Watch the West Wing Week here. Middle East Trip: On Wednesday, President Obama embarked on a five day journey to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. The President began his visit with an arrival ceremony at the Ben Gurion airport followed by a visit to... Read more »
President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres inspect an honor guard during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
On the first day of his visit to the Middle East, the first foreign trip of his second term, President Obama was in Israel, where he met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit is historic, marking the first time the President has visited Israel since taking office, and comes as its citizens celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel.
President Obama's visit began with an arrival ceremony at the Ben Gurion airport, followed by an inspection of the Iron Dome Battery defense system in Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome is a short range rocket and mortar defense system, which was developed by Israel and produced with U.S. assistance and is part of a multi-tier missile defense developed to counter the rocket threat against Israel’s civilian population. From there, the President flew on to Jerusalem, where he met with Israeli leaders and attended a working dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu.Read more »
In the first foreign trip of his second term in office, President Obama will visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. The trip is an important opportunity to meet with the new Israeli government and speak to the Israeli people, as well as meet with the ... Read more »
Americans and people all over the world have been moved by the images of courageous Syrians standing up to a brutal regime, even as they suffer the consequences of the violence waged against them by the Assad government. Right now, humanitarian conditions in Syria are deteriorating in the face of a massive, man-made humanitarian emergency. People have been forced from their homes; schools, clinics and bakeries continue to be targeted; and food prices are on the rise as winter takes hold.
The numbers are staggering. According to the United Nations, an estimated 2.5 million people are displaced inside of Syria, and over 678,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. Their stories touch us all, and the American people will continue to stand with them. That is why President Obama announced today that he has approved a new round of humanitarian assistance, an additional $155 million to provide for the urgent and pressing needs of civilians in Syria and refugees forced to flee the violence of the Assad regime. This brings America’s contribution to date to $365 million, making the United States the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.
Our assistance is being delivered all across Syria and is providing food, clean water, medicines and medical treatment for hundreds of thousands of people. It will expand the delivery of vaccines for children and clothing and winter supplies for millions of people facing both the regime’s brutality and the hardships of winter. It will supply flour to bakeries in Aleppo to provide daily bread, and allow families to feed their children; it will finance field hospitals to care for those who are wounded; and it will provide care and services for the growing number of victims of sexual violence. Our assistance also supports a growing number of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.Read more »
It has been widely noted that monarchies have done better at surviving the Arab uprisings that began two years ago. Three Presidents (Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Saleh) have fallen, along with Muammar al-Qaddafi's unique Jamahiriaya, while Bashar al-Assad's Baathist presidential regime faces a mortal threat. No Arab monarch has yet lost his throne. For some analysts and academics, this pattern suggests a fairly obvious "monarchical exception" which demands explanation.
In August, I launched a debate on Foreign Policy about whether and how monarchy matters in explaining the resilience of Arab regimes. I was not impressed. Against arguments that monarchies possess some kind of unique legitimacy commanding the loyalty of their people, I noted that Arab monarchies have in fact faced significant popular mobilization over the last two years: Bahrain has had one of the most intense and protracted uprisings anywhere; Kuwait is facing the deepest political crisis in its post-occupation history; Jordan experienced unprecedented protests; Saudi Arabia has had a protracted challenge in its Eastern Province; Oman experienced unusual levels of protest; Morocco's protest movement drove the king to adopt a significant (if underwhelming) constitutional initiative. I concluded, "the monarchies look like fairly typical Arab authoritarian regimes, surviving because they enjoy greater financial resources, less demanding international allies, and powerful media assets to perpetuate their legitimation myths."
The responses I got over email, over Twitter, across blogs, and at various academic conferences convinced me that the monarchy question remains an open one, however. It is an important debate for political scientists and analysts, with a wide range of arguments and evidence to consider. Over the last few months, I have reached out to a number of leading scholars to weigh in on the question of Arab monarchy. I asked them to move beyond simple binaries ("monarchy does or doesn't matter") to explore the specific mechanisms by which it might matter, to weigh them against competing explanations, and to show how monarchy operated in particular cases which they knew well. Those articles, along with some particularly relevant older Middle East Channel essays, are now collected in today's new POMEPS Brief, "The Arab Monarchy Debate."[[BREAK]]
The debate is an interesting one. Daniel Brumberg pushes us to focus on how different regime types might have comparative advantages in the specific "sustaining mechanisms" of Arab autocrats. Michael Herb makes a guarded case for the distinctive resilience of family monarchies, a unique mechanism for leadership selection explored as well by Gregory Gause. Sean Yom points instead to money, security forces, and foreign patrons, which the monarchies enjoy for reasons that have little to do with monarchy. If these more material explanations are correct, then the monarchs may be in for a rough ride, as Christopher Davidson argues, since many of those assets are wasting ones. In particular, the economic commitments made to ride out the storm may not be sustainable, Steffen Hertog notes.
What about specific countries? Recent POMEPS Briefs have looked in depth at the situations in Jordan, Bahrain, and Kuwait. This collection adds several reflections on Saudi Arabia (by Madawi al-Rasheed, Stephane Lacroix, and Toby Matthiessen); Oman (Ra'id Al-Jamali); Jordan (Nicholas Seeley); and Morocco (Mohamed Daadoui). These closer looks are particularly helpful at identifying the differences in the nature of monarchy across the region: Jordan's monarchy simply operates differently, is viewed differently across society, and has a different set of sustaining mechanisms compared to the ruling families in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or Kuwait. Monarchs with parliaments have different political horizons than those who rule without elected bodies. For instance, those monarchs with small populations and virtually unlimited financial resources don't seem to have that much in common with their larger and poorer cousins.
It would be foolish to deny the observable reality that thus far all the Arab monarchs have survived where other regime types have failed. But that has to be a starting point, not a conclusion. From a political science perspective, that should force us to look harder at the specific mechanisms of control, which may or may not sustain specific monarchs in the future. Belief in a "monarchical exception" is useful for the monarchs in their efforts to deflect domestic challenges, reduce expectations of potential change, and maintain international support. It may also contribute to a certain complacency among their foreign allies, who may be relieved at not seeing the need to plan for the possible loss or transformation of such useful partners. I hope that this collection of essays helps to advance this important ongoing debate. Download POMEPS Brief #16 "The Arab Monarchies Debate."Read more »
As most readers of Jihadica will know, the famous Jordanian radical scholar Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi was arrested in September 2010 on suspicion of aiding terrorists and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in July 2011. Since then, however, we have rarely heard anything from the man often described as the most important radical Islamic scholar [...] Read more »
It is no secret that the world has yet to achieve the simple yet profound goal of ensuring equal futures for our daughters and our sons. Today, less than five percent of the world’s heads of state are women, and women make up just nineteen percen... Read more »
[ by Charles Cameron -- a quick recap of Col. Lang & Lt. Col. Francona on the realities of an Israeli strike on Iranian facilities, 2006-2012 -- and the recent WaPo trilogy ] . . I posted here a while ago about what happens when “religious leaders talk of wiping nations off the map” — [...] Read more »
For all my work with new media for public diplomacy, the best engagement is still the oldest: face-to-face discussions. “The last three feet”, as Edward R Murrow put it, allow for more personal interaction than the sometimes detached and often anonymous online type. Working from Washington, D.C., where we are so removed from the field, [...] Read more »