22 Dec 2007 - 20 Jan 2022
The Middle East Institute hosted an event on Tuesday (10/22) entitled “The Political and Economic Implications of the Palestinian Authority’s Fiscal Crisis.” The panel included Oussama Kanaan, mission chief for the West Bank and Gaza at the International Monetary Fund; Khaled Elgindy, fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy; Robert Danin, senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; and was moderated by Hussein Ibish, senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. The panel examined the economic and political fallout stemming from the impending PA financial crisis and explored the role of the international community in finding a way forward.
For full event notes, continue reading or click here for a PDF. Read more…
On Thursday (10/25), The Brookings Institution co-hosted a panel discussion with Vital Voices Global Partnership and Project on Middle East Democracy entitled “Women After the Arab Awakening.” The panel included Souad Slaoui, of the Isis Center in Morocco; Randa Naffa, of Sadaqa in Jordan; Marianne Ibrahim, of al-Gisr Center for Development in Egypt; and Lina Ahmad, of the Lebanese League for Women in Business. Tamara Cofman Wittes, Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy moderated the event.
For full event notes, continue reading or click here for a PDF. Read more…
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, acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, wrote an article criticizing
the Bahraini regime’s characterization of the opposition as a Shia monolith. Al-Khawaja says that protesters have been representative of all Bahraini demographics since the early days of the Arab Spring, and that they continue to stand united in calling for a constitutional monarchy. She points out that in addition to stalling on governmental reform, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa
has engaged in a policy of “political naturalization” by encouraging Sunnis from the surrounding countries to immigrate to Bahrain. This practice denies Bahraini citizens, both Sunni and Shia alike, access to jobs and housing, while creating a growing contingent of regime loyalists, says al-Khawaja. Additionally, the regime’s policy is seen as a strategy by which to “dilute the Shia majority” and “foment sectarian tension.”
, Director of the Human Rights Defender Program at Human Rights First, authored
a piece which questioned Bahrain’s policies on the freedom of expression. Dooley pointed out that the regime continues to crack down on users of social media who are critical of the government, a policy that is “smothering the chance for people to peacefully oppose the ruling family.” Despite Bahrain’s commitment to address the areas of concern noted in the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry, it is still unclear how far the regime will allow the freedom of speech to expand.
The Bahraini parliamentary delegation, led by Shura Council first deputy chairman Jamal Mohamed Fakhro, attended the 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Ottawa, Canada. Fakhro called for the IPU human rights committee report on the Bahrain to be withdrawn or amended, citing impartiality. The delegation reportedly “hailed the solidarity expressed by parliamentary delegations in support of the reform steps undertaken by the Kingdom of Bahrain to emerge from last year’s crisis,” while “paying tribute to the delegations for condemning any external interference and foreign crisis-mongering designs in the Bahrain.”
Photo Credit: Time/William Daniels
The cease-fire which went into effect at 0600 hours on October 26 broke
down within four hours of its implementation. Rebels accused the Syrian Army of attacking first, but both sides exchanged
gunfire in multiple cities. A car bomb also exploded
in Damascus reportedly killing five and injuring 32 others. The government responded to the violence by claiming the rebels had been responsible for breaching the negotiation. Going into the Eid al-Adha holiday, fighting between the two sides was reported
not to be as intense as it was over the past months, however U.S. Department of State spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated
that the department is seeking more information on the car bombing, and confirmed that the Syrian Army had used “helicopter and tank shelling” against the opposition.
Journalist and former hostage Terry Anderson released a piece in Foreign Policy honoring journalists who serve in war zones and raising awareness for former U.S. Marine Austin Tice, who is still missing in Syria. Anderson highlighted the fact that such a job is worth the risks as it allows others to “witness the violence and the horrors that war brings [and] to tell the stories of people facing terrible things.” It is believed by many, including the U.S. government, that Tice is being held by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The Atlantic Council and Project on Middle East Democracy hosted an event Thursday at the Atlantic Council, entitled “Looking Forward in Yemen: Challenges, Opportunities, & the International Community’s Role.” Moderated by Executive Director of Project on Middle East Democracy, Stephen McInerney, the panel featured Atiaf Alwazir, Co-Founder of the SupportYemen Campaign, Laura Kasinof, freelance journalist previously based in Sana’a, and Ibrahim Mothana, Co-founder of the Watan party and Advisory Committee Member for the Arab Thought Foundation.
