10.21.2006

Middle East Totalitarian Axis

Iran Freedom Support Act (H. R. 6198) has been adopted by Congress. This is definitely an important step in the right course towards the new Middle East. It becomes clearer day by day that the fate of the Middle East will be determined by the outcomes of the war between Middle East totalitarians led by Iran and democratic forces backed or represented by determined democratic international powers led by the US.

To be accurate, I stress on the term 'totalitarian' because the general authoritarian Arab states are weaker than taking this war. Hence, what matters now is the totalitarian axis. This totalitarian axis, the terror umbrella, as already became obvious and in public consists of the Iranian regime as leader and the remnants of al-Ba'ath party (or the 'last Ba'ath' as I would love to call) besides Hezbullah and Hamas as proxies and hit men.

There will be no salvation, peace, stability and of course freedom and democracy in the Middle East without targeting this axis and fighting totalitarianism. The most fearful weapon is freedom; it terrifies and extremely weakens them.

The prescription is not too complicated and it is realistic too. Support Iran freedom and democracy; cut Iran's hands in the region; stay the course on Middle East democracy; and always keep those totalitarians internationally under siege. Do not ever forget that we, the indigenous liberals and intellectuals, are kept as hostages to our totalitarian thugs' brutality and international inactivity.

Lebanon is extremely important. The international community must finish the job there decisively and without delay. Defeat is unaffordable to the democratic world and to the Middle East.

Some related posts:

- The Neo-Internationalism After 9/11 and Middle East Democratization

- Totalitarianism, Violence and Terror

- Lebanon's Liberation and Independence

- Middle East Totalitarians and Existential Choice

- About Iran Regime

- War on Iran Under Way

- Iran's Waning Human Rights

- The International 'New Deal' of the Middle East

- U.S. Middle East Strategy

- U.S. Security and Middle East Democracy

- Protecting Arab liberals


Here are sections 301 and 302 of Iran Freedom Support Act (H. R. 6198):

SEC. 301. DECLARATION OF POLICY.

(a) In General- Congress declares that it should be the policy of the United States--

(1) to support efforts by the people of Iran to exercise self-determination over the form of government of their country; and
(2) to support independent human rights and peaceful pro-democracy forces in Iran.

(b) Rule of Construction- Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran.

SEC. 302. ASSISTANCE TO SUPPORT DEMOCRACY IN IRAN.

(a) Authorization-

(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the President is authorized to provide financial and political assistance (including the award of grants) to foreign and domestic individuals, organizations, and entities in Iran or the United States working for the purpose of supporting and promoting democracy in Iran. Such assistance may include the award of grants to eligible independent pro-democracy radio and television broadcasting organizations that broadcast into Iran.
(2) LIMITATION ON ASSISTANCE- In accordance with the rule of construction described in subsection (b) of section 401, none of the funds authorized under this section shall be used to support the use of force against Iran.

(b) Eligibility for Assistance- Financial and political assistance under this section should be provided only to an individual, organization, or entity that--

(1) officially opposes the use of violence and terrorism and has not been designated as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189) at any time during the preceding four years;
(2) advocates the adherence by Iran to nonproliferation regimes for nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and materiel;
(3) is dedicated to democratic values and supports the adoption of a democratic form of government in Iran;
(4) is dedicated to respect for human rights, including the fundamental equality of women;
(5) works to establish equality of opportunity for people; and
(6) supports freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion.

(c) Funding- The President may provide assistance under this section using--

(1) funds available to the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, and the Human Rights and Democracy Fund; and
(2) amounts made available pursuant to the authorization of appropriations under subsection (g).

(d) Notification- Not later than 15 days before each obligation of assistance under this section, and in accordance with the procedures under section 634A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2394-l), the President shall notify the Committee on International Relations and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate.

(e) Sense of Congress Regarding Diplomatic Assistance- It is the sense of Congress that--

(1) support for a transition to democracy in Iran should be expressed by United States representatives and officials in all appropriate international fora;
(2) officials and representatives of the United States should--
(A) strongly and unequivocally support indigenous efforts in Iran calling for free, transparent, and democratic elections; and
(B) draw international attention to violations by the Government of Iran of human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press.

(f) Authorization of Appropriations- There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of State such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.

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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's perspective

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10.15.2006

Freedom in the World 2006

Freedom House has just published their Freedom in the World 2006 (see the map of freedom), which provides their rating and analysis of the freedom of each state and territory in the world for mid-2005. Also, Freedom House has published a special report, Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2006, which I live in one of them.

There has been progress. The number of electoral democracies has increased to 123, and of them, liberal democracies to 89.

