U.S. Recognizes Syrian Opposition as Foreign Mission

Dear Pitaconsumers:

May 15th marks Al-Nakba from 1948, which produced one of the largest refugee crises in the 20th century.  It has now been joined by the Syria crisis– also produced a record number of refugees– fueled by the Assad regime’s refusal to share power and lay siege on his own people.

Syrian Opposition Gains Foreign Mission Status by U.S. Government

The U.S. government formally recognized the Syrian opposition, Syrian National Council, by granting them ‘foreign mission’ status, a move that the U.K will be following.  Beginning on May 12th, the Syrian opposition was represented in DC by Ahmed Jarba, Hadi al-Bahra (Chief Negotiator), Monzer Akbik, and Rime Allaf who presented their case to the White House, Senators, Congressmen, think tanks (U.S. Institute for Peace and New America Foundation) and Georgetown University.   As Akbik stated to New America, “The extremists are not the opposition. We are the opposition. Al Qaeda uses failed countries as a safehaven.”

This status change provides the backdrop for their leader, Ahmed Jarba’s visit to Washington, DC this week.  PITAPOLICY’s Mehrunisa Qayyum was interviewed by Al-Jazeera Arabic’s Yaser Alarami on what Jarba’s visit means.  Arabic Version here.

Jabra’s Visit & Implications

  1. AJ Arabic: In your opinion what are the indications of Ahmed Jarba’s meeting with President Obama?
  • Qayyum: Indicator 1: As you know,  Jarba met with legislative leaders, like Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin, U.S. House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor and Ranking Member of Senate Foreign Relations Committe, John Cain–as well as with the Executive Branch leaders, like Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser, Susan Rice.  But the Congressional discussions continue to veer towards Humanitarian aid/nonlethal support, rather than lethal weapon support.
  • Indicator 2: On April 30th, The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee voted unanimously  to urge the Obama administration and the United Nations to stop recognizing Bashar al-Assad as the “rightful” ruler of Syria and to “redirect” humanitarian assistance directly to private aid groups.  Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/05/jarba-congress-visit-syria-opposition.html##ixzz31bi0nR00
  • Indicator 3: Perhaps, with the newly formalized status of representing a ‘foreign mission’ Jarba has raised the opposition’s profile by speaking at significant US civil society fora, like at the US Institute for Peace, the Council on Foreign Relations.   Meanwhile the United States is planning a $27 million increase in non-lethal assistance to rebels.
  • In sum: Jarba’s meeting with Obama will occur, but solidifying relations to increase support for a more involved Syria strategy is easier, and more likely, with U.S. Congressmen and Senators.  Jarba’s visit will only reinforce what key officials already believe.
  1. AJ Arabic: Do you think that there will be significant American arming of the Syrian opposition after Jarba’s visit? 
  • Qayyum: To be honest: not in 2014 since the U.S is gearing up for midterm elections, and the Syria issue is controversial and ranks as a secondary issue (compared to the Ukraine crisis).  For example, both Jarba and Hadi al-Bahra sound like a broken record trying to assuage American concerns of Jabhat al-Nusra Front and other Al Qaeda affiliates–whether they’re speaking to congress or to high-profile think tanks, like the New America Foundation on May 12th.  Also note Cantor’s rhetoric beyond Syrians, “confront Iran’s malign influence, and combat the threat posed by extremist terrorists.”  Arming opposition is only to appealing to achieve the eternal threat objectives…not the internal massacres.  Several Senators and Congressman are too worried about increasing the violence on the ground against Syrian civilians if the US turns to arming the rebels.  So another tactic is being used: call out other regimes who are supplying arms–as the U.S. Treasury Dept did with Kuwait’s Islamic Minister Nayef al-Ajmi.  In my humble view, the U.S. is deflecting the U.S. arms discussion by calling out Gulf countries, like Qatar, which has funded over $3 billion to support fighters with arms since 2011.
  • Yet, at the same time, the CIA has already been providing technical training and small arms to Syrian rebels since 2012.  I do not believe that Jarba will walk away with a public U.S. commitment of anti-aircraft weapons and drones support.  In a nutshell, covert operations saves face from publicly debating and acknowledging providing heavier support.


  1. AJ Arabic: What tools does Jarba have to convince Washington in this matter?
  • Qayyum: It’s significant that Jarba publicly prioritized the “no-fly zone” matter over the request for arming rebel forces with manpads, anti-aircraft weapons, etc.
  • He has coupled the SNC request with a political solution and pointedly asking the US to exert political pressure.
  • If Jarba focuses on the threat that Russia and Iran pose in arming the Assad regime, he will appeal to the conservative, hawkish base in the U.S.

حفلت زيارة رئيس الائتلاف الوطني السوري أحمد الجربا لواشنطن باللقاءات على أعلى المستويات في الإدارة الأميركية، لكنها على ما يبدو لم تحقق أبرز أهدافها المتمثل في الحصول على سلاح نوعي أو إقناع واشنطن بإقامة منطقة حظر جوي ضد النظام. Click here to continue.


