.” Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center and Michael E. O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution also commented on the speech. Though Hamid has disagreed with Romney on Middle East issues in the past, he defended Romney’s argument that there has been failure by the U.S. to lead in Syria and to “tie any existing or new aid to explicit benchmarks on political reform and democratization” in the region. Hamid also pointed out, however, that Romney’s pledge to stand by allies in the Gulf creates a conflict of interest as they have “become more repressive in the wake of the…Arab Spring” and that neither candidate has even begun to speak on Jordan. O’Hanlon also disagreed with Romney on some issues but felt the overall balance of the speech was effective in promoting continued American engagement in the Middle East and contributed to a type of foreign policy debate which was good for the country. Bruce Reidel of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy said, “The VMI speech is a good start to what needs to be a far more vigorous and detailed debate in the next month.” By Chris October 9, 2012 Category: Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Elections 2012, Featured, Foreign Aid, Gulf, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Political transition, Presidential Candidates, Reform, Syria, Uncategorized, US foreign policy, US politics
POMED’s Weekly Wire for October 9th is now available. This week we highlight these and other top stories:
To continue reading the full Weekly Wire, click here.
The Center for National Policy hosted an event on Thursday (10/4) entitled “U.S.-Egyptian Relations: Where is the Bilateral Relationship Headed?” The discussion centered around the slow and initial tepid response of the new Egyptian leadership to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The response caused some members of Congress to advocate for a cut in U.S. assistance. On the other hand, both Egyptian and U.S. officials have indicated that they want the bilateral relationship to be maintained. Gregory Aftandilian, CNP Senior Fellow for the Middle East; Perry Cammack, Staff Member for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of the Project on Middle East Democracy; and Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland analyzed the situation and gave their assessments on where the bilateral relationship is headed.
Continue reading for a full summary, or click here for the PDF version. Read more…
Photo Credit: AP
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed
his foreign policy positions in a speech
at the Virginia Military Institute. Romney suggested that “it’s time to change course in the Middle East.” ”I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope,” Romney said
. “But hope is not a strategy.”
He called on the U.S. to work with other countries to arm the Syrian rebels to help them defeat Bashar Assad. Vis-a-vis Iran’s link to Syria, Romney said that with the help of allies the U.S. should “support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran rather than sitting on the sidelines.”
On foreign aid, Romney said: “I will make further reforms to our foreign assistance to create incentives for good governance, free enterprise, and greater trade, in the Middle East and beyond. I will organize all assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with responsibility and accountability to prioritize efforts and produce results. I will rally our friends and allies to match our generosity with theirs. And I will make it clear to the recipients of our aid that, in return for our material support, they must meet the responsibilities of every decent modern government—to respect the rights of all of their citizens, including women and minorities… to ensure space for civil society, a free media, political parties, and an independent judiciary… and to abide by their international commitments to protect our diplomats and our property.”
Romney also pledged to “deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf” and “reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security.”
Photo Credit: BBC
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah dissolved
the 2009 parliament, just over three months after it was reinstated by the constitutional court. According to Kuwaiti law, new elections must be held within 60 days. Former opposition parliamentarians welcomed
the move, but they also pressed for another decree to set the date for the election and warned against amending the controversial electoral constituency law to influence the outcome of polls. This latest dissolution is the third in a year that has pitted
opposition members staunchly against supporters of the ruling family on a number of issues. ”The 2009 assembly has gone without regret,” former opposition lawmaker Mubarak al-Waalansaid
Since 2006, the parliament has been dissolved five times, and BBC reports that Kuwait’s parliament “has the most powers of any elected body in the Gulf,” due partially to opposition MPs ability to “openly criticize the ruling Sabah family.”
The American Middle East Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS) is seeking applicants to be a part of its 2013 program. AMENDS is a student initiative at Stanford University that enables the most promising youth change agents from across the Middle East, North Africa, and United States to learn from each other, advance their work, and share, through TED style talks, their ideas and experiences with the world. Delegates for the program should be between 18-28 will ideally have the following qualifications:
- Have innovative ideas and well thought-out initiatives that could affect positive change in the world.
- Are addressing political, social, or economic issues pertaining to the Middle East in innovative ways.
