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March 11, 2004
GREATER MIDDLE EAST INITIATIVE: 'ESSENTIAL' REFORMS CANNOT BE 'IMPOSED'

March 11, 2004

GREATER MIDDLE EAST INITIATIVE: 'ESSENTIAL' REFORMS CANNOT BE 'IMPOSED'

KEY FINDINGS

** Rightist writers, moderate Arabs back the "vast plan to democratize the Muslim world."

** The Arab world must adopt its "own model of democracy," not one "imposed by the outside."

** Critics warn that U.S. policy towards Iraq, Israel and Arab allies "lessens" its credibility.

** Hardline papers dismiss the initiative and its "hidden American intentions for hegemony."

MAJOR THEMES

Outside assistance is needed for 'comprehensive reform'-- "Reforms, human rights and pluralism are in fact genuine needs" said outlets that hoped the GMEI would lead to an "economically, politically and socially vibrant Middle East." Turkish writers acknowledged U.S. pressure must substitute for the region's lack of an "engine for internal reform"; France's left-of-center Liberation termed the initiative "basically sound." Elite Arab outlets dismissed critics who used "Arab dignity as a pretext" to reject the GMEI. Egypt's state-run Akhbar-al-Yawm added that demands for "linkage" between reforms and a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute seek to "delay reform and put off changes indefinitely."

Arabs 'want democracy,' but reform 'has to come from within'-- Muslim writers urged "reforms that do not threaten the sovereignty of Arabs or harm their interests," as no foreign power should "impose political, economic and administrative reforms." Turkey's mass appeal Milliyet advised that any plan to "implement reforms through outside pressure is a cause for skepticism." Saudi, Lebanese and Moroccan dailies opined that the "specific characteristics" of the "great Arab civilization" make it "capable...of rebuilding its institutions" on its own. Papers perceived a U.S. belief that its "own democracy model" can be "mass produced," with Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Yaum warning that "democratic systems are not commodities for export."

The U.S. should focus on 'solving the main Arab questions'-- A Kuwaiti observer said the GMEI's "basic shortcoming" is that it "totally ignored" both the Palestinian issue and Iraq. Jordan's semi-official Al-Rai added that if the U.S. reined in "Israeli aggression" and allowed a "major role for the UN in Iraq," it would "reap landslide support" for the initiative. The "conspicuous absence" of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the plan is its "principal defect," agreed one Pakistani daily, while a Palestinian writer cited the "failure" of U.S. "ideas on reform and democracy" in Iraq as a sign of the GMEI's "futility." Other skeptics cited opposition to the plan from local "despotic regimes" which "U.S. policy has always vehemently supported."

The U.S. aims to 'acquire dominance' with the 'master plan to overhaul the region'-- Syrian and Chinese dailies assailed the GMEI as a "wild fantasy" that aims at "imposing hegemony on the entire globe to complete building an American empire." Syria's government-owned Tishreen alleged the plan will "destroy Muslim beliefs" and leave the region "wide open for the greater Zionist initiative." Moroccan and Lebanese observers argued the GMEI seeks to "melt away" the "Arab and Islamic cultural heritage." Tunisia's independent Le Temps blasted the initiative's "hypocritical messianism," but nonetheless hoped it would "shake Arabs into action" on reforms "before a foreign side takes over the work instead."

EDITOR: Ben Goldberg

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis was based on 89 reports from 22 countries over 25 February - 11 March 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "Platform"

Adam Bruce wrote in the Edinburgh-based conservative Scotsman (3/9): "The intention of the current U.S. administration to bring real change to the Middle East goes far beyond its intervention in Iraq.... This pattern of intervention can be seen most clearly in the Bush administration's plans to tackle the structural weaknesses in the body politic of the Middle East. President Bush intends to put the Middle East at the heart of his campaign for a second term. His plan, the 'Greater Middle East Initiative' is highly ambitious and challenges decades of received wisdom on the region.... The plan has received the immediate backing of the German government. There will, of course, be obstacles. However, governments in the Middle East will realise that, unlike previous U.S. administrations, this one is committed to achieving real reform, and will not be satisfied with ad hoc solutions and warm words. Libya's volte-face on WMD, and the very recent progress towards elections in Iraq, are indicative of long-term change in the region. The Helsinki Accords were an important stage on the road to the ending of communism and the Cold War. The Bush plan may just be as important a stage on the road to an economically, politically and socially vibrant Middle East."

FRANCE: "Thinking About The Middle East"

Claude Imbert noted in right-of-center weekly Le Point (3/11): "The best observatory for the most explosive region of the globe, the Middle East, is the Club de Monaco, led by Boutros Boutros Ghali. The group met recently and concluded that between the West and the Arab-Muslim world, there was no time to lose. And that the intervention in Iraq has put an end to the region's status quo: history is once again on the move.... Everyone agrees about the hyperbolic role of the U.S. Everyone also agrees that we must wait until January 2005 and the new 'American Caesar' and a possibly decisive window of opportunity. Before that, the status is that in Iraq, America the liberator has found itself to be America the occupant.... Insecurity in Iraq attracts foreign terrorists. Fueled by the media, the attacks galvanize Arab public opinion, if not the regimes themselves...which all know that an explosion in Iraq would export the fires outside Iraq's boundaries.... Next comes President Bush's initiative for the Greater Middle East.... His plan concerns a very mixed region whose only common denominator is Islam.... What is Bush's intent? To come out winning from the Iraqi quagmire in an election year? Or to lead the West into a colossal adventure to 'civilize' an explosive region?.... The diagnosis made by the U.S. is indeed cruel but also, alas, valid.... At the center one finds the Gordian knot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.... The Geneva initiative would need a little push from the international community. An impossibility in the context of the American election.... We will have to wait and see if a new American wildcard can set things back on track next November.... Meanwhile everyone agrees that the end of the war is the preamble for appeasement in the Arab-Islamic world. The only way to make certain that the worst doesn't happen."

"Bush's Wager"

Jacques Amalric contended in left-of-center Liberation (3/11): "Considering America's difficulties in Iraq, the new initiative for the Greater Middle East looks very much like a wager. Unless it is simply a way to pacify public opinion during an election campaign.... The democratization goals of the initiative are in principle basically undisputable. In fact, along with security measures, they represent a fundamental aspect of the fight against terrorism.... Unfortunately President Bush's message was received by many of the leaders to whom it was addressed as a direct threat. The confidential remarks made by Paul Wolfowitz to European interlocutors to the effect that the Greater Middle East needed to be a remake of the Helsinki agreements did not help.... To the extent that the only common denominator shared by the countries involved is the Muslim religion, must one draw the conclusion that the enemy is Islam? The concern of the regimes in question was re-enforced by the fact that the U.S. did not take into account each country's individuality and put together the initiative without consultations.... But what the initiative is lacking is that it ignores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.... It is totally unrealistic to believe that the fight against radical Islam will score any points as long as the cancer continues to spread.... Washington's wait-and-see attitude discredits the Greater Middle East initiative not only in the eyes of the region's leaders, but also in the eyes of European leaders, beginning with the French.... Hence the Franco-German initiative, presented as complementary to Washington's plan, but which is in reality a more in depth version of the Barcelona process."

"Bush Sees Big For The Middle East"

Pascal Riche stated in left-of-center Liberation (3/9): "The Americans are eager to hear the conclusions of the conference of Arab intellectuals meeting in Alexandria on reforming the Middle East. They hope the outcome of the conference will help to de-dramatize current discussions on the Greater Middle East.... The GME has generated a wave of mistrust from Arab countries which see the initiative as a way for the U.S. to impose its hegemony in the region, while making everyone forget its inability to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. America's political second thoughts are clear to everyone.... But no one questions the diagnosis made by the U.S.... The goals that the U.S. has set are basically sound and hardly open to criticism. Similarly, the financial commitment made by Washington cannot be pushed aside. But the U.S. administration is going about it with extreme clumsiness, upsetting everyone on the way.... In their diplomatic conversations U.S. advisors have compared the GME initiative to what was achieved in the Soviet Union.... The parallel between Islam and communism, an enemy ideology, is not appreciated.... By omitting certain important Arab nations, Under-Secretary Grossman has triggered unhappy feelings. Faced with a possible stalemate, Europe is urging Washington to let the Arab countries themselves take the lead, and to increase its pressure on Israel.... The only thing that will render the GME initiative credible is a firm effort for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But because of the presidential election President Bush, who is counting on the Jewish voters, is not about to take any risks regarding his stand on Israel."

"Egypt's Warning"

Left-of-center Le Monde opined (3/6): "Hosni Mubarak is on a European tour, almost as the spokesman for the Arab world.... Mubarak will discuss.... America's plans for the Greater Middle East. While this project of reform and 'democratization' can have some meaning for a U.S. administration which is totally taken up by 'its war on terrorism' and its occupation of Iraq, the region that it is targeting presents no unity other than that of belonging to Islam. Most of all, the concept has raised harsh opposition from all the regimes in place, which for the most part owe their longevity to the U.S., a country that until now showed little interest for human rights in the Arab world. This is why it is safe to say that their opposition to this process of 'democratization' is a way of insuring their livelihood in the face of growing public discontent. This is only partly true. As always in the Middle East, things are neither simple nor unequivocal. A solution imposed from the outside, and from Washington, which is unpopular, will always be considered unacceptable by Arab nationalism. But most of all, no solution to the political, diplomatic, economic and social problems of the Arab world can be achieved, unless a solution is found for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this crisis does not enter into account in the American plan, while it raises anger and hate in the region.... The answer from Arab nations to Washington's plan is that not only public opinion will never accept an American diktat, but that each country needs time to make its own reforms, 'a process that can take from a year to four years,' as Mubarak has indicated. Unfortunately we all know how little we can count on such promises. Should we give one more chance to these regimes, or should we impose a single model, concocted by the American right? It would probably be better to help them make the necessary changes, especially since they are now aware that their existence is on the line. But they have little time left."

