December 20, 2002
MIDDLE EAST PARTNERSHIP INITIATIVE (MEPI): ARAB MEDIA WARY
** Arab media panned MEPI
as a "misguided" effort to improve the U.S.' image in the Arab world
and to gain "legitimacy" for a war against Iraq.
** Critics dismissed MEPI
as "peanuts" compared to U.S. military expenditures in the region.
** Supporters of MEPI's
goals asserted that Arabs must engineer democratic reform themselves.
MEPI overlooks 'main reasons' for the U.S.' unpopularity: Iraq, Israel-- Arab dailies labeled MEPI a
"misguided" effort by the U.S. to improve its "very bad
image" in the Arab world. The
majority expressed the "core criticism" that MEPI "totally
overlooks the main reasons" for the U.S.' unpopularity: "Blind support for Ariel Sharon"
and "the upcoming war against Iraq."
A Bahraini daily noted, "We hate not America, but...its blunt bias
in favor of the Israeli occupation."
Others blasted what they perceived as a "PR campaign" intended
to "seduce the Arab people into accepting U.S. plans against Iraq with the
hope of more political freedom."
They viewed MEPI as a "simplistic" plan to "convince the
Arab street that democracies in the region will start from Baghdad."
Critics rail against 'the falsity and absurdity of Powell's
speech'-- Some saw MEPI as part of
"a plan for further intervention in the region's affairs." The harshest critics blasted MEPI as American
"imperialism" and the latest iteration of a U.S. drive to "subjugate"
the Arabs and "control" their resources. A Saudi editorial questioned MEPI's viability
in light of the postponement--"less than a week after its birth"--of
the American "roadmap" to create a Palestinian state. Many observers skeptically addressed what
they saw as Washington's belated recognition that democracy was lacking in Arab
countries. A government coalition paper
from Morocco commented: "For the
first time, the United States highlights the role of the people as a priority
after the U.S. has carried on its relations solely with the leaders of the
region for more than 50 years." An
Egyptian editor asserted that "America does not want democracy" but
wants, instead, "tailored change" in the region's governments.
A small contingent of supporters welcomed the infusion of new
ideas-- Jordanian and Lebanese media were the most
receptive, recognizing the "real need" for wide-ranging reform
"even if it is the Americans that tell us about it." An Egyptian analyst, writing in leading
pro-government Al Ahram, praised the goals of the initiative but urged
those Egyptians who support these ideas to take upon themselves the
responsibility of furthering reforms.
"Modernization is not always Westernization,” was a common refrain
EDITOR: Gail Hamer Burke
EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 52
reports from 15 countries, 12/12-12/19.
Editorial excerpts from each country are listed by most recent date.
"Elections Will Test Credibility Of Powell's Call For
Mamdouh Nofal opined in independent,
pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam (12/19): "It is good that the United States is
looking into the reasons behind the anti-American sentiments in the Middle East
as part of its effort to reconciliate with the nations of this region. Undoubtedly, the fact that Secretary Colin
Powell has addressed the Arab and Islamic publics is a step in the right
direction. His remarks about conducting
political, economic, social reforms and civic society development aim at
achieving the ambitions of the peoples of this region and advancing democracy
and combating poverty, illiteracy and diseases.
However, the Palestinian people are not convinced of the [seriousness of
these] remarks.... Perhaps it would be
useful for Secretary Colin Powell to know that the Palestinians do not trust
his words and consider his initiative simplistic propaganda preceding a war
against Iraq. The Palestinians are
convinced that if Sharon rejects the initiative, then the American president
and Congress will take back both their initiative and their pretty words about
"Powell’s Controversial Democracy"
Hani Al-Masri opined in independent,
pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam (12/17): “Powell has called on the nations of the
region to practice democracy while he has denied the Palestinians from
practicing their natural and democratic right to choose their own
leadership. The American administration
has concluded that if Palestinian elections are held on January 20th, the
results will challenge American ambitions and will probably affirm the
legitimacy of the historic Palestinian leadership of President Arafat, so
Satterfield and Burns started demanding that presidential elections be
postponed and that the elections law must be changed.... They also demanded that the PA carry out
reforms within its institutions and add a prime minister’s post, in an effort
to predetermine the outcome of any elections.
When this American attempt failed, Washington pushed for postponing the
elections altogether. Based on this, it
is hard to believe that the Palestinians will view the Americans’ call to
support democracy as honest or serious.”
Sponsored American Democracy"
Rajab Abu Sareih opined in independent,
pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam (12/17): “Neither the U.S. initiative [MEPI] nor its
policy is aimed at improving the democratic relationship between the
Palestinian people and their leadership.
The United States is interested in creating a leadership that will
accept the political strategy of Sharon’s government and the future American
globalization effort in the region. The
Palestinians believe that occupation is the main obstacle facing the
development and growth of Palestinian society; thus talking about internal
reforms without addressing the issue of occupation is no more than a hollow
Talal Okal opined in independent,
pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam (12/16): “Not only does Powell continue to boycott the
Palestinian president, but he has also openly embraced the views of the
extremists in Israel, who call for getting rid of the Palestinian
leadership. It should be recalled that
the U.S. administration had responded positively to Sharon’s request to
postpone putting forward the roadmap plan until after the Israeli
elections. The picture is now crystal
clear: There will be no U.S. peaceful initiatives or intervention to halt the
Israeli aggression, and it is up to the Sharon government to find the
appropriate way and time to get rid of Arafat and his leadership. And even if Arafat and his leadership did go,
the Palestinian people would still have to change their institutions and to
wait, obediently and submissively, for Sharon's orders and measures, and for
the U.S. blessings.”
