The POMED Wire

POMED Notes — “Travails of Transition in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen”

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The Middle East Institute hosted a panel discussion on Thursday, November 20, 2014 on the status of the political transitions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. The event was part of MEI’s 68th Annual Conference on the Middle East, this year’s being “Navigating the Storm: The Middle East in 2015.” Paul Salem moderated the panel, and was joined by Charles Schmitz, Amr El Shobaki, Frederic Wehrey, and William Lawrence. Salem is vice president for policy and research at The Middle East Institute. Charles Schmitz is a Fellow at the Middle East Institute and a professor of geography at Towson University in Baltimore. Amr El Shobaki is a former independent member of the Egyptian parliament (2011) and also served as a member of Egypt’s Constitutional Committee (2013). Frederic Wehrey is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East program. And William Lawrence is a professor in political science and international affairs at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs.

For a full summary of the event, continue reading below or click here for the PDF.

Paul Salem opened the panel discussion with introductory remarks on the discourse surrounding the political transition in Yemen, Tunisia, …

U.N. Security Council Blacklists Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia

Libya - Reuters Photo credit: Reuters

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council added two new branches of Libyan Islamist extremist group Ansar al-Sharia to its terrorist list after accusations surfaced of its involvement in the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi and Ansar al-Sharia Derna, both al-Qaeda affiliates, face sanctions including an arms embargo, global travel ban and asset freeze as requested by Britain, France, and the United States. “Both groups are responsible for acts of terror in Libya, including bomb attacks, kidnappings, and murder,” said British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

“The World Must Save Libya From Civil War” regards the Ansar al-Sharia sanctions as a positive push in an attempt to curb terrorist activities in Libya. The article calls the decision to blacklist the groups a “statement of intent” by the international community to clamp down on extremists and search for a solution to the country’s problems. The op-ed piece pushes for Libyans to align themselves against the “anti-state designs” of such groups who defy the internationally recognized government’s attempts to lead the nation.

Diplomatic correspondent James Robbins searches for a “cure” to Libya’s current status as a failed state. He reviews Britain’s diplomatic stance on …

House Passes Resolution Condemning Iran’s State of Human Rights

capitol_hillPhoto Credit: NCR Iran

Just a few days ahead of the November 24 deadline for world powers to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation condemning Iran’s violations of human rights. Among other provisions, H. Res. 754 “calls on the Government of Iran to abide by all of its international and domestic obligations with respect to human rights and civil liberties.” This includes freedoms of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The resolution also presses President Barack Obama to condemn all Iranian officials or other individuals who are directly involved in human rights abuses and violations.

The resolution additionally includes a reference to Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman who was convicted and executed for stabbing a man  in self-defense who was sexually assaulting her, and condemns the persecution of minorities, including Iranian Baha’is, and criticizes the “undemocratic elections” which “deny Iranians the ability to choose their own government.” The Resolution also follows a 2014 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report that found that Iran engaged in “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the House of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman said, “I …

Congress Considers Waiving Restrictions on Egypt Aid

Protesters hold pictures during a protest in support of imprisoned activists who are in a hunger strike at prison, in front of the Press Syndicate, in Cairo Photo Credit: Reuters

Washington lawmakers are deciding whether or not to ease restrictions on U.S. military aid to Egypt. The restrictions were instituted after the military’s ouster of former elected President Mohammed Morsi, and their repeal was to be conditional on certification that Egypt was taking legitimate “steps to support a democratic transition” and “govern democratically.” Al-Monitor reported that some lawmakers considered granting President Barack Obama more flexibility in delivering the frozen $1.3 billion in aid for the Egyptian military, in part because of Egypt’s campaign against Islamists in the Sinai and Gaza smuggling tunnels.

State and Foreign Relations panel Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX), told Al-Monitor, “I’ve always said we need to decide on funding given what they’re doing that helps our national security. And I think that [Egypt] does. So I’m looking favorably toward Egypt.” Many House lawmakers seek to grant the State Department waiver authority over the certifications requirements of democratic and human rights progress in Egypt.

Lawmakers in the Senate, however, such as State and Foreign Operations panel Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who championed the restrictions legislation, oppose the inclusion of such a ‘national security’ waiver. Marina Ottaway highlighted some of the dangers to U.S. national …

Media Bans Substantiate Claims of Deteriorating Press Freedoms in Turkey

Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, PennsylvaniaPhoto Credit: Reuters

Correspondents from the Zaman and Bugun newspapers, the Samanyolu TV station and Cihan news reported that they have been shut out of official press events since the inauguration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These media organizations have ties to U.S.-based Islamic preacher, Fethullah Gulen, whom President Erdogan has accused of building a “parallel state” of loyalists in key state institutions, including the police and the judiciary. Erdogan publicly called for Gulen’s extradition to Turkey to answer for corruption charges and accusations of attempting to orchestrate a “judicial coup.”

Gulen is the leader of “Hizmet,” an Islamic service network, which Erdogan himself leveraged in his ascent to power. Reuters reported that Hizmet’s influence in the judiciary was key to the jailing of former military regime leaders and politicians. However, the alliance has devolved into a power struggle between Erdogan and Gulen. Erdogan’s abuse of press freedoms has drawn sharp criticism from the European Commission, which raised concerns about press freedom in the country and called on Erdogan’s government to “promote dialogue across the political spectrum.”

Journalist and PhD candidate, Alparslan Akkus, claimed that although Turkey’s suppression of the media is no secret, “the tools they …

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