The POMED Wire

Iraqis Seek End to Government Corruption though Analysts Remain Pessimistic

Photo Credit: Haider Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Protesters rallied by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr charged Iraq’s heavily fortified Green Zone, an area in Baghdad that houses government headquarters and foreign embassies, and briefly occupied the Iraqi parliament building. After months of protesting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s stalled reforms, demonstrators broke into the parliament building, “tore down walls, called government leaders corrupt and cowardly, and demanded their immediate resignation,” reported Al Jazeera. Iraqis have been protesting the delayed reforms since August 2015, when Abadi initially announced a plan to rid the government of its sectarian-based quota system and bring forth a technocratic cabinet. But heavy opposition from current parliament members who have “long depended on Iraq’s system of patronage” have impeded a new cabinet from forming.

According to Emma Sky, a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute, the Green Zone symbolizes “all that is wrong with the legitimacy and capability of Iraq’s government” and was a natural place for the protests to culminate.  “Iraq’s political elites live in splendid isolation, totally unaccountable to the Iraqi people and using the country’s oil wealth to fund their own luxurious lifestyles,” Sky wrote in Politico. Zack Beauchamp argues in Vox that …

Event Summary – The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017

On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, POMED hosted a panel discussion on its new report, “The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa.” The annual report, by POMED’s Executive Director Stephen McInerney and its Deputy Director for Policy Cole Bockenfeld, provides a detailed analysis of U.S. foreign assistance for democracy and governance, as well as for security and economic development, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)  from spring 2015 through spring 2016. This year’s report examines the executive branch’s foreign assistance request to Congress for MENA for the coming Fiscal Year (FY 2017), highlights significant changes from last year’s request, and notes important shifts in U.S. assistance policy and democracy-related diplomacy in the region. The report draws upon numerous interviews with officials in different parts of the U.S. government, Arab activists, and members of the U.S. democracy-promotion community. The April 26 event featured remarks by McInerney, Bockenfeld, Al Arabiya columnist Hisham Melhem, and Director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy Tamara Cofman Wittes.

McInerney opened the panel by describing four key findings of the report. First, space for independent, pro-democracy …

Jordanian King’s Power Consolidated by Amendments amid Broad Crackdown

Photo Credit: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty

Jordan’s parliament passed several bills proposed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour that give King Abdullah II sole constitutional control in areas of security, foreign policy, and the judiciary. According to state-run news agency Petra, the amendments were passed with 123 votes, out of 142 MP votes. The amendments allow King Abdullah to designate his crown prince, deputy king, members of the constitutional court, and the head of the paramilitary police force. Prior to 2015, the King was only able to directly appoint the prime minister, but is now able to make key appointments “by royal decree” without any nomination process by the the Council of Ministers.

Journalist Fahd al-Khitan told Al-Jazeera, “King Abdullah’s long-term objective is to strengthen and insulate the monarchy by making it the guarantor of unity and stability of the country.” On the other hand, one of the MPs who voted against the amendments, Abdel Karim al Dughmi, said, “With these amendments now in place, Jordan is moving toward an absolute monarchy as opposed to a constitutional monarchy whereby the King would rule through a legally accountable executive branch.” ”Under the new rules,” Dughmi remarked, “those who will be appointed by the …

Groups Call on Obama to Address Human Rights & Arms Sales Before GCC Summit

Photo Credit: Saudi Press Agency

President Obama arrived in Riyadh where he will hold bilateral talks with Saudi King Salman and leaders of the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. Obama is is expected to push greater cooperation and military backing from Saudi Arabia in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), and to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to the U.S.-GCC partnership.

In a letter  to Obama,  Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and James E. Risch (R-ID) cite the Saudi government’s “continued detention and harassment of human rights advocates,” specifically of blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for “launching a website that suggested a peaceful discussion about religion.”  The senators urge Obama to to demand Badawi’s release and the release of his lawyer, human rights activist Waleed Abu-al Khair.  “True partners need to be able to have a frank dialogue about disagreements and areas of concern in our relationship,” read the senators’ letter. Additionally, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) recently introduced a bill that would place further restrictions on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia contingent on presidential certifications.

Another …

Hearing Notes – Assessing Pres. Obama’s FY 2017 MENA Budget Request

On Wednesday April 13, 2016, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing titled, “Assessing President Obama’s Middle East and North Africa FY 2017 Budget Request.” Witnesses included Anne W. Patterson, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and Paige Alexander, Assistant Administrator for the Middle East at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). To watch a webcast of the hearing, click here.

Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced the hearing, emphasizing the United States’ continued support of Israel in an increasingly dangerous environment–applauding that the budget continues to ensure that Israel’s defense remains intact, and urging the creation of a new, robust memorandum of understanding (MOU) that reflects the “new reality the Jewish state faces in the region.” She commended the continued support of Jordan, specifically the $1 billion dollar pledged for its efforts in hosting refugees and fighting on the frontlines against the Islamic State (IS). She noted, however, that the $1 billion pledge reflects a significant trend in the current budget that requests shifting assistance from the regular foreign affairs budget to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds. Nearly half of this year’s proposed funds for Jordan are …

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