The following is from the overview by Arch Puddington followed by the list of the worst of the worst:

In a year in which the state of world freedom showed striking improvement in major countries from Ukraine to Indonesia, several places in the Arab Middle East saw modest but notable increases in political rights and civil liberties—even though none there yet approach the status of a free society. Although the region continues to suffer from a marked deficit of freedom, this progress was the most significant development cited by Freedom in the World 2006, Freedom House's annual survey of freedom worldwide. Furthermore, the positive trend in the Middle East was accompanied by gains in several majority Muslim countries in Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa.

In another significant development, the number of countries rated by Freedom House as Not Free declined from 49 in 2004 to 45 for the year 2005, the lowest number of Not Free societies identified by the survey in more than a decade.

Freedom showed improvement in the former Soviet Union, a region, like the Middle East, that has been resistant to the wave of democratization that brought positive change to much of the rest of the former communist world. In all, five countries that were once part of the Soviet Union recorded gains, the most significant being Ukraine's improvement from the status of Partly Free to Free. Ukraine thus becomes the first non-Baltic country of the former Soviet Union to attain a rating of Free, even while another important former Soviet republic, Uzbekistan, declined to the lowest possible score in the survey's methodology.

The survey shows that eight countries and one territory registered an increase in their freedom status. Along with Ukraine, Indonesia and Trinidad and Tobago moved to a Free status. Five countries and one territory moved from Not Free to Partly Free: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mauritania, and the Palestinian Authority.

At the same time, four countries registered negative status changes. Three countries declined from Free to Partly Free: Guyana, the Philippines, and Thailand. One country, Nepal, moved from Partly Free to Not Free.

To be sure, gains for freedom were not consistent across regions. There were approximately the same number of gains and losses in both Latin America and Asia, and slightly more gains than losses in sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet the overall picture was distinctly positive. As a result of these developments, it the end of 2005, there were 89 Free countries, in which there is broad scope for open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media. This represents 46 percent of the world's 192 countries and 2.969 billion people—45.97 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries did not change from Freedom in the World ratings for the year 2004. There were 58 Partly Free countries (30 percent of the total), in which there is limited respect for political rights and civil liberties: an increase of four from the previous year. These states frequently suffer from an environment of corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, and often a setting in which a single political party enjoys dominance despite the façade of limited pluralism. Approximately 17.93 percent of the world's population, 1.158 billion persons, lived in such Partly Free societies. There were 2.331 billion people (36.10 percent of the global population) living in 45 Not Free countries (24 percent), where basic political rights are absent and fundamental civil liberties were widely and systematically denied: four fewer than the previous year.

The global picture thus suggests that 2005 was one of the most successful years for freedom since Freedom House began measuring world freedom in 1972. Not since 1992, the year following the collapse of the Soviet Union, has the percentage of Not Free countries been as low as in 2005. That year, 38 countries were assessed as Not Free: 21 percent of the global total.

This year saw an increase from 119 to 123 in the number of countries categorized as electoral democracies. This represented 64 percent of the world's countries—the highest number in the survey's 33-year history. The three additions were all from sub-Saharan Africa: Burundi, Central Africa Republic, and Liberia. While some electoral democracies had poor human rights records and weak democratic institutions, such states afforded considerable space for political opposition movements, provided opposition parties access to the media to express their viewpoints, and met the minimum standard of a fair vote count in conditions of ballot secrecy and relatively open election campaigning.

In addition to the countries that registered a status improvement in 2005, 19 countries showed gains in freedom that, while significant, did not produce a change in their overall freedom designation: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Israel, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Namibia, Romania, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, six counties experienced a decline that likewise did not merit a status change: Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Gambia, Suriname, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.

The Global Trend
Successive figures
are for Year, Free, Partly Free, Not Free

1975 40 53 65
1985 56 56 55
1995 76 62 53
2005 89 58 45

Tracking Electoral Democracy
Year, Number of Electoral Democracies

1995 117
2000 120
2005 123

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Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2006

Freedom House, Special Report

A special report detailing the world's most repressive societies, drawn from Freedom in the World 2006, Freedom House's annual global survey on political rights and civil liberties.

September 6, 2006

Introduction

Methodology

Table of Independent Countries

Table of Related and Disputed Territories

Belarus

Burma

Chechnya (Russia)

China

Cuba

Equatorial Guinea

Eritrea

Haiti

Laos

Libya

North Korea

Saudi Arabia

Somalia

Sudan

Syria

Tibet (China)

Turkmenistan

Uzbekistan

Western Sahara (Morocco)

Zimbabwe

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Some related posts:

- Freedom in the World 2005, Global Survey 2006: Middle East Progress Amid Global Gains in Freedom.

