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Obama administration downgrades signature Mideast democracy program

Critics say counterterrorism trumps the United States' Middle East agenda to the detriment of democracy promotion.
A resident watches a television broadcasting the speech of U.S. President Barack Obama, at the Culture Ministry in Baghdad June 4, 2009. Obama told the world's Muslims on Thursday that violent extremists had exploited tensions between Muslims and the West, and that Islam was not part of the problem but part of promoting peace. The speech, delivered from Cairo University in the centre of Egypt's sprawling capital, is aimed at healing a rift between Washington and the Islamic world.  REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen (I

The Barack Obama administration has downgraded what was once a marquee program to promote democracy in the Middle East — a sign, some critics say, that counterterrorism once again dominates the US agenda in the region.

Established in 2002, the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) touts on its website its work in “18 countries and territories” and contributions of more than $600 million to “support civil society groups, political activists, and business leaders in their efforts for political and economic reform, government transparency, and accountability projects.” The site also says that “MEPI has recently increased programming significantly in countries undergoing democratic transitions in the wake of the Arab Spring — including Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.”

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