International Information Programs
December 20, 2004

December 20, 2004





**  U.S. scales back democratization goals as region's rulers pay only lip service to reform.

**  The Mideast's pro-democracy campaigners are alienated by U.S. policy in the region.

**  Arab and Iranian observers see a European-American rivalry for Mideast influence.

**  Reformist Iranian outlets chide Tehran for skipping the Rabat meeting.




'Permission to tighten the grip on its people'--  Stymied by regional governments that reject having democratic reforms "imposed" on them, Arab and European editorialists claimed the U.S. has "scaled back" its vision of a democratically transformed Middle East.  Some Arab writers gave credence to their leaders' contention that, while they "believe firmly" in the need for reform, those reforms "must come from within."  Others, however, depicted Arab regimes as using the tumult in the Mideast as a pretext, with both Washington and their own publics, for putting off democratization.  Cairo's pro-opposition Al Wafd accused the U.S. of giving its "blessing" to governments that invoke the war on terrorism as a reason to "avoid any serious program to liberate the peoples from the chains of...dictatorship."       


A 'chasm between the peoples of the Arab world and the U.S.'--  Observers described Arab democracy campaigners as "politically frustrated, since there is not a single Arab regime that is democratic or where freedom to meet and freedom of the press is respected."  Writers found that any alliance between democracy advocates and Washington was thwarted by "the hostility of the Arab and Muslim street to the United States."  Even as the U.S. labors to expand democracy in partnership with Arab regimes "well-known" for their "reluctance to implement reform," the groups "fighting for democracy in the Arab world are not pro-American."    


'U.S. vision of reform completely overrides the European vision'--  Arab and Iranian observers saw the Forum showcasing a European-American rivalry for political and economic influence in the Middle East.  A Moroccan paper identified the Maghreb as one focus of "a true war of interests between the United States and France."  Egypt's pro-government Al Ahram described a "fierce confrontation between the U.S. and Europe throughout the...meetings" that was "hard to keep under control."  An Islamic-oriented Iranian news agency predicted that Arab governmental reform would be a central issue of contention between the U.S. and Europe in the context of their supposed "cutthroat competition for greater influence on the region."


'Unjustified absence'--  Iranian reformist papers used Iran's non-attendance at the Forum to skewer the foreign ministry's aversion to policy debate.  Tehran's Sharq declared:  "The presence of Iran in the Rabat conference at any level and extent would have been very influential, unless of course we believe that our foreign minister should not be anywhere where there is any sign of any dialogue."  Another asked why it was acceptable for Iran to attend the Sharm al Sheikh conference of Iraq's neighbors, but not the Rabat Forum. 


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


EDITOR:  Stephen Heath Thibeault


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 48 reports from 15 countries over 17 November - 8 December 2004.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




MOROCCO:  “FTF In Rabat, The Arab World Facing G8 Reforms”


Hassan Zaatit wrote in independent French-language La Nouvelle Tribune (12/16):  “’Above all, (the Forum) is a space for dialogue and exchange,’ insisted Secretary Powell, underscoring that nothing would be imposed from outside and that all (reform) must come from within the region.  In the same sense and according to comments gathered in Rabat, certain representatives from European countries do not appreciate the idea of institutionalizing a new form of dialogue between the West and the Arab world under American leadership.  By accepting to host this forum, Morocco revealed the schism between its pro-American official position and that of its public opinion, which is very much against U.S. policy in the Middle-East.”


“With A Little Help From My Friends”


Independent French-language weekly La Nouvelle Tribune editorialized (12/16):  "In order to lend a more positive image to the Forum, it would have sufficed to allow civil society to participate in the meeting, which indicates the need to grasp one of the major dynamics that has been missing in this initiative: that of huge popular support in all the concerned countries.  For the Forum for the Future will have no future without the substantial participation and involvement of the people of the region.”


"Between The U.S. Project And Ambitions For Political Reform"


Mohamed Regragui wrote in independent weekly Al Ayyam (12/15-21):  "Secretary Powell's remarks at the opening session of the conference clarified Washington’s real aim in holding this controversial forum: to look for political, economic and cultural changes that would allow Washington to lay the groundwork for the new U.S. empire that began with the invasion of Afghanistan; and, to push the region's countries to accept and integrate Israel into the new order.  Participating delegations also feared the imposition of changes that would lead, in the end, to the collapse of Arab regimes."   


"What Could Washington Give The Arab World?"


Mohamed Regragui commented in independent weekly Al Ayyam (12/15-21):  "It has become obvious that the reform America wants is to reconstruct the (Arab) region according to America's ideas, values and the priority of its own interests.  America wants democratic reform based on the Afghan and Iraqi models, along with the example of the kind of dignity applied at Abu Ghraib prison.  How can Washington convince the Arab people of the sincerity of its slogans?...  The Qatari foreign minister, known for his frankness, stated 'We have heard many slogans but we have not seen anything tangible.'"


"After the Forum:  Questions About The Moroccan Position And Its Implications"


Mustapha Khalfi observed in moderate Islamic Attajdid (12/14):  "In reality, the Rabat Forum for the Future ended up reassuring some Arab regimes that the Iraq model of bringing in reform and democracy with tanks is not proposed for the foreseeable future...but the question remains: at what price?  The European Union’s position alone does not explain what happened.  Therefore, it is legitimate for us to raise questions about the resumption of normal relations with the Zionist Entity (and) regarding changes in educational curricula, strengthening security and military cooperation and a partially opening up politically (to Israel)." 


