Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

28
Dec

Tunisia Wins Again

Written on December 28, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

image post

With the election of its first freely chosen president, Tunisia has taken another important step on its post-Arab Spring transition toward democracy. Although the country faces many difficult challenges, it remains a symbol of hope and sanity in a region consumed by chaos and dominated by authoritarian governments.

The winner, Beji Caid Essebsi, is an 88-year-old former government official and leader of the secular, anti-Islamist party Nidaa Tounes. Mr. Essebsi received 55.68 percent of the vote, while Moncef Marzouki, the interim president, received 44.32 percent.

Mr. Essebsi served as interior minister under Tunisia’s repressive first president, Habib Bourguiba, and as speaker of Parliament under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. During the campaign, he promoted himself as an establishment figure whose experience could help ensure Tunisia’s security. Mr. Marzouki, a former human rights advocate, embodied the ideals and fervor of the revolution.

Read more…

24
Nov

There’s No Clear Solution in Iran

Written on November 24, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Energy & Environment, Middle East, Security

<p>Will we get more than a handshake between John Kerry and <span>Mohammad </span>Javad Zarif?</p>
 Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

In the anticipatory tumult leading up to Monday’s putative climax of the Iran nuclear talks, it’s become easy to forget that there is no truly satisfactory solution to the problem posed by the Tehran regime’s deep desire to reach the nuclear threshold. (The most likely outcome of the talks, I’m hearing this week, is that there will be an agreement to continue talking.)

There are two main camps in the West focused on the negotiations. The first includes the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, much of the U.S. foreign-policy elite and most European governments. This group believes that a negotiated settlement with Iran will more or less guarantee that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and the ayatollahs who will succeed him (Khamenei is not a young man) will never find themselves within easy reach of the bomb. This pro-negotiation camp believes that a treaty could perpetually keep Iran a year away from going nuclear. The more Utopian of these advocates for a negotiated solution think that a nuclear treaty will also spark a process of liberalization inside Iran. The capitalists among them believe — with greater proof than the Utopians — that a treaty will open a large market that sanctions has put off-limits.

The other, opposing, camp, in essence believes that no deal the Iranians would ever accede to would be good enough. This group includes the Israeli government, most Arab governments (the Arabs, not the Jews, are the traditional rivals of Persian Iran), Iranian dissidents (who loathe the cruel and authoritarian Iranian regime) and much of the U.S. Congress. This camp believes that a deal, should it be reached, will enshrine Iran’s right to a nuclear program in international law — an idea it finds an anathema. It thinks that Iran, once sanctions are lifted, will rebuild its economy and then ignore its nuclear obligations. It believes that the Iranian government is probably already cheating and obfuscating in its effort to go nuclear, and will redouble these efforts once a deal is signed. This group thinks that sanctions, combined with the credible threat of force, are the only means to keep Iran from going nuclear.

Both camps make strong arguments. But evidence suggests that each is wrong to think it possesses the foolproof solution to a nuclear challenge. Read more…

Published by Jeffrey Goldberg on Nov. 21 in http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-11-21/theres-no-solution-in-iran

18
Nov

Written by Nadim Abillama, MIR Alum (2011) , Senior Program Assistant, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE (NDI) – LEBANON COUNTRY OFFICE

 

Current context

The military expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant organization (ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) enabled it to seize power over significant portions of land in Iraq and Syria, triggering a military response from a US-led coalition. There are 16 countries involved in the coalition, including Arab countries. The air strikes on ISIS started in August and contributed to contain ISIS’s expansion without making any decisive breakthrough for the moment.

Lebanon has witnessed a series of tensions since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. The military involvement of Hezbollah alongside with the Syrian regime prompted a reaction from radical Lebanese Sunni groups, which are hostile to the Assad regime. These groups mainly operate around the northern city of Tripoli and the Eastern town of Arsal, close to the Syrian border. Clashes also occurred between the Lebanese armed forces and a Jihadist group in the southern Sunni city of Saida, in June 2013. Since then, a series of attacks claimed by al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria) and ISIS took place throughout Lebanon until June 2014.

Read more…

8
Nov

Arab Awakening

 Written by Marine Andraud, MIR Student, 2014/2015 Intake, Co-President of the IR Club

The IR Club started off its 2014/2015 Speaker Series with expert Haizam Amirah (@haizamamirah) looking into the aftermath of the “Arab Awakening”. A topic that is of significant interest to many at IE, so much so, that we had a full house and some. Everyone seemed eager, for one reason or another. Eager to learn, contribute, dispute, clarify, question. With an active audience, Haizam began by setting the stage: why had most Arabs been living under their potential for so long, what factors lead to this unprecedented awakening of the Arab world, and why now?