- Can further understanding between the respective regions and demonstrate potential to influence American-Middle Eastern affairs.
Please click here for the 2012-2013 Application, and email the completed application and all supplementary materials to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Application Deadline is Oct. 26, 2012. Visit the AMENDS website for more information.
Photo Credit: EFE
The Libyan General National Congress rejected
Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abu Shagur
‘s proposal for an emergency government on October 7. The plan, composed of 10 governing ministries, failed to pass by a vote of 125 to 44. Seventeen members of parliament chose to abstain, while the vote effectively removed Shagur from his position. The decision marks Shagur’s second failure to form a government. His first attempt proposed a unity government composed of 29 ministries, however he withdrew the list before it went to a vote. The original submission drew intense criticism from legislative members as well as protesters who stormed the parliament headquarters in Tripoli. Shagur had aimed
to form a coalition government based on merit saying, “I will not abandon my principles and my convictions. I did not return to Libya [from years in exile] to become head of government, I came back to serve the country and its children.” The GNC now has three to four weeks to elect a new prime minister.
Meanwhile, U.S. investigators left the embassy compound in Benghazi after thoroughly combing the site for information on the attack which took the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens. It is unclear what evidence the FBI team was able to gather. Local Libyans noted that the FBI did not conduct interviews during the investigation. U.S. officials have declined to say whether the team would be able to return to Benghazi in order to do so.
Photo Credit: AP
Thousands of protesters took
to the streets of downtown Amman on October 5 to call for a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections. The demonstration was the largest since weekly protests began in early 2011. Jordanian opposition groups sought to show that change can be implemented through the street rather than through the king’s legislature. In a speech to fellow demonstrators, Hammam Saeed
of the Muslim Brotherhood shouted “We will not reverse our boycott of the elections,” while protesters chanted, “Abdullah, listen well: We want freedom, not your royal favors.”
On the eve of the demonstrations, King Abdullah II
made the decision to dissolve
the current parliament, a move he said would pave the way for a the coming elections. He has repeatedly criticized the Islamists in the last few months for their decision to boycott. ”As constitutional monarch, my mandate is to be the umbrella for all political groupings and all segments of our society, and as part of that responsibility, I am telling the Muslim Brotherhood that they are making a tremendous miscalculation. So I am telling the Muslim Brotherhood, you have a choice: to stay in the street or to help build the new democratic Jordan,” he said.The Brotherhood has called for changes that would remove the king’s power to select the prime minister as well as the members of the upper house of parliament, and that members of both houses of parliament be popularly elected. Those parliamentarians would then choose the prime minister, who in turn would create his own cabinet.
Corruption has played a big role in nearly all of Jordan’s protests. “It’s not that the king has to open up the political system entirely to the Islamists,” said David Schenker. “Modest reforms would help ease public fears, but at the same time [Abdullah] has to do something about the corruption in the kingdom. There is a great disparity between the rich and the poor in the kingdom. This is an issue that resonates throughout the kingdom, whether they are Palestinians, East Bankers or Jordanians,” he added. By Brett October 6, 2012 Category: Elections, Featured, Islamist movements, Jordan, Muslim Brotherhood, Parliament, Political Islam, Political transition, Protests, Reform Bahraini riot police have reportedly used water cannons and tear gas to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters trying to reach the former site of the Pearl Roundabout. Meanwhile, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expressed concern over imprisoned human rights defender Nabeel Rajab choice to participate in a hunger strike Friday. Rajab will abstain from taking food, water and medication in protest of what he calls unjust treatment. Rajab was briefly released from prison yesterday to attend his mother’s funeral but was quickly returned to jail.
Photo Credit: Veterans Today
In a letter
to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan
(R-OH), Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, expressed concerns and raised a number of questions regarding the Administration’s intent to provide $450 million Egyptian government. “In the wake of the breach of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the nature of the Egyptian response,” the letter states, “we are very concerned with respect to the overall direction of the transition on Egypt.” Chairman Ros-Lehtinen’s letter also asks the Administration numerous questions about its current policy on Egypt with regard to democracy assistance, protection of minority communities, and human rights.
