The POMED Wire

Algeria Implements Constitutional Reform; Low Oil Prices Raise Economic Questions

Photo credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Algeria reintroduced a two-term limit on the presidency that had been lifted in 2008 to allow President Abdelazziz Bouteflika to run for his third term. This constitutional reform was part of a larger reform package, which includes the requirement for the president to nominate a prime minister from the majority party in parliament, the promise of an independent electoral commission, and efforts to increase the involvement of women and youth in political processes. The Berber language has also been made an official language of the state and will appear on government documents. “This project crowns the process of political reforms promised by the head of state,” guarantees “democratic change by means of free elections” and is a “bulwark against the vagaries of political change,” Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal told BBC. The package passed parliament by a count of 499 votes to two, with 16 abstentions.

Similar promises were made after the 2011 Arab uprisings but never came to fruition, leading critics of the regime to dismiss the changes as superficial and insignificant.  Djamel Zenati, a lawyer and outspoken opponent of the government, wrote in El Watan that “with the …

Jordan’s King Scheduled to Visit White House amid Rising Refugee Issues

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

King Abdullah II of Jordan will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on February 24th, where the two leaders will discuss “the fight against Islamic State, support for Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to the White House.

Jordan, which has accepted hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, is now at a “boiling point,” according to King Abdullah, as the country struggles to absorb the estimated 1.3 million individuals that now make up almost 20 percent of Jordan’s population. “For the first time we can’t do it any more,” said Abdullah, as 20,000 Syrian refugees remained stranded at the Syria-Jordan border after a slowdown in processing.

Schools, hospitals, and jobs are seeing particularly immense pressure, as only half of Syrian children in Jordan are enrolled in school and only 1 percent of Syrian refugees have been given work permits. The slipping of the economy has already led to anger and protests, and some politicians “have tried to link the refugees to rising crime, terrorism, or a threat to national identity.” King Abdullah has stated that …

Turkey-PKK Tensions Continue to Impact Foreign Policy, U.S. Syria Efforts

erdogan Foreign Policy

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu unveiled a plan last week to “bolster security and rebuild areas ravaged by conflict” that included bringing civil society groups to reinstated peace-talks, and implementing economic reforms such as interest-free loans for farmers. He emphasized that the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) would not be invited to the talks unless they ceased violence. Davutoglu’s speech echoed President Erdogan’s January 20th statement about the “solution” to the Kurdish problem, which included first “[purging] the region of the terrorists and restoring public order,” and then sitting down with Kurdish citizens to determine a solution. However many argue that “restoring public order” to the region–eliminating the Islamic State and defeating the Assad regime–is not possible without addressing the “Kurdish problem” first.

There is growing concern in the international community with Turkey’s domestic politics and continued conflict with Kurds–in addition to the government’s continued crackdown on political dissidents, which has been highlighted by the European Commission for Human Rights and Freedom House earlier this month–but with the impact it has had on the United States’ efforts in the region. Henri Barkey wrote in Foreign Policy, “Turkey’s relations with almost all of its neighbors have soured. At the same …

HFAC Hearing Notes – Turkey: Political Trends in 2016

On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats met for a hearing titled “Turkey: Political Trends 2016.” Witnesses included Mr. Narte Schenkkan, Project Director of “Nations in Transit” at Freedom House; Dr. Gonul Tul, Director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute; and Mr. Ali Cinar, President of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations.

To watch a webcast of the hearing, click here.

Nate Schenkkan opened his testimony by describing how “the situation for democracy and for freedom of expression in Turkey has grown even more dire” due to the ongoing conflict between PM Erdogan’s government and the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party).” He pressed the urgent need for action as “the conflict is taking a devastating toll on Turkey’s civilians” and “destroying a decade of progress on relations with the Kurdish minority inside Turkey.” He recommended bringing about a cease-fire and peace process between the Turkish government and Kurdish movement to not only bring stability and political/humanitarian reform within Turkey, but to help end the crises in Syria and Iraq. Additionally, Schenkkan described the EU’s deal with Turkey (a “reinvigorated” accession process for Turkey into the EU …

Syrian Peace Talks Suspended as Regime Advances toward Aleppo


Photo Credit: Reuters

After a delayed start this week, the “Geneva III Peace Talks” have already been suspended. According to UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, the talks were halted due to a lack of progress and are slated to resume February 25. The suspension was announced as the regime reportedly made significant advances toward Aleppo, severing rebel supply routes with the help of Russian airstrikes.

The talks were scheduled to begin last weekend between the Syrian Government and a coalition of opposition forces, the Higher Negotiation Committee. However multiple setbacks, including a bombing near Damascus that killed 45 people, the regime’s military seizure of additional land, and the HNC’s refusal to partake in the talks because of a disagreement with Russia, have delayed peace talks. The UN, United States, Russia, and neighboring regional actors such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey also have a role in the talks.

Among the obstacles to the talks thus far has been the question of who would represent the opposition. The HNC–described by Aron Lund of the Carnegie Endowment as “stacked with anti-Islamist, doveish, and borderline regime-friendly factions”–is a group of 34 members from the National Coalition, its rival National Coordination Body, …

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