July 1, 2005
RICE IN THE MIDEAST: 'APPLYING A DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM TO THE ARAB REGION'
** Praise for valuing democracy over stability, but doubts about "imposing" democracy.
** Outlets warn that democracy in the Mideast could lead to "Islamist" governments.
** The U.S. must solve the Arab-Israeli conflict that is "distracting" the region from reform.
'Democracy's voice'-- Euro dailies saw Secretary Rice's speech in Egypt, which "implied" a policy shift to promote democracy over stability in the Mideast, as "frank self-criticism." Sweden's liberal Dagens Nyheter contended, "The U.S. is now on the path it should have taken from the beginning" and is "adding fuel to the fire of democracy that Bush lit in this region." Lebanon's moderate Daily Star "appreciated" Rice's "spring cleaning" initiative, noting that "even the most entrenched and stale regimes" are "begrudgingly acknowledging that democratic reform is the best path toward greater stability and prosperity." Rice's visit, however, left "bitterness" in the mouths of some Mideast observers, who argued that while "the Arab world does not reject" reform, Western democracy is not "universally valid." Saudi Arabia's moderate Okaz declared, "we will not accept having reform imposed on us from abroad." The elite Jordan Times added that democracy must "be nurtured and promoted by local efforts and at a pace that is appropriate."
'Is democracy also a right to Islamists?'-- Many Euro and Mideast dailies warned the U.S. that promoting democracy in Arab countries may "open doors for Islamists to rule." According to Pakistan's center-right Nation, those mass movements "with an anti-American agenda" will benefit most from democratic elections. Britain's left-of-center Guardian cautioned that if Rice is "serious about spreading democracy" in the Arab world, the U.S. will have to deal with "Islamist, anti-U.S. governments." Italy's centrist influential La Stampa saw the U.S. goal of "liberty for everyone" as leading to America's "having to risk radical groups re-entering the democratic game." Turkey's liberal-intellectual Radikal predicted "every election result" will not be "similar to what we have seen in Lebanon," adding that the U.S. promotion of democracy in the Mideast, combined with the probability of anti-U.S. governments being elected, creates a "Catch-22 situation for the U.S."
'The failed Jerusalem Summit'-- Despite the ongoing Gaza withdrawal, regional outlets portrayed Rice as unable to prevent the "failure" of the Abbas-Sharon summit. Jordanian papers emphasized the importance of Washington's delivering a "powerful thrust" towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, and thus the "distraction" from the Mideast "march towards democracy." Other regional dailies concurred that reform is impossible without "a just solution" for the Arab-Israeli struggle. Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina interpreted Rice's message to Tel Aviv as a call for "Israel to honor all its commitments toward the peace process." Conversely, the conservative Jerusalem Post argued that Palestine has "failed to begin to fulfill America's most basic demands" while "Israel is embarking on a reversal of the settlement project on a scale that Washington could not have dreamed of."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Louis S. Dennig IV
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 70 reports from 19 countries June 16-June 24, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "U.S. Hypocrisy Towards Israel Isn't New But This Is Beyond Chutzpah"
Oxford professor Avi Shlaim opined in the left-of-center Guardian (6/22): "American hypocrisy is nothing new. But with Dr. Rice it has gone beyond chutzpah.... If she is serious about spreading democracy in the Arab world she must accept the outcome of free elections; in most of the Arab world they would produce Islamist, anti-U.S. governments.... America's policy towards the Middle East is myopic, muddled and mistaken. Only a negotiated settlement can bring lasting peace and stability to the area. And only America has the power to push Israel into such a settlement. It is high time the U.S. got tough with Israel, the intransigent party and main obstacle to peace. Colluding in Sharon's selfish, uncivilised plan to destroy the Jewish homes in Gaza is not a historic step on the road to peace."
"Democracy Yet To Dawn"
The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (6/22): "If you look around the Middle East for evidence that democracy is the wave of the future...there are some encouraging signs. In Lebanon, an alliance of the anti-Syrian parties that have already helped get Syrian troops out of the country has just gained a majority in the legislature. In Egypt, where the U.S. secretary of state made her democracy speech, Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981 but has never run in a contested election, will permit one this autumn. In Kuwait, the first woman minister ever appointed entered parliament this week to cries of "Congratulations!" In the occupied territories, although Mahmoud Abbas has postponed legislative elections, the increasing inclusion of Hamas in the political process, to which the Americans, if not the Israelis, may be cautiously reconciled, represents progress. In Iraq, Sunni leaders have finally agreed to participate in constitutional discussions.... In Syria, which would not be on the secretary of state's list of democratic openings, the legalisation of certain opposition parties was at least discussed at the Ba'ath party congress this month. In Iran, also not on Ms Rice's list, there has been a more active campaign and a higher turnout than was predicted in the presidential elections. But democratic forms in almost every case conceal a different reality. Lebanon may have gained a degree of freedom from Syria but the old political clans and families still hold sway, and the old sectarian structures are emphatically not up for reform. If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should win in the coming presidential run-off, the Iranian system will lose what vestiges of balance and diversity remain. A democratic era in the Middle East has yet to truly dawn.
FRANCE: "America's Wager For The Middle East"
Bernard Guetta over government-run France Inter radio said (6/21): “How is one to interpret Rice’s speech in Cairo as Iraq continues to plunge deeper into violence?... As if blind to reality, Rice reaffirmed in Cairo Washington’s support to the ‘democratic aspirations of all people in the Middle East.'... It was an ode to democracy, lyrical but also strong and critical of two of its regional allies: Saudi Arabia and Egypt.... The question one cannot help to ask is what does the U.S. want? Upon reading and re-reading the text of Rice’s speech the impression is that the U.S. knows these regimes are doomed and wants to distance itself from them, taking sides with freedom and democracy. In short, investing in the future while hoping these same regimes will stay long enough to counter Islamic fanaticism.... A high risk wager, which is not all that ludicrous.”
"Rice Calling for More Democracy in Cairo"
Tangi Salaun commented in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/21): “Egypt cannot completely hide the irritation it feels about America’s ambitions in the region and what it considers to be unbearable ‘interference.’”
"Rice Praises Democracy in the Middle East"
Denise Amoun in Catholic La Croix noted (6/21): “Only democracy seems to interest Condoleezza Rice, who during the press conference did not elaborate on her talks with Sharon and Abbas.... A student attending her policy speech was bitter: ‘She came to give us a lesson on democracy, instead of speaking about a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.'... But her visit to Egypt marks an important turning point in America-Egyptian relations...after a period of tension. It is the end of the first serious clash between the White House and its principal Arab ally in its quest for a just and global peace for the Middle East.... On the eve of the Sharon-Abbas summit it is inconceivable to think Rice did not speak with Mubarak about the Israeli pullout. But it is at times recommended to keep silent before the media.”
"A Jarring Note"
Patrick Saint-Paul in right-of-center Le Figaro wrote (6/20): “The Israeli press presented Secretary Rice’s visit as a ‘maintenance visit,’ with the Secretary traveling to encourage both sides.... But Secretary Rice was treated to a dispiriting digest of the difficulties that must be overcome.”
"Egypt, An Essential Regional Ally"
Claude Guibal editorialized in left-of-center Liberation (6/20): “While in Cairo, Secretary Rice will encourage democratization as she raises her voice against repression. She will congratulate with one hand, all the while using the stick with the other. These past few months, relations between Egypt and the U.S. have been extremely chaotic. A crisis that culminated in the cancellation of Rice’s trip in March...just as Washington expressed its desire to make Egypt a model of its policy of democratization in the Middle East.... But Washington cannot afford to be too critical of Egypt, which is playing a role in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.... And so the U.S. must all at once stay on the right side of Cairo even as it raises its voice. A double language that has elicited much criticism.”
GERMANY: "Difficult In Riyadh"
Wolfgang Günter Lerch judged in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/22): "The Americans now want the oil rich Kingdom of the Wahhabis to begin a gradual, pluralist opening of society. That is one reason for Secretary Rice to travel to Riyadh. The policy of the current U.S. president, which is being rejected because of his Iraq policy, stands and falls with the seriousness of efforts to speak up for democracy and human rights, as she did before in Egypt where she admonished President Mubarak. In Riyadh, she also spoke up for three imprisoned opposition politicians, but the answer of the Saudi hosts was polite but resolute. They thanked Ms. Rice for calling for reforms but democracy and human rights are not 'universally valid.' Saudi Arabia is founded on the 'holy law' of the Sharia which comes before God and does not know the people as the sovereign."
