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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

trouble ahead « Previous | |Next »
April 14, 2003

I have not been following events in the Middle East since the fall of Baghdad due to renovations. I have only had time to glance at headlines and catch snippets of news.

For those interested this from the excellent Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri) gives a round up of the reaction to the fall of Baghdad amongst the Arab media. The diversity of views make for interesting reading and they indicate that the Middle East is a volatile region.

The most informative are from the Iranian media in the light of the role that the Shi'ite Muslims will play in building a democratic Iraq. The reformist press talk in terms of the Iranians, as natural allies of the Iraqi Shi'ites, using this opportunity to help their Iraqi brethren enjoy democratic institutions, such as moderate and representative political parties. It says that Iran should not try to revolutionize the Iraqi Shi'ite community, as this would fracture its unity and and so forfeit "their legitimate right to participate in the post-war Iraqi community.

The conservative press in Iran are more hostile. It is argued that the U.S. "does not want to see a coalition of the [Kurdish] PUK, [Kurdish] KDP, SCIRI, and other legitimate Iraqi opposition groups take control of Iraq" because it was "opposed to the will of the Iraqi people and the establishment of real democracy in Iraq." The U.S. plans to install a military governor in Iraq, and the eventual elections and a transfer of power back to the Iraqis, is seen as a plot to buy time in order to install a pro-U.S. puppet.

Instead of dismissing that insight about how a future Iraqi regime will be viewed in the Middle East we can redescribe it by introducing some useful remarks by Hugh White. In his recent Position vacant: puppets apply. He says

"...the key challenges to US objectives in Iraq are political. Washington needs to build a government, and indeed an entire political system, that can hold Iraq's fractious regions together, retain at least a veneer of democratic legitimacy, deliver effective administration, and serve US strategic objectives."

He offers a warning:

"...the more democratic and pro-American Iraq becomes, the less it will fit into its neighbourhood and the more its citizens will feel divorced from the wider Arab and Islamic world. In fact, it may be a zero sum game. The more any government in Iraq is sympathetic to US strategic objectives, the less acceptable it will be to the Iraqi electorate. Take just one policy issue. Will the new Iraqi government be pro or anti-Israel? It is hard to imagine Washington being happy to install a government in Iraq that retains the Arab world's implacable hostility to America's main Middle East ally. But it is equally hard to imagine the Iraqi electorate supporting a pro-Israel government. So a democratic, pro-US government in Iraq may end up being a contradiction in terms."

Contradiction is not something the black and white' neo-cons are used to handling or even bothering acknowledging. They just assume a democratic Iraq will be stable and cohesive, support US strategic interests, be a shining light to democracy in the region and act as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalists. Its projected wish fulfilment with all contradictions to be solved by fear of big military power.

In putting a finger on contradiction Huge White takes us beyoond the naivety of Tony Parkinson who thinks that democracy in Iraq will come about by asking the Iraqi people, the change in other Arab regimes will one way broadening of democracy, and that the Iraqi people will trust the US. This sort of reasoning indicates the lack of knowledge about the Middle East in Australia or much understanding of the geo-political regional power considerations. It's all simplified by Parkinson into a battle for democracy.

White's contradiction cuts through the media fog.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)