Thursday, January 18, 2007

Samaha warns that the Arab states have significant popular support in signing on with the US

Joseph Samaha in his regular column in Al-Akhbar says Condoleeza Rice returned to Washington with the "moderate coalition" in her handbag, and he stresses this isn't just another minor Arab concession to the Americans. He describes the communique of her Kuwait meeting of the eight Gulf foreign ministers plus those of Jordan and Egypt as
...a declaration we can think of as the founding document of the new axis, or as the working document for the establishment of an important turning-point in the history of our region, because it is tantamount to the Arab states signing on unconditionally to the American policy, and the outline of a procedure for the demise of Arab specificity, and the establishment of dangerous internal and regional tensions.
He describes with mock-admiration Rice's "surreal" accomplishments in getting the Arab ministers to agree to an augmentation in the US occupation of Iraq as a thwarting of outside intervention in that country. And while he agrees that while the clause about modifying the Iraqi constitution to permit wider (Sunni) participation is perhaps justified, he notes that the ministers' stance on Lebanon, echoing the American position, is for exactly the opposite, namely absolute defence of the status quo and denial of the opposition's efforts to secure wider participation.

Samaha says there appear to have been some minor differences between Rice and the Arab ministers respecting Iraq policy, but he adds:
...they put all their conditions in a form so as to be consistent with the American conditions, the focus of their concern in this being the relationship with the occupation. In fact, it is clear that Iraqi sovereignty was not on their minds. Rather, they were doing what they have learned from historical experience to do: keeping their sect or tribe or family in power by mortgaging it to good relations with the foreign colonialist.
But Samaha emphasizes the regional tensions being set up by this particular agreement make this a particularly dangerous thing for the Arab states to do. And he warns in conclusion that there is popular support for this, because it is seen by many not as linking up with the Americans, but rather as confronting the Iranian threat. He writes:
It is important to grasp that this official Arab stance has significant popular support, because it can be marketed from the standpoint of standing up to Iran and its ambitions, rather than from the standpoint of joining with the Americans. This is a thesis that has a resonance that cannot be ignored....


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