"The Power Of False Friends"
Tomas Avenarius noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung (6/21): "It is Secretary Rice's message that the United States will pursue a new Middle East policy. Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with dictators, the United States wants to help create a true--even though gradual--development for democracy ranging from Egypt via the Palestinian territory to Lebanon and Iraq.... The region-wide anti-Americanism of the people in almost all Islamic states is as lasting as the bilateral friendship the governments reiterate again and again. So if the United States wants to establish a change of policies...it must adjust to a long, dangerous and painful dichotomy. For the United States is running the risk of falling out of favor with all its corrupt friends on the thrones and presidential seats. At the same time, the United States wants to improve its reputation among the peoples who distrust America. No one applauds in the Middle East for the announcement of democracy, for the people despise the United States because of its policy towards Israel, the Iraq war, and the Guantánamo prisoners' camp.... This shows the dilemma for U.S. policy in the Middle East: the Americans have no real friends in the Middle East.... It cannot give up control over the Middle East because of the oil, Israel and the war on terror. But only if the U.S. government shows the will to tolerate this difficult dichotomy despite possible political and economic setbacks, will democracy in the Middle East have a real chance."
ITALY: "Rice's Reprimand Doesn't Budge Cairo"
Leading center-right Il Giornale noted (6/22): “Condoleezza Rice’s charm didn’t persuade the Arabs. And the threat to non-democratic regimes that they will no longer have Washington’s support didn’t scare Cairo or Riyadh, whose governments are conscious of serving the U.S. Administration. In a speech that was balanced between the intention not to offend the Arab masses and the desire to give a public and clear message against political oppression, the Secretary said in Cairo that her government will no longer accept, as it did in the past, authoritarian regimes in the name of apparent stability, in which extremists gained strength.”
"U.S. Protest: Too Many Saudi Fighters in Iraq"
Maurizio Molinari from New York in centrist, influential daily La Stampa observed (6/22): “A bitter sparring match over Saudi prisoners between Condoleezza Rice and the highest Saudi authorities marked the Secretary of State’s first visit in the Wahhabite kingdom.... Diplomatic sources in the U.S. capital reassure that the conversation between Rice and Abdullah was very ‘frank’ not only on democratic reforms but also on growing U.S. concern about the strong presence of Saudi volunteers among the insurgents in Iraq.... As the defender of the democratic revolution in the Middle East promoted by President Bush, Rice used body language to express a good part of her political message by meeting with Abdullah with no head cover, which is obligatory for all women, even foreigners, to wear in public places in Saudi Arabia.”
"Hurricane Condi Storms Into Saudi Arabian Domestic Affairs"
Pro-government, elite Il Foglio editorialized (6/22): “Armed with her usual smile, head uncovered...dressed in a charming suit, Condoleezza Rice did not spare Prince Abdullah any humiliation at Riyadh’s airport. The Prince Regent was therefore obliged to shake her hand, and clumsily moved around...in order to hide the shame from the television cameras, to hide the prohibited gesture from his subjects, even more so since it involved a black woman--normally treated like slaves in the kingdom. But the unconventional way that the Secretary of State presented herself in Riyadh was nothing in comparison to the substance: in fact, Condoleezza Rice had her visit preceded by announcement of a short and succinct doctrine that aims to ‘interfere’ in the allied country’s domestic affairs. The speech she gave the preceding day in Cairo was, in fact, more than a slogan...it’s the announcement of a 'doctrine’ which revolutionizes American foreign policy: ‘For sixty years the United States pursued stability in the region to the detriment of democracy, obtaining neither one nor the other; now we are supporting everyone’s democratic aspirations.’ It was frank self-criticism of the help offered to the world’s most authoritarian regimes, and a ruthless judgment on the Saudi government that is viewed as both undemocratic and unstable.”
"Rice On The Attack Abroad"
Leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore declared (6/22): “Real democratic elections in Egypt; women voters in Saudi Arabia, transparency and freedom of the press; liberation of political prisoners; space for political opposition: Condi Rice is charging ahead in her visit to the Middle East. For America, the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians is only a piece of the ‘Greater Middle East’ Initiative.... It’s a difficult and complex process that appears indispensable to pave the way, not only to greater political stability, but also to economic growth which could benefit the entire Mediterranean region. Undoubtedly, America will do everything possible to advance the project: for Bush, given the stalemate over his domestic political reforms, foreign policy is the only way he can leave an historical mark on his second mandate. And here’s his standard bearer--Rice in action.”
"Condoleeza To Mubarak: More Democracy"
Lucia Annunziata in centrist, influential La Stampa imparted (6/21): “Her speech yesterday at the American University of Cairo lasted only 20 minutes and was heard only by a small group of guests, but it’s probable that it will be remembered. It seems in fact very nearly the announcement of a strategic turn, the first indication of a broader reflection that the United States is making on its foreign policy. It contains the knocking down of a wall: the one that maintains that democracy always comes after one’s own political needs--a position that many critics of the U.S. consider the shortcoming--and the hypocritical unveiling--of U.S. foreign policy. Yesterday in Cairo Rice delineated instead new priorities for the U.S., starting with a severe warning to two of Washington’s best allies, Egypt and Saudia Arabia, in the name of a ‘universal’ democracy. A change that, as an extreme consequence, could one day bring the re-inclusion in the political arena Islamic extremist groups for whom up to now Washington has always preferred military options.... Liberty for ‘everyone’ today in the Middle East could also mean that the U.S. is ready to risk having radical groups re-enter the democratic game that up to now were always and only treated as a danger--as was in the case Iraq, and as could be necessary elsewhere in the world.”
"Rice Warns Egyptians And Saudis: 'You Must Change: More Democracy'"
Ennio Caretto from Washington in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera wrote (6/21): “It was the first time that U.S. diplomacy challenged allied regimes on their own territory, in addition to hostile ones to hold ‘transparent elections’ and to give themselves democratic institutions. ‘For 60 years--Rice asserted--America has supported stability at the expense of liberty and democracy, without attaining either.' Secretary Rice, who had previously discussed the Egyptian elections in September with president Mubarak, praised the host for having called them, but did not spare him criticism for the way in which he treats the opposition.”
"Away With Houses Of The Settlers From Gaza Strip"
Aldo Baquis from Tel Aviv in center-right Il Tempo commented (6/20): “On the eve of the awaited summit between the Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian President Abu Mazen, the Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice didn’t spare efforts to push the two parties toward greater cooperation. Yesterday she dedicated many hours to discussing the different aspects of the Israeli pullout from Gaza and the mechanism through which should become a peace treaty. Once this delicate operation is completed, it would be possible to strive toward a constitution of an independent Palestinian state, next to Israel.”
"Rice: 'Hasten Withdrawal From Gaza'"
Alberto Stabile from Ramallah in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica opined (6/19): “Another magic word has entered the dictionary regarding conflict and it seems destined to dominate the debate until the Israelis withdraw from Gaza: ‘coordination.’ For the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has begun a trip in the Middle East … if Israelis and Palestinians want withdrawal to be ‘orderly and peaceful,’ and for it to ‘revitalize’ a moribund peace process, they must sit around a table and coordinate actions that will allow one side to ‘withdraw’ from one of the hottest areas of the conflict and the other to exercise full sovereignty for the first time in thirty-six years.”
SWEDEN: "Finally The Right War Against Terrorism
Independent liberal Dagens Nyheter editorialized (6/22): “In the last year the U.S. has gradually moved towards the path it should have taken from the beginning. To first cure the most obvious sores exercising pressure on allies to make them clean up their dirty laundry.... Condoleezza Rice’s address at the American University in Cairo is a milestone. She rejected proclamations of state of emergency, arbitrary administration of justice, and violence against peaceful demonstrators. With regards to human rights, she criticized the irremovable Egyptian government harder than any previous U.S. Secretary of State has done during 30 years of cooperation between the two states. This is an invaluable signal, sent at the same time as the opposition has won the Lebanon elections, and simultaneously as the Israeli and Palestine leaders meet to solve common problems. Every small step forward in the Mideast is a major leap for humanity--not least with regards to security.”