"Washington Wants NATO to Get Involved in the Greater Middle East"

Alexandrine Bouilhet stated in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/4): "In its grand plan to reform the Arab-Muslim world, Washington wants NATO to play a major role. This sensitive issue, a source of renewed tension between the Americans and the Europeans, was raised for the first time officially yesterday in Brussels.... The Italian Foreign Minister, who relayed America's desire, spoke in favor a larger involvement of the Alliance in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and beyond in the Middle East.... Washington's 'NATO role' in its strategy for the Greater Middle East is still in its beginning stages.... Before the Istanbul summit next June, the U.S. needs to convince its allies.... For the time being the EU remains watchful, while France and Germany are very skeptical about the American plan. The Franco-German couple thinks it is 'clumsy' and maybe even 'dangerous' to brandish NATO's flag in the region. The transatlantic discussion will be all the more difficult because Paris and Berlin have drafted their own proposal for the region, which competes with Washington's.... They emphasize the need for economic and social development, as opposed to Washington's 'all-security' aspect of the plan. The Franco-German proposal reduces NATO's role to its minimum...and gives preeminence to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

"Why The U.S. Wants To Democratize The Muslim World"

Luc de Barochez observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/4): "The U.S. is determined to democratize the Muslim world because it is convinced that the frustrations of Arab society seriously threaten America's national security.... The U.S. has warned its European and Japanese allies that it is their intention to enroll them in a vast plan to democratize the Muslim world.... The plan is apparently to continue with pacific means what was begun in Iraq in a more violent manner. One of America's top Middle East experts, Edward Djerejian, explains that Washington's interests are at stake because the Islamic radicals have identified the U.S. with pro-American Muslim regimes.... Djerejian has nevertheless cautioned President Bush in the implementation of the plan: 'If we try to impose our views or go about this with threats, we will not succeed.... We must adapt our ideas to the cultures of the Middle East.'"

GERMANY: "The Moment Of Strategists"

Stefan Kornelius declared in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/10): "The West is finally combating the core of the terror threat.... This Greater Middle East Initiative is indeed a reasonable idea, even though it is not a blue print for a new world order. It also doesn't drop in value if it just proves that the U.S. altered its attitude and discovered a range of means for dealing with other states in fear of the upcoming election. This initiative has the potential to extinguish the most dangerous global fire right where it started by containing the modernization crisis in Arab societies and the civilization conflict with the West: a Marshall Plan for the Arab world, a huge project of understanding and reconciliation. These are noble goals, which is the reason why the initiative might be overkill, but even more realistic is the danger that the Arab world will not accept the idea, because it finds it humiliating.... First of all, the Greater Middle East Initiative is a device of transatlantic healing. The deficits of strategic analysis and joint action after 9/11 culminated in the Iraq war one year ago. It put a huge burden on the West and damaged its institutions severely. The initiative is the first project both sides were able to agree on after the crisis. The danger is that it becomes only a tool of transatlantic agreement, although the Arab world should be the partner."

"Alliance Of Warning Men"

Christian Schewennicke wrote in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/5): "It does not exist--the magic formula which could resolve the bloody conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and could also pacify Iraq. But Washington is at least trying to make a virtue out of this necessity: the vague 'Greater Middle East' initiative should somehow help stabilize the vast mass of land between Marrakesh and Bangladesh. But thus far, the United States has left open how this miracle is to succeed. This is a reason why there have been suspicions in Europe and the Middle East that the move of the Bush administration mainly aims at the election campaign at home. But the governments in Paris and Berlin have not taken up the idea and called in a six-page paper upon their European partners to develop their own ideas for the crisis region.... Many of the things Foreign Ministers Fischer and de Villepin have written down point to the right direction.... But if the governments in Paris and Berlin say that, without a peaceful solution for the Middle East, all efforts would be in vain, then this also means: The EU will be able to progress in the Middle East only in cooperation with the United States. But it is very likely that there will be only little movement in Washington before the November elections."

"A Strategy For The Middle East"

Stephan Kornelius argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/3): "In the year of election the American president is working on a magic formula to liberate him from all foreign policy problems. This magic formula is called Greater Middle East Initiative. The strategy is indeed so broadly based that one can have doubts whether it will be successful. A giant Marshall Plan for education, development, democratization and liberalization of the Arab world certainly sounds great, but it will not flourish as long as the U.S. ignores the biggest problem in the Middle East, which is the cause of many problems: the Israeli-Palestine conflict. A great strategy by Bush's government will only be credible and helpful in the election campaign if it does exclude Israel and Palestine from the agenda for tactical reasons. However, this does not seem to be possible--because there is an election campaign."

BELGIUM: "Not Indifferent"

Baudouin Loos noted in left-of-center Le Soir (3/5): "Arab populations are probably not indifferent to the idea of promoting democracy and freedoms. Of course, like their leaders--whose concern is maintaining stability and keeping their privileges--Arab people react with distrust on whatever comes from the U.S., which is being criticized for what it is doing in Iraq and not doing in Palestine. But they have been living under totalitarian regimes for so many years that any change, even suggested by Washington, arouses interest, at least among intellectuals. The latter know very well that reforms are becoming increasingly urgent in an Arab world that has been ossified by unpopular authoritarian regimes. As for the Europeans, they can rightfully be bitter: they have constantly said that the development of the Southern Mediterranean region had to be a priority and they have devoted a hundred times more money than the Americans intend to do since 1995 when they launched the Barcelona process. But they did not achieve many results in terms of democracy, for lack of sufficient pressure. It is very likely that the American initiative will lead to similarly disappointing results. Especially if malicious people are right, those who claim that the U.S. is only doing a shameful PR operation, in order to first and foremost make people forget about their problems in Iraq and to improve its image in the region."

"Actual Suggestions"

Foreign editor Gerald Papy remarked in independent La Libre Belgique (3/5): "What does the American plan recommend? Broadly speaking, it insists on the importance of democratizing regimes, of reforming education to prevent fundamentalists from controlling it, of promoting women's rights, and of liberalizing trade. Actually, seen from the West, these are all honorable principles. But the project has two weaknesses. First it appears as being imposed from abroad, and it does not address the fundamental question for the Arab world, i.e. solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.... One should not exclude that some Arab countries are criticizing the American plan in order to prevent any reform and to maintain dictatorial regimes in place, just like requiring a preliminary solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has often been used as an excuse for the same purpose. Still, the European approach--based on negotiations and on the facilitation of reforms from within--can seem more efficient in the long term. But nevertheless, the American Greater Middle East project has at least the merit of opening the debate and of perhaps already leading to an evolution of mentalities, even before its official presentation."

TURKEY: "A Model For The Middle East"

Mehmet Barlas held in mass appeal Sabah (3/8): "It would be absolutely wrong to oppose the U.S. goals for the Middle East, i.e. bringing democracy and human rights to the region. Instead, Turkey should evaluate and analyze its role in this project. The effort to establish an ethnic and sectarian balance among different groups has complicated the situation in Iraq. However, attempts to bring democracy to the greater Middle East should not be hindered by such considerations. For instance, it would be very wrong to take Turkey as an example of moderation and modern Islam. From the very beginning, the Turkish Republic has always pursued a segregation of state and religion, and to a great extent this approach has succeeded. The Turkish people are predominantly Muslim, but the state model is secular. Turkey is on its way to join the EU but not with its 'moderate Islamic' identity, but rather with its 'secular and democratic' identity. The US should have a clear vision about these concepts before working toward its goals for the Middle East."

"The Chances Of The GME Initiative's Being Useful"

Cuneyt Ulsever opined in mass appeal Hurriyet (3/4): "The Greater Middle East project has a chance to produce major change in the Middle East as long as the following facts are recognized. First of all, Arabs should admit the need for change and also should be able to admit their shortcomings in creating the internal dynamics for reform. Secondly, the U.S. should realize that democracy is not an export or import 'good,' and that welfare and order cannot possibly be imposed on others. Iraq stands as valid proof of that.... We still don't know about the methods the U.S. will use for implementing its GME initiative. Yet there seems to be one rational way of doing it--that is, by devoting Arab resources toward human development goals. Investment in human capital is a must for the implementation of this project, and the project's success depends on the level of human and social progress.... On the other hand, the despotic regimes in this very region have so far managed to survive with U.S. support. They have always refrained from educating their people, and they have considered public ignorance as a virtue. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how they will be persuaded to change."

"The Chances Of Success For The GME Project"

Sami Kohen commented in mass appeal Milliyet (3/4): "Undersecretary Grossman launched a promotional tour for the GME project, but the timing does not provide him a good opportunity for success in his mission. The recent attacks in Iraq once again proved that the balance of the region is fragile and can be turned upside-down any moment. Grossman also did not hear encouraging statements in the countries he visited, particularly in Egypt. Egyptian leader Mubarek's remarks about the GME are a clear indication that the Arab world will keep its distance from the initiative.... Turkey prefers to remain an observer without taking any binding stance on the project. This is the right approach for Turkey, because it gives time to observe the reactions from other countries and wait until the draft project becomes more mature. The project has some attractive goals that nobody can argue with, such as democratization and implementation of economic reforms and social development. It remains wishful thinking to believe that these changes will happen by themselves, yet the fact of the matter is that there is no real leadership in the Middle East.... Mubarek was right when he talked about the need for internal progress by emphasizing that a transition to democracy cannot happen by pushing a button. But it is also apparent that there is no real engine for internal reform."

"Greater Middle East"

Hasan Cemal concluded in mass appeal Milliyet (3/4): "The US has not finalized its plan for the GME, but the process of gathering reaction and opinions from US allies continues. It seems that France and Germany have decided to work together to shape a joint plan. The Arab world, on the other hand, is apparently very disturbed about developments. Turkey is still debating its possible role and influence on this issue. Yet there is no single opinion in Ankara, and also no game plan. According to circles close to Foreign Minister Gul as well as sources within the MFA, there is a concern about how the project will be implemented. Everybody agrees on the need for reforms in this region, but a plan to implement reforms through outside pressure is a cause for skepticism.... Turkish experts also believe that the US will eventually work together with the EU to shape a well-balanced and workable model for the Middle East. When it comes to regional issues, including the Palestine issue, Turkey generally aligns itself with EU views rather than the U.S.... In sum, the GME project has been accepted in Turkey as a concept. It remains to be seen where and how the project's goals will be reached."

