The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged democracypromotion
Let's buy democracy

A high-powered delegation of U.S. officials visited Cairo last month to find ways to support the revolution. They, along with diplomatic and development officials, have been working quietly, meeting with residents, activists and the leadership, and asking how best to spend the $150 million that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said would soon be available to help shore up the economy and provide technical assistance in the move toward democracy.

By the time the U.S. delegation departed, no Egyptian pro-democracy organizations had asked for assistance.

No doubt in due time they'll find the usual opportunistic organizations that only exist because aid has been earmarked to suck at their teat. But I find nothing more sordid than the idea of "political party development" — if a political movement is not organized enough to launch a party, of which there have been plenty in Egypt's history, then it does not deserve to be a party. Let it fail, others will succeed. If any aid has to be accepted, I'd much rather see it go to a NGO dedicated to collecting, assessing and conserving State Security documents (and linking them with US ones through Freedom of Information requests.)

In the meantime aid money is much better spent on restoring the world's support in the economies of Egypt and Tunisia — guaranteeing loans, working on improving risk ratings, etc.

The democration promotion debate, updated

For my money, the most interesting person in think-tank-land working on issues of neo-authoritarianism and democracy promotion is Steve Heydemann. Steve is not only a very nice guy, but also a rare denizen of Washington who doesn't spout conventional wisdom or who doesn't act like a weathervane (like those people who were for democracy in the Arab world in 2005 but then not so hot about it in 2006). He has a very good article up at FP (those guys sure are productive) in which he makes an important point in the democracy promotion debate:

If Arab regimes are learning from and adapting to events in Tunisia, is the Obama administration doing the same? What lessons does Tunisia hold for U.S. efforts to promote democratic change in the Arab world? It is early days yet in Tunisia's uncertain path from the breakdown of an authoritarian regime to real democratization. Yet it is already becoming clear that the success of Ben Ali's regime in crushing and fragmenting opposition forces has created enormous obstacles to the construction of a new political order. In so thoroughly dominating a political space, the immediate legacy of Ben Ali's regime -- and a leading threat to its democratic prospects -- is the incoherence and inexperience of his opponents and their flailing attempts to navigate between the Scylla of the old order's restoration and the Charybdis of a descent into chaos that might provoke direct military intervention. If Tunisia is an extreme instance of the weakness of opposition forces, it is hardly alone; other Arab regimes suffer from similar deficits. 

For more than two decades, the United States has worked to overcome these gaps, investing heavily in civil society capacity building and political party development. Unfortunately, as the Tunisian experience has revealed all too clearly, these investments have not paid off. What might improve the opposition's odds in other Arab states? One necessary step is a shift in the focus of democracy promotion programs. However painful it might be, it is long past time to acknowledge that efforts to build the democratic capacity of Arab societies has largely failed. Building democratic capacity cannot, on its own, create the openings that are needed for opposition movements to operate, gain experience, and establish themselves as credible alternatives to current regimes. It is time to change course and adopt a strategy aimed at containing the arbitrary power of authoritarian regimes.

To date, the United States has been reluctant to adopt such a strategy, preferring to promote reform in ways that are less likely to antagonize so-called Arab moderates. Such approaches have their value, but they are far from sufficient; we can see their consequences in the stumbling of Tunisia's opposition as it struggles to construct a democratic political order. 

There are a number of ways that a containment-oriented strategy could be implemented, but one linchpin of such a strategy should be a concerted effort by the United States to secure the removal of emergency laws and security courts that give legal cover to the arbitrary exercise of political power by Arab autocrats. Egypt has lived under emergency laws since 1981, Algeria since 1992. They have been in effect in Syria since 1962. In Jordan, powerful state security courts were established in 1991 when martial law was abolished. Democracy promotion may not be sufficient to bring about the next Tunisia, but what it can do -- by pushing harder to create space for oppositions to develop -- is ensure that if and when the next Tunisia happens, there will an experienced and credible opposition ready to step in and complete the transition from authoritarianism to democracy. That would be good news, indeed.