For full event notes, continue reading or click here
for a PDF.
Photo Credit: AP
Following a call by Mauritania and Algeria for dialogue, the State Department confirmed
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Algeria next week to address concerns over the crisis in Mali. In Washington, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced
it will hold hearings in November on the security and intelligence issues raised by the September attacks in Libya. On Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said
U.S. military leaders U.S. military leaders did not have adequate intelligence information about the situation on the ground to deploy U.S. military forces to intervene.
In neighboring Morocco, King Mohammed VI returned
home after an eight-day Gulf tour, where he visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Jordan, to discuss
economic cooperation and development. Also, despite foreign delegations pledging support for the right of the Saharawi people, the trials of 24 Saharawi political prisoners were postponed
indefinitely, as the Seventh Congress of the Saharawi Workers Union (UGTSARIO) got underway.
By Rachel October 26, 2012 Category: Algeria, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Featured, Freedom, Human Rights, Libya, Morocco, US foreign policy, Western Sahara
The Project on Middle East Democracy is now accepting applications for our Spring 2013 internship term, which runs from January-May 2013. We have openings for the following positions: Policy Intern, Civil Society Partnerships Intern, Research Intern, and Egypt Programs Intern. Applicants are free to apply to multiple positions that fit their interests. Please see the descriptions below for each internship and feel free to direct any questions you have to Todd Ruffner at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at (202) 828-9660 ext. 24.
Click here for full details, or continue reading this post. Read more… By Todd October 26, 2012 Category: POMED
After Kuwait witnessed
large scale protests last weekend, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed called
on citizens to remain unified. “If Kuwait is lost, we too are lost, but if it remains, we remain with it. Kuwait should and shall remain for us, our sons, our grandsons and the next generations thanks to our cooperation, cohesion and loyalty,” the Emir said. The protests caused
the Kuwaiti government to ban
gatherings of more than 20 people. According to opposition websites, further protests are scheduled
for November 4 despite the protest ban.
Earlier in the week, the U.S. State Department urged
the Kuwaiti government and opposition “to exercise restraint, to approach their differences peacefully and in a manner that’s consistent with the Kuwaiti constitution and rule of law, including the universal rights of Kuwaitis to peacefully assemble and to express themselves.”
Meanwhile, Kristin Diwan writes that Kuwaitis “have a reverence for constitutional order and expect healthy constraints on power,” but that the opposition must “earn the public’s trust in their leadership.” Diwan adds, “To force more concessions and to achieve the increased parliamentary control they are seeking, the opposition needs to show restraint and strategic timing.”
On Tuesday, The Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University held a panel titled, “Jordan in the Crosshairs,” as part of the Middle East Policy Forum. The panel included Marwan al-Muashar, Vice-President of Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former deputy prime minister of Jordan, and Curtis Ryan, associate professor of political science at Appalachian State University. Edward Skip Gnehm, Director of the Middle East Policy Forum, moderated the event.
For full event notes continue reading, or click here
for a PDF.
Photo Credit: Reuters
The arrival of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
was welcomed by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh
the Emir for his visit saying, “Today you have officially broken the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by the forces of repression and darkness.” Al-Thani pledged
to increase Qatar’s investment in Gaza from $250 million to $400 million to allow for the expansion of various infrastructure projects. Additionally, he called on Hamas and Fatah to end their division and implement the Qatari-brokered reconciliation accord, which was signed in February. Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority leaders said Emir al-Thani’s visit would embolden Hamas and further tighten its grip on the Gaza Strip. Yasser Abed Rabbo
, Secretary-General of the PLO, said creating a separate Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip would only serve Israel’s interests. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland addressed
the Emir’s visit saying, “We share Qatar’s deep concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, including those residing in Gaza. We of course remain concerned about Hamas’s destabilizing role in Gaza and the region, and we urge all parties in the region to play a constructive role in bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table.”
Shortly after al-Thani’s departure from the Gaza Strip, Hamas militants fired rockets into Israel, an action that was met by swift retaliation from the Israeli Air Force. Four Palestinians in Gaza were killed and two guest workers in Israel were critically wounded during the fighting. Israeli defense official Amos Giladconfirmed Egypt had stepped in to mediate between the two sides. ”The Egyptians have a very impressive ability to articulate to [Hamas] that its primary interest is not to attack… Israel or other targets. [However], the only thing that has been set and said is that there will be calm. We are not interested in an escalation,” he said. The attacks came as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited Israel to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss the prospects for peace negotiations.
Photo Credit: AFP
PEN International, an organization of writers working to promote literature and defend freedom of expression, released a statement on October 25 calling for the government of Bahrain to implement recommendations from the U.N. Human Rights Council, along with those made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. Citing cases of human rights abuses, PEN International called for the immediate “release of Nabeel Rajab, Abdul Hadi al-Khawara, Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace and all those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression.” The statement was released amid continuing violence in the country.
Photo Credit: NOW
March 14 members rallied
in the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut to protest the bombing assassination of General Wissam al-Hassan
. The group issued a statement saying, “The fall of Hassan is the ultimate proof of the fall of the Lebanese state and its government. This is a new failure on behalf of this black government. We, as political parties and civil society organizations, have promised that we should not be cowardly, therefore, we will keep going until the end.” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said
, “We need a government that functions well, but more importantly, we need a government that can provide security in the country rather than insecurity, and that can work for a strong, pluralistic, unified Lebanon.” Pressed for specifics, Nuland said that “we support the process that [Lebanese] President [Suleiman] is undertaking, which is to form a new and responsible government.”
Nicholas Blanford wrote
an article that discusses why Lebanon has not been thrust into a new civil war. Despite General al-Hassan’s assassination and the spillover of violence from Syria, Lebanon has remained relatively calm. He pointed out that memories of Lebanon’s 16-year conflict are still raw in the public psyche. Blanford noted that in 1975, Lebanon’s military balance between the factional rivals was more equally matched than it is today. Meanwhile, contemporary “leaders agree on the importance of maintaining stability in Lebanon and not allowing Syria’s woes to trigger domestic violence.” Echoing that sentiment, Paul Salem
, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut said, “I don’t think there will be a civil war from this assassination because the leaders of March 14 and March 8 do not want instability at this time.”
David Schenker wrote a piece arguing that recent developments undermine Hezbollah’s position of influence in Lebanon. Schenker said “the organization has attempted to enforce ideological hegemony on its Lebanese co-religionists in an effort to assert political monopoly over Lebanon’s Shiite constituency,” which has not been well received. He concludes that Hezbollah’s support for the regime in Syria is evidence that the organization’s stature will be further diminished once Bashar al-Assad finally falls.
On October 22, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) hosted a discussion entitled “Iraq Energy Outlook” which examined the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook Special Report. The event opened with a welcome from Frank Verrastro, Senior Vice President and Director, Energy and National Security Program, CSIS and was followed by introductory remarks by His Excellency Jabir Habeb, Ambassador from the Republic of Iraq. The main presentation was conducted by Dr. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist, International Energy Agency and closing questions were moderated by Guy Caruso, Senior Advisor, Energy and National Security Program, CSIS.
Photo Credit: Umit Bektas/Reuters
U.S. Vice Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff Admiral James Winnefeld visited
Turkey to discuss proving assistance to help combat the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said
the U.S. is sharing tactics that it used
during its operation against Osama bin Laden
in order to “achieve effective results in fighting the PKK.” Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
for unity between Turks and Kurds, Turkey “has been
striking PKK targets with a frequency not seen in years,” according to the World Tribune
Prisoners in Sincan Prison entered
the 43rd day of a hunger strike, part of a group of roughly 630 prisoners in 58 prisons around Turkey protesting the isolation of convicted PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan
an end to restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language. Turkey’s Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin pleaded
for the inmates to stop the strike. “Their voice has been heard. The objective has been reached,” Ergin said
. Human Rights Association Chairman Ozturk Turkdogan confirmed
the prisoners are drinking sugared and salted water, along with vitamins.
Meanwhile, a report issued on press freedom in Turkey by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) identified 61 journalists imprisoned for their work in the country. Of those being held, roughly 75 percent have not been convicted of a crime and are waiting for a resolution on their case. “The CPJ has found highly repressive laws, … a criminal procedure code that greatly favors the state, and a harsh anti-press tone set at the highest levels of government,” the report noted. In an article for the Atlantic Times, Michael Koplow said, “while the CPJ’s effort to highlight serious abuses by the Erdoğan government is admirable, it is unfortunately also overdue and thus destined to be ineffectual.” According to reports, the Syrian government has agreed to a ceasefire during the holiday of Eid al-Adha. U.N. Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters in Cairo that most opposition factions had also said they would observe the truce, and the government is poised to make its final decision on Thursday, though it has not made an official announcement yet. ”If we succeed with this modest initiative, a longer ceasefire can be built on it, and the launch of a political process,” Brahimi said. He did not elaborate on the details of how the truce would be monitored.
Photo Credit: Voice of America/AP
Egypt’s Higher Court declined
to rule on the legality of the drafting committee of Egypt’s Constitution Tuesday, sending
the decision to the supreme constitutional court. Opposition leaders rejected
an invitation from President Mohammed Morsi
to discuss the constitution, arguing his call “lacks the clarity and mechanisms that ensure its earnestness,” while the Nour party expressed
general satisfaction with the document. Meanwhile, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter
, who is in Egypt for a two-day visit
it’s increasingly apparent that the secular and religious aspects of the constitution remain the crucial questions.
Nathan Brown discussed
the constitutional process, which he called “highly polarized” and “hard to follow,” in an article for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Although the Islamists “are correct when they claim to be acting with restraint,” Brown also said that “Islamists are dominating the process and are likely to see a constitution that reflects their interests.” Brown highlighted several disagreements over the working draft of the constitution, including articles that deal with the role of Shari’a, al-Azhar and gender, but he also emphasized that context and implementation are just as important.
Tawfiq Okasha, owner of the TV station El-Faraeen, was convicted of defamation and sentenced to four months in prison in a Luxor court. Okasha often criticized the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi on his show, causing some in the international community to view the sentence as an attack on free speech. In a letter released by Reporters Without Borders, the organization said, “such a conviction and sentence based on the criminal code sends out a highly negative message for freedom of information in Egypt.
Photo Credit: AP
“Progress on human rights in Tunisia that followed the ousting of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
is being rolled back by the current Tunisian Government,” according to an Amnesty International press release issued
on the one-year anniversary of Tunisia’s first free elections in modern history. A new report by the human rights organization highlights disconcerting recent developments in the country, including the failure “to fully outlaw discrimination against women,” criminalizing defamation, security forces using “unnecessary and excessive…force” against protesters with seeming impunity, a judiciary beholden to the executive branch, and the repeated renewal of the state of emergency law. Chapter Four of the report alleges that government-sanctioned torture is still in use in Tunisia, even though “the incidence of torture and other ill-treatment appears to be lower than in the Ben Ali era.” The outlook was not entirely bleak, however. Amnesty gave the interim and recently-elected governments credit for freeing political prisoners, ratifying a host of human rights treaties, and lifting restrictions on associations, which led to over 1,300 newly-registered organizations since September 2011.
Reporters Without Borders also released
a critical statement on Tuesday, calling for the clarification and implementation of two long-delayed decrees aimed at protecting press freedom. Responding to a one-day strike by most of the Tunisian media last week, the government announced that the decrees are set to become official, almost a year after they were proposed. Reporters Without Borders said that the “announcement is positive even if belated,” but the press group expressed concern with the ambiguous Independent Broadcasting Authority that the decrees establish to licence and oversee “broadcasting freedom.”
In a sign of mounting tensions, more than a thousand Tunisians turned out on Sunday to protest the death of opposition politician Lotfi Nakdh, who died in the southern town of Tataouin after clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters. Thousands more demonstrated in Tunis on Monday against the current Ennahda-led government, and protests continue to roil university campuses throughout the country. Salafists also expressed anger on the election anniversary, as evidenced by a video [Ar.] in which Saif-Allah Benahssine, the leader of the Tunisian Ansar al-Sharia group, calls the government a stooge of the West. Finally, reports emerged [Fr.] on Tuesday of at least two Jihadi training camps operating in Tunisia.
Photo Credit: AFP
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Keeping Operations, Herve Ladsous
that plans are underway regarding a peacekeeping force to Syria, should the regime and the opposition agree to a cease-fire. The final decision will be contingent upon the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
’s ability to negotiate the cease-fire, preferably before Eid al-Adha on October 26, and a confirmation
vote by the U.N. Security Council. The regime has continued
to conduct air raids on Aleppo and neighboring districts “and the daily death toll continues to exceed 100,” according to the Director of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman
. On 22 October, anti-Assad militants engaged
Jordanian soldiers while attempting to “illegally enter Syria,” leading to the death of one Jordanian soldier.
A U.S. Department of State official declared“the onus of this kind of violence” as resting “squarely on the Assad regime.” Human Rights Watch also released a report on October 23, disproving the Syrian Army’s denials regarding the use of cluster bombs. According to a recent interview with Steven Heydemann of the United States Institute for Peace, Turkish citizens are also gravely “concerned about the possibility of war with Syria,” given the “economic and social consequences” as well as the potential for a refugee crises. Howard Eissenstat recently wrote that although the Turkish government has taken a “tough stance against the brutality of the al Assad regime,” they also have a dismal record on human rights. Eissenstat highlights the fact that freedom of speech is greatly limited and that a war with Syria could even be used by Turkish officials to increase ethnic violence against Kurdish populations and other minorities. On another note, Andrew J. Tabler and Jeffrey White of the The Washington Institute outlined their approach to identifying potential U.S. allies in Syria, should the next administration attempt to increase support for the Syrian opposition. By Chris October 23, 2012 Category: Arab League, Diplomacy, Featured, Human Rights, Jordan, Political transition, Reform, Sectarianism, Syria, Turkey, UN Security Council, United Nations, US foreign policy
Photo Credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times
Last night’s foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama
and Gov. Mitt Romney focused
on numerous Middle East foreign policy issues, including Libya, Syria, Israel, Iran, and the U.S. approach to the Arab Spring. Both contenders agreed
that a nuclear-armed Iran was not an option: Romney said “the greatest national security threat is a nuclear Iran” and Obama declared
”as long as I’m president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.” The topic of conversation often turned
back to domestic policy, as Obama claimed that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken resources away from domestic concerns and Romney argued
that promoting “principles of peace” abroad “begins with a strong economy here at home.” As Spencer Ackerman put
it in Wired
, “voters were treated to the curious sight of Romney explicitly endorsing several aspects of Obama’s agenda.”
“Romney’s foreign policy ideas seemed to include a strong dose of ‘me too,’” Jim Picht said in the Washington Times. “There was no mention, let alone discussion, of the role of Turkey it its dilemma as a Muslim nation sharing a border with Syria,” Steven Erlangerwrote in the New York Times. “Neither candidate articulated a clear policy towards post-Mubarak Egypt,” Eric Trager lamented in The Atlantic. “Both candidates could have benefited from explaining how they would..[pursue] interests [in Egypt],” Trager continued. “The candidates mentioned Israel 31 times … but the Israel-Palestinian peace process was barely mentioned last night,” Max Fisher noted in the Washington Post. Josh Hersh and Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post concluded, ”If Monday night’s debate proved anything, it showed that when it comes to drone strikes, the war in Afghanistan, relations with Pakistan, the intervention in Libya, support for Israel or for ‘crippling sanctions’ on Iran, there is little difference between the two parties.” By Rachel October 23, 2012 Category: Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, Civil Society, Egypt, Elections 2012, Featured, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Islam and Democracy, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Political transition, Protests, Reform, Syria, Tunisia, US foreign policy, US politics
Photo Credit: Reuters
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warned
of a political vacuum in Lebanon as opposition members called
for the resignation of Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati
, who they claim is too close to Bashar al-Assad
and Hezbollah. “There are some who are trying to divert attention from the situation in the region by causing problems in Lebanon,” Ashton said
. U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly said
she opposes a power vacuum and “is supporting Prime Minister Mikati and his government.” Although Mikati offered
to resign, President MichelSuleiman
asked him “to stay for a while longer.” The State Department Office of the Spokesperson confirmed
an FBI task force is heading to Lebanon to “provide technical assistance to the investigation into the attack that killed Brigadier General Al-Hassan and seven others.” Meanwhile, Lebanon’s military cordoned
off streets in Beirut and Tripoli after an official declared
it would take “decisive” measures in preventing further violence.
“Lebanese leaders depend on the alliances they make with powerful foreigners,” said Jeremy Bowen. “Inevitably that makes them party to their patrons’ quarrels and wars, too,” he added. In a Stratfor op-ed, the author noted “the October 19 attack could intimidate anti-Assad individuals in Lebanon from becoming more involved in the Syrian conflict.” Meanwhile, a UNHCR statement claimed, “Lebanon has become the third country in the region to see its population of registered Syrian refugees and people waiting for registration (exceed) the 100,000 mark.”
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