"Turkey Getting On Greater Middle East State Stage"

Sedat Ergin observed in the mass appeal Hurriyet (3/2): "Prime Minister Erdogan focused on human rights, supremacy of law, and democratization in his meeting with President Bush at the White House last January.... Erdogan gave Bush the message that the U.S. should launch its Middle East initiative via Turkey.... Ankara's views on this initiative are not in accordance with the tough policies pursued by the Bush administration thus far. MFA U/S Ugur Ziyal said in Washington that in order to make modernization, liberalization, and democratization in the Greater Middle East a reality, institutions must not be destroyed, but strengthened through evolution.... In a speech at Harvard University, Erdogan invited the U.S. to gain the trust of the people of the region, and added that change in the region should be carried out by gentle methods. This is the point where the problem lies. The Bush administration does not believe in gentle methods, and is destroying institutions in Iraq. The Bush administration lacks the confidence required to succeed in this project."

"Greater Middle East"

Hasan Cemal commented in the mass appeal Milliyet (3/2): "The Americans' Greater Middle East is a Muslim region.... Washington believes that global terror is rooted in this Muslim region.... Muslim countries in the region must be introduced to democracy, because it is religious regimes, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, or authoritarian regimes, such as Syria, that are feeding terror.... Terror channels will be blocked to the extent that these countries are democratized and integrated into the world.... The GME project cannot be regarded solely as an initiative related to oil and Israel.... Europe, with its Muslim population of 14 million, cannot remain aloof to changes of regime in this region in a post-9/11 world. Germany's Schroeder has agreed in principle with President Bush on the GME project.... Turkey's door will be knocked on as well, just as [Undersecretary for Political Affairs] Marc Grossman is currently knocking on the doors of the EU, Turkey and a number of Arab countries."

"The Giant Plot"

Asli Aydintasbas wrote from Washington in mass appeal Sabah (3/1): "Washington believes that the present situation in the Middle East cannot continue. When there is no democracy, there is terror and violence. Dictators are not good either from economic or from the political angle. For the U.S.' and for the world's safety, democracy, freedom of expression, and free markets are a must. President Bush already shared this thesis with PM Erdogan, and the basics or the initiatives will be announced to the world during the G-8 and NATO summits in June. So far nothing is ready; staff members in every unit of the government are trying to fill in the details. According to news leaked to 'Al Hayat', the goal is to take the Arab Development Reports (prepared by the UN Development program) as a base, and to complete the three missing issues in the Middle East: information, education, and the participation of women. Which country do you think is the inspiration for GME?. Yes, you are right, of course, it is Turkey."

"The Greater Middle East And The Women"

Ferai Tinc opined in the mass appeal Hurriyet (3/1): "Washington has been discussing the greater Middle East project with its European allies for some time.... After the missing parts of this concept are filled by Europe, President Bush will announce the master plan of this project during the G-8 and the NATO summits. When we look at the ongoing discussions in international platforms, the U.S. is planning to support democracy in the Middle East with the same method applied in the Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The women's rights issue is a very important part of this initiative. In order to support the democratization process, President Bush will call for coordination on the following issues: deepened political coordination, more aid (Marshal Plan is taken as an example); efforts to ease membership in the World Trade Organization, and security coordination. Turkey becomes a 'front line country' in this democratization process. That is what the U.S. officials say. For the time being, these are the basics of this project. I'll let you fill the details."

"Greater Middle East, NATO And Turkey"

Kemal Yavuz commented in the mass appeal, sensational Aksam (2/25): "NATO is on the verge of assuming new areas of responsibility under the title the 'Greater Middle East' initiative. The U.S. considers the Middle East as a source of international terrorism and a threat against international stability. The initiative aims to encourage and implement democracy and a liberal economy for the countries in this region. And all of this will not necessarily be happening through the people's will. For this reason the U.S. believes in the need for using force to impose certain changes if and when circumstances impose. It seems that the U.S. started developing the 'Greater Middle East' scenario right after its unexpected failure in Iraq.... The U.S. is well aware of the fact that it cannot digest and implement such an ambitious project alone; therefore NATO should be used. And the upcoming NATO summit in Turkey is going to be the proper venue to put the plan in place."

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL: "The Arabs' New Friends"

Left-leaning contributor Larry Derfner stated in conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (3/11): "Something is out of whack here. The Likudniks and Republicans, who have the lowest opinion of the Arabs, are also claiming to have the highest aspirations for them.... Despite what President Bush seems to think, a democrat is not somebody who just wants to be free; a democrat is somebody who also wants his political opponents to be free. But nobody is really going to want his political opponents to be free if he's convinced that their freedom will mean the end of his own, and in the Arab Middle East this is a wholly justified fear. It's the guiding principle of politics in the region, which is why Arab democracy has never gotten off the ground.... The truth is that several Arab dictatorships are repressing their people's clamor for war with Israel or Islamic revolution. So far, none has been found repressing a popular desire for anything that could be called democracy. Liberals don't like to talk about this because they're afraid of being called racists. Right-wingers know this about liberals, of course, which is why they can go on singing about Arab democracy (while daydreaming about future invasions) with little interruption."

"Something's Changing In Arab Media"

Amnon Rubinstein wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/8): "Media outlets in the Arab world are a unique phenomenon--hatred and defamation are a staple, anti-Semitic propaganda recalls that of Goebbels, and what masquerades as fact is in fact a figment of psychopathic imagination.... [However,] when a dictatorship collapses, it turns out the facade was as thick as paper. As it turned out, for instance, the Soviet puppet regimes in Eastern Europe had no supporters. Can a similar process of popular dissent be swelling beneath the surface in the Arab world?.... In fact, evidence has started to mount that the external facade presented by Arab media is a deception; and whenever the belt is loosened a little, new voices can be heard in the Arab world (and samples of them can be found on the MEMRI, Middle East Media Research Institute, at http://www.memri.org).... Something is afoot there. When hundreds of Syrian intellectuals sign a petition calling for reforms in their country, that's hardly a routine occurrence. In terms of Israel's interests, it might not be a dramatic change, but it's important to know that the Arab world is not the sum of what's written in Cairo, Damascus and Ramallah."

"Lessons of the Latest Debacle"

Caroline B. Glick wrote in the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (3/5): "What is happening is no less than a revolution, albeit a tentative one, in the way the U.S. views its Middle East policy. If in the past, consecutive U.S. administrations have swallowed the Arab propaganda line that no reforms of their dictatorships were possible until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved, today the Bush administration is rejecting this lie. Speaking in Cairo this week, Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman said, 'The effort for reform in Arab countries does not have to wait until there is a full peace.' And what is Israel doing in the face of this welcome and courageous American policy? Our government is rejecting it, by deed if not by word. By courting Mubarak while he leads the charge against the U.S. initiative to bring freedom to the Arab world we are strengthening Mubarak and his authoritarian government that has made Egypt the epicenter of Arab anti-Semitism and the gravest conventional threat to Israeli security.... And where is the Israeli media? Aside from laconic reports of the American initiative, buried in the back pages of the newspapers and at the tail ends of news broadcasts, never to be repeated, there has been no media discussion of the strategic ramifications of the American initiative."

WEST BANK: "Why Fear The GMEI?"

Mohammed Yaghi commented in independent Al-Ayyam (3/11): "It is understandable that Arab regimes are so fearful of the American plan to introduce deep-rooted political, economic and social reforms in the Arab world. The U.S. is trying to ensure European help in achieving this reform, depriving the Arab regimes of an ally in rejecting these reforms and preventing them from becoming an international demand as opposed to only an American one.... The Arab regimes have their reasons to fear this change and to try to resist it, for they know that for decades they disregarded everything related to democracy under the justification that our inherited and indigenous Arab culture and traditions would not allow the importation of such infidel concepts from the West.... But before Arab regimes resist such a reform as foreign, they have to question the legitimacy of their very existence.... These regimes have intentionally destroyed every single component of civil society.... They fought against freedom of the press...and allowed their security apparatuses to act as if above the law.... The Arab peoples, on the other hand, have no fear of such change and reform. In fact, they are the primary beneficiaries of them, and they will gladly accept the challenge of achieving this democratic choice and will do everything to defend it."

"America And Israel: The Lying Reformist And The Whore"

Adli Sadek commented in official, Palestinian Authority-owned Al-Hayat al-Jadidah (3/8): "Is it not Israel, which plunges its army against areas with a dense population whose land was usurped through the crime of the usurpation of Palestine, that needs reform, O George W Bush. Or has your talk about the reform of the Middle East lost its logic, since you yourself are at the top of global ruling circles that are beyond reform and would most likely be swept away by the upcoming U.S. elections? Israel is spared this U.S. balderdash on reform as if Israel is a country outside the Middle East.... It seems that only the Arabs are targeted by the 'benign' U.S. efforts for reform. This is the aim of the foolish and futile U.S. logic. It is as if 'terrorism,' whose sources they want to dry up, has nothing to do with Israeli policies and crimes. Is it not Israel, which is exempt from the U.S. reform plans, that openly resist U.S. plans and agenda? Is it not Israel that seems to be the cause of corruption and the misfortune of the region?.... How could the ruling Zionist ideology be considered acceptable, requiring no reform, while if this ideology were reformed, Israel would have spared the hypocrite West itself of the financial liabilities borne by its taxpayers?"

