9.29.2006

U.S. Security and Middle East Democracy

Max Boot from the CFR wrote an interesting op-ed on the U.S. efforts to promote democracy after 9/11. I don't agree with all points of this piece, but it still spotlights some good and important points.

Some related articles of mine:

- The Neo-Internationalism After 9/11

- The End of International Isolationism

- Defining the Iraqi Question

- U.S. Foreign Aid and Democracy Promotion

-Bush, Americans and Spreading Democracy

Here is Boot's piece:

Democracy, Our Best Protector

Max Boot

September 13, 2006
Los Angeles Times

For the last five years the standard critique of Bush administration foreign policy has run as follows: The president did a great job of rallying the nation after 9/11 and of toppling the Taliban. But then he blundered by invading Iraq and trying to spread democracy at gunpoint. He should have concentrated on working with other countries to track down terrorists.

The reality—or so it seems to me—is nearly the opposite. Bush has done a good job of capturing or killing “evil-doers,” but he hasn't done enough to addresses the root causes of their actions.

The success of our counter-terrorism efforts should be apparent from the fact that there have been no attacks on American soil since the World Trade Center fell. You can attribute this to the enemy’s weakness or to sheer dumb luck, but Bush deserves at least some credit for aggressive efforts to smash Al Qaeda. He even worked well with allies. The CIA, for instance, set up a counter-terrorism center in 2002 with its French counterpart in Paris.

Of course, more could and should be done to protect us. But no defense will ever be foolproof. Long-term security requires changing the conditions that give rise to Islamist terrorism.

And what are those conditions? Not poverty. Many terrorists come from privileged backgrounds. They have been radicalized by a global network of extremists that preys on restless young Muslims who lack peaceful outlets for their energy. Some of these conditions exist even in Western Europe, with its legions of unassimilated immigrants. But the larger problem is in the Middle East, where Islamo-fascism was born and where its center of gravity still lies.

For all the buzz about “stateless terrorism,” Al Qaeda and its ilk know how important a base of operations remains. In the past, Al Qaeda sought sanctuary in Sudan and Afghanistan. Today, these terrorists get vital support in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and parts of Iraq. In many of these cases, the government’s role is ambiguous. It may not have the power to repress Islamist groups even if it wanted to. State failure is almost as big a problem as state sponsorship. The witches’ brew of repression, stagnation and governmental incompetence found in many Middle Eastern countries leaves the mosque as the only place where dissent can be aired and social services delivered.

This is the dysfunctional status quo that Bush set out to change after 9/11 by spreading freedom in the Middle East. He made rapid strides in toppling the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, but he never committed enough resources—especially not enough troops—to build durable democratic institutions in their wake. As a result, the Taliban is resurgent and Iraq is sinking into civil war.

Beyond Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush applied political, not military, pressure for liberalization. This had a salutary effect. In Egypt, for instance, Hosni Mubarak offered to hold freer elections. But as the U.S. has gotten more bogged down in Iraq, our influence has waned. Mubarak now brazenly defies Bush by jailing liberal opposition leader Ayman Nour.

Bush’s response has been oddly passive. He has not docked Mubarak a penny of the $1.8 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt. Nor has he fined Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, who has gotten $4.5 billion from the U.S. and its allies since 2001, for failing to restore civilian rule or to stop the Taliban and Al Qaeda from operating on his soil.

To his credit, Bush has finally increased funding for democracy promotion in Iran, but he still has not made the overthrow of the mullahs a priority. Much-ballyhooed programs such as the Greater Middle East Initiative seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Even if the president remains personally committed to his freedom agenda, the bulk of the U.S. government is not. Realpolitikers think that’s just as well. They argue that more freedom will bring more extremists to power. That is a real short-term danger (except in Iran, where extremists already reign). But there is no reason to think that, if more Muslim voters are regularly allowed a say in their choice of leaders, they will opt for jihad over jobs. The Islamist parties that took over in Kabul and Tehran proved unpopular. But there was no avenue for peaceful regime change. In other words, too little democracy, not too much.