TURKEY: "Democracy Is The Name Of The Game"
Erdal Guven in liberal-intellectual Radikal asserted (6/24): “The events of 9/11 had an impact on everything, but most importantly they brought about a change in American foreign policy.... How will the fight against global Islamic terrorism be pursued during the democratization process? How will the U.S. will be able to address the democratic demands of the people in the region even as Washington maintains its relations with anti-democratic regimes from Uzbekistan to Egypt. How will the U.S. tolerate the fact that political Islamists are the most likely figures to emerge on the Middle Eastern political scene? We simply cannot expect every election result to be similar to what we have seen in Lebanon.... Another basic question is whether this shift in American foreign policy will be institutionalized. The remarks of Secretary Rice were not sufficent to provide all the answers to these questions. The new game in the Middle East for the United States is called democracy. But this is a very dangerous game, and winning will require a sustained political will.”
“Democracy In The Middle East?”
Soli Ozel in mass appeal Sabah observed (6/23): “Secretary Rice made a very important admission when she acknowledged the failure of the United States to establish either democracy and stability in the Middle East over the last 60 years. It was equally important that she emphasized the policy change by pledging US support for the democratic demands of the people. There is an interesting message of change coming from the US administration in its second term. Washington appears to feel less bothered by the prospect of Islamic or anti-American parties coming to power, as long as they come to power through a democratic process. … These new US statements will have an impact in the Middle East. The new rhetoric will encourage opposition movements and cause democratic demands to grow. … The recent elections in Lebanon provided the basis for a new national politics. It turned out that the people of Lebanon care very much about Lebanon’s national identity. The result proved that people support a modern economy and modern politics without undue religious influence. Lebanon was considered as the weakest link in the Arab system, but things have changed in a positive direction. This will also have an impact on Syria’s future. The shelf-life of the Baath regime in Syria cannot be extended much further, especially if Damascus is implicated in the Harrari assassination. In this respect, Turkey should give up on its current effort to influence the Syrian regime. Instead, Turkey should watch carefully and read sensibly the political developments in the region and shape its policy line accordingly.”
“The EU For Turkey, And The US For The Middle East”
Cengiz Candar in moderately conservative DB Tercuman editorialized (6/22): “Secretary Rice gave a very important policy speech in Cairo. The main clues to the changing American policy in the Middle East can be found in that speech. She openly stated that in this new period, democracy will not be sacrificed in the name of stability. … During the last 60 years, as Secretary Rice said, stability has been the main priority for the US. Stability was always defined broadly by US administrations. The main goals were the protection of oil interests for the US and its allies, and the prevention of increased Soviet influence in the region. Pro-American regimes were supported, regardless of their anti-democratic structure. But the result is, as Rice says, that the Middle East now has neither democracy nor stability. … In this new process, we have started to observe new dynamics for change initiated by the US. It started in Iraq, which was followed by the elections in Lebanon. The process will undoubtedly continue in Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. All of these countries should expect to be included in the democratization process. … The EU plays a facilitating role for democratization in certain parts of the world such as Turkey, the former eastern bloc, and the Balkans. The same goes for the US, which is now playing a similar role for Middle Eastern countries. Interestingly enough, anti-Americanism in the Middle East is fed by the region’s governing elites, just as anti-EU sentiment in Turkey comes from the nationalist governing elite. An historic period is ahead of us, and it will certainly be interesting to watch.”
ISRAEL: "After Condoleezza Rice's Visit"
Khalid Shawwa in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida commented (6/24): “Secretary Rice’s visit to Ramallah and Israel… is an exceptional opportunity for the current American administration to make up for what it has missed in positive cooperation and constructive engagement with the peoples of this region, an objective that, unfortunately, has not been realized until now. Maybe the reason for that is the administration’s own approach and vision, which have been driven by this administration’s political ideology. A lot of our colleagues in our Palestinian National Authority realize quite well that many extremists, pro-Israel or anti-Arab and anti-Muslim elements within this pro-Zionist administration enjoy great influence or always find an open ear to their views…. We now have a real opportunity for the Bush administration to synergize its policy with the facts and needs of the region, if it is really interested in building positive and active relations with the Arab nations."
Extreme right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick in conservative, independent Jerusalem Post wrote (6/24): "Rather than withdraw U.S. support for Abbas as a result of his blatant failure to deliver on even the smallest American expectation from him, during her visit over the weekend, Rice simply shored up U.S. support for him.... Since Fatah coexists harmoniously with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, by backing Fatah, the U.S. is effectively backing all Palestinian terror groups.... And at the same time, by calling for Israeli 'confidence-building measures' to strengthen Abbas, the U.S. is effectively weakening its ally. One cannot be too harsh with the Americans for acting on their delusions since the policies of Israel's own government are even more hallucinatory -- and dangerous.... In responding to Rice's demands that it coordinate the withdrawal with the Palestinians, Israel has gone back on its previous demand to retain control of the international crossing points to Gaza.... If either Washington or Jerusalem were willing to base their policies on reality rather than 'visions,' they would both come up with multiple options for fighting Palestinian terrorism and transforming Palestinian society. In so doing both would be making a great contribution to the cause of democracy and counterterrorism throughout the Arab world. But since both are committed to 'solutions' that have no connection to the real world, the steps they adopt to achieve their goals are both counter-productive and dangerous."
"Diplomats Without Diplomacy"
Akiva Eldar in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz opined (6/24): "Regarding [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice's meetings with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, you could almost say that their importance lies in the fact that they didn't happen. Because it was almost as if the whole visit did not take place. Not a single gap was bridged. As for the Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting, one could say the damage exceeds the benefit.... Like Abu Mazen, [James] Wolfensohn, [the Quartet's special envoy for the disengagement,] found that Sharon has decided that you don't switch horses in midstream; the strategy of insisting on a 'fight against terror' is useful for warding off the danger of negotiations.... As long as the President of the U.S. agrees that the occupier will be the authority that judges the occupied's performance, as well as the branch that executes the verdict, the chances of the pragmatic bloc retaining a majority in the legislative branch [i.e. the Knesset] will narrow."
"Rice Recites Democracy Verses"
Jawad Al-Bashiti in Al-Ayyam observed (6/22): "Political truthfulness is the first and foremost virtue that must be venerated by any truthful politician. But Mrs. Democracy Rice preferred to lie, mislead and deceive. She stated that the U.S. was wrong in believing during the past 60 years that allowing allied and friendly Arab regimes to remain in power during the Cold War against the 'Evil Empire' while keeping democracy at arm’s length would help maintain ‘stability.’ She also said that the U.S. has since changed its approach and has returned to the straight and narrow…. The truth of the matter is that the U.S. had real and tangible interests in preventing democratic winds from blowing on the Arab ships in fear that those ships could dock at an [unfriendly] port, represented at the time by the Red menace (communism). But now since there is no wind to blow except the one coming from the U.S. and Israel, America's imperialism is the only motivation for 'spreading democracy,' which is a way to strengthen 'world government' and 'Greater Israel.'"
"No Surprises In Jerusalem"
Aluf Benn in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz opined (6/22): "In spite of the expressions of disappointment and disparagement on both sides, it seems the meeting expressed the exact state of the relationship between the two sides. They are trapped in a chicken-or-egg conundrum: which comes first, the Palestinian war on terror or the strengthening of Abbas' government with goodwill gestures by Israel?.... Israeli officials are asking what the point is of strengthening a person who can't exert control, and whose weakness is immediately translated into a rise in terror.... The weakening of Abbas is very troubling to the U.S. administration. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who came to the area last week, was impressed by the seriousness of a report she received from her security coordinator [Lieutenant] General William Ward, who described the crumbling of the PA, power struggles and infighting at senior levels of Fatah. She asked her Israeli hosts to do all they could to help Abbas. Washington understands that Abbas's fall would be considered a failure of President George W. Bush's policy of democratization. But even the Americans are wondering whether to continue assisting Abbas or if the time has come to realize that nothing will help him, and even if he gets extra assistance, he won't be able to give anything in return."
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (6/22): "On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made what was perhaps the most powerful case for freedom and democracy since President George W. Bush's second inaugural address in January. Most importantly, she did so in Cairo, the heart not only of the Arab world, but of a country that has symbolized the gap between rhetoric and the nature of the friends America keeps.... With this speech, it is clear that the U.S. is intent on adding fuel to the fire of democracy that Bush lit in this region. Never has America spoken so bluntly and with such specificity about so many nations throughout the Arab and Muslim world, whether 'friend' or foe. We should recognize as a nation that our security and the prospects for peace depend not only on our own strength but on the success of this regional American project."
