- Sign Up
JFP 2/14: Military-cutting amendments expected Tuesday
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 14 February 2011 - 9:52pm
Just Foreign Policy News
February 14, 2011
Win Without War: Military-cutting amendments expected Tuesday
Members of the House are expected to introduce amendments Tuesday to the "continuing resolution" to cut the military budget. The expected amendment list as it now stands, according to Win Without War, includes:
Rep. Jerry Nadler
Cutting $90 billion for the war in Afghanistan.
Rep. Walter Jones
Cutting $500 million for the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) and $400 million for the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund.
Rep. Jared Polis
Following recommendations in the Sustainable Defense Task Force report, cutting force structure by 33,000 troops. The bill will also limit the number of troops stationed in Europe to 35,000.
Rep. Tom Rooney
Cutting $450 million for the F-35 alternate engine program.
You can reach your Rep. through the Capitol Switchboard: 202-225-3121.
Egypt's Protesters Communique Number 1
On Saturday, protesters in Tahrir restated demands that have not yet been met by the Egyptian military, including: abolition of the emergency law; release of all political prisoners; interim civilian rule; a original constituent assembly to write a new democratic constitution; freedom to form any peaceful political party; freedom of the press and circulation of information; and freedom for union organization.
CBS News Video: Wael Ghonim and Egypt's New Age Revolution
60 Minutes interviews Wael Ghonim.
Harry Smith: "If you are an autocrat, or if you're a dictator, and you watched what happened in Egypt over the last several weeks-"
WG: "You should freak out. You seriously should freak out."
Graphic: Where will the next Arab democratic revolution be?
After Tunisia and Egypt, many are asking: where will the next democratic revolution in the Arab world be? Yemen? Algeria? Jordan? A powerful drawing captures the hopes of many in the region, as a torch bearer bearing the Egyptian flag runs towards outstretched hands.
Help Support Our Advocacy for Peace and Diplomacy
The opponents of peace and diplomacy work every day. Help us be an effective counterweight.
1) Egypt's military leaders told opposition leaders they plan to convene a panel of jurists to submit a package of constitutional amendments within 10 days for approval in a national referendum within two months, the New York Times reports. Still unanswered are other demands of the protesters, among them the release of thousands of political prisoners, and abolition of the emergency law.
2) The president's proposed fiscal 2012 budget requests $22 billion more for the "base" (non-war) Pentagon budget than the fiscal 2010 figure expected to be available this year, the Washington Post reports. The funds for Iraq and Afghanistan would drop by $41 billion from the $159 billion expected for this year. [This projected reduction appears to be all reduced Iraq spending - JFP.]
3) House Republicans called for $61 billion in cuts that exempted military spending, AP reports. Among the programs targeted for elimination are Americorps and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting [which funds local public radio and TV, including community radio - JFP.] Some of the largest cuts would be borne by WIC, which provides nutritional support for women and infants, cut by $747 million, and training and employment grants to the states, ticketed for a $1.4-billion reduction.
4) The Pentagon likes to trumpet "tactical" gains the US military is making against Afghan insurgents, David Wood writes for Politics Daily. But these may be irrelevant to "strategic" outcomes, he notes. In nine years, US troops have never "lost" a battle, but a similar claim in Vietnam was irrelevant.
5) Some say future cooperation with the US against terrorism might be endangered by democracy in Egypt, the Washington Post reports. But Robert Grenier, the former head of the CIA's counterterrorism center, said, "The Egyptians have as much interest in protecting themselves from violent extremism as everyone else." Grenier predicted the relationship would continue even if the Muslim Brotherhood controlled the next government.
Former State Department Middle East expert Michele Dunne noted that the US has good counterterrorism cooperation with Turkey, a democratic Muslim nation. "The idea we can't do business with countries responsive to their citizens is a false one," Dunne said. Indeed, she said, if the future Egyptian government is less repressive, "maybe Egypt won't be producing terrorists" like Ayman al-Zawahiri.
6) The President's budget spares the State Department from major cuts hitting other government agencies, AP reports.