The U.S. finally began to address this problem after 9/11. If we don’t do more to turn Bush’s soaring rhetoric into reality, however, we risk greater atrocities in the future.
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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's perspective

9.24.2006

U.S. Middle East Strategy

The White House released a fact sheet concerning the United States' new Middle East strategy which was included in a presidential speech.

Here is the fact sheet:

Fact Sheet: Winning the Struggle Between Freedom and Terror in the Middle East

President Bush Addresses American Legion National Convention

Today, President Bush Discussed The Struggle Between Freedom And Terror In The Middle East – Including The Battle In Iraq, The Central Front In The War On Terror. In the coming days, the President will deliver a series of speeches describing the nature of our enemy in the War on Terror, the insights we have gained about their aims and ambitions, the successes and setbacks we have experienced, and our strategy to prevail. As we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11, there is a tendency to believe the terrorist threat is receding – that feeling could not be more wrong.

Our Enemies Come From Different Places And Take Inspiration From Different Sources – But They Form The Outlines Of A Single Worldwide Network Of Radicals. Some are radicalized followers of the Sunni tradition, who swear allegiance to terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. Others are radicalized followers of the Shia tradition, who join groups like Hezbollah and take guidance from state sponsors like Syria and Iran. Still others are "homegrown" terrorists, who live in free societies they dream to destroy. They are unified by the conviction that free societies threaten their twisted view of Islam.

American Policy In The Middle East Comes Down To A Straightforward Choice. We can allow the Middle East to continue on the course it was headed before 9/11 – and a generation from now, our children will face a region dominated by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. Or we can rally the world to confront the ideology of hate and give the people of the Middle East a future of hope. That is the choice America has made.


To Understand The Struggle Unfolding In The Middle East, We Need To Look At The History Of The Region

For A Half Century, America's Primary Goal In The Middle East Was Stability. As we fought the Soviet Union in the Cold War, it was important to support Middle Eastern governments that rejected Communism.

Then The Forces Of Liberty Rose Up, The Berlin Wall Fell, And The Soviet Union Collapsed – But At The Same Time, An Undercurrent Of Danger Was Rising In The Middle East. The terrorist movement multiplied and resentment boiled over into worldwide violence. Extremists in Iran seized American hostages, Hezbollah terrorists murdered American troops in Beirut and Saudi Arabia, terrorists set off a truck bomb at the World Trade Center in 1993, and Al Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole.

On 9/11, We Realized That Years Of Pursuing Stability To Promote Peace Left Us With Neither. Instead, the lack of freedom made the Middle East an incubator for terrorism. The pre-9/11 status quo was dangerous and unacceptable.


The United States Is Pursuing A New Strategy In The Middle East And Around The World

  1. America Is On The Offense Against The Terrorists. We are using every element of national power to confront al Qaeda, those who take inspiration from them, and other terrorists who use similar tactics.
  2. America Has Made It Clear To All Nations: If You Harbor Terrorists, You Are As Guilty As The Terrorists, You Are An Enemy Of America, And You Will Be Held To Account.
  3. America Has Launched A Bold Agenda To Defeat The Enemy's Ideology By Supporting The Forces Of Freedom In The Middle East And Beyond. Americans believe that all people have the right to determine their destinies, and we know, by history and by logic, that promoting democracy is the surest way to build security.

America Has A Clear Strategy To Help The Iraqi People Protect Their New Freedom

The Iraqi People Have Reclaimed Their Sovereignty, Voted In Free Elections, Drafted And Approved A Democratic Constitution, And Established A Constitutional Democracy. At every step along the way, our enemies have failed to break the Iraqi people's courage or stop the rise of Iraqi democracy. Now these enemies hope to plunge Iraq into a civil war.