A day before the release of the letter, the American Egyptian Strategic Alliance (AESA), an organization aimed at shaping U.S. policies towards Egypt, launched
an advocacy campaign urging the hold on aid to Egypt to be lifted. In a press release
, AESA said it “believes it is important that the U.S. stands firm in protecting our national security interests by fully supporting the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people,” concluding “the $450 million USD is desperately needed by Egypt to help its people.”
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin wonders if it’s time to withhold aid to Egypt. “Not only do we not have a firm handle on what sort of regime Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is setting up, but once we release the $450 million in aid, what influence do we have? At the very least, it seems a large portion of the aid should be deferred until such time as we spell out to Morsi what behavior we expect from a top aid recipient and what will chill the relationship and cut the purse strings,” Rubin writes. However, an op-ed written in the Dallas Morning News defended aid to Egypt, stating “However challenged the U.S.-Egypt relationship might be today, it only grows worse if the U.S. loses its primary leverage point with the Morsi government. It does American interests no good to push Morsi into the arms of other nations willing to offer cash for influence.”
The U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy to the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs held a quarterly meeting on Wednesday (10/3), hosted by Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Jose W. Fernandez. The meeting focused on U.S. Government economic related assistance for supporting Egypt’s democratic transition and how the U.S. Government can assist U.S. businesses seeking to operate in Egypt. The meeting was conducted under the Chatham House Rule.
Continue reading for a full summary, or click here for the PDF version. Read more…
Photo Credit: Reuters
After the Syrian military shelled
the Turkish border town of Ackakale, killing five Turkish citizens, Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan responded
by proclaiming, “Under the rules of engagement and international law, Turkey will never let the Syrian regime’s provocations targeting our national security…go unanswered.” Syrian ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Ja’afari
the attack by sending a letter to the U.N. Security Council expressing “Syria’s deepest condolences” and clarifying that Syria is not “seeking any escalation of violence with Turkey,” although he did not issue an official apology.
Tensions mounted when the Turkish parliament’s authorization
of military action against Syria resulted in counterattacks on a Syrian military base. Turkey also sent
armed warships and submarines into the Mediterranean. The U.N. Security council officially condemned
the Syrian attack and demanded “such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated.” Russia rejected the original text of the condemnation, and despite Western council member objections, the text was revised to accommodate Russian concerns. N.A.T.O. also denounced
the attacks and Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor defined
the incident as an attack on N.A.T.O. itself, per existing N.A.T.O. treaties.
The U.S. Department of State responded by sending “its deepest condolences to the Turkish victims,” condemning the Syrian attack and pledging U.S. support for Turkey. The Turkish counterattack on Syria was deemed “appropriate” and “proportional” by U.S. officials. The Washington Institute’s Jeffrey White, Soner Cagaptay, and Andrew J. Tabler weighed in on the matter, arguing the incident provides a prime opportunity for the U.S. to lend their support in an effort to achieve regional stability and emboldened the Syrian opposition. By Chris October 5, 2012 Category: Diplomacy, Featured, Freedom, Israel, NATO, Parliament, Political transition, Reform, Syria, Turkey, UN Security Council, Uncategorized, United Nations, US foreign policy
The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) brought Syrian opposition members together on Thursday (10/4) to discuss the Day After Project, an eight-month effort to plan for a post-Assad Syria, coordinated by USIP and created by a group of 50 academics and opposition members. Although the report was released in August, this was the first presentation the report to the U.S. public. The project was divided into working groups, and each panelist focused their remarks on their respective sections. Amr al-Azm introduced the report and briefly discussed the Economic and Social Reconstruction working group, Afra Jalabi spoke on the Transitional Justice working group, Murhaf Jouejati focused on security sector reform, Rafif Jouejati represented the Economic and Social Reconstruction group, and Rami Nakhla of USIP discussed the Executive Committee. Steven Heydemann, Senior Adviser for Middle East Initiatives at USIP, introduced the panelists and served as moderator.
For full event notes, continue reading or click here
for a PDF.
From POMED's Executive Director
Project on Middle East Democracy 1611 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 300 Washington, DC 20009 (202) 828-9660 Extension Factory Builder
All Rights Reserved, POMED 2011