"A City Of Hope, An Army Of Fear"
Liberal writer Ofer Shelach in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot commented (6/22): "The [IDF] officers didn't want to deal with the destruction of [settlers'] houses, mainly because of the will to leave the Gaza Strip as quickly as possible. One of the officers told me about one month ago that the army is intent on destroying them, but that, on the other hand, Hamas is trailing the army. The Israeli defense establishment's concerns overcome any idea of hope, and the government indeed adopted the army's position and decided not to destroy the houses. Then, the Americans entered the picture. In an attempt to assist Abu Mazen, the U.S. administration decided that the right thing to do was to demolish the houses.... When the Americans speak ... Jerusalem listens. During her visit to the region this week, Secretary Rice announced that the houses would indeed be demolished, and that the Palestinians would deal with the removal of the ruins and the reconstruction.... [In such cases,] the only rescue may only come from Washington: if the U.S. insists on intervening and imposing reason on Israel, it is the only force that can overcome the IDF, too....
"Rice Left With Two Issues: Coordination And Removal Of [Settlement] Houses"
Hani Masri in independent Al-Ayyam commented (6/21): “The only tangible and practical result out of Condoleezza Rice’s visit is... the agreement forged between the Israeli and Palestinian sides concerning the removal of settlement houses…. The other issues - including freedom of movement for people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank as well as abroad, the airport and the seaport, the linking of the disengagement plan with the Roadmap, settlement activities, the wall…- all these were either left for the two sides to negotiate over or were mentioned casually. This can only indicate that all Rice and her administration care about is the implementation of the disengagement plan even if it effectively happens at the expense of the West Bank.
"Arab Helplessness And American Dynamics"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (6/21): “A comprehensive Arab vision, though it exists, is limited to the Arab diplomatic strategy, which in turn is constrained by American diplomacy toward various Arab issues. This American [policy] is not founded on Arab national or regional interests; rather it is dictated by U.S. interests, especially as related to the ongoing war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
"The Secretary Of State, Under The Shadow of Terror"
Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (6/21): "During her visit to the region, the Secretary of State became aware of the fact that Abu Mazen is powerless to impose order on the Palestinian Authority.... At this stage, Abu Mazen has rejected suggestions not to let Hamas participate in the PA's parliamentary elections. One shouldn't assume that the United States' Secretary of State will succeed in causing the Chairman [President] of the PA to change his mind and accept the demand of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to prevent Hamas's participation in the election, as long as that group publicly advocates war on the Jewish state. Abu Mazen, who agreed to the destruction of the homes in Gush Katif, has said that the Jews should 'return to their homes' inside the Green Line. Thus, he indicated that Jews have no right to the 'occupied territories.' Abu Mazen's signals do not contribute to the creation of an appropriate atmosphere ahead of the evacuation."
Shimon Shiffer in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (6/20): "Just as Rice announced with satisfaction the agreement she secured with the Israelis and Palestinians to coordinate the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and to spare no effort to make the evacuation process happen quietly, news of the grave incident on Philadelphi Road broke. Rice joined a long and illustrious list of American secretaries of state who tried unsuccessfully to bridge the differences, the hatreds and the profound gaps in the fundamental positions maintained by the parties in the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Rice did not come only to 'maintain' the process and to ensure that Israel indeed withdraws from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria [i.e. the northernmost part of the West Bank] in another two months. Her principal task was to ensure that the American investment in Sharon's disengagement plan does not go down the drain. The Bush administration is deeply invested in disengagement, since the Americans believe that the evacuation will produce an earthquake in the region and may even herald the beginning of the end of the conflict. Against the backdrop of the standstill in Iraq, Rice hopes that at least in our arena a miracle will happen and a breakthrough on the way to a peace arrangement will be achieved. Sharon, who has received warm words of praise from President Bush and Secretary Rice, did not make life any easier for his American guest yesterday.... He warned her that the Palestinians were liable to miss another opportunity to reach a state of their own if the chaos in the Palestinian Authority did not end."
"By The Ballot Of The Bomb"
Akiva Eldar in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (6/20): "If Sharon and Bush can accept Hamas entering the elected Palestinian body via the front door, without any preconditions and in violation of existing agreements, how can Abbas be expected to slam the door shut in Hamas's face?... In order to weaken Hamas, its political rivals must be bolstered. It is vital, therefore, to ensure that Abbas comes across as a proud partner in talks with Sharon--and not as a collaborator with Israel. If not as a partner for a final status agreement--at least as the new landlord in the territories, someone who Israel can turn to, someone who controls who enters and who leaves his territory. If not as the liberator of Al-Aqsa, then as the leader who freed prisoners, smashed barriers, lifted roadblocks and froze the settlements. Without all of these achievements, the withdrawal from Gaza will turn into Hamas' victory parade, and then there will be no need for elections or for international recognition in order to launch the third Intifada."
"Mind The Gap"
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (6/20): "The U.S. ... is in full diplomatic mode: praising where it deems praise is due, coaxing, cajoling, and generally trying to get 'both sides' to behave and get on with the program. Nor can the administration be accused of blind evenhandedness, since it clearly recognizes that Sharon is acting boldly while Abbas is much further from advancing Washington's vision. So what's the problem? The problem is that, in Washington's own terms, the gap between the parties' actions is much wider than Rice made it out to be [during her visit to the region]. Israel is embarking on a reversal of the settlement project on a scale that Washington could not have dreamed of, let alone demanded, let alone expected to receive. The Palestinians, by contrast, not only have failed to begin to fulfill America's most basic demands, but have even moved in the wrong direction, denying even the principle that weapons must be confiscated. In this context, it makes no sense to apply roughly the same medicine in slightly different doses.... The U.S. needs to say bluntly to the Palestinians that they must accept the Jewish people's national rights in this land, just as Israel has accepted their national rights.... If the U.S. is unwilling to say such things in a straightforward manner, with the clarity of Bush's June 2002 call on the Palestinians to rid themselves of Yasser Arafat, than it should not be surprised to see its plans unravel."
"Solutions And Confusions"
Akiva Eldar in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz opined (6/17): "The political problems of Abu Mazen on the way to implementing the security reforms complement the political problems of Sharon in connection with the implementation of the disengagement plan. Members of the Palestinian delegation to Washington returned home with the feeling that Bush is prepared to meet them halfway, but nothing is going to move before he has heard from security coordinator General William Ward that the PA has met its obligations. The decision on whether to allow Israel to pursue a peace process as it sees fit, or to drag Sharon into negotiations on the permanent settlement, depends on the Palestinians, too. Their matriculation exam season begins in two months, on the day that the IDF spreads out in Gush Katif. If from that day onward [Chief of Staff] Dan Halutz will be required to conduct raids on Qassam launchers in the outskirts of Gaza, Sharon's first withdrawal will--for a long time to come--also be his last, and the first meeting of Abu Mazen with President Bush will be the last. The same is true for Secretary Rice's first visit to Ramallah."
WEST BANK: "The Ramification Of Rice's Visit To Ramallah"
Jerusalem pro-Palestine Al-Quds editorialized (6/19): "Secretary Rice's visit to the Palestinian territories yesterday falls within the framework of the promises that US President George Bush made during President Mahmud Abbas' visit to Washington at an earlier time this month. Hence, it constitutes tangible evidence of the US interest in activating the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and in boosting efforts being made to implement the road map and deal with the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank as a first step toward a final comprehensive settlement which will result - according to the US vision - in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel. The statements made by the US secretary yesterday following her meeting with President Mahmud Abbas indicate this trend, for she focused on the need to hold coordination between the Palestinian Authority [PA] and Israel with regard to evacuating Gaza and northern West Bank settlements as well as completing all preparations to facilitate and ensure the smoothness of this operation so that the Palestinian side would be handed over the evacuated settlements according to a specific plan. Hence, the Israeli prophecy with regard to chaos, plundering, looting, and subsequent negative developments--God forbid--[that could be triggered by the withdrawal] will not come true."