  • Our Commanders And Diplomats On The Ground In Iraq Believe That Iraq Has Not Descended Into Civil War. Only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country.

On The Political Side, We Are Working Closely With Prime Minister Maliki To Strengthen Iraq's Unity Government And Deliver Better Services To The Iraqi People.

On The Security Side, We Are Refining Our Tactics To Meet Threats On The Ground. Five of Iraq’s 10 Army divisions are taking the lead in their operation areas, and the initial results of the new Baghdad Security Plan are encouraging.

The Battle For Iraq Is Central To The Ideological Struggle Between Freedom And Terror

Some Politicians See Iraq As A Diversion From The War On Terror – But Osama Bin Laden Has Proclaimed That The "Third World War … Is Raging" In Iraq. Ayman al Zawahiri has called the struggle in Iraq "the place for the greatest battle," and terrorists from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere have come to Iraq to fight democracy.

If America Were To Pull Out Before Iraq Can Defend Itself, We Would Be Handing Iraq Over To Our Worst Enemies – Al Qaeda Terrorists, Saddam's Former Henchmen, And Armed Groups With Ties To Iran. These groups would have a sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists at the heart of the Middle East, with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions.

If We Give Up The Fight In The Streets Of Baghdad, We Will Face The Terrorists In The Streets Of Our Own Cities.

Victory In Iraq Will Be Difficult And Will Require More Sacrifice, But We Will Not Leave Until We Have Finished The Job. Victory in Iraq will result in a democracy that is a friend of America and an ally in the War on Terror.

The World Faces A Grave Threat From The Radical Regime In Iran

This Summer's Crisis In Lebanon Has Made It Clearer Than Ever That The World Faces A Grave Threat From The Radical Regime In Iran. The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist network except al Qaeda. It interferes extensively in Iraq, denies basic human rights to millions of its people, and is pursuing nuclear weapons in open defiance of its international obligations. We know the death and suffering that Iran’s sponsorship of terrorists has brought, and we can imagine how much worse it would be if Iran were allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

Many Nations Are Working Together To Solve This Problem. The UN has passed a resolution demanding Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities.

Today Is The Deadline For Iran's Leaders To Reply To The Reasonable Proposal The International Community Has Made, Yet So Far They Have Responded With Further Defiance And Delay. We'll continue working closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution, but there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance, and we must not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.

The Future Of Afghanistan Belongs To Freedom

Within Weeks After 9/11, American Forces In Afghanistan Captured Or Killed Hundreds Of Al Qaeda And Taliban Fighters, And Today, Afghanistan Has A Free And Democratic Government. Taliban and Al Qaeda elements are attacking Afghanistan's institutions, but they will not derail democracy and freedom. Forces from 40 nations, including every member of NATO, are now serving alongside U.S. troops to bolster the new Afghan government.

Foreign Forces And Terrorists Have No Place In A Free And Democratic Lebanon

We Worked To Enforce A UN Resolution That Required Syria To End Its Occupation Of Lebanon – Then Our Enemies Set Out To Destabilize The Young Democracy.

  • When Hezbollah Launched An Unprovoked Attack On Israel That Undermined The Democratic Government In Beirut, The World United To Support Lebanon's Democracy. Secretary Rice worked with the Security Council to pass Resolution 1701, which will strengthen Lebanese forces as they retake southern Lebanon and stop Hezbollah from acting as a state within a state. The President appreciates the troops pledged by France, Italy, and other allies.

We Are Employing The Full Array Of Tools At Our Disposal To End Tyranny And Promote Effective Democracy In The Middle East. We are speaking out against abuses of human rights by undemocratic governments in the region, publicly supporting democratic reformers in repressive nations, and using foreign assistance to support the development of free and fair elections, rule of law, civil society, human rights, women's rights, free media, and religious freedom.