Al-Nakba, The Catastrophe

As you know, May 15th marks ‘Al-Nakba’, or the ‘Catastrophe’ where Palestinians were displaced by the creation of a new state.  As human rights organization, Amnesty International notes, “For many Palestinian citizens the Prawer-Begin plan evokes the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in events referred to as the ‘Nakba,’ or catastrophe.”  Therefore,”Amnesty International calls for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip, along with those of their descendants who have maintained genuine links with the area, to be able to exercise their right to return.”

For more details on the numbers and recounting of events, we have included the facts shared by Amnesty International.

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Freedom House Releases Report #WorldPressFreedomDay

May 3rd marked ‘World Press Freedom Day’, which honors journalists and media abilities to report without political restrictions.
In preparation for this, the Freedom House organization (based in the U.S. since the 1970s) published its annual “Political Freedoms ad Civil Liberties” report.   Zeroing in on the Middle East & North Africa region, below are the top level observations of how the MENA region fared. Note:  FH includes Israel, but not Afghanistan nor Pakistan in its regional analysis, but assessed in Asia.  Here’s the report link:
  1. Saudi Arabia and Syria made the ‘Worst of the Worst’ list.  (Bahrain downgraded near the bottom of the list too.)
  2. Algeria was upgraded to “Partly Free” (barely)
  3. Tunisia and Lebanon tied with a score of ’53′ as “Partly Free” — (Second place winners? See MENA rankings below…)
  4. Turkey downgraded to “Not Free” (dramatic drop from 2013)
  5. Israel upgraded to ‘Free’ (They crossed the threshhold into “Free” by improving from a score of ’31′ in 2013 to ’30′ in 2014.)

PITAPOLICY focused on Tunisia’s political and media environment, which remained in transition in 2013.  Investigative journalism probed into judicial proceedings, civil society, and corruption.  For specifics, feel free to contact us at qayyum at pitapolicyconsulting dot com.

Check out Freedom House’s Factsheet in Arabic: Overview Fact Sheet – Arabic(1)

Country Score 2014 Rating 2014 Score 2013 Rating 2013 Change ’13-’14
Country  Rank   Score 2014   Score 2013

Israel       62nd        30 F              31 PF    1

Lebanon 112th        53 PF             53 PF -2

Tunisia    112th        53 PF             52 PF -5

Kuwait     127th      59 PF             59 PF 0

Algeria     127th       59 PF            61 NF 1

Libya        134th      62 NF           59 PF 0

Turkey      134th      62 NF           56 PF -9

*Pakistan  141st       64 NF

*Afghanistan 147th  66 NF

Morocco   147th      66 NF          66 NF 0

Qatar         152nd     68 NF          67 NF -1

Egypt         155th     68 NF           62 NF -6

Iraq            157th     69 NF            67 NF -2

Jordan        155th    68 NF          63 NF -5


Oman         161st      71 NF            71 NF 0

United Arab

Emirates      167th   76 NF            74 NF -3

Yemen          167th   76 NF             79 NF 2


Arabia            181st  83NF             84 NF +1

West Bank

and Gaza       179th  82 NF              84 NF -2

Bahrain         188th  87 NF              86 NF -1

Syria               189th   89 NF            88 NF -1

Iran                 190th   90 NF            92 NF

Can’t Forget About Egypt

Egypt has earned a “Not Free” status since Hosni Mubarak’s rule.  In that time, their “civil liberties” score improved because of more judicial protections.  However, political rights hovered towards ’6′ out of ’7′ points–towards the worse end of the spectrum.  Egypt’s 2014 score for overall political and civil liberties worsened  from ’62′ to ’68′.  Ironically, May 3rd also marked Egypt’s first trial day for the Al Jazeera trio of journalists imprisoned for reporting on Egypt’s political transition.  The Egyptian judge wished them a “Happy Press Freedom Day” right before refusing their bail.


Reporters Without Borders Lists Heroes of Middle East

Afghanistan- Danish Karokhel

Algeria – Ali Dilem

Bahrain- Ali Abduleman & Ahmed Humaiden

Egypt – Abeer Sady

Iran – Adnan Hassenpour, Jila Bani Yaghoub, Siamak Kaderi, & Said Matinpour

Iraq – Sardar Mohummand

Libya – Amira Al Kitabi & Hanan Al Mqawab

Morocco-Ali Lmrabet & Ali Anouzla

Pakistan – Hamid Mir, Muhummad Ziaudin

Syria – Mazen Darwish & Razan Zeitouneh

Tunisia – Najiba Hamrouni & Fahem Boukadous

Turkey- Ismail Saymaz, Hasan Kemal

Yemen – Abdul Bahry Taher

United Arab Emirates – Waleed Al Shehhi

The complete list may be found here.