That last point, as I'm finding out in my current Tunisia trip, is very important. The political void left after decades of dictatorship makes the transition very difficult, particularly as people suddenly find themselves in a world of uncertainty (since there are no guidelines anymore).

Another argument at The New Yorker does make the valid point that Western promotion and protection of civil society activists contributed to create momentum, but I think it exaggerates the role of democracy development programs. Still, it ends with a good point on the whole Islamist conundrum:

When the Bush Administration invaded Iraq, it set back the cause of promoting democracy by tying its ideas to violence and occupation. Yet, in Tunisia, external investments in civil society—programs launched by the United States, European governments, and independent foundations, which were peaceful, gradual, and unrelated to war or invasion—bore fruit. It was Tunisian women (empowered by constitutional rights), labor unions, human-rights campaigners, journalists, and artists who braved gunfire to trigger Ben Ali’s overthrow. These democrats and their institutions survived Ben Ali’s police state in part because outside supporters had promoted their legitimacy and built their capacity. (Egypt has a similar, if beleaguered, anti-authoritarian coalition.)

The objections to pushing democratic reform in the Arab world are by now familiar: it may create instability; it may empower Islamist parties; it may open more space for Iranian mischief by empowering Shiite minorities; it can undermine a legitimate opposition group by making its members appear beholden to Western ideas; and it may deprive the United States and Europe of reliable partners in counterterrorism. Yet the corrosive effects of political and economic exclusion in the region cannot be sustained—among them the legions of pent-up, angry young men, Islamist and otherwise.

President Obama has been cautious about democracy promotion. The Bush Administration proceeded similarly during its chastened second term. A 2008 cable from the WikiLeaks Tunisia file unctuously describes a “warm and open” meeting between the assistant secretary of state, David Welch, and President Ben Ali, during which the dictator deployed a tried-and-true strategy, cultivating Washington’s allegiance by pledging “total” coöperation on counterterrorism, “without inhibitions.” Ben Ali also offered some free analysis: “He opined that the situation in Egypt is ‘explosive,’ ” a note-taker recorded, “adding that sooner or later the Muslim Brotherhood would take over” in Cairo. “He added that Yemen and Saudi Arabia are also facing real problems. Overall, the region is ‘explosive.’ ” Psychologists might call this projection, but Ben Ali had the trend lines right.

The Obama Administration’s policies are likely to have only indirect influence in Tunis. Nonetheless, the White House has a choice: to support Tunisia’s transition toward inclusive democracy or to keep a distance, so as to avoid alienating the Egyptian and Saudi regimes, and to thwart Islamists who might now seek to enter Tunisian politics. The practical rewards for promoting democracy in Arab societies may be uncertain and slow, if they come at all. There are significant risks, particularly if Egypt’s government were to fall to leaders who would abandon any alliance with Washington. But it is the right strategy—in principle and in pursuit of America’s national interests. Tunisians showed that the status quo in Arab politics is not stable. Sometimes, common sense is ample guidance in foreign policy: the United States must invest in populations, not in dictators. At hinge moments in domestic politics, President Obama has shown why words matter. Now is the time to add his measured voice to the fury of El Général’s. 

An Egyptian test for Obama

My new column at al-Masri al-Youm: An Egyptian test for Obama | Al-Masry Al-Youm. It's on the recent meeting on promoting democracy in Egypt at the National Security Council. You might also check out this piece by my fellow columnist Bahey el-din Hassan, a veteran human rights activist, and Steve Cook with a more cautious take.

The whole issue of US pressure on Egypt is pretty complicated, involving many variables and much that is unknown — most notably what Hosni Mubarak is thinking. Over the next few weeks, time permitting (I'm swamped right now), I'd like to go into more depth on this issue that is not just important, but a recurrent feature of bilateral relations.

