Foreign Policy

The call for economic liberty in the Arab world

The uprisings that have swept across the Middle East and North Africa since 2010 have forever altered the region’s political and security landscape. They have also called into question longstanding U.S. policies toward the Arab world. Yet this unrest also presents an historic opportunity to advance reforms that will economically empower millions of people and ultimately help stabilize the region.
Generations of citizens in Arab countries have been forced to endure human rights abuses and political repression. It would therefore be easy to mistake the Arab Spring for a political uprising. But it was not speeches by long-suffering opposition leaders in exile that drove millions of people to the streets. From Sidi Bouzid to Tahrir Square, the protests were driven by young men and women — students, street vendors, and would-be entrepreneurs — demanding the opportunity for a better economic future. 


Iran's quandary in the upcoming polls

Iranians are going to the polls next June in what will prove to be a defining moment for the future of the mullahs’ regime. High on the supreme leader’s agenda remains the Islamic Republic’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, without a doubt one of the most pressing challenges facing Tehran and an issue that pits the Islamic Republic against the United States and its allies.

Observers are qualifying the elections as something of a “joke” - a mere scam in a totalitarian regime headed by an authoritarian ruler.

Opposition figures say that despite the window dressing this is the election under the rule of the mullahs and the outcome is controlled by the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who is facing serious domestic and international challenges.


Save the children of Syria: It's a moral imperative

As I glance through my Facebook newsfeed, I see beautiful images of two of my friends’ newborn daughters. Evoking feelings of love, the photos show the mothers holding their newborns with confidence and a sense of peace. And why not? Their precious firstborns will be raised in a free country; they are safe. In between these photos, I see images of Syrian newborns. Images so tragic and violent, they appear as though they’re straight from the set of a horror film. My reaction as a human being is one of shock, and, as a clinical psychologist experienced in evaluating refugee survivors of torture and other human rights abuses one of grave concern for the fate of the Syrian children. And for the United States.


Israel shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against any US citizens

Congress is currently considering legislation (H.R. 300, H.R. 938, S. 462, S. 266) that would include Israel in the Visa Waiver Program, allowing Israeli citizens to enter the U.S. without obtaining a visa. Because countries seeking to qualify for visa waivers must provide "reciprocal privileges to citizens and nationals of the United States,” I would advise current sponsors and members considering signing on in the future to first take a hard look at the Department of State's Travel Advisory for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

According to the State Department, "U.S. citizens are advised that all persons applying for entry to Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza...may be denied entry or exit without explanation.” The advisory specifically notes that "U.S. citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin...may face additional... and probing questioning by... authorities, or may be denied entry.”


Hagel's critics can rest easy now

Hagel's tenure to this point has done more than enough to rebut these malicious and false charges leveled by his fellow Republicans.
Now that Chuck Hagel has completed his first trip to Israel as U.S. defense secretary, it's time for the pro-Israel community to acknowledge the obvious: Secretary Hagel has demonstrated that he is following the president's lead when it comes to supporting Israel. Like his predecessors, Hagel has personally committed himself to strengthening the US-Israel defense relationship and working to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.


Ending global poverty dependent on employment based growth

The World Bank has always focused on poverty reduction; it is their stated mission to ‘help reduce poverty’. But actually ending it, with a target date, was never their explicit goal, until now. In Washington, at their annual spring meeting last week, the World Bank, with the support of the International Monetary Fund, committed to ending extreme global poverty by 2030. This is no small feat and they should be lauded for taking the leap.


Shining a light on Israel's military detention abuses

At 2 am on April 5, eight heavily armed Israeli soldiers burst into the home of Mohammad Khaleq, a 14-year-old New Orleans honors student on a family visit to Silwad in the West Bank. Jolting Mohammad and his family awake, the soldiers arrested the youth, tied his hands, and threw him roughly onto the floor of a jeep. Later, Mohammad reports, the soldiers beat him and pushed him down, damaging his orthodontic braces on a rock.

He was shackled, blindfolded, handcuffed and held for 12 hours in Ofra, an Israeli settlement, before being transported to a police station. Two hours of incommunicado interrogation later, the boy admitted to charges of throwing rocks at Israeli cars. He says he confessed after Israeli interrogators promised him that was the only way to see his father. Mohammad was eventually released after serving 14 days and paying a fine of about $800.

His case fits a pattern chillingly familiar to many Palestinian youngsters, and one that is increasingly condemned.


Peace Corps volunteers extend malaria efforts across Africa

This week marked World Malaria Day and the second anniversary of a remarkable effort to engage 3,000 Peace Corps volunteers across Africa in the fight against the mosquito-borne disease that kills 600,000 people a year, typically the most vulnerable among us—children under age five in Africa.
The Peace Corps Stomping Out Malaria in Africa initiative was launched in partnership with the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), a multi-agency program led by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The effort combines the grassroots focus of Peace Corps volunteers in villages and towns in 23 African nations, with promotion of the inexpensive, but effective, tools of malaria control: insecticide-treated bed nets, rapid diagnostic tests, and malaria medicines made with artemisinin, a plant extract long used in Chinese herbal medicine to cure children or adults with the disease.


Educating Syria's children

Qah, Syria – The young girl stood in the middle of the classroom, with visitors and fellow students gathered around. Speaking softly and steadily – but still with tears in her eyes – she told us how she had fled her home in outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. She lost several family members (including her father and a brother) during the rebels’ advance on the city and the government’s relentless bombardment.

Forced to flee for her life, she now lives in an impromptu camp for displaced people near the Syrian town of Qah, twenty kilometers south of the Turkish border. She shares an overcrowded tent with her brother and his family.


Work in Kenya is far from over

Late Monday night, the Senate passed a resolution congratulating Kenyans on a peaceful election, further highlighting what staff from the U.S. Institute of Peace have cited as a success for violence prevention.

But while Kenya’s predominantly peaceful poll is a testament to the many Kenyans working to prevent violence – as well as to those in the U.S. and international community who’ve worked to stand with them – the resolution also notes the many threats to durable stability that lie ahead. As Kenyans advocating for peace and reform affirm that their work is far from over, the need to gather lessons learned from violence prevention efforts so far and think critically about U.S.-Kenya policy moving forward is as important now as ever.