January 28, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2151

Director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies: The Soviet Virus Is Still Entrenched in the Arabs' Minds

January 28, 2009
Egypt, Russia | Special Dispatch No. 2151

In an article published in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id, director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, criticized the Arabs' attitude towards the current global economic crisis. He stated that the Arabs still harbored pro-Soviet sympathies, which had recently found expression in their gloating over the global economic crisis currently affecting the U.S. Said added that the Arabs were acting as if the world were still divided into blocs, as in the days of the Cold War, and that he found this attitude surprising, given that the crisis was bound to hit the significant Arab economic interests in the West.

Following are excerpts from the article:[1]

"Every Time Vladimir Putin Comes Out With a Strong Statement Against the West, and Especially the U.S… the Soviet Arab Lobby… Announces the Long-Awaited Soviet Comeback to the International Arena"

"The term 'lobby' has gained wide currency in the Arab world, since it has become part of the political process in the U.S. This term refers to a group that pressures various political institutions to adopt a certain policy. Occasionally, [lobbying] goes so far as to promote foreign interests. [In the U.S.,] the well-known examples [of lobbying] include the Israeli, the Taiwanese, and the Greek lobbies.

"While in the Arab world there are no institutionalized [lobbies] in the judiciary sense, 'pressure groups' mushroom wherever there is a conflict of economic or ideological interests, or whenever there is a need to choose between different policies regarding national or pan-Arab interests. All this is obvious…

"What cannot be either conceived of or accepted is [that] the Soviet Union, which no longer exists… has a strong Arab 'lobby.' [The Soviet Union] disintegrated in 1990, and in its place arose 15 sovereign republics, which were accepted as members of the United Nations, and each with commercial, economic, and political ties with the neighboring Arab countries…

"Every time Vladimir Putin comes out with a strong statement against the West, and especially the U.S… the Soviet Arab lobby immediately springs into action, applauds, and announces the long-awaited Soviet comeback to the international arena. But the Soviets' big return [to the real world] occurred when they invaded Georgia and backed separatist groups there, [thus] becoming the only country to acquiesce to two states – Abhasia and South Ossetia.

"Under normal circumstances… the Arab world would have automatically objected to the invasion of a small country by a large one, just as it would have rejected the idea of a separatist movement – which is understandable considering what the Arabs [have suffered under] imperialist powers, and Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. [It is also understandable considering the Arabs'] fear of disrupting the balance of forces between the Arab states and their powerful neighbors, and of the disintegration of modern Arab states due to [internal] strife.

"In our times, the Arabs are concerned about the fate of Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Lebanon. It is difficult to foresee what the future holds as far as surrendering to cruel foreign forces, [internal] rifts, and internecine wars. [One might have thought that,] by now, the Arabs should have had enough of this – enough to unanimously oppose Russia's invasion of Georgia.

"However, the [Arab] countries remained silent, while the [Arab] media cheered in approval, [believing that] this invasion heralded the comeback of the Soviet Union to the international arena. [They reacted to the Russian invasion] as though a unified Arab state had been established, or the Arabs had joined the camp of the developed countries."

Ideologically, the Situation in the Arab World Is Anomalous

"The most serious developments, [however,] occurred in the wake of the current economic crisis. It is then that the Arabs' '[pro-]Soviet mentality' took the form of uncanny enthusiasm… Most of the Arab capital and financial reserves are invested in banks and institutions in the West… The upshot is that the Arabs have extensive [economic] interests in the West, and especially in the U.S., and as a result [depend on] its economic wellbeing.

"[But] what took place in the Arab world, [and particularly] in its press and media, was astounding. There were almost no efforts to make sense of the crisis and no attempts to envisage its impact on us and to find ways to cope with the situation.

"Some among us decided to announce the premature death of the U.S., the revival of the Soviet Union, and the return of the happy days when the world was bi- or multi-polar. But above all else, they hastened to announce the end of the capitalist [era, in hope that] this would enable the countries to run their economies in exactly the same way as during the time of the Soviet Union and socialism.

"What is especially odd is that 'the Soviet lobby' is not comprised solely of veteran socialists, but has [recently] been joined by new and old Islamist groups, which believe that both socialism and capitalism must [now] be replaced by an Islamic regime…

"[I reiterate:] Ideologically, the situation in the Arab world is anomalous. While the educated in India, China, and, of course, in Europe and the U.S. analyzed the developments and [took measures] to remedy the situation, the Arab [elites], propelled by the obsolete [pro-]Soviet mentality, gloated over what happened and wished for a overall collapse – as if they themselves, along with their compatriots, would remain unscathed and avoid going down with the ship.

"Exactly the same thing happened two decades ago, with the advent of globalization, that harbinger of the modern world order: The overwhelming majority of the world [elites] accepted this historical change, with the exception of a handful of the left, along with Arab journalists and spokesmen, who were swayed by their [pro-]Soviet yearnings.

"[The same pattern] re-emerged after the September 11 attacks, when the conspiracy theory and solidarity with Al-Qaeda and bin Laden were much more widespread in the Arab countries than elsewhere – even more so than in the [rest of the] Muslim world. Indeed, poll results in Turkey, Nigeria and Indonesia differed dramatically from those in the Arab countries.

"The reason for this is that the Soviet virus and the Cold War are still [part of] the aspirations and desires of the Arab capital cities – in cafes, in the newspapers, and on television channels."


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 22, 2008.

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