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Why Only Few Feel the Danger? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Listening to Secretary Rice addressing the Senates’ Committee on International Affairs and reading the recently published American plan for a decade of conflict with Islam, raise alarming concern. The image of the Middle East presented in both is quite vague and stands at stark contradiction with the region’s public will and aspirations.

Secretary Rice described Iran as “the greatest strategic challenge” facing the United States in the Region. This is because Iran uses policies that “contradict the nature of the kind of Middle East sought by the United States.”

Unsettling questions ensue: What is the nature of the kind of Middle East sought by the United States? Should Middle Eastern states adapt themselves to that nature designed oceans away? Or should the United States consult with their people about their own preferences on such nature, instead of following the lead of self-serving political lobbies in Washington?

Secretary Rice then talks about “Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon.” She might have not been briefed that Hezbollah is a LEBANESE political party. Then she talks about Syrian-Iranian relations as if they started only yesterday. It seems that she has not been briefed either that Syrian-Iranian relations have been consistent and continuous for the last three decades. That is quite some time before the United States severed its support to Saddam Hussein, realizing that he was a security threat to the region. A realization that dawned on both Iran and Syria twenty years before.

The Secretary of State generously stretches a hand of help and support to the future aspirations of people in the region. The question is, however, how in-depth were her briefings on Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Arab-Israeli conflict? The people of the region’s dearest hope is to prevent an Iraq-like catastrophe from happening again. They don’t see in the Iraqi model a road to democracy, security or peace.

The more Secretary Rice talks about the region and its people, the more alienated from the United State the people here feel. American official statements and plans do not seem to concern themselves with the thoughts and feelings of the people in the region. What freedom could be achieved for the Palestinians with the separation walls constructed by the Israelis? The Palestinians are now trapped between two walls; one in the East severing the Jordanian valley from the West Bank, and one in the west separating the West Bank from Israel. The Palestinians now cannot go anywhere unless they pass through Israeli security barricades.

One can only wonder if Secretary Rice knows that the agriculture-dependent Palestinian economy will by loosing most of its fertile lands in the Jordanian valley. She might not know either about displacing Palestinians, cutting their olive trees, killing them, and depriving them of their most basic human rights. She might have not been informed that what we need in the Middle East is international justice based on international laws and agreements.

Under the banner of crusading for freedom and democracy in the Middle East, Secretary Rice remains silent about the Pentagon’s reaction to the newly released torture photos: “There is no need for new controversy over some old photos.” Under the same banner, the European Union sees no harm in the provocative cartoons on Prophet Mohammad.

In the meanwhile, the United States propagates for a long-term plan for conflict with Muslims. The plan designates no countries, cultures, history or human beings. It is war against some unidentifiable mass entity, where the only visible landmarks are vital ports and strategic natural resources. A plan of a dim future for humanity, while the gap between the East and West gets wider by the day.

Secretary Rice said that “the people of the Middle East and Latin America should be able to select their leaders.” Indeed they should be. American policies in both regions, however, are the main insurmountable obstacles. Therefore, the day people in both regions will have a say in their futures might be the day when the United States will have lost all their faith.

Secretary Rice might want to consider meeting Arab and Muslim lobbies in Washington along with AIPAC, especially as Muslims and Arabs are the majority in the Middle East. This might broaden her vision of the Middle East and give depth to her understanding of the issues. Taking matters of trust into consideration, she might want to start with the International Council of Churches in Washington. On February 8th, 2006, the Council sent a letter to Secretary Rice inviting her to explore their point of view about suffering and politics in the Middle East. I hope she accepts the invitation.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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