Democracy in the Middle East Has Gone With the Wind

By George Emile Irani (for Safe Democracy)

George Emile Irani discusses how Condoleeza Rice‘s plan to stop blind support of stable regimes and democracy promotion in the Middle East has actually turned out. Because of continued insurgent attacks in Iraq, US disapproval of the recent Palestinian electoral outcomes and the lastest upheavals in Lebanon, Irani argues that democratic efforts in the Middle East by the US have indeed gone with the wind.

George Emile Irani is the Lebanese-born director of the Africa and Middle East Program of the Toledo International Center for Peace in Madrid. He is the author of “The Papacy and the Middle East: The Role of the Holy See in the Arab-Israeli Conflict”.

THE SEEDS OF DEMOCRACY THAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION promised would grow and flourish in the Middle East have had a lot of trouble taking root. In a speech at the American University of Cairo last fall, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice stated that the time had come for America to stop blindly supporting regimes that offered stability and instead promote democracy.

And the results of this new strategy? In the three countries within the US sphere of influence, democracy has been disastrous.

Today Iraq is in the throes of a civil war. Its government is powerless and unable to take control and stop the bloody insurgency. The forthcoming Baker Report suggests that the US begin a balanced withdrawal while training Iraqis to take fate into their own hands. Taking control of the violent anarchy that has seized Iraq will be quite a tall order. The country has become a playing ground for all kinds of Jihadist and Salafist groups.

In Palestine, last January, Hamas, an Islamist party that refuses to recognize the State of Israel, won the democratically held elections. Although democratic, this election was very displeasing to the US and Israel, who made a joint decision to oust the party by any means necessary.

The risk now is that the government will be dissolved and new elections called for. If this were to happen, what was left of the Palestinian Authority would very well split in two: the Gaza Strip under the control of Hamas, and the West Bank under the PA. This kind of rift would mean civil war and great social turmoil for the Palestinians.

Lebanon, once a US-approved model for democracy in the Middle East, has had its very foundations shaken over the past two years. The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, as well as those of prominent Lebanese leaders like Jibran Tueini, and the highly respected Arab intellectual, Samir Kassir, have caused great upheaval in the country. This summer’s bloody war, provoked by the short-sightedness of Hezbollah and the Israeli government, has also widely agitated the framework of democracy. Lebanon, today, is a country in shambles with an uncertain future.

Poisonous winds are blowing throughout the Middle East, and all the democratic efforts have gone with them.

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