Photo Credit: Hudson Institute Website
On March 11, 2014, the Hudson Institute hosted a panel discussion entitled, “Does the Obama Administration Have a Middle East Policy?” Hudson Institute senior fellow Lee Smith moderated the panel while Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World Hillel Fradkin, editor of The American Interest and the speechwriter for both of George W. Bush’s Secretaries of State Adam Garfinkle, executive director of The Washington Institute Robert Satloff, and senior fellow and director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution Tamara Cofman Wittes participated in the discussion.
For full notes continue reading or click here for the PDF.
Lee Smith introduced the panel. Adam Garfinkle began by saying that he didn’t believe that the administration had a formal strategy, nor was it completely random. He said that the Obama administration makes decisions when it needs to, based upon a cluster of interests and contexts in the region. He says that these instincts are not an overarching formal vision for goals in the Middle East, but the question should really be if this approach is going to get the U.S. …
Photo Credit: AFP/File, Mahmud Turkia
Yesterday, after 15 months of power struggles in the Libyan government, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was ousted in a no-confidence vote, and Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thinni became the interim Prime Minister. The decision came after a North Korean-flagged, 37,000-ton oil tanker that was carrying crude oil from a rebel held port in eastern Libya escaped a Libyan naval blockade. After Zeidan’s removal from office, he reportedly left the country even though he is on a travel ban.
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki reacted to Zeidan’s dismissal by saying, “We’ve, of course, been closely following the developments in Libya since the start of its revolution and throughout its ongoing democratic transition. We know political transitions take time, and especially from a four-decade dictatorship to a truly democratic system, we recognize that the Libyan Government and the Libyan people are facing significant challenges in their democratic transition. This is not surprising. So we will continue to support the democratically elected Libyan Government and its people. We appreciate the leadership of the prime minister who navigated a fragile time in Libya’s transition, and we’ll continue to monitor and be in close touch on the ground about the situation …
The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted an event called “A Mixed Picture: The Political and Economic Future of the Arab Transitions” that discussed potential expectations for the Arab transition countries moving forward. The event featured Mr. Yasser El Shimy, Teaching Fellow at Boston University, Dr. Mohsin Khan, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, and Ms. Ellen Laipson, President and CEO at the Stimson Center. Ms. Mirette F. Mabrouk, Deputy Director for Regional Programs at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, moderated the discussion.
For complete notes, please continue reading or click here for the PDF.
Mirette F. Mabrouk opened the discussion, saying that the Rafik Hariri Center was established for the purpose of monitoring transitions. She then turned to each of the panelists, asking them to speak on “what we might expect to see going forward” in the transitioning Arab countries. Ellen Laipson spoke first, giving an overview of democratic transitions outside of the Arab world in order to emphasize that democratic reform takes time. She began by saying, “the state of democracy globally is a little bit rocky right …
Photo Credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI
This weekend, Saudi Arabia designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Elizabeth Dickinson argues, “Riyadh’s new rules don’t just mark the end of the organization’s legal presence in the kingdom. They also raise questions about the future of the Brotherhood in smaller Gulf states such as Kuwait and Bahrain, where offshoots operate openly as registered political and social groups.”
At the State Department Daily Press Briefing, Jen Psaki was asked, “Is [Saudi Arabia's designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization] likely to sort of widen the gap between one of your allies, Qatar, and the rest of your allies in the Gulf, which is the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia?” Psaki responded, “Broadly, we’re encouraging dialogue to resolve these issues, but beyond that, I don’t have anything more for you.”
But the complicated role of Egypt in U.S.-Saudi relations goes beyond the Muslim Brotherhood, and Mohamed Elmenshawy quotes a Gulf diplomat to explain. The diplomat said, “If we ever face such a terrible day as Kuwait did at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, we all know there are only two armies that can truly help us, including …
Photo Credit: The Carnegie Endowment
Frederic Wehrey published a brief called “A New U.S. Approach to Gulf Security.” Wehrey asserts that, although “there is a growing sense in Gulf capitals that the United States is a power in retreat that is ignoring the interests of its steadfast partners,” the U.S. has a great deal of influence in the region. Wehrey writes that “no other external power … is capable of filling or willing to fill America’s role” and he provides several recommendations on how the U.S. can more effectively use its leverage.
Wehrey’s recommendations focus on the idea that the United States’ goals of promoting regional security and stability as well as pushing for internal political reform “are mutually reinforcing, rather than mutually exclusive objectives.” He argues that, “The U.S. administration should develop a proactive strategy that urges Gulf states to undertake more substantial internal reforms to complement the efforts already under way to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the external defense of these states.”Among Wehrey’s specific recommendations, he suggests that the U.S. should develop a foreign military sales (FMS) policy that is more “collaborative, creative, and better tailored to U.S. priorities for external defense and domestic reform …