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Dear Friends,
Greetings from the Project on Middle East Democracy!
Last week the international community debated how to respond to the human rights violations taking place in Bahrain and Syria. Meanwhile, unrest in Yemen continued as the opposition rejected offers by the Gulf Cooperation Council to mediate Saleh’s departure and they reiterated their call for his immediate removal. NATO airstrikes and ground battles have continued in Libya, where the opposition rejected an African Union plan for a ceasefire.  In Washington, Congress approved the FY2011 budget request, which included nearly $7.5 billion in cuts in international affairs spending. For POMED's summary and highlights of the FY11 spending bill, please click here.  This week, look for the news to continue to be dominated by escalating events in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen.   
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
April 18, 2011

Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced a resolution declaring that the U.S. has no vital interest in Libya. The resolution states that Congress never authorized military power and calls on the NATO members and the Arab nations that do have a vital interest to increase their military and financial contributions.
On Tuesday, Congress released H.R.1473, the FY2011 bill which will fund the federal government through September 30th. The bill, which is $78.5 billion less than the President’s FY2011 request, includes $39.9 billion in cuts from FY2010 levels.  The funding level for the State Department and Foreign Operations totals $48.3 billion. On Thursday, the bill passed the House in a 260-167 with 59 Republicans joining 108 Democrats in opposing it.   The Senate passed the bill in an 81-19 vote.
Committee Hearings
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.

On Wednesday (4/13), the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations hosted a hearing of witnesses to discuss the foreign operations budget allocations for the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget. The Subcommittee chair Kay Granger (R-TX) presided over the hearing with ranking member Nita Lowey (D-NY) in attendance. The witnesses who testified before the subcommittee were Representatives David Dreier (R-CA), David Price (D-NC), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), and Sam Farr (D-CA).

On Wednesday (4/13), the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia hosted a hearing entitled, "Shifting Sands: Political Transitions in the Middle East." J. Scott Carpenter testified before the hearing and stated: "Publicly, it is important for the administration to send a clear message to the political elite and voting publics in Egypt and Tunisia that we support transitions producing governments that show, through action, their commitment to the universal freedoms."

From Washington

Senators Condemn Use of Violence in Syria: Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) spoke on the Senate floor on Thursday urging U.S. support for the Syrian uprising. He called for sanctions to be put in place in concert with European allies and also called for a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council as well as a referral of Assad’s regime to the International Criminal Court.Senator John Kerry (D-MA) asserted that Syria’s goals to begin modernizing and entering into relationships with the international community will be denied unless Assad’s government ceases to use violence against its own people.
Discussion on U.S. Policy Toward Syria: David Schenker argued that a policy of maintaining stability in Damascus is not in America’s vested interest. Along with Andrew J. Tabler, Schenker also called for a suspension of U.S. investment in Syria, increases in multilateral sanctions, and for the White House to target specific members of the regime. Human Rights Watch issued a report demanding that the Syrian government end its inhumane treatment of protesters. Former Canadian Ambassador to Syria, Brian J. Davis, stated that Assad’s eventual downfall has already been determined.
Officials and Analysts Reevaluate the Middle East: Secretary of State Hillary Clintongave a speech at the U.S.-Islamic World Conference to emphasize U.S. commitment to cooperating with Middle East countries to achieve shared interests.  President Barack Obama praised Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thanifor Qatar’s role in the international intervention in Libya and for his support of democratic transitions in Tunisia and Egypt.  Lydia Khalilariculates how the horrific and high-profile deaths of youth coupled with increased internet access helped to change the region forever.
Pressure for U.S. Response to Bahrain Builds:SenatorRobert Menendez(D-NJ) stated his concern about the situation in Bahrain and reiterated that supporting pro-democracy protesters and activists in Bahrain is in the U.S. national interest. Simon Hendersondiscusses the U.S. relationship with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia along with U.S. and regional concerns over Iran’s role in the uprising. Freedom House expressed alarm over the recent deaths of four imprisoned Bahraini activists. The report follows the death of Karim Fakhrawi, a businessman and member of the opposition party, al-Wefaq.
Discussion of Yemeni Opposition and Leadership: Yemeni activist and opposition leader Tawakkol Karman expressed her confidence in the eventual success of the revolution. Charles Schmitz comments that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, through his continued refusal to step down and his brutal crackdown on protesters, has shattered his “divide and conquer” strategy with the opposition.
Condemnation and Discussion on Libya:The U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning continued attacks on civilians by the Gadhafi regime. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) said worries over Libya are unjustified and recommended more of a focus on Egypt’s transition. The Senator also hinted at a renewed push by the Obama administration with the Middle East peace process. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stated that he and a group of negotiators had completed drafting a Senate resolution on Libya to be introduced soon. 
Protests and Stability in the Gulf: Nawaf Obaidcalls reports of the “inevitable” downfall of the Saudi monarchy grossly exaggerated. Christopher M. Davidson details the growing oppressiveness of the Emirati government over its recent arrest of three pro-democracy activists and sending of troops into Bahrain to help Saudi Arabia quell protests. Andrew Hammond notes that Al-Jazeera’s coverage of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, is noticeably absent on the current unrest in Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

