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The Weekly Wire
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October 26, 2009


On Thursday (10/22), the House passed H.Res.175, a resolution condemning Iran for its human rights abuses and persecution of its Baha'i minority. 


Congressional Hearings


On Wednesday (10/21), the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight held a hearing on violence against women. Witnesses included Janice D. Schakowski, Melanne Verveer,  Mallika Dutt, founder and executive director of Breakthrough, Linda  Smith, president and founder of Shared Hope International, and actress Nicole  Kidman, UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador.  For a transcript and video of the hearing, visit the subcommittee's website


From Washington


Violence Affects Negotiations with Iran: 
Someexpect that a suicide attack against Iran's Revolutionary Guard could impact nuclear negotiations despite evidence suggesting the U.S. was not responsible. Nonetheless, some worried Iran may become even more apprehensive of U.S. intentions. Meetings over Iran's nuclear program continued, with a possible deal to enrich Iran's uranium abroad on the table - though some remained cynical about its chances. Iran made veiled threatsquestioned the negotiating partners, and in the end fell short of their commitments, some said. A poll showed Americans' support for diplomacy with Iran, though some also favor sanctions. Some experts argued, however, that facts in Iran mean that other approaches could be more effective than sanctions, which Iranian dissidents do not want. The role of traditional media as a tool to promote democracy was re-emp">undoubtedly affect U.S. policy, as the debate continues between those who favor full-on counter-insurgency - and the troop increases it would require - and those who prefer a more limited, counter-terrorism strategy because of the Afghan government's legitimacy problem. Other proposals included calling a Loya Jirga and simply looking the other way on the government's shortcomings, while a lack of civilian leadership was lamented. American writers drew parallels to Vietnam, though some questioned their usefulness. 


U.S. Support for Human Rights Declining? 
Some questioned President Obama's commitment to human rights, especially citing his administration's de-funding of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. The BBC reported, however, that most Iranian human rights activists supported closing the center. Some pointed out that U.S. support for autocratic regimes tends to drive people to radicalism. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton swore in the new Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Posner. Posner said that "on human rights, the United States will lead by example." 


Also Worth Reading 


New York Times
 columnist Thomas Friedman writes that the U.S. should not forget about Iraq as it seeks success in Afghanistan. It will take time for Iraqis to adapt to democracy, he argues, but when they do, it will "shake up the whole region." 


From the Middle East  


Voting Again in Afghanistan: 
The Afghan Election Complaints Commission found that 23% of votes cast in the August elections were fraudulent, prompting a run-off between Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, now scheduled for November 7th. Karzai and Abdullah still have some issues to work out before the election takes place, though many doubt Karzai is interested in a fair contestSome doubted that a run-off would be successful, despite enhanced security, and argued for a delay, while others questioned Afghanistan's presidential system and ability to improve. Afghanistan's difficulties may be eroding alliances like NATO.


Political Stalemate in Iraq? car bomb killed over 100 people in Baghdad Sunday. Earlier in the week, the Iraqi parliament failed to pass a new election law, leading some to worry that its reformed laws may be done away with and elections may be delayed. One sticking point in the debate is how to deal with voting in Kirkuk, though some believe that is a cover for MPs to leave closed lists in place. The issue has now been passed on to the Political Council. A third major political coalition was formed between supporters of Sunni Awakening leader Abu Risha and Shiite Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani. An Iraqi journalist known for uncovering corruption was assaulted, and a university in Baghdad was shut down, perhaps because of violent student gangs. On a more positive note, an Iraqi trade delegation promoted investment in the country in Washington. 


Egyptian Opposition Looking Toward Elections: 
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood had to deny reports that its leader had stepped down, revealing divisions that may hurt the Brotherhood's election prospects. Egyptian journalist Hala Mustafa's upcoming trial has brought Egypt's cultural boycott of Israel under scrutiny. Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, said he was considering a presidential run in 2011, which may mark an anti-U.S. shift in Egyptian policies. The Al-Wasat Al-Gadid party filed a complaint after it was again denied official status, and civil demonstrations broke out over the E-Agrium plant in Damietta. 


Human Rights Abuses in Iran: 
Iran sentenced dissident Kian Tajbakhsh to 12 years in prison, and also came under fire for recent child executions. Iran freed Newsweek reporter Maziar Baharione of many political prisoners, on bail. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi condemned the suicide bombing and, in his first interview since the June elections, called for unity and a commitment to the principles of the Green Movement. Some Iranian MPs have called for Mousavi's arrest, and an opposition newspaper will remain closed. Iran's state martyr foundation announced it will name opposition hero Neda Agha-Soltan a martyr, while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for an investigation into her death. Experts explored the issues that threaten the regime - ethnic violence, a generation gap and private expressions of faith. 




Sham Elections in Tunisia: Tunisia voted yesterday in elections bound to be won by the incumbent president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, with early returns pointing to a landslide victory for Ben Ali.  Observers wrote that Tunisian politics are designed to create the appearance of democracy, while intimidation tactics keep opposition candidates from competing. 


An Advance for Women's Rights: 
Kuwait's constitutional court ruled that a law requiring married women to obtain their husband's permission to have a passport is unconstitutional. This is another encouraging development in Kuwait, where women gained the right to vote in 2005 and first took seats in the parliament this year. 


A Setback for Palestinian Unity?: 
A deal uniting the West Bank and Gaza governments was delayed, prompting condemnations of Hamas from Fatah and Egyptian officials. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas set a date for elections in January, but said it could be changed if an agreement is made with Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed to have "solved" the settlement issue that was holding up peace talks, while Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's plan to build a Palestinian state was criticized by Israelis. 


Tensions between Turkey and Israel: 
diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel emerged, possibly over Turkey's resentment of Israel's attitude toward Gaza. A controversial documentary on Israel-Palestine was censored, and Turkey boycotted planned military exercises with Israel. 


Uncertainty in Lebanon: 
Debates over Lebanon's cabinet continued, as French officials encouraged a quick resolution and the U.S. denied meddling. The influence of foreign powers in the negotiations made concerns over Lebanese sovereignty prevalent. Some worried the increasingly fractured nature of Lebanese society may lead to a breakdown that would destroy the relative freedom Lebanese citizens enjoy. Meanwhile, the controversy over an unexplained explosion in a Hezbollah member's house was followed by a series of explosions in southern Lebanon, which a U.N. investigation found may have been Israeli spy devices that violated the terms of the 2006 ceasefire. 




Turkey Arrests Kurdish Activists: Thousands of Kurds demonstrated in Turkey in response to the arrest of several members of an Iraqi "peace group" - including eight PKK members - who claimed to be in the country to support Turkey's plans for peace with the Kurds. 


Riots in Algiers: 
Algerian shanty-town dwellers rioted over housing conditions in the Diar Echams neighborhood in Algiers. Dozens of police and civilians were injured. Although riots are not uncommon in Algeria's closed society, they are very rare in the capital. 


Gadhafi's Son Named to Leadership Position: 
Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi's son was appointed head of an important organization of political, business and tribal leaders, prompting speculation about Libya's future. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced that it would not be awarding its Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, citing a dearth of acceptable candidates. 


Yet Another Political Dissident Jailed in Syria: 
Freedom House called for the release of Haitham Maleh, a 78-year-old Syrian human rights activist who was arrested October 14th. The European Union should make its diplomatic outreach to Syria conditional on his release, the group argued. 


Western Sahara Activist Recognized: 
The Train Foundation awarded its international peace award to Aminatou Haidar, a proponent of peaceful resistance in Western Sahara. 


Also Worth Reading 


In an interesting article at the Huffington Post, Tom Hundley describes Dubai's shiny new metro as giving a shock to the nation's strict hierarchy. The emirate's wealthy elite now ride the same trains as the immigrant workers they employ, who had previously been kept separate from the Emiratis. The metro does feature a "Gold Class" premium car, but it is not as luxurious as many of the elite are used to. The separate car for women and children has also created cultural clashes, as younger women sometimes opt not to ride in the designated car, while more tradition-minded men attempt to force them into it. 


In Case You Missed It 


The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) hosted a panel discussion on "Engaging the Muslim World." The panel included Daniel Brumberg of USIP, Dina Shehata of the Al-Ahram Center, Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institution, Palwasha Hassan of USIP and David Smock of the Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Abiodun Williams moderated the panel. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) delivered a keynote address.  To see POMED's notes from the event, click here




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