"The American Initiatives Between Political Ambitions And Economic Designs."


The paper of the Socialist Union Party Al-Ittihad Al-Ishtiraki commented (12/14):  "Rabat recently played host to the meeting of the Forum for the Future, an American initiative through which the decision-makers at the White House have sought to put the first touches to the formulation of a universal vision acceptable to the politically and economically influential sides in the Arab world....  The idea of the Forum for the Future, the Greater Middle East Project and similar proposals for reform constitute a practical way of activating part of the strategic visions of the majority of incumbents in the White House who believe that future difficulties will come not only from the already known hotbeds of tension but also from all the forces that are not in harmony with the American options, whether these forces are in power or inside societies....  Concerning the U.S. projects for the future, observers believe that the U.S. initial security-based approach to realize them should be abandoned in favor of a universal approach seeking complementarity and cooperation.  Such an approach should also courageously link economics to politics, and remain removed from the mechanisms used in the last decades.  Besides, stability and the fight against terrorism do have urgent priorities, mainly the bridging of the chasm between the peoples of the Arab world and the U.S., which means finding a solution to the Palestinian question and withdrawing from Iraq."


"Reprieve For The Arab World"


Abdelmohsin El Hassouni wrote in independent Aujourd’hui le Maroc (12/13):  “Can one speak about the success of the [Forum for the Future]?  In fact the answer is both positive and negative, depending on which side you’re on.  Negative, first of all, because American intentions to stir up the Arab political class hornet’s nest were strangely compromised by failure.  Uncle Sam’s country, represented by moderate former (sic) U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, preferred to water down its wine.  Not only will reforms come only from within the concerned countries, but they will be enacted only at a pace compatible with each state’s special characteristics.  Americans did not push back.  Even the absence of Israel and Iran was swallowed with ease....  After several weeks of intensive meetings and consultations...the FfF ended up looking like a pale copy of the Barcelona Process....  In short, we are in for a long status quo.”


"Consensus Around The General Principles...Absence Of A Political Breakthrough”


Mohamed Khalil observed in French-language, left-of-center Al Bayane (12/13):  “The United States, facing ‘positive resistance,’ scaled back its ambitions.  Serious reservations were expressed by Arab countries and the European Union, despite Euro-American ‘common efforts’ to democratize the Arab world.  The 'absence’ of change in American policy towards the Middle East did not help in making progress for peace....  Washington’s failure to impose general or specific formulas pushed Washington to adopt a position of general principles.  The final communiqué will more specifically address economic and social reform projects in the Arab world, notably (spelling out) the freedom with which each country will be left to advance according to its particular situation and at its own pace.”


"Forum For The Future’...An Institutional Tool To Implement U.S. Colonial Project"


Mustapha Khalfi had this to say on the front page of moderate Islamic Arabic-language Attajdid (12/13):  "The first meeting of the 'Forum for the Future' of last December 11 was not a normal stop in the neo-colonialist cycle.  The summary document issued by the Forum's presidency revealed this colonial project, a new conference that resembles the Algeciras conference of 1906 and which imposed the Protectorate system....  Now the same scenario is being repeated with the first meeting of the 'Forum for the Future,' in which we find new mechanisms for controlling the entire region.  This poses a future challenge for those who oppose the 'Forum for the Future,' especially from Arab and Islamic movements."


"What Future Could We Discuss With The Americans"


Nadira Berkallil opined in independent Arabic-language Al Ahdath Al Maghrebioya (12/11):  "These days Rabat is welcoming high-level U.S. officials along with other officials from the G-8 to discuss the Arab world's future.  However, why is there such an interest in the Arab world now, especially on the part of Americans who have taken on the role of the world's gendarme and behave like their cowboy ancestors used to do with the Red Indians.  The Arab world has caught on that American interests encompass two main reasons:  1) the Arab world owns the world's foremost oil resources; and 2) the Arab world and Arab masses are Israel's enemy; this country (Israel) relies entirely on America’s absolute and arrogant support....  Essentially, democracy means changing our Arab leaders and excellent management of our resources; but this route would inevitably go against U.S. economic and political interests.  The Forum for the Future cannot make its voice heard in the Arab world unless it answers these questions."


"Questions For The Future"


Salah Sbyea commented on the front page of French-language socialist Liberation (12/11):  “The Forum for the Future came on the heels of another project, the famous initiative of President Bush for the Greater Middle East.  From the moment it was launched, that initiative either received cold, unenthusiastic acceptance, discreet and polite refusal, or categorical rejection to the point of demonization....  The aggressive attitude of the initiative’s promoter, President Bush, as he pushed for democracy with an almost caricaturized unilateralism, did not create the right conditions to inspire democratization....  The [Forum for the Future] came as a follow-on to this initiative and was...mixed up with its demonized image, which was mistaken since those two initiatives are different on least at three levels.... 


"First, contrary to the Greater Middle East project, the Forum for the Future is above all a multilateral initiative proposed by a group of countries, not just a single state, the uncontested all-powerful world leader:  the United States....  Second, we are no longer face-to-face with a project of...obscure objectives that seem to advertise democracy as if it were a commercial product....  The forum has relatively specific objectives and formalizes them in a clearer manner and, quite differently, proposes a partnership for democracy, development and regional stability.  The third question has to do with form.  It is no longer a question, as with the initiative for the Middle East, of a type of diktat menacingly brandished at the cancers of the (political) class.  It is instead a meeting between sovereign states to discuss problems concerning the region, but which affect the whole world.  These differences do not guarantee success for the forum, nor (do they provide) the basis for definitively judging the usefulness of these types of meetings.  Such a meeting is useful, even if only for exchanging points of view.”




