The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Egypt's FM says Bush is wrong about Democratizing ME

There is an interesting story in the WaPo today.

Egypt's FM Ahmed Abul Ghait became the first high-ranking offical from one of Washington's "accepted" Arab governments to come out and say the "Arab Spring" is not really happening. He constests Washington's view on how Iraq is developing, the nature of Palestinian elections, and the variety of political trends emerging in Lebanon and Syria.

There are a couple of telling passages but none as strikingly as this one:

Aboul Gheit responded that in the "so-called democratic endeavor, the pace will be set by Egypt and the Egyptian people and only the Egyptian people. The Egyptian people will not accept what we call trusteeship.

"I think Egypt is a lighthouse for the Middle East. The need for Egypt to be a friend of the United States is something I'm sure people in Washington value very much. We are not subject to any kind of pressure."

For those of you worrying that Egypt's current leadership is sweating, you can rest your concerns. Regime adaptation, rather than reform, took place on 26 February when Mubarak announced his plan. Like it or not, this actually indicates that the regime is still viable despite moralistic questions that remain.

A correction statement has finally emerged to show that the old rules of US-Arab relations really have not shifted as drastically as some of the instant experts are arguing (as cited by Issandr below).

See the commentary by Seumas Milne in today's Guardian for a complementary view and reading of the events.

The key portion of that article is this:
The claim that democracy is on the march in the Middle East is a fraud. It is not democracy, but the US military, that is on the march. The Palestinian elections in January took place because of the death of Yasser Arafat - they would have taken place earlier if the US and Israel hadn't known that Arafat was certain to win them - and followed a 1996 precedent. The Iraqi elections may have looked good on TV and allowed Kurdish and Shia parties to improve their bargaining power, but millions of Iraqis were unable or unwilling to vote, key political forces were excluded, candidates' names were secret, alleged fraud widespread, the entire system designed to maintain US control and Iraqis unable to vote to end the occupation. They have no more brought democracy to Iraq than US-orchestrated elections did to south Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s. As for the cosmetic adjustments by regimes such as Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's, there is not the slightest sign that they will lead to free elections, which would be expected to bring anti-western governments to power.

What has actually taken place since 9/11 and the Iraq war is a relentless expansion of US control of the Middle East, of which the threats to Syria are a part. The Americans now have a military presence in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar - and in not one of those countries did an elected government invite them in. Of course Arabs want an end to tyrannical regimes, most of which have been supported over the years by the US, Britain and France: that is the source of much anti-western Muslim anger. The dictators remain in place by US licence, which can be revoked at any time - and managed elections are being used as another mechanism for maintaining pro-western regimes rather than spreading democracy.

Ouch....I don't think Bush would like that reading.