NSC killing time, talking about Egypt

Laura Rozen of Politico has gotten us the details of the recent Working Group on Egypt meeting with the National Security Council (including grandees Dan Shapiro, Dennis Ross and Samantha Power) which gives us some ruminations about what new take on democracy promotion the Obama administration might take. Considering it has been consistently ignored when making public (or private) statements I fear this will take the kind of initiative that would be completely unnatural to Washington. I also love Rozen's last paragraph, which suspects that dealing with the Egypt question was merely a form relaxation for a White House that definitely asks a lot of its allies, but never gets anything. In this way Israel and Egypt are similar.

It may also be a sign as well that Ross and Shapiro basically had both time and reason to devote to the issue because the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is currently on hold, and the Obama administration is “looking for a positive agenda in the region to talk about," a participant posited. The Obama administration is also concerned, he suggested, that its previous diplomatic efforts to press Cairo in private conversations and in written statements to repeal its Emergency Law and to accept international elections monitors have been rejected or ignored.

I am rather concerned, though, to see that not was Working Group member Elliott Abrams attending, but also another prominent Israel lobbyist, Rob Satloff of WINEP. I figure these guys will support US pressure on Egypt as a means of getting even more pro-Israel positions from Cairo, which will turn to the Lobby to defend itself if it really gets into trouble with Obama. This is after all what happened when Ariel Sharon was PM.

New Blog: Steven Cook at CFR

Veteran Egypt (and Turkey and Algeria) watcher Steven Cook, an expert on things military and much else, has a new blog at the Council of Foreign Relations website. Steven, who wrote a masterful comparison of the military regimes in those three countries in Ruling But Not Governing, is currently working on a book on Egypt-US relations since the 1950s, which should come out next year.

In his latest post, written from Ankara, he writes about whether Turkey needs the carrot of EU membership to carry out democratic change anymore. It's something I've been thinking about a lot right now, having come to see Turkey as a democracy (despite remaining problems about its treatment of minorities and some laws left over from the military dictatorship era). And in fact, the recent constitutional changes were carried out at a time when the EU connection is getting weaker.

When I think about EU policy towards the Arab world, I see a mixed bag: on the one hand, there are EU policies that incentivize reform and change towards democracy. On the other, I see many policies that would like to focus on minimal reforms but not real appetite for full-blown democracy promotion, conditionality, etc. The lack of serious implementation of human rights provisions in EU Association Agreements comes to mind, for instance. At the end of the day, the EU is an unreliable partner for democratic change, because its members (esp. France, Italy and Spain) have too much incentive to maintain the status-quo. They, and the US, will continue to lean towards support the dictatorships until a credible, broad-based opposition movement begins to pose a serious challenge. The problem now is that the regimes, and their foreign partners, maintain a situation where it is extremely difficult for such opposition movements to emerge. I very much agree with the work of Richard Youngs at FRIDE on these issues.

Anyway, here's what Steve had to say about Turkey:

It’s long been an accepted truth in the Turkey-watching community that the EU was an anchor of Turkish political reform. The structure of Turkish politics was such that Ankara needed the incentive of EU membership to drive democratic change. Many Turks believe this as well, but after 58% of voters said “Evet” (Yes) to a series of constitutional amendments in a September 12th referendum, some commentary—by no means a consensus—began popping up here arguing that Turkey no longer needs the EU to drive its political change. The amendments, the most important of which has to do with the selection of judges to Turkey’s highest judicial bodies, raised legitimate concerns about the government’s ability to pack the courts. Yet, the perception among many is that with the changes to the constitution, the Justice and Development Party government took an important step toward a more open and democratic government that (unlike an array of reforms undertaken in 2003 and 2004) were not specifically in response to Europe’s membership criteria.

Add to Turkey’s apparent ability to undertake change on its own; falling support for EU membership—between 45-50%, which is down 30 points from 2004; a younger generation of Turks who have no vested interest in joining Europe; and imploding EU economies, in contrast to Turkey’s solid growth, it may be time to rethink Ankara’s relationship with Brussels. I am not suggesting that Turkey cut its ties to the West. Europe remains Turkey’s most important trading partner and source of foreign direct investment. Turkey could, after all, continue to harmonize its political and economic systems with the EU, but not take the ultimate step toward membership. That’s what Norway did, and it was enormously beneficial.

