5.30.2006

U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

Here is a recent policy watch of the U.S. efforts, stances and statements concerning democracy promotion worldwide, especially in the Middle East:

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

Headlines:

  • Bush: U.S. Military Committed to Freedom and Liberty Throughout World
  • Security Council Urges Syria To Set Up Better Ties with Lebanon
  • Bush, British Prime Minister Pledge Support for Iraq's Government
  • Zoellick urges Arab countries to stay committed to economic, political reforms
  • U.S. Wants To Help Emerging Democracies "Find Their Own Voices"
  • State's Zoellick urges Egypt to move forward on political reform plans
  • Bush Says New Iraqi Government a "Decisive Break with the Past"
  • Bush Bans Travel to U.S. by Belarusian Dictator, Associates
  • Volker Defends OSCE’s Democracy And Human Rights Work
  • State’s Boucher Discusses U.S. Policy in Central Asia

Bush: U.S. Military Committed to Freedom and Liberty Throughout World

"And we learned an important lesson: Decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe. So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security.

So we are pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. I believe the desire for liberty is universal -- and by standing with democratic reformers across a troubled region, we will extend freedom to millions who have not known it -- and lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.

We're still in the early stages of this struggle for freedom and, like those first years of the Cold War, we've seen setbacks, and challenges, and days that have tested America's resolve. Yet we've also seen days of victory and hope. We've seen people in Afghanistan voting for the first democratic parliament in a generation. We have seen jubilant Iraqis dancing in the streets, holding up ink-stained fingers, celebrating their freedom. We've seen people in Lebanon waving cedar flags and securing the liberty and independence of their land. We've seen people in Kyrgyzstan drive a corrupt regime from power and vote for democratic change. In the past four years alone, more than 110 million human beings across the world have joined the ranks of the free -- and this is only the beginning. The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom -- and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation."

President Bush

By Melody Merin
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington – Speaking to graduates at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point May 27, President Bush highlighted the American military’s contribution to fostering and maintaining liberty and freedom throughout the world.

The United States is "pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. I believe the desire for liberty is universal -- and by standing with democratic reformers across a troubled region, we will extend freedom to millions who have not known it -- and lay the foundation of peace for generations to come, " the president said.

Bush, noting the graduates were the first to enter West Point after the September 11, 2001, attacks, told the class of 2006, "Each of you came here in a time of war, knowing all the risks and dangers that come with wearing our nation’s uniform."

AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ

Citing the emerging democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush said, "Coalition forces drove the Taliban from power, liberated Afghanistan, and brought freedom to 25 million people. … The terror camps have been shut down, women are working, boys and girls are going to school, and Afghans have chosen a president and a new parliament in free elections."

The president also recalled how Iraqis, after years of dictatorship by Saddam Hussein, stood up and "defied the terrorists" by casting their ballots in three free elections in the past year, and noted the historical significance of the establishment of a new Iraqi government.

"When the formation of this unity -- with the formation of this unity government, the world has seen the beginning of something new: a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East," he said.

He added that even though challenges lie ahead for both Afghanistan and Iraq, "The world is more secure, because these two countries are now democracies --and they are allies in the cause of freedom and peace."

The transcript of the president’s speech is available on the White House Web site.
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Security Council Urges Syria To Set Up Better Ties with Lebanon

U.S. Ambassador Bolton says council sent a "clear message to Syria"

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The Security Council May 17 pressed Syria to work with Lebanon to delineate a clear boundary and establish diplomatic relations.

Adopting Resolution 1680 by a vote of 13 to 0 with China and Russia abstaining, the council strongly encouraged Syria "to respond positively to the request made by the Government of Lebanon, in line with the agreements of the Lebanese national dialogue, to delineate their common border . . . and to establish full diplomatic relations and representations."

The resolution also highlighted Secretary-General Kofi Annan's April report that urged Iran and Syria to cooperate in disarming Lebanese militias and in helping to restore Lebanon's political independence.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said that the resolution was "a clear message by the Security Council to Syria that we expect them to respond to the offers the government of Lebanon has very responsibly made."

"We'll give Syria some period of time to do that and then in consultation with the government of Lebanon we'll decide what to do next," the ambassador said after the vote.

Bolton added that the United States was "very pleased " with the council's action. The resolution, he said, does a number of things for the first time.

"First, it explicitly refers to the role of not just Syria but Iran in bringing stability to Lebanon by referring to the secretary-general's report. It makes clear that the burden is now on Syria to respond to Lebanon's request for border delineation and full exchange of diplomatic relations," the ambassador said.

"It clearly says to Syria that it needs to do more to stop the flow of weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border and it makes it clear that the further disarming of all militias inside Lebanon is an important priority," he said.

