Today, the Project on Middle East Democracy sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to discuss the political crisis in Bahrain during his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia. The bipartisan letter, signed by 27 former government officials, regional experts, and security specialists, urged the Saudi leadership to play a more productive role in resolving the ongoing conflict by promoting genuine political reform in Bahrain.
“For years, Saudi officials have consistently encouraged the Bahraini regime to respond to calls for reform with brutal repression” said Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of the Project on Middle East Democracy. “This approach has only led to violence and increased instability in the country.”
During the 2011 protests that spread across the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to reinforce a ruling regime that cracked down on peaceful protests. More than 100 Bahrainis have died and thousands have been arrested over the past three years. Violence against security forces has recently escalated, and the country is becoming more unstable.
“The United States and Saudi Arabia share an interest in Bahrain’s stability,” said McInerney. “President Obama must seize the opportunity of this visit to make clear to the Saudis that …
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Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said today in The Daily Star that, “International organizations and experts” are set to monitor the upcoming April 17th presidential elections in Algeria. Lamamra, after a meeting in Cairo today with the Arab League said that, “Along with the Arab League mission which includes 110 observers, the African Union has decided to deploy 200 observers to monitor the presidential election.” Additionally, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and two groups from the European Union and United Nations will be sent to monitor the elections, reported Yahoo News. Last November, Lamamra said that Algeria accepted 17 out of 32 EU proposals issued by a European delegation which, “Monitored local and general elections in May.” The European delegation said afterwards that, “European observers had not had access to electoral rolls as Algiers considered these to be confidential.” European delegation chief Antonio Panzeri said, “Such access was essential for a free election, and that the EU wanted “a resolution of this problem before the presidential election.”
Thus far, twelve candidates have registered for next month’s election, with 77-year-old incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika widely expected to win a fourth term, despite his recent health problems
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Adly Mansour, Egypt’s interim president signed a bill today aimed at regulating the upcoming presidential election and paving the way for Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to take part and win, according to Al-Jazeera. However, al-Sissi has not officially announced his intention to run for president. Ali Awwad, Mansour’s legal and constitutional affairs adviser told Al-Jazeera, “The president has issued a republican decree that regulates the presidential elections, allowing the electoral commission to start taking the necessary measures to hold the vote.” According to Haaretz, “The decree protects the elections commission from legal challenges, a contentious position that had been opposed by one of Egypt’s top courts and criticized by potential candidates.” Additionally, ABC News reported that, “The election is a key step in a transition plan laid out by interim authorities in July after the army ousted President Mohammed Morsi.”
ABC News also reported that, the decree is being criticized, “Casting doubt over a process the military-backed government hoped would shore up legitimacy after the ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected president last summer.” The decree poses additional problems on the already “divided country” where “authorities are intolerant of …
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On Saturday, Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement [Persian] on the U.S. Department of State’s Human Rights report, criticizing its findings. In its statement, the Ministry noted that the “U.S. is not in an appropriate position to criticize Iran.” The statement stressed that the report’s findings were based on opposition sources critical of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It also criticized “the extensive and systematic human rights violations” in Guantanamo Bay.
The State Department called human rights concerns in Iran “egregious.” The biggest areas of concern were “the government’s manipulation of the electoral process, which severely limited citizens’ right to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, and press; and disregard for the physical integrity of persons whom it arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.” The report is particularly critical of a lack of due process in many Iranian proceedings. For example, “The government placed persons under house arrest without due process to restrict their movement and communication. At year’s end former presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, remained under house arrest imposed …
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Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar because they felt “Qatar failed to uphold its end of a security agreement to stop interfering in other nations’ politics and supporting organizations that threaten the Gulf’s stability.” The Associated Press asserts that this move is more directly related to Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Jazeera. After the announcement, Qatar’s stock market dropped more than two percent.
Qatar’s cabinet chose not to withdraw its own ambassadors in response, explaining that it is “absolutely keen on brotherly ties between the Qatari people and fellow brotherly GCC peoples, which prevent Qatar from taking a similar procedure of recalling its ambassadors.” BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner suggests, “What lies behind this is a growing conviction felt in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain that Qatar is unwilling to end its alleged support for Islamist and extremist groups in the region.”
Elizabeth Dickinson argues that “what seems to have angered Qatar’s neighbors most is Doha’s persistent attempts to regain the political initiative in the Middle East,” particularly by maintaining close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. Additionally, she quotes a Doha-based opposition member to explain …