The POMED Wire

Houthi Rebels Shell Yemen’s State-Run TV Channel Building

Yemen BBC Photo credit: BBC News

Armed Houthi rebels overwhelmed the army on the outskirts of Sanaa and pushed into the capital yesterday, ending a brief ceasefire agreement. The Shi’ite fighters met almost no resistance from government soldiers as they took over some army and security checkpoints inside the city. Houthi gunmen also reportedly began shelling the state-owned television channel building, with employees still trapped inside. An employee who said he was hiding in the basement said, “We are surrounded and the army forces outside are trying to protect the building and fire back at (the Houthis).” As the mortar attacks took place, hundreds of civilians attempted to flee the surrounding neighborhoods for areas south of the capital.

The United Nations special envoy to Yemen met with Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi on Wednesday to try and find a way to resolve the situation peacefully. The UN special adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, believed the meeting was “constructive and positive.” The visit came after Houthis announced on Monday that they would no longer take part in negotiations with the Yemeni government about their grievances as a result of what they termed “foreign intervention” in the discussions. Scrutinizing the recent events, Zeinab Abdelkarim

Tunisia: Ben Jaafar Announces Presidential Bid, Continues to Serve in NCA; WB Publishes Report on Tunisia

Photo Credit: World Bank

Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the president of the NCA had promised [Fr] that he would step down from his position if he were to participate in the presidential race as the Ettakatol-endorsed candidate. However, he officially announced his presidential bid, yet did not step down from the NCA’s presidency. Responding to criticism over the fact that this leads Ben Jaafar to hold a definite advantage, an Ettakatol spokesperson said, “Tell me, are the future presidents of the NCA and the Republic going to have to step down in 2019 if they decide to run for the next presidential elections? This whole ‘stepping down’ business is an invention typical of Tunisia.” The spokesperson also added [Fr] that the situation had changed since March, when Ben Jaafar first made the promise, in particular regarding security issues in Tunisia, “as the responsible head of the one elected institution in Tunisia, [Ben Jaafar] felt that he could not take the risk of creating a void.”

Meanwhile, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute issued a joint assessment, following their pre-election mission last week. They reported that “the country appears to be on a decidedly democratic path since the …

Maryam al-Khawaja Released from Prison, Will Stand Trial in High Criminal Court

aljishiandmaryam-1 Photo credit: Huffington Post

Prominent human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja has been released from jail, though she is banned from leaving the country and still faces charges. She is set to stand trial on October 1 in Bahrain’s High Criminal Court on the charge of assaulting a police officer. After her release, al-Khawaja vowed to continue her work speaking out against human rights violations in Bahrain even if it means risking further punishment. Brian Dooley of Human Rights First believes it was the international outcry following her arbitrary detention that most likely helped secure her release. However, he argues that in order to get the charges dropped completely, more will need to be done.

Meanwhile, Bahrain’s deteriorating human rights record came under fire by Jeremy Corbyn, a member of the UK Parliament, who spoke at a side event occurring concurrently with the 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Corbyn signed an appeal launched by the wife of imprisoned political activist Ibrahim Shariff demanding that the government release all prisoners of conscience. Coinciding with the UNHRC 27 session in Geneva, Bahraini activists initiated a “Call for Democracy” assembly to discuss the importance of democratic transition in the country …

POMED Notes: “U.S. Counterterrorism Assistance: Challenges and Opportunities from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa”

Center_for_International_Policy_POMED image

On Tuesday, September 16, the Center for International Policy (CIP) and the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) held a briefing titled “U.S. Counterterrorism Assistance: Challenges and Opportunities from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.” The panel included Adam Isaacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy at the Washington Office on Latin America; Dr. Dafna Rand, Deputy Director of Studies at the Center for a New American Security; and Lesley Anne Warner, an Africa political-military analyst. In light of the recent announcement of the $5 billion Counter Terrorism Partnerships Fund, the briefing provided details, challenges and opportunities for more effective counter terrorism assistance.

For a full summary, keep reading or click here for the PDF.

Dafna Rand spoke on American security assistance in the Middle East, highlighting four components of security assistance and how they can be used to create more effective aid. First is the flexibility of authorities within the Defense Department, State Department, and Intelligence Community; however Rand questioned if this flexibility improves programming. She believes there is a need for flexibility in where money is spent between these agencies, but should not sacrifice the tactical efficacy of the training programs administered. Next, she …

POMED Notes: “Iran and Its Neighbors”

CaptureOn Wednesday, September 17 2014, the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted a panel discussion entitled “Iran and Its Neighbors: Regional Implications for U.S. Policy of a Nuclear Agreement” to launch the Center’s eponymous report. The speakers included Ambassador Thomas H. Pickering, Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia Paul Pillar, and Director and Senior Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation of New York University Barnett R. Rubin. The panel was introduced by Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center Haleh Esfandiari and Ambassador William H. Luers.

For a summary of the event’s proceedings, click here(pdf) or continue to read below.

Mr. Pickering provided a general overview of Iran’s role in the region in the aftermath of a nuclear agreement, which he saw as crucial. He briefly touched upon potential Turkey-Iran engagement as well as other relations in the region that could be improved.

Mr. Wisner discussed the importance of Syria as a linchpin for U.S.-Iran cooperation. He began by explaining that the success of President Barack Obama’s announced plan for defeating ISIS depends on the development of an inclusive government in …

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