Publius Pundit
Articles: Middle East Archives

Reality Check

Filed under: Middle East

Those who hoped that once Hamas will lead the government it would be a new period of tahydya (calm) and prosperity for the Palestinians have now the proof that they were deadly wrong. Hamas slogans were powerful and correct to a certain extent. Fatah is the personification of corruption. But Hamas is the incarnation of nihilism.

They do not want a state, two states or three states solution. They want to keep killing Jews and apparently they have no problem in killing their own kind either. The difference between Fatah and Hamas is not their objectives but rather their tactics.

President Abbas sacked the Hamas led government. But that does not change a thing on the ground. Hamas has taken Gaza. Hamas is the elected government of the Palestinians.

What more can be said? Except that the Palestinians have what they wanted all along. Outside Israel people often excuse Palestinian violence by saying it is a reaction to the pressure, but hostile Arabs surround Israel, Hezbollah's missiles threaten it, Iran threatens it with a a nuclear
attack and Palestinian Qassams land weekly in Israel's towns and villages.

This is the cult of violence and death preached by Hamas. Racism, hate and murder seem to be a national obsession. It is a deeply troubling fact but that is the reality and we have to call a spade a spade.

In the past few years Iran and Syria have been constantly undermining any chance for a Palestinian coalition. They have been paying Hamas not to negotiate or recognize Israel, not to release the kidnapped soldier, not to form a unity government with Abbas. Hezbollah trained
Hamas and Syria offered safe heaven to individuals such as Khaled Meshal.

What the Palestinians as a people failed to see or admit is that their interests are being used by Arab Muslims and by Muslims for decades. No one cares about them period. They are and always were proxies in the war of others to gain regional preeminence, to escape isolation, justice, to gain better deals from the West etc.

Hamas is only leading the Palestinians into more despair and misery. Palestinians do not need a savior. They never needed one. They need to stand united, end terror, negotiate with Israel a lasting peace, not a hudna and start building a nation. If they want to be recognized as a people and not as a bunch of criminals they need to start acting like one.

When the Iranian money and support ends, and it eventually will, the Palestinians will be even further from having their own state than they are now. The world has spent 59 years giving Palestinian Arabs a chance. And what has it gotten the world? For that matter, what has
it gotten Palestinian Arabs? They used all this time trying to kill as many Jews as possible and obliterate Israel instead of building lives for themselves.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas and those who elected it had a chance to prove that they are indeed capable of running it, that they can deliver what they promised. Has anyone seen what the Palestinians have done with Gaza? State-of-the-art greenhouses that used to provide food and products that were high on demand on the international market have now been turned into tunnel openings.

The terror groups will never allow Palestine to be a separate entity because they do not benefit from it. They do not want to work for themselves and for their own people; they simply want to keep on stealing the money the international community is sending and terrorize the Jews.

The Palestinians should accept written agreements, end all acts of terror, violence and the incitement to terror. If and when they will do it only then the international community should help them financially. Meanwhile let their Iranian and Syrian sponsors pay. Let the oil rich Arab states send money to them if they want, but the US, Israel and EU money should not be used to support and enhance a terrorist, lawlessness entity. It is illogical and it will cause more deaths and destruction in Israel, Gaza and West Bank on the long term.

Terrorist actions have terrible consequences for all involved parties. The only way to get away from the vicious cycle of violence is for the Palestinians to get out of the Islamic propaganda box and be responsible.

Social Bookmarking: this | digg this digg | Add to Technorati technorati | StumbleUpon Toolbar stumble upon | Furl this furl | Reddit this reddit

A Gentler, Softer Iran

Filed under: Middle East

Now that Iran is planning to release the 15 captures British sailors, the blogosphere's post-mortem is already beginning. It's necessary to look back over the past few weeks and ascertain just exactly how this began, what was went wrong and right throughout, and especially what should have been done instead. Austin Bay, for example, takes a look at this in the context of the intelligence operations wars between the United States and Iran.