And get his book!

Khouri on Clinton's Internet Initiative

Two points  on Rami Khouri's latest column, about US initiatives to encourage internet use and youth etc.

This one I partly disagree with:

But what do young people actually do, or aim to achieve, with the new media? Are the new digital and social media a credible tool for challenging established political orders and bringing about political change in our region?

My impression is that these new media today play a role identical to that played by Al Jazeera satellite television when it first appeared in the mid-1990s — they provide important new means by which ordinary citizens can both receive information and express their views, regardless of government controls on both, but in terms of their impact they seem more like a stress reliever than a mechanism for political change.

Watching Arab pundits criticize Arab governments, Israel or the United States — common fare on Arab satellite television — is great vicarious satisfaction for ordinary men and women who live in political cultures that deny them serious opportunities for free speech.

Blogging, reading politically racy Web sites, or passing around provocative text messages by cellphone is equally satisfying for many youth. Such activities, though, essentially shift the individual from the realm of participant to the realm of spectator, and transform what would otherwise be an act of political activism — mobilizing, demonstrating or voting — into an act of passive, harmless personal entertainment.

Sure, there might be a lot of passive users of the internet. But when in so many countries the internet is being used to mobilize, spread information and organize, it can hardly be called a passive medium. It draws in an admittedly small number of internet users and turns them into activists and organizers,  And unlike al-Jazeera, no one is paying the bloggers and activists who use the internet to mobilize. It's a substantive improvement over what al-Jazeera does, especially because the internet is not controlled by a government.

The second point is dead on:

One cannot take seriously the United States or any other Western government that funds political activism by young Arabs while it simultaneously provides funds and guns that help cement the power of the very same Arab governments the young social and political activists target for change.

Feeding both the jailer and the prisoner is not a sustainable or sensible policy. I would not be surprised if some wise-guy young Arab soon sends a tweet to Hillary Clinton saying, “you’re either with us, or you’re with the security state.”

This is an awkward and untenable position for any foreign government that wants to promote political activism and pluralism in the Middle East. It damages Western government credibility, leads to no significant changes in our political cultures, and often discredits the local activists who become tarred with the charge of being Western lackeys.

Clinton's Internet Initiative is essentially a substitute — and a poor one at that — for a real policy to deal with authoritarian regimes. As was Obama's Cairo speech and its 16 micro-initiatives. You don't have to invade dictatorships — please! — but you don't have to support them either. Training young people to use the internet is a ridiculous idea — they will do so anyway.  

Better to learn from the largely American success of internet start-ups such as Google: don't be evil. Cut off the funding to dictators, occupiers and regimes that carry out ethnic or religious segregation. Refuse to meet them and give them the recognition they crave. Stop humoring them because of your imperial ambitions in the Middle East — these ambitions are ruinous to America both financially and morally.

Once again, Bush nostalgia

Oh, come on Saad Eddin Ibrahim, for God's sake:

When a billboard appeared outside a small Minnesota town early this year showing a picture of George W. Bush and the words "Miss me yet?" the irony was not lost on many in the Arab world. Most Americans may not miss Bush, but a growing number of people in the Middle East do. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remain unpopular in the region, but his ardent support for democracy was heartening to Arabs living under stalled autocracies. Reform activists in Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and elsewhere felt empowered to press for greater freedoms during the Bush years. Unfortunately, Bush's strong support for democracy contrasts sharply with President Obama's retreat on this critical issue.

I understand Dr. Ibrahim has reasons to be grateful towards George W. Bush, who forcefully pressured the Egyptian government to release him when he was on trial in 2002-03. But he should remember that Bush's support evaporated in January 2006 after Hamas' electoral victory (and the Muslim Brothers' electoral advance in Egypt). What reform activists in Lebanon — surely this should be "March 14 partisans", who for the most part did not seem very interested in democratic reform and are quite committed to Lebanon's twisted sectarian system, even if they rightly opposed Syrian interference in their own affairs. More reform activists in Egypt were anti-Bush. I could go on about "reform activists."