- Human Rights in the Middle East 2005

- The Realities of Promoting Democracy

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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's perspective

10.07.2006

Views on Middle East Democratization Policy

Continuing my effort to spotlight the various academic and scholarly views on Middle East democratization policy in Middle East Policy blog, I will post some interesting excerpts from Tamara Cofman Wittes' article, "Arab Democracy, American Ambivalence; Will Bush's rhetoric about transforming the Middle East be matched by American deeds?" appeared in the Weekly Standard, 02/23/2004, Volume 009, Issue 23:

Previous View on Middle East Democratization Policy

(Tamara Cofman Wittes is a research fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.)


The premise underlying America's embrace of this gradual approach is that we can avoid the risk of Islamist victories and minimize bilateral tensions if we help existing governments reform, even if they resist opening up political competition and sharing power. In theory, our new assistance under the Middle East Partnership Initiative and the National Endowment for Democracy is also supposed to identify liberal forces within civil society, give them funding and training, and help them grow to the point where they can bring about velvet revolutions. This gradualist strategy assumes that, over time, liberalization will take on such momentum that the regimes will no longer be able to avoid devolution of power.

But that is an uncertain assumption: If existing regimes do lose control and chaos ensues, there is no guarantee that long-repressed liberals will win out. Indeed, the top-down "liberalization" underway in many Arab states has not relaxed state controls sufficiently to enable any third political force to organize, beyond the state and the Islamist opposition. The Islamists have the mosque as their forum for organizing, but freedom to organize outside the mosque--to talk politics and form parties--is still heavily restricted. So the regimes maintain control, and the Islamists remain the only alternative--as well as the excuse the regimes give Washington for deeming truly free politics too dangerous.

The larger the Algeria scenario looms in American policymakers' minds as the nightmare to be avoided at all costs, the more our policy is paralyzed; recalcitrant Arab leaders are quick to see this. But that's not the worst of it. The longer the U.S. government rewards regimes that "liberalize" without allowing new political forces to develop, the more the Islamists benefit from such limited political openings as exist. The more entrenched the Islamists become as the political alternative to the status quo, the more the language of Islamism becomes the language of protest politics, and other voices are marginalized. As an Arab official told me recently, "The only institution expressing freedom [to criticize the government] in the Arab world today is the mosque. That's why they're popular." The net effect of gradual "liberalization," then, may be not to drain the swamp of extremism, but to expand it.

FOR LIBERALIZATION TO HAVE REAL MEANING, the regimes themselves must change. No matter how many small-bore grants the U.S. government gives to improve parliamentary effectiveness, judicial independence, or the rule of law, the legislature and judiciary in most Arab countries will remain subordinated to their executives--until those executives give up emergency laws and restrain security forces. And no matter how much training the National Endowment for Democracy sponsors for women candidates or liberal politicians, they will not be able to compete in the political marketplace until their governments allow freedom of expression and association.

America can constrain the power of Arab autocrats and help create space for the emergence of liberal alternatives only by putting political pressure on the regimes and, at the same time, developing partnerships with indigenous reformers both in and out of government. To succeed, America must dovetail its assistance with the needs of Arab activists on the ground. This requires American officials to get outside their embassies and cultivate Arab allies. It also requires U.S. assistance programs to abandon familiar but ineffective approaches such as relying on international "trainers" and placing our funds at the service of governments with a different agenda.

(....)

YET EVEN AS American aid programs fail to challenge autocratic regimes from below by supporting local activists, the administration--despite the president's fine words--is failing to challenge the regimes from above. Yet surely the United States must press Arab regimes to reform their politics, not just their political process. The United States should press a consistent message in the region: that controlled "liberalization" that creates quasi-democratic institutions with no power is not democratization. Elections are important, of course, but as Algeria taught us, they are not the primary need. Even more basic are the protections that enable a variety of citizens and groups to speak and organize and operate effectively in politics: freedom of the press, freedom of association, the right to peaceably assemble, and the legalization of political parties and advocacy groups. Some or all of these are absent in most Arab states.

