Event Video: Rep. Adam Smith Discusses Middle East Strategy

On December 5th, 2013 – NDN’s Middle East and North Africa Initiative hosted a discussion with Rep. Adam Smith, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee. Topics covered include economic and diplomatic engagement, Iran, Egypt, Syria, military aid, and a broader regional strategy. Full video of the event is available below.

MENA Chat Webcast: A Post-UN Middle East Strategy

We hosted an online webcast to discuss President Obama’s post-UNGA Middle East strategy in light of developments with Iran and recent events in Syria and Egypt. You can listen to the conversation on Spreecast. I was joined by James Miller, Managing Editor of The Interpreter Magazine. James has many years of experience covering the Middle East, Russia, and the Arab revolutions.

MENA Chat - A Post UN Regional Strategy - Spreecast

U.S. Needs A New Approach Toward Egypt

Cairo protest“When Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns meets with Egyptian officials today, for the first time since President Morsi was deposed, he should strongly encourage the transitional government to avoid prosecuting or persecuting the ousted leader and his allies. While the Muslim Brotherhood’s government managed to alienate much of the population through managerial incompetence and autocratic tendencies, they were serving under the legitimate authority of popular elections.

The United States has important regional interests in the stability of Egypt, but American policy needs to avoid taking sides with specific political actors. Instead, the U.S. should make it clear that our allies and recipients of large aid packages are expected to be invested in the processes, values, and institutions of inclusive democracy.  We have seen over the last several years that threats to withhold military assistance are seen in Cairo as empty threats and insufficient motivation to change policy or approach. This sticks American policymakers with the bill while denying them any of the leverage that is supposed to accompany it. Burns should inform the Egyptian government that, as mandated by U.S. law, aid will be temporarily suspended until a democratically elected government is returned to power. The United States should take this opportunity to continue working on the bilateral relationship – one that is marred by a history of suspicion and ambivalence – while expanding the scope of stakeholders that the U.S. government engages with. If we aspire to see this “revolution reboot” result in a more open, democratic, and inclusive Egypt, we need to learn the lessons of the last 18 months, speaking out vocally for U.S. values and backing it up with consistent actions.” Brad Bosserman, 7/18/2013

Dramatic changes have been taking place in the Middle East over the last few weeks and NDN’s MENA Initiative has gathered together some of their latest analysis to help our community better understand the challenges and opportunities of the unfolding events in Egypt, Iran, and Syria. You can find this on the NDN website.

Quoted in The Hill — President Obama takes flak over Egypt

The Hill

“Where we missed an opportunity over the past year and a half in dealing with Egypt is not that we supported the wrong people, but that we missed an opportunity to support institutions and to really apply pressure where we had it,” said Bradley Bosserman, director of the Middle East and North Africa initiative at the New Policy Institute.

“We need be much more outspoken going forward to make sure that there’s actual, legitimate processes and institutions for people to voice their opinion. We can do all of that while recognizing that the Egyptian people are going to vote for who they want,” he said.

Bosserman said Congress is part of the problem. He said Obama laid out a path forward for the Middle East in his 2009 Cairo speech but failed to follow through with specific incentives, in part because Congress has blocked efforts to approve his $770 million incentive fund designed to advance democratic and economic reforms in Arab Spring countries.

Read the full article here

In Egypt, It’s Time For Opposition to Unify

June 30 EgyptMillions of Egyptians took the streets over the weekend in much-anticipated protests against President Morsi. The largely peaceful demonstrations reveal a deep and broad “legitimacy deficit” for a government that was elected democratically, but has consistently pursued non-inclusive policies designed to consolidate power in the hands of Morsi and his allies. The everyday Egyptians taking part in these protests feel alienated by the ruling government and the heavily criticized constitutional process that followed. But while the opposition may appear unified from 30,000 feet, there remain deep ideological, political, and strategic cleavages among these anti-Morsi groups.

The situation on the ground is still unfolding, but as of Monday afternoon, the Egyptian military had issued an ultimatum, threatening to intervene in 48 hours if the situation is not resolved. The U.S. has vital strategic interests in seeing a stable, secure, and democratic Egypt and American policymakers should speak out in favor of institutions and processes that respect the will and views of the Egyptian public. A military coup seems very unlikely to be a positive development, but neither does a continued consolidation of power by Morsi . If a third way is to emerge, the responsibility lies with key Egyptian opposition figures to coalesce around a shared goal and vision for the country, at least in the short term, which can provide a legitimate alternative.

Event Recap: China, US, and a New Middle East

On June 6th, NDN’s MENA Initiative hosted a panel exploring ways that decreasing US oil demand and rapidly growing Chinese presence in MENA oil markets is reshaping the global politics of the Middle East.

Bradley Bosserman, Director of the MENA Initiative, moderated the wide-ranging conversation with two experts. Dr. Gawdat Bahgat is a professor at the National Defense University where he specializes in American energy policy in the Middle East, grand strategy, and security issues. He brought to the discussion his significant experience not only in academia, but also in advising U.S. officials and global energy companies.

I-wei Jennifer Chang joined us from the University of Maryland, where her doctoral work focuses on Chinese foreign policy in the Middle East and how oil interests effect Beijing’s global strategy.

We will be releasing a major report in the next couple of week which addresses some of these issues in more depth. Watch the video of the event below.

MENA Chat Webcast – Reforming Aid To Egypt

MENA Aid To Egypt Spreecast jpegIn this latest MENA Chat webcast, Bradley Bosserman explores the strategy and challenges that underlie U.S. democracy assistance in the Middle East. He is joined by Dr. Sarah Bush, whose recent research provides important insights on possible reforms. Rebecca Abou-Chedid is also featured.  Drawing on her experience in Cairo she discusses some of the ways these dynamics play out in Egypt. Follow this link to view the webcast.

As background — Secretary Kerry, following his first Middle East trip at the helm of the  State Department, approved the release of $250 million in aid to the young Egyptian government. While Egypt’s economy remains on the brink and in desperate need of foreign assistance, the move is not without controversy. Republican Senator Marco Rubio last week proposed legislation that would place new conditions on further aid disbursement, while some activists remain critical of funding the government without assurances that they are committed to making real progress toward more democratic institutions and protecting key political and civil rights.

Dr. Sarah Bush is an expert on foreign aid strategy and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Temple University. She recently published “Confront or Conform? Rethinking U.S. Democracy Assistance” for the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

Rebecca Abou-Chedid is a Fellow at the Truman National Security Project, Co-Chair of the Board for Just Vision, and former National Political Director for the Arab American Institute.