Independent business-oriented independent French-language L'Economiste noted (12/11):  "Hundreds of protestors gathered by the coalition against the Forum peacefully demonstrated in front of the Moroccan Parliament last Friday shouting 'Forum for the Future and U.S. imperialism are the same thing.'  Unemployed young graduates joined the protest march, taking advantage of the presence of the foreign media.  Security forces did not intervene to show Morocco's democratization in process."


"Democracy: The Future Chooses Morocco"


Omar Dahbi wrote on page one of Casablanca's independent French-language  Aujourd'hui le Maroc (12/10):  "This is an unprecedented encounter in the history of relations between the occident and the Arab world....  Today, it is the Arab countries and the G-8 member countries, as well as regional groups such the European Union and the Arab Maghreb Union, that meet to talk about democracy, development and, above all, the future....    The fact remains that the convening of this forum has not been unanimously accepted.  From Saudi Arabia to Morocco, and including all the Arab countries, the political parties and civil society activists have all shown their opposition to the meeting.  The reason put forward by the leaders of this opposition movement is that, through this initiative, the U.S. wants to realise its 'project of bringing the Arab region under its control', and that 'democracy cannot be imposed from abroad.'…  But, at any rate, the organisation of this forum has already realised one of its objectives: fomenting diversity of opinion in the Arab world and developing the spirit of initiative within civil society."


ALGERIA:  "A Crazed Idea"


Highly influential French-language Le Quotidien d’Oran editorialized (12/12):  “Yesterday (December 11) in Rabat on the eve of his resignation, M. Colin Powell, the U.S. Secretary of State...did not resist the very Arabic temptation to abuse superlatives....  Why do the United States and the G-8 offer a meeting on the future of the Arab world if at the same time they admit that the reforms have to ‘come from within?’  This is undoubtedly solely to allow George W. Bush and his ideologues to pretend that the Greater Middle East Initiative is still valid.  A toned-down byproduct of this construction that has served as an ideological front for the war of occupation in Iraq, the Forum for the Future has all the features of a crazed idea without a tomorrow....  U.S. diplomatic representations and services know that movements fighting for democracy in the Arab world are not pro-American.  Even though they have no sympathy for religious movements and do not hesitate to criticize and indeed denounce them, they are generally not sheep able to be mobilized upon command in the American war against Islamism and its derivatives.  As for a real, existing need for reform, the United States is not a solution but one of the problems....  The current American administration is undoubtedly the least able to stimulate reform in the Arab world.”


"Arab World Suffers Alone"


Medium-circulation, Arabic-language El Fadjr opined (12/12):  “The Moroccan capital hosted yesterday (December 11) the workshop of the Forum for the Future.  This forum discussed America's ‘dictates’ to Arab regimes, urging them to carry out political and economic reforms.  However, what reforms does the United States want?  The Arab world suffers alone.  Its pains are caused by their regimes, which are supported by the United States....  The settlement of the Palestinian issue and the Iraqi crisis as conditions for beginning the reforms are no longer justified.  The failure of the Arab Summit in March demonstrates this because the United States imposed upon the summit the unconditional choice of pluralism and reform.  This did not suit the majority of Arab countries, and mainly Egypt which aspires to become a royal republic and Saudi Arabia which does not allow the Tunisian Family Code to be a reference in a kingdom where women are still prevented from driving cars and showing their faces.  I would not say anything new if I state that Arab regimes have not attained the maturity of their people, and the United States has to be aware of this reality and has to stop supporting those regimes that stand as an obstacle to democratization of political life in the Arab world.”


"War Of Interests"


Influential French-language Liberte commented (12/12):  “A true war of interests has started in the Maghreb and the Middle East between the United States and France.  The Bush administration's first step towards concretization of its ‘Greater Middle East Initiative’ was expressed by yesterday's (December 11) opening of Forum for the Future, which made the Quai d’Orsay break its silence....  French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier declared that France was ‘reserved’ about the idea of ‘institutionalizing' Forum for the Future,’ evoking mechanisms born out of Barcelona process and ‘old relationships of the European Union in the region.’...  The hostility of the Arab and Muslim street to the United States, which increased after the invasion of Iraq and the deterioration in the situation of the Palestinians, makes it difficult for leaders of concerned (Arab) countries to openly support this initiative out of fear of stirring up even more anger in their people.  Faced with this bitter reality, the designers of the ‘Greater Middle East Initiative’ toned down their first version, by concentrating first on an economic and social approach.  The Moroccan meeting, which represents the first step towards implementation of the ‘Greater Middle East Initiative,’ had the merit of disclosing resistance to democratization by regimes that are archaic and contested by their peoples.  It also demonstrated the strategic importance of this part of the world to the superpowers.  The war between Paris and Washington has just begun.”               


"Forum For The Future"


Small-circulation French-language La Nouvelle Republique remarked (12/12):  “The ‘Forum for the Future’ is the new name for the American inspiration called the 'Greater Middle East,' a project to democratize the Arab world.  In fact, the ‘Forum for the Future’ meeting is the first concrete act of the initiative, which was launched by U.S. President George W. Bush in early 2004.  The idea was subjected to close scrutiny by the G-8 in order to narrow down the project’s political ambitions to just its economic and financial sides.”


"Powell On Reform"


Medium-circulation Arabic-language Sawt Al Ahrar has this to say (12/12):  “Responding to those who oppose democracy ‘imposed from the outside,’ Colin Powell stated that the U.S. intends to help concerned countries use their own style to improve and reform (their regimes) by providing political and financial support for this purpose.”