"MEPI Undermines Arab Regimes"
Adli Sadeq observed in semi-official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida
(12/16): “The Middle East Partnership
Initiative as announced by Colin Powell talks about democracy and development
in the Arab world. The initiative, which
openly addresses American [interests], reflects the animosity and extremism of
the most radical wing in the American administration toward the Arab
world. Leaders of this wing have spoken
out about their intention to actively replace the values and culture of the
Arab countries by means of threats and rewards. One of those leaders is Liz
Cheney, who clearly stated that ‘the goal at the end is to direct the ambitions
of Arabs in accordance to the interests of the U.S., and not
vice-versa.... Through this initiative,
the Americans want to establish direct channels with the Arab constituencies
through civil society institutions....
This means that the U.S. has started its offensive against the Arab
regimes, which despite their loyalty to the U.S., are not seen by the Americans
as able to fulfill its demands, including its inability to confine the Islamic
Jihad movement, which considers America as its main enemy.”
"Initiative Supports American Interests, Not Democracy"
Ashraf Ajrami commented in independent, pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam
(12/16): “While Powell speaks about
supporting democracy, he allows himself to decide for the Palestinian people
regarding choosing their leadership....
The same American attitude can also be seen regarding the Iraqi
issue. The American administration and
George Bush himself have decided for the Iraqi people and the whole Arab nation
that Iraq’s President Saddam is not right for the Iraqi people, and that Iraq
will be better off without him.... The
democracy that Washington is proposing here does not reflect the real democracy
of civilized societies. Such a democracy
should be a natural and logical outcome of the basic political, social and
economic needs of these countries.”
Ahmed Kamal wrote in semi-independent Al-Ayam (12/14): "Why now, after many long years of
relations with the Arab world has America just realized that the countries of
this region are backward politically, economically, scientifically and
socially? This great American discovery
totals no more than $29 million? Most of
this money will be paid as salaries to American missionaries who will teach us
democracy. We know that Powell’s
initiative came for one reason only, to answer the question ‘Why do Arabs hate
America?’ The answer could be extremely
long but summarized in one sentence. We
do not hate America, but we are against its behavior towards the future of our
generations and its blunt bias in favor of the Israeli occupation. This makes us feel oppressed and the
oppressed will do anything to end the oppression.”
"Rejected By All Entities"
Sayed Zahra wrote in semi-independent Akhbar
Al-Khalij (12/14): "Powell and
his aides did their best to make the initiative appear to be a response to Arab
demands. Nonetheless, we respond by
stating that this initiative is rejected by all entities in the Arab world, the
governments, the intellectuals, and civil society. We reject America’s interference in our
internal affairs. We all know what
America means when it says educational and media reforms. They want to falsify our history and values
by changing our educational curricula so that they can raise our children the
way they want to. Powell quoted a line
of arabic poetry when he tackled the issue of women in the Middle East. The school that the poet spoke of is a school
that we will establish--not America.
There is no comparison between Shawqi’s Arab Muslim school and Powell’s
Zionist American school.”
"Clear Naivete And Unlimited
Hafed Al-Shaikh opined in semi-independent Akhbar Al-Khalij
(12/14): "Once again America uses
the same rhetoric that it used in the fifties and sixties when it speaks about
modernizing Arabs and Muslims and democratizing their regimes. There will be more to add to Powell’s speech
in every day that passes. Soon we will
hear that Iraq is the first ‘experimental lab.’
Of course, there is a big difference between the fifties and sixties and
nowadays. America used to administer its
operations from a distance, but now America will be present in our homes. It can force its projects and theories of
modernization and democratization on Arab and Muslim countries. However, the owners of the current political
thinking that consists of clear naivite and unlimited arrogance will soon be
facing surprises that are far more brutal than the surprises of the fifties and
the sixties when the regimes in Iran and Iraq were overthrown.”
"An American Joke"
Leading pro-government Al Ahram's senior
columnist Salama Ahmed Salama wrote (12/19): "The U.S.-Middle East Partnership
Initiative launched by Powell...might have met with a more positive response
had it not come at a time when Washington's credibility within the region is at
an all time low.... It is amazing that
the United States should have discovered only recently the ugliness of its
image in Arab eyes and amazing that it should now decide that it is the result,
not of its blind support for Israel nor of its active involvement in Zionist
schemes to crush the Palestinian people, but is exclusively a product of the
absence of democracy.... An attack
against Iraq will only serve Israel's interests, fuel violence and terrorism in
the region, and help eliminate whatever modest margin for democracy currently
"Powell's Initiative And America's
Small circulation pro-government Al
Gomhouriya's columnist Abdel Wahab Aads observed (12/19): "I say we
should not entirely reject nor wholly accept Powell's initiative.... The most
important point Powell ignored is the need to stop Israeli violence immediately
and to declare a Palestinian state within a single year.... If America is truly concerned for the future
of Middle East countries, as Powell's initiative indicated, it should ask
Israel to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction...release the 600
non-American detainees in Guantanamo without charges...force Israel to respect
UN resolutions and evacuate Arab territories occupied in 1967; and, if Israel
refuses, it should apply economic sanctions then launch a military strike,
according to the UN Charter.... Justice
and conscience are indivisible and double standards are unacceptable."
"Democracy For Sale"
Leading opposition Al Wafd's columnist
Gamal Badawi noted (12/19): "We
regard the American initiative with suspicion.... What is the U.S. benefit from establishment
of democratic regimes in Arab and Islamic states? Has it not been the prime mover of
dictatorships in the Middle East since mid-1920's?.... With whom does the United States seek this
partnership? With the governments or the
nations? Arab regimes do not want to
leave power...under the pretext of fighting terrorism...and the Palestinian
issue.... Can we believe Bush, Powell
and Condoleezza when they show sympathy and good intentions toward us? We want to believe them, provided they give
us the freedom to build our own future without guardianship...and block
Israel's instigations against us. The
United States should instead first achieve justice in Palestine and then we
might believe its democratic intentions."