Also, no need to cite elections over 2005-06 as proof of reform. Egypt's were deeply flawed. The CIA funded Fatah's campaign in Palestine. Most of these elections were already scheduled — Bush did not order them to be held! There are other problems with the piece, but I'll stop here on the details. Ibrahim concludes:

Democracy and human rights advocates in the Middle East listened with great anticipation to Obama's speech in Cairo. Today, Egyptians are not just disappointed but stunned by what appears to be outright promotion of autocracy in their country. What is needed now is a loud and clear message from the United States and the global community of democracies that the Egyptian people deserve free, fair and transparent elections. Congress is considering a resolution to that effect for Uganda. Such a resolution for Egypt is critical given the immense U.S. support for Egypt. Just as we hope for a clear U.S. signal on democracy promotion, we must hope that the Obama administration will cease its coddling of dictators.

This is ill thought out. Obama has actually this year taken a few steps towards pressuring Egypt.

1. The US expressed disappointment over the renewal of the Emergency Law in May, which is more than the EU, which unbelievably put out the following crap under French and Italian pressure:

"I note Egypt's decision to limit the new State of Emergency to fighting terrorism and its financing and drug-related crimes. However, I strongly encourage the government to speed up the steps needed for the adoption of an antiterrorism law compliant with international human rights standards as soon as possible, noting the government's commitment to this goal in the EU/Egypt Action plan and in other forums".

"Note"? As in, "I note you're not wearing glasses today"? Pathetic.

2. Vice President Joe Biden raised the UNHCR's Universal Periodic Review of Egypt with Mubarak. At least there's a sign they're talking about it.

3. The State Dept. has called for an investigation into the death of Khaled Said. The day after that, a new investigation was ordered.

Bottom line: there's been a slight improvement since last year, but it could go much further. Rather than aping a Congressional resolution on Uganda Ibrahim could have called for specific measures, such as: the imposition of conditionalities for the disbursement of aid and the negotiation of any endowment for Egypt, sending messages that arms sales are conditional on freer elections after the disaster of the recent Shura Council elections, and holding to the Egyptian government to account on its claim that the Emegency Law will only be used in drug and terrorism cases. 

Ibrahim had a chance at making a much stronger case with specific recommendations. Claims of "Bush nostalgia" won't win friends in the Obama administration — just among the Washington Post's neoconservative editorial board.

Michael Posner, Egypt and human rights

"Listen to the hand"

Those of you who monitor US democracy promotion efforts in Egypt — you know who you are — will have noticed that 2009 was eerily quiet in Washington when it came to that issue. Apart from the odd WaPo editorial taking the administration to task (as well as US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey) for not uttering a word about the Egyptian regime's misdeeds, and analysts such as Carnegie's Michele Dunne, former Bush administration officials like Scott Carpenter (both Republicans incidentally) and organizations liked POMED fighting the fight to keep the issue alive at all, you never heard anything coming from the State Department or the White House. Until a few days ago, that is.

That's when Michael Posner, the newish US Assistant Secretary for Human Rights said the following:

The United States is "very concerned about the tragic events in Nagaa Hammadi," Posner told reporters in Cairo. "It's part of what we see as an atmosphere of intolerance."

On January 6, the eve of the Coptic Orthodox Christmas, three gunmen raked worshippers emerging from mass in Nagaa Hammadi with bullets, in the deadliest attack since 2000 when 20 Copts were killed in sectarian clashes.

Reconciliation efforts between Christians and Muslims alone are not enough, Posner said.

"There needs to be prosecution... there needs to be a break in the sense of impunity and there needs to be justice," he said.

Following the attack, residents of Nagaa Hammadi were furious at what they called government attempts to hush up Egypt's sectarian problem.

Three people were arrested and charged with premeditated murder after the attack which also saw one Muslim policeman killed.