"American Visions"


Large-circulation Arabic-language El Khabar stated (12/12):  “An invitation to conduct ‘political and economic reform’ justifies the vision of the U.S. administration....  Even though the theme of Forum for the Future concerns internal political and economic reforms and Iraqi and Palestinian issues, this meeting gives greater weight to the American vision in a region where ‘internal’ efforts are unable to democratize regimes, including those closest to the American administration such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”


"Forum's First Edition"


Influential French-language El Watan commented (12/12):  “Although considered as a place to make contact, the first edition of the Forum for the Future of the Greater Middle East Initiative nonetheless adopted several resolutions.  These resolutions rejected for the time being the idea that the democratic reforms ‘desired’ by the United States in the Arab world are not imposed....The Arab League’s Secretary General, Amr Moussa, also used his influence to allow these workshops to respond to the preoccupations of the Arab countries.  In order to reach this point, he denounced in a very diplomatic manner the propensity of the United States to give lessons while its policy in the Middle East is far from balanced.”


EGYPT:  "Demands For Political Reform Being Watered Down"


Omayma Abdel-Latif wrote in the Internet version of English-language Al Ahram Weekly 12/16-22):  "The majority of Arab citizens view such gatherings with suspicion, as they perceive them to be no more than a tool to impose a Western agenda on their societies....  Many observers and commentators in Morocco agreed that the meeting was essentially another attempt to promote an American agenda under a regional cover....  In the view of many observers...the forum primarily reflects the West's need to avoid all talk of reform in the region being indelibly associated with an American agenda....  Clearly, some sort of compromise must have been struck by the participants, for any criticism of the lack of will on the part of the governments of the region to advance political reform and the democratisation process was completely diluted in the final communiqué.  Not only that, but the text also went to the length of expressing 'support to the democratic advances taking places in some countries of the region', though without--of course--naming any names."


"The Reform Train"


Jamal Badawi wrote in opposition New Wafd Party Daily Al Wafd (12/14):  "On the one hand, Powell wanted to please the governments that reject forced reforms, and supported the official viewpoint which believes that reforms must come from within.  On the other hand, he was inclined toward Arab public opinion which would like to see rapid reforms and rejects delaying them until after resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Of course, his attempt at appeasing the Arab public opinion conceals evilness, for he intends to embarrass the Arab regimes that hide behind the conflict to evade the reform process!


The final communiqué of the conference stressed the need to link the issue of establishing democracy with reaching a settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and giving each country full freedom to pursue the reform path that serves its special situation.   If you examine these two points closely you will realize that the political reform process has entered a dark tunnel.  It is impossible to see a sign of hope for a future that portends democracy.  There are no signs in the Middle East horizon indicating that the Palestine question is about to be resolved....  With regard to the full freedom granted to each Arab country to proceed along the reform path that suits its circumstances, it is tantamount to a permission for each country to tighten its grip on its people under the allegation of combating terrorism, and to avoid any serious program to liberate the peoples from the chains of coercion, suppression, and dictatorship.   This permission has received the blessings of the White House."


"The Future Forum In Rabat Overrides the Barcelona Process!"


Sa'id al-Lawindi opined in state-owned newspaper of record Al-Ahram (12/13):  "What we see are the first practical steps on the road to implementing the U.S.-Israeli imperialist plan, better known as the Greater Middle East project....  The second observation we may register for that forum is that it has let the genie out of the bottle.  The genie here is the G-8 of industrial nations that featured as a basic party in the forum's meetings....  The new U.S. strategy on political and diplomatic moves basically relies on the G-8, especially after the United Nations proved it was 'hard to manage' sometimes in the course of the Iraq crisis.... 


"Selecting the Arab Maghreb as the launch pad for that forum definitely has its implications....  Europe realizes that Washington is trying to pull the carpet from under its feet and to deal a fatal blow to [the Barcelona project that was launched in 1995].  A great number of the ideas which the U.S. addressed in connection with political and economic reform are part of the Barcelona package....  The above means that the U.S. vision of reform completely overrides the European vision, or at least pushes it aside to take its place.  This is what Europe actually feels....  We can generally say that this fierce confrontation between the United States and Europe throughout the Future Forum meetings was hard to keep under control, especially when France was forced to clearly declare that it was against the creation of an executive mechanism for the forum."


JORDAN:  "Entrenching Reform Principles In The Region"


Jordan's center-left, influential Al-Dustour editorialized (11/12):  "Colin Powell's statement that political reform programmes should come from within the region and that each country should be left to chose ways to establish freedoms, comes in the framework of agreeing with the stand adopted by the Arab world while reacting to the [US] Greater Middle East project....  Reforms have become a pressing necessity for nations of the region and they have started imposing themselves on all.  Similarly, the U.S. Administration has started pulling back from a fierce way of presenting the issue to Arab and Muslim countries.  It has also started to avoid dictating, particularly after it observed that these nations objected to the use of the reform issue as a pretext for imposing recommendations and dominating the countries....  Forums like the Rabat one and other conferences and symposiums are necessary for the Western parties to review their policies and look for common factors between us [Arabs] and them on the basis of human relations, an issue which would help achieve peace and security, as well as cooperation from all quarters."