"Egyptian Reform And Revival And Powell’s
Leading pro-government Al Ahram’s
contributor Ibrahim El-Bahrawy wrote (12/18):
“If the pressure of ideological circumstances after September 11...led
the United States to realize that its interests in the Arab world and the
security of its people require helping Arab governments and nations through
democratic openness...and human freedoms...this coincides with Egyptian
aspirations, and will lead to cooperation in implementing them...provided that
we accept our own responsibility.
Besides expanding democratic participation, the Powell initiative calls
for expanding economic opportunities and directing American aid in the region
towards finding jobs...and supporting educational development.... Therefore, we believe that the supporters of
reform in Egypt--who exist in all political parties and who predate Powell in
that call--bear a pressing national responsibility to take the initiative in
implementing the Egyptian call for reform and enlightenment. They should start a dialogue, in a democratic
way that respects the opinions of the other, with the supporters and opponents
of their call.... It is important that
the Egyptian reform trend performs its responsibilities by benefiting from the
recent reform developments in the National Democratic Party and the American
initiative. The funds allocated for the
Powell initiative are not enough to achieve the aspired objectives. It is we who should carry the responsibility
of reform, while maintaining our cultural and national identity.”
"Ignoring Facts On The Ground"
Popular TV show “Good Morning, Egypt” (12/17)
hosted Amr Abdel Sami’e, editor-in-chief of Al Ahram’s international
edition. He said the initiative ignores
the facts on the grounds and that Powell’s call for a new Palestinian
leadership ignores the undemocratic practices undertaken by Israel in the
Opposition Al Wafd’s columnist Nabil Zaki
wrote (12/16): "The United States
has announced an initiative called American Middle East Partnership to expand
social, economic and political development.... The fact ignored by this initiative
is that the United States itself has deprived the region’s nations of all these
fruits. It has deliberately impeded a
just Arab-Israeli settlement for decades....
Washington wants to turn Iraq into ‘a beacon for spreading democracy in
the region’ by occupying it and subduing it to international will. We recall Martin Indyk’s statement that the
American administration preferred to check freedoms in the region to protect
the Arab-Israeli peace project and contain Iran and Iraq.... We advise the United States to leave the
matter of struggling for democracy to us, the nations of this region. All we want is for the United States to ease
its flagrant bias in favor of the extremist, racist, terrorist gang ruling
"Absurdity Of Powell’s Speech"
Pro-opposition Al-Arabi’s managing editor Abdel Halim
Qandil commented (12/15): “If you want
to know about the falsity and absurdity of Powell’s speech, read the reactions
voiced by the Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. and by Foreign Minister Maher.
Their statements waver between implicit support and careful timidity so
avoiding accusations that the rulers of Egypt are opposed to the plan. They know the U.S. does not care about
democracy. The U.S. wants to end the
service of the old cavalry and extend the service of those who prove to be
loyal during the invasion of Iraq. They
want them to sell [their] national pride in return for remaining in power. America wants a tailored change.... America does not want democracy, but like
dictatorships, is trying to control the will of the people while its attempts
to beautify itself are not be credible.”
"MEPI And The Need For Reform"
Prominent columnist Uraib Al-Rantawi wrote in
center-left, influential Al-Dustour (12/14): “The need for political, economic,
administrative, and fiscal reform in the Arab world is real, even if it is the
Americans that tell us about it. We
should not suspend development programs waiting for a solution to the
"The Road Map To Democracy"
Jamil Al-Nimri wrote in independent, mass-appeal
Al-Arab Al-Yawm (12/14): “We
welcome this positive and constructive position because we value democracy and
yearn to be able to enjoy it. We
challenge the American administration to implement this initiative as a package,
and we shall assume that Powell’s words spring from a conviction. But we must repeat to the U.S. administration
for the thousandth time that the key to gaining the confidence of the Arab
peoples is through solving the Palestinian problem. This is not new, so will the dialogue of the
deaf continue? Arab intellectuals are
now convinced that the problem is not one of convincing the American
administration, but the lack of an American will that is independent of
Israel’s wishes. In this context, any
pressure on Arab regimes will fail because it will be seen as Zionist pressure
for suspect reasons, and even democrats will feel the need to attack it.”
"Who Is Preventing Palestinian
Mahmoud Al-Rimawi wrote in semi-official
influential Al-Rai (12/14):
“Since Secretary Powell’s initiative calls for reforms in the Arab
world, we should take note that people of the region should have the right to
organize elections. It is important to
expose the ongoing (US-Israeli) collusion that prevents the people of the West
Bank and Gaza from having their elections.
This constitutes a flagrant contradiction with the aims of the present
“MEPI, An Attempt To Fill The Gap Of Hope”
Ramadan Rawashdeh wrote in semi-official
influential Al-Rai (12/14):
“International politics is no longer concerned with what is called
national sovereignty, because globalization allows the flow of funds and information without censorship
or borders and without the control of the central government, which is losing
much of its prerogatives to business groups, civil society institutions, and
the free media.”
"The American Program To Reform And Improve
Daily columnist Mazen Al-Saket wrote in
center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (12/14): “The process of development should not be a
cover to address the causes of hatred and enmity towards American policy. This is an issue that should start with
understanding that Arabs have independence and rights.”
"Talk And Convictions"
Tariq Masarwah wrote in semi-official
influential Al-Rai (12/14):
"Secretary Powell merits applause because, after a year of hearing
the United States threaten war, he chose a different language. We wish sincerely that his call is sincere,
but we are convinced that it is nothing but a specious propaganda exercise to
embellish the image of the ugly American.