"The Narcissism Of The Bush Administration"

Yusif Qazzaz said in official, Palestinian Authority-owned Al-Hayat al-Jadidah (3/4): "It seems that the American president is willing to show his unconditional support of Israel even when the Israeli army continues to commit daily killings and assassinations.... If the essence of the so-called American reform initiative in the Middle East is to spread democracy in this part of the world, what kind of Middle East can there be without peace, stability and an end to the conflict in the region? It is Palestine, and not Israel alone, that is the core of this region of the world.... This bizarre American way of thinking seems to grow even worse whenever the frenzy of U.S. elections gets closer. This is especially true since the departure of George Bush seems to be more and more imminent, particularly if his Democratic rival John Kerry continues to win in public opinion polls. Furthermore, the greed for Jewish votes by Bush is promoting more extremist U.S. policies toward the region and its issues, especially the core Palestinian issue. The conviction of the futility of such U.S. ideas on reform and democracy grows still stronger with the failure of these ideas in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the inability of the Bush administration to impose its so-called Roadmap on Sharon's government. Naturally, failure in the U.S. policies on peace will definitely be followed by failure in its policy on reform and democracy."

"Democracy"

Hafidh Barghuthi maintained in official, Palestinian Authority-owned Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (3/4): "The Arab states...argued about [the Greater Middle East Initiative], which they regard as harming their regimes and imposing a kind of international trusteeship on them so they carry out structural reforms and, most frightening to them, promote democracy.... Although so the internal reform, they will eventually surrender.... It is wrong to reject the American initiative entirely; we have to take what's good in it and leave aside what's bad."

"Is The American Stick Making Its Way In The Region?"

Ibrahim Du'ibis stated in independent Al-Quds (3/4): "We all are familiar with the extent of the criticism, denunciation and insults directed against American policy for its prejudice against Arab and Muslim issues.... Yet, what we want is one thing, and what is actually taking place is another. It appears that the American stick has begun making its way through the region despite Iraqi resistance.... We have many examples to prove this, particularly the Libyan one.... We no longer find any leader willing to stand up to America or to oppose its policies. On the contrary, everyone tries to satisfy it and gain its blessing.... It is important to emphasize that all calls for reforms, human rights and pluralism are in fact genuine needs of any Arab human being and should be unprompted.... It is a shame that our leaders have not realized the necessity of reform until America, followed by Europe, started beating the drums for it."

"Bush: Roadmap Toward A Greater Middle East"

Hani Habeeb remarked in independent Al-Ayyam (3/3): "The Arab regimes don't seem to have fully accepted the American initiative.... [The Bush administration] insolently announced its vision without showing any courtesy and pulled the rug out from underneath the feet of Arab leaders who had previously succeeded in marketing the American vision as an Arab one. Perhaps plans...to improve the performance of the Arab League can be considered an Arab attempt to set up an initiative to rival the American one."

"American Initiative: Endorsement Of The Occupation"

Rajab Abu Siriyeh opined in independent Al-Ayyam (3/2): "Whereas the Arab League seemed to have overcome conflicts over the occupation of Iraq in addition to its failure to face the Israeli aggression against Palestinians, the Greater Middle East Initiative, proposed by the U.S., has come to add to the conflict between the League's permanent members. The American initiative is to encourage democratic reforms and economic openness in the Arab and Muslim world and to reduce the level of poverty and frustration that generates terrorism. With this, the U.S. has laid out the second round of its plan to re-arrange the internal situation in the region to fit its strategic interests on the road to globalization.... Nonetheless, it has not taken into consideration the internal circumstances of each Arab and Muslim society as it tries to open them to Western society, missing a key factor that motivates tension in the area: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

"Arabs...The Missing Pawn In The Greater Middle East Initiative"

Ahmad Kanani wrote in independent Al-Quds (2/29): "All indications show that the American Greater Middle East Initiative will become a Euro-American, or perhaps an international, one next June when the G-8 states endorse it.... America and Europe might resort to every possible means, including the military, in order to impose this initiative on leaders who, both the U.S. and Europe realize, are the key to passing it on to their societies.... If these regimes take on this initiative by themselves, without involving their peoples (the missing pawn), this will not work, for such regimes have not been able to protect themselves from outside attack for very long."

"America's Credibility Is Blown By The Wind"

Independent Al-Quds commented (2/28): "As Washington is boldly selling slogans of reform and democracy in the Middle East, a question comes to mind: how can we be convinced that the U.S. is serious about establishing democracy while it continues to support Israel in imposing solutions, against the will of the Palestinians and the international community, only to serve the Israeli right wing's dream of annexation and expansion?. All this American disregard for Palestinians, the Arabs and international law, and the American administration's willingness to protect the occupation, settlements, annexation and the racially motivated separation wall, lessens American credibility and changes the slogan of establishing democracy and reforms in the Middle East to a farce.... If America were really serious about wanting to spread democracy and freedom in the region, it would make Israel understand that it must withdraw from all the territory it occupied in 1967. Then [the U.S.] will find that all Arab and Muslim people will be ready to build a new, more secure, stable and prosperous Middle East."

EGYPT: "No Relationship Between Reforms And Palestinian Issue"

Chief Editor Ibrahim Sa'dah stated in state-run weekly Akhbar-al-Yawm (3/7): "I disapprove of the 'big commotion' that surrounded the Greater Middle East plan and made things look as if the U.S., or any other country, could carry out its initiatives forcibly or coercively in our countries.... The United States once 'sheltered' Arab terrorist elements and refused to honor requests for their extradition, thinking that it was out of the reach of terrorism. But since...11 September, Bush's primary concern has been how to stand up to these terrorists and punish the countries he accused of sheltering them.... The U.S. did not bother to examine the reasons that made it the primary target of terrorist groups. It refused to admit responsibility for the hatred Arab and Muslim people harbor for the U.S. policy and government and only blamed the Middle East countries for global terrorism.... By that logic, Bush's advisers concluded that these hardliners could not have existed if they had not disapproved of political, economic, social, cultural, educational, and health conditions in their countries.... The Arab countries are entitled to reject the U.S. proposals as much as Washington is entitled to suggest whatever it wants.... The U.S. Administration may hold whatever vision it wants and imagine that it is capable of forcing whatever it deems fit on others. But others have an equal right to reject whatever this administration suggests. They have the right to do what they deem fit to achieve long-awaited essential reforms that realize the ambitions of their subjects.... The Arab countries do not need anyone to tell them how to protect their people against terrorism and that they already demonstrated determination and firmness in chasing terrorist elements.... Most Arab governments are not blind to the changes and reforms their people expect from them.... Comprehensive reform is no longer a luxury. It is the right of the people and has to top the priorities of any government.... I don't understand the relationship between the Palestinian issue and political, economic, and educational reforms. This linkage certainly seeks to delay reform and put off changes indefinitely. The Palestinian issue is more than half a century old. Are we required to postpone internal reforms for another half a century.... I am also surprised that some Arab governments refuse to commence internal reform just because it is being suggested by the United States and Europe. The people who hold that logic are forgetting that it was the Arab people that demanded comprehensive reforms long before the United States and Europe suggested their initiatives.... The Arab world wasted a long time in denouncing foreign conspiracies.... It could have been much easier to ignore these foreign initiatives if we had actually carried out the reforms our people have expected impatiently.... Let America and Europe say what they want and do what we want. Neither America and Europe can force their ideas on us, nor can we reject reforms that involve all the Arab countries."

"Winds of Change"

Nevine Khalil remarked in pro-government English-language Al-Ahram Weekly (2/26): "While still grappling with an explosive situation in the Palestinian territories and instability in Iraq, which is expected to face at least another year of U.S.-led occupation, Arab leaders will soon be confronted with an American master plan to overhaul the region...the U.S.-proposed Greater Middle East (GME) initiative, an ambitious plan to promote democracy, build a knowledge-based society, reform the education system, and overhaul regional economies. Most conspicuous, the initiative does not mention the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Washington aims to launch the initiative--which refers to the countries of the Arab world, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and Israel--at the upcoming G-8 summit in June.... Mubarak...reacted coolly to the GME plan, saying that, 'we should not give others the opportunity to map out our future, define our course, or work on reforming us. We must take the initiative ourselves.'"

"America's Democracy, Again!"

Muhammad Abu-al-Hadid held in small-circulation, pro-government Al-Gomhuriya (2/26): "The U.S. wants to promote democracy in the Middle East region. Or so it says. In principle, there is no objection to that, for there is no nation in the world--not only in the Middle East--that does not want democracy and that has not struggled for it for a long time. Had the United States said that it was going to help the nations in the region to achieve democracy in accordance with the convictions of these nations, their cultures, civilizations and values, we would have all given a standing ovation to such an initiative.... .But the United States wants to turn us into democrats according to a pre-cast U.S. 'vision.' That is, it wants to export its own democracy model and we have but to gulp it down with a glass of water, just like a cure-all pill of medicine. By so doing the U.S. is violating the first principle of democracy: the right to differ and the imperative of respect for the privacy of others. It denies us our right to our own model of democracy, and this in itself is undemocratic. The U.S. is undermining the sublime value of democracy as a political, social and cultural way of thinking. It turns it into a mere 'commodity' that can be shipped and exported to any port, whence it is unloaded and moved to distribution outlets and hence to consumers."

SAUDI ARABIA: "Project Of Changing The Middle East"

Salam Neamat maintained in London-based Pan-Arab Al Hayat (3/11): "Arabs are demanding that the U.S. solve the Palestinian question before enacting reform, as if the Arabs were having a military war with Israel.... Arabs have failed to face Israel for many reasons,and the lack of democracy was one of the reasons. Arab leaders say that they refuse external demands for democracy, but, unfortunately, they never listen to calls for democracy from their own citizens... It is very important that Arabs stop using the Palestinian question as a pretext for their incompetence. They must free their own countires since they cannot free the Palestinians. Perhaps freedom in Arab nations would help to free the Palestinians."