In fact, most people are looking at this entire affairs in those terms. The U.S. has taken a few of their guys, so they took some Brits. It's all a huge effort to humiliate us, and especially our governments, by testing just how pacifist they'll be in dealing with the situation. Given how long this dragged out and the response they received, I'm willing to bet that the mullahs are feeling pretty smug and snug right now.

Another benefit that Iran got out of this was the media attention. Austin Bay describes the entire crisis as a diversion from other pressing issues like UNSC sanctions and the developments of Tehran's nuclear weapons program. No doubt this is true, but more importantly, Iran knew what to do with this media attention. All cameras on the crew, Ahmadinejad worked the Western public.

While most people are adamant that the sailors were forced to confess and act happy on camera, or were just too unwilling to resist, unless they say otherwise in the freedom of their homeland I am absolutely convinced that the Iranian government treated them with the utmost respect and generosity. It only makes sense. Though the media is now redirecting attention to the hostage crisis rather than sanctions or nuclear weapons, Iran has been using the attention to convince the Western public that indeed Iran does not deserve such sanctions or treatment. While the British and American governments talk about the unacceptability of Iran's actions, people are seeing video confessions and smiles. Some people don't know what to think. On the one hand, according to our governments, Iran is the arch-enemy of Western civilization. On the other, it's all right there -- Iran is treating the sailors with great respect and their capture was just a mistake.

Unlike the Iranian government, the Western democracies are actually susceptible to public opinion. While at least a majority of people won't believe a word that Ahmadinejad says, there will always be the internationalist, anti-American Left that does. Furthermore, as the legitimacy of the Bush Administration and Tony's Blair's government continues to crumble as the war in Iraq continues, more and more doubters are likely to appear. Doubters of the West, that is.

The reason that sanctions have been steadily moving forward at the UN Security Council is because America has brought the Europeans on board. But if Ahmadinejad can convince enough of the European public that indeed the entire affair was a misunderstanding on their part and that the British sailors were treated well, then -- against all evidence of rampant human rights abuses in the country -- people will believe that Iran is not such a bad place. Why should we place sanctions on it, or consider it a renegade country trying to blow up the world with nuclear weapons? There will no longer be large support for it, and if we can use history as any precedent, the Europeans will quickly back away from any further action. Game, set, match.

There is no way to know what the now-released British sailors will say once they've been debriefed. But one thing is certain -- they will be the most sought after people in the media. Iran knows this. Do not be surprised if they tell all of Britain that they were not tortured, forced to confess, and kept in a jail cell. Do not be surprised if they tell us that they were treated with respect, fed well, and allowed to play games. Do not be surprised if they say that they freely confessed to crossing into Iranian territorial waters after being told that there is no clear agreement specifying the border. And last, do not be surprised if they think that Ahmadinejad is a pretty swell guy after they met with him.

It would be a lie if they didn't say that if it were true, because to them Ahmadinejad actually is a pretty swell guy and gave them a pretty leisurely accidental capture. That's their own personal story. But they would also be naive to believe that it is the overall policy of his government, that their treatment is the rule rather than the exception.

They are just pawns in a greater strategy to disarm Western civilization, not through nuclear weapons, but through the media.

Social Bookmarking: this | digg this digg | Add to Technorati technorati | StumbleUpon Toolbar stumble upon | Furl this furl | Reddit this reddit

The Middle East's new democratic model

Filed under: Africa ~ Middle East

Mauritania's military coup in 2005 yielded widespread international condemnation from all quarters of the globe. The United States, for example, unleashed a barrage on the junta by stating, "We oppose any attempts by rogue elements to change governments through extra-constitutional or violent means." Such statements were not only premature at best, but completely baseless and hypocritical at worse. The junta of colonels had just overthrown a tyrant that had himself curbed all constitutional laws, released hundreds of political prisoners ordered into jail by said tyrant, and promised a return to democracy under a more transparent constitutional system with a reinvigorated civil society. This was an opportunity, not a setback. And as the months pressed on, it became readily apparent that the promised reforms were underway with the inclusion of all segments of society.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, reforms have come to a halt in all but the most rapidly liberalizing countries. The hope brought by Iraqi elections has burned out for now, leaving the region's dictators legitimately ruling under the popular fear the democracy will breed civil war. Lebanon's Cedar Revolution is being crushed by the overbearing Syrian security state and Iran's imperialist ambitions. Egypt is cracking down hard on Islamic and secular activists alike. Algeria is effectively doing away with term limits for its very own strongman. The list goes on and on. Once sought after, the holy grail of a democratic and liberal Islamic world has disappeared out of reach.

Except for Mauritania. But you wouldn't know that because the media hasn't been reporting on its astounding moves toward democracy.

Mauritanian women stand in line to cast their ballots in Nouakchott, Mauritania, Sunday, March 11, 2007. Men in flowing white and ochre robes lined up under the light of the moon at voting booths Sunday with hopes that whoever wins Mauritania's first presidential election since a coup two years ago will not plunge the country back into totalitarian rule. Courtesy: Associated Press

A new constitution developed through the inclusion of all of society's major groups was widely approved. Just as we may be seeing some of today's leaders around 30 years from now, this new constitution guarantees that presidential terms will be limited to two five-year terms. They must also swear to Allah that they will not try to change this law. The legislative branch and judiciary have also been strengthened relative to the president -- good news for a loose opposition coalition that garnered 41 of 90 seats in parliament. The country is hosting an open presidential debate. Civil and political society have strengthened greatly without government interference. The rise of radical Islam is now on the decline.

This month's presidential election is the real test, though. Out of twenty candidates running, none had a majority in the first round, which means that a runoff will be held in just less than two weeks now.

For continuity and stability's sake, the military has favored Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdullahi even though his opponent, opposition candidate Ahmed Ould Daddah, is neck'n'neck with him. But what current government would not prefer that a certain candidate win? What matters is what they are doing about it, and up until now, the election process has been regarded as totally peaceful, transparent, and with every attempt to make it as fair as possible.

In fact, Reporters Without Borders, hardly an uncritical institution, had this to say about the first round of the presidential election: Presidential campaign being covered fairly by public media. Eghad! Is that milk that just flew out of my nose? And while RWB says that media coverage of the junta's favored candidate has been skewed, it admits that it is largely due to the amount of former candidates defecting to him which results in more media coverage. Aside from that, other imbalances have been corrected. Furthermore, there has been no intimidation of candidates or restrictions to their or their supporters' ability to speak and act freely.

How often does this happen in the Islamic world?

This isn't to say that Mauritania is a shining bright spot on the world. It's one of the only places in the world where slavery is still practiced to a large degree; racism has historically been extreme. Economic and cultural liberalization have been slow to take hold and in most cases outright suppressed since independence.

Yet politically, Mauritania is becoming generations ahead of its neighbors in the rest of Africa and the Middle East. The development of a more democratic system, complete with free elections and a newly found spirit of civil and political society, has clearly put the country on the path of liberalization. Its people will be able to drag themselves out of the same spiral of repression under backwater dictatorships that is only intensifying elsewhere.

While the media may not be paying attention to these historic developments, you can bet that regimes from Zimbabwe to Iran are paying attention. Mauritania's transition to democracy is predicated on a split by the country's own military with the government's corrupt officials, rather than an all out intervention from Western forces. They acted as a temporary stabilizing force rather than a new tyrant. The transition is therefore wholly its own rather than one overseen and partially illegitimized by a foreign power.

If successful, Mauritania's experiment will prove to be a landmark and precedent for other countries to follow. It shows one way that democracy can potentially be established while also stemming the rise of radical Islam. Most of all, it shows that democracy itself is not a dead idea and must be taken seriously by democrats and dictators alike. Iraq may have turned many off, but Mauritania's successes show that such reforms can work.

Social Bookmarking: this | digg this digg | Add to Technorati technorati | StumbleUpon Toolbar stumble upon | Furl this furl | Reddit this reddit