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Tunisia at the Crossroads: An Interview with Rached al-Ghannouchi #Tn

As social justice discussions increase in the global village–be it the Catholic Church, among labor unions, or citizens of “Arab Spring” countries—the language cuts across politics, religion and economics.  We welcome the overlap as much as we welcome the interview below…

PITAPOLICY veers away from religious discussion on the blog.  But, not all political and economic philosophies (or philosophers) are set in a purely secular domain.   Look at the Quaker movement in the U.S.:  a religious organization of individuals who vocalize pacifism.  Their religious belief influences their political voice against armed conflict.   Look at St. Augustine, who was a theologian and philosopher that reconceptualized the role of the Catholic church as the Western Holy Roman Empire disintegrated.  Recently, renowned Christian divinity scholar at the University of Chicago, Jean Bethke Elshtain, challenged political and social systems by introducing God into the debate.  A practicing Christian, Elshtain believed that human participation, in political systems, boils down to power relations–of all kinds.  There are power relations between individuals and their conscious (spiritually or emotionally); between their higher authorities (earthly)–and sometimes these may be the same, depending on interpretation. 

Similarly, such a hybrid of political-religious thought–dare we say social consciousness–exists in other parts of our global village.  Today, the current Pope and Islamic philosopher, Tariq Ramadan, consistently share observations on social and economic responsibilities of individuals and institutions.

In December 2013, PITAPAL, Dr. Noureddine Jebnoun of Georgetown University, interviewed Tunisian political and religious thought leader of the Ennahda Party, Sheikh Rached al-Ghannounchi.  Below is the transcribed conversation between Dr. Jebnoun and Dr. al-Ghannouchi.  The exclusive interview for the Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, lasted SIX hours and covered economics, politics, and an interpretation of religious doctrine. Director for the ACMCU, Dr. John Esposito, shares his remarks in the preface and specifies Sheikh al-Ghannouchi’s role as a “creative reformer”.

PITAPOLICY appreciated getting  the political-religious philosopher’s point of view on ideas of pluralism and social justice were refined during exile, perhaps, because of the exile experience.  For example, al-Ghannouchi explored with others in the Tunisian diaspora, and beyond, on how political participation for individuals, associations, and parties may form.  

Al-Ghannouchi returned to his native Tunisia after being exiled throughout the Ben Ali regime. He was and remains the leader of Tunisia’s first party to rule since its 2011 revolution.  Since November 2013, Ennahda stepped down in a power sharing agreement.  PITAPOLICY Founder, Mehrunisa Qayyum, had difficulty understanding in only one portion.  This was Sheikh G’s emphasis on the economic relationship between Tunisia, the region, and the EU.  Qayyum wasn’t clear if he was arguing that these three areas are interdependent, thereby resulting in an “interrelationship” that cannot be measured by the World Bank/IMF economic indicators. Is it because there’s no aggregate indicator that represents the European fiscal crisis’s intermediary impact on Tunisia’s tourism sector, and larger economic sphere?  In Qayyum’s humble view, she thinks that Sheikh al-Ghannouchi intended to remain vague since he didn’t tie this into a current Tunisian problem: its increased regional smuggling. 

Click here for interview, transcribed from Arabic into English by Dr. Jebnoun.


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PITAPOLICY to Attend Smarter Cities Summit In Morocco June 9-10

PITAPOLICY is delighted to attend the first annual International Smart Cities Summit in North Africa, which will be held in Morocco. From June 9th – 10th, we will be live-blogging the summit and welcoming comments over Twitter.  The ISCSNA will feature the Kingdom of Morocco’s Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy, Moulay H. Elalamy. 

  1. If you’re following urban planning, North Africa development, technology and innovation, then you may want to register to attend here
  2. Follow @SmartCities_NA on Twitter and LinkedIn with #ISSC2014.
  3. Global Partners include Microsoft and the World Bank. 
  4. For general inquiries, contact:


Smarter Cities in North Africa

Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, Marrakesh, and Tangier served as great movie titles and backdrops (or stereotypes, like in The Battle of Algiers) for entertainment set in North Africa. However, film shots of these cities appear stuck in “once upon a time, in a land far, far away called the Maghreb.” Earlier this April, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry finally paid his first visit to Algeria and Morocco two years into his tenure focusing mainly on security cooperation issues. Aside from the security focus, it is no surprise that Morocco will host the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Summit and serving as a hub for other conferences, like the first International Summit on Smart Cities in North Africa this coming June around Casablanca, Morocco’s most populous city. [Click here for article on Huffington Post.]

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World Bank & IMF 2014 Spring Meeting: MENA Region Focus

For the third year, PITAPOLICY attempted to cover The Annual World Bank & IMF meetings finished on Sunday, which started off with the MENA economic outlook.  Throughout the week, government and civil society organizations representatives revisited the Arab Youth inclusion discussion (like last year) but sprinkled in the Syria crisis.  At the same time, a common theme on MENA, was the philosophical debate of “how to achieve political consensus” to implement reforms and move towards a participatory democracy.  These meetings are not just economic; they are political.  Note: During the briefing, a reporter asked to what extent Iran’s economy, which has contracted in the last three years, will swing back the other way depending on political developments–like reaching a nuclear deal.  Iran’s economy contracted in 2012 and 2013.

