NSN Middle East Update

January 30, 2012

Recent developments in transitions across the Arab world spotlight two trends: the challenges of implementing democracy, and the vital, though supportive role for the U.S. and other members of the international community in moving the transition in productive directions and saving lives.   Egyptians continue to struggle with the transition to civilian rule and the place of non-governmental organizations; after decades of a secular dictatorship, Tunisia is dealing with the role of religion in democracy, with both the government and the people rejecting fringe elements; and Libya continues to confront human rights, governance and security challenges. From recovering stolen funds from former Tunisian President Ben Ali, to the role of NGOs in Libya and Egypt, to human rights monitors departing Syria and requesting UN condemnation, the international community has an important, though supportive, role in this political transition.

 

Egypt

Following a week of protests, Egypt’s military rulers have asked a panel of civilian advisers for suggestions about handing over power to civilians earlier than the scheduled deadline at the end of June. The protesters want an immediate end to military rule, and accuse the army of mismanaging the transition and committing human rights violations. The military has also opened a politically-charged investigation into the activities of four American-backed nongovernmental organizations. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is giving shelter to at least two American citizens to protect them from potential arrest. Egyptian military leaders traveled to Washington for the weekend to try to smooth over tensions.


News

Egypt’s Military Seeks Advice on Early Handing of Power to Civilians

New York Times, 1/29/12

Egypt’s Military Considers Speeding Up Transition

AP, 1/30/12

U.S. Embassy in Cairo Shields 2 Americans

New York Times, 1/30/12

 

Commentary and Analysis

A Test for Egypt: Hearing All Voices

Michael Hanna, International Herald Tribune, 1/24/12

Support Pluralism in Egypt’s Transition

Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress, 1/27/12

A Year Later, Egyptian Neighborhood Awaits Justice

Ben Hubbard, Associated Press, 1/30/12

 

Syria

The government continues to target opponents in the capital’s suburbs. Meanwhile, it claims that a “terrorist group” blew up a gas pipeline in the central province of Homs, the most recent in a series of such accusations since the uprisings began. The intensifying violence led the Arab League to suspend its monitoring mission.

 

News

Sharp Rise in Violence Halts Monitoring by League in Syria

New York Times, 1/28/12

Syria Targets Rebels Based in Suburbs of Damascus

New York Times, 1/30/12

 

Commentary and Analysis

Four Reasons Why U.S. Military Intervention in Syria is Unlikely

John T. Bennett, US News and World Report, 1/20/12

Tunisia

A recent spike in attacks against unveiled women and “blasphemous” television channels by fringe conservative Salafists has resulted in widespread condemnation from citizens and the moderate Islamist government. The government, which was elected in October, also reaffirmed its commitment to free expression. Meanwhile, the role of the international community is highlighted in efforts to recover stolen funds from ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

 

News

Thousands in Tunisia protest Islamist extremism

AP, 1/28/11

Tunisian Leaders vs the Radical Fringe

AFP, 1/28/12

 

Commentary and Analysis

Getting Back the Bad Guy’s Loot

Mark Vlasic, New York Times, 1/19/12

Libya

Libyan judicial police have started taking control of makeshift prisons after human rights organizations complained of rampant torture of inmates. The move comes after the UN’s top human rights official said last week that Libya’s transitional government must take control of all makeshift prisons to prevent further atrocities against detainees, and Doctors Without Borders pulled out of some Libyan cities. The Libyan civil war may have given militant groups in Africa’s Sahel region like Boko Haram and al Qaeda access to large weapons caches, according to a recent UN report, and Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al Keib called for a regional security conference to tackle the proliferation of weapons among exiled supporters of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

News

Libya: Justice Ministry to Take Over Prisons After Aid Groups Complain of Inmate Torture

AP, 1/29/12

Libyan PM Calls for Security Meeting Over Weapons

Reuters, 1/29/12

 

Commentary and Analysis

‘Mission Accomplished’ in Libya? Not So Fast

Tony Karon, TIME, 1/30/12

 

Around the Region

After Egypt, Tunisia, Libya Overthrows, Arab Upheaval Begins to Settle

Christian Science Monitor, 1/29/12

Arabs to Davos: Invest In Us, Don’t Fear Us

AP, 1/27/12

Supremely Irrelevant

Colin Kahl, Foreign Policy, 1/25/12

Why won’t Saudi Arabia Write Down its Laws?

Nathan Brown, Foreign Policy, 1/23/12

The Iraqi Revolution We’ll Never Know

Michael Wahid Hanna, Foreign Policy, 1/17/12

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