To answer these questions, he first highlighted three overarching societal deficits: freedoms, women empowerment (which, he argued, was a result of a patriarchal society propagated by the mothers themselves) and lastly the spread of knowledge through education. However, as we would come to witness in 2010, societies would no longer stand for these injustices. What Haizam, and many, identify as factor X: a young street vendor setting himself on fire in the middle of a market place in a small town of Tunisia, would soon come to ignite a fire that would consume an entire region. One that, according to Mr. Amirah, had three specific drivers:

  • Demographics, a young population, ⅔ of which was under 30 and whom felt totally disconnected from their aging authoritarian leaders.
  • Equally as important, the women within that youthful population. They had been marginalized for so many generations prior, and who were now seizing the opportunity to become literate, pursue higher educations, and join the workforce.
  • Thirdly, technology, although this one was contested, which for the first time allowed individuals to become producers of information rather than simple consumers.

Having framed the Arab awakening, Haizam went on to classify what ensued under the three broad outcomes that aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Read more…

30
Oct

Tunisia: A Model for Turkey

Written on October 30, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East

Nidaa Tounes supporters 28 Oct 2014

Tunisia, the North African country that initiated the “Arab Spring” in 2011, continues to be the only democratic success story in the Arab world. Last weekend, Tunisians freely and peacefully voted to change their government for the second time since the overthrow of their longtime dictator, Ben Ali, more than three years ago. (Notably, as political scientists point out, democracy begins to take root only when power is changed twice, not just once, via the ballots.) The count was still ongoing as I wrote these lines, but the apparent winner was not the Islamist En-Nahda Party that had won the previous elections in 2011. It was rather their secular rival: Nidaa Tounes.

Yet what really matters is not who won these elections. It is that Tunisians, as a nation, so far have been able to move forward with democracy, without devolving into civil war, such as in Syria, or military coup, such as in Egypt. Moreover, unlike Turkey, which has been yet unable to draft a much-hailed “civilian Constitution” due to political polarization, Tunisia accepted a fairly liberal national charter last February with a very broad national consensus. The civility of the Tunisian political elite, including the wise and humble leader of En-Nahda, Rashid al-Ghannushi, has been key to this success. Instead of mutual demonization and chest-beating, which is so common in this part of the world, Tunisians have opted for concession and consensus.  Al-Ghannushi showed his moderation once again after last weekend’s elections, by congratulating the victory of his secular opponents. (He did not declare, for example, that Nidaa Tounes was a pawn of a Zionist conspiracy or some similar bilge, which is again so common in this part of the world.)

Back in Turkey, I have been watching this democratic experience in Tunisia with admiration, if not envy. As I wrote last February in an International New York Times piece, titled “Turkey’s Model Nation.” I said: “Turkey sorely lacks the consensus-making skills that Tunisians so clearly possess. Turkish politics is poisoned by bitter fighting between leaders who view compromise as cowardice. Quarreling political figures condemn one another for ‘high treason,’ and often resort to extravagant conspiracy theories to delegitimize opponents. The result is that confrontation is common, and agreement all too rare.”

I still think along these lines. Turkey’s true problem, I believe, is not its competing ideologies and identities. It is the arrogant, aggressive, rude, confrontational and paranoid political culture in which they all swim or sink.” None of this is to deny Tunisia’s obvious problems and Turkey’s obvious assets. Turkey’s economy is incomparably more advanced and its democratic experience is much older and deeper. Turkey is also lucky to lack the troubles caused by the Salafis, the ultra-orthodox and ultra-literalist Sunnis, in Tunisia. It is even perhaps fair to say that the liberal-leaning Islamic ideas of al-Ghannushi are more readily accepted among Turkey’s Islamists then those of Tunisia. However, the same Islamists in Turkey also bitterly lack the civilized political language that their Tunisian counterparts have. That is why I keep saying, “they are too Turkish, not too Islamist.” That is also why I am increasingly convinced that if we need a “model” nation in the Muslim Middle East, it should be not Turkey, but Tunisia.

 

Written by Mustafa Akyol; Published on 29 October in http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/

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