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Some related posts:

-The Bases of the U.S. Middle East Policy

-Promoting Freedom and Democracy is a Vital Part of the War on Terror

-Rice, Foreign Policy and Promoting Freedom

-Bush Will Not Retreat, U.S. To Advance Freedom

-U.S. National Intelligence Strategy Highlights Democracy Promotion

-Bush, Americans and Spreading Democracy

-Terror and Democracy in the Middle East

-Totalitarianism Violence and Terror

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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's perspective

9.18.2006

News Concerning Middle East Reform

This is the news section of the September issue of Arab Reform Bulletin Published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:


Egypt: Cabinet Reshuffle; Arrests of Muslim Brothers Continue

President Hosni Mubarak carried out a limited cabinet reshuffle on August 28. Former Chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court Mamdouh Marai was appointed Minister of Justice, a development some observers expect to herald a new round of conflicts between the government and the Judges Club. Mubarak broke up the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (seen as a vestige of Egypt's socialist days) into Ministries for Economic Development (Othman Mohammed Othman) and a Ministry for Local Development (Abdel Salam Mahgoub, formerly governor of Alexandria).

Observers believe more sweeping changes in the cabinet might follow the ruling National Democratic Party's annual conference on September 19-21. The Party has promised to preview amendments to the constitution related to the balance between executive and legislative powers to be introduced in the parliamentary session that will begin in November.

Seventeen members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood were arrested on August 18 for allegedly holding illegal meetings, including Mahmoud Ezzat and Lasheen Abu Shanab, members of the Guidance Bureau. Almost 700 members have been arrested since March, most of them while demonstrating against the extension of Egypt's emergency laws or in favor of judicial independence.


Iraq: Tension over Federalism Debate
The Iraqi parliament suspended debate on a federalism bill submitted by the largest Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, after several parliamentarians boycotted the session on September 10. The proposal, pushed mainly by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, aims to create a Shiite autonomous state in southern Iraq with broad powers over security and petroleum resources. The Sunni Iraqi Accord Front and National Dialogue Front of Saleh Al Mutlaq are strongly opposed to such legislation, fearing that such a provision would deny other regions access to oil revenues. Members of former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's secular Iraqi National list and legislators loyal to the Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr also oppose the proposal. Debate is scheduled to resume on September 19.

Meanwhile, Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani started a national debate about the Iraqi flag when he prohibited Kurdish government buildings from flying the banner on September 1. Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki asserted that “the current Iraqi flag is the only one that can be raised on Iraqi soil until a decision is adopted by the parliament according to the constitution.”


Palestine: Deal on Unity Government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya reached a deal on September 11 over the formation of a unity government in hopes that such a coalition will lead to the lifting of the international aid embargo imposed on the current Hamas government for refusing to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by previous interim peace agreements. The details of the deal are as yet unclear but officials on both sides suggested that it would be based on the National Conciliation Document signed in May by Hamas and Fatah leaders in Israeli prisons and the Arab League's 2002 Peace Initiative, in which Arab states promised recognition of Israel in return for the latter returning to 1967 borders.


Jordan: Millennium Challenge Grant; Islamist MPs Indicted; Anti-Terror Bill

The Millennium Challenge Corporation's Board of Directors approved on September 12 a $25 million Threshold Program developed by the Jordanian government to advance political and economic reforms. The Threshold Program is designed to assist countries that are on the threshold of eligibility to receive Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) funds. Click here for the press release. Morocco is the only other Arab country designated as eligible for MCA assistance so far.

The Islamic Action Front decided not to boycott parliament after a heated debate following the indictment of two of its deputies, Mohammad Abu Faris and Ali Abul Sukkar, to 13-month prison terms on charges of fuelling national discord and inciting sectarianism after they attended the funeral of Al Qaeda militant Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in June. The two deputies will lose their membership in parliament and be unable to run in 2007 legislative elections.

