The POMED Wire

Saudis Shuffle Cabinet; Badawi at Risk of Permanent Damage

 

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordered a reshuffle of his cabinet on January 29. Salman replaced almost every member, with the exception of the Minister of Oil Ali al-Naimi, Minister of Finance Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The late King Abdullah’s son Miteb will remain Minister of the National Guard, while two other sons of Abdullah lost their positions as provincial governors. Salman also appointed his son, Prince Abdulaziz, as Deputy Oil Minister. Lawyer Mohammed Al Jadaan was also appointed by the King as chief of the Capital Market Authority.

King Salman also disbanded an older economic council in favor of creating a new one headed by his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Additionally, he created a new security body led by Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Deputy Crown Prince and Interior Minister, combined two education ministries, and abolished the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Minerals. In total, Salman abolished 12 policy-making bodies. The King appointed new ministers of Agriculture, Justice, Municipal Affairs, Information, Health, and Islamic Affairs and replaced the heads of the religious police and intelligence ministries. In the same royal decree announcing …

Cardin, McCain Reintroduce Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act

On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John McCain (R-AZ) reintroduced the “Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (S. 284),” which aims to “impose sanctions with respect to foreign persons responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” including but not limited to “significant corruption, extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations…committed against individuals seeking to promote human rights or to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials.” The bill uses the same language as the bill previously approved by Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June 2014 and expands Russia-specific sanctions under the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act (Public Law 112-208).” Co-sponsors include U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

In a press release, Senator Cardin noted, “Human rights abusers and corrupt officials around the world will hear loud and clear that the United States speaks with one voice when we say that we will fight corruption and human rights violations wherever they occur” and “will honor Sergei Magnitsky and other whistleblowers who gave their lives to ensure that corrupt officials who abuse their power will face justice …

Syrian Delegates Meet in Moscow; U.S. Cuts Off Covert Aid

From January 26-28,  _72409406_7240940532 members of various opposition groups and six members of the official Syrian delegation met in Moscow, under the moderation of Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar JaafariMajid Habbo described the talks as “trying to create an atmosphere of trust, between all sides, including the regime…” However, the National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition group, refused to attend the talks,  with Monzer Akbik stating that the talks were “an initiative to reinvent the Assad regime in another form,” adding that Russia wasn’t an honest broker for peace given its support for the Assad regime. When asked about the talks,  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,  said, “I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic. I would say we have hope, in every action.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met the delegation on the January 28, after his Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov promised the meeting as a reward if “the atmosphere is constructive.” The talks wrapped up on Thursday, with Vitaly Naumkin summarizing the conference as creating a platform for future talks, but made no attempt to address disputed issues, such as the fate of Assad. All attendees agreed to hold further talks at an undetermined date.

Meanwhile, …

Pentagon Begins Talks with Houthis as Factions Form “Salvation Government”

The Pentagon opened talks with the Houthi rebels on Wednesday.  A Pentagon spokesman stated that ”given the political uncertainty, it’s fair to say that U.S. government officials are in communication with various parties in Yemen about what is a very fluid and complex political situation.”  As discussion between the U.S. and political entities within Yemen unfolded, the Houthi’s captured a military base previously used by the U.S. in 2012 to train counterterrorism forces on Thursday.  Meanwhile, various political factions within Yemen formed a “salvation government” on Monday, leading one observer to state that  ”[This] very limited violence shows one thing: The people, the government, the military do not want to fight. They want to reach a solution.”

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported ”Several journalists have been attacked, detained, or their equipment seized in Sana’a in recent days, while at least one journalist has been reported missing” and called for ”all sides in Yemen to respect the civilian status of journalists and allow the media to work safely and freely during this critical juncture.” On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also noted the Yemeni government’s failure ”to ensure justice for past human rights violations” as well as implement …

POMED Notes – Freedom in the World 2015

On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Freedom House unveiled the latest edition of Freedom House’s annual report, Freedom in the World 2015, entitled “Discarding Democracy: Return to the Iron Fist,” and hosted a panel to discuss the report’s findings. The panel was moderated by Wilson Center Public Policy Scholar, Jill Dougherty, and included Arch Puddington, Vice President of Research at Freedom House and the report’s author; Tamara Wittes, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; and James Mann, author-in-residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and former foreign correspondent and columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

For full notes, continue reading or click here for a PDF. Follow this link to access the full report.

Arch Puddington opened the discussion by prefacing the report’s results as more “gloom” than “doom.” For the ninth consecutive year, the report showed an overall decline in global political rights and civil liberties. Mr. Puddington pointed out that the economies of countries with democratic deficits were either doing worse than before or have stagnated over the past year.  He highlighted three trends: an upsurge in terrorism, a movement towards …

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