The Carnegie Endowment organized a discussion in which Sufyan Alissa, Associate at the Carnegie Middle Easter Center, presented the findings of his recent paper "Rethinking Economic Reform in Jordan: Confronting Socioeconomic Realities."
On April 30, 2007 the Carnegie Middle East Center hosted a workshop on economic reform in Jordan. The discussion centered on the nature of recent reform programs, the type of social and economic challenges currently facing Jordan, the factors behind the failure to sustain deep reform, the main actors that influence reform, and steps that could be taken by the donor community to further reform.
The Middle East Program and the Istituto Affari Internazionali hosted a conference on Islamist movements, focusing on the divide between Western theories and Islamist thought. The discussion touched on a range of issues, including the role of religion in politics, the significance of sharia for the political/legal system, individual rights and freedoms, pluralism, the rights of minorities.
Facing an urgent need to defuse crises in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine, the United States is now focusing primarily on Arab states' foreign policy behavior and relegating democracy promotion to the background. But despite the risks of encouraging political change in an already chaotic region, abandoning Middle East democracy as a strategic goal would be a tragic and unnecessary mistake.
In this Carnegie Paper, "Illusive Reform: Jordan's Stubborn Stability," Julia Choucair argues that Jordan's stability is best maintained through political reform. She contends that the United States and Europe, for short to medium-term reasons, have shied away from urging Jordan to undertake further reform, which would be in everyone's long-term interests.
Recent electoral successes by Islamist parties throughout the Arab world have shown those movements to be viable political opposition to many undemocratic regimes. Most analyses examine those movements only within their individual domestic political environments. Yet equally important is the impact of broader, regional issues on domestic politics and the resulting tensions with ruling regimes.
Nathan Brown examines how Jordan’s Islamic movement gained political legitimacy, but repackaged its strong beliefs in legal organizations that have a broad and deep reach into Jordanian society. As a consequence, the Jordanian regime and Islamic movement now find themselves debating whether or not this peaceful model is sustainable, and if confrontation is inevitable.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in partnership with Wilton Park, held a conference October 6-8, 2006 on the challenges of top-down, managed reform efforts in Arab countries. Discussion focused on how reformers within or close to ruling establishments view prospects for reform inside their countries as well as the impact of pressure for change coming from outside.
Even though many Lebanese people and several Arab governments criticized Hezbollah for instigating the crisis with Israel, the Israeli air attacks -- including the killing of many civilians -- have now quieted the criticism, and in fact have worsened the already poor standing of the United States in the Arab world.
This is a dangerous moment for the Middle East, because the conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon could easily escalate to involve the broader region. Any strategy to address the present crisis must deal with the realities of the Middle East as they are now, not try to leapfrog over them by seeking to impose a grand new vision. Such a vision would be bound to fail as it did in the case of Iraq.