Senators John Ensign
(R-NV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison
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
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."
Senators Condemn Use of Violence in Syria
: Senator Joseph Lieberman
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
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
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-Thani
for 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:
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
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
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 Lynch
and Joseph S. Nye
lament 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
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 Gedmin
in which they explore the economic exigencies and expectations facing Egypt and the implications for its democratic transition.
Moroccan Parliamentary Reforms: Maati Monjib
and 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 Verveer
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.
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 Alaa
and Gamal Mubarak
to 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
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
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.