The POMED Wire

SFRC Hearing Recap – U.S. Role & Strategy in the Middle East: The Humanitarian Crisis

Photo Credit: U.S. News

On Tuesday, September 29, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing titled, “U.S. Role & Strategy in the Middle East: The Humanitarian Crisis.” Witnesses included Michael Gabaudan of Refugees International, Nancy Lindborg of the United States Institute of Peace, and David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee. Below is a recap of the proceedings.

“We can staunch the dying, but it takes politics to stop the killing,” David Miliband told Senator Robert Mendendez (D-NJ) of the Middle East’s growing humanitarian crisis.  The relationship between assistance and the root causes of the Syrian conflict took precedence, with senators repeatedly inquiring into the geopolitical aspects of the refugee crisis.

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) presided, setting the tone of the hearing by emphasizing the numbers of displaced persons in need of humanitarian assistance (estimated to be 60 million globally) and the need for a fundamental change in the way such crises are perceived. The average time spent in a refugee camp has risen to 17 years, with return to native countries unlikely for many refugees. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) cited this statistic and stated that current refugee laws must be reconsidered in light of …

Highlights of President Obama’s Speech at the United Nations

The annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, now in its 70th session,  began early Monday morning. President Barack Obama addressed world leaders regarding several pressing situations that the international community faces today, including in the Middle East and North Africa: “Catastrophes, like what we are seeing in Syria, do not take place in countries where there is genuine democracy and respect for the universal values this institution is supposed to defend.”  Obama claimed that the Syrian crisis is no longer just one nation’s national issue but an “assault on all humanity.”

While he acknowledged that countries have been and will continue to work on a solution to the conflict, he also cautioned that there are “no easy answers to Syria.  And there are no simple answers to the changes that are taking place in much of the Middle East and North Africa.”

He  also spoke on the long legacy of the United Nations in fostering democratic and civil societies.  ”It is these international principles that helped constrain bigger countries from imposing our will on smaller ones, and advanced the emergence of democracy and development and individual liberty on every continent.”

Obama reflected on the situation in Libya, where …

Critics Hammer Saudi Appointment to UN Human Rights Panel

trad Source Credit: UN

The Saudi Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva has been appointed chair of an independent panel of human rights experts on the UN Human Rights Council. In a decision which elicited alarm from the international human rights community, Faisal bin Hassad Trad was chosen to head the “crown jewel” of the UN’s Human Rights Council, which includes the power to select applicants to fill more than 77 positions “dealing with country-specific and thematic human rights mandates.”

Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi, indicated the decision is effectively “a green light to start flogging [my husband] again.” UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer speculated that the appointment was a consolation prize for the Saudis, who aimed to head the entire council, adding ““It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth expressed his disbelief at the appointment, referring to Saudi Arabia’s “awful record.” Concerning the kingdom’s human rights record, Trad previously  rejected a UN Human Rights Council report, stating that “the death penalty is a legal measure to protect the right to life and interests of the community.…

Libyan Framework Agreement Text Reached

leonSource Credit: UN

After a recent surge of violence in western Libya, the final text of a UN-brokered framework agreement has been agreed upon by both the internationally recognized government in Tobruk and their Islamist rivals in Tripoli. In a statement released by UNSMIL, UN envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon said that the content of the agreement is final, and there will be no more negotiations. He praised the participating parties while affirming that the UN role in negotiations is now complete. The parties will begin final talks to form a unity government immediately after the Eid al-Adha holiday prior to the October 20 deadline. Alluding to the eruption of violence in Benghazi, Leon stated that  “this [agreement] seems to be the only option.”

EU Vice President Frederica Mogherini said, ”The negotiations on the political dialogue have made substantial progress and a text presenting an inclusive, representative and long-term oriented solution has been presented to all sides for their final agreement. Now it’s up to the parties to show they are ready to rebuild their country.” She added, “We continue to actively support the negotiations and we stand ready to provide immediate support to the new government, notably with …

King Salman’s Inaugural U.S. Visit Focuses on Iran, Regional Conflicts

King Salmon and President Obama Photo Credit: AP

As Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made his first visit to Washington, the agenda included the myriad of conflicts across the Middle East. The worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen, the crisis in Syria, and terrorism perpetrated by groups such as Islamic State topped the agenda his meeting with President Obama.

Citing education, clean energy, and science Obama also took special note of Salman’s interest in “making sure that his people, particularly young people, have prosperity and opportunity into the future,” in a shift from earlier critical statements regarding prospects of Saudi Arabia’s youth. In his statement from the Oval Office, Obama briefly mentioned the Iran nuclear deal, stating, “We’ll discuss the importance of effectively implementing the deal to ensure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, while counteracting its destabilizing activities in the region.”  Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stated that the two countries agreed on ways to counter these activities through security assurances. According to Aaron David Miller, the Saudis perceive a shift in U.S. policy toward Iran, from “containment and confrontation” to “acquiescence,” and ultimately “cooperation.”

Michael Stephens examined the effect of Washington’s policy positions in the Middle East, arguing that …

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