The budget retains major assistance programs for U.S. allies in the Middle East, including $1.5 billion for Egypt. Officials said money for Egypt, including $1.3 billion in military aid, could be altered depending on developments. Israel is slated for $5.6 billion, including $3.1 billion in military aid. Jordan is to get $300 million in military aid. Yemen is set to get $120 million.
Assistance to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq is divided between two accounts - one totaling $5.3 billion that deals with core assistance and diplomatic support and another totaling $8.7 billion that deals with aid related to ongoing war efforts.
7) Bahrain's US-backed King Khalifa had said that peaceful protests would be tolerated in what organizers had called Bahrain's "Day of Rage," the New York Times reports. But that turned out to be a lie. From early in the morning until well past sundown, police attacked without warning any group that dared gather in the street. "They're shooting at us like we were some sort of terrorists," said one woman who tried to protest.
8) A US official said the Obama administration is examining requests from Egypt's new government to freeze the assets of top aides to ousted President Mubarak, AP reports. The official said the Treasury Department is looking at the requests and will make a decision within days.
9) Egypt's military called Monday for an end to strikes and protests, but thousands of state employees took to the streets to demand better pay and working conditions, the Washington Post reports. Military rulers "appeared poised to ban all gatherings, strikes and sit-ins," the Post says. Leaders of the pro-democracy movement were planning a massive "victory march" Friday to celebrate their revolution and maintain pressure for fundamental change.
10) The US is urging King Abdullah to take tangible steps to address public grievances, the Washington Post reports. Authorities have in recent days showed heightened sensitivity to foreign media coverage of discontent in the kingdom. The royal court published a statement last week condemning as "defamatory" a news story written by the Amman bureau chief of AFP that cited a letter signed by 36 members of Bedouin tribes calling for sweeping reforms and directly criticizing Abdullah's wife, Queen Rania.
11) Riot police officers stifled a protest in Algeria's capital Saturday, the New York Times reports. Witnesses said thousands of riot police officers with clubs had blocked demonstrators from carrying out a planned march. Algeria's government has operated under a state of emergency for nearly two decades.
1) Egypt's Ruling Generals Meet With Opposition
David D. Kirkpatrick and Anthony Shadid, New York Times, February 14, 2011
Cairo - Egypt's military leaders have told a coalition of young opposition leaders that they plan to convene a panel of distinguished jurists to submit a package of constitutional amendments within 10 days for approval in a national referendum within two months, setting a breakneck schedule for the transition to civilian rule.
Confronting more immediate challenges, the governing Supreme Military Council issued a communiqué on Monday urging labor leaders to end the strikes that have broken out in the aftermath of the revolution.
The statement, read on state television, seemed aimed not just at strikes against private industry but also at a fresh wave of smaller demonstrations by state employees, including ambulance drivers, journalists, police officers and transport workers, demanding better pay and working conditions. Several hundred police officers demonstrated in the square - not, as at the beginning of the revolt, to suppress protest, but to seek better working conditions and public sympathy.
The Egyptian government has also issued a formal request to Britain to freeze the assets of all the senior officials of the Mubarak regime, the British foreign minister, William Hague, told the House of Commons. Mr. Hague said an investigation would be conducted by the Serious Organized Crime Agency to look into "assets acquired through corruption," the Guardian newspaper reported on its Web site. The paper says the European Union has received a similar request.
Mr. Hague also said that the Egyptian prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, had told him that he planned to reshuffle his cabinet, bringing opposition figures into the government.
Since seizing power on Friday, the military has struck a reassuring note, responding in words and actions to the platform articulated by hundreds of thousands in Tahrir Square. But beyond more protests, there is almost no check on the sweep of military rule. While opposition leaders in Egypt welcomed the military's moves, some have quietly raised worries about the future role of an institution that has been a pillar of the status quo, playing a crucial behind-the-scenes role in preserving its vast business interests and political capital.
Nevertheless, the military's statement on Sunday was the clearest elaboration yet of its plans for Egypt, as the country's opposition forces, from the Muslim Brotherhood to labor unions, seek to build on the momentum of the protests and create a democratic system with few parallels in the Arab world.
The moves to suspend the Constitution and to dissolve Parliament, chosen in an election deemed a sham even by Mr. Mubarak's standards, were expected. The statement declared that the supreme command would issue laws in the transitional period before elections and that Egypt's defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, would represent the country, in a sign that the 75-year-old loyalist of Mr. Mubarak's had emerged to the forefront.
The military's communiqué was welcomed by opposition leaders as offering a specific timetable for transition to civil rule. Ayman Nour, a longtime opponent of Mr. Mubarak's, called it a victory for the revolution. "The statement is fine," said Ahmed Maher, a leading organizer. "We still need more details, but it was more comforting than what we heard before." But still unanswered are other demands of the protesters, among them the release of thousands of political prisoners. The military's position on the emergency law, which gave Mr. Mubarak's government wide powers to arrest and detain people, has remained ambiguous. The military said earlier that it would abolish it once conditions improved, but has yet to address it since. Essam al-Arian, a prominent Brotherhood leader, echoed those demands, saying their fulfillment "would bring calm to the society."
2) Budget 2012: Defense Department
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, February 14, 2011; 2:45 PM ET
Full Budget Proposal Summary: Department of Defense:
The president's proposed fiscal 2012 budget requests $553 billion for the Defense Department's base spending and another $118 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq for a total of $671 billion.
While the base budget would rise $22 billion above the fiscal 2010 figure expected to be available this year, the funds for Iraq and Afghanistan would drop by $41 billion from the $159 billion expected for this year. That would put the proposed overall fiscal 2012 figure almost $20 billion under overall defense spending for the current year.
Another $12.8 billion is requested for Afghan security forces, up nearly $1 billion from the current year request and even more from the amount contained in the current fiscal 2011 continuing resolution.
3) At 'tea party' urging, Republicans deepen spending cuts
Hundreds of federal programs would be cut in a $61-billion savings package compiled by House Republicans. Defense and veterans' programs would be exempt.
Associated Press, 9:42 PM PST, February 11, 2011
House Republicans called for cuts in hundreds of government programs Friday night in a $61-billion savings package they toughened at the demand of "tea party"-backed conservatives.
From education to job training, the environment and nutrition, few domestic programs were would be left untouched - and some were would be eliminated - in the measure, which is expected to reach the floor for a vote next week.
Among the programs targeted for elimination are Americorps and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
In contrast, spending on defense and veterans' programs were protected.
House Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) issued a statement calling the bill irresponsible, adding that it would "target critical education programs like Head Start, halt innovation and disease research, end construction projects to rebuild America and take cops off the beat."
Some of the largest cuts would be borne by WIC, which provides nutritional support for women and infants, cut by $747 million, and training and employment grants to the states, ticketed for a $1.4-billion reduction.
In addition, Republicans proposed a 43% cut in border security fencing and a 53% reduction in an account used to fund cleanup of the Great Lakes.
4) The Afghanistan War: Tactical Victories, Strategic Stalemate?
David Wood, Politics Daily, February 13, 2011
The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, likes to describe the tactical gains his troops are making against insurgents. But a stream of independent data and analysis suggests a wide gap between those battlefield gains and the strategic progress needed to convince a skeptical President Obama, Congress and the public to stay with the war effort for at least three more years.
Recently, for instance, Petraeus asserted that his forces "achieved what we set out to achieve in 2010, which was to reverse the insurgency momentum." He has said that Taliban insurgents "are losing momentum in some key areas" and noted that many are turning themselves into Afghan authorities.
But an estimated 7,000 insurgents who had given up and come over to the government later went back to fighting because of poorly managed and underfinanced programs to resettle and reintegrate them, according to a detailed study by the Afghan Analysts Network, an independent nonprofit research organization.
If lavish programs to court Taliban fighters are put in place in the future, large numbers might switch sides, said the study's author, Matt Waldman, a fellow at Harvard University's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. But unless they are integrated into social, economic and political life, disillusioned Taliban might flood back to fighting, ultimately contributing to "strategic failure" of the United States in Afghanistan.
"We've made a lot of progress ... a lot of tactical gains," said Col. Dan Williams, who commands the 4th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade. "The question is, has that had a strategic ... effect?"
In nine years of firefights, pitched battles, attacks, ambushes and raids, American troops have never lost. But what do those victories add up to?
Williams' unanswered question put me in mind of a long-ago conversation between two bitter foes, American Army Col. Harry G. Summers and a North Vietnamese officer. It took place at the Paris peace talks five days before the fall of Saigon marked America's final defeat in Vietnam. In a later essay he called "Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat," Summers recalled saying, "You know you never defeated us on the battlefield." The North Vietnamese officer pondered this remark. "That may be so," he replied, "but it is also irrelevant."
The strategic effect, though, was unclear, given widespread reports that insurgents actually increased the tempo of fighting. A year-end analysis by the Afghan NGO Safety Office, an independent project that advises humanitarian organizations on conditions in Afghanistan, found "indisputable evidence that the situation is deteriorating."
While Petraeus and other commanders say the higher tempo of fighting is because of increased U.S. attacks on Taliban strongholds, the NGO Safety Office survey found a 64 percent increase in attacks initiated by insurgents, mostly small arms ambushes. Noting that its findings are sharply at odds with public reports of the U.S. command, Safety Office Director Nic Lee observed that the military's public assessments "are solely intended to influence American and European public opinion."
5) Joint Counterterrorism Efforts Could Face Public Opposition
Mary Beth Sheridan and Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Sunday, February 13, 2011; 12:13 AM
For decades, Egypt's government has been a critical partner for U.S. intelligence agencies, sharing information on extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and working hand in glove on counterterrorism operations. Now the future of that cooperation is in question.
With the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, a staunch American ally, the contours of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship may well be redrawn. Analysts say a more democratic Egyptian government will have to be responsive to a public that may oppose such special and close ties with Washington.
Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to gain influence if free and fair elections are held, analysts say. The Islamist group has renounced violence but is openly hostile to Israel and may call for more independence from U.S. policies.
"How will cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism develop in the view of these new constraints? I would argue the space will contract," said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department Middle East expert who is now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Some U.S. officials and analysts say they are not overly worried, noting the continued strong role of the Egyptian military and the fact that the United States gives Egypt more than $1.3 billion a year in military aid. Robert Grenier, the former head of the CIA's counterterrorism center, said, "The Egyptians have as much interest in protecting themselves from violent extremism as everyone else."
Some former officials, however, argue that Egypt is likely to continue much of its cooperation. They note the country has every interest in combating terrorism, having suffered years of assassinations and other attacks by extremist Muslim groups. Only last month, 21 people died in a car-bomb attack on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria.
Grenier predicted the relationship would continue even if the Muslim Brotherhood controlled the next government. If anything, the Brotherhood "understands the extremists better than anyone else. They know that, in revolutionary situations, the moderates are the first to go," said the former CIA official, now chairman of ERG Partners, a consulting firm.
Michele Dunne, another former State Department Middle East expert, agreed that the new Egyptian government will be much more sensitive to public opinion than Mubarak's regime.
"But the U.S. has good counterterrorism cooperation with governments of countries like Turkey," a democratic Muslim nation, said Dunne, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "The idea we can't do business with countries responsive to their citizens is a false one."
Indeed, she said, if the future Egyptian government is less repressive, "maybe Egypt won't be producing terrorists" like Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian who is the No. 2 figure in al-Qaeda.
Many counterterrorism officials and Middle East experts are skeptical that al-Qaeda will benefit from Egypt's political upheaval, at least in the short run. Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood have been foes for decades, and polls show that Egyptians overwhelmingly reject the group's brutal methods and rigid ideology.
Al-Qaeda opposes the kind of democracy that millions of Egyptians called for in the 18 days of mass demonstrations that led to Mubarak's toppling. "The developments in Egypt are actually devastating to al-Qaeda," said J. Scott Carpenter, a Middle East expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
6) Highlights of Obama's $3.73 trillion budget
Associated Press, Monday, February 14, 2011; 6:28 PM
Washington - A look at what President Barack Obama has requested in his $3.73 trillion budget for the 2012 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Spending: $73.6 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 0.7 percent decrease
Discretionary Spending: $58.9 billion
Highlights: Hillary Rodham Clinton's State Department is spared major cuts hitting other government agencies, with a decrease of less than 1 percent from the previous year. The budget proposal maintains significant funds for programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Iraq, where U.S. diplomats will face serious challenges as American troops continue to withdraw.
The budget retains major assistance programs for U.S. allies in the Middle East, including $1.5 billion for Egypt despite the recent ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Officials stressed, however, that money for Egypt, including $1.3 billion in military aid, could be altered depending on developments.
Israel is slated for $5.6 billion, including $3.1 billion in military aid. Jordan, which along with Egypt, are the only two Arab states to have peace deals with Israel, is to get $300 million in military aid.
Yemen, a key partner in fighting al-Qaida, is set to get $120 million in assistance, the same as requested last year which was an increase of $53 million over the 2010 budget.
Assistance to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq is divided between two accounts - one totaling $5.3 billion that deals with core assistance and diplomatic support and another totaling $8.7 billion that deals with aid related to ongoing war efforts.
The proposed budget calls for slight increases in global development assistance and the Peace Corps but also foresees reductions for development funds in Africa and Latin America. It would eliminate direct military assistance totaling $5 million for five countries - Chile, Haiti, Malta, East Timor and Tonga. It also would reduce economic assistance for east European and Central Asian countries.
Agency: Veterans Affairs
Spending: $129 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 4.5 percent increase
Discretionary Spending: $58.8 billion
Highlights: More than 2.2 million service members have deployed for war since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The budget proposal would provide $208 million in aid to caregivers who are family members of the severely wounded from the recent wars. It's part of a law signed last year by President Barack Obama. It would invest $183 million to help jumpstart VA's effort to reduce its massive claims backlog that's left veterans waiting months or years for a benefit check by starting to implement a paperless claims system. It would invest $939 million to help expand services for homeless veterans through private and public partnerships. It also would provide $6 billion for programs targeting the mental health needs of veterans, including those with traumatic brain injury. The proposed budget would cut spending for construction. House Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, a Republican, has promised to do a thorough review of spending at the VA.
7) Clashes Erupt in Bahrain as Tumult Ripples Across Mideast
Michael Slackman and Nadim Audi, New York Times, February 14, 2011
Manama, Bahrain - The police officers, 20 of them, raised their weapons and fired rubber bullets and canisters of tear gas directly into a small group of protesters chanting slogans and holding signs. One man fell instantly and was shot at as he squirmed on the ground. Another was trapped against a wall and writhed as an officer shot rubber bullets at him, again.
That scene, on Avenue 28 with a police car supervising at about 5:30 pm, was played out all over this island nation on Monday as police attacked peaceful protesters, men, women and children, chasing them down, firing at them with rubber bullets and overwhelming them with tear gas. At times the tear gas was so heavy, and fired with such abandon, that the police also succumbed, dropping to the ground to vomit.
This small nation in the Persian Gulf, with only about 1 million residents, half of them foreign workers, has long been among the most politically volatile in the region. The principal tension is between the royal family under King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and ruling elites, who are mostly Sunnis, and the approximately 70 percent of the local population that is Shiite. Occupying mostly rundown villages with cinder block buildings and little else, many Shiites charge systemic discrimination in employment, housing, education and governance.
It appeared that all of the protests on Monday were in Shiite communities, with demands that were both economic and political. Young people said they mostly wanted jobs and a chance at a better life. But protesters young and old called for a new constitution and democratic changes to allow for a more effective representative parliament and government. The king has been promising to open up the political system for a decade, but the progress has been slow.
"We want real reforms, a real parliament elected by the people with real legislative power," said Maryam al-Khawaja, 23, with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. "We want a constitution written by the people."
Mr. Khalifa and government officials had said that peaceful protests would be tolerated in what organizers had called Bahrain's "Day of Rage," modeled on the protests in Egypt last month. But they were not. From early in the morning until well past sundown, police attacked without warning any group that dared gather in the street.
Organizers had hoped to join in one large demonstration at a central traffic circle beneath a mammoth statue of a pearl. But they never had the chance.
"They're shooting at us like we were some sort of terrorists," said Sharifeh al-Gharbil, 30, one of about 20 Shiite women and a scattering of men who gathered at the Duraz traffic circle. "But we're Bahrainis. We're not Sunni, we're not Westerners, we're not Jordanian, so we're nothing. I have no job, I have no hope and my family is hungry."
8) US studies Egypt requests to freeze assets
Matthew Lee, Associated Press, Monday, February 14, 2011; 5:29 PM
Washington - The Obama administration is examining requests from Egypt's new government to freeze the assets of top aides to ousted President Hosni Mubarak, a senior U.S. official said Monday.
The official told reporters at the State Department that the administration had received requests regarding assets held by some senior officials in Mubarak's regime, but have not received the same request to freeze assets held by the former president.
The official said the Treasury Department is looking at the requests and will make a decision within days. The official did not identify the individuals whose U.S. assets were being studied and spoke on condition of anonymity because the U.S. has not yet decided what to do.
The official's comments came after Britain's foreign secretary said the European Union will discuss a request from Egypt's military rulers to freeze assets held by members of Mubarak's regime.
9) Egypt's army demands end to strikes; opposition vows to push for change
Craig Whitlock and Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Monday, February 14, 2011; 2:47 PM
Cairo - Egypt's military called Monday for an end to the strikes and protests that have practically paralyzed the country since late last month, but thousands of police and other state employees took to the streets to demand better pay and working conditions, and pro-democracy leaders vowed to keep demonstrating if their demands for change are not met.
Even as the army cleared Cairo's Tahrir Square of most of the protesters whose peaceful uprising ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak, the labor unrest triggered by the popular revolt showed no sign of abating. In addition to police, state employees ranging from ambulance drivers to transport workers took part in Monday's demonstrations.
Leaders of the pro-democracy movement, for their part, were planning a massive "victory march" Friday to celebrate their revolution and maintain pressure for fundamental change. According to opposition activists, military leaders indicated that they were willing to share power with civilians and amend the constitution by plebiscite within a couple of months.
In addition, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq informed him that the cabinet would be reshuffled in the coming week to bring in opposition figures, Reuters news agency reported.
Meanwhile, however, the military rulers who took over Friday from Mubarak called on state television for an end to the demonstrations and appeared poised to ban all gatherings, strikes and sit-ins in an effort to return to normalcy.
10) U.S. sends officials to reassure nervous allies
Joel Greenberg and Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Monday, February 14, 2011; 2:07 AM
Amman, Jordan - Senior U.S. officials held talks over the weekend with King Abdullah II as part of an Obama administration diplomatic offensive in the wake of back-to-back popular uprisings in the Middle East.
The visit is part of an effort to reassure nervous allies in the region while seeking to coordinate with dozens of other countries on a still-unformed strategy for easing Egypt and Tunisia onto a peaceful path toward democracy.
The White House dispatched Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and the State Department's top career diplomat, Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns, to Jordan in a show of support for another key U.S. ally that has been rocked by unrest in recent weeks.
The visit to Jordan by Burns - a former ambassador to country - was intended "to support Jordan's program of reform and help it keep ahead of the unrest in the region," a U.S. official said. Burns met with Abdullah as well as his newly appointed prime minister, Marouf al-Bakhit, to encourage the country's efforts toward political and economic reform, the official said.
Pressured by unrest across the Arab world and street demonstrations at home by Jordanians angered by rising prices and alleged government corruption, Abdullah replaced the prime minister earlier this month and ordered speedy action to reform Jordan's political system and economy.
The United States is urging Abdullah to take tangible steps to address public grievances, a lesson learned from the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose offers of concessions to protesters were rejected as too little, too late.
