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From North Africa to Bahrain, what do we want from Washington? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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If the Arab revolutions we have witnessed have proven one thing, firstly in Tunisia and Egypt, and currently in Libya, it is that people are aware of their own conditions. If change is to happen and develop healthily, then it must take place through local, responsible hands, without direct intervention from foreign parties, except in later providing assistance for the reconstruction process, as requested by such forces of transition and change.

The National Council, founded in Benghazi, proved its independence and political wisdom, when it refused to enter dialogue with a delegation of British diplomats, accompanied by SAS troops, who landed by helicopter in an attempt to establish contact with the revolutionaries in Benghazi. The National Council refused because the British forces had entered Libya illegally, and this stance gained widespread respect, even in London, where the delegation was sent from.

In Bahrain, surprisingly, a demonstration occurred yesterday which saw opposition members standing in front of the US embassy, demanding that Washington pressure the Bahrain government to implement political reforms. This was happening whilst a political [dialogue] process is supposed to be taking place, in one form or another. The opposition demonstrators received the right to demonstrate freely weeks ago, and they have put forward their demands in the streets, public squares, and in front of government buildings. Yet at the same time, the Crown Prince of Bahrain has since called for national dialogue without conditions, including all parties and covering all issues.

There may be something of a deadlock in Bahrain, owing to the considerable violence which led to deaths at the beginning of the protests, and this is now forming a barrier between the two parties commencing a dialogue. However, attempting to involve an external party like this, in such a direct manner, or attempting to use foreign parties in the internal political process, is neither a rational nor healthy move. With the involvement of external parties, the scene only becomes more complex at a whole new level, and this does not benefit any side of society.

And that brings us to the question about the role of the U.S, or the West in general, regarding the changes and revolutions in the region, and this that they are a purely local phenomenon, and this is something that the entire world recognizes. We must also acknowledge that it is difficult for any state to remain neutral today, without expressing a position on sudden developments taking place in any location around the world or human rights abuses contravening international accords. This is one thing, but foreign intervention is another matter altogether.

Democracy can neither be imported nor imposed from outside, it is a matter that stems from within society itself, from the mechanisms of its development, and its ability to pay the required price for such development. Regarding the current Arab situation, the moves for change have come as a surprise to the outside world, especially to the United States and the Euro-Mediterranean countries. At the beginning, official statements regarding what was happening emerged from the confusion, but these then changed over time, as the situation developed on the ground. We saw this in both the Tunisian and Egyptian cases.

In Libya, the revolution has taken a different path, which in turn has required a different [external] approach. A one-sided military battle has emerged between the opposition based in the East, and the ruling forces entrenched in Tripoli. Massacres have occurred as a result, which have led to the proposal of a no-fly zone over Libya, to protect the opposition from pro-Gaddafi airstrikes. Colonel Gaddafi, for his part, is also demanding Western support under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda and extremism.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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