"We think it is an important step forward in the implementation of [Resolution] 1559 which we continue to follow closely as well as the implementation of 1595 which is the investigation” of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri, the ambassador said.

Bolton said that the sponsors of the resolution -- Denmark, France, Slovakia, United Kingdom and the United States -- felt it was important for the council to state its position and support for the secretary-general's report in the form of a resolution, not a presidential statement as some delegations would have preferred.

The resolution does not mention Iran by name but calls "on all concerned states and parties" as mentioned in the secretary-general's report to cooperate with Lebanon.

Bolton pointed out that only two states are mentioned in Annan's report -- Syria and Iran. "So there is no ambiguity on what that phrase means," he said.

The resolution commended Lebanon for taking measures to stop the movement of weapons into its territory and called on Syria to take similar measures.

It also welcomed the decision of Lebanon to disarm Palestinian militias outside refugee camps within six months and called for further efforts to disband and disarm all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.

Security Council Resolution 1559, passed in 2004, calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon; disbanding and disarming of all militias; the extension of the government's control over all Lebanese territory; and strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon.
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Bush, British Prime Minister Pledge Support for Iraq's Government

Terrorists fear that Iraqis believe in democracy and liberty, Blair says

Washington -- President Bush said Iraq’s new permanent, democratically elected government “represents a new beginning” for Iraq, as well as a new relationship for Iraq with the United States and others in the international community.

Speaking May 25 with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House, Bush said the United States and the United Kingdom will “work together to help this new democracy succeed,” and will “take advantage of this moment of opportunity and work with Iraq's new government to strengthen this young democracy and achieve victory over our common enemies.”

The president acknowledged that the “violence and bloodshed” that has targeted coalition troops, Iraqi government and security personnel and innocent civilians “has been difficult for the civilized world to comprehend,” and also that the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power has been “controversial.”

However, Bush said, “I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing.”

“If Saddam Hussein were in power today, his regime would be richer, more dangerous, and a bigger threat to the region and the civilized world,” he said.

Bush also said that despite the violence, the Iraqi people have demonstrated through several elections their choice for freedom. “Because of their courage, the Iraqis now have a government of their choosing, elected under the most modern and democratic constitution in the Arab world,” he said.

Prime Minister Blair, who recently met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials, said the challenge in Iraq “is still immense, but I also came away more certain than ever that we should rise to it.”

Blair said it is “utterly inspiring” to see democratically elected leaders from all of Iraq’s various religious and ethnic communities “sitting down together … and choosing to come together as a government of national unity, and completely determined to run their country in a different way for the future.”

The British leader said that every act of terror in Iraq, rather than being seen as a setback or failure, should instead be seen as “a renewed urgency for us to rise to the challenge of defeating these people who are committing this carnage.”

These acts of violence have not been perpetrated because Iraqis do not believe in democracy or want liberty, but rather because the terrorists fear the opposite, Blair said.

“[I]f the idea became implanted in the minds of people in the Arab and Muslim world that democracy was as much their right as our right, where do these terrorists go, what do they do, how do they recruit? How do they say America is the evil Satan? How do they say the purpose of the West is to despoil your lands, wreck your religion, take your wealth -- how can they say that? They can't say that,” he said.

Blair also expressed his view that in the coming months more Iraqi provinces will be coming under the control of Iraqi security forces.

Contrary to the impression that Iraqis “wish that we were gone from Iraq and weren't there any longer in support of the Iraqi government or the Iraqi forces,” the prime minister said, “not one of the political leaders,” with whom he met in Baghdad, regardless of their political party or community, “wanted us to pull out precipitately.

“All of them wanted us to stick with it and see the job done,” Blair said.

A transcript of the joint press availability is available on the White House Web site, as is a May 26 joint statement on efforts to strengthen defense cooperation between the United States and United Kingdom.
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State's Zoellick Sees Important Changes Under Way in Mideast

Zoellick urges Arab countries to stay committed to economic, political reforms

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt -- The Middle East is undergoing an important era of change, and the United States will continue supporting those in the region who champion political and economic reforms, according to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

"I believe people will look back five years from now, and they'll see the changes were much greater than they might have expected, because I think that there are actually big things afoot here," he told an audience at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt May 21.

He said by and large Arab governments have failed to meet the needs of their people in the past. "The political systems following the Ottoman Empire, whether they be dynasties, whether they be pan-Arabism, Arab nationalism, Arab socialism, have not really developed the goods for people. And the U.N. Arab Human Development Report said it pretty bluntly. It said there's a black hole."

Zoellick blamed this failure to provide political and economic opportunities to the citizens of the Arab world for the rise of political Islam as a force of opposition to the established order.

