POL112 - Chapter 12.docx

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Political Science
Justin Bumgardner

Chapter 12 - Can the Middle East Democratize? After America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 democracy seemed to march in the Middle East. Iraq’s authoritarian neighbours were nervous and the region appeared to enter a pol ferment. Ending the 35 yrs of Baath party dictatorship in Iraq, Syria’s Baathist regime became fearful of being the next and Iran’s clerical rulers sent a letter to the White House proposing broad negotiations. President Bush and members of his administration issued a notice of a bold change in U.S foreign policy toward the Middle East .It was declared as “forward strategy for freedom in the Middle East”. He also said that it was time for Egypt to “show the way toward democracy in Middle East”. The Egyptian President who held power for more than a cent faced pressure from West along with a struggle over succession between the military establishment and supporters of his son, President Mubarak’s govt launched “a high profile effort to cast itself as a champion of reform”. During 2004, diverse opposition groups as leftist, Islamist, and liberal gathered demanding systemic pol reforms permitting a freer and more open society with more neutrally administered elections. Their demands included a competitive presidential election, which had heretofore been a simple yes-or-no plebiscite to “reelect” the autocrat. By December 2004 , forces came together under the brash name Kifaya (Enough) calling for an end to President Mubarak’s indefinite reelection. In Sept, Mubarak for the first time allowed(albeit with restrictions) a multicandidate presidential election. Open and competitive parliamentary elections followed, and the Muslim Brotherhood contested as independents for the first time in 20 yrs, the organization entered the parliamentary campaign with none of its members in govt custody. At the same time Syrian domination of Lebanon began to unravel. As Bush administration criticized Syria’s 40yr old regime resorted to strong arm tactics, pressuring the Lebanon parliament to extend the presidential term of its faithful ally, Emile Lahoud in Sept 2004. As political violence in defiance of this took place, protests in Lebanon occurred known as “Cedar Revolution” & continued until Lebanon’s pro-Syrian govt resigned on Feb 28.With pol tides shifting dramatically, Syria was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in April 2005, and in elections at midyear, Hariri allies won control of the govt. Shortly, after Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution, some 50,000 Bahrainis-“ 1/8th of the country’s population-rallied for constitutional reforms”. In Jordan, a limited but hopeful pol opening was also forming. In 2000 King Abdullah suppressed all activity by civil society response to rising public sentiment against peace treaty with Israel. After Saddam’s regime was toppled in 2003, with increased eco aid from U.S and the Gulf oil states, liberalized. He relaxed restrictions on freedom of expression, struck a bargain with left and Islamist opposition groups, as they agreed to restrain their mobilization against Jordan’s pro-U.S policy in exchange for economic progress and more pol space. In November 2004,the death of Yasser Arafat after his decades of his corrupt, inept pol supremacy-pointed the way to a new era of pluralism, accountability & possibly even democracy. As the open minded and competent Mahmoud Abbas became pres in 2005, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza took place after 38 yrs of occupation, hopes rose for both internal and regional accommodation. In 2005 in Iraq 12 million Iraqis voted for a transitional parliament to draft a new constitution. They voted the 2nd time in October in a national referendum and for the third time in December, for a new parliament under the permanent constitution. Page 1 of 9 By the end of 2005, Freedom House recorded measurable improvements in pol rights or civil liberties over the preceding 3 years in the Palestinian Authority and half of the region’s 16 Arab states. However in Saudi Arabia the change was modest, leaving a highly authoritarian regime particularly Saudi Arabia. Monarchy, Populism & Islam The democratic prospects did not last long as its regimes and external allies as the U.S and Europe, struggled to come to grips with 2 alarming implications of pol openings. 1. Severe polarization 2. Dramatic gains by Islamic forces. In Iraq the January 30 elections became an identity referendum as its voters chose on the basis of ethnic and sectarian loyalties. Sunnis had objections to the pol order and the American occupation magnifying their pol marginalization. Even the interim prime minister’s Ayad Allawi’s “Iraqi List”, the principal nonsectarian option suffered a defeat and the Shiite Islamists with the Kurdish Alliance captured a commanding plurality of seats forming a transitional govt. The sectarian gulf thus widened. The October 15 constitutional referendum thus became a second identity plebiscite, with the Kurds and Shia voting unanimously for the document with the Sunni Arabs against it. The same polarization held sway in the December 15 parliamentary elections under Iraq’s new constitution. “The electorate did not separate religion from politics or transcended ethnic fissures”. The violence in Iraq intensified with the pol condition drifting under the hapless new prime minister, Nuri al- Maliki. A deadlock over basic issues as federalism, the structure of executive power, and the control of oil production and distribution of its revenue took place. Meanwhile, competing Shiite Islamist forces tightened their grip over various parts of southern Iraq. Mounting terrorism, violence and ethnic cleansing occurred. On every single indicator, a Feb-March 2007 public opinion poll showed dramatic deterioration in Iraqis perceptions and hopes for the future. Arab autocrats from countries like Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Yemen, seized upon the swelling turmoil in Iraq to dampen rebuff public demands for democracy. As chaos increasingly rolled over Iraq, the president campaigned in 2006 on the chilling rejoinder that the people better vote for him or face the same “democracy” as in Iraq. The new pol freeze in Saudi Arabia was blamed on the wars in Iraq and Lebanon. The tentative steps towards democratization were inhibited also by Islamic Fundamentalism. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the militant Islamist movement Hamas in Palestine, the Shiite and Sunni Islamist groups in Iraq and Bahrain, and Islamists in Kuwait clearly had a majority. The principal pol force that stood to benefit from electoral openings was the Islamists. Many regimes were haunted by the specter of Algeria when in 1991-92 to suppress the “flowering of civil society” and parliamentary elections, the army intervened and canceled the second stage of voting. It then deposed the incumbent president, banned the FIS (the Islamic Salvation Front) imprisoned its leaders, triggering a civil war claiming around 150,000 lives. With all this happening, Arab regimes saw an opportunity to reverse the tentative moves toward democracy and individual freedoms. The reassertion of authoritarian hegemony was most sweeping in Egypt, the most populous and pol influential state in the Arab world. In Nov 2005 parliamentary elections, the regime skillfully undermined the efforts of the Egypt’s surprisingly independent judges to oversee honest elections. A variety of electoral Page 2 of 9 malpractices were mobilized to restore the dominance of the NDP. The Judges Club grew outspoken in its criticism of the regime and electoral misconduct, launched a public movt, to enhance the fiscal and pol independence of judges. This vigorous activism fractured the judiciary which the regime successfully exploited to push through a bill that substantially reconstituted executive control of the judicial branch. In Sept 2005, the NDP brought about 34 constitutional amendments, embarking on a campaign of constitutional “reform” to ensure against any pol “accidents” in future. The key purpose of the amendments was to limit the prospects for the Muslim Brotherhood to repeat its electoral gains and to ban any pol party or activity that has a religious frame of reference. It was to prevent the Brotherhood from winning seats through independent candidacies, also impose tighter controls on party funding and activities. The direct judicial oversight of elections was nullified and the opportunity given to a new supervisory committee controlled by presidency. Thus in reality the president and security forces were given, unprecedented powers to combat terrorism through searches, arrests and wiretaps without warrants and by ref suspects to military courts. By 2007, the Egyptian regime established its hardened auth grip. The traditional liberal & leftist parties, w/ their scant few seats in parliament, remained co-opted and ineffectual depending on the regime for any pol space it allowed and fearful of the grassroots support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood was destroyed by arrests of its leaders and financers. The authoritarian wave also fell upon civil society in Egypt, as labor protests were suppressed, independent organizations were deprived of licenses, activists were arrested and e-mail accounts were forcibly shut down when individuals appealed to the international community. Panicked by Islamist gains, the rising tide of Iranian power, and pol instability in the region, the Bush administration-not to mention the more wary European govts-determined that they needed Mubarak more than ever, and stood largely silent. This could be due to the shrewd move by Mubarak to engineer alarm in an American admin that had vowed to overturn 60 yrs of foreign policy. In the case of Jordan, the economic decline on the promise of pol reform began years before. Under both King Hussein and his successor Kind Abdullah, the Jordanian regime has endured “by adroitly(cleverly) wielding the twin survival strategies of liberalization and deliberalization,” expanding liberty and pol space when necessary “to shore up its legitimacy” and then “reversing the process when the opposition threatened to get too strong”. Young Abdullah expressed a rhetorical commitment to demo reform but priority on regime survival and “strengthening the pol base of the monarchy”. He emphasized eco reform, including trade liberalization rather than a specific pol agenda and civil freedom. Real power however vested with the royal court and intelligence services. Relations between the authoritarian state and the Islamists grew more confrontational, particularly after the victory of Hamas in the Jan 2006 Palestinian elections, which fanned fears in Jordan of a spillover effect. Democratic hopes in Bahrain rose in 1999 when Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa assumed the throne which his family has occupied for more than two centuries. He quickly loosened the rigid pol order, releasing all pol prisoners, permitting the return of exiles, eliminating emergency laws and courts, giving women the right to vote and holding parlia elections in 2002 for the first time in 27 yrs. However the Shiite winning all seats it campaigned for defined the limits of the country’s democratic reform. With the Shia making up at least 60% of the country’s population, and with Shiite Islamists calling in the past for an end to monarchy, the reigning Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa family could not countenance a genuine democratic breakthrough. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s got elected in Algeria’s 1999 election and pursued a reconciliation with the Islamists which wound down the civil war, significantly reducing terrorism and violence. He reduced Page 3 of 9 military control of politics and govt while promoting a more competitive presidential election in 2004. The Islamist party FIS, remained excluded from politics and as his term came to an end after the second term, rumours formed of a constitutional amendment to permit him to run again. It appears he constrained the military only “in order to increase his own freedom of action, not in order to democratize Algeria”. Algeria thus faces like other Arab states excessive power concentrated in the hands of a single ruler. Tunisia remained only slightly less repressive than Syria’s Baathist regime, and hardly more competitive. Bush's Impossible Straddle (Favoring both sides of an issue) W/ democracy receding all over the Arab world while the U.S strengthened its economic and security ties to Arab dictatorships, the Bush administration lost its remaining credibility on regional democracy. Freedom he insisted is “the most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism”. He also reiterated, “the policy of tolerating tyranny is a moral and strategic failure”. Tyranny did exist in much of the Arab world, creeping along with expanding American support in service of the war on terror. The Egyptian society leader and former pol prisoner Saad Eddin Ibrahim implored the Bush administration to condition U.S aid on pol reform and the release of pol prisoners, including Ayman Nour. In fact, Bush had delivered a mixed message for Egypt and other friendly autocracies of the region, and they did not receive it any more amicably than did the dissidents. Bush did mildly rebuke when he praised Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan for their brave stands and strong actions to confront extremists, along with some steps to expand liberty and transparency. Keeping in mind the reality of American experience with Korea and Taiwan during the cold war, Bush’s confidently declared that “American can maintain a friendship and push a nation toward democracy at the same time”. But Korea and Taiwan democratized only as the Cold War was ending-after nearly 4 decades of American friendship with their militaries and one-party dictatorships. His straddle was painfully evident during his Prague speech when, reaching for a sign of demo progress in the Arab world, he “congratulated the people of Yemen on their landmark presidential election”. Especially when the elections did have important shortcomings, such as voter intimidation, underage voting, and violations of ballot secrecy”. The opposition rejected the outcome of the election as illegal alleging that the reelected president had ordered the brazen theft of 2 million votes from his principal opponent. What could the Yemeni people, cheated of the encouragement of a much closer election result, make of Bush’s remarks when he insisted to dissidents everywhere, “We will always stand for your freedom”? For the time being the moment of democratic reform in the Arab world has passed. Publics are sullen, as elections have become again little more than a superficial legitimating ritual, Arab publics are staying at home. In Egypt the pol opposition is in disarray and demoralized, not only by the speed and ruthlessness with which the regime has shut it down but by what it regards bitterly and justifiably as a betrayal by the United States. The Muslim Brotherhood, has become the only broadly viable pol opposition in the country. While the Brotherhood reiterates its commitment to non violence and to democratic norms, in the face of severe repression, dissident members might return to violent methods “as they did in the 1980’s and 199s follo similar blows”. The assassination of Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar al-Sadat, is a stark reminder of the tragic repercussions of domestic unrest. Alongside a succession struggle between the army and security apparatus and the party controlled by Mubarak’s son Gamal. Egyptian analysts and activists fear that Gamal would stand as a weak president, dependent on the security services and unable to contain their repression, much less liberalize anew”. Page 4 of 9 In Jordan, the succession of King Abdullah to the throne went smoothly enough to preserve the stability of the monarchy-but not to encourage democratic change. Jordan’s history shows that threatening regional scenarios undermine the reform agenda. It feels threatened and besieged wedged between the two most troubled and violent territories in the Middle East-Iraq and Palestine. Since 2004, roughly a million Iraqis have fled to Jordan, a small country with only 6 million people, adding to the refugee strains of the Israel- Palestinian conflict. In this context, the Jordanian regime’s instinct is to clench its fist with Europe and United States deferring embarrassing pol questions and pouring in more aid to the one remaining stable pillar between Israel and Iran. While United States has poured enormous amounts of economic aid to Jordan since 1994 when it signed its historic peace treaty with Israel, Europe too sees Jordan’s authoritarian monarchy as a bulwark against regional instability and Islamic radicalism making Jordan its second largest recipient of EU assistance per capita after Palestine. As long as Jordan’s nei
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