The POMED Wire

U.S., NGOs Call on Iran to Explain Detained Journalists

Activists from RSF demonstrate


Photo Credit: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

The State Department called on Iran to release detained American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and three others after they were arrested last week. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a press briefing that “we call on the Iranian Government to immediately release Mr. Rezaian and the other three individuals,” and that the State Department “continue[s] to monitor the situation closely.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also released a statement calling on the Iranian government to ”immediately ensure the release of” the detained journalists, ”unless they plan to bring recognizable criminal charges against them and guarantee them fair trials.” Deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, Eric Goldstein said the recent arrests and “Iran’s abysmal record on press freedom…raises a red flag,” and calls on Iran’s judiciary to “quickly investigate and order” the release of the journalists “unless there is hard evidence that they have committed substantive crimes, not merely exercised their right  to free speech.”

Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Sherif Mansour called on “Iranian authorities to immediately explain why” the journalists have been detained, “and we call for their immediate release.” In …

U.S. Libyan Embassy Evacuated Amid Escalation of Violence


Photo Credit: Ismail Zitouny/ Reuters

Violence in Libya continues to escalate as Libyan Special Forces and Islamist militants clashed on Saturday night and Sunday morning. According to Reuters, the country has “descended into its deadliest violence since the 2011 war” in the last two weeks. The death toll has exceeded 150, including many civilians.

A rocket was fired at a farmhouse in Tripoli’s Kremia region, killing 23 Egyptian workers. This incident came just days after the Egyptian Foreign Ministry warned its citizens against “any travel” to Libya where at least four Egyptians have been killed amid deadly militia violence. Meanwhile, Libya’s interior ministry denied the claim on Monday, saying “one Egyptian was injured in the attack,” without specifying whether there were victims of other nationalities.

Two rocket attacks hit huge fuel depots late Sunday and early Monday, causing “out-of-control” fires near Tripoli’s international airport. The government warned of a “disaster with unforeseeable consequences,” and called for “international help.” An official noted that “the only option left was intervention by air.”

The State Department announced on Saturday that “all personnel” have been “temporarily relocated” out of Libya, reiterating it “will continue to engage all Libyans and the international community to …

U.S. International Religious Freedom Report Released


Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images

The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 was released, highlighting threats to religious freedom in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain. The release of the report coincided with the nomination of David Saperstein for Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who Secretary of State John Kerry noted in a press conference, has been one of the “most compelling voices” on religious freedom around the world. The following are highlights taken from the Executive Summary.

On Syria, the report emphasizes the “Christian presence…becoming a shadow of its former self,” as it has “in much of the Middle East.” Furthermore, President Assad’s regime has “increasingly characterized the conflict in sectarian terms and targeted religious groups it considered opposition-aligned.” While both regime forces and rebels target religious groups they perceive to be against them, “Syrian Christians have fled the country.”

On Saudi Arabia, the report notes that “the public practice of any religion other than Islam is prohibited” and that “freedom of religion in neither recognized nor protected under the law,” resulting in religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims, facing discrimination.  Additionally, individuals have been detained “on charges …

POMED Notes: The Struggle for Civil Society in Egypt

NGO trial

Photo Credit: Comment Middle East

On Thursday, July 24, 2014 the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled “The Struggle for Civil Society in Egypt.” The first panel comprised of testimony from Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., Director of International Security and Counterterrorism Issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). He spoke on GAO’s new report “Democracy Assistance: Lessons Learned from Egypt Should Inform Future U.S. Plans,” which assessed US efforts to manage risks of providing U.S. democracy assistance in Egypt following the June 2013 conviction of employees from four U.S. NGOs. The second panel presented witnesses from each of the four NGOs: Charles Dunne, Director of Middle East and North Africa Programs at Freedom House, Sam LaHood, Former Egypt Country Director at the International Republican Institute, Patrick Butler, Vice President of Programs at the International Center for Journalists, and Lila Jaafar, Senior Program Manager at the National Democratic Institute. Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) moderated the hearing.

For full event notes, continue reading or click here for the PDF.

Representative Ros-Lehtinen introduced the hearing by emphasizing how the strategic importance of Egypt and insisting on the …

POMED Notes – Iraq at a Crossroads: Options for U.S. Policy



Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images North America

On Thursday July 24, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled “Iraq at a Crossroads: Options for U.S. Policy.” The first panel Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State For Iraq And Iran, and Elissa Slotkin, performing the duties of the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Principal and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. The second panel featured, James F. Jeffrey, Philip Solondz Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michael D. Barbero, former Lieutenant General in the U.S. Army, and Kenneth M. Pollack, Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) chaired the hearing.

For full event notes continue reading or click here for the PDF.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) began the hearing by introducing the issue at hand. The current situation in Iraq, Mendez argues, is evidence of the spillover effects coming from Syria. The senator expressed disappointment in the lost investment in Iraq after so much money and effort has been put into establishing a new state. However, Menendez believes Iraq …

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