LEBANON:  "Arab Reform For The Thousandth Time"


Radwan As-Sayyed wrote in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (12/14):  “Talk about Arab and Middle Eastern reform resumed...and with it talk about initiatives taken by the countries themselves vis-a-vis reform imposed from outside...  The United States answered through...Colin Powell by affirming that reform was related to the Arab will and that the U.S. only wants a partnership with Arabs....  After September 11, the Americans wanted to use this terrorizing event as a justification to attack Iraq...and give Sharon the green light to destroy the intifada in Palestine.  The United States mobilized all Arab states to launch war against terror....  Now two years have passed and talk has changed from war against terror to reform, democracy and partnerships.  Arabs are not only asked to work on reform and democracy with their nations...but also pay some of the costs of the American wars against terror and against Arab and Islamic dictatorships.”


"Dubai’s Formula: Don't Leave The Future To The Forces Of Chaos"


The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (12/14):   “An Arab forum for the purpose of debating economic, social, and political strategy?  This is not something the world has necessarily come to expect from this region.  Yet on Monday in Dubai, the three-day Arab Strategy Forum was inaugurated, testifying to its scope is its theme, The Arab World in 2020....  It is a requirement for continuing national development to reflect on all kinds of plans and strategies--from the White House down to the smallest rural village.  Leaving the future to the forces of chaos is nonsense.  Thus is the Dubai forum signposting a blueprint for the future of states of the Arab world--at least that is the aim.  It is a noble aim, and all who are affected by its outcome can only hope the project is more than a gesture and that it meets with success.  What is success, then?  Success lies in actions after the echoes of words have ceased resounding in Dubai’s halls and auditoriums.  But actions have to begin somewhere, and forums such as the one in question can provide the basis for a beginning....  Dubai, really, is leading the way, and the current forum is a breath of fresh air for a good number of very confused societies.”


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Arabs And Reform Projects" 


former Editor-in-Chief Qenan Al-Ghamdi opined in Abha’s moderate Al-Watan (12/16):  "Arabs rejected the American project for reforms proposed by the U.S. months ago.  They have every right to reject it since reforms must come from within rather to be imposed.  But, what happened then? Arabs just rejected the project and that is it!  The irony is that the Arabs continued to repeat that applying reforms are subject to solving the Palestinian question.  As if they are telling America we are not fixing ourselves unless you--the U.S.--solve the Palestinian question.  Arabs think that the solution is ready-made in the White House, and by sinking into corruption they are pressuring the U.S. to speed up the solution....  For three years, Arab leadership has been postponing reform projects from one summit to another.  Not only because agreeing is a lost concept among Arabs, but also because those who propose reforms do not start with themselves....  People may say the Forum for the Future and the Dubai Forum are promoting the American project.  I say: so what?  What does the Palestinian question have to do with domestic corruption?  Why don't we consider that reforms are the first step towards solving this eternal problem?  And where are the individual Arab country reform projects compared to American projects that are being generated everyday?    


"Forum For The Future" 


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (11/15):  "The conclusion of the Forum for the Future, which took place in Morocco, confirmed the firm position of Arab countries towards three issues: Arab-Israeli struggle, reforms, and Iraq.  Although the positions of the Arab countries were varied, there was a general agreement on the main issues.  Firstly, they all agreed on linking implementation of democracy in the Middle East with solving the Arab-Israeli struggle.  Secondly, reforms must come from within the region.  Thirdly, the liberation of Iraq and restoring its sovereignty.  The general agreement among the participants of the forum sent a strong message to the west, especially the U.S.  It reveals that there are fundamentals for stability in the region that are not negotiable.  The continuing support for Israel and continuing to occupy Iraq will not accomplish a solution; actually it is making it worse.  Reforms in the Middle East are subject to solving major problems and their solutions are known and clear.  The western attempts to manipulate the facts and suggest bogus solutions will not fix anything."    


"Western Logos And Regional Developments"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah editorialized (12/13):  "Although Iraq is an example of the negative results of military solution, Western countries and the U.S. are calling the region’s countries to follow the suit....  The American call for reform is suspicious.  Taking internal priority into consideration, the region’s countries believe in the necessity for reforms....  Nevertheless, the U.S. is calling for reforms in the region and at the same time failing to convince Israel to compromise.


"Spreading Of Terrorism And Neglecting Credibility"


Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum commented (12/13):  "The modernization of the region must happen gradually rather than be imposed from outside.  The Kingdom still believes firmly that the region is in need of reform but these reforms must come from within the region.  The Kingdom has taken steps toward reform: municipal elections, expanding the Shoura Council’s authority, and the national dialogue are examples....  The international community must face the fact that the conflict between the East and West is not a clash of culture or about religion.  The Middle East conflict for example is a result of the absolute support by Western countries of Israel.  Neglecting international resolutions and ignoring the legitimacy in dealing with the Israeli-Arab struggle is what created terrorism and hatred."


"The Project Of The Forum For The Future Conference"


Riyadh’s conservative Al-Riyadh editorialized (12/12):  "Originally, the Forum for the Future conference was an American idea supported by the G-8 countries, a fact that increases suspicion over its objectives....  We do not categorically reject its idea nor approve its entire agenda unless we see clear projects, which do not ignore the rights of the nations and do not attempt to protect the narrow interests of the Forum supporting nations."


