The POMED Wire

POMED Notes: House MENA Subcommittee, “Regional Impact of U.S. Policy Towards Syria and Iraq”

On Thursday, April 30th, the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled “Regional Impact of U.S. Policy Towards Iraq and Syria.” The committee invited speakers Seth G. Jones, Ph.D., Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation; General Jack Keane, USA, Retired, Chairman of the Board, Institute for the Study of War; and Tamara Cofman Wittes, Ph.D., Director, Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings to testify.

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

Mr. Jones opened his testimony by discussing the intertwined nature of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. He noted that while the Islamic State, also known as Da’ish, has recently lost ground in Tikrit, Iraq, it still maintains control of substantial territory throughout the Sunni-dominant regions in Iraq. He also stated that U.S. airstrikes in Syria have not sufficiently degraded Da’ish and that recent battlefield victories by rebel groups will benefit extremists. He concluded his opening remarks by providing three steps to consider: improving interdiction in Turkey and other neighboring states, rethinking the Syrian Train and Equip Program, and revising the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military …

Lantos Commission Discusses Global Magnitsky Act

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015 the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a briefing entitled, “Global Magnitsky 101,” to discuss H.R 624, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The bill was introduced on January 30, 2015, by Rep. Jim McGovern and Rep. Chris Smith, (R-NJ)  with the intention extend the provisions of the Magnitsky Act beyond Russia.

Rep. McGovern began this week’s briefing by telling the story of how the original Magnitsky Act came to Congress, and how the idea soon expanded to including any individual guilty of corruption or human rights abuses globally. McGovern introduced three witnesses, including Bill Browder; Kyle Parker, Senior Staff Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Daniel Calingaert, Executive Vice President of Freedom House. McGovern concluded his remarks by emphasizing that human rights defenders all over the world are targeted by individuals and entities that are rarely held accountable, and the Global Magnitsky Act is an important response.

Browder’s testimony recounted the genesis of the original Magnitsky Act. In 2005, Browder, an American businessman and founder of Hermitage Capital Managment, hired Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky to investigate large-scale corruption within the Russian government. When the Russian government …

POMED Notes — Freedom of the Press in 2015

On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Freedom House released its most recent report, Freedom of the Press 2015. The select group of panelists, moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist Dana Priest, included Vanessa Tucker, the Vice President for Analysis at Freedom House, Kevin Kallaugher, the political cartoonist at the Economist known as KAL, and Thanassis Cambanis, a Middle East correspondent and fellow at the Century Foundation.

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

Vanessa Tucker began by summarizing how the press is currently under threat from governments – democratic and otherwise – terrorists, gangs, and other non-state actors such as media owners. She went on to paint a bleak picture, saying press freedom in 2014 declined to its lowest point in a decade and observing that the rate of decline accelerated drastically. She pointed out that these declines were found virtually everywhere in the world, describing how only one in seven people enjoys a free and robust press. In some countries people do not have access to news at all, while in others, they only have access to propaganda. She attributed the year’s steepest decline to two factors: restrictive laws against …

State Dept. Releases 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review


This week the State Department released its 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Secretary of State John Kerry noted that the report stresses four “strategic priorities,” which include “the fight against violent extremism, building open societies, promoting shared prosperity, and curbing climate change,” for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  The last QDDR was released in 2010 under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The report states that “the scale and scope of transnational challenges demand innovation in how we engage other governments – and those outside of government – and how we strengthen and modernize a robust, credible, and responsive multilateral system.”  Much of this engagement will come through pursuing greater partnerships with foreign nations’ civil society.  The QDDR calls on “diplomats and development professionals [to] focus on strengthening partnerships with civil society, citizen movements, faith leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and others who share our interests and values.”  This policy, in conjunction with its efforts to “ bolster support for democracy, human rights and governance,” “strengthen support of civil society,” and “deepen[ing] partnerships and defend[ing] human rights,” will help the U.S. promote more “open, resilient, and democratic societies.”

The report also highlights the State Department’s …

POMED Notes – Assessing Proposed Security Assistance

On Thursday, April 23, 2015, Security Assistance Monitor and the Forum on the Arms Trade co-hosted a hill briefing entitled, “Assessing Proposed Security Assistance,” examining U.S. security assistance to the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. The panel featured Cole Bockenfeld, Director of Advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED); Theo Sitther, Legislative Secretary for Peacebuilding and Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation; and Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy at the Washington Office on Latin America. The event was moderated by Colby Goodman, Senior Research Associate at the Security Assistance Monitor.

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

Colby Goodman opened the panel by briefly discussing some trends in U.S. security assistance before introducing the three panelists.  He noted that the U.S. remains the top provider of bilateral training for foreign security forces throughout the world, and that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) seeks $10.4 billion for its global security assistance programs in fiscal year 2016 (FY16).  The Pentagon, Goodman mentioned, is also increasing its security aid to the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) and sub-Saharan regions by 30 percent.

Cole Bockenfeld said that although arms sales to the …

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