The House of Representatives approved on August 29 a controversial draft counter terrorism law despite objections by Islamist deputies and human rights activists. The draft law entitles the State Security public prosecutor to detain suspects, carry out surveillance, prevent suspects from traveling, and monitor financial assets. A September 7 statement by Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, called for amendments to the law. The bill must be approved by the senate and King Abdullah to become law. Parliament, which is currently meeting in an extraordinary session, also plans to discuss amendments to the press law, political parties law, and a financial disclosure law aimed at fighting corruption in the public sector.


Syria: Human Rights Developments

The Syrian Ministry of Social Affairs denied the National Organization for Human Rights a permit on August 30 without explaining the reasons for its refusal, according to the organization's president Ammar Al Qorabi.

Syrian journalist Ali Al Abdullah and his son Muhammad, both members of the Atassi Forum for National Dialogue, will be tried before a military tribunal on September 27 on charges of disseminating false news, undermining the state, and defaming the president. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), they have been held for five months in unacceptable conditions and were forced to sign confessions under torture. Click here to read the RSF statement. On August 15 a military tribunal sentenced Syrian writer and activist Habib Saleh to the maximum sentence of three years in prison for "disseminating false news” after he published articles online attacking the Syrian president and his family.


Yemen: Run-Up to Elections

Tension is rising in Yemen as the September 20 presidential and local elections approach. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of the ruling General Congress Party accused the opposition coalition, known as the Joint Meeting Party, of undermining national unity and coveting the reserves of the central bank. Opposition presidential candidate Faisal Bin Shamlan charged Saleh, in power since 1978, with corruption and fraud. Groups opposed to Saleh called on the Supreme Council for Elections and Referenda (SCER) to ban religious edicts regarding elections, after a declaration by a cleric during Saleh's election rally that it is religiously impermissible to compete with the president. In addition to Saleh and Bin Shamlan, three others are running for the presidency: independent Ahmed Abdullah Al Majidi, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Fathi Azab, and National Council for Opposition candidate Yassin Abdo Naaman.

The European Union's electoral observers and Yemen's SCER launched a public awareness campaign banning guns in polling stations after three elections officials were killed on August 24 in the Al Jawf province. Previous elections have witnessed high levels of violence; sixty-seven people were killed in 2001 local council elections and thirteen were killed in 1997 parliamentary elections.


Bahrain: King Ratifies Counter-terrorism and Association Laws; Education Reform

King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa ratified two controversial laws despite opposition from human rights activists in Bahrain and abroad. On August 14 the king ratified the “Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts” bill that allows for extended detention without charge or judicial review. A press statement by UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights Martin Scheinin expressed concern that the law's definition of terrorism is too broad. According to an Amnesty International report, the law restricts freedom of association and assembly and heightens the risk of torture and arbitrary detention. King Hamad also ratified on July 20 amendments to the association law that prohibit demonstrations in public places, set prison terms of up to six months for organizers of unauthorized protests, and allow the police to attend and break up any public meeting. The law also forbids non-Bahrainis from participating in political protests. Click here to read a Human Rights Watch letter to the king.

The Bahraini government announced a plan for educational reform on September 3 that will focus on improving curricula, training teachers, and combating illiteracy. According to pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat, the plan aims to eliminate religious references in school curricula that may create discord between Sunnis and Shiites.


Kuwait: Islamists Present Reform Initiative; President Bush Praises Reforms

The Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM), Kuwait's main Islamist group and an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, launched an initiative on September 6 to create a “national reform bloc” in parliament that will work with the government to bring about economic and political reform. Click here for more details in Arabic. The ICM will hold its annual conference in October.

President George W. Bush congratulated Kuwait's emir Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah at a September 5 meeting in Washington for the “steady reforms” that have “served as a notable example for others in the region.” Click here for a link to the full text.


