On February 24, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) commemorated the anniversary of the pro-democracy uprisings in Bahrain. Wyden said, “While many Bahrainis feel their struggle has been forgotten by the world, I want them to know that it will not go unremembered…The regime continues to go to great lengths to convince the world that it is making progress but I am sad to report that I cannot share that conclusion.” He goes on to note that “Bahrain’s rulers continue to commit human rights violations while taking only superficial steps toward a meaningful political solution,” and urges “the Bahraini regime to implement true and meaningful reforms, to cease the use of violence and repression against peaceful protesters, and to engage in credible dialogue about the future of Bahrain.” Wyden concludes, “Bahrain has long been an ally of the United States, and I believe this country has an obligation to hold friends to a higher standard. To those who will say that human rights abuses are bad but that stability and cooperation in the region must come before such concerns, I say that you are offering a false choice.”
Elliott Abrams documents the Obama Administration’s seeming flip-flop in its human rights policy in …
On Monday, February 23rd, 2015, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a discussion titled “Authorizing Military Action Against ISIL: Geography, Strategy and Unanswered Questions.” The three speakers included Lt. General David Barno (Ret. U.S. Army), Director, President, and CEO of the Wilson Center, Jane Harman, and Former General Counsel for the C.I.A. Jeffrey H. Smith, who is currently serving on the Department of Defense Legal Policy Advisory Board. The discussion was moderated by CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
For a full PDF of the notes, click here.
Ms. Harman began the discussion by briefly examining the role of Congress in declaring war, as well as Congress’ duties once debate is opened for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). She noted that four wars have occurred since the end of the Vietnam war. Despite Congress having a constitutional obligation to declare war, only two of those conflicts operated under a congressional declaration of war. When Congress debates the proposed AUMF, she argued, it should confront the issue by not participating in partisan politics, avoiding “group think,” and to avoid the tendency to not challenge underlying assumptions.
Harman continued that while …
The recent murder of Jordan’s Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh by militants of the so-called Islamic State has propelled the Kingdom into the international spotlight. In response to the murder, Jordan has escalated bombing missions against Islamic State targets in Syria, and it has promised a “relentless war” that “will be heard by the world at large.” Jordan’s response to the Islamic State comes as the Obama Administration requested an estimated $1 billion in U.S. aid ($637 million for economic and $350 million for military) to Jordan for FY 2016, which some members of Congress may think is not enough. The administration cemented this commitment by completing a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Jordan guaranteeing $1 billion each year in U.S. assistance until 2017.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry underscored U.S. commitment to Jordan when he said that Jordan represents a “staunch and stable ally in one of the globe’s most challenged areas.” The agreement illustrates Jordan’s strategic importance to the United States as a host of over half a million Syrian refugees and an active participant in the anti-Islamic State …
POMED is now accepting applications for its upcoming seminar — Supporting Democracy in the Middle East: Tools & Strategy
Dates: Wednesdays, March 18 — May 27, 2015
Time: 7:00 — 8:30 pm
Location: Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
1611 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 300
Washington DC, 20009
Apply by: February 20, 2015
Since 2011, the people of the Middle East have been engaged in a difficult struggle to affect democratic change. Despite its commitment to the promotion of freedom, human rights, and rule of law, the United States has often struggled to make this ideal a prominent component of its foreign policy. The aim of this course is to shed light on the strategies through which the U.S. encourages genuine democratic development, the tools available to elicit lasting positive change, and the process of policymaking, from budgeting to implementation and execution.
In Jordan, Muslim Brotherhood official Zaki Bani Irsheid was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison for speaking out on Facebook against the U.A.E. for designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Irsheid’s defense team believes his case should be handled in civilian courts rather than the state security court. However, disturbing Jordan’s relations with a foreign state is considered a federal offense under Jordan’s amended anti-terrorism law. Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said, “Jordanian officials will say they gave Bani Irsheid due process, but it’s the law itself which is inherently unjust. Jordan should stop using its terrorism law to persecute its own citizens just because they criticize foreign leaders.” Irsheid’s arrest is one of the latest in a series of government arrests of journalists, citizens, and Islamists who are openly critical of the government or its regional partners. Meanwhile, well-known “jihadi theorist” Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi was reportedly released again from Jordanian prison on February 5. Having been arrested numerous times under the anti-terrorism law, al-Maqdisi’s release follows his alleged attempts to negotiate for the release of ISIS hostages Moaz al-Kassasbeh, Alan Henning, and Peter Kassig.