EGYPT: "America And The Failed Jerusalem Summit"
Small circulation pro-government Al-Gomhouriyah opined (6/23): "Secretary Rice has not succeeded in softening Sharon's hardline position toward the fair Palestinian demands, which PA President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) took to him in Jerusalem. These demands included the quick handing over of the remaining cities agreed upon in the Sharm al-Shaykh negotiations and the release of Palestinian prisoners to consolidate the truce, which the resistance factions have approved to promote peace and demonstrate the Palestinian good intentions. The Abu-Mazin-Sharon summit failed because the messenger of the US Administration did not exert sufficient pressure, which she definitely had the ability to do, on the Israeli prime minister. Sharon has made impossible conditions that hamper the efforts to achieve peace by demanding that the PA disband and disarm the resistance factions. In other words, he is demanding that the Palestinians capitulate, lay down their arms, and wait for the illusion of peace, which will never come at the hands of Sharon that are tarnished with blood. The ball is returning to the American court, as the Americans were the ones who issued the road map and before that were the primary sponsors of the peace process. Will the US Administration prove that it is stronger than Sharon is?
"Bright Slogans... Disgraceful Practices"
Small circulation pro-government Al-Gomhouriyah noted (6/22): "During her tour of the Middle East, Secretary Rice repeatedly articulated lovely and bright slogans on the need for peoples of the region to enjoy freedom and democracy. She also reiterated the US commitment to work toward achieving this goal. However, only a few hours after her departure, shocking pictures of a horrible massacre started coming in from occupied Iraq. The massacre took place when US F-16s and British [GR4] Tornadoes attacked "Al-Karabilah" village [near the Syrian border], killing women and children and destroying schools and services that made this unfortunate village look like Al-Fallujah city whose name has become synonymous with ugly images of occupation, killing, and mayhem. The actions of the US occupation in Iraq, coupled with the actions of the US-backed Israeli occupation in Palestine, create a serious contradiction between Rice's slogans to win over the trust of the Arab peoples on the one hand, and Washington's policies, which have brought nothing but calamities through aggression, humiliation, and mayhem on the other hand. This contradiction needs, therefore, either a good explanation or a change of policy so that the United State may become a true liberator of peoples!!"
SAUDI ARABIA: "This Democracy Thing"
English-language prov-government Saudi Gazette noted (6/23): "Secretary Rice has been swanning around the globe telling people to get their house in order. Predictably it's the Arabs who have failed once again to live up to Washington's expectations. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are not democratic enough for Rice's tastes and the United States, being the superpower, it expects to get its way. Arabs have got to get on with it.... Iraq and its non-existent weapons of mass destruction, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the outrageous situation in Palestine all seem to pass Rice by. Elections in Iran, an Islamic if not an Arab country, were (needless to say) not sufficiently democratic. This is because they took place under the supervision of the country's religious establishment and therefore don't count even though the number of people who turned out to vote exceeded the turnout in most recent European and American electoral polls....
What Rice appears to have overlooked along with her advisors in Washington is that what America wants and what people in other countries in the Gulf and North Africa may want are not one and the same thing.... Religion plays a different role in Islamic societies than it does in countries with republican constitutions such as France and the United States. Both make a virtue of the separation of church and state. This is hardly regarded as a virtue in Muslim nations. Is it really necessary to keep saying these things?
"Only Tools Are From Inside"
Jeddah's moderat Okaz editorialized (6/22): "We heard a lot of advice, recommendations, views and projects, which reflect different views and intentions. These must not be ignored. Some of them are even threats and intimidations to our countries, and they are hypocritical to our people and our future aspirations. The visit of the U.S. Secretary of State to the region left some bitterness... But we must not give her the right to remind us of what we should do and what we should be determined to achieve. Certainly, our future concerns us more than it concerns Condoleezza... Yet, we will not accept to have [reform] imposed on us from abroad or allow foreign powers to use domestic tools to achieve their objectives.
"Is Democracy Also A Right To Islamists?"
Saudi journalists Abdulrahman Al-Rashed in London’s influential ASharq Al-Awsat opined (6/22): "Condoleezza Rice created confusion by her remarks in her recent visit as the U.S. Secretary of State. She made ambiguous statements. In her lecture at the American University in Cairo she deliberately made a statement on her policy for the coming three years. The fear is, in what she mentioned, her determination to open doors for Islamists to rule. Does Rice mean what she said? Or understand its meanings? To give Islamists the right to rule is not the problem, but to remove them from power by democratic means will be impossible."
"No Interference, No Hurry"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina noted (6/22): "The U.S. Secretary of State’s call for more economic and political reforms in the Middle East proves that Washington still insists on its democracy in the region… This time, the American tone was cloaked with appreciation for recent reforms accomplished in the region… The response of Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal at the joint press conference was very clear and strong. He stated that each country will apply reform in its own way which suits its nation and interests. Washington has learned this fact and reviewed its previous position that was irritating and imposing… It is clear that the Arab world does not reject reforms. Actually, it is looking for what is best for its nations and that suites its interests and with gradual application of reform.
"More of American Understanding"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Bilad observed (6/22): "Remarks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his American counterpart confirmed that the two countries are working for the future, stability, and moderation… It was very important that the U.S. Secretary of State agreed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that reform comes from within and according to cultural and religious fundamentals… This cooperation between the two countries could help in the stability of the region, restore Palestinian rights, and combat terrorism."
"Assassinations Targeting All Of Lebanon"
Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira editorialized (6/22): "Lebanon made remarkable success in many aspects such as elections.... The security forces should exert more efforts to disclose the identity of criminals.... Yesterday’s assassination in a series of similar events is aimed at a specific objective that makes use of Lebanese disputes and creates disturbances... These assassinations may achieve their objectives to create disagreement. However, cooperation together is the answer to foiling the plot, and to avoid big earthquakes created by Hariri’s assassination.... These crimes indicate that all of Lebanon is targeted."
"Ms. Condoleezza's Admissions"
Abd-al-Bari Atwan observed in London's Pan Arab Al-Quds al-Arabi (6/21): "Secretary Rice has at last admitted that the United States made a serious mistake when it sought over the past 60 years to achieve stability in the Arab region at the expense of democracy...adding that her country is now taking a different course that focuses on supporting democracy for all peoples. It is a rare admission by any standard and will undoubtedly raise the fears of the repressive Arab dictatorships that have always enjoyed U.S. sponsorship or protection.... The Arab peoples are in fact aspiring for democracy, but the real democracy, or rather the U.S., European, and Indian version of it, and not the false and nominal democracy. These peoples hate the United States because it wants it to be either a democracy imposed by B52 bombers and Cruise missiles, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the democracy that remains silent and impotent against the Israeli massacres and rushes toward normalization before peace is established and the occupation ended. In other words, we say that the Arab peoples will not accept nominal democracies that the White House manipulates by remote control from Washington but a national democracy that deals with the West, including the United States, from a position of equality and respect and on the basis of common interests and not subservience and toadyism.
"No' To Democracy Or 'Yes' With Conditions?"
Conservative Al-Riyad editorialized (6/21): "Are we banning democracy because it has come by way of US preaching, because it is a product of countries not tied to our conditions and our customs and the philosophy of our lives, because a big difference between us and them imposes barriers and limits such activity? Refusal is not a problem when ideas and principles are not compatible. But democracy is a global choice that has become an international course of action. The applications from one entity to another may differ completely just as cultures, languages, and national environments differ. But they do come together at the things gained through science and discoveries. There is even the acceptance of some behaviors that influence people, in accordance with the overlapping of cultures and their influencing factors. Condoleezza Rice spoke plainly about the necessity of applying a democratic system in the Arab region. However, she did not presume that a standardized law had become ready for implementation, realizing that the process is not an easy one. But she did acknowledge that there is no choice for the prevailing and nearly decayed regimes. If they do not change the style of their regimes into something that ensures the security of both the governments and the people, then the region will be subjected to more vicious wars and many transgressions that will only leave behind destruction economically and socially.... But we in the Arab Nation are not representative of any [democratic] experience. Thus, the political vacuum provides incentives for America to be the patron for presenting and defending its ideas or even imposing them, if that is appropriate for the international climate and its interests in the region.