"Enlarging The Middle East"

Business-oriented Al-Eqtisadiah declared (3/9): "Justice in occupied lands cannot be applied unless the occupier withdraws.... Imposing democracy in the region will aggravate struggles and disagreements at all levels.... It is too risky for America to impose its style of democracy in Arab countries.... Does this mean that the region is not able to implement democracy and human rights? No, of course not. But democracy can only be established if Arab concerns are addressed and justice is carried out."

"Time Of Projects"

Abha's moderate Al-Watan editorialized (3/8): "Europeans have understood that the American approach to the use of military force to achieve regional interests in the Middle East is a lost battle. Consequently, they opted to take a softer approach and rely on dialogue to achieve their goals. Regardless of the methods both powers use to acquire dominance in the region, their intentions are similar. The resources of the Middle East are what they are looking for.... Arabs need to be cautious, realizing that their future is in danger unless they take preventative precautions. Arabs must announce to the world that it is up to them alone to decide the course of their own future. The Middle East will remain eastern in its values despite attempts to westernize it. The great Arab civilization is capable once again of rebuilding its institutions, and initiating projects of its own; not ones that have been designed by others to serve their interests."

"Yes For Exchanging Views"

Dammam's moderate Al-Yaum noted (3/8): "The German and French initiative advises that the great Middle East project should be thoroughly discussed, but it should not to be imposed from outside. This initiative does not contradict the region's culture or beliefs. Since the advanced Western countries offered to establish partnership with the Middle East, they should consider solving the current political issues, such as the Palestinian cause and the Iraqi crisis. Partnership with any country in the region will not succeed if the region is unstable and lacks security."

"America And The Massacre"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina maintained (3/8): "America's intentional ignoring of the massacres committed in Palestine leads us to conclude one thing; America intends to use the Greater Middle East Initiative to pave the way for a Greater Israeli Plan in the region.... Those who are seeking peace should work together to stop the killing of innocents and the demolishing of children's homes. Otherwise, these crimes will only lead to more violence and more terrorism. Is this what America wants? We want to know!"

"The Next Step Post Rejection"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina observed (3/6): "Are we threatened by what has been called the American initiative for a 'Greater Middle East'? Is it possible for one side to completely disregard the initiative all together? Or is today's superpower the only one capable of doing this? The truth is that Washington cannot enforce this initiative. President Bush faces a difficult election campaign this year.... So far, there is increased support for the Arab rejection of the initiative. The majority agrees that reform has to come from within. This leads us to believe that the next Arab summit will put this issue to rest once and for all. But we need to prove to those who originated the initiative, and to those who supported the rejection of its terms, that Arabs are quite capable of introducing reforms that do not threaten the sovereignty of Arabs or harm their interests."

"Reforming The Arab State Of Affairs"

Dammam's moderate Al-Yaum editorialized (3/3): "It is very difficult to impose external reforms on any Arab nation. Stability and security can be achieved effectively if the superpowers consider solving the main Arab questions, which are the Palestinian issue and the matter of Iraq.... Reforming the Arab state of affairs is a domestic issue. The international community ought to move towards solving the Arab questions fairly and justly."

"The Flaw In U.S. Foreign Policy"

Aabha's moderate Al-Watan editorialized (3/1): "The flaw in the U.S. foreign policy is getting worse with every passing day. Many countries complain about U.S. intervention in their local affairs. This is an indication of the level of discontentment the world has about being told what to do and how to do it, according to the American way. The United States no longer hides its intentions of intervening in the domestic affairs of other countries. It is now drafting a new vision for the Middle East. This could be the beginning of a larger project that includes the whole globe. Those who are drawing this vision have failed to realize that the flaw in U.S. foreign policies is getting worse with time. A day will come when temporary solutions may not fix the problems of accumulated mistakes."

"America And The Deterioration In Moral Hegemony"

Jeddah's moderate Al-Madina commented (3/1): "The U.S. uses much of its moral power to spread its desires and achieve its goals with the least amount of cost.... America's moral hegemony is not the fruit of its massive military power, or its giant economy. It is the outcome of the images of democracy, good life, and human rights according to the American way. But these basics contradict America's efforts to spread its values by force if needed. America's use of force to spread its values will lead to deterioration in its moral domination."

"The Arab Reforms"

Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazirah remarked (3/1): "It is expected that the issue of reform will dominate the next Arab summit, an issue that should have been discussed long ago. The American call for reform has raised concerns about the necessity to differentiate between the Arab and American visions of rectifying the Arab state of affairs, and reforming the pan-Arab-organization. It is apparent that that there is great interest in pushing forward the reform recommendations in the Arabic league, and also to formulate a stand against U.S. endeavors to implement American projects in the region."

"From Inside"

Dammam's moderate Al-Yaum opined (2/29): "Democratic systems are not commodities for export to other nations. It is not essential for American democracy to fit particular nations either in the west or the east. The Greater Middle East Initiative may contain many things detrimental to Arab rights, since the initiative will enhance Israeli military dominance over the region. It is a big mistake to impose political, economic, and administrative reforms on Arab nations, as true reform originates from inside the nation, not from the outside."

"Importing Democracy"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina editorialized (2/29): "It is important to give the U.S. administration in Washington advice, and have it understand that our region is composed of a diverse and unique mixture of cultural, intellectual, and ideological factors. This social weave is totally different from its American counterpart. The richness of the world's civilizations comes from the harmonic interaction among all these factors. The U.S. is better off abandoning the 'stick and carrot' way of selling its democracy, and letting Arab and Muslim elites choose their own parliamentary representation."

ALGERIA: "A Tool For Re-election"

Small-circulation, influential French-language Liberte commented (3/8): "While Bush wants to put the Greater Middle East project into effect to promote democracy in the Muslim world from Mauritania to Pakistan, Arab leaders are perceiving Bush's project to be a tool to bolster his campaign for re-election. In order to evade this program, which they believe to be a vision (for the future) that has been 'imposed upon them by others,' the Arab League swears to take the initiative to modernize its (institutional) structures and promises to bring new reforms that coincide with the international standards for human rights and government."

"A Long Fight"

Small-circulation, influential French-language L'Expression noted (3/8): "Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak, who contests Bush's Greater Middle East project, got it all wrong when he targeted Algeria. He stated: 'Instantaneous freedom and democracy can have the effect of an earthquake on a country.... What would happen if fundamentalists won the majority? The Algerian tragedy lasted for 12 years.... We will not let foreign countries impose their own visions (of the future) on us. That would only lead us to chaos'.... The truth is that Algeria did not wait for the Americans nor for President Bush to start reforming its government. The type of freedom and democracy that Algerians have were not gained instantaneously nor were they improvised, but came as the result of a long fight. It is also worth mentioning that the Algerian press is the most free in the Arab world."

JORDAN: "A Sectarian And Separatist Constitution For Iraq"

Fahd Fanek maintained in semi-official, influential Arabic-language Al-Rai (3/10): "If you want to know the aspects of democracy that America wants to promote in the Greater Middle East, then all you have to do is read the draft Iraqi constitution.... The new constitution is no more than a project to accommodate sectarian and ethnic demands and American values. The result was to offend all. The project is not cause for pride for the Shiites, the Sunnis or the Kurds. It is a mark of shame for America, the sponsor of this constitution.... America is not supporting democracy. It is rather supporting the disintegration and the reshaping of the region in a manner that would best serve its imperial project and the security of Israel."

"Yes To Reform"

Hassan A. Barari held in the independent, elite English-language Jordan Times (3/9): "The rejection of the American reform project comes as a surprise to nobody. Due to the history of the external intervention in this part of the world, people are accustomed to be suspicious of any initiative coming from the West and particularly from the U.S.... But It is legitimate to question the ulterior objective of rejecting the new American initiative for the Middle East. Regimes which reject it on the grounds that it represents a desecration of the national sovereignty of Arab states have failed to protect their countries' sovereignty in time of crisis. Some of these regimes even caved in, in the face of acts of Israeli aggression which violated their sovereignty.... Some regimes have been in alliance with the Americans for decades and some of them cannot take a strategic decision without consulting the West.... The argument that the new American ideas should not be imposed on the region is rather a ploy to deflect the dynamics of the reforms that should have been unleashed ages ago. The root cause for rejecting such an initiative is that regimes fear empowering the masses.... But why has Israel--which has been in constant conflict with the Arabs over the last six decades--maintained its democracy (albeit for Jews)? Why have their leaders not opposed democracy on the grounds that Israel was facing imminent threat? In short, some Arab regimes and the elite tied to those governments have a vested interest in retarding the course of reforms. They are the winners of the status quo and any change will be at their expense.... I do not call for the Arabs to embrace the American initiative as such, but the importance of this initiative is that it might force these regimes to introduce genuine reforms."

"What Comes After Rejecting 'Reform' Coming From Without?"

Bater Wardam argued in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (3/1): "The Arab world, with all its political, cultural, official and popular components, has never agreed on anything as it has on rejecting the Greater Middle East project proposed by the U.S. administration as a tool for democratic reform in the Arab world.... There are three major incentives for rejecting the American project led by three political and cultural entities in the Arab world. The first stance stems from a cultural-ideological rejection of the concept of democracy and political pluralism and respect for the opinions of others, is based on the illusion of knowing the truth and having supremacy of opinions, and is represented by Islamic parties, nationalists and some other leftist groups that are opposed to all proposals put forth by the United States. The second stance is that of the official Arab regime that is afraid for its political gains and privileges from foreign pressures and wants to defend oppression and the absence of freedoms and pluralism by pretending to defend so-called 'Arab distinctiveness' from foreign change. The third stance is that of neo-liberal democratic leftist groups in the Arab world, myself included, who believe that democracy, pluralism, public freedoms, justice and development are the only way to bring reform to the Arab world, but who are confident that the United States could never be a credible leader on this path.... Rejecting reform from without is the right thing to do, but it must not be the conclusion. Political and cultural reform, which we understand as inclusive of political pluralism, launching public freedoms, combating corruption, educating society and strengthening the self-making abilities of the Arab world, is demanded by the Arab world. The Arab world should not remain stuck in this currently standing dual state of absence of freedoms due to totalitarianism on one hand and foreign occupation on another."

