The POMED Wire

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 …

Bipartisan Legislation Seeks Conditions for U.S.-Saudi Arms Sales

Business Insider

In effort to increase scrutiny of U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT)and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)have introduced a bill that would set conditions for U.S. military support, requiring presidential certification that Saudi Arabia is meeting certain standards prior to approving arms sales. Current law outlined in the Arms Export Control Act dictates that the sale or transfer of arms to foreign governments by the United States must be proposed by the U.S. State Department and then approved by Congress. Upon approval, the Administration is then permitted to implement the transfer. The Murphy-Paul legislation would further require the U.S. President to “attest that Saudi Arabia is concretely demonstrating its anti-terror efforts and protection of civilians before Congress can consider the sale.” This additional step is intended to assess whether Saudi Arabia has used U.S.-origin munitions in airstrikes in Yemen and evaluate how transfer of arms to the Kingdom can contribute to U.S. national security objectives, if at all.

“Saudi Arabia is an important partner, but we must acknowledge when a friend’s actions aren’t in our national interest,” Murphy said in a press release. “It’s time that we put real conditions on our military aid to the Saudis, …

POMED Event Notes – Saudi Arabia’s Regional Role and the Future of U.S.-Saudi Relations

On Wednesday, April 6, POMED hosted an event titled “Saudi Arabia’s Regional Role and the Future of U.S.-Saudi Relations.” The discussion was moderated by Amy Hawthorne, Deputy Director for Research at POMED, and included remarks bu Andrea Prasow, Deputy Washington Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW); Ambassador Stephen Seche, the Executive Vice President of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW); and Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of POMED.

Ms. Hawthorne opened the discussion with a reference to President Obama’s first visit to Saudi Arabia, which preceded his visits to all other regional countries including Egypt, and which was representative of how U.S.-Saudi relations would then progress during the Obama Administration’s tenure. Relations have become strained in recent years, exacerbated by uprisings in Egypt and and  the Iran Deal, both which have contributed to a regional proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. According to Hawthorne, two of the major issues that the administration sees in Saudi Arabia are the marginalized youth, which has become a larger threat to both the Saudi government and the region, as well as the how the U.S.-Saudi relationship might impact the fight against terrorism.

Ms. Prasow spoke on human rights …

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