December 31, 2002 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 116

Arab Media Reactions to the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative Part II: In Support of the Initiative

December 31, 2002
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 116

In contrast with the many columnists who, for various reasons, rejected the Partnership Initiative, there were a few who supported it and welcomed its positive elements.

'The Powell Plan Guarantees Prosperity and Progress'; 'It is Unfortunate that the Arabs Had No Part in Encouraging It'

In the Jordanian daily Al-Rai, Jamal Al-Tahat wrote: "The Arab-American partnership initiative recently launched by Colin Powell contains many positive aspects. It reflects a new American perception regarding the region and America's future relations with it. It is unfortunate that this initiative came from America, and even more unfortunate that the Arabs had no part in encouraging it…"

"The rationale of this initiative is genuine, and there is no room to doubt it. In his speech, Powell relied on hard facts regarding the Arab reality; the Arab-American partnership cannot be rejected [since] it guarantees prosperity and progress. Additionally, it must not be rejected [because] Arab-American partnership is not an unacceptable [phenomenon] in the official Arab [political] discourse. On the contrary, this discourse boasts of achievements resulting from cultivating relations with America."

"The question is, why did this initiative have to come from Washington? Why couldn't the Arab regimes convene the Arab intellectuals to consolidate a more mature and developed initiative? Why haven't the Arab leaders, who cut ribbons at university inaugural [ceremonies], taken courage and released their peoples' potential by means of these universities…?"

"[The Powell initiative] is the death certificate of the Arabs' [own] revival. The Arabs do not need $29 million; they need the sense and reason eliminated by [domestic] repression to be restored, so that they [too will dedicate] $29 million to a revival initiative… The attempts by some to brag about the Arabs setting conditions for America so that they [i.e. the Arabs] will agree to America's initiative are pathetic. The initiative is an American plan for the development of a region whose people need it…"[1]

'It Is Our Obligation to Bear Responsibility for Reform'

Ibrahim Al-Bahrawi, columnist for the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, called for Egypt's reformist stream to make the most of the Partnership Initiative by endorsing reform: "Supporters of the reformist stream in Egypt, in all parties and in all political streams, who preceded Powell by calling for reform, stand today before a pressing national responsibility calling them to take the initiative into their hands so as to implement the Egyptian call for reform…"

"Even twice the sum of [America's] monetary allocation for the initiative will not suffice for implementing the hoped-for goals. Yet it is our obligation to bear the responsibility for reform in our homeland on our own shoulders – ours, first of all and last of all, while preserving our cultural uniqueness and national identity and out of mutual understanding and national dialogue, in carrying out the [efforts] for reform and renewal…"[2]

'For Once, Let's Try the American Goods'

In a pointed article entitled "Before We Throw America into the Sea," Ahmad Jum'a, columnist for the Bahraini daily Al-Ayyam, called for Arabs to give the American initiative a chance. He wrote: "I am not defending America or attacking Iraq, but analyzing what is happening and will happen in the near future. Some say that the region and the Arab countries are under threat of partition and of being torn [to pieces]. I ask: Isn't the region already torn to pieces politically…? If so, why are they trying to frighten us by saying that the U.S. and the American plan are the ones threatening Arab security and the Arab situation…?"

"For once, let's try the American goods and the plan now drawn up [by the U.S.], and see if there's a chance that it will extricate the Arabs from their dire straits. After World War II, Japan was in ruins, and it gambled on the U.S. Today, it rivals America, industrially and economically… The former U.S.S.R. tried to rival America militarily and failed; in contrast, Japan floods America with its goods."

"We do not want to confront America militarily, nor enter into war with it. There is one crazy man in this [Arab] nation [i.e. Saddam Hussein] who tried to do this, and he is paying the price to this day. Allow me, therefore, to suggest that we submit for a few decades to the democracy America promises us. Perhaps this democracy is the same plan marketed to Japan, Germany, and North [sic] Korea, which managed to pull these countries out of their destructive economic crises and transform them into great industrialized economic countries…"

"I apologize to those who perceive my words as permission given to America by one of its agents to enter [the region]. This is no more than a gamble, of the kind which we, the [Arab] nation, regularly gambled in the past century without winning a thing."

"We gambled on the Ottomans, but the Allies [in World War I] were the winners... The Ottoman era came to an end and with it so did we…"

"Then, we gambled on the U.S.S.R., and on communism and socialism… on [its] nuclear weapons stockpile and mighty arsenal, because… [we believed] it would endure to the end of history. But the U.S.S.R. collapsed, and with it our dreams and aspirations. In contrast, the countries that had hitched themselves to the American locomotive succeeded..."

"Between our gamble on Ottoman Turkey and our gamble on the U.S.S.R. came a series of gambles, beginning with the one on Arab nationalism. Millions of Arabs followed Gamal Abd Al-Nasser, who led us into the June 1967 war – by the end of which the pan-Arab plan was defeated. Then, we gambled on Islamic revival, on fundamentalist freedoms, on violence, on airplane hijackings, and on the burning of cities. This gamble continued until the elimination of the Taliban state…"

"I do not believe that the coming years will surprise us and that we will vanquish America by means of an alliance with the fundamentalist organizations. I think that the picture today is clear and the result 100% certain. So there is no point in continuing to gamble on this factor…"

"So what wisdom is there in waving the yellow banners [of Hizbullah] and burning American flags? What is the point of all the popular Arab parades, while the White House passes a resolution to subdue the entire Arab world?"

"In my opinion, only one way remains. Why shouldn't we try it? This way is to fight America through friendship with it, to listen to it and nod. If this doesn't help, we will have to throw America into the sea!"[3]

[1] Al-Rai (Jordan), December 17, 2002.

[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 18, 2002.

[3] Al-Ayyam (Bahrain), December 28, 2002.

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