Overall growth for oil-importing countries is short of 3 percent.  IMF MENA Director stated that investment, rather than consumption, is playing a stronger role in promoting MENA growth as government policies are reallocating spending away from subsidies (shift from general to targeted). Given that the IMF approved a $225 Million loan to Tunisia, and grew 2.7 percent in 2013, there is a hope that its economy is expected to strengthen by 2015.

In other MENA transition countries: Egypt did not grow as much and has not asked for financing.  But Egypt’s Minister of Finance, Hany Diman, launched a blog to better communicate with the public, since consensus building is a goal.  Check out the blog: mofegy.blogspot.com.  Yemen has stabilized, with its budget deficit projected to decline in 2014.  But Yemen still has a ways to go since it requires “financing worth up to $50 billion in 2015″ according to the World Bank report released last week.

Nonetheless, Syria represents the worst in any type of transition as it reduces investor confidence in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan.  Although not in transition, Jordan has received an IMF package too in the amount of $264 million.  The reasons for receiving $200+ million are due to economic shocks to its economy from Syrian refugees and the gas pipeline sabotage.

Oil-Exporting Countries (GCC and Algeria)

In the subcategory of ‘oil-exporting countries’ have grown more relative to their ‘oil-importing’ countries because of the stable oil market.    On the upside, Algeria will benefit as a gas exporter because Europe’s demand has grown.  On the downside, Bahrain and Oman are running fiscal deficits and are encouraged to diversify their economies.  Bahrain and Libya share the unique characteristic that they are both in the oil-exporting category and also in the transition category–no matter how much we dance around Bahrain’s political woes.


“It is time to translate protests into the real work, which is inside institutions,” stated Morocco’s Youth Minister at the annual World Bank/IMF Spring Meeting…on the topic of ‘Arab Youth’ [Note: PITAPOLICY recognizes the oversimplification of lumping all of "Arab Youth" up until the age of 35 into one category.  There's a significant difference in the worry burden between a 13 year old and a 33 year old.  But we understand that they all are worried about jobs.  But so is a 43 year old :)]

A Conversation with Al Jazeera’s Ali Velshi and Jim Yong Kim On Thursday, Al Jazeera held a conversation with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim with Ali Velshi, Host of Al Jazeera America.


#EndPoverty 2030 – Millenials Take on the Challenge What Have Young People Gained from the Arab Spring?

  • Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing director & Chief Operating Officer, World Bank Group
  • Inger Andersen, Vice President of Middle East and North Africa region, World Bank
  • H.E. Mohamed Ouzzine, Minister of Youth and Sports, Kingdom of Morocco
  • Ahmed Alhindawi, Youth Envoy of the UN Secretary General, Jordan
  • Shatha al-Harazi, Academic/Journalist/Activist, Yemen
  • Mouheb Ben Garoui, I-WATCH Executive Director, Tunisia

Moderator: Abderrahim Foukara, Al Jazeera Bureau Chief, Washington, D.C. Highlights:

  • The estimates that the economic loss of exceeds US$ 40–50 billion annually across the Arab World.  30% of are unemployed, & 41% of 15-24 yr olds are inactive, i.e. in School, not in & Not in Training (NEETs).  On this note of worry, Alhendawi said, “If we don’t fix the situation for youth & address , we will just be recycling our failures.”
  • “Going out into the street is important but influencing policy is even more important,” argued CSO participant, Mouheb Ben Garoui, I-WATCH, Tunisia. He continued, “youth today are in a position to be empowered, but they need to organize in order to influence decision making.”
  • According to the Arab Youth Survey: nearly 40% of all prefer to live in the UAE followed by US at 25%. Alhendawi raised the point that “Four percent of the youth volunteered in according to the study launched a few weeks before the resolution. “Nothing has changed from the government, there is even more corruption in this new government,” added Shatha al-Harazi.  Forty-eight percent of have no confidence in their national government, said Indrawait. Over the past three years, support for traditional values in has dropped from 83% to 54%. The best tweet came from @kamelasmar “The funny part is when the speakers congratulate the Moroccan minister of youth for doing “his duty” ”   

If you missed the hot debate hosted by & on the current situation of , watch it here:


  • Ben Hammouda: As Tunisia is trying to stabilize its economy, emphasized the balance between stabilization and the”growth agenda”.  Stimulus packages are not the current path because the “private sector is better positioned” to do this.  Most important achievement is that we achieved a political consensus as demonstrated in passing a constitution.  Since trade unions have played a significant role in Tunisia’s political, social and economic life, another focus will be to negotiate salaries with only those among lowest wage earners.  Concurrently near an agreement with private sector on the taxes the Tunisian government will implement.


  • Baraka: Moroccan government is focused on small to medium sized businesses as it has now mandated a public-private council and passed the Small Business Act.  The SBA requires that 20 percent of the tender goes to SMES; and require that 30 percent of the corporate tax go to the SME sector.  At the same time, on the agriculture issue, Morocco is also concerned with food security in Morocco and beyond.  The King agreed to to offer lower-priced fertilizers to sub-Saharan African economies to address intra-regional food security and promote economic integration.
  • On the political front: Moderation and legitimacy is an alternative to one hundred percent consensus. [This contrasts a bit with a monarchy government structure.]  At the same time, his mission is focused on attracting FDI… no specification as to how.