English-language pro-government Arab News commented (6/20): "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is once more in the Middle East, notably as Israel's planned pullout from Gaza and parts of the West Bank draws near. While an Israeli pullout from any occupied Arab land is cause for celebration, the August withdrawal from Gaza has a number of people worrying about a number of things. The Gaza plan has led to fears that Israeli settlers could put up a fight or that militants opposed to peace might use violence to disrupt their departure. Also, it is not clear that Palestinians can ensure security and fill the vacuum Israel will leave behind after 38 years. The picture is also hazy as to whether Ariel Sharon will perceive Gaza as the first step in the eventual withdrawal from all occupied lands or as the first and only withdrawal the Palestinians will ever see. On her second trip to the region, Rice has not had the time or the inclination to go into details. There was no agreement on the Gaza border crossings, the safe passage linking Gaza to the West Bank and a reopening of the Gaza sea and air ports. Rice would only touch on unresolved issues, including Palestinian freedom of movement and access to different parts of the territories after the Israeli withdrawal; the status of settler properties; security, and the problems of Israel building new settlements as the Gaza pullout date approaches. The only thing of substance to come out of her visit was the agreement she announced -- that Jewish settler houses in the Gaza Strip will be destroyed as part of Israel's pullout from the area. The parties' cooperation depends largely on the four-month-old truce that has been holding up, thanks mainly to the Palestinians. There have been no suicide attacks in Israel since the cease-fire in February. During the same period, however, the Israeli army has killed 38 Palestinians, wounded 400 and arrested 500. Naturally, in such an unequal situation, Palestinian patience is wearing thin."
"Rice’s Middle East Tour"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (6/18): "No doubt that the agenda of the U.S. Secretary of State includes many issues that concern the U.S. government and its interests in the region. On top of this comes the issue of improving the image of the U.S. abroad.... The U.S. policy must abandon double standards in its dealings with the countries of the region in order to improve its image. The ordinary Arab citizen views the U.S. as a dishonest policeman. Furthermore, the U.S. calls for democracy and human rights, and it is the first violator of human rights in Iraq and elsewhere. It is time for the U.S. Secretary of State to listen to the voice of wisdom and sense.
"Is It A Corrective Step Of The U.S. Policy?"
Riyadh's moderate Al-Riyadh commented (6/18): "In the past, the U.S. had no disputes or wars with the Arabs. They only competed in the region with the Soviets.... Relations became worse as each U.S. President announced more support to Israel.... Arab issues remained within the U.S. concern because Israel was the decisive party in U.S policy in the region. However, its solutions are still in the “morgue.” ... Rice may be the most distinguished and rational person in the U.S., but the U.S. foreign policy is in a state of confrontation. Iraq may determine many issues that she did not think about. Many U.S. initiatives will not solve the basic problem. The U.S. has made no serious attempts to solve the Arab Israeli dispute and has assumed that the Arabs are responsible for failure.... The issue is not misunderstanding but making assumptions that do not agree with political logic for a fair solution."
"Rice’s Visit Could Be A Success"
Abha's moderate AL-Watan noted (6/18): "Rice’s diplomatic visit is facing many challenges in light of the low U.S. popularity in almost all parts of the world and in the Middle East in particular.... The visit needs two things to be a successful. For example, reform cannot be achieved overnight and should be from within. Rice’s visit should support the Saudi vision of reform and should not impose the U.S. view on reform in the region. The visit will succeed if Rice shows fair balance in pressures on parties of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute rather than on the Palestinians only. This difficult political mission will succeed if this happens, and the political reforms will succeed also."
Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina editorialized (6/16): "The upcoming visit of Secretary Rice to the region indicates many important things. It is true that Washington hopes that Israel will withdraw from Gaza and from a number of settlements in the West Bank by its scheduled time in August. Rice believes that implementation of the scheduled withdrawal, which she will try to confirm by her visit, will greatly improve the image of the U.S. among the Arab public.... Condoleezza Rice’s message to Tel Aviv is: It is time for Israel to honor all its commitments toward the peace process without any delay or bargaining. Washington is more serious than at any time to play the role of an honest mediator in the peace process in order to maintain its interests in a new Middle East, with less hated to the U.S."
SYRIA: "A Message Of Soothing And Support, Not A Mission Of Peace"
Muhammad Ali Buza in government-owned Al-Thawra wrote (6/21): "After his talks with Condoleezza Rice, Sharon asserted that the United States never changed its supportive policy toward Israel. By this statement, Sharon has summed up the results of Rice's tour in a way that foiled the wagers of those who thought the tour would bring anything new or be different from previous American tours.... Rice's visit came as a message of assurance to the Zionist entity after the series of talks and speculations about a kind of tension in the relations between the two sides against the background of the repeated Israeli scandals of espionage against the United States and the arms deals that Tel Aviv signed with China without Washington's knowledge and approval.... This proves that differences of this kind cannot affect the US-Israeli cooperation and alliance or stop the unlimited American financial, military, and political support for the Zionist project...."
"Where Disorder Lies?"
Omar Jaftali in government-owned Tishreen commented (6/21): "We have to thank Ms. Condaleezza Rice for her concern about the region's issues and the peace process and her confirmation that the U.S. does not wish that Israel imposes a status quo on the ground.... but there are former experiences with the U.S. policy that make us believe that Rice's statement is meant for soothing and for media consumption.... Rice is adopting a twisty approach that portrays Israel's anticipated pullout from Gaza as a big achievement by the Sharon government and an important step on the way of settlement. Bush said such a settlement will not come true as the U.S. Administration propagates as Sharon has torpedoed its basics. If the U.S. Administration maintains the same biased policy towards Israel, Sharon, will leave no land to negotiate about. Events in Jerusalem and the West Bank confirm this statement."
Ali Nasrallah in government-owned Al-Thawra wrote (6/20): "A quick reading of Secretary Rice's statement seems sufficient to confirm U.S. bias towards Israel and to show contradiction in the U.S. statements that confirm the U.S. Administration's commitment to the peace process and its translation into deeds on the ground.... Rice's statement, that the U.S. still considers the Palestinian national resistance Hamas as a terrorist movement, not only reflects the U.S. Administration's non-understanding of the new situation; Rather it represents an ultimate adoption of the Israeli position which practices aggression, terrorism and occupation against the Palestinian people while it denies the Palestinian people right to self defense. Results of the Palestinian municipal and legislative election which clearly demonstrated the presence of the national resistance movement in the Palestinian street as a faction and substantive movement in the political, popular and national life that should not be ignored by Washington. Rather Washington must reconsider its policy and its position on the legitimate Palestinian resistance and must respond to its demands and to the international calls on the necessity of exerting pressure on Israel to stop its daily violations of international laws and charters. Rice's shy and ambiguous reminder to the Israeli government on the necessity of taking substantive measures and its praise of the disengagement plan as being the best chance for progress on the Middle East, is merely general talk that does not reflect in any case the U.S. Administration commitment to the process of settlement. It also reflect the U.S. has nothing new and he has no desire to get virtually involved in the peace process and to return to its term of reference...."
JORDAN: "The Way To Democracy"
Elite English-language Jordan Times editorialized (6/22): "Secretary Rice told Egyptians during her visit to Cairo that "the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty." She also said that the U.S. decided to change course on the Middle East, where "for 60 years, my country pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, and we achieved neither." Such remarks, amidst U.S. calls for moves towards democracy across the Arab world, are certainly welcome and appreciated by democracy-lovers. However, the U.S. must understand that for democracy to succeed, it has to be nurtured and promoted by local efforts and at a pace that is appropriate. It also has to realise that for people anywhere to believe in the genuineness of the U.S. call, it should match words with deeds. Thus, the best service Washington can offer the people of the Middle East in their search for democracy now is to help solve the raging conflicts in the region, namely the Palestinian-Israeli and the Iraqi problems, so that they do not continue to constitute "distractions" in the march towards democracy. The sooner the U.S. makes determined efforts to resolve these major issues the faster the stride towards reform. Alongside this side of the equation is, of course, the economic development of the countries in the region. As long as there is poverty, unemployment, deprivation, lack of healthcare and proper educational institutions, democracy cannot spring deep roots across the Arab countries. There is a direct and organic link between civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights. Democracy anywhere cannot proceed full speed on one track and ignore the other, complementary, dimension of the equation. The Middle East needs an economy that is both geared for the future and that deals with current woes and deprivations. Economic and fiscal policies have to be judiciously set up so they reach people and become sustainable. That way democracy is certain to spread and become meaningful."