Saudi Arabia: U.S. Waives Religious Freedom Sanctions

The United States government decided on July 19 to continue to waive sanctions against Saudi Arabia for its policies towards religious practices and minorities. The Saudi government has created a human rights commission and promised to remove negative remarks about other religions from textbooks, retrain educators and imams who espouse intolerance, protect private religious practice. Designated a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act in 2004, Saudi Arabia is subject to U.S. trade sanctions. Click here for Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford's statement to Congress.


Algeria: Extension of Amnesty for Armed Groups

The Algerian government announced on September 3 that members of armed groups who committed crimes in the civil conflict that began in 1992 will still be able to surrender their weapons despite the expiry of a six-month amnesty on August 31. The amnesty was part of the National Peace and Reconciliation Charter proposed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to grant exemption from prosecution to members of these groups unless they participated in “mass murder, rape, or the use of explosives in public places.” Up to 300 guerrillas have surrendered since the measure came into force on February 28, according to the government. 2,200 former Islamist rebels captured in the fighting have been released from prison and members of the security forces who fought against armed Islamic groups have received full immunity. The amnesty was rejected by the Salafist Group for Fighting and Preaching, Algeria's only remaining active militant group.


Morocco: Elections for Upper House of Parliament

Morocco's governing majority (dominated by the Independence Party and the Socialist Union of Forces for Progress) won two-thirds of the seats in partial elections to parliament's upper house on September 8. The Islamist Party for Justice and Development did not win any of the 90 seats. These elections are seen largely as a formality because the vote is limited to local councils, trade unions, and administrative bodies. Moroccan newspapers highlighted the scarcity of women among the candidates for the upper house; of 667 candidates only 17 were women. The Assembly of Councilors has 270 members who serve nine-year terms. Every three years elections are held for 90 seats.


Upcoming Political Events
  • Egypt: National Democratic Party Annual Conference, September 19-21, 2006.
  • Yemen: Presidential and municipal elections, September 20, 2006.
  • Bahrain: Legislative and municipal elections, November 2006.
  • Algeria: Referendum on constitutional revision, fall 2006.

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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

9.11.2006

9/11


FREE AND UNITED WE STAND

9.08.2006

War on Iran Under Way

The war on Iran has already begun and the Iranian people are under severe attack. Indeed, the terrorist thugs of the Iranian regime have been waging the war on the Iranian people to maintain and sustain their imposed totalitarian theocratic system on the Iranian people.

Reminding of related earlier posts:

Iran's Waning Human Rights

About Iran Regime

Middle East Totalitarians and Existential Choice

Here is additional related information:


Ban of Legal Aid Center Raises Concern over Iran's Human Rights

Tehran outlaws Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi's Center for Defense of Human Rights


By Lea Terhune
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - When the Iranian government notified the Center for Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) that it was illegal and that if its activities continued, members risked arrest, co-founder Shirin Ebadi responded with an international e-mail appeal for support.

Ebadi, a well-known lawyer, is the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She founded the CDHR with a colleague, Abdulfatah Soltani, in 2001 to defend dissidents facing prosecution by the Iranian government. In her August 5 message, Ebadi said the center members “do not intend to shut down the center and we shall continue our activities. However, there is a high possibility that they will arrest us.”

She has spent time in detention before, and her law partner, Soltani, spent most of the past year in Tehran’s Evin prison. He was sentenced in July to five years for disclosing confidential information and for opposition to the regime. He is in the process of appealing the decision.

CDHR lawyers handle cases of dissidents who otherwise would be unable to defend themselves. According to Ebadi, “We defend political prisoners pro bono – about 70 percent of the political prisoners in Iran are clients of our center.” They also give financial and moral support to their clients’ families and report violations of human rights in the country.

The European Union and human rights monitors have noted the deterioration of human rights in Iran with concern. Human Rights Watch was one of several groups calling for Iran to fulfill its obligation to protect human rights workers under the 1998 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Defenders, which supports citizens’ rights “to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” to “discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance” and challenge harmful government policies.

