Friday, November 10, 2006

The American elections from a middle eastern perspective...

The midterm American elections were followed with great interest by Arabs this time and the media here designated a great space to cover this event.

It is usual to see such interest at every presidential election but this time the circle of interest extended to involve midterm congressional elections and that is something interesting and indicates that what used to be considered "minor" changes in the political arena in America is now viewed to have major influence on the course of events in this part of the world.

I will try to talk about what happened before and after the elections and the way people here handled the news and their reactions to democratic win.
It was obvious that a majority here were in favor of a change, not because they think the democrats have a better agenda but because folks here wanted to see Bush and his party lose.

There had been attempts to give the public here the impression that the democratic party as a whole is opposed to the war as a whole and not only opposed to the way war was being managed so far. And the media here, pretty much like the media in the west, were focusing on the democrats' criticism of the Bush administration without saying anything about whether the democrats had alternative plans, together with an exaggeration of the idea that democrats are going to go ahead with an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

However, this tone changed a bit after the elections were over and now there's kind of a warning tone that suggests that "nothing has changed" and that US policy is one and no elections can change the large image. Media and politicians are back to reminding the public that democrats are even better friends of Israel than republicans are.

This, I think, is an attempt to put America as a whole back in its place as the enemy regardless of who's in charge in Capitol Hill, which means the regimes and their media here had to put the people back "on track" so they don't go far in their expectations or prepare to deal with anything American…what happened had to portrayed as a defeat for the American nation, not only for the republicans.

I would like to remind again that claiming that America's policies are the cause of anti-Americanism is crap, because the hatred is for the nature of the American democratic system which contrasts the nature of regimes here.
That explains why there's rarely an opposition to China or Russia in the middle east and that's because neither has a systems that threatens the totalitarian ideology of governance that prevail in the Arab world.

The rulers in the region consider the change in America a victory for them because time is precious right now and many here think the next two years will be stagnation phase rather than action phase for America…I personally doubt this but I can say Iran, Syria and some powers in Iraq think they just won the truce they need.

But is that really god for them? What if the calls for dialogue between them and America over Iraq materialize? And what will the requirements and implications be?

I think Syria and Iran will be in an embarrassing position…so far they were saying that America doesn't accept dialogue and the administration is one of war and only war but now things will change and we'll see faces in Washington that call for dialogue, so what will they do then.
I tend to think they will accept dialogue as a principal (or pretend to accept it at least) but on what basis?
Will it be like Saddam's dialogue with the UN, or a serious effort to solve a crisis?
Will the Iranians really consider dropping their nuclear program and move to build friendly relationships with America, the west, accept Israel's existence and stop messing with Iraq's affairs? And is Syria willing to consider changing its totalitarian repressive internal policy and stop the interference in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories?
What about some of the radical parties in Iraq, are they willing to replace violence with dialogue and accept the concept of sharing power?

I put more emphasis on the position of regional players rather than domestic political powers in Iraq because it's become clear that many of the latter do not follow a patriotic agenda and that the "engine" of chaos inside Iraq resides across the border.

The dialogue, if there's going to be any, shall tell although I had learned a lesson not to trust a dictator or a cleric; neither respect deals or promises. They don't respect their people and everyone opposed to their ways is an enemy in their eyes.

A fruitful dialogue can be held when the person on the other end believes in dialogue and that's what is missing in the middle east, again because neither dictators nor clerics accept dialogue. They preach or make speeches and people must listen. Sometimes people are allowed to ask questions but are never allowed to criticize or oppose the words of the divine ruler/cleric.
To them, dialogue is a one-way exchange and that's what we learned over centuries.

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