"The Important Visit Of Mrs. Rice"
Tarek Masarweh in semi-official influential Al-Rai editorialized (6/21): “Mrs. Condoleezza Rice found in Jordan only the reassuring feeling of being among friends. She found that she had no demands to make of Jordan, that she was offering a strategic alliance with Jordan, that she would not allow Jordan’s security to be jeopardized in this region, and that her country is increasing its assistance to its strategic ally. The politicians would say that the American talk has to do with American policies in the region. This is true, but what could our country give to a country whose policy is to raid this region with its armies and to which everyone hurries to please? Even if we argue that the United States needs Jordan, then there is no shame in that, because it means that we have something that America needs. One who has a source of power should never apologize for it…. Mrs. Rice’s visit to Jordan was very comfortable for her. People heard her utter clear criticism of Israel’s settlement policies, offer us a strategic alliance, and say that Jordan’s reform is exemplary.”
"The 'Black American Tulip'"
Saleh Qallab in semi-official influential Al-Rai wrote (6/21): “When the U.S. Secretary of State praises Jordan’s reform and considers it a model to be followed in the region, and when she says that her country refuses to have the interests of Jordan be jeopardized, she is not being courteous at all. She is relaying the U.S. administration’s point of view. There are those marginal groups of people who thought that Jordan is facing a crisis with Washington, and thus have doubled their instigation efforts by providing the American press with fabricated and fake reports with the aim of encouraging American pressure against this country to force it to give up its principles. All campaigns launched by the American tabloids against Jordan are based on reports submitted by these marginal groups and parasitic persons who think that they can achieve their sickly dreams by inviting American pressures against Jordan and making it like some other Arab countries in the region. What is disgusting about this is the fact that some of the names that appeared in the articles of these American tabloids are ones who market themselves as being the knights of the confrontation with the United States, the proponents of anti-normalization with America and the pioneers of boycotting America in everything.... These sources thought that the American ‘black tulip’ is coming to unleash poisonous snakes against Jordan. These people should melt away in shame now that they have heard what Condoleezza Rice had to say.”
Sultan Hattab writes on the op-ed page of semi-official, influential Arabic daily Al-Rai (6/21): “When Rice links the American desired reform with the American efforts in Iraq towards a free Iraq and with the American efforts in Palestine towards a two-state solution, then Rice’s words about reform would require tangible credibility, because the reform of this region cannot happen unless there is a just solution for the Palestinian-Israeli struggle. In Palestine, Rice spoke about the roadmap. Sharon, however, is on a different sheet of music as he talks about a different way of redeployment from Gaza, about a different viewpoint of settlements, and as he hinders all components for a possible and practical solution.... In Egypt, Rice discussed the Egyptian elections and spoke in detail about electioneering, maps, candidates and methods, as if she were setting an Egyptian elections law.... In Jordan, her evaluation for Jordan’s achievements was very positive.... Rice’s ‘certifications’ are the important thing now. Those she cited have won, and those she did not cite are waiting to pay a huge cost. The regimes in the region are no longer able to run to the people, since the cost they must now pay is the very consequence of the way they have dealt with their people.... Rice knows Arab courteousness. What she said in [Arab] capitals she visited was not marked by the same bluntness that she used in Moscow and China as she sought to speak to the people of these two countries through their regimes. In the Arab capitals, she wanted to make her hosts listen, because she knows that the Arab people’s stand is marked by hatred for the American policy; hatred caused by that policy’s bias in favor of Israel and a policy that drove the people of this region away from their regimes. So she opted to ease her criticism of the Arab internal policies … because when she goes back home, she will use American media to cast stones at the Arab regimes’ glass. Rice’s words against the Arab regimes seems to be the harshest because she is finding that the dough of Arab regimes is beginning to form under American pressure, even if Iraq does not become free and Palestine does not become a viable state!”
Centrist, influential among the elite English-language Jordan Times editorialized (6/21): "Secretary Rice’s visit to the region should provide impetus to the stalled peace process in the Middle East. All signs indicate that the peace drive is not only stalled but threatened to cease entirely unless the projected talks between Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas bear fruit. Sharon still insists that Abbas disarm all the Palestinian militant factions operating on Palestinian soil and destroy their infrastructure. Abbas is on record as unwilling or unable to do that for fear that such a move against Palestinian militants would provoke a bloody civil war.... Hamas and other Palestinian hardliners declared their unwillingness to lay down arms until they see real progress on the ground. It is a vicious circle that no side is willing break.... The search for a just and durable peace in the Middle East needs a powerful thrust and that, it is no secret, can only come from Washington. It may, therefore, require more than a visit or two by the secretary of state to the region, and genuine desire and effort to help find a solution, before peace finally comes in our midst.”
LEBANON: "Can Rice Sweet Away The Cobwebs That Have Distracted Us From Reform?"
English-language Daily Star editorialized (6/21): " The people of the region appreciate Rice's effort as they know that this kind of heavy spring cleaning is long overdue. Even the most entrenched and stale regimes of the region seem to begrudgingly acknowledge that democratic reform is the best path toward greater stability and prosperity. But what many Arabs are left wondering is what will become of one of their most cherished causes while they are busy scrubbing and polishing their own societies, i.e., what will become of the Palestinians and their long unresolved ambition for a Palestinian state. Many Arab leaders have admittedly used the conflict as a justification for avoiding the chore of democratic reform. But that doesn't negate the fact that most Arabs still care about this cause and believe that its resolution is a fundamental key to the region's progress. The United States has expressed a commitment to democratic reform in the Middle East, but we ask, will Washington take on the tasks of securing Gaza and the West Bank for a Palestinian state? We are busy re-examining our societies, and this process of self-reflection, which has been encouraged by the U.S. administration, deserves all of our attention. We cannot allow ourselves to get distracted from the tasks at hand. So we ask, can Rice channel all of her energy into ensuring the creation of a Palestinian state this year, as called for in the "road map" to peace? Can she sweep away the cobwebs of conflict that have for so long distracted us from our progress? Rice has proven herself unafraid to take on any challenge and although the task of mediating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be difficult, we hope that she will confront it with the same energy she has brought with her to promote America's reform drive. And with peace in this part of the world, the path toward a more stable, participatory, accountable and free Middle East will be a much easier journey.
AUSTRALIA: "U.S. Prefers Liberty To Stability, Rice Warns Client Rulers"
Mohammad Bazi in Liberal Sydney Morning Herald noted (6/22): “Throughout the Middle East, the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty. It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy” featured in a bolded pull quote. Bazi observed, “She singled out regular US targets Syria and Iran but also criticized the US's two staunchest Arab allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for imprisoning dissidents and restricting free speech.... By choosing to make the speech in Egypt - the most populous Arab country and the second-largest recipient of US economic and military aid in the world, after Israel - Dr Rice appeared to be sending a message to US allies that they could not stall reform indefinitely.... She urged Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, to stick to his pledge to hold the country's first multi-party elections in September. She did not address complaints that the election system requires permission from the ruling party to run against it. Critics say that effectively prevents any serious challenge to Mr Mubarak. But Dr Rice did criticize attacks on opposition activists. She also took a swipe at Mr Mubarak's ruling of Egypt under emergency laws since 1981. The laws restrict free speech, ban public gatherings and give Egypt's security services sweeping powers.”
CHINA: "From 'Spring Of Freedom' to Unendurable Summer"
Huang Peizhao in official Communist Party People's Daily commented (6/21): "It is the Bush administration’s policy to popularize ‘western democracy’ and promote ‘American style values’ in the Middle East. Consequently, the United States is implementing a policy of ‘different treatment’ and ‘dividing and demoralizing’ in the Middle East in order to gain what it wants. For instance, Secretary Rice complimented Jordan, Bahrain and Morocco; both criticized and encouraged Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and at the same time increased it’s suppression of Iran and Syria. The United States made it known that it hopes to overthrow these two countries as soon as possible. Reforming the Middle East is the United States’ most ambitious project. Secretary Rice is working hard on this project. However, the White House "think tank" must realize that such an extraordinary reform project cannot possibly be accomplished in one action. Everyone knows that in the summer the Middle East is broiling and unendurable, so no matter how capable and talented Secretary Rice is, the ‘Spring of Freedom’ will never come to the Middle East.”
“Rice’s Trip Is Disappointing”
Xu Qisheng in official intellectual publication Guangming Daily noted (6/21): "Secretary Rice’s visit to the Middle East is obviously designed to express U.S. support for Israel’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and to urge Palestine to cooperate during the withdrawal process. Palestinian officials believe that Rice did not say anything new and thus were disappointed with her visit. Many Palestinians wonder what are the United States’ real intentions. These Palestinians believe that Secretary Rice just came to help Israel. Analysts indicate that Palestine and Israel long ago started negotiations on a withdrawal plan. But the analysts differ on why there has been no resolution of this problem. The two sides will maintain their own views when meeting with Rice. It seems as if Rice’s trip will also not resolve this issue.”"