It is not a call for good, but a waving of the stout stick. Is development in Palestine to be achieved by
reoccupying the land and destroying the Palestinians’ authority? Is it possible that he seeks what is in the
best interest of Iraqis, when he is the successor of the Secretary who said
openly that the death of half a million Iraqi children is acceptable? Can the Lebanese be asked to cooperate with
an initiative that dictates to them and that dubs the heroes that liberated the
south of Lebanon as terrorists? Would
this not be a call for the return of the occupation?”
"A Failing Recipe For A Distorted
Musa Hawamdeh in Al-Dustour (12/15)
argued that the U.S. is only interested in democracy in as far as it serves its
own interests, that the "democracy that Washington wants is a distorted
kind of democracy. The United States
wants to open the Arab lands for America first, then it wants to give orders
and to get rid of anything that could
create animosity for the United States....
[The U.S.] would save millions of dollars if it would deal with the
Israeli occupation as a source of terror and worry, and if it would consider
the idea that its interests may not necessarily come into conflict with Arab
interests if it would become an honest country and apply UN resolutions [to
"The Partnership Initiative, Why Did The
Regimes Fail To Produce One?"
Columnist Jamal Al-Tahat wrote in semi-official
influential Arabic daily Al-Rai (12/16):
“The value of the initiative does not lie in the funds allocated to it,
but in the idea on which it is based.
But it is also an expression of the total Arab failure, to the point
where it seems as if the U.S. is siding with the Arabs against a backwardness
that is of their making.”
"Jordan and the Partnership
Prominent daily columnist Uraib Al-Rantawi wrote
in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (12/16): “Jordan has a national interest in the
success of the agenda, regardless of what Powell said or did not say, and
regardless of what any others may say.
One should not rest on the assurance of America’s friendship because no
country was a closer friend of the U.S. than Saudi Arabia, and relations
between the two have now deteriorated.
One would be wise to set one’s house in order before he is compelled to
set them in order on unfavorable terms.”
"Powell’s Unlimited Company"
Usama Al-Sharif wrote in center-left,
influential Al-Dustour (12/16):
“The main problem is that there is no Arab proposal that we may raise in
the face of Secretary Powell to say to him: 'These are our terms to enter into
your company.’ Then again, does he
expect a response, or would he immediately point to General Franks and his big
stick? This is not Rome of Caesar, it is
not the Crusaders’ Empire, it is not the hordes of Mongols, nor is it the
Sykes-Picot Accord and the Balfour Declaration.
It is all of them together.”
"Powell’s Project is doomed to failure, and
the proof is Jordan"
Fahed Al-Khitan wrote in independent,
mass-appeal Al-Arab Al-Yawm (12/16):
"America will spend much money without returns, although the road
to gaining the hearts of the Arab public would cost it not a penny. It only needs to change its policy in the
region and then it would see not only an improvement in sentiments towards it,
but the progress of democracy, because the regimes would then lose the pretexts
of security and confronting Israel.”
"Democracy By Imposition"
"Al-Hadath", a weekly political talk
show on LBCI ran an an interview (12/15) with Egyptian human rights activist
Saadeddine Ibrahim and Islamic lawyer Mountasser Azzayyat; the program covered
the MEPI as part of discussions on democracy in the Arab world. Azzayyat was skeptical about Secretary
Powell's desire to "support democracy in the Arab world." He considered it aimed at "fabricating
agents to build and run research centers to point out issues related to minorities
like the Berbers, the Aqbat, and electoral fraud so that the U.S. and others
would always have the chance to interfere in the affairs of the country
(Egypt)." Ibrahim commented that
"no one could impose democracy with a decision or by force. Democracy is an operation that should spring
out of our societies.... Democracy
cannot be imposed from without and cannot be imposed neither by the power of
money nor by the power of arms," he said.
Samir Qasir wrote in moderate anti-Syria An-Nahar's
Internet website (12/13): "When
they first asked: 'why do they hate us?' they meant why we, the Arabs, hate the
Americans. Now, suddenly, they've
decided to love us and to give us a present: Democracy. Thus, America has finally discovered the
Arabs. We hope something good will come
out of it.... The big question here
involves not the true intentions behind the American campaign for democracy as
much as the way the campaign will be managed and generalized.... Will they, after abolishing Saddam Hussein's
regime in Iraq, go for any government they can install provided that it
complies with their policy and maintains security, without caring if this
government represents the Iraqi people's ambitions or not? Will they continue to assign the executioners
of Arab prisons to interrogate people suspected of affiliation with
'al-Qa'idist' networks and so give certificates of good conduct to regimes that
routinely use torture?....
"The ambiguity that still surrounds the new
American call does not, however, exempt the Arabs from taking the issue of
democracy seriously. First of all, the
Arabs need to get rid of their skepticism that the values of democracy are only
a disguise of American hostility. That
the United States is not serious in its defense of democracy in many parts of
the world, and that it is trying to set boundaries for its own democracy at
home, does not mean there is a problem with the principles of democracy. It
means that there is a problem with the U.S. approach toward democracy. At any rate, the claim by the dictatorial
Arab regimes, monarchic or republican, that they can judge this new American
campaign for democracy, is ridiculous. What is more ridiculous, however, is for
the [Arab] peoples to adopt the skepticism of their rulers and so accept that
their freedom to choose be stolen at the moment when the United States, at long
last, wakes up to its discovery of them."
"The Philosophy Of Force With Bush"
Awni Kaaki wrote in pro-Syria As-Sharq
(12/17): "Secretary Powell announced
a plan, which he called the Middle East Partnership Initiative to change the
political, social and economic patterns in Arab societies. The United States has allocated $29 million
for that, while the supposed war against Iraq will be costing it $100 billion
dollars.... This is what falls within
the frame of subduing the Arab world and controlling its capabilities to force
it into accepting a new Middle East order."
"Has Imperialism Become The Highest Level
Rafiq Khoury opined in centrist Al-anwar
(12/14): "The Bush Administration
which is talking about deep changes seems today to be the prisoner of
simplistic ideas. It approaches the
Middle East stage with an emperor's robe...and is carrying a nuclear bomb in
one hand and the book on teaching democracy in the other. The option it offers is not that the Arab
World should change or that it should face the threat of war but that it should
have both at the same time.... There is
nothing new in the diagnosis of the Arab reality.... What is new is that the
American administration...has seen that its policy over half a century was not
suitable to preserve its national security and achieve its interests. It is of course the policy of 'dancing with the
dictators,' as described by the New York Times, while overlooking what
they (Arab leaders) did to their people as long as they remained in line with
the American interests. What the Bush
Administration fears is for extremist trends to find a 'Qaida' in any nation to
train and lead operations, and get hold of mass destruction weapons, and for
deteriorating Arab political and economic conditions to contribute in creating
generations of terrorists.'
"Zero, Point, Zero..."
Joseph Samaha commented in Arab nationalist As-Safir
(12/14): "Ok, what did Colin Powell
say? He defined, in his awaited speech,
the general goals of the American policy towards the Middle East, announcing no
change in it. It is according to him
'combating terrorism, dismantling Iraq's weapons, ending the Arab-Israel
conflict.'... The crucial differences
with Powell is that there are those in the region who consider the drastic
conditions, the American Secretary of State describes as the outcome of
Washington's success in defeating the Arabs and rendering the Arab regimes
followers (of the U.S.)... When Powell
launches his figures on the Arab reality, he is theoretically treating the
region as one united district. But he
realizes that the ABC's of the American policy are exactly to prevent a modicum
of unity, whether political or economic or strategic. And since that unity has not been manifested,
except in the cultural field, it is not strange to have this subject as the
title of the new campaign.... Powell is
invited while talking about 29 million dollars (more or less) to look
attentively at the special figures of American weapons sales over the last
decade to Arab states. The promised
assistance is zero point zero fifty eight percent of the price of those weapons. And while Powell looks attentively at the
figure, we will look attentively at a sentence he included and which read ' we
have for half a century and more devoted our blood and our treasure to helping
the peoples and governments of the Middle East.' There is no need, to be honest, for much
contemplation. The sentence is almost
funny unless it was meant to threaten us with a new war that is costly human
and material wise."
"What Does America Want From The Arabs?"
Awni Kaaki asserted in pro-Syria As-Sharq (12/14): "The U.S. did not launch its initiative
as a target imposed by requirements for developing Arab societies, but as a
pressure tool from which it aims at threatening and intimidating, to produce a
break among Arab regimes and force them into submitting to the American demands
of war against Iraq, and into submitting to a settlement tailored to suit
Israel and in turn allow American companies to control Arab treasures including
oil to be definite. The difference is
that the White House has allocated 29 million dollars for the initiative which
is a low figure that can hardly be mentioned at all levels, while in turn it
allocated one hundred billion dollars for the war against Iraq."
"The Wind Of Democracy Will Blow"
An editorial by Joseph Samaha in moderate,
anti-Syrian As-Safir held (12/12):
"Colin Powell will allow the winds of democracy to blow towards
Arabs and Muslims. It is time to deliver
the speech that was postponed. The
Secretary of State will announce that his country,...which will not change its
foreign policy, has a new priority which is to encourage democracy in Arab
nations. This idea has sparked following
the U.S. wrong answer to the question:
Why do Arabs and Muslims hate us?
The United States concluded that this hatred is an expression of envy
towards the United States.... The United
States thinks that Arabs do not want to see the real reasons behind their own
failure and accuse Washington of supporting dictatorships.... What we are witnessing following September 11
really pushes us to look back to Clinton's term with longing. Instead of the peace process we only see bias
in favor of Sharon and instead of 'dual containment' we find ourselves standing
before the axis of evil.... Powell will
announce his billion dollar plan to encourage democracy, however, it will only
look like a nail in a much bigger war plan that will cost $60-100
MOROCCO: "Powell Launches MEPI Program To
Teach Arabs Democracy!"
The Islamist Party's Al-Tajdid held
(12/14): "Secretary Powell launched
last week the new U.S. MEPI initiative
that aims at reinforcing democracy, education and the role of civil society in
the Arab world. The initiative is the
biggest partnership the United States participates in. Other foreign circles will also participate
in this initiative. It is worth
mentioning that civil society has recently criticized harshly the U.S.
administration because of its policies in what is called war on terrorism that
curbs and limits individual freedoms."
Announces Ways And Means Of Exporting Democracy To The Middle East"
Government coalition PPS party's lttihad Al
Ishtiraki held (12/14): "The
idea has been discussed for some months but has been delayed, as the timing was not good. Powell tried to deny the relation between
MEPI and the hatred that is growing towards the United States in the
Muslim-Arab world especially after September 11. For the first time, the United States
highlights the role of the people as a priority after the U.S. has carried on
its relations solely with the leaders of the region for more than 50
"The U.S. And The Muslim World"
Ahmed Zakihe commented in--in former Communist
party--government coalition, French-language PPS Party Al Bayane (12/14):
"Besides the laughable amount of the MEPI $29 million fund that has
been suggested, American officials have not suggested anything concrete in
terms of the U.S. role in the present situation in the Arab world.... The U.S. administration has constantly
supported reactionary powers that guarantee U.S. interests in the region. The U.S. has given unconditional support to
the Israeli State since 1948 and to its aggressive and expansionist policy that
has contributed to maintaining Arab states under the Israeli domination and
ruined all hopes of renaissance. What is
more dangerous is the fact that the United States has acted against the forces
of democracy and progress and used the extremist currents for its own
benefit. Nobody can refute the fact that
Bin Laden is a pure creation of the CIA.... We want to say to Powell that if the
United States sincerely desires to promote reforms in the Muslim/Arab world, it
must clearly and solemnly state the rupture with its hostile policies against
the peoples of the region.... Just
expressing wishes to win the sympathy of the peoples of the region will not
contribute to change a life in the right direction."
"U.S. Democracy And Non-Democratic
Leading conservative Government coalition
Istiqlal party Al Alam decalred (12/14):
"America thinks it is responsible for democratic reforms in the
Arab world. No country can compete with
the United States especially that the United States is the sole country that
can provide one billion dollars for MEPI.
In any case, spending this fund on civic issues is much better than
spending hundreds of billions of dollars on military actions. We have positively received the MEPI
announcement and we think that one billion dollars is the least minimum that
can be spent to support this initiative."
"New Verities On Democracy String"
Semi-official Al-Watan held (12/14): “Powell’s speech conveyed an apology for past
mistakes and called for a new partnership between the arrogant political system
and public institutions that suffer from its arrogance… Powell has chosen to
address three countries--Iran, Iraq and Palestine--for his message to reach
others in the Middle East, because the people of these three countries have
suffered most from American-Israeli conspiracies. Therefore, their hatred for America exceeds
that of other countries.... We ask Mr.
Powell, the owner of the democratic partnership invitation, does he want to
remove the tone of hatred from the dictionary of American-Arab relations or
discipline Arab systems, frightening them because they hesitate to support
America's elimination of the Palestinian and Iraqi people as an prologue to
eliminating all Arabs? Regarding Arab
women…they first need to protect their children from Israeli and American
bullets before calling for freedom or the vote.... We advise the Americans to implement the
basic international human rights laws first and allow Palestinians the right to
live peaceful and decent lives.”
"The Needed Partnership And
Oman's lead editorial (12/14) observed: "The political openness Powell has
called for Arab countries to adopt raises many questions.... Does it mean to obey and walk with the crowd,
disregarding people’s privacy, or does it suggest dealing with principles of
others by abandoning the fundamentals of their own realities? If by this initiative the [U.S.] Secretary of
State has indicated support for efforts to consolidate civil institutions that
protect individual rights and provide the possibility to contribute to public
life, why doesn't America take a clear stand on the violations taking place in
Palestine, which human rights organizations have described as exceeding all
"Billions Of Dollars To Attack Iraq, And Peanuts For
Ahmed Amorabi, columnist at semi-independent Al-Watan
declared (12/17-18): "The United
States just launched a new initiative to spread democracy in the Middle
East. The cause is noble, however, the
United States must chose between supporting noble principles, or giving
priority to self-interests over principles.
From Truman's time to Bush, the son's, time, the United States has
always given its relation with Israel top priority even over its relations with
so-called 'Friendly Countries' like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The United States suddenly sounds like the
knight that wants to save the Middle East from destruction. The current administration is much more
interested in destruction not building or re-building this region. When it comes to democracy they allocate $29
million, 'peanuts,' but when it comes to attacking Iraq, they talk about
hundreds of billions. This Middle East
partnership initiative is no more than an anesthetic until the United States
finishes its mission in Iraq. If top
U.S. officials do really care about this region, they should drop all the debts
of poor Arab countries, stop the IMF from imposing high interest rates on these
countries, and, the most important step, stop supporting dictatorships in the
region (that are considered allies and friends of the United States) because
this support provides an umbrella of legitimacy which protects them from being
removed and increases the level of hatred towards everything that is
"Is It A Real Partnership Or A Contract Of
Abdelrazaq Makadi, wrote in semi-independent Al-Satan
(12/18): "Partnership is a contract
between two or more equal partners that regulates the relationship...between
them. Whatever falls out of that
framework is just plain submission to the powerful partner. When we read Powell's statement we see U.S.
arrogance brightly shining in it. They
want to impose their own perception of democracy on us. And on the Palestinian issue...they want to impose
their solution of the problem. (Off
course it synchronizes with Israel's demands) without even considering our
rights and demands. Why now? This is my question. And I think the answer is to pave the way to
attacking Iraq by convincing the Arab street that democracies in the region
will start from Baghdad. They want us to
legitimize their attack on Iraq. This
partnership could be accepted only if it was based on respect for our identity
and our demands and rights, but the Americans have a different agenda. The gap between them and us will never be
"America Offers The Mideast A Handout"
Abdul Kareem Hashish, wrote in semi-independent Al-Raya
(12/16-17): "Let us discuss MEPI
through the statements of the State Department Director for Policy Planning
Richard Haas. Haas stated to the
London-based Al-Hayat that the American plan to spread democracy in the
Mideast will not be imposed on the leaderships or the people of the
region. He added that if the United
States will not adopt an active policy that gradually supports democracy in the
Middle East, lots of states in the region will not be stable and that will
cause a huge number of serious problems to the United States. Haas also admitted that the only people in
the region that are ready for democratic rule are the Palestinians. However what is new about this
initiative? Nothing. The United States
new plan is no more than a PR campaign.
Allocating $29 million is not even enough to launch an advertising
campaign in the United States for a local domestic product. Plus, how can I believe that the United States
is really looking to spread democracy in my region? The United States was and still is supporting
dictatorships in the Middle East. The
United States still supports and will continue to support the State terror of
Israel. The United States record of
violations against humanity is completely black, how can we forget Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. Yes I am hungry for
democracy. And yes I am dying for this
initiative but I cannot accept it because the United States is not
helping. They are offering a handout."
"Prepared By Haass, Burns and Cheney's Daughter, It Embarrassed
London-based, pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat opined
(12/19): "It was so nice to hear
Colin Powell's initiative on the Middle East partnership.... But America has no principles, it believes in
double standards. In the eyes of
America, not all people are equal....
Does Powell want this partnership not to include the Palestinians,
unless they change their leadership? It
is more important for the Palestinians to provide bread for their children than
to change their leadership....
Washington knows clearly that that the road to democracy in the Arab world
is too long. It is more important to
build trust first between the United States and the Arabs and then between
Arabs and Israel.... How would Arabs
embrace democracy, when America considers Israel to be a democracy? Israeli leaders practice democracy within
Israel and practice aggression and occupation with the Palestinians.... Ms. Cheney was clear when she said, we don’t
expect our initiative to solve complicated issues, like terrorism, Iraq and
Arab-Israeli conflict.... Powell cannot
be naïve when he said, for more than half a century we devoted ourselves to
help the Middle East and its governments!
We have never expected America to be another Mother Teresa, who gives
and gives for nothing in return....
Unfortunately, no matter what the U.S. administration does to make the
Arab street forget the Palestinian issue, it will not succeed, because the
Israeli brutality can never be defendable.
And the result is what the United States is worried about Islamic
extremism, with retaliation in mind....
The initiative is an optimistic step, but America can not carry it
out. Less than a week after the birth of
the initiative, America has killed it when President Bush decided to freeze the
'roadmap,' because Israel asked him to wait after its elections.... For Bush's information, Arabs trust, like and
respect Colin Powell and they won’t be provoked to give a chance for the hawks
in his administration to win over Powell. "
SYRIA: "A Very
Government-owned Tishreen editorialized (12/15): "The initiative...arouses strong
astonishment at U.S. policy and prompts us to ask in a loud voice: where does
the U.S. Administration want to take the region? This so-called initiative forcibly imposed by
the Americans is in fact a plan for further intervention in the region's
affairs.... It must be reaffirmed that
the Arab region does not need U.S. recipes for democracy and the reforms
resulting from them.... The Arabs' main
calamity is Israel. Washington, which
claims it wants to offer its services to the region, does not cease providing
aggressive Israel with funds, weapons, and political support. This cannot be in the interest of the
Arabs. Support for Israel means support
for its aggression against the Arabs and evaporation of the hopes for reaching
just peace, security, and stability, which the region really needs. When Washington ignores all these calamities
and speaks about so-called democracy and reform, this means that it harbors
something very bad for the Arabs and their causes and prepares for a new stage
of Israeli aggression and terrorism."
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: "MEPI A New Burden And A Surprise For
Riyadh Al Haj wrote in Sharjah-based pan-Arab
Arabic-language Al Khaleej (12/17):
"There is a great deal of criticism about the nature, goal, and
timing of the American initiative. Many
official and public parties stress that the U.S. only wants to subjugate the
Arabs, control their resources, and give Israel the freedom to do anything it
likes in the occupied territories. These allegations contain a high degree of
realism; in fact, we can say that Arabs will suffer even more injustice because
of U.S. government policies.... However,
all this will solve nothing.... Real and
serious change is required. The change
must be in-depth and not restricted to cosmetic forms. There is a big chance to (effect change) only
if it is based on our will, not only to please the U.S., which has become an
official priority recently."
"Of Course Israel Is Excluded"
Qatar University journalism professor Ahmed Al
Qadidi commented in Dubai-based, business-oriented Al Bayan
(12/17): "Who else could the MEPI
be meant for except the Arabs?
Washington considers Israel a democratic country, because it holds
elections and authority is peacefully transferred. It does not matter if Israeli courts allow
torture, and the Israeli arsenal is full of nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons, not to mention the existence of 10,000 prisoners and 4 million
Palestinian refugees. Furthermore, Amnesty
International issues continual reports condemning state terrorism against
women, children, the disabled, civilians, and the destruction of houses and
farms.... The United States is
confronting its accumulated mistakes and wrong choices in a laughable way; it
allocates $29 million to defend democracy and freedom, while it opens
Guantanamo camp and allows killing and torture in Palestine. As the sole superpower in a world in which
two-thirds suffer from injustice, poverty and disease, the U.S. should rethink
its priorities on a moral basis. The
historical reason for such sufferings is the blindness of the United States
and its inability to distinguish right
"'Modernization Is Not Always
Mustafa Al Fiqi wrote in Sharjah-based pan-Arab Al
Khaleej (12/17): "Secretary
Powell links U.S. aid to the region with progress in reform but excludes
Israel. The U.S. logic gives Israel
preference over the whole region, ignoring the fact that the Hebrew state
suffers from racism, the effects of which are worse than the absence of
democracy in the Arab world.... We must
[also] remind the balanced Secretary of State that 'Modernization is not always
particularities, religious sensitivities, cultural heritage, and national
trends are things to be considered when dealing with the development of nations
and peoples. I would like to tell our
fiends in the U.S. through its Secretary of State that there must be no delay
in settling the (Arab-Israeli) conflict prior to reform."
"A Combination Of Concern And
Abu Dhabi-based semi-government Al Ittihad editorialized
(12/14): "Whatever the reaction to
MEPI, the initiative itself indicates the start of a serious American interest
in the region's issues. The initiative
comes late in view of the difficult situation in the region due to the
persistence of the Israeli occupation....
We hope that the U.S. public relations initiative to refurbish its image
in the Arab world will turn into a firm commitment to achieve a comprehensive
peace based on the pillars of political, economic, and educational development
"'Good' For Whom?"
Sharjah-based pan-Arab Al Khaleej commented (12/14): "Suddenly, the U.S. wants 'good' for
Arabs. Who will believe that after the
long U.S. history of suppressing them, supporting their enemy, violating their
rights, and encouraging everything negative in this region for decades? How will people believe in what Powell says,
when Washington works to strengthen the Israeli suppression in Palestine,
prepares for the greatest destructive aggression against Iraq, encourages
dividing Iraq as well as Sudan, threatens Saudi Arabia, and has other actions
on its endless list of injustices."
"Clear Evidence Of A Military Strike And Regime Change"
Dubai-based business-oriented Al Bayan editorialized
(12/14): "This initiative is an
American attempt to seduce the Arab people to accept U.S. plans against Iraq
with the hope of more political freedom and democracy in the future. The United States also uses the initiative as
a stick brandished in the face of Arab regimes to facilitate agreement for the
strike against Iraq. We may recall the
same trick during the war on Afghanistan, when Washington announced a favorable
position regarding the Palestinian issue to guarantee Arab and Islamic support
to destroy Afghanistan. However, after
achieving its target, removing Taliban and destroying al-Qaida, Washington
broke all its promises regarding Palestine....
Thus, the Arab world must not be fooled by this new trick leading to
more bloodshed in the streets of Baghdad.
Simultaneously, Arab regimes must adopt different strategies stemming
from national goals based on encouraging public freedom and liberating
political practices from imposed restrictions.
Otherwise, the regimes will discover they have to do this under U.S.
threat, according to an American strategy, the target of which is against the
interests of Arab governments and peoples."
"Democratization's Stick and Carrot"
Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor wrote
in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/19): "As long as
the current Arab regimes are in place, there is little chance of a
democratization process in their countries.
Those regimes have been unable to offer their peoples hope for a better
life; for half-a-century, they have uttered a single message: stalemate (which,
for some reason, the West translates as 'stability').... The only chance of change lies in a
stick-and-carrot U.S. aid policy, but that element is totally lacking from the
new [U.S.] initiative.... If the U.S. truly
aspires to transform this conservative region and to establish new, pluralist,
open, integrative and non-oppositional Arab regimes, the ouster of both
regional inciters, Saddam and Arafat, is a necessity. At the same time, one cannot evade linking
the status of democracy in each Arab state to both American and international
foreign assistance. This is particularly
relevant in the case of Egypt.... Arab
regimes raise the jaded claim that the Arab masses have no bread and no jobs,
making a discourse on rights superfluous.
If the U.S. truly yearns for democratization and better life in our sad
region, it must clarify that the order should be reversed and that only rights
and freedoms will ultimately bring bread and jobs, too."
"Powell's Simple Truth"
Conservative Tel Aviv University researcher in Syrian/Lebanese
affairs Yossi Olmert wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot
(12/16): "Colin Powell, one of the
most important statesmen in the world, proclaimed a new American approach to
understanding Middle Eastern reality....
Powell did not create an automatic linkage between lack of democracy and
lack of peace, but he came closer to doing so than any of his predecessors at
the State Department. But this is not an
original American approach. It was
actually Binyamin Netanyahu who remarked upon this in July 1996, in his first
speech as Israel's prime minister to the U.S. Congress. Since then, Netanyahu has developed the idea,
which is so self-evident, but he was very much scorned, mainly by the
architects of the Oslo Agreement and their...advocates in the Israeli media. Had Israel remembered that simple truth,
maybe it would not have been able to avoid signing the accords, but, had it
acted differently, it would have been possible to monitor them.... Powell's speech is an answer to needs induced
by reality. It integrates into the
preparations to replace the Iraqi regime following the impending war. But it is also linked to increasing pressure
on Bush by U.S. political elements--mainly in his party--to revise
fundamentally the approach to a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in a
spirit that would not counter Israel's basic interests. Israel can, and ought to encourage those
elements, but it is doubtful whether what it is doing at present is helpful in
the matter. What is needed is a dynamic
Israeli approach. Even in these
pre-election days, which are politically and intellectually shallow, Israeli
leaders had better carefully listen to Powell's speech. They stand to learn some important points
Martina Doering maintained in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung
(12/16): “The Bush administration has
realized that it has an image problem....
The more intense the preparation for an Iraq war become, the more
resistance there is in Muslim countries, but also among U.S. allies. The image campaign is supposed to fix this
problem.... The fact that the message
was delivered by Secretary Powell did not enhance its value. He has hardly played a role recently, and
many observers believe he has been politically outmaneuvered. Nevertheless, the program has some merit. It tackles, albeit only symbolically, one of
the main problems. After all,
development in the Arab world is stagnating....
The guilty parties are mainly the kings and autocratic presidents ruling
from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, but the United States keeps supporting these
BELGIUM: "U.S. Check
For Arab Democrats"
Baudouin Loos commented in left-of-center Le Soir
(12/14): “The United States decided to
suit the action to the word, by granting a $29 million check, i.e. less than 25
cents per inhabitant. The origin of this
initiative, according to U.S. media, is the very bad image which the United
States enjoys in this part of the world....
The problem is that this partnership totally overlooks the main reasons
why the United States is so unpopular, like, for instance, its blind support of
Ariel Sharon or the upcoming war against Iraq, while Saudi, Egyptian, and
Tunisian ‘friendly’ regimes continue to flout human rights. Will Uncle Sam send them missiles and Marines
to impose democracy? No, but he signed a
$29 million check.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):
The independent English-language South China Morning Post
noted (12/16): "Secretary Powell
announced a program to modernize Arab society.... It is difficult not to view Mr. Powell's
announcement with anything other than cynicism.
Mr. Bush is desperate for Arab support for an Iraqi war, and the promise
of cash would be a powerful incentive.
But even if this is not the case, believing that terrorist groups are
the direct result of a lack of democracy is simplistic at best and misguided at
worst. Rising anti-Americanism in Arab
and Muslim countries is in large measure the result of the Bush
administration's insensitivity to and inaction on the conflict between
Palestinians and Washington's key ally in the region, Israel. This inaction, not merely poverty or a lack
of free speech, has spawned Hamas and al-Qaida...more good can be done by
addressing the core issue, not American self-interest."