"The American Democratic Project...Why Not?"

Mohammad Subeihi wrote in semi-official influential Al-Rai (3/1): "Most of the opposition to the American project for democratic reforms in the Middle East are not innocent or nationally driven. They meant to defend the dictatorships and the oppression of freedoms and political rights of the Arab citizens. It is clear that ruling regimes and parties in many parts of the Arab world have mobilized writers to attack the American project under the pretext of hidden American intentions for hegemony that range from claiming the unsuitability of Western democracy for our societies to saying that democracy cannot be imposed from without but from within.... It is not a secret that the American project is receiving the support of many of the intellectuals and political figures, not because it is American, but because oppression and totalitarianism have led the learned political sector to a stage where it accepts an alliance with the devil in order to rid itself of the corruption and oppression that is eating away at Arab societies. The common denominator between the American project and the political reality of the Arab people is that democracy and pluralism, the sharing of authority and the elimination of corruption are the only means to protect Arab societies from religious extremism. Thus, many Arab political regimes would bury their heads in the sand if they can count on Arab societies' antagonism towards this project and ascribe its failure to its having come from America. In truth, the project enjoys significant support from the elite, although some would not say so out loud for fear of accusations of treason and treachery. If the United States teams up its project with an attempt to rein in Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and designating a major role for the United Nations in Iraq, then it would reap landslide support for its project for democratic reform in the Middle East."

"America Spreading Democracy...God Have Mercy!"

Columnist Bassam Umoush judged in semi-official influential Al-Rai (3/1): "The U.S. administration allocated tens of millions of dollars for spreading democracy in the Middle East.... Where was the United States on this noble objective a hundred years ago? Where was it when dictatorships oppressed people, bombed cities, built prisons and built scaffolds? Where was it when an Arab regime used dangerous weapons against its own people? How is the United States going to supply us with canned democracy when it is occupying Iraq? Is its unlimited support for a foreigner regime that has come unto the lands of the dear Middle East and kicked the people out of Palestine not contradictory to American democracy?... Yes, we do want democracy in the Middle East, but what America is exporting is the disease not the cure."

KUWAIT: "The Gulf States And The GMEI"

Dr. Shamlan Al-Issa wrote in independent Al-Seyassah (3/8): "Why have Arab countries delayed reforms? The Gulf States received the GME with mixed feelings, but expressed desire for reforms albeit with slow and gradual process. Procrastinating on reform issues will not help the Arab regimes. By continuing with the status quo, and citing instability as a reason not to change, the Gulf States are collectively confirming their apprehension of reforms. If the Gulf leaders fail to take courageous initiatives toward reforms, then, change will be imposed from the outside."

"American Muscle"

Adnan Al-Kazemi remarked in independent Al-Watan (3/7): "President Bush's GME was received with mixed feelings by the whole region. Nonetheless, the GME is badly sought in both the Arab and Islamic worlds, because the needs for reforms are crucial. However, we would have preferred for the initiative to focus on reaching a negotiated settlement for the chronic Palestinian problem.... Despite our complete conviction of the need for reforms, we should not be subjected to pressure. Achieving reforms is a shared goal by the whole region, and displaying American muscle in this regard is needless."

"Reforms, But No Need For Coercion"

Independent Al-Watan editorialized (3/7): "Arab and Muslim people wanted to see the reforms required by the U.S.-backed Greater Middle East Initiative. Therefore, there is no need for Washington to flex its political and economic muscles to impose such new norms.... Some Arab and Muslim states are eager to adopt the new norms, after being left behind for centuries by the train of civilization.... The countries which have rejected the initiative were probably having second thoughts, and likely to change their minds when they get to know the initiative better, specifically the parts about democracy and human rights.... The initiative's basic shortcoming was the fact that it had totally ignored the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Iraqi status quo."

"Yes To The American Initiative (GME)"

Fuad Al-Hashem wrote in independent Al-Watan (3/6): "I fully support the Greater Middle East Initiative. "Waiting" for reforms to occur from within, a feat favored by most Arab leaders, is a waste of valuable time. If we wait, reforms from within will probably take place during the fifth millennium. By then, there would be ten thousand Mohammed Attas and half a million Ben Ladens. It took one Ben Laden and one Mohammed Atta to wreak such devastation-- imagine what could happen if we got saddled with millions of them."

"To Dream Or Learn?"

Salah Al-Sayer stated in independent Al-Anba (3/6): "The GME stipulates that the West help the countries of the region establish civic societies, and to assist in reforming the judicial system. Developed states would pledge to provide technical assistance to register voters, strengthen electoral committees, and establish training centers targeted to teach women to participate in civic life. These same industrial countries would utilize their considerable expertise to help reform the region's financial institutions. In other words, the enemy of the Arab nation will do for it what its heroes never did."

LEBANON: "Sharon And Those Who Are With Him Are Afraid Of The Lebanese Curse"

Ghassan Tueni opined in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/8): "About democracy, which the world characterized as the end result of 'reform' needed for this big Middle East.... We say to America which is angering rulers by asking them to work for democracy...that we have been asking for democracy for over one and a half centuries.... We tell America that the first symbol of working for democracy is to get rid of the symbol of the most terrible tyranny in the east and west: Ariel Sharon...who is spilling blood and fabricating wars.... No peace will ever be reached with Sharon.... Only then, Arabs might believe...that Israel is a democracy...and not a fortress of tyranny and dictatorship which is dangerous to international peace and security.... Will America sacrifice Sharon? Would it dare to do that on the eve of its presidential elections?.... If America...gets rid of Sharon...only then it would be able to buy peace for the world...gain credibility and the confidence of Arab nations which, at this time, do not want democracy to 'occupy' Arab territories."

"The Last Stop"

Sateh Noureddine noted in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/6): "The U.S. is not at all serious about reform in the Middle East...but it is very serious about rebuilding Iraq and presenting it as a different Arab and Islamic specimen. The temporary Iraqi constitution is a first step in this direction. This is a historic event indeed.... This is the first time the Americans draft a constitution for a country since they wrote the Japanese and German constitutions following the end of the Second World War.... Now they are really facing...a true challenge before 300 million Arab and more that one billion Moslems who feel, in different degrees, that the U.S. is an enemy and an attacker against their territories and their beliefs.... The U.S. on the other hand, wants to present Iraq as a unique experience, and wants the Arabs to view the new Iraq as America's other face in its war against Arabs and Moslems.... The text of the new constitution includes words that are usually taboos in Arab constitutions like federalism, human rights, role of women, and others.... What is interesting is the fact that the new temporary Iraqi constitution can be applied to all Arab countries which also have problems related to multiplicity of sects and ethnicities.... The new constitution has been read with great interest by the Lebanese and all the Arabs...perhaps their interest exceeded that of the Iraqis themselves...the importance of this constitution is the fact that it opens the gates of hell for all Arab countries which never imagined that the fall of Baghdad will compel them...to open discussions over a collection of taboos like Islam and its role in formulating states; Arabism and its fate in formulating or dismantling a society; the rule of the majority and the dream of the minority."

"The American Initiative...And Destroyed Dignity"

Independent Al-Balad commented (3/1): "There is a big gap between what the U.S. wants for the region and what the region wants from the U.S. .. So far, the American Great Middle East initiative is only general principles and concepts that need extensive clarifications. However, the Arab response so far, is also a mere simplification of the U.S. initiative.... The common factor between the Greater Middle East Initiative and the Arab no-initiative...is the loss of trust between the U.S. and Arabs. The U.S. initiative is the result of the U.S. loss of hope in any internal Arab dynamism that would trigger a change in Arab countries.... On the other hand, the Arab world does not see even a flicker of light that would make it think that Washington has an inkling about the way it thinks and the problems it faces.... This means that in addition to the lack of trust between the two parties, there is also lack of credibility. Washington lies to itself and to others when it ignores the fact...that a solution should be found for the Arab-Israeli conflict before it embarks upon any initiative.... On the other hand, Arabs...insult U.S. intelligence when they use Arab dignity as a pretext for rejecting U.S. initiatives.... The relationship between the U.S. and the Arab world needs an honest broker who would be able to find the missing link.... The UN, supported by Europe could be that mediator."

"The Greater Middle East Initiative"

Khalil Flayhan contended in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (2/26): "Information in Beirut that refers to American diplomatic sources in Washington says...that the aims behind the Greater Middle East Initiative, which will be announced by President Bush during the G-8 Summit in June, are the following: 1) deviate attention away from the Arab-Israeli conflict towards reform and democracy in Arab-Islamic countries; and 2) establish a new mechanism for partnership between the U.S. and Arab countries.... The same sources clarified that the decision not to consult with Arab countries over the Greater Middle East Initiative...might have been deliberate in order to place the Arab countries in a defensive position...and consequently get approval on all projects that are in the U.S. interest."

"Greater Middle East Initiative Gets Attention Of Leaders Of Closed Regimes"

Simon Bou-Fadel remarked in sensationalist Ad-Diyar (2/26): "The Greater Middle East Initiative...mobilized leaders in the region...from North Africa to Pakistan.... These leaders think that this initiative might impact negatively their continuing in authority...and the way they rule their nations.... However, there are those who believe that following September 11, President Bush...said a lot of things about the need...to combat terrorism in the region.... For a while, most Arab regimes were afraid of an American attack...but the American experience in Iraq...indicated that the U.S. has underestimated the difficulties it might face in the region.... It also indicated that Arab fear of the United States' comprehensive designs and plans were exaggerated.... In this context, there is another viewpoint which believes that the U.S. will inevitably implement its plans for the Middle East despite all difficulties it might face.... The holders of this opinion also believe that the U.S. experience in Iraq cannot be characterized as a failure.... It is just chaotic and the situation will eventually be put under control."