  • Kharas:  If you want a citizen focused economy, must consider those in the rural areas…so focus on agriculture. Reforms that will produce immediate results don’t need to be big all the time because overhauling institutions take time.   Easy wins for immediate results will focus on agriculture because GROWTH is different from increasing household incomes (subsidizing food).  We’ve seen Japan, China, and Korea examples being where they are today– or “emerged” quickly– because they started with a focus on agriculture.


  • Dimian: In his capacity, he launched a blog on Ministry of Finance’s website illustrating Egypt’s financial needs and solicit public comment.

Syrian Crisis: The Art of Resilience

  • Chris Gunness, Spokesperson and Director of Communications, UNRWA
  • Jihad Yazigi, Founder and Editor, Syria Report
  • Laura Trevelyan, Anchor & Correspondent, BBC World News America
  • Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group
  • Inger Andersen, Vice President of Middle East and North Africa region, World Bank Group

Find audience comments on Twitter by using #withsyria & #ArtofResilience

  • mofegy.blogspot.com, to allow the public to effectively engage in open discussions, – See more at: http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/04/09/ministry-finance-launches-blog-communicate-public/#sthash.U2VZI7BD.dpuf  Deeply concerned about the polarization that is an impediment [Note: to get "quick wins" on certain reforms?]  We need to discuss the counter-measures that need to address the effects on vulnerable populations who will be affected by structural reforms.

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Beyond the Arab Spring: U.S. Engagement in a Changing Middle East @WilsonCenterMEP

PITAPOLICY is live-blogging ast in the series, of U.S. Engagement in a Changing Middle East from the Wilson Center. The panelists consider how a range of domestic and regional changes in the Middle East have generated new challenges for U.S. diplomacy. This event is co-sponsored with the United States Institute of Peace and is the 6th and final in a series of presentations on “Reshaping the Strategic Culture of the Middle East.”  The panel is moderated by Haleh Esfandiari, Director, Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.

Steve Heydeman, US Institute for Peace: As we enter the 4th year of the Arab uprisings, the picture has changed–and not for the better.

  • We’ve seen a steady erosion of democritization in Arab countries
  • Note the Freedom House Scores since 2000: None have reached ‘Free’ status
  • Look at political cartoons in Egypt and Algeria: eg. “Vote for Bouteflicka: Alive or Dead”
  • There are elements of continuity of corporatist politics with some troubling models: a trend towards more repressive and authoritarian governance
  • With this authoritarian upgrading,  policy responses produces economic impact.
  • We’ve seen dramatic increases in public spending to offset discontent.  Tripling of public spending in Jordan since 2011.
  • A shifting away from Western countries and the aid dialogue because Arab transition countries raise concerns about conditional aid.
  • Different external actors impacting certain countries, like Russia in Syria, a further reconfiguring of diplomatic, political, economic and strategic relationships have insulated regimes from sanctions.

Where have we arrived after 3+ years since the Arab uprisings?

1) Both responses have emerged to show that Western pressure for democratization is not working.

Daniel Brumberg, Senior Adviser, Center for Middle East and Africa, United States Institute of Peace; and Co-Director, Democracy and Governance Studies, Georgetown University
  • Reflected on Security Resolution 1973 and R2P and how it was used in Libya; while Morsi in Egypt jumped on the bandwagon of authirotiarian leaders
    • As Arab Spring entered its 3rd year, we saw a downturn.
    • At same time, Russia did play a supportive role in the Iran nuclear talks of 2013 to produce a final agreement.
    • Tunisia still presents good news.  Despite ideological divides, they passed a constitution.
  • Back to the downside, Russia has an opportunity to advance further with Egypt given U.S.-Egypt military shuffle. (Note Brumberg’s Freudian slip of”crowning” Al-Sisi as president)
    • Increased strengthening of global authoritarian leaders helps Iran, in that Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, depends on the assumption that there is a high amount of unity among the P5+1 players.

 Danya Greenfield, Acting Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, The Atlantic Council

Among the 3 panelists, Greenfield presenting a more optimistic interpretation because there is still a fundamental lack of clarity of what the US interests are in the region…

  • Optimistic about results because the metric of democratization wasn’t clearly articulated by the US–citing President Obama’s 2013 UN General Assembly speech: 1) countering insurgencies, 2) nonproliferation, 3) free flow of energy, and 4) countering terrorism.  No where did Obama state ‘Democritization’ as a fundamental goal.   In contrast, Russia, China, and Iran have articulated their agendas–which may explain why they have been more successful in exerting their influence in the region.
  • How important is a successful transition in the Arab world?  Is it vital to US interests?  If so, then how will we coordinate with our EU partners?
  • US posturing in Ukraine incident paints a better picture of how US acts according to core interests; whereas, in Egypt, US was not actively engaged because core interests were not articulated and acted upon…
  • 4 Reasons why MENA region fallen off US priorities:
  1.  Global financial crisis,
  2. Transitions have proven more difficult “bumpier”,
  3. Harder to implement a strategy when there’s less interlocuters or institutions in Arab transition countries
  4. Increased participation and rise of other regional players, like Saudi Arabia.
  • Meanwhile, EU concerned about extremists crossing over borders.
  • What’s the cost to US interests?