“Shirin Ebadi has fearlessly used her legal expertise to promote and protect fundamental human rights, equality and rule of law in Iran,” said U.S. State Department official Erica Barks-Ruggles. “She has been an inspiring voice advocating for the Iranian people.” Barks-Ruggles expressed alarm that the Iranian government would seek to “constrain [Ebadi’s] efforts to ensure all Iranians have a voice.”

Incidents in past months have heightened concerns about human rights in Iran. The July death of jailed dissident Akbar Mohammadi in Evin prison aroused suspicions. Amnesty International maintains his poor health was the result of torture, and said it is “strongly indicated” that “repeated delays or outright denial of medical care” contributed to Mohammadi’s death. Iranian Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad told Reuters that he had been under “intense” medical supervision but “his health condition deteriorated.”

In June, Iranian Prosecutor-General Saeed Mortazavi, seen by many as responsible for systematic civil and human rights abuses, was appointed to a delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. At the time Human Rights Watch researcher Hadi Ghaemi wrote that Mortazavi “has prosecuted scores of Iranian human rights defenders, journalists, dissidents, students and activists, and he is alleged to be implicated directly in acts of murder, torture, arbitrary detention and coercing false confessions.”

Police also cracked down on an International Women’s Day gathering March 8. They beat up participants, several hundred of whom assembled in Tehran for a peaceful show of solidarity with the international women’s rights movement. A police official told the Iranian Labor News Agency that the gathering was held without official permit and the police action “prevented the gathering to take on a political dimension.” Shirin Ebadi is defending some of the participants.

Many Iranian student activists and authors of Internet Web logs, or bloggers, are held in jails. Among them are Mojtaba Saemi Nejad, Arash Cigarchi, Abed Tavanche and Omid Abbas Gholinejad. Journalists are at high risk of arrest. Reporters Without Borders calls Iran “the Middle East’s biggest prison for journalists and bloggers” in its 2006 annual report. Imprisoned journalists include Ali Hamed Iman, Elham Foroutan and Mohsen Dorostkar. Internationally respected scholar Ramin Jahanbegloo remains in jail, as does Yashar Ghajar, the head of the Islamic Institute of Amir Kabir University. After paying a high bail, labor leader Mansoor Osanloo was released from prison August 9. Human rights advocates lauded his release while renewing calls for the Iranian government to respect the rights of its citizens.

Calling the action against the CDHR a “huge setback” on that score, Sarah Lea Whitson of Human Rights Watch said, “If Ebadi is threatened for defending human rights, then no one who works for human rights can escape government prosecution.” Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
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Iran's liberal lecturers targeted

Ahmadinejad urged students to fight liberal teachers

BBC News
5 September 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for liberal and secular university lecturers to be removed.

He told a group of students that they should organise campaigns to demand that the liberal teachers be sacked.

Mr Ahmadinejad said it was difficult to alter secular influences that had been in place in Iran for 150 years, but added that such a change had begun.

The move echoes campaigns of the 1980s, when hundreds of liberal university teachers and students were sacked.

"A student must yell against liberal thoughts and the liberal economy," the AFP news agency reported Mr Ahmadinejad as saying.

"A student must ask why a secular teacher gives low marks to a student that does not have the same ideas as him."

Last year, an ayatollah was appointed to run Tehran University, sparking protests by students.

Earlier this year, dozens of liberal professors and teachers were retired.

9.04.2006

Views on Middle East Democratization Policy

I will spotlight the various academic and scholarly views on Middle East democratization policy in Middle East policy blog to serve eventually as an open source on this topic.