THE FREEDOM AGENDA

He said some of the tension in the Middle East today can also be attributed to the United States' advancement of the freedom agenda and its support for those in the region who are pushing for reforms against the resistance of status quo forces.

Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa, speaking at the same panel discussion, said the people of the region have recognized the need for change and are moving ahead with social, political and economic reforms.

"It is my opinion that we have started. We already agreed that reform and modernization must be the first thing on our agenda of recreating, rebuilding, reactivating our societies," he said. "It will not be easy. But in the final analysis, we have to enter the 21st century. We cannot live in the 20th century."

He pointed to the Arab League's May 2004 Tunis Declaration as an example of how the Arab world is taking the cause of reform to heart. That report called for improvements in democratization, women's rights, civil society empowerment, human rights, education, economic opportunities and the culture of knowledge.

PRINCIPLES VS. ACTIONS

Zoellick praised the principles of the report but challenged the Arab world to translate those words into concrete actions.

Moussa defended a cautious pace of reform in the region, saying it has a fragile security situation. He said further progress depends upon stability.

But Zoellick dismissed that point, saying, "I always get a little cautious when people overemphasize stability, because it suggests rigidity in the old order as opposed to trying to promote change."

"I hope that the foreign policy agenda does not become the excuse for delayed reform," he said.
Zoellick said the argument is particularly weak when it comes to economic reform. He noted that several countries in East Asia have undertaken important economic reforms despite political tensions in the region.

The deputy secretary said there is an important struggle taking place in the Middle East for the soul of Islam. He said there are those who would take Islam back to the medieval caliphates while others propose a modern interpretation consistent with democratic principles. He said the United States could help empower the voices of modernization, but ultimately "it's for the people of this region to determine what future they want."

PERCEPTIONS OF THE MIDDLE EAST

Zoellick said the decisions and actions of the people in the region will have an impact on how the Middle East is perceived abroad. While deploring the collapse of the Dubai Ports World deal to assume management of several U.S. ports, he said it is indicative of how the American people fail to understand much of what they see in the region, such as the outbreak of deadly violence following the publication of offensive cartoons in a Danish newspaper.

"Was that the best way to respond?" he asked.

"If you want to win the support of the American people, not just the government, it's going to require the average person, or the business person, or the leaders in the community, to stand up about what they believe in," he said.

More than 1,200 government, business and civil society leaders are gathered in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh for the three-day World Economic Forum looking at political and economic developments in the Middle East.
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U.S. Wants To Help Emerging Democracies "Find Their Own Voices"

State's Zoellick urges Egypt to move forward on political reform plans

Washington -- The foreign policy of the United States toward emerging democracies is to help those countries “find their own voices” and “make their own way” towards freedom, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said May 21.

Zoellick spoke to reporters at a press roundtable in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where he participated in the World Economic Forum for the Middle East.

The United States created the Forum for the Future program, he said, to further President Bush’s goal of encouraging freedom and democracy abroad, as articulated in his second inaugural address in 2005.

“[O]ur goal is to help others find their own voices, to attain their own freedom and to make their own way, and we have various tools by which we can do that,” Zoellick said.

For example, through the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the Bush administration is providing about $500 million to regional organizations over the next five years to support democracy and legal development, plus another $100 million every three years.

Zoellick also mentioned the administration's Millennium Challenge Account, which channels aid to countries that adopt economic and political reform, and trade initiatives designed to empower individuals.

“[T]here's the trade side which is everything from the [Qualifying Industrial Zones] … that have been really taking off in the Egyptian context to the Free Trade Agreements to [Trade and Investment Framework Agreement] to getting countries in the [World Trade Organization], which Saudi Arabia just did and Algeria on its work to do so,” he said.

The deputy secretary expressed his view that the Middle East is now “in an era where there are some fundamental changes taking place,” due to stress on its political systems, economic globalization, economic modernization and heightened security concerns.

Economically, “this is a region where at least in recent years, other than energy, it really wasn't well integrated into the world market system,” he said, but pointed to recent strategizing and modernization undertaken by Gulf states and North African countries, as well as others in the Middle East.

In politics, Zoellick said it is important for countries to allow legitimate opposition, saying of opposition groups that "if you block their ability to compete in elections, well, they're going to turn to other forms of opposition. … So it's all the more reason in our view why you should try to open up a political system.”

POLITICAL REOFRM IN EGYPT

Zoellick said the United States supports President Hosni Mubarak’s political reform plans for Egypt, and is “trying to urge the Egyptian government to follow through on it.”

Specifically the plans involve “the new judiciary law; repealing the Emergency Law and substituting a counterterrorism provision in its place; expanding press freedom through dealing with some of the detention provisions; changing some of the criminal law structure,” he said.

Zoellick repeated the Bush administration’s condemnation of the detention and treatment of opposition leader Ayman Nour.