1) Audience member argues that US is depressed about the Arab Uprisings because we expected change…assuming that change would shift power away from military.  Only two countries where change has taken place: Yemen and Tunisia.  Other than that, there hasn’t been a power transition.  (Note: Heydemann agreed Yemen & Tunisia succeeded in getting change to take place AND agreed that there is confusion as to how that happened given that less success in other transitioning countries.)

2) Heydemann:  Growing popular fatigue with the instability in trying to wrestle power away from the authoritarian rule…or even ‘deep state’ politics where military is still the driving force.

3) Mystery of China’s role in the Arab Uprising.

4) There is US ambivalence about the Saudi Arabia financial role in Egypt and its less than democratic vision for Egypt.  The Saudis are unhappy with the US regarding Syria and Iran.  President Obama’s visit to Saudi was more about damage control rather than prioritizing Egypt.

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The Syria crisis is “not a game of chess, but of billiards because the players are constantly changing” and their interplay is both “horizontal” and “dynamic”, said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a Syria relief & development panel held on March 5th.  As such, the violence that has overrun Syria also catapults the narratives of militant groups and rebel forces using armed resistance.  As a result, the focus on militant operations overshadows nonviolent Syrian initiatives, and thereby overlooks the necessary factors for peace and reconciliation–when that inroad for Syria is made possible.  In particular, the Syria Justice & Accountability Centre’s (SJAC) joint report with Charney Research, which is the first comprehensive initiative to insert accountability into a political discussion by surveying Syrian citizens affected by the conflict, established a baseline for reconciliation. As Facebook shuts down pages of various nonviolent movements and civil society groups in Syria, and facilitating a black hole of many activists’ narratives, tools like the #Syria_NonViolence_Map and #SyriaTracker offer an alternative narrative–which will more likely advance a reconciliatory dialogue.  Consequently, this further alienates civil society efforts from what will be required once the Assad regime and opposition decide to renegotiate and move towards reconciliation–even if that juncture is five years into the future.  Tools like surveying and crowdmapping may help establish the baseline needed for reconciliation. [Click here to continue.]

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Global Donors Forum (April 13-16): PITAPOLICY EXCITED to Attend

Greetings Pita-consumers!

The biennial Global Donors Forum is coming to Washington, DC this year at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.  PITAPOLICY is excited to be invited to participate!  From April 13-16, the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists convene to discuss how to promote effective giving and forge strategic partnerships for high-impact social investment.  This year’s theme is “Celebrating Philanthropy in Emerging Economies”, which will cover a few Arab countries in transition, like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.  In 2008, GDF launched its first forum in Turkey.  Since then, the group has expanded and traveled beyond the MENA region and met in Malaysia at its last biennial event.

Philanthropy has transformed and has been transformed–including in the Middle East & North Africa region.  A variety of factors continue to impact the philanthropy culture and trends within the MENA region, that range from social to socio-political to economic factors, like the Arab transition countries’.  Even though philanthropy is traditionally viewed as outside of politics, the role that development aid assumes does, indeed, recognize the role of politics as more institutions participate in aid giving through public-private partnerships..   But even before political changes in “Arab Awakened” countries, other socio-economic–dare we say religious-cultural factors like Islamic Banking and Zakat– factored into the philanthropy narrative. Given the increasing interest in public-private partnerships, it makes sense that the Global Donors Forum provides a space for such discussion beyond MENA countries.  Given the above, it makes sense that the Global Donors Forum is coming to DC: a global hub for civil society organizations to convene.



  • GD-logo-finalCelebrating Philanthropy in Emerging Economies

    Celebrating Philanthropy in Emerging Economies


    No longer is society looking outside their communities and national borders for change. Whereas, aid was once the only option, now regional philanthropy is increasingly positioning itself as the “game changer.” This sliding dichotomy from aid to philanthropy has already begun and nowhere is it more pronounced than in the “emerging economies.”

    Emerging economies provide opportunities for understanding the consequences of rapid growth and industrialization – including negative social and environmental effects. Donors working for change in these regions are often faced with complex social, political and legal contexts as they work to improve conditions for the citizens. Global Donors Forum carves a path that calls for business, government and civil society leaders to move beyond incrementalism and to dare, to dream and to design a whole new way forward.~GDF


Participation: Sponsors, Partners & Knowledge Contributors:

If you have an interest in philanthropy–as in how to get involved, or understanding the trends that affect your social and humanitarian causes–you should consider registering!  Registration ends April 6th.  The GDF will host donors and thought leaders to answer your questions during workshops.  