Here is an excerpt from Amy Hawthorne's article "Can the United States Promote Democracy in the Middle East?" appeared in the Current History, January 2003:

TOWARD A STRATEGY

There is no “one size fits all” answer for Middle East democracy promotion. The approach must be tailored for each country, taking into consideration local conditions. The following four basic recommendations should inform at least the initial stages of a serious United States effort, building on much of what the administration has already devised for beyond Iraq and the PA, but giving it more teeth. First, democracy promotion is a very long-term effort, requiring a consistent series of steps to demonstrate United States sincerity over many years. Toward this end, the United States must shift from zero-sum thinking—that the only alternatives are the status quo or Islamist takeovers—to trying to foster a middle zone of democratization before the question of national leadership is decided. Calling for sudden transfers of power would not lead to democracy or protect American interests. But neither should America endorse cosmetic reforms with the idea that they will suppress grievances or satisfy yearnings for participation and accountability among Arab publics. Every Arab country has a need for some systemic political change, and the longer that steps toward this goal are deferred, the more thorny the problems will become and the more difficult their ultimate resolution.

Interim steps beyond controlled multiparty elections include lifting emergency laws, improving human rights, allowing greater freedom of speech and association, making budgetary processes more transparent, allowing new political parties to form, and granting greater powers to legislatures. As the experience of the 1990s showed, democracy-aid programs, however well intended, have little impact when the broader environment remains stagnant. Further, although economic issues are pressing—and the United States must help Arab governments address them—these problems often have their roots in political distortions, and are unlikely to be resolved without attention to the underlying political structure.

Second, the United States should concentrate its initial efforts on governments, recognizing that if actual democratization takes root, and if regional tensions abate, the United States will have more allies within Arab societies. Arab regimes hold most of the cards in the game of political reform. To the extent the United States has any influence, it is with regimes more than with societies. But even this influence should not be overestimated; in particular, the United States has less leverage with countries that supply it with oil and with those on whom it depends for access to military facilities and counterterrorism support. Nevertheless, since most friendly Arab governments do care what America thinks, the United States must take into account Arab governments’ treatment of their citizens when determining the closeness of its ties.

To this end, the United States should issue a high-level policy directive that makes engagement on human rights, political reform, and democracy top priorities. This would empower officials at all levels of the bureaucracy to raise these issues without worrying that they will be left isolated by Washington. In countries where it provides significant economic aid, such as Egypt and Jordan, the United States should explore the feasibility of linking aid to political reforms. But it should introduce these conditions slowly and deliberately, through discussions with each government, rather than impose them abruptly. The United States must also carefully craft the language it uses to talk to and about Arab governments. It should compliment those Arab governments that are taking positive steps, but resist the tendency to overpraise them, as it has in the past. It should speak out, consistently, when governments—even close friends—violate human rights or pursue undemocratic policies. These moves will not change any Arab regime overnight; indeed, they will antagonize some and create a degree of discomfort for the United States. But they would add a new calculation to Arab governments’ decision making: the reaction of the United States.

Third, democracy-assistance programs must be taken more seriously. This means conducting honest evaluations to determine what is working and what is not, and avoiding programs that are more about public relations than real change—and more about Washington’s priorities than the region’s needs. It also means understanding democracy aid as just one aspect of a broader effort, not as a substitute for diplomatic action. This is not a call for American officials to interfere in program activities; that would be extremely counterproductive. In the Arab context especially, United States–funded programs must remain at an operational arm’s length from Washington. But it does mean that the message delivered at the highest levels should reinforce the stated goals of the activities taking place on the ground.

Fourth, the United States should embark on the long journey of democracy promotion only if it is ready to accept that change is inherent to democratization, and that change may be painful. If Arab governments open genuine political space, many long-suppressed voices will rush to fill the void, some friendly to the United States, many not. But more tinkering at the edges only helps the real problems fester and worsen; specifically, continued repression seems mainly to benefit extremists. Islamists are now a fact of life in Middle East politics; ignoring this is unrealistic. The goal should be to help create conditions that will not only empower other potential reformers, but also encourage the possibility that moderate Islamist groups (those that accept democratic principles and renounce all violence) could commit to long-term democratic competition. This is key: a democratic transition in any Arab country is certain to involve some kind of pact between moderate Islamists and moderates inside the regime.

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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism