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By Ala’ Alrababa’h (Twitter: @a_alrababah)

I’m working at the Middle East Institute this summer.  As part of my job, I’ll be covering events in Washington, D.C. and publishing about them at another blog, peacefare.net

In my first post, I covered an event on the censorship of Bahraini media.  Here’s a blurb:

When protests broke out in 2011, the Bahraini government launched a violent campaign against journalists. According to Alwadi, the government targeted more than 135 journalists and media personnel during the first year of protests. Some were tortured and killed.  More went into jail. Alwadi herself was detained before fleeing to the United States. Those who survived detention were often fired or forced into hiding. Ali Abdulemam, a famous Bahraini blogger who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, went into hiding after the protests. Abdulemam surfaced in London only last month, after two years of hiding.

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Blueprint for a Limited U.S. Intervention in Syria

By Ala’ Alrababa’h (twitter: @a_alrababah)

Note: This post is based on a detailed military analysis that Ala’ Alrababa’h conducted under the supervision of Professor Daryl Press, of Dartmouth College.

Syrian Refugees Escaping

Syrian Refugees Escaping to Turkey
Reuters

The Obama administration is clearly reluctant to intervene in Syria. A full-scale intervention risks dragging the United States into another civil war. Most proposals for limited interventions – e.g., airstrikes to weaken the Syrian government, or direct military support for one or more rebel groups – risk accelerating the Syrian government’s collapse without establishing any real U.S. influence over post-Assad Syria. But a different type of limited intervention is possible, which would raise small risks for U.S. forces and directly alleviate the ongoing humanitarian disaster.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is dreadful—about 80,000 people have died in the fighting, and conditions may be growing worse: evidence is mounting that chemical weapons have been used, perhaps by the Syrian government, perhaps by the rebels, and perhaps by both sides. Those who say that little can be done to alleviate the suffering have overlooked a promising military option: establishing safe corridors to help civilians stuck in the crossfire escape. Here, I advance a plan similar to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 proposal for “no-kill zones” in Syria. Those zones would provide humanitarian assistance to civilians in close proximity to the borders.

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Jordan’s Parliament and the Search for Belated Legitimacy

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By Ghazi Jarrar (twitter:@ghazijarrar)

In an unusual step, Jordan’s parliament voted last Wednesday in favor of a memorandum petitioning the government to expel the Israeli ambassador in Amman, and to recall the Jordanian ambassador in Tel-Aviv. Eighty-seven members of the Lower House are threatening to withdraw their vote of confidence if Prime Minister Abdullah al-Nsour does not comply with the memorandum.

In real terms, the memorandum does not mean a great deal. While the Israeli ambassador is said to have left the country for consultations, Jordan’s relations with Israel are unlikely to be seriously altered in the foreseeable future. The motives behind this memorandum, however, are worthy of analysis. An understanding of the motives reveals more about this Parliament and its role in the current political context.

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Takeaways from King Abdullah’s Speech to the New Parliament

By Ala’ Alrababa’h (Twitter: @a_alrababah)

Photo: AFP

King Abdullah II speaking to the Parliament.
Photo: AFP

On Sunday, King Abdullah II gave the opening speech to Jordan’s 17th parliament. The speech outlined some significant steps that, if implemented, will genuinely reform Jordan’s political system (to listen to the speech click here, to read it click here). Following are some important takeaways from the speech:

The Next Prime Minister

[We] call for a new approach. We will start as part of this new approach with consultations over the government’s formation with the Lower House and parliamentary blocs as they take shape, in order to reach consensus that leads to the designation of a prime minister, who, in turn, will enter into consultations with the parliamentary blocs and other political forces as he selects his ministerial team. He will then seek the Lower House’s confidence based on a policy statement resulting from the consultation process, and on four-year programmes.

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What to Expect from Jordan’s 17th Parliament

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By Ghazi Jarrar (twitter:@ghazijarrar)

This Sunday will see Jordan’s 17th parliament holding its first session. Last month, the electoral process brought to the country a sense of cautious optimism. The elections, which took place in spite of a boycott by opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, saw an acceptable turnout of 56% of the registered voters, or approximately 39% of the total eligible voters. And despite some accusations of fraud, the international observers (who were invited in bigger numbers this time) praised the Independent Electoral Commission for its organization of an orderly electoral process.

Regardless of the electoral process, the country’s political scene does not look very different. The new parliament consists of many familiar faces, and the country’s experiment with the national-lists has yielded little in the way of forming parliamentary blocs. Meanwhile, a significant portion of the opposition, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, remains on the streets. And while these reasons may seem enough to denounce this parliament as incapable of meeting the upcoming challenges, a closer look would be useful before reaching conclusions.

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Fareed Zakaria’s Hits and Misses

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By Ala’ Alrababa’h (Twitter: @a_alrababah)

Photo: Wikipedia

Fareed Zakaria is an astute political analyst and commentator. I enjoy reading his articles, and watching his GPS show.  If you haven’t watched his Munk debates, especially the one on Iran you should get on it soon.  However, Zakaria’s article in the Washington Post, Arab Spring’s hits and misses, did not live up to his usual standards. In the article, Zakaria ignored essential facts about the transition process in Jordan. In fact, Zakaria’s article reads like some Jordanian government propaganda. It was unsurprising when Al Rai, a state-sponsored newspaper in Jordan, decided to translate and republish the article.

In the article, Zakaria compares the ways Jordan and Egypt have dealt with the Arab Uprisings. Zakaria claims that Egypt chose the wrong path of “democratization before liberalization.”  Jordan, on the other hand, “did not rush to hold elections.”  Instead, it embarked on a slower, yet more orderly transition.  Zakaria also says “Morocco has taken the same route as Jordan.” In the end, he concludes:

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Channels of Influence: The Role of Jordanian Blogs

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By Ala’ Alrababa’h (Twitter: @a_alrababah)

In June 2012, the Project On Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) released a briefing titled: Arab Uprisings: New Opportunities for Political Science. While the report included questions on the role of new media in the Arab Uprisings, I was disappointed to see that it hardly mentioned the role of blogs in shaping the transitions in Arab countries.  Nevertheless, the absence of this topic prompted me to write my own article on it.

To blog or not toBlogs are not the most important medium shaping current events in Jordan. However, their role has not been trivial.  You know that online media, including blogs, are influential when the government tries to censor them. In fact, King Abdullah II himself commented on Black Iris, a prominent Jordanian blog, back in 2008. Further, even though King Abdullah II has a website that publishes his speeches and visions, he decided to also publish some of the content of the website on a distinct blog. This suggests that the king sees a special value in blogs as a medium to share his thoughts.

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From Hero to Villain? The Perception of Jordan in US Media Outlets

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By Ghazi Jarrar (twitter:@ghazijarrar)

It has long been known that Jordan depends on Western aid for its survival. One government report shows that in 2010 only, Jordan received 635.367 million dollars of aid from the United States. In fact, Jordan is on the top 10 list of America’s aid recipients. As a result, the Western public opinion towards the kingdom, particularly in the United States, should be of interest to Jordanians and their governments. In the light of the Arab Uprisings, some have started to wonder whether Jordan is losing the favorable public opinion that it once enjoyed in the West. There are legitimate reasons to be wondering- many in the West are finding that Jordan’s reform process is too slow, even if compared with countries, such as Morocco, which have traditionally been less responsive to their people’s demands.

My task here is to determine whether this is true. In an attempt to study the perception of Jordan in the US, I examined as many articles as I could acquire in the archives of the New York Times (NYT) and the Washington Post (WP). My research covers articles in the New York Times since 2000, and in the Washington Post since 2005.

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Jordan’s (lack of) political reform, and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood

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By Ala’ Alrababa’h and Ghazi Jarrar

The question of whether the Muslim Brotherhood could rise to power or not depends, first and foremost, on the process of reform in Jordan. Currently, the Jordanian regime faces a dilemma – it wants genuine political reform, but it fears the consequences.

February of 2011, after Marouf al-Bakhit was assigned to form the first government after the Arab Spring, King Abdullah II said:

The Letter of Designation to the new government is clear: I want quick results… The most important step is to study and develop all laws governing political and civil activities, particularly the Election Law. There should be consensus on this law and on its goals, which must encourage collective political work and the emergence of political parties as well as increasing public participation in decision making.

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Too Soon for Nuclear Energy? Assessing Jordan’s Nuclear Program.

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By Ala’ Alrababa’h and Ghazi Jarrar

Sheikh Hamzeh Mansour, chief of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Jordan, criticized Jordan’s nuclear program in an interview with The Jordan Times :

If implemented, Jordan will suffer the project’s dangerous political, economic, social, financial, health, environmental and security burdens in return for selling others clean electricity at cheap prices and on their terms.

Clearly, Sheikh Mansour views the nuclear program as an assured disaster. He is not the only one. Environmental activists have repeatedly protested against the project. Moreover, the parliament has recently passed a legislation to halt the program. Despite these incidents, it is possible to argue that there are many benefits to Jordan’s nuclear program.

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