Global Donors Forum Sponsors, Partners, & Knowledge Contributors include:

  • UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO; The World Bank, IFC; US Department of State; Dubai Cares
  • Harvard; George Mason University; Case Business School (London)
  • Save the Children; OXFAM, Education for Employment (EFE), Agha Khan Foundation, Akhuwat, Salam
  • International; Rockefeller Foundation; WFDD
  • GIFR; Academy of Philanthropy; Young Entrepreneurs in Philanthropy; MUPPIES; CSR Finance Institute
  • Al Faleh Group; Microsoft; Edbiz Consulting, KPMG

… is just a sample from the list.  If you decide to attend, tweet @PITAPOLICY your thoughts!  Details of which workshops PITAPOLICY Founder, Mehrunisa Qayyum, will be participating in to be announced in April.  Hope to see you there!



  • H.E. Dr. Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al-Thani CEO of Al Faleh Group, Qatar
  • H.E. Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri Director General, ISESCO, Morocco
  • Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen OIC Envoy to the United Nations
  • Amir Dossal, Founder & Chairman Global Partnerships Forum, United States
  • Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, Director The African Leaders Malaria Alliance, United States
  • HRH Princess Maha Bint Abdulaziz Al Saud Atheeb Group, Saudi Arabia
  • Ambassador Zainul Abidin Rasheed Member of Parliament, Singapore
  • Dr. Imtiaz Khan Chair, Board of Directors, WCMP, United States
  • H.R.H. Princess Banderi A.R. AlFaisal Director General, King Khalid Foundation, Saudi Arabia
  • Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid Chairman of Bank Muamalat, Malaysia
  • Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool The Envoy of South Africa to the United States
  • Robert S. Kallen President, RSK Strategies, United States
  • Arsalan Iftikhar Founder, www.themuslimguy.com, United States
  • Ayah Mahgoub MENA Sustainable Development Department, The World Bank
  • Tariq H. Cheema Founder & CEO, WCMP, United States

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Should Tunisia and the US Establish an FTA?

Waging Peace: PeaceGame Exercise Looks at Best Outcome for Syria

Source: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs by Mehrunisa Qayyum, March/April 2014

In order to examine what “the best possible peace for Syria” might look like, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Foreign Policy (FP) Group organized their first PeaceGame simulation—the softer version of a wargame—on Dec. 9 at USIP’s Washington, DC headquarters. As FP CEO David Rothkopf explained, the exercise brought together 43 foreign policy specialists who played the roles of international and Syrian stakeholders in the ongoing conflict. [Click here to continue.]

PITAPOLICY heard the new Tunisian Ambassador to the U.S., Mohamed Ezzine Chelaifa, speak at the Peteresen Institue, an international economics center of study.  Ambassador Chelaifa briefly assessed the ground realities in Tunisia across   3 categories: political, security & socio-economic tensions.  Also, he highlighted Tunisia’s economic and political goals.  On December 1st, 2013, the Tunisian ambassador started his appointment.  (Last year, Mokhtar Chaouchi was selected–we are not sure of why the change.) We were surprised to hear that there’s an aeronautic industry.

Radwan Masmoudi, founder and president of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, – See more at: http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/01/26/mokhtar-chaouachi-appointed-tunisias-new-ambassador-to-the-u-s/#sthash.Fms5CGIa.dpufwas ) His current push for a Free Trade Agreement with the US is born out of a precedent.  Currently, the U.S. established an FTA with Libya, Algeria, and Turkey.
  • Worried about prolfieration of weapons from neighboring countries – acknowledges new terrorist threats
  • Consider disparities and unemployment sparked the conflict – GDP shrank 1.9% immediately after revolution, then bounced back.
  • More than 3,000 foreign companies are registered in Tunisia.

Regarding a security assessment, read #PITAPAL Dr. Noureddine Jebnoun’s findings in his security report.

The security sector, which includes the police and intelligence apparatus as well as the military, is the missing link in this fourth draft of the constitution; the document does not provide positive reform of the sector. For more than two decades, many Tunisians experienced political suppression and extensive surveillance, suffered torture, and were forced into exile. Internal security agencies, mainly the so-called “political police” and the state security service, were the regime’s instrument, acting as both the guardians of the public sphere and as invaders of personal lives. It is likely that the NCA members’ security illiteracy prevented them from addressing changes to the sector, which is crucial for a working democracy. Indeed, all Tunisians should be ensured “freedom from fear” in their constitution when it comes to this sector.

Tunisia Turns to Citizens in Budget Crunch

Source: Magharabia by Monia G

Tunis — In his first televised appearance since taking office, Mehdi Jomaa last week said that the government was facing a grim financial situation that required sacrifices. [Click here to continue]

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Quantity or Quality: The Push for Women’s Representation in Arab Politics

The push for women’s representation in Arab politics draws much attention by both human rights groups and democracy building groups. For example, the National Democratic Institute hosted Members of Parliament from Jordan, Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia to discuss “Women in the New Arab Politics”.  Although the MPs all shared in the struggle to amplify women’s voices, each one had a slightly different take on which path could bring about more

National Democratic Institute Panel: Members of Parliament from Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Jordan

National Democratic Institute Panel: Members of Parliament from Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Jordan

positive impact in amplifying Arab women’s voice in legislative politics.  Specifically, the “quantity versus quality” debate to increase women’s political representation in Arab politics came up: is it better to push for higher numbers of women in parliament–regardless of their internal dynamics–or focus on the quality of candidates so that they are better able to collectively bargain and form coalitions on issues beyond family status laws–like on the economy, defense budgets and not just the “soft” issues of cultural outreach and education.

But the debate should not de-emphasize the gains that female parliamentarians have produced for society.  Women parliamentarians are not just focused on women and family rights.  “In Jordan, because of our constitution, we have stopped the practice of trying civilians in military courts,” said one of the MPs visiting from Jordan.

Earlier, the Wilson Center hosted an event that broadly focused on the public and private space opening, or closing, for women in the Middle East & North Africa region earlier in 2014. PITAPOLICY’s summary and analysis on that event may be found here.

If an underrepresented group faced a choice between more representatives in parliament, or less representatives, the group would argue for more representation. That’s a simple numbers game that –one would hope–would advance the underrepresented group’s interests.  The goal is to achieve impact.  However, what if this underrepresented group, let us say women, had to choose between quantity or quality.  Some female Members of Parliament would push for quantity.  As one second-term MP from Jordan said, “we still need a certain quantity in order to have get that quality of service heard.”  On the other hand, other female MPs would argue for quality in the types of female candidates because of the politics behind debating legislation among women.  She fears that there is not a consensus among women MPs, who are still hesitant to press for more women’s rights.  Moreover, she argues that there needs to be more unity on specific issues, like advancing women’s rights.    That way, rallying support is easier to form a bloc to pass or lead on legislation that favor women.

Many on the panel say a quota system is a necessary measure until the inclusion of women in political process holds constant within Arab society. To be fair, countries that pride themselves on leading democratic processes through legislative representation, still struggle with disproportionate levels of female legislators. For example, only 20 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats (the American equivalent of the ‘Upper House’) are held by women, according to The Washington Post. The U.S. has not implemented a quota system for women or minorities to address their under-representation in the Senate or the House of Representatives.

“Will part of women’s equality issue be solved in time because of generational changes?” asked the moderator, Tamara Coffman-Wittes from the Brookings Institute Saban Center. Each of the panelists expressed optimism as long as their countries’ legislative processes include female MPs. For example, the Jordanian MP said she was “very optimistic” because Jordan amended many laws in the 1990s.

Below are highlighted comments from Members of Parliament representing their countries. Ironically, Libya’s representative on the issue of women’s representation, was, in fact, a man.

Morocco: Member of Parliament, attorney who previously litigated in criminal court prior to serving.

  • Between 1963 to 1993: no women in parliament. Currently, Moroccan parliamentary quotas require 60 women and 30 young people to serve as Members of Parliament.
  • Female Moroccan MP astonished at low numbers of women in some Western legislatures–including the US Senate, which she says hurts their cause in Morocco.
  • Women’s effective participation in politics requires support from men during panel -female lawyer serving as MP

Note: Male MP from Morocco commented that the presence of women in cabinet sets public expectations. So when the number of women in cabinet went down, the Moroccan public expressed surprise.

Tunisia: Rabiaa Nalaoui, Member of Parliament

  • Ms. Nalaoui is the youngest Tunisian MP and hopes that her efforts in next parliament will pass legislation to lower candidacy age requirement.
  • Calls for Tunisia to follow Libya in adopting the horizontal “zipper system” for gender quotas in parliament.
  • (Note: The Zipper system means that one list includes all male candidates and a second list includes all female candidates. Then one would select from each list alternately from party lists.)
  • “We need to also work on the horizontal system because zipper system didn’t work to guarantee that 50% of head of lists were women.
  • Keep gender quotas until culture changes so that competent women are elected on their merits without a quota.  In Tunisia, even with “Zipper” quota system, 94% of the heads of the lists were men, need horizontal lists as well.
  • “Implementation of constitution is most important. We don’t need just female MPs,” because parliament requires leadership on pro women’s rights.

Jordan: Reem Abu Dalbouh, Member of Parliament

  • Constitution is a tool to defend against discrimination.
  • Legislation achieved the following: In 1982, women allowed to run in elections; In 2003 amended election law for transition in that 6 seats increased to 12 seats (in 2010) to establish first female alliance.
  • First Arab country to pass law to protect against violence against women.
  • Younger generations should learn from the experience of other generations who have fought for equality for women.

Libya: Musa Faraj, Member of Parliament

  • Status of women has advanced significantly in past two generations.
  • “Libyan women were central to 2011 uprising and have a bright future.”



Photo by Dana Zureikat Daoud @DanaZkat: (R) Reem Abu Dalbouh, Member of Parliament from Jordan

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