In Defense of U.S. Soft Power:Marc Lynchand Joseph S. Nyelament budget cuts to U.S. State and Foreign Operations.  Nye defends the relevant instruments of soft power while Lynch vindicates the Obama administration’s use of it in the Middle East and applauds the administration’s early focus on youth, entrepreneurs and technology. Ron Nixon, highlights groups in Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen who have received training and support from U.S. organizations. Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of POMED, added that the U.S. democracy assistance community did not initiate the uprisings, but helped develop “skills” and “networking” for groups that led protests across the region.Michele Dunneco-authored an article with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Jeffrey Gedminin which they explore the economic exigencies and expectations facing Egypt and the implications for its democratic transition.

Moroccan Parliamentary Reforms: Maati Monjiband Intissar Fakir call on Moroccan King Mohammed VI to definitively separate himself from the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), as the party is merely a political tool of the king.  

Amb. Verveer to the Middle East: Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanie Verveerwill travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank from April 15th through April 22nd.  During her visit, the ambassador will meet with government officials, political party representatives, civil society leaders and the media to discuss the need for inclusion of women in the political process and their role as peace builders.  

Also Worth Reading

Last Thursday, April 14th, Congress passed H.R. 1473, the FY2011 bill which will fund the federal government through September 30th. The bill, which is $78.5 billion less than the President's FY2011 request, includes $39.9 billion in cuts from FY2010 levels. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) lauded the bill: "Never before has any Congress made dramatic cuts such as those that are in this final legislation." Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) stated: "The final compromise legislation negotiated with the House of Representatives contains significant spending reductions, but protects the vital economic and security interests of the United States." House State and Foreign Operations ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY) praised the budget deal as an improvement over H.R.1: "Presidents and leaders of both political parties have recognized that our national security is a three-legged stool of defense, diplomacy, and development. The Republican budget blueprint would effectively chop two of these legs at the knees." 

For POMED's full summary and highlights of the FY11 bill click here for a PDF

From the Middle East

Civil War Continues in Libya: The Transitional National Council rejected the African Union proposed ceasefire and plan for political reform, and called for Gadhafi to step down.  Thousands gathered in Benghazi to protest the plan. Libyan Berbers reported grave acts of violence by pro-Gadhafi forces. A resident of Tripoli gives his account of the security presence in the city.
Continued Strife Yemen: Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh welcomed efforts from Gulf Arab nations to mediate the political crisis, an offer which he had previously rejected.  Yemeni opposition rejected the GCC proposal as it offers Saleh immunity from prosecution, and tens of thousands protested. Security forces fired live ammunition at protesters in Taiz last week. An electric power plant was also attacked by local tribesman, causing outages across the country. Thousands of women took to the streets in protest after President Saleh declared females protesting un-Islamic. The police continued to use heavy force and fired live ammunition at protesters on Sunday. Opposition representatives traveled to Riyadh to negotiate Saleh’s departure with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Protests Continue to Grow in Syria Despite Crackdown:A three-page document allegedly obtained from Syrian security services detailed government counter-measures to protests. The document provides specific and often brutal directives for handling different levels of unrest and even proposed policy measures. Meanwhile, protesters across the country marched in the streets with reportedly 100,000 taking to streets in Damascus. President Bashar Al Assad announced that the emergency law would be lifted within a week, nonetheless protests continued across the country. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders express their deep concern over the state media’s smearing campaign against Syrian human rights defender Radwan Ziadeh.
Crackdown Continues in Bahrain: In an open letter to President Barack Obama, Zainab al-Khawaja, daughter of recently arrested Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, stated that she is on a hunger strike until her family members are released.   A CNN crew in Bahrain was detained while trying to interview Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Bahraini security forces released 86 detainees while a Facebook page was created (Arabic) to help the government identify protesters. Freedom House declared its alarm over the death of detainees in Bahraini prisons. Following criticism from the United States, the Bahraini government shifted its position on the dissolution of the Shia opposition party, Al-Wefaq. Hundreds protested outside of the Saudi Arabian Embassy and the White House last week in solidarity with the Bahraini opposition, demanding an end to violent repression and human rights violations. Human Rights Watch reports the detention of prominent defense lawyer, Mohammed al-Tajer, along with several doctors detained without charge or access to counsel.
Reforms in Tunisia and Oman: Tunisian investigators concluded that its former president Zine Ben Ali ordered air strikes on the city of Kasserine just days before he stepped down. Twenty-three people died as a result, and Tunisian authorities have asked Saudi Arabia to extradite Ben Ali along with his wife Leila Trabelsi, who is accused of corruption.  The Tunisian transitional commission organizing upcoming July 24th elections for the Constituent Assembly issued a decree this week requiring gender parity between men and women on party lists and banning former member of the now defunct RCD and members of the Ben Ali regime during the past 10 years. Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said announced a $2.6 billion package to meet the demands of protesters. 
Kurdish Parliament Reforms NGO Law: The Kurdish Parliament passed a law on NGOs in the region with the hopes of improving transparency of relations between government and civil society groups as well as simplifying the process for registering NGOs, creating conditions for NGO financial stability, removing restrictions on associational rights of foreign residents in Kurdistan, and removing criminal penalties for violations of the law.
Palestine Ready for Statehood: The IMF and World Bank will present reports at a Palestinian Authority donors' conference in Brussels this week in which they will pronounce Palestinian institutions ready for statehood. Israeli President Shimon Peres argued that the UN should not “impose a Palestinian state on Israel” if it cannot guarantee Israel’s security. Elliott Abrams argued that a unity government with Hamas will undermine peace negotiations, and hence the drive for statehood.

Egypt Regime Investigations, NDP Disbanded: Ibrahim El-Houdaiby discussed the emergence and role of the religious and liberal spheres fostered by the Mubarak’s regime. Reuters reported that Egypt has not yet summoned former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons Alaaand Gamal Mubarakto appear before a Cairo court as reported. However, the nation’s top prosecutor ordered all three men detained for 15 days for extended questioning. The ruling military council confirmed that the state is investigating about 6,000 corruption cases and announced its intention to replace 14 of the 26 regional governors.  Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali were indicted on charges of corruption.  The former ruling party, the National Democratic Party, was formally disbanded by an Egyptian court over the weekend.

UAE Detains Pro-Democracy Activists: After the arrest of prominent blogger Ahmed Mansour last week, Emirati authorities have detained two pro-democracy activists: Nasser bin Ghaith and Fahad Salem al-Shehhy. Activists recently signed an online petition calling for an elected parliament in the country.
New Charges Against Iranian Rights Activist: Zhila Baniyaghoub, a prominent Iranian human rights activist and journalist, is facing new charges related to statements written on her blog.   Last month she wrote to Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi to protest against restrictions barring her from visiting her husband in prison.  Baniyaghoub runs the website Focus on Iranian Women and her personal blog We Are Journalists (Persian).
Algerian Students Protest, Army Post Attacked: Several thousand students took to the streets of Algiers on Tuesday to protest “poor conditions in higher education and unpopular reforms.”  Students were prevented from marching upon the presidential palace and dozens of students were injured during clashes with police. 13 Algerian soldiers were killed by Islamist fighters at an army post located 80 miles east of Algiers.
Pardons in Morocco, Fresh Protests in Jordan and Saudi Arabia: Morocco’s King Mohammed VI pardoned 92 political prisoners on Thursday and commuted the sentences of 53 others.  Last week clashes took place between supporters of King Abdullah II and Islamists leaving dozens injured and arrested. Over the weekend, protesters took to the streets in the eastern town of Qatif, Saudi Arabia calling for political and religious rights.
In Case You Missed It
On Thursday (4/14), Freedom House, in partnership with the Democracy Coalition Project and the Open Society Foundations, hosted a briefing entitled, "U.S. Leadership on Democracy and Human Rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council." Advocacy Director at Freedom House Paula Schriefer moderated the event and introduced the following panelists: Dr.Thaung Htun, Representative for UN Affairs from the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma; Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director at the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Carlos Portales, former Chilean Ambassador; and Eileen Donahoe, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
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