The shockwaves of Mubarak's fall have unsettled the Jordanian leadership, which is facing increasing public discontent, although the criticism has not been leveled directly at the monarchy, which is widely seen as a unifying force that has given Jordan stability and security. "There is growing criticism of the king's policies," said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst. "No one wants to see a change in the regime as such."
Still, the authorities have in recent days showed heightened sensitivity to foreign media coverage of discontent in the kingdom. In a rare step, the royal court published a statement last week condemning as "defamatory" a news story written by the Amman bureau chief of Agence France-Presse, Randa Habib, that cited a letter signed by 36 members of Bedouin tribes calling for sweeping reforms and directly criticizing Abdullah's wife, Queen Rania.
The tribes are normally a bedrock of support for the monarchy. But the letter alleged that the queen was interfering in the affairs of state, and it denounced a birthday celebration for her in September in the scenic desert area of Wadi Rum in southern Jordan as a lavish excess "at the expense of the treasury and the poor."
In addition, Ammon News, a popular Web site that is an alternative to government-controlled newspapers, was hacked and the letter by the tribesmen removed after a telephone warning from authorities that the declaration was "against the national interest" and not representative of popular opinion, said Basil Okoor, the managing director. The site then was taken down for a few hours but restored after dozens of journalists gathered to protest outside the building of the local journalists association.
Ayman Safadi, a former government spokesman with links to the royal court, gave assurances that barring journalists was not government policy, though some foreign journalists have been questioned recently about their coverage plans at the border crossing and at the official Jordanian media office in Amman.
Along with the signs of unease with outside media scrutiny, Abdullah has moved domestically to widen the circle of political dialogue, meeting last week with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition movement A Western diplomat said that the king had staved off the serious unrest that has swept other countries in the region, and that the monarchy remained stable.
Yet a crowd of youthful Jordanians celebrating outside the Egyptian Embassy on the night Mubarak stepped down had a different message. "Arab revolution, from Marrakesh to Bahrain," they chanted to a deafening drumbeat. "They're scared, they're scared of the people's revolt."
11) Algerian Riot Police Break Up Protest
Adam Nossiter and Timothy Williams, New York Times, February 12, 2011
Algiers - Riot police officers stifled a protest in Algeria's capital on Saturday by hundreds of people voicing the same demands for change that have helped topple two of the region's autocratic governments over the last month.
Gathering in the central May 1 Square, demonstrators in Algiers chanted "Bouteflika out!" referring to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has ruled Algeria with a tough hand since 1999, maintaining power through elections that opposition figures say were rigged. The rally's organizers said thousands had taken part, but news agencies and the government here gave vastly differing figures, from a few dozen to thousands.
Witnesses said thousands of riot police officers with clubs had blocked the demonstrators from carrying out a planned march in the center of the whitewashed seaside capital, which was otherwise tense and deserted on Saturday. By late afternoon, with the last of the demonstrators gone, the square was still sealed off by police officers, and dozens of armored police vehicles remained in the neighborhood.
"There was a march of police, not demonstrators," said a civil servant, standing near the square late Saturday afternoon. He refused to give his name, citing security concerns. "The marchers had asked to conduct a peaceful march and it was refused. This is how power here acts."
With the police still out in force, knots of men watched them silently from doorways in the chill dusk. Among them were suggestions that persistent grievances - large-scale unemployment, reports of government corruption, heavy-handed police tactics - had not been mitigated by the demonstration's suppression.
"They can't kill us because we are already dead," said Bilal Boudamous, 29, who said he was out of work. "At 30 we are unemployed, we live with our parents, and we have no future."
Glancing over at the helmeted police officers, he said, "They are there to stifle us, to prevent us from doing anything." He had tried to take part in the march, he said, but had been beaten back by officers wielding truncheons.
Algeria's government has operated under a state of emergency for nearly two decades. Its battle with Islamic militants reached a peak in a brutal civil war in the 1990s, in which as many as 200,000 people were killed. That conflict began after the military-backed government canceled elections that an Islamist party appeared poised to win.
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here: