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Abusing reform - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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If all Arab regimes that do not want to improve their situations met to develop a clear plan to abuse the concept of reform, then they should do what the U.S. administration is doing today, when dealing with what our region is going through. So far, we have yet to see one example of the U.S. adopting the correct strategy.

The clearest example here is what U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday after his visit to Manama, urging Bahrain to enact significant political reform, and quickly, to put an end to any Iranian influence. He said that Iran may intervene in the political situation in Bahrain because of the sectarian divide between the Shiite opposition and the Sunni ruling family! This is odd, for is Bahrain the only state with a Sunni ruling family, and a Shiite opposition? Are there not ordinary Sunni citizens in Bahrain as well? Was democracy, and reform, originally founded on sectarian concepts? Is American democracy, for example, based on race or religion, or is it based on citizenship, and programs that serve the state and the citizen?

Furthermore, with regards to accelerating reforms so that Iran cannot interfere, why not also tell Iran to speed up its reforms, so that the Gulf States refrain from interfering in its affairs? This is not the point of course, because reform is an urgent need throughout the region, and an essential requirement. However, it must be carried out according to the needs of each country, and their specific situations, and not through a regional template. When I say it is the Americans who are primarily responsible for abusing reform today, the reason is simple; we have Washington calling for accelerated reforms in Bahrain, but at the same time calling for calm and dialogue in Yemen, whilst holding an indecisive position regarding Libya, and so on. Does Washington know what is happening on the ground, and actually feel its impact, or is America showing weakness, particularly towards Iran, from which the minorities are suffering the most?

As I have said repeatedly, reform is a genuine need in all our nations, but it must not be oversimplified or generalized. In the past, America pressured Mahmoud Abbas, during the era of George Bush Jr., to hold elections. At the time, Bush said that if Hamas won, then it would rule in the interests of the people, and clean up Gaza. What happened next? Hamas’s rule was overturned with weapons and Iranian support against the Palestinian Authority!

In Iraq Bush overthrew Saddam Hussein, and said that the winds of democracy would sweep the region. What happened? Iran has become the official sponsor of Iraq, and effectively chooses the Prime Minister, just as it does in Lebanon’s alleged democracy! It is also the same in Afghanistan, where America is losing blood and money, and Iran remains influential there. We also see America pursuing Iranian funds, and imaginary Hezbollah companies, even in Europe and America itself. So is Iran able to do all this because the West is also in need of reform?

What I want to say is that we are in need of reform, but according to our needs and realities, based upon citizenship, without exception or exclusion, and without external loyalties, whether to Iran, America or elsewhere. This is so that our states will not break down, and so our gains are not lost, and of course to end the influence of Iran, amongst others. Is America aware today that it is abusing the concept of reform, and showing weakness in front of Iran? This is the question.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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