"The Arabs And The Future Forum"


Muhamamd al-Ashhab commented in London-based, influential Al-Hayah (Internet Version) (12/11):  "The idea of reform that is put forth before the 'Future Forum' in Rabat means that as of today, there is no possibility of seizing political power by force through military coups in the greater Middle East and North Africa....    A number of Arab countries agreed to join this organization, even if they continue to hide behind the logic that argues that reform must come from within.  There are some tempting aspects of the proposition that advocates democracy, modernization of the economy, embracing the values of openness and modernization, and assimilation in the sweeping changes of globalization.  However, consideration of these aspects cannot stand up to the fact that the problems facing the Arab world are linked to the concept of liberation first, and that democracy cannot go hand in hand with the continuing occupation of the land and humiliation of people.  Also, such democracy will always be incomplete in the absence of control over resources and effective use of these resources in development."


"Forum To Discuss 'Reform' in the Middle East and North Africa"  


Mahmud Ahyati reported in conservative Al Riyadh (Internet Version-WWW)  (12/10):  "The Arab parties taking part in the forum play down the fears, which are expressed by their peoples and civil society organizations, that the recommendations of the forum will impose imported formulas for reform on the Arab region.  These parties say that any outside interference in the Arab situation will not be accepted.  Besides, the firm conviction, which the Arab leaders had expressed on more than one occasion, indicates that the processes of reform and change cannot succeed unless they emanate from within [Arab countries].  Despite these attempts to dispel fears, there are still fears of peddling 'undeclared goals' by the G-8 countries, especially the United States."


SYRIA:   "Democracy As A Language Of Dialogue"


Khalid al-Ashhab commented editorialized in government-owned  Al-Thawrah (12/15):  "The U.S. undertook long term political plans in the world and in the Arab homeland and in the Middle East, in particular, to carry out radical and extensive changes in the political, economic, and social life with Iraq as the first stage....  However, the U.S. plans stopped in their first stage in Iraq and have not gone to a further stage, as yet, for the roses and bouquets of flowers with which the Americans expected to be welcomed turned into explosive charges, suicide operations, dead bodies and coffins that daily leave Iraq back for the U.S. homeland....  Yesterday, former President Bill Clinton addressed the Arab Strategic Seminar in Dubai, spoke about the scenarios for change and modernization in the Arab world and insisted on the fact that the willpower for change and its tools should be home-grown and have Arab characteristics and that any decision to change this that comes from abroad will fail....  Why does President Bush not seek the advice of his predecessors and learn from their experience whether democracy can be spread with iron and fire?" 


WEST BANK:  "The Past Gathered At The Forum For The Future"


Jawad Bashiti opined in independent Al-Ayyam (12/13): “At the Forum for the Future held in Rabat, ‘representatives of the past’ convened to discuss means of ‘democratic reform’....  All those who were in conflict at the Forum agreed on the necessity of political and democratic reform.  They nonetheless remained in disagreement on the question of when.  The U.S. wants reform today, but the participating governments want it tomorrow and who knows what tomorrow brings!  Such governments don’t view reform as an internal need for their people and don’t understand democracy in all of its forms as their people’s right and a normal lifestyle for them.  They view it as something that the U.S. needs and as part of a ‘bartering game’ [where] the ‘buyer’ (the U.S.) must pay in advance before receiving the ‘merchandise,’ i.e., the initiation of political and democratic reform by Arab governments.  The price is that the U.S. must make a genuine effort to end the conflict between Israel and the Arabs.  Arab governments (falsely) ‘believe’ that political and democratic reform can never begin, continue and succeed as long as the conflict exists....  Using the ‘state of war’ with Israel as a pretext, our governments reject reform now, while the U.S. wants it soon, using the ‘war against terrorism’ as an excuse.”




BRITAIN:  "Islam And Democracy"


The conservative Times editorialized (12/13):  "No one can accuse Colin Powell of a lack of ambition in his last days as U.S. Secretary of State.  He has thrown his energies into a conference in Morocco intended to foster democracy in a region where it barely exists and where crude anti-Americanism too often drowns out voices of moderation....  In recent months, moderate Muslims have begun to challenge W.B. Yeats's lament that 'the best lack all conviction' by calling on influential clerics who have so far reacted equivocally to Islamist terrorism to condemn it out of hand; and by noting that a 7th-century text, having survived so long, deserves better than a 7th-century interpretation.  At the same time, non-Muslims across Western Europe have abandoned the silence about Islamic fundamentalism once required by political correctness.  Plain speaking to denounce bigotry and intolerance is never wrong.  But Europe must beware those, like the Dutch European Commissioner, Fritz Bolkestein, who offer sweeping judgments on Islam on the basis of isolated crimes.  On such spurious grounds, Mr. Bolkestein and others seek to delay indefinitely Turkey's accession to the EU, yet democracy and Islam already co-exist, not only throughout Europe and in Turkey herself, but also in parts of India, Indonesia and elsewhere."


GERMANY:  "Dictatorships In Motion"


Rainer Hermann judged on the front-page of center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/15):  "Much has not remained of the great idea.  No one talks any more of democratization, no one talks any more of regime change.  At the Forum of the Future Conference in Rabat...the lowest common denominator shrank to the promotion of medium-sized companies and an increase in the literacy rate for girls.  Nevertheless, the Arab world does not stand still.  U.S. pressure on the Arab world following the 9/11 attacks has had one effect:  it initiated a discussion over reforms, a discussion that has not been conducted for decades.   The governments were forced to make promises, thus giving those forces a new momentum that have called for reforms for a long time and there has been agreement that Iraq cannot be considered a model....  


"But those who want to reform the Arab world and link it to the globalization train have no other chance but to cooperate with the powers that be....  The Arab reformers have realized that the institutions of civil society in their country have not reached a critical mass as long as the press and the three powers are in one hand....  However, the pace of reforms may be sedate, but reforms will come....  As long as violence in Palestine and Iraq has not been terminated will it be easy to stir up the ordinary people on Arab streets with pictures that are broadcast live to Arab homes.  But these pictures mainly offer regimes a pretext to put off reforms in the interest of stability.  A second pretext is the radicalization of Islam, but the regimes themselves are to blame for it.  Their 'life expectancy' is now extended because the West considers political Islam a danger now.  But the Arabs themselves are unable to settle their own conflicts.  But by reforming religious education, they could allow Islam to be what it really is: a religion....


"It is certainly right that the western model of democracy cannot be transfers one to one onto the Arab world.  There are some models and quite a few Arab reformers in Northern Africa and in Lebanon look at Turkey, for it succeeded in strengthening its secular and democratic institutions and enabled them to integrate Islamists and turn them to democrats.  It also succeeded in reining in its bureaucratic military complex.  With it, the country succeeded in democratizing its authoritarian order from inside.  And this is exactly what Arab reformers want."



Nikolaus Busse editorialized in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/13):  "Many reports were written on the drastic modernization program which the U.S. government planned to impose on the 'Greater Middle East.'…  But what two dozen western and Arab governments approved over the weekend in Morocco is far from such drastic steps.  Money is to be made available for literacy programs and for the promotion of small and medium-sized businesses; it could not be written more favorably in the handbook of development assistance.  In view of the situation in Iraq, the White House is well-advised no longer to consider itself the only trustee of global spirit.  The passage that sets us thinking and which the Arabs got in writing in Rabat refers to progress in the Palestine conflict as a precondition for reforms in their countries.  But it is wrong to give the authoritarian regimes in the region another pretext to continue to suppress their peoples."


"Forum Of The Future Conference"


Center-right Maerkische Allgemeine of Potsdam noted (12/13):  "It is currently difficult to imagine that the Saudi Monarchy is making itself superfluous by changing inside.  Egypt's President Mubarak will also not give up his office without a fight  like Pakistan's leader Musharraf.  That is why the Rabat conference was not a breakthrough, but maybe the beginning of a dialogue.  If it leads to assistance in the fight against illiteracy, it will be all the better than the Iraq disaster, which has brought the entire region to the fringes of a conflagration."


ITALY:  "The G-8’s Plan For A Free Middle East Begins In Rabat"


Roberto Fabbri commented in pro-government leading center-right daily Il Giornale (12/12):  "The summit held the last couple of days in Rabat, Morocco, was really an historical initiative.  Foreign and financial ministers from G-8 countries as well as from the Arab world and Maghreb...met for the first session of the ‘Forum for the Future’....  It’s meaning was summarized in two catchphrases by the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell:  ‘Political and economic freedom must be achieved simultaneously,’ and ‘terrorism can also be fought by eliminating frustration and desperation.’...  The objective of the partnership between the G-8 and a Greater Middle East is to establish culture and reform processes in a region where such practices are still widely unknown.  Such an initiative requires tact and sensitivity because there is widespread fear among the Arabs that the Americans in particular want to impose their own model....  The ambitious process begun in Rabat must also acknowledge the many difficultie

s involved.  The Arab world will remain uncertain until the Palestinian issue is resolved and Iraq is stabilized.  It was not coincidental that Powell reiterated just how important the upcoming elections and progress in the Israeli-Palestinian talks...are for Washington.”


"Fini:  'No' To Clash Of Civilizations"


Daniele Mastrogiacomo wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (12/12):  "It is time for peace.  The preventive war doctrine has left its mark, with its faults and mistakes.  To achieve peace, an economic boost must precede political reforms that will lead to democracy.  Amid difficulties, skepticism and confusion, George Bush’s plan for a ‘Greater Middle East’ is attempting to take shape.  To redraw the political map of an area that is home to 560 million not a simple undertaking.  But the U.S. knows that its only hope for achieving peace is to spur balanced economic growth in the areas that stretch from Maghreb to Afghanistan....  Some feel that this is another U.S.-imposed project.”


BELGIUM:  "Reform Forum"


Baudouin Loos wrtoe in left-of-center Le Soir (12/11):  "Arab countries' reluctance to implement the reforms that Americans are recommending is well known and it has even convinced the United States, since the project that will be discussed in Rabat this weekend is much less ambitious than what the Americans had originally hoped.  For a few months now, U.S. officials have been constantly repeating to the Arab Muslim world that reforms had to come from within these countries and that the United States would not impose them.  This is, indeed, likely to reassure Arab leaders--and to disappoint Arab populations.  Of course, the latter despise U.S. policies in the Middle East--and first and foremost in Iraq and in Palestine--but these people are all considerably politically frustrated, since there is not a single Arab regime that is democratic or where freedom to meet and freedom of the press is respected....  Actually, most Arab regimes have managed to come in Western countries' good graces by banking on the comm

on fight against Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism.  Regimes that are as undemocratic as those of Tunisia or Algeria have in fact very skillfully exploited the 9/11 attacks to cajole the Americans and to tell them 'we told you so'....  We in the West, both Europeans and Americans, should exert more pressure and demand from these regimes that they show something else than determination to cling to power.  Democratization can be gradual, but if it remains cosmetic, as is too often the case, no one should be surprised if people in these countries one day decided to join those defending extremist positions."




CHINA:  “Powell’s One-Sided Wish”


Huang Peizhao commented in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao) (12/16):  “At the first ‘Future Forum’ about Middle East reform, Powell talkatively urged Arab countries to reform...establishing the Middle East and North Africa as a ‘democratic and peaceful commonwealth of nations.’  The Arab countries are playing tit-for-tat on the issue, proposing that the reform should ‘be compatible with the special culture, religion and cultural values of Arab countries.’...  The EU countries at the forum...also thought that the U.S.’ ‘Greater Middle East Plan’ was redundant, having a deleterious effect.  They are low-key about the plan....  They point out...that Western countries should ‘fully listen’ to regional countries’ needs and set up a dialogue mechanism in order to avoid a split between the West and the Arab world....  A solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict and peace in Iraq are far more urgent than reform in the Middle East.”




PAKISTAN:  "Arab Reforms And The U.S."


Center-left, independent, English-language Dawn editorialized (12/14):  "This way, the Arab diplomats at the Rabat meeting were right when they asked the U.S. to address the main cause that breeds extremists in the Middle East.  The U.S., if it is really sincere in seeing democratic reforms in the Arab world, must revive the peace process with a view to ensuring the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital....  Arab leaders are undeniably right when they demand that the U.S. should restrain Israel, but at the same time they should not give the impression that they oppose democratic reforms and wish to retain the present unrepresentative systems.  Reforms must indeed be undertaken but they cannot be, as the final statement pointed out, imposed from outside.  The example of Iraq is before us."


IRAN:  "Pundits Call Forum A 'Fiasco'"


Tehran's Islamic oriented Mehr News Agency reported (12/14):  "Political pundits termed the conference a fiasco for U.S. Middle East policies, pointing to Secretary Powell's confession in the meeting, they said reforms cannot be dictated to regional countries.  On the choice of the U.S. government as an ally in the rebuilding process, the Moroccan people were annoyed by the relationship, saying Bush's policies in Iraq and Palestine do not help peace....  Although the Moroccan foreign minister, as the host, said the forum was a major stride toward reforms in the countries of the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA), he believed reforms should be done inside the regional states.  His remarks reveal that the so-called reform plan of the U.S., the Broader Middle East, is paid no heed even by its allies in the region....


"To political experts, the Forum for the Future...revealed the differences between the United States and Europe on reforms in Arab states and their interests.  To opposition forces, there was an inherent contradiction in Morocco's organizing the forum while the major sponsor of the plan, President Bush, is standing side-by-side with Israeli PM Sharon, and undertaking the liquidation of Falluja against all international rules.   Hence, the issue of reforms in Arab countries will seemingly turn to a serious challenge between the U.S. and Europe, and not in these Middle Eastern countries, and their cutthroat competition for greater influence on the region."


"We Should Learn Diplomacy From The Enemy"


Tehran's pro-Khatami Towse'eh editorialized (12/14):  "There is no doubt that the administrators of summits like the Morocco summit have not and will not cancel their conference only because we have prohibited it.  They are pursuing their plans behind closed doors and the consequences of this prohibition will be more a loss for us more than it will be for them because we are looking at our national interests from the tight angle of ideological slogans.  Many of the experts believe that we can attend all the summits and respect our principles.  They say that we can attend all the summits and bargain for the preservation of our national interests with diplomatic literature like the other players of the political scene....  If we want to accomplish what we want we should attend all the international meetings actively.  There is no doubt that this scenario applies to what we do not like.  If we believe the reasons that...the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [gave] should be said that Iran should not have attended the Sharm El-Shaykh summit either. "


"Greater Middle East Plan Is Supposed To Empty Islamic Communities of Their Islamic Identity"


Tehran's extremely conservative Jomhuri-ye Eslami observed (12/13):  "From the very beginning the plan was met with reluctance and skepticism in the Arab World, and many scientific and cultural centers of those countries called it a plot for destroying Islamic culture and emptying it of its true and authentic content....  The majority of opponents of the plan have deemed that reform is not an imported phenomenon and has to be born and grow from inside a country....  Some of the political analysts believe that the Greater Middle East Plan is a tactic for giving Israel a share in the economic privileges of Middle Eastern countries....


"This is a new show, a fresh and illegitimate display of illegal and illegitimate intervention by the West in general and Americans in particular in the internal affairs of Islamic countries.  Promotion of political reform a la Americana in those countries, the prevalence of immorality and loose behavior among the young generation, the modification of textbooks and curricula--above all the history books in Islamic countries, the promotion of promiscuity, immorality and loose ethics in relations between men and women--hich has been branded 'women's liberation' in this project--all these are parts of the prescription the Americans have written for Islamic countries since last year and are at present stubbornly persisting in enforcing."


"Unjustified Absence"


Mehrdad Hamedani wrote in the Internet version of Tehran's reformist Sharq (12/12):  "Secretary forced the Arab statesmen to sit together like nursery school children, concentrate their attention and minds, and discuss all the issues of the region precisely and one by one, so that Mr. Powell could deliver a nice piece of handicraft to the Administration of the neo-conservatives in America.  This handicraft would be made up of a model and blueprint for the future of the Middle East, and it would represent the endnote to the performance record of the American diplomatic apparatus in the world for the last four years....  No matter how 'imperialistic' the Rabat conference may be, and no matter how far it may be in line with 'the ominous objectives' of America, it is an important and decisive event, and it seems that no excuse is going to be accepted for our failure to use the opportunity we had to attend the gathering and exert our influence over it....  The presence of Iran in the Rabat conference at any level and extent would have been very influential, unless of course we believe that our Foreign Minister should not be anywhere where there is any sign of any dialogue, and in principle, the scope of his authority and jurisdiction is limited to the elucidation of the stances, and the expression of the agreement or opposition of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran."



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