Forcing governments to withdraw their control over the public square and give power to participatory institutions is necessary if non-Islamist political forces are to organize, formulate agendas, and press their case against the state in competition with the Islamists. In Kuwait--where the emir loosened controls under American prodding after the Iraqi occupation of the country in 1991--a decade of freedom of expression, the abolition of state security courts, and the election of parliaments with meaningful oversight over executive policy-making have enabled the emergence of a liberal political movement, with representatives in parliament, as a real alternative to the Islamists and the monarchy. While the Islamists are still the principal opposition, the liberals are viable competitors in the political arena. Even more significant, liberals in Kuwait occasionally ally themselves with Islamists to argue for political freedoms, just as they ally themselves with liberal factions within the royal family to try to contain Islamist initiatives. This embryonic coalition politics is the first evidence that a healthy political pluralism can develop in an Arab society and may be able to prevent liberalization from leading to "one man, one vote, one time." With these ingredients of democracy in place, it seems inevitable that those advocating the vote for women will soon succeed.

But in other states where political expression and the ability to organize are still severely restricted, non-Islamist social groups have a large gap to overcome before they can mount an effective challenge in the marketplace of ideas, much less in the political arena. In Saudi Arabia, for example, there is a group of intellectuals who are essentially liberal reformers. But since political parties and political meetings are outlawed and the press is controlled, they have no means of organizing themselves, no way of demonstrating their base of support within society, and no way to lobby the government beyond open letters to the crown prince.

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT must also do a better job of coordinating its assistance programs for civil society with its diplomatic agenda. To give one example, funds from the Middle East Partnership Initiative are currently flowing to Internews, an international nonprofit organization, to train journalists across the region--but this program is not accompanied by any noticeable pressure on regimes to relax their controls on the media. Saudi journalists are participating in the Internews program, but abstract discussions of journalistic independence are less relevant to their daily reality than the fact that several Saudi journalists lost their jobs or their columns last year after they questioned the influence of extremist clerics in politics and the exclusion of women from public life. When the United States fails to speak up for those who challenge the system, others have little incentive to try, and activists who would like to take President Bush's words seriously and look to America for support feel betrayed.

In order to build credibility with Arab democrats, American foreign policy must communicate to Arab governments that states that are actually changing the distribution of political power will enjoy better relations with the United States than those that talk about reform but fail to implement it. America has powerful carrots to offer. If we cared to work at devising targeted incentives for real reform we would discover a panoply of underused tools at our disposal. The president's proposal for a Middle East Free Trade Area, in particular, was conceived mainly as a means of integrating Arab economies into world markets and creating wealth, on the general assumption that economic liberalization over time encourages democracy. But opening trade negotiations could be made conditional on political progress. While the United States does not typically insert human rights clauses into trade agreements, it could certainly use trade talks with Arab nations to promote liberal change (notably in such areas as transparency and rule of law). What the United States must not do is direct even more money to Arab governments as a reward for limited reform. This, unfortunately, appears to be part of the "Helsinki" plan currently being discussed with the Europeans.

Finally, the United States must trust that shared interests with its Arab interlocutors will mediate the tensions that an effective democratization effort is bound to create. Many in the diplomatic establishment argue that a more aggressive approach to democratization will necessarily cost Arab cooperation with America's other regional goals. A broader perspective is essential.

(....)

If the administration means it when it calls Arab democracy necessary to American security, then we must build a policy to match and back it with political will. We cannot shrink from the tradeoffs required to achieve success, but must accept them and develop ways to manage both the costs for bilateral relations and the risks of undesired outcomes. It must be a policy that combines the assistance to indigenous liberals that the Middle East Partnership Initiative is supposed to provide but is not now structured to succeed at, with consistent, high-profile diplomatic and economic pressure and incentives to induce states to allow political freedom and to shift power away from the central executive.


Previous View on Middle East Democratization Policy

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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

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perspective

10.03.2006

Egypt Democracy Watch

Here are the recent news and developments concerning the political life and democratic stirring in Egypt gathered from the Egypt Monitor.

Egypt watch is of extreme importance to the Middle East democratization research. For my comment on this subject go to Arab Democracy and Egypt Paradigm.

Previous Egypt Democracy Watch

Egypt Democracy Watch:
(Covers the latest two months)

Egyptian Judges Oppose New Law on Elections

The Judges Club might is preparing for conflict with the government over its introduction of a constitutional amendment. In the debate on constitutional amendments, the government wants to amend Article 88 of the constitution, that stipulates that the judiciary is the authority that monitors elections. The regime wants to create a new body to oversee the election.


Limited Cabinet Reshuffle

On Monday August 28, new cabinet members were sworn in. The limited cabinet reshuffle included the appointment of Mamdouh Marei- former chairman of the presidential elections commission in 2005 - as minister of justice. The ministry of planing and local development was divided into two ministries with former Alexandria governor, general Abdelsalam Mahgoub as minister of local development. The ministry of planing was held by Osman Mohamed Osman.