"The Egyptian-Saudi 'No' In Face Of American Plans For The Region"

Aouni Al-Kaaki opined in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (2/26): "Egypt and Saudi Arabia did well by rejecting projects imposed by the outside on Arab and Islamic countries. They announced that their countries would go ahead with reform in the way that harmonizes with their interests and values. This joint Saudi-Egyptian position represents the strongest form of response to the U.S. Greater Middle East Initiative...in which the U.S. is planning to change the identity of the Arab and Islamic region.... Reform cannot be imposed by the outside and democracy does not come from above.... Reform and democracy...should be based on the Arab culture...and social circumstances.... The American plans are really dangerous. They want to wipe out the Arab and Islamic cultural heritage."

MOROCCO: "Greater Middle East, Myth Or Reality"

Editor-in-Chief Hassan Alaoui commented in Casablanca-based semi-official French-language Le Matin (3/5): "Arab countries...can neither approve nor reject something that has not yet been presented officially.... From the very beginning we must emphasize that any initiative, whatever its source, must give top priority to the sine qua non condition that is the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The American administration, in ascribing to a short-term strategic vision under the pretext of security needs, by all appearances prefers to drown the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the mystery of global politics so dear to the U.S., and to relegate the Palestinian issue to the back burner."

"Publicizing The U.S. Initiative"

Abdelhadi Mezrari said in semi-official Arabic-language Assahara (3/5): "Opponents of the Greater Middle East Initiative note that the U.S., after its invasion of Iraq, and its declaration of the war on terrorism, now would like Israel to benefit from (the U.S.') military and political gains, thus reinforcing Israel's desired security situation now that Arab leaders have been saddled with the restrictions of internal political and economic problems.... We need to put our fingers on the wound (face the painful fact) that part of the Arab peoples' problems lies in the existence of the Middle East problem, while the other part in Arab regimes' inability to fight corruption, bureaucracy and dictatorship."

"Grossman Defends The GMEI"

Mohamed Chaoui reported in French-language business-oriented L'Economiste (3/4): "Not all Arab countries are enthused by the Greater Middle East Initiative. Some of them have already made themselves heard.... They feel distanced from the formulation of a project that directly concerns them.... The fear of having to endure reforms imposed without taking into account their specific characteristics is being heard more and more. Let's also remember that Washington, in the past, already launched the Heizenstad (sic) initiative that aimed to create one big market in North Africa. It did not work out. For some observers, the Greater Middle East Initiative, when seen in the context of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and the Iraqi mess, maybe accompanied by pressures on certain countries."

"Between Baltimore Program And The Greater Middle East Dwells Zionism"

Bouchaib El Hawari noted in moderate Islamic Arabic-language Attajdid (3/4): "On May 11, 1942, a Jewish convention was held in America under the leadership of David Ben Gurion to discuss five major points...and on January 2, 1944, the U.S. Congress announced its unconditional support of the Baltimore program.... The Greater Middle East program...aims to integrate the Zionist entity into Arab and Muslim societies under the pretext of improving America's image with Arabs.... What we want to say in this regard is that instead of teaching us the principles of democracy and in the place of chimerical projects and false slogans, America's George Bush should exert greater pressure on Sharon to stop the daily Zionist aggression in the form of killings, sanctions, theft and the violation of land and personal property. (Bush must also) stop his usurpation of the Iraqi people's decision-making power, as well as the occupation of the cradle of civilization.... This would be the correct and concrete way of reforming the Arab situation. As the proverb says: He who plants the wind reaps the storm."

"Soft Colonialism, The U.S. And In-Vitro Democracy From Morocco To Pakistan"

Driss Guenbouri wrote in moderate-Islamic Arabic-language Attajdid (3/3): "The Bush project is not too much different in content from the Powell and Haas projects. It is a sequel in the spirit of proselytizing, explaining that no other alternative for the region exists for political, economic and cultural change.... It is obvious that the U.S. project is riddled with hypocrisy, since it plans to redefine the region and melt away its Arab and Islamic identities.... It also ignores the fundamental problem in the region, which is the Palestinian--Zionist conflict and the Zionist occupation of Palestine. What is occurring in Iraq is evidence, according to many European observers, of the U.S. failure to achieve democracy in the Middle East."

"Greater Middle East: Morocco Has No Connection With The U.S. Project"

Istiqlal party-run Arabic-language Al Alam declared (3/3): "The U.S. Administration has started to campaign for what is called the Greater Middle East Project (sic). This project has been preceded by examples that do not inspire us: Iraq, Afghanistan and, most particularly, Palestine.... This initiative resembles, to some extent, old colonial initiatives in terms of occupation and protectorates. Morocco has already suffered from and knows by heart the provisions of the Protectorate Accord.... It is natural that countries of the region should introduce reforms by themselves and for themselves and implement the principles of democracy and human rights, on condition that many of these countries not be occupied by foreign forces, and most of all not by American forces. U.S. occupation (of Iraq) has provoked terrorism and ... has reinforced the inability of some countries to deal with their own basic democracy and human rights problems.... The Greater Middle East won't be dictated to by a superpower under the threat of its military presence in the region, in Iraq, Afghanistan and even in the Gulf and the waters of the Arabian Peninsula. It is the people who establish democratic systems and it is true that Arab and Muslims peoples cannot accept a Middle East initiative dictated by Washington or London."

"Egypt, Saudi Arabia And Syria Reject U.S. Initiative"

Mohamed Lamrabet wrote in independent Arabic daily Al Ahdath Al Maghrebiya (3/1): "As the situation in Iraq becomes more complicated, Washington has spearheaded a diplomatic attack, this time against Arab capitals in an effort to contain the increasingly apparent rejection of its 'Greater Middle East' initiative. [The initiative] aims at reforming the region, making it less 'disturbing' to the U.S. administration and less 'threatening' to its interests. However, the U.S. administration's bias in favor of Tel Aviv remains the fundamental obstacle to any rapprochement between the White House and peoples of the region."

SYRIA: "So Aren't We A Group Within The Greater Middle East!"

Ezzedin Darwish declared in government-owned Tishreen (3/11): "The term 'Greater' as in 'Greater Middle East Initiative' is aimed against Arabs and Muslims. Its objective is to erase the term 'Arabism' and destroy Muslim beliefs, then leave the gates wide open for the greater Zionist initiative, under the cover of American influence and its military machine that is (already) heavily concentrated in the area. What is taking place on the American level completes the Israeli level and vice versa. Arabs will be the first to pay the price out of their land, sovereignty, dignity, wealth and most important of all, for the identity that they have had for thousands of years. There is a pressing need for a quick initiative to return to active joint Arab action...otherwise, the destiny of Arabs will be merely a group within a 'Greater Middle East.'"

"'The Greater Middle East,' A Democracy in Bulk"

Khaled al-Ashahab stated in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/10): "Everybody in the greater or smaller Middle East yearns for development, democratization and the maintenance of human rights.... Everybody outside the Middle East wishes to see the Middle East enjoy peace and stability.... Why aren't initiatives for changing the Middle East approved by its people? The problem is in the foolish application of these initiatives, which are cooked up out of the region and mass produced in such a way that serve others' interests ignoring the needs and interests of people in the Middle East."

"Virtual World"

Riad Zein contended in the government-owned English-language Syria Times (3/7): "Rightist and 'hawkish' aides of the American Administration of President George Bush are still pre-occupied with how their global policy of domination will be achieved. They are adamant about imposing hegemony on the entire globe to complete building an American empire at the expense of nations of the world by means of military force and by maintaining what are called 'anti-terror and pre-emptive wars'.... In brief, the U.S. wants to watch any activity carried out by anyone and validate military intervention anywhere. Under the alleged banner of ensuring security and protecting democracy, Bush said he would continue to hunt America's 'foes' and spread 'freedom.... But the pressing questions remain: Will this new project rescue U.S. occupation troops from the quagmire of war-stricken Iraq? And can the masterminds of Bush`s 'virtual world' prevent peoples from resisting all forms of occupation and aggression and waging tenacious battles against injustice, oppression and hegemony? Certainly not."

"Foreign Proposals With False Masks Of Democracy"

Hisham Bashir opined in government-owned Tishreen (3/6): "There are unlimited contradictions and astronomical distances between Arab proposals for reforming the Arab situation and foreign projects they try to export and impose on us. Undoubtedly, the Arab situation requires fundamental change in all fields, and no one can claim that the current Arab situation is in the best shape. However, admitting this is one thing, and blessing the incoming proposals is another. Especially when we read between the lines and their objectives contradict Arab ones or even endanger the presence and the future of the Umma."

"What Is Behind The 'Greater Middle East'?"

An unsigned editorial in government-owned Tishreen read (3/4): "It seems that the U.S. Administration has moved from the stage of giving military, financial and political support to Israel, to the stage of direct promotion of Zionist ideas and attempting to impose them on others. How can they make a link between democracy and the Greater Middle East when the authors of this initiative are striking international democracy represented by international legitimacy and its resolutions, and when they are giving public support to Israeli aggressiveness and killings?"

"Enflaming The Confrontation And The Danger Of Synchronization"

Ali Kasem observed in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/4): "The Americans completely ignored the opinions and positions of those concerned in the region when the hegemony promoters unleashed their proposal to repackage the Middle East in a way that complies with the requirements of hegemony.... The dangerous thing is that it seems that there is synchronization in the talk, if not yet in adopting the thesis, between the Americans and some Europeans, especially the language of the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer that sounded more confrontational than conciliatory that was the feature of the European language to date. Such synchronization [between the US and Europe] entails unjustifiable expansion of confrontation, at a time that most efforts should be spent to foil it and eliminate its causes."

