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Greetings from the Project on Middle East Democracy!
Last week, protesters in Egypt clashed with the army for the first time since the military assumed power afer the departure of Mubarak. The region was shocked by the escalating protest movement in Syria and a violent crackdown by President Bashar Al Assad. Meanwhile, violent suppression of protests continued in Yemen as the Gulf Cooperation Council attempted to negotiate President Saleh’s departure from power. In Libya, violence continued between the opposition and pro-Gadhafi forces as more countries began to recognize the Transitional National Council and provide material support. In Washington, commentators continued to debate the military intervention in Libya as well as the budgets for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. This week, look for the news to continue to be dominated by events in Syria, Yemen, and Libya, as Congress works to pass the FY11 budget.
For more detailed coverage of the debates surrounding U.S. foreign policy and the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, be sure to check out our blog, the POMED Wire.
Also, POMED's Weekly Wire is now available in Arabic - to register to receive the Arabic version by email, please click here.
The Weekly Wire
Senator John Cornyn
(R-TX) will soon introduce
a non-binding resolution
expressing the sense of the Senate on the war in Libya that calls for the expansion of U.S. operations to include the removal of Muammar Gadhafi
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
held an open hearing
on Tuesday (4/5) to confirm the nomination of Mara E. Rudman
, as Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development for the Middle East. Senator Robert P. Casey
Jr. (D-PA) presided over the hearing.
Federal Government Averts Shutdown:
As the deadline for passing the FY 2011 budget neared, Josh Rogin detailed
the effects on foreign aid and diplomacy. The State Department
and USAID also released
detailed organizational guidelines in the event of a government shutdown. Minutes before the midnight deadline on Friday, Congress adopted
a continuing resolution (H.R. 1363) to fund the government through Friday, April 15. The long-term budget agreement, to fund operations through the end of fiscal year 2011 will be voted
upon this week.
Release of FY 2012 Budget:
Rep. Paul Ryan
(R-WI) presented the FY 2012 Republican budget proposal, which cuts
the budget for diplomacy and foreign aid by 29 percent in 2012 and 44 percent by 2016, while increasing the defense budget by 14 percent in the same period.
Senator Withholds Democracy Funds:
Senator Richard Lugar
the transfer of funds to Tunisian democracy assistance that the State Department requested due to concerns with re-programming and the administration’s plans for the region.
Senator Calls for Ground Invasion in Libya:
Senator Marco Rubio
for the U.S. to remove Muammar Gadhafi
from power and called
on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
(D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-KY) to urge the President to recognize the Transitional National Council. Reid’s spokesman Jon Summers called
Rubio’s claims “rash” and oblivious to the danger for U.S. troops.
Analysts Challenge No-Fly Zone and Opposition: Thomas Jocelyn raised concerns
that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufyan Ben Qumu
is serving as a rebel commander in Libya along with ‘jihadists’ who fought against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Former Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and AfghanistanMeaghan O’Sullivan applied
lessons from those conflicts to Libya. Tom Ricksand Andrew Exum
responded to the piece and provided additional analysis. Micah Zenko
and James M. Dubik argued
that the no-fly zone has not achieved its humanitarian aims and that the rebel forces are incapable of taking on Muammar Gadhafi’s
forces. Raymond Ibrahim labeled
the intervention a misguided policy.
U.S. Policymakers and Analysts Debate on Syria:
Human rights activists and members of Congress criticized
the administration’s “tepid” response to violence in Syria, as well as SenatorJohn Kerry
(D-MA) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton references
to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
as a “reformer.” Rep. Gary Ackerman
that anyone who thought Assad was a reformer was "fooling themselves." Bilal Y. Saab argued
that a collapse of the regime would have ripple effects across the Middle East. Gary Gambill examined
Assad‘s survival strategy for remaining in power. Nicholas Blanford analyzes
the recent events in Syria and questions whether Assad will be effective in attempting to divide and conquer the opposition.
Human Rights Reports Released:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented
the 35th annual human rights reports to Congress, noting three disturbing trends: the widespread crackdown on civil society activists, violations of freedoms of expression and assembly – online and offline - and the repression of vulnerable minorities. She also reiterated the State Department’s commitment to human rights and expressed support for movements in the Middle East.
Analysts Debate the Obama Administration’s Middle East Policy:
A New York Times
the administration for its quiet withdrawal
of support for Saleh while Victor Davis Hanson discussed
the administration’s belated and inconsistent support for pro-democracy movements in the region. Alexander Cooley
and Daniel H. Nexon questioned
the supposed zero-sum game between supporting the rights of Bahraini Shi’as and maintaining stable relations with a US naval base host.
Will Protests Return to North Africa?: Azzedine Layachi discussed
how Algeria and Morocco differ from their North African counterparts. Lachen Achy noted
the Algerian government’s ability to quiet protests. Paige McClanahan pointed
to Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s
promise for reforms as a bulwark against continued protests.
Political Change in the Middle East: April Longley Alley believes
that Yemen’s most immediate concern is to avert civil war and said Ali Abdullah Saleh
should implement reform through a swift transition. Ed Husain argued
that the United States should engage with the “progressive and pragmatic strands” of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Steven Cook asserted
that the Arab spring could end in Egypt and that the growth of potential democratic players could lead to a “divided, contested, and destabilized region” in the short term. Marina Ottaway noted
that the sectarian nature of protest movements in Bahrain. Isla Blumi argues
that democratic change in Yemen has little chance for success because even if Saleh is removed from power “the regime of technocrats and thugs he represents is unlikely to fold under pressure.”
From the Middle East
Recognition and Support for Opposition Grows: Seif
Thousands Gather in Tahrir Square, As Trial Begins for Protest Violence:
and Saad Gadhafi
, sons of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi
a democratic transition to be headed by Seif. The proposal was immediately rejected
by Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Fratini
. The Italian government also recognized
the Transitional National Council (TNC). Kuwait
and the Maldives
announced that they will also recognize the TNC while the UK acknowledged
the provision of “non-lethal equipment,” to the council. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury lifted
sanctions on Moussa Koussa
, formerly Gadhafi's foreign minister, to entice more Libyan officials to defect. Al Jazeera reported
that Ibrahim Dabbashi
, the former Libyan deputy ambassador to the UN, stated that he has “credible information that many people are willing to defect”. The Transitional National Council dismissed
the Turkish effort to broker a ceasefire, declaring that there was nothing to discuss until Gadhafi had been removed.
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered
in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the prosecution of former President Hosni Mubarak
and the resignation of Mohamed Tantawi
, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Eight army officers reportedly joined the protests. Meanwhile, a trial for 14 people accused of killing protesters in the city of Suez began
on Saturday. Early in the morning on Saturday, the Egyptian military invaded Tahrir Square and violently dispersed
the protesters killing 2 and injuring dozens. Former leader Hosni Mubarak
gave his first public statements since his departure, refuting
claims that he and his family had amassed hidden funds abroad.
Israeli President Offers Support for Revolutions:
Israeli President Shimon Peres called
on the international community to support a democratic transition in Syria and the democratic youth movements across the region. In the case of Jordan, however, he called on the international community to support King Abdullah II.
Protests Rattle Saleh:
State security forces and plain-clothed police officers attacked
thousands of protesters in the southern city of Taiz, killing 16 people. Violent clashes were also reported
and Aden. Across Yemen, thousands continued protesting
against President Ali Abdullah Saleh
. Arab Gulf states, involved in mediating the crisis in Yemen made
a more aggressive push for Saleh to step down, a move that Saleh has rejected
. Clashes continued
over the weekend in the cities of Taiz and Sana’a, leaving at least 1 person dead and hundreds injured
Bahraini Opposition is Violently Silenced:
Patients with protest-related injuries at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Bahrain were reportedly separated
from their families by the Bahraini military. Two journalists at the opposition paper Al Wasat were deported
for “unethical coverage.” Saudi Arabia condemned
Iranian meddling in Arab regional affairs. Over the weekend, Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawajav
, former head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was beat unconscious
in the middle of the night and taken way by security forces.
Syrian Security Forces Open Fire on Protesters:
The Syrian branch of the International Federation for Human Rights called
for international pressure on Syria, denunciation of the repression by the UN Security Council and the convening of a special session of the UN Human Rights Council. Opposition groups say
they have been contacted by the regime to engage in talks. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad granted
up to 150,000 Kurds living in eastern Syria citizenship, a long-standing demand of the Kurdish minority. Syrian security forces opened fire
on thousands of demonstrators in Deraa, killing
more than 20. Mass demonstrations continued
in Douma despite the cutting of phone lines. Over the weekend clashes continued with security forces firing live ammunition on funeral processions and protesters in Banias
Also Worth Reading
in a report
released by The Civil Society in West Asia program of Dutch group Hivos, provides an overview of factors affecting democratic transitions in the Middle East, concluding that civil society is only one factor which affects this process. He states that international organizations must address the complex nature of transition and the need to take a long-term view of the issues in the countries.
In Case You Missed It
On Monday (4/4), the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted a discussion, entitled “Iran: From Civil Society Protest to Political Alternative
?” on the unsolved “democratic question” in Iran in light of the recent regional developments. Director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson CenterHaleh Esfandiari
, introduced the speaker, Roberto Toscano
, Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and Former Italian Ambassador to India and to Iran.
On Tuesday (4/5), the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Yemen Working Group and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) hosted a live video conference
with leaders of the Yemeni opposition. The event which was moderated by Tara Sonenshine
, Executive Vice President of USIPand Les Campbell
, Senior Associate and Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at NDI featured the following panelists: Tawakkol Karman
, head of the Yemeni NGO, Women Journalists Without Chains; Shadi Khosruf
, spokesperson for the committee tasked with drafting the “Youth Revolution Document;” Sheikh Mohammed Abu Lahoum
, former senior member of the ruling General People’s Congress; and Mohammed Qattan
, Shura Council member of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah) and current spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties.
On Wednesday (4/6) The Project on Middle East Democracy and Human Rights First held a panel discussion on Wednesday at the Woodrow Wilson Center entitled, “Youth Activism, the January 25th Revolution, and Egypt’s Transition
.” Egyptian democracy and human rights activist Esraa Abdel Fattah
, organizer and leader of the April 6th
2008 Facebook Protests, along with Jason Brownlee
, Associate Professor at the University of Texas, spoke about the Egypt’s recent revolution and post-Mubarak developments in the country. POMED’s Executive Director Stephen McInerney
moderated the panel discussion.
On Wednesday (4/6), The Johns Hopkins SAIS Center for Advanced Governmental Studies hosted an event entitled, “American Foreign Policy: A View From the Senate
.” The event was moderated by Robert J. Guttman
, founder and chair of the Center on Politics and Foreign Relations, and Richard McGregor
, the Financial Times Washington Bureau Chief and featured Senator Lindsey Graham
(R-SC) as the keynote speaker.
On Wednesday (4/6), Human Rights First hosted a breakfast panel discussion entitled “Internet Freedom and Democratic Transformation in Egypt
” featuringMichael Posner,
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Esraa Abdel Fattah,
Media Director at the Egyptian Democratic Academy;Richard Allan,
Director of Policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Facebook; Andrew McLaughlin,
Former Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy at the White House; and Meg Roggensack,
Senior Advisor for Business and Human Rights at Human Rights First.
On Thursday (4/7), the Middle East Institute (MEI) hosted an event entitled, “Reform and Development in Egypt
.” Kate Seelye
, Vice President at MEI and introduced the speakers: Hady Amr
, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Middle East Bureau at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Thomas Garrett
, Vice President for Programs at the International Republican Institute (IRI).