Mubarak Receives Three reports on Constitutional Reforms

President Mubarak received three reports on constitutional reforms from the People's Assembly, the Shura - Consultative Council - and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) . The reforms will be discussed during the NDP annual conference on September 19. According to Safwat al-Sharif, speaker of the Shura Council and secretary general of the NDP, the reforms will decrease the power of the presidency and increase the power of the prime minister and the People's Assembly.


Cassation Court Ruling Cancels Elections in Nabaro District

On September 5, the Court of Cassation issued a ruling cancelling the 2005 legislative elections in the Nabaro district in the Nile Delta. The ruling is in favor of the Fouad Badrawi, vice-president of the liberal opposition Wafd party and former member of parliament. Badrawi lost his seat in 2005.


Al-Ghad Party Holding Annual Conference

Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party will hold its annual conference on September 8. The annual meeting is also coming in commemoration of the 2005 presidential election, where the party founder, Ayman Nour, came second. Al-Ghad also declared that three of its activists were arrested the same day, in what the party claims is an attempt by the government to jeopardize the activities of the conference.


"Islamic Group" Confirms Commitment to Non-Violence

The leadership of the "Islamic Group" (GI) or Jamaa Islamyyia - including Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman- confirmed their commitment to non-violence in a statement sent to the daily Al-Ahram newspaper. The statement, signed by eight leaders of the group, maintains that GI did not join al-Qaida as claimed lately by al-Qaida second in command, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri.


Security Complicates Ayman Nour Surgery

Ayman Nour had to delay his heart surgery that was supposed to take place at the beginning of August. Nour blamed the security forces for the delays as they requested that surgery be conducted the day he arrived at the hospital. The medical team refused to conduct a surgery without taking time to prepare Nour. Nour also complained about mistreatment, as the security forces refused to grant Gamila Ismail, Nour's wife, the permission to visit her husband before the surgery.


Egyptian Opposition Mobilized by War in Lebanon

The entire Egyptian opposition and civil society was mobilized by the war in Lebanon over the last month. All opposition parties and civil society activists expressed their support for the Lebanese people, including Hezbollah. The opposition and civil society activists opposed the government for its inaction and renewed calls for internal reforms.


Muslim Brotherhood Threatens to Create New Labor Unions

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) declared that if the government interferes in the elections of Labor Unions, it will create parallel organizations nationwide to counter government controlled Unions. The statement was made by MB parliamentarian Saber Aboul-Fotouh and was referring the labor union elections due between September 25 and November 26.


Attorney General Releases Prisoners on Publication Offenses

The new attorney general, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, gave instructions to release all prisoners and stop the trial of any journalist who was accused of publication offenses and at risk of being jailed. Mahmoud was applying the new law on publication offenses, Law 147 of 2006, issued this year amid tensions between the government and political reform activists.


Fourteen Detainees Start a Hunger Stricke

Fourteen political detainees began a hunger strike in the Northern city of Damanhour, in the Delta province of Behera. The group of detainees was held for two years and accused of creating an illegal organization that wants to overthrow the government. They are kept in custody despite a state security court ruling calling for their release. They are currently protesting against the harsh conditions of their detention that has led to the deterioration of their health condition.


Members of the "Islamic Group" Released

Egyptian authorities agreed to abide by a state security court verdict to release members of the Jamaa Islamiyya (Islamic Group). The group of 300 detainees spent three to five years in jail with the ministry of interior regularly renewing their detention without trial.


Al-Ghad and Kefaya Activists Arrested

On July 27, authorities arrested 13 activists from the al-Ghad (tomorrow) party and the Kefaya movement in the mediterranean city of Port-Said. The activists wanted to organize a rally in support of Lebanon and Hezbollah.


"Democratic Front" Holds founding Conference

Seventy-eight liberals held the founding conference of a new party, the Democratic Front. The founding members chose Yahia al-Gamal, former cabinet minister, and Dr Osama Harb, former member of the National Democratic Party, as representatives of the the party. The event, held on July 16 was attended by prominent political figures such as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Mahdi Akef, the leader of al-Ghad (tomorrow) party and the coordinator of the Kefaya movement George Isaac.


Opposition Conference on the Regional Developments

On July 24, opposition parties and movements, together with intellectuals and public figures, participated in a rally attended by several thousands people in the Wafd party headquarters in Cairo to express their support for the Lebanese people. They stressed the need for internal political reforms in Arab countries as a way to tackle security challenges to Arab nations.


Gamal Mubarak Declares That Reforms Go Well

Gamal Mubarak, the assistant secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party, declared that political and economic reforms have been going well for the last four years. Mr. Mubarak made the statement during a visit in the southern city of Minya on July 13.

Previous Egypt Democracy Watch