The issue of political reform in the Middle East has never been higher on the international agenda. But it was pushed up that agenda not by progressive governments or political parties - those for whom democracy, human rights, gender equality and social justice are supposed to be defining values - but rather by a right-wing neo-Conservative administration in the United States.
In response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, significant voices in the US policy community called for a fundamental shift in US strategy towards the Middle East. They argued that the region's lack of liberty was a primary cause of Islamic extremism, and that addressing the region's 'democracy deficit' was essential to stem the growth of global terrorism and to enhance the security of the US and its Allies.
The paper has three specific purposes. Firstly, it seeks to assess honestly the current state of the region, the challenges that it faces and how these have arisen. Secondly, it aims to provide a critique of existing 'reform' policies towards the Middle East, particularly those of the current US administration but also those pursued by some European governments. Thirdly, it proposes a distinctively 'progressive' agenda for supporting political reform in the region.
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