But Posner said more information needed to come to light.

"Who was involved? Who may have ordered the killings?" he asked.

Copts, who account for nearly 10 percent of Egypt's population of 80 million, are the Middle East's largest Christian community but complain of routine harassment and systematic discrimination and marginalisation.

Posner was on his first visit to Egypt in his capacity as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, as part of a tour that also took him to Jordan and Israel.

While he was openly critical of the human rights situation in Egypt, he insisted that democracy could not be imported.

"There are serious human rights problems in Egypt," Posner said, citing the emergency law, prison conditions, torture, abuse and religious freedom as issues of concern.

But "we know that in any society change occurs from within... In Egypt we take our lead from what Egyptians are saying or doing. It's an Egyptian discussion," said Posner who met ministers, officials, NGOs and activists during his visit.

A few days later, reacting to the arrest of bloggers and activists that had gone down to Naga Hamadi on solidarity with the victims of the recent attacks there, a State Dept. spokesman then said this:

"The United States is deeply concerned by today's arrests of individuals traveling to the Egyptian town of Naga Hammadi to express support for those tragically killed and injured during" the celebrations," said Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesman.

"According to publicly available evidence, those arrested included bloggers, democracy and religious freedom advocates," he added.

"We call on the government of Egypt to uphold the rights of all to peacefully express their political views and desires for universal freedoms and to ensure due process for those detained," Toner said.

The Naga Hammadi incident was a very serious and troubling event, and Posner raised some of the right questions about it (notably who ordered the hit on Bishop Kirollos, which will be the topic of a later post.) And the arrest of the bloggers was absurd and definitely worth condemning.

But let us stick to the context of US-Egypt relations, and ask: is this a turning point for the Obama administration, which chose Cairo for its (now increasingly irrelevant) speech and worked overtime (particularly Scobey) to repair the damage done to the bilateral relationship by the Bush administration? Or is it just a question of timing, since Posner happened to be on a regional tour?

Because while I might approve of the above statements, I am also moved to ask: where have you been all this time? Posner for instance was supposed to come to Cairo over a month ago; there are good grounds to believe he postponed his trip at the ambassador's insistence. There have been plenty of other occasions to voice concern, but instead these officials waited until after Congress finalized Egypt's aid package (including its incredible new endowment), the sale of a bunch of military hardware including shiny new F-16s and the construction of the new Rafah wall began. Not to mention that you had to wait for a WaPo editorial for any criticism to be made at all.

There is another problem. The Obama administration has said (or its proxies have explained) that it would rather deal with these issues in private than publicly, as the Bush administration did. The idea is that this is more productive. One might give them the benefit of a doubt, but after last month's boost on economic aid and the creation of the endowment, one really wonders if anything is being said behind closed doors at all. And whether the administration felt moved to speak out on an issue regarding Copts because the rights of Christian minorities has long been an important question for certain domestic constituencies.

I know many readers of this blog couldn't care less about US statements on human rights; crocodile tears, they'll say, due to the general support for the Mubarak regime. I'm conflicted about it myself. But we should remember that since we are talking about a clientelist relationship between Cairo and Washington, what is said officially does matter: it sets limits on what will be tolerated and can have a real impact on the ground. We saw that in 2004-2005. I would like to see more statements like this one, and fewer free carrots like the endowment. It's hard to separate these carrots from rewards for the disastrous blockade policy on Gaza — a policy both the US and Egypt should change. Right now, Egypt has gotten money and silence on human rights in exchange for enforcing a humanitarian in Gaza and playing along with a bogus peace process in which America can't even keep its own promises. It's a perverse equation.

So, Mr. Posner, well done on speaking out. We'd like to see more of that. But forgive us for our skepticism, we'll wait until we see change we can believe in.

