The POMED Wire

White House Releases U.S. National Security Strategy

The White House released its new U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) in February, which provides an agenda that “affirms America’s leadership role within a rules-based international order that works best through empowered citizens, responsible states, and effective regional and international organization.” The NSS acknowledges that recent threats to U.S. national security “arose from efforts by authoritarian states to oppose democratic forces…” and that any support given to “governments that do not share all of our values…will be balanced with an awareness of the costs of repressive policies for our own security interests and the democratic values by which we live.”

The NSS highlights “the movement towards constitutional democracy in Tunisia,” which the report holds up as an example of a state in which, ”The United States will concentrate attention and resources to…consolidate their gains and move toward more democratic and representative systems of governance…Our focus is on countries that are moving in the right direction…” The report also notes that setbacks in Middle Eastern states undergoing democratic transitions “is not surprising,” contending that the mix of “weak democratic traditions, powerful authoritarian elites, sectarian tensions, and active violent extremist elements” have contributed to their failure.

The strategy advocates strengthening U.S. regional …

67 Members of Congress Write to Saudi King on Human Rights

A bipartisan group of 67 Members of Congress sent a letter addressing the state of religious freedom and human rights to the new Saudi King the day before Secretary of State John Kerry visits the country.   The Members wrote to “encourage [the King] to serve as an advocate for human rights and democratic reforms within your country.” Some of the issues raised include broad anti-terror laws, the ban on female driving, the targeting of human rights groups, and sentences imposed against human rights activist Raif Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair. Signatories included Reps. James McGovern (D-MA), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Trent Franks (R-AZ), among 63 others.

King Salman recently ascended to the throne following the death of his brother Abdullah in January.

Stephen W. Hawkins of Amnesty International noted that “Saudi Arabia’s new King has a critical opportunity to enact major human rights reforms and free prisoners” following news of the letter.  Organizations that endorsed the letter include Amnesty International, the Project on Middle East Democracy, Human Rights Watch, and In Defense of Christians.…

Discussing American Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Martin Indyk, the Vice President and Director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, recently authored a two part essay titled “A Return to the Middle Eastern great game” discussing recent and historic U.S. foreign policy in the region, as well as his policy prescriptions for the U.S. to confront issues currently destabilizing the region.  In part one of his essay, Indyk discusses the need for America to stay committed to the region.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he writes, the U.S. changed its Middle East “pillars” strategy which supported nations that sought regional stability, like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, and Turkey to counter Soviet client states, to instead focus on finding a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, containing the region’s “revisionist” powers, Iraq and Iran, and supporting authoritarian Arab states that preserved regional stability, despite their questionable human right’s practices.  While this new policy worked for almost a decade, it eventually failed following the post 9/11 invasion of Iraq, the inability to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute, and regime upheaval in the wake of the Arab uprisings.  The collapse of the old authoritarian Arab order that this policy supported not only created a space for Al …

POMED Notes – HFAC Budget Hearing FY 2016

On Tuesday, February 25th, 2015, Secretary of State, John Kerry, testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about the State Department budget. Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Gerry Connolly (D-VI), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Ted Poe (R-TX), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Darrell Issa (R-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Ami Bera (D-CA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Curt Clawson (R-FL), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Dave Trott (R-MI), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Tom Emmer (R-MN) were in attendance. Many of the questions Mr. Kerry received from the committee members were not necessarily budget related, but dealt more with current issues confronting U.S. foreign policy, such as the rise of the Islamic State, ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, and Russia’s actions in the Ukraine.

For full notes, continue reading or click here for a PDF. To watch the hearing, click here.

Both committee chairman Ed

Senator Wyden Commemorates Anniversary of Protests in Bahrain

On February 24, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) commemorated the anniversary of the pro-democracy uprisings in Bahrain. Wyden said, “While many Bahrainis feel their struggle has been forgotten by the world, I want them to know that it will not go unremembered…The regime continues to go to great lengths to convince the world that it is making progress but I am sad to report that I cannot share that conclusion.” He goes on to note that “Bahrain’s rulers continue to commit human rights violations while taking only superficial steps toward a meaningful political solution,” and urges “the Bahraini regime to implement true and meaningful reforms, to cease the use of violence and repression against peaceful protesters, and to engage in credible dialogue about the future of Bahrain.” Wyden concludes, “Bahrain has long been an ally of the United States, and I believe this country has an obligation to hold friends to a higher standard. To those who will say that human rights abuses are bad but that stability and cooperation in the region must come before such concerns, I say that you are offering a false choice.”

Elliott Abrams documents the Obama Administration’s seeming flip-flop in its human rights policy in …

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