“I think you are now in a phase where you've got some resistance by the vested order to try and maintain the status quo,” he said, and he criticized the reaction of security forces against the political opposition, saying that these are “not only wrong actions, but mistakes,” and “conflict with the government's own desires and interests and where they want Egypt to go.”

However, he said opposition groups like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood need to make clear their commitment to following a democratic process and to nonviolent solutions.

As for U.S. aid to Egypt, despite concerns of the government’s treatment of political opponents, Zoellick said, “I do not think it would be useful to cut the aid,” and that U.S. financial support “is in our mutual interest” in areas such as encouraging financial reform and the bilateral military partnership.

“Egypt is a very important partner to the United States, and … we've been very forthright about the process of trying to support the economic reforms and encourage the political reforms, and when we've had disagreements we haven't been shy in stating them,” he said.

The transcript of Zoellick’s remarks can be found at the State Department Web site
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Bush Says New Iraqi Government a "Decisive Break with the Past"

Iraqi people have no limit to their potential if they remain united, president says

Washington -- President Bush praised the formation of Iraq’s new government and said that as long as the Iraqi people remain united, there is “no limit to the potential of their country.”

Speaking in Chicago May 22, Bush said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s formation of Iraq’s first permanent democratically elected government “marks a victory for the cause of freedom in the Middle East.”

The new government “has strong leaders that will represent all of the Iraqi people,” and are committed to serving everyone in Iraq, regardless of religious or ethic identification, the president said.

By representing all Iraqi communities, the new government makes a “decisive break with the past,” and will provide a better future for the Iraqi people.

“Iraqis are determined to chart their own future and now they have the leadership to do it,” Bush said.

The formation of the government also opens a “new chapter” in U.S.-Iraqi relations, Bush said. “The new Iraqi government does not change America's objectives or our commitment, but it will change how we achieve those objectives and how we honor our commitment.”

The president acknowledged “setbacks and missteps,” including the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel at Abu Ghraib. These “were felt immediately and have been difficult to overcome,” he said, but “we have now reached a turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror.”

The terrorists in Iraq can “kill the innocent but they can’t stop the advance of freedom,” and “now the day they feared has arrive,” with the formation of Iraq’s new government, Bush said.

“Something fundamental changed,” with the May 20 formation of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government,” he said. “The terrorists are now fighting a free and constitutional government. They are at war with the people of Iraq.”

The president predicted that years later, people will look back and see this establishment of Iraq’s government as a “decisive moment in the history of liberty,” where freedom gained “firm foothold” in the Middle East.

The Iraqi people “have proved that the desire for liberty in the heart of the Middle East is for real,” Bush said. “They've shown diverse people can come together and work out their differences and find a way forward. And they've demonstrated that democracy is the hope of the Middle East and the destiny of all mankind.”

A transcript of the president’s speech on the global war on terror is available on the White House Web site
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BUSH BANS TRAVEL TO U.S. BY BELARUSIAN DICTATOR, ASSOCIATES

President Bush has banned travel to the United States by Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko and those associated with his regime, citing pervasive election fraud, corruption and human rights abuses.

In a May 15 proclamation, Bush said it is important and in the interests of the United States “to help the Belarusian people achieve their aspirations for democracy and to help complete the transformation to a Europe whole, free, and at peace.”

The United States previously applied economic sanctions to the Lukashenko regime through the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004.

“There is no place in a Europe whole and free for a regime of this kind,” U.S. Vice President Cheney told a summit of leaders from the Baltic and Black Sea states May 4 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The full text of Bush’s proclamation on Belarus is available on the White House Web site.
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VOLKER DEFENDS OSCE’S DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS WORK

The State Department’s Kurt Volker, testifying at a congressional hearing May 18, rejected Russia’s criticisms of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s democracy and human rights programs. Those programs are implemented by OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which is celebrating its 15th anniversary and is perhaps best known for its election monitoring.

Volker said the United States will not agree “to any move that would diminish ODIHR’s autonomy or decrease the OSCE’s democracy and human rights work.” He questioned the motives of those making such proposals: “We fear the real issue is not methodology, but the lack of political will among some participating states to implement existing OSCE commitments and to allow the voice of the electorate to be heard.”

An unofficial transcript of the hearing and the prepared statements of the witnesses are available on the Helsinki Commission Web site.
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STATE’S BOUCHER DISCUSSES U.S. POLICY IN CENTRAL ASIA

Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, spoke with Radio Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) May 20 on U.S. policy towards Central Asia, reaffirming that the United States “will promote democracy everywhere we can, we will promote freedom.”

He discussed the human rights situation in Turkmenistan, democratic institutions in Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan closing itself off from the world.

The full text of the interview is available on the RFE/RL Web site.

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