USAID re-examined

POMED writes in its invaluable Monday briefing, so that I don't have to:

Thomas Carothers has released an important new report, "Revitalizing Democracy Assistance: The Challenge of USAID" that explores needed reforms in foreign democracy assistance. The report recommends three key reforms: decreasing bureaucratization, bolstering local ownership of projects, and strengthening the institutional emphasis of democracy promotion within USAID. The report concludes "a successful revitalization of USAID's democracy and governance work would be a telling signal that the Obama administration is forging significant institutional changes that will help the United States meet the serious challenges that democracy's uncertain global fortunes now pose."

Also last week, the USAID Office of the Inspector General released a fascinating new report, "Audit of USAID/Egypt's Democracy and Governance Activities."  The report is quite critical of the effectiveness of USAID's democracy and governance programs in Egypt, and concludes that, "A major contributing factor to the limited achievements for some of these programs resulted from a lack of support from the Government of Egypt. According to a mission official, the Government of Egypt has resisted USAID/Egypt's democracy and governance program and has suspended the activities of many U.S. NGOs because Egyptian officials thought these organizations were too aggressive."

Carothers is perhaps the greatest American expert on democracy promotion, and I read the USAID Inspector General's report, which is scathing. So much money has been wasted on democracy promotion in Egypt, partly because of the Egyptian government's obstructionism, but also because so many programs were ill-conceived.

Now we just have to wait for a head of USAID to actually be appointed -- and for US democracy-promotion policy not to run so much at odd with its foreign policy, especially in the Middle East.

Links for 09.14.09
Unsettled - Resolve of West Bank Settlers May Have Limits - Series - | NYT describes Israeli settlers as "the nation's moral core." For once I agree.
Islamists and the Grave Bell | Greg Gause: "So a revival of democracy promotion in Washington requires the underlying assumption that Islamists will not win Middle Eastern election." Well in that case let's put the whole democracy promotion idea to sleep, and instead develop a concept of autocracy obstruction.
Political storm clouds form over Turkey | The Smirking Chimp | Interesting post on deep state anti-Islamist group in Turkey.
الصفحة الرئيسية | Arabic ebooks.
Egyptian chronicles: Welcome To The Egyptian Publishing Hell | Good post on the problems with copyright, literary publishing and censorship in Egypt.

Links for 08.04.09 to 08.06.09
Iran is the problem, not settlements: US lawmaker
| Slimy Republican sings from Bibi's songbook.
Most Taliban fighters 'could switch' | From Windows to Mac?
Where Have All the Palestinian Moderates Gone? | Read this obscene article by Israel lobby stooge David Schenker (and many others like it from WINEP): it makes a compelling argument that people from this institution should never be regarded as serious analysts or scholars, but as propagandists. The guy talks about Fatah reserving the right to armed resistannce - i.e. self-defense from a brutal occupation - but never once mentions occupation.
Whither Fateh? | Palestine | On the inner rifts of the Palestinian faction - quite good.
Middle East Democracy (404 Not Found) | Priceless.
Al-Ahram Weekly | Focus | Business interests | Hossam Tammam on the Muslim Brothers' economic policy.

Links for 07.31.09 Egypt: Bloggers Fly Into Security Trap (Page 1 of 1) | On the recent spate of arrests of bloggers at Cairo Airport. Makes you think, did they get a new computer system or what?
Grading places - The National Newspaper | Marc Lynch on AHDR 2009: I don't get what all the debate is about.
The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East | Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) | Well-researched report on US democracy promotion spending in the Middle East.
From the inside - The National Newspaper | Iason Athanasiadis on his ordeal in Iran.
EGYPT: Coptic pope likes president's son | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | Shenouda yet again says he supports Gamal Mubarak presidency.

Obama’s visit is dividing Egyptians - The National Newspaper
Obama’s visit is dividing Egyptians - The National Newspaper
“We can’t deny our shock from Obama’s planned visit to Egypt,” said Abdel Halim Qandil, the spokesman for Kefaya, an opposition group. “When he comes to Cairo, he will be Mubarak’s, not the Egyptian people’s, guest. This visit will have a negative impact on Obama’s image, who is popular in Egypt.” But some other quotes in there are supportive.