Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

How far will this fire spread? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In the wave of uprisings, or revolutions, currently sweeping through a number of countries in our region, the voice of reason has been absent. In its place, there has been the hypocrisy of the masses, and this is no less dangerous than the hypocrisy of our former authoritarian regimes. Such a trait is currently being shared by the media, states, and intellectuals.

It is not possible to compare Libya to any other Arab country, especially with regards to the levels of insanity displayed by Gaddafi’s rule, just as Tunisia is not Egypt; Egypt is not Bahrain, and so on. This is due to several factors, both internal and external, even at the level of government institutes. Thus, there is no single recipe for the whole region.

Yes, there are demands worthy of reform; both political and economic, but some states require such reforms faster than others, and the situations differ. Some states need to move towards democracy, but no two states are the same, and again there is no standard recipe. Therefore, it is our duty to discuss what is happening in our region in a more rational manner, especially as we have not seen one example whereby a revolutionary country has then gone on to advance rapidly. Indeed, some countries require more insight, and expertise, to set the wheels of development in motion. What we are seeing in some countries today is an obsession with uncovering the past, rather than coming together to develop for the future. When I say that more insight is required, this is not to abandon or minimize the concept of freedom and democracy, but rather we must avoid falling into ongoing crises, and not be led by our passions.

I am saying this because matters are simply not as some people portray them. The simplest example here, at state level, is what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday, where she declared support for the political transitions in the Arab World, calling them a “strategic necessity”. The US and some European countries are now hinting at using force against the Gaddafi regime. All of this is understandable, and let us say acceptable as well, but the question that must be asked here is, what about political change in Iran? What will Washington, and the West, do with the Iranian regime, which has recently threatened two leaders of the Iranian opposition, [Mehdi] Karroubi and [Mir-Hossein] Mousavi, with imprisonment or house arrest in an undisclosed location? Will America also support the Iranian opposition, and undertake military intervention, or does this principle only apply to the Arabs? If this is the case, what will Washington do if, God forbid, the [political] system in Yemen breaks up, where the Yemeni president is insisting on staying in power, whilst the opposition insists on his departure? Would the US intervene militarily, especially as some in Washington fear that al-Qaeda is gaining control there? This is a puzzling matter, how can America support change in the region, and consider it strategic, but be fearful of such change in Yemen for example, or remain silent regarding the 13 demonstrators killed in Iraq?

All the above questions must be answered, not to question the principles of freedom and democracy, but rather to show that we must not oversimplify our rights and demands. This will ensure that reform and prosperity, rather than devastation, prevail over time. Yet in return [for a more rational outlook], all Arab governments must accelerate the pace of reform today, because it is highly necessary in order to avoid this massive fire which is spreading without reason or prudence, especially as these Arab governments have, without a doubt, played a role in where we have reached today.