"Anti-Peace Project"

Mohammad Agha declared in the English-language government-owned Syria Times (3/3): "Political analysts and observers can easily see the U.S. Administration's policy of maneuvering and procrastination such as the so-called greater Middle East project being promoted by its envoys.... The Administration should have concentrated on reactivating the peace process on all tracks, foremost among which being the Palestinian, instead of promoting such ill-intentioned project which aims at bringing about further hegemony and domination of the resources of the region, particularly oil. The government of President George W. Bush is still moving in the wrong direction that will never lead to peace in the region. It is quitting the hot file of the Arab-Israeli conflict for the sake of other false and fabricated files under the pretext of fighting international terrorism and dismantling the WMD!"

TUNISIA: "Supplement...Or Counter-Project"

Senior editor Hajer Jeridi contended in independent French-language Le Temps (3/5): "The American initiative of 'The Great Middle East' is a big issue. The European reaction, which is illustrated by the Paris-Berlin axis, seems less direct, more subtle, even fine tuned. American arrogance shows through the disclosure that this 'great project' is being countered by European humility and caution that notes an important fact; Europe knows better the realities of the Arab world, it is totally aware that each forward step in the region depends on solving of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it also says not to denounce Islam by considering it an enemy of modernity. What might be called the European project, speaks of a partnership with the Middle East and recognizes the responsibility of Europe in the development of the region. Hence, the difference between the American and European perception is big. In the first initiative, it is a relation between dominant and dominated, through which the U.S., led by a kind of a hypocritical messianism, considers itself the only possessor of the truth. The U.S. assumes the right to reform the Middle East by injecting so-called doses of democracy and freedom such as the experiment in Iraq, which leads to the Iraqi tragedy. On the other hand we find Europe, very attentive to the American proposals but fortunately--not always agreeing.... Now, that the White House has sounded out Arab leaders, Europe and the rest of the world, it will perhaps decide to implement a little bit of this project...without giving up. This project announcement is part of the American plan that aims to dominate the world by taking advantage of its weakness in the absence of democracy and freedom.... Only the Arab countries can elude this game by making more efforts focusing on what they seem to fear: political reforms."

"The Counter-Offensive"

Senior editor Hajer Jeridi asserted in independent French-language Le Temps (3/2): "The American initiative of 'The Great Middle East' has not left the Arab countries unmoved. America seems to be extending its ambitions, which does not please the Arab countries that felt offended, targeted and even threatened. The counter-offensive did not take long to come together. Egypt quickly submitted a counter-proposal to the Arab League Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the extraordinary session in Cairo in order to cut the American project short. The 'American offer' is not surprising but was, in fact, foreseeable; what is surprising, however, is the indomitable indifference, the strange and outdated inaction of the Arab world.... Arab countries have no choice but to take charge of themselves and to make reforms before a foreign side takes over the work instead. It is evident that, in order for reforms to be successful, they must come from inside...they should respond to the people's demands and take into account socio-economic and cultural specificities. Even if the Arab populations are thirsty for democracy and freedom, they refuse categorically any foreign proposal of a 'ready-to-wear' democracy.... In contrast to the inertia of the Arab world in attempting to open up the way to democratization, the rest of the world has almost adopted as a religion the idea that information should circulate freely.... Now, the American declarations seem to shake Arabs into action. We hope that the U.S. initiative is not simply a spur of the moment reaction meant to soothe spirits and to brush aside threats. Today, the Arab countries have their backs to the wall; either they decide to join the march of the world towards greater openness and development or they are going to undergo the consequences of their rejection of any kind of reform."

UAE: "Arab Reforms--A Public Demand, Not A U.S. Initiative"

Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief, wrote in the English-language, expatriate-oriented Gulf News (3/8): "Why do Arab regimes express reservations about America's plan for reforms in their region?.... Arab regimes have always been pro-America.... U.S. policy has always vehemently supported Arab regimes which worked against the wishes and aspirations of their peoples striving for a better life. Every Arab reformist movement was smothered by such regimes on the pretext of suppressing a revolt or some kind of movement. The U.S. has backed such measures by these Arab regimes without hesitation.... But what has been the result of such an unholy alliance, which has been covert most of the time? Arab regimes remained silent on this for decades until they ran out of excuses and their people emerged as the only losers.... The people are still paying the price for such policies--they are frustrated at the failure to resolve the Palestinian issue, economic and social backwardness, lack of development projects, growing unemployment and illiteracy. And, above all, the basic principles of human rights do not exist. The result is that there is no freedom, no public participation in the political realm and no free media.... These regimes do not want reforms because they are scared of reforms, even though they come from an ally trying to rescue them. Their excuses are they do not want a plan from outside and that the Palestinian problem must be resolved first. Arab culture and identity must be preserved. These are among several excuses that have been chorused by Arab regimes, especially those that claim to be revolutionary. The excuses are made to prevent any reformist movement in the interest of and for the freedom of the people and their participation in deciding their present and future. Of course, there are some who support these regimes and their excuses.... Arab regimes were not suspicious of that policy until they saw the televised image of a U.S. military doctor shining a torch into Saddam's mouth, all deliberately designed to denigrate the Arab leader.... Arab regimes now are not only wary of the U.S. reform plan, but are totally opposed to it for a simple reason--they are against reform itself because it has always been a public demand to ensure the state of the law, institutions, freedom and political participation.... Reforms have remained a public demand in the entire Arab region rather than a US demand. Arabs will not support any regime that prevaricates on reforms. Instead of arrogantly refusing reforms because they come from the U.S., Arab regimes should have embarked on reforms a long time ago.... These regimes should not have waited for reforms to be imposed on them."

ASIA-PACIFIC

CHINA: "Exporting 'Democracy' Can't Remove 'Terrorism'"

Han Xianyang commented in official intellectual Guangming Daily (Guangming Ribao) (3/9): "Democracy can't be realized overnight, especially in Middle Eastern countries that don't commonly accept democratic reform plans framed by the outside world. But the U.S. insists that most Muslim countries haven't managed to keep pace with global development...which is cultural and ideological 'power politics'.... We can easily see that 'democracy' is just a U.S measure to interfere into other countries' internal affairs and to exert pressure on other countries. Such 'democracy' can't solve many of the economic, social, national and systemic problems that developing countries are facing, and neither can it remove terrorism hotbeds like poverty, injustice etc."

"American Grass Can't Grow On Arab Soil"

Huang Peizhao commented in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (3/3): "Although the Bush administration beautified it as 'bringing greater democracy, prosperity and freedom to the Middle East', its real goal in the Middle East is pursuit of interests. The geopolitical and strategic position and plentiful oil resources in the region have made the Middle East become an important link in the chain of the U.S.' foreign relations strategy.... The problem is, by the U.S. going its own route in planting a wedge of so-called democracy in Arab countries, it will open more 'Pandora's Boxes.' Originally Clinton exerted so much effort in the Middle East, but even he fell short of success for lack of a final effort. Even more so Bush, who is still stuck in the Iraq mire, as he plans to plant the 'grass of American democracy' all around the Middle East--this is a wild fantasy."

MALAYSIA: "Evading The Issue"

The government-influenced English-language New Straits Times editorialized (3/11): "President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is right to insist that no plan for reform in the Arab world can work if it is imposed from outside. This is precisely one of the major flaws in the so-called Greater Middle East Initiative being floated by the White House, which seeks to make it the centrepiece of the G8 summit to be hosted by President George W. Bush this June. Arab governments were kept in the dark about the reform proposals, which only came to light when it was leaked in the Arabic Press. Once again, the Arabs are being reduced to spectators of their own destiny while distant powers map out their future. Last year's U.S. invasion of Iraq justifies the deep-seated hostility of the Arab street against anything that emanates from Washington. The U.S. initiative becomes even less acceptable because it contains nothing at all about the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.... The conspicuous absence of the Israel-Palestine issue means that once again the White House has stubbornly refused to recognise that Israel is the source of the security problem in the Middle East. It reaffirms the Washington view that what is needed to wipe out terrorism is to hasten democratic reforms and economic development. This deliberate sidestepping of the root of the Middle East conflict raises doubts about the motive behind the latest reform agenda being promoted by the White House. There will be no Middle East peace and no end to international terrorism until the core issue of justice for the Palestinians is resolved."

INDIA: "Share the Burden"

M.J. Akbar penned this analysis in the centrist Asian Age (2/29): "What is unique to the Muslim world is not the absence of democracy but the fact that in 1918, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, every single Muslim in the world lived under foreign subjugation.... Muslim countries will become democracies too, because it is the finest form of modern governance. But it will be a process interrupted by bloody experience as the street wrenches power from usurpers. Democracy has happened in Turkey. It has happened in Bangladesh. It is happening in Indonesia. It almost happened in Pakistan, and the opportunity will return. Democracy takes time in [even] the most encouraging environments."

PAKISTAN: "Bush's ME Initiative"

Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn asserted (3/1): "The Bush plan's principal defect is its neglect of the Palestinian problem.... What can restore peace in the Middle East is an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands and the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state with Al Quds as its capital. Unfortunately, President Bush's "Greater Middle East Initiative" is silent on the issue.... By ignoring the roadmap, the Bush initiative has virtually scuttled the peace process and reduced the initiative to a farce."

AFRICA

NIGERIA: "Assist Democratic Forces In Middle East"

Jide Osuntokun wrote in the Lagos-based independent Comet (3/11): "The fact that 15 out of the 19 terrorists who struck America were rich kids from Saudi Arabia immediately led to the conclusion that terrorism in the Middle East may not be directly due to poverty. Arabs questioned in American base in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba claim that they want dignity. They say they feel bad the way the West treats Arabs and Islam. They also want to have a voice in how their countries are governed. Of course part of the lack of dignity is the way Palestinians are killed with American weapons by Israelis. They are horrified by the supine surrender of their rulers to American interests even in the face of the injustice against the Palestinians. They also deprecate the corruption of their rulers from the dictatorship in Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Sudan to the tyrannies in the Gulf, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In fact the only democracy, Palestine, remains outside the orbit of the Americans, they allege. This welter of complaints is what America has responded to. It remains to be seen if America will help democratic forces in the Middle East, especially if these forces become at least initially anti-American."

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