sees increasing Arab submissiveness in the face of unabashed US interference
It is becoming almost impossible to read a story from any Arab capital and not see explicit signs -- implicit have become scarce -- of US interference. This week, the Arab press offered ample examples.
The unending negotiations between Iraqi Shias and Kurds to form the much-delayed first post-elections Iraqi government were subjected to added complications due to American vetoes over candidates proposed for the crucial ministries of defence and interior. The Americans, according to the Kuwaiti daily Al- Qabas, do not want these ministers to be chosen because of their close association with Iran and Syria.
The Sudanese daily Al-Rai Al-Aam reports that the Sudanese government, in an attempt to spare itself from potential US wrath, has arrested Sudanese officials and officers involved in perpetrating crimes in Darfur despite the long-standing rejection by Khartoum which had earlier demonstrated against such a move.
Both Syria and Lebanon have decided to show flexibility to US demands, passed through the UN -- and this time supported by France -- to initiate an international investigation to reveal the mysterious circumstances surrounding the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.
Moreover, most Arab capitals have been making an unmistakable effort to avoid criticising the US over any of its policies in the Middle East. By association, Israel too has been spared from angry Arab remarks despite its systematic and arrogant violation of the rights of Palestinians under occupation. The statements made by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the right of Israel to maintain the expansion of its major settlement blocks in occupied Palestinian territories and the statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over his intention to go ahead with his settlement plans were published in the Arab press unaccompanied by reaction or rejection from Arab officials.
On Monday morning, the Palestinian dailies were all but standing alone in reflecting the dismay expressed mildly by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei who according to Al-Quds called on the US and the rest of the Quartet to curtail the Israeli consumption of Palestinian territories and the statement of his deputy Nabil Shaath who, even more tactfully, said the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements violates the text and spirit of the roadmap.
Furthermore, the release of the US State Department report on the state of human rights in the world -- which dedicated over 30 pages and 10 pages of photos to the Arab world -- prompted none of the angry responses that Arab governments would have launched a few years ago when attacked by the Washington review for their poor, at times disgraceful, record of human rights.
A few Arab commentators seemed to be the only voices left to speak up against the US intervention in Arab affairs that is often presented by the American administration and think-tankers in the sugar-coated format of calls for democracy and liberty.
"Why do Arab governments remain silent in the face of the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the Golan and the Lebanese Shebaa Farms" despite the fact that these very "Arab regimes have been hastening to persuade Syria to immediately and fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559... in a way that seems catered to assist the Bush campaign against Syria," wrote Ahmed Amorabi in the daily independent Iraqi Al-Furat on Monday. According to Amorabi, one might understand where US President George Bush comes from when he exercises selectivity in applying the terms of international legitimacy. Bush, Amorabi argued, wants to keep Israel above international law but what Amorabi found most disturbing is the clear will of Arab regimes to do exactly the same: spare Israel and coerce one another -- only to please the US.
Alongside Amorabi's article, Al-Furat published an article by Iraqi commentator Salah Omar Al-Alye under the headline, "No democracy or security under occupation". Al-Alye's article was not short on criticism of US policy on Iraq. "Instead of spreading democracy in Iraq, Bush, in two years of occupation, has been spreading chaos and destruction in and around it. If Bush does not agree with me then let him come see the havoc he has inflicted. Let him come see the bloodshed of innocent people, the disruption of all signs of normal life and the huge shortage of basic services."
According to Al-Alye the Bush campaign to introduce democracy to the Arab world is taking the wrong path. Bush, he wrote, "has put the cart before the horse." If the US president really wanted to bring democracy to this part of the world, the Iraqi commentator argued, he should have addressed the crucial problems of the region, especially that of Israeli occupation. "But the cowboy style of the president will always prove useless. There will never be democracy or security under occupation."
For Al-Alye, the US approach towards the Arab world since the attacks of 11 September is one of occupiers, not liberators.
This very sentiment was expressed in the news pages of the Tunisian daily Al-Chourouk on Tuesday. This time it came from a US soldier who served in Iraq. The soldier whose account to the wire services was quoted by the Tunisian daily, stressed that the US presence in Iraq is about occupation, not liberation. According to the soldier, who fled his own country to Canada, "Iraqi men who are fighting US troops are neither terrorists nor insurgents but freedom fighters who want to bring the American occupation to an end."
And as some Arab papers noted, it is not only that Arab countries are submissive to America's hegemony but are at times collaborating with such plans.
In the eastern part of the Arab world, Kuwait is accused by some Syrian and Iraqi papers of acting as a facilitator to the US plans. And in the Western part of the Arab world a similar charge was levelled at Tunis whose alleged keenness to build bridges with Israel was criticised for undercutting Palestinian rights. The rationale for such accusations could be read in the Kuwaiti and Tunisian press. The Kuwaiti daily Al- Siyassa attacked the Syrian regime and compared it to the toppled regime of Saddam Hussein. Throughout the week, Al-Siyassa editor Ahmed Al-Garallah predicted the demise of the Syrian regime. The writer stopped short of calling on the Americans to invade Syria.
For their part, the Tunisian papers -- generally under tight government control -- insisted that the invitation extended by Tunisian President Zein Al-Abidine Bin Ali to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to participate in an international IT event to be hosted by Tunis later this year was an indication of Tunisia's determination to observe the rules the host of an international event should follow.
The worst part, warned prominent Egyptian commentator Fahmi Howeidi in an article serialised by the London-based and Saudi-financed Asharq Al-Awsat, the Lebanese daily As-Safir and the Kuwaiti daily Al- Watan on Tuesday morning, is that the scheme is not just to impose political hegemony but to tamper with religion. In "A campaign to dismantle Islam", Howeidi said there are a set of objectives for this campaign; imposing direct political control is but one. He warned that other objectives include imposed changes on the set of values and cultural mores that govern Arab and Muslim societies.
Howeidi further warned that "the efforts to disseminate the American version of Islam -- which aims to dismantle the religion -- depend [a great deal] on some individuals who claim to associate themselves with Islam and who are playing an active role in academic and non-government quarters."
The only way out of this excessive US interference in the affairs of the Arab and to a large extent Muslim countries is for the leaders of these countries to stand up in the face of US hegemony. And according to an article published on Monday by the Kuwaiti daily Al- Rai Al-Aam by the American-based Arab commentator Sobehi Ghandour, Arab regimes can only gain the required strength to do this if they choose to obey the will of their people. This, Ghandour argued, will not happen until the leaders agree to "a democratic process that allows for the free and fair elections of the executive power and that subjects the executive to the discretion of the judiciary."
For this to happen, Saudi commentator Gamal Khachouchgi wrote in the daily UAE Al-Ittihad that Arab regimes will have first to ask the Americans to step back. According to Khachouchgi, who also acts as a media advisor to the Saudi ambassador in London, it is true that Arabs owe it to George Bush to suspend their unending support for the dictators of the region in return for political and economic gains. "We should tell Mr Bush, thank you Mr President, but please step back because now we have some serious reforms to undertake." These reforms would bring about true, even if gradual, democracy if conducted in a partnership between the rules and ruled, Khachouchgi wrote. Otherwise, he warned, it would only be a fake US democracy that aims to implement its agenda in the region irrespective of the destiny of its own peoples.