PAKISTAN: "America's Political And Religious Reforms"
Second largest nationalist Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt commented (6/24): "Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal has said that Saudi Arabia, the home of most sacred Islamic cities, cannot accept externally imposed reforms. He said so in a meeting with Secretary Rice in Riyadh. Later, with a reference to the Secretary of State's Cairo speech, the Saudi Foreign Minister said that the people of any country are the best judge for political reforms in that country. About the three political prisoners, Prince Saud Al Faisal said that these people are in the custody of court of law and not the Government. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not only interfering in the affairs of U.S. ally countries, but also working to bring such changes therein that the people of these countries don’t like.... U.S. President has been hysterical since 9/11 and all the Muslim countries are an eyesore for him.... America has also opened propaganda front against Pakistan vis-à-vis Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. It is a strange combination of friendship and animosity. Every Pakistani knows that America is the worst enemy, who could never be trusted.... America wants to introduce 'Islam' of its choice in the world and it had labeled as religious and political reforms its campaign against Islam."
"Condoleezza Rice And Democracy"
Ataur Rehman in second largest nationalist Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt opined (6/24): "Secretary Rice paid attention to two issues during her recent trip of the Middle East. She focused on a workable agreement between Palestinian Authority and Israeli government in order have the peace roadmap implemented and secondly she focused on democracy in Arab countries, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia.... Condoleezza Rice visit did not succeed and the reason for that was while America can browbeat Palestinian Authority and make it accept even unworkable demands, it can't make Israeli government take some solid and meaningful action for peace. America does not question Israel's stubbornness rather it tries to conceal Israeli shenanigans and presents justifications of Israeli actions.... America plays the role of an imperialist power by occupying Iraq while it sings the democracy song aloud.... New York Times report says that White House has decided to promote American Commander and responsible of Abu Ghuraib events, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, for the reason that the criticism on Abu Ghuraib has subsided. This is an example of the actual thinking of American rulers. No matter what sermons Condoleezza Rice delivers before the Arab audience, her country's dual character would continue to expose the reality.... However, she would not be disappointed as far as Mukhtaran Mai's fundamental rights are concerned."
"The American Dilemma"
In the center-right national English-language The Nation M.A. Niazi wrote (6/24): "Secretary Rice’s recent statement about the need for democracy in the Middle East highlights the whole dilemma of U.S. policy towards the Muslim world, and also points out how an apparent means of liberation is intended as a tool for domination, because ‘democracy’ in the Ricean dictionary is not about freedom of choice or popular sovereignty, but about acceptance of capitalism and the capitalist status quo. There is no real need to re-state the case for American pragmatism in dealing with regimes with which it differs ideologically.... Therefore, the dilemma was seen as the U.S. claiming to protect states from Communist oppression by propping up regimes equally repressive. However, there was no inherent contradiction: the U.S. did not prop up any socialistic regimes. The dictators, whether military or monarchic, all were characterized by a commitment to capitalism.... However, democracy is a dangerous path for the USA to adopt in the dictatorial Middle East. In states without a democratic tradition, and thus with poorly developed political parties, who would benefit? Those with an anti-American agenda, which means mostly Islamists. It is a safe bet that, if there was a full-fledged election in Saudi Arabia, for example, the contest would essentially be between supporters of the Saudi dynasty and Islamists. And it is quite possible that the Islamists’ symbol would be none other than Usama bin Laden.... This shows how the USA has got itself stuck. It wants to deal with the Muslim world, but it has created the impression that it is anti-Islam and anti-Muslim. How it has done so, whether this is correct or not, and whether it is justified, are not relevant to Muslim political behavior at this point. What is relevant is that anti-Americanism has been equated, both by the Americans and by the Muslim world, with Islam. For Muslims, the most convenient vehicle for anti-American sentiment has become using an Islamic discourse. Therefore, Islamist groups have increased their appeal, especially in those parts of the Muslim world where political discourse is restricted by the state. This causes a Catch-22 situation for the U.S...."
IRAN: "The American Secretary Of State Wondering Around The Region"
Mohamad Kazem Anbarlouie in conservative Resalat opined (6/22): "In [Rice's] speech, she called Iran's election nondemocratic and said: "The people of Iran are losing patience with their government"(!) For us to think that Ms. Rice has nothing to do in Washington and has just taken on the difficulty of traveling from one capital to the next in the Middle East only to come out with political ramblings is being simplistic. She has come to the region "seeking democracy" based on the American interpretation and is carrying it on her tiny back. Some inside the country are helping and joining her in carrying this flag. Under this flag the Americans are preparing a crisis in Iran. They were slapped very hard in the first round of the elections and are not sitting around idly in the second round. They are dreaming of velvet and orange revolutions, even though these dreams will not come true; but vigilance and care by the people and the elite is necessary. It seems that the Americans had plans for both of the selections who made it into the second round. Fortunately, their plans for the selections, that they thought would be crisis-making, failed. Now, the two people who reached the second round do not have the capacity that, if one of them is elected, those who take orders from Washington would be able to carry out an orange or yellow or... revolution as they refer to it.... Sixty years from now the American Secretary of State may be forced to admit that the U.S. interpretation of democracy and freedom had not been correct and that they were always mistaken. Just as they admitted today that they were supporting dictators during the past 60 years!
CAMEROON: "Condoleezza Rice, Peace and Democracy Missionary"
The Douala-based pro-opposition daily La Nouvelle Expression commented (6/20): “Since last weekend, the boss of U.S. diplomacy has been mediating between Palestinians and Israelis for peace and to facilitate the withdrawal of troops from the Gaza. Other foci of the trip are the Iranian presidential elections Secretary Rice's forthcoming visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. After having met last Saturday with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mammoud Abbas, the U.S. Secretary of State yesterday met in a tête-à-tête with Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Mr. Sharon reiterated his determination to concretize promises made to see to a lasting solution of peace between Palestine and Israel. It is to this effect that hundreds of Palestinians who were prisoners in Israel have been freed. Sharon has also agreed to look into the withdrawal of Israelis from Gaza by the end of August, which is going to be an uphill task, because the thousands of Jews living there see this as a betrayal by Sharon. Confrontation between the Israelis military and the recalcitrant Jewish community in the Gaza, is imminent. Condoleezza came to support Sharon in this difficult endeavor and to encourage him to take decisions that will be in the best interest of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. ...The Bush administration is in favor of an independent Palestinian State."
MOROCCO: "Reform And Democracy According To Rice"
Ahmed Fekkar in French-language daily Le Matin editorialized (6/24): "Secretary Rice did not go easy on America’s once-faithful allies in the Middle East. In Cairo, she argued in favor of greater democracy in the Middle East, stating that fear of free choices can no longer justify denying freedom.... Can one contradict the remarks made by the first lady of American diplomacy? Certainly not. On the other hand, it is important to open the debate on America’s true intentions in the region.... The head of American diplomacy dug deep in her diplomatic repertoire to find eloquent words to cloak her deadly insinuations with regards to the Husni Mubarak regime.... She attempted to contradict the arguments of heads of state of the region according which liberty and democracy will lead to social unrest, to violence and to an erosion of moral principles.... But Mrs. Rice forgot to speak about the other countries of the region to the east and the west of Egypt where the new presidents allied to Washington continue to govern without sharing power.”
"Rice And Democracy"
Driss Aissaoui in semi-official Assahara commented (6/22): "Secretary Rice has chosen Egypt for launching a strongly-worded appeal for establishing the pillars of a free world in this region.... It seems that Rice's remarks, made at the American University in Cairo, are meant to advance the U.S. Administration's campaign to impose the foundations of a system for managing the political affairs of the Middle East, an approach that differs from the usual diplomatic methods. It appears that the U.S. official has come to the region determined to implement the project to impose America's repressive hegemonic aspirations on the region.... This kind of rhetoric from the U.S. Secretary of State requires us to be cautious about new approaches by the U.S. to impose its world vision on the countries of this region. In the future, we may find ourselves confronted with a new era of colonial conquests hiding behind the pretext of spreading democracy, ‘liberating’ Arab citizens and ‘safeguarding’ their dignity under the protection of American rifles."
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