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Condoleezza: The Middle East is a Better Place? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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During a television interview, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed that the current US administration will leave behind a Middle East that is in a better situation than it was when the administration first took over power. This is a controversial conclusion that requires scrutiny and it does not take much to see how mistaken Condoleezza Rice is as the region is in a worse state today even if each one of us has a different interpretation of what “better” actually means.

Let us look at each case individually. As the presidency of Bill Clinton drew to a close to be succeeded by that of George W. Bush, the Palestinian issue was close to being resolved. Despite the violence at the time, the general feeling was that a solution was in sight. Bush’s presidency began optimistically as he announced that he could help with the founding of two states side by side, one Palestinian and one Israeli. However over seven years, the Bush administration neglected this issue based on the pretext that it was preoccupied with pursuing Al Qaeda. If it had directed its efforts towards solving the conflict at the same time as its war on terror then it would have been welcomed by the Arabs and Israelis because America was at the height of its anger and power and people looked towards it positively to strike a balance. All we can say is that the administration wasted valuable years in which it could have ended the Arab-Israeli conflict especially that George W. Bush was known for his strong personality at the beginning of his tenure.

As for the terrorism issue; we cannot blame Bush’s government for the continuation of this crisis because it is widespread, deep-rooted and will take a long time [to solve]. What we should say in fact is that its blunders in Iraq strengthened terrorism and caused it to spread even further.

Iraq is the most controversial of issues in the world when it comes to the Bush administration. Unlike many others, I believe that it was essential to bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime as it had become difficult to cooperate with Saddam. His downfall was inevitable. However, the claim that Iraq was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction was unfounded and this is where the administration took on a major project and committed mistakes from the very beginning. Bush’s team continuously made mistakes in administrating Iraq from the day Baghdad fell when it dissolved the army, security forces and the [ruling] political party. Its biggest mistake lies in the kind of government that it created. As Washington battled religious extremist groups all over the world, at the same time, it handed them Iraqi governance on a golden platter and this has had disastrous results in the present and will continue to do so in the near future.

The result is that the administration’s failure in governing Iraq encouraged more extremist wings of Iran to gain power, which caused extremism to spread in the region to an extent that had never been witnessed before, even during the conflict with the Soviet Union. Extremism in Iran encouraged extremism in Syria. It built a large arsenal for Hezbollah and made it possible for Hamas to sabotage the peace process in Palestine. Moscow returned to the region and Beijing became involved as well.

We cannot forget Somalia and Sudan that both endured their worst periods of violence and extremism. The Bush administration was not able to control the situations in those countries or have an impact on them.

Although Bush’s administration was the only one in American history that really sought to promote democracy in the Middle East, which failed because though the plan was good on paper, it was impractical, theatrics began to appear in the region making false claims of interest in popular participation. There is not one real democratic system today in the region with the exception of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, yet America did move to support it especially in face of the heinous practices of Israel that undermined the government of Mahmoud Abbas.

Today, Bush’s presidency is coming to a close, Iran is on the verge of creating a nuclear bomb, China is protecting Sudan, Russia is backing Syria, Hamas is occupying a third of the new Palestine, Iraq is in the hands of extremist religious figures and Al Qaeda is present all over the world.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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