Bush Declares: Leaders of the Middle East, Tear Down Your Walls (FrontPageMagazine.com) By Dr. Walid Phares02/03/05)
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President George Bush’s State of the Union address will be a
momentous inspiration to millions of freedom-craving citizens of the
Arab Middle East. As the President underlined, there is now a Taliban-
free Afghanistan, a Ba´athist-free Iraq, and a window of opportunity
for a Palestinian democracy. These promising realities are the
result, not of coincidence, but of American resolve – of presidential
resolve, ideology and action. Citizens of the Middle East who yearn
for democracy understand this all too well – and that is precisely
why they are so thrilled by Bush’s speech.
As soon as the President finished his last sentence and began
greeting the legislators, my phone didn´t stop ringing. From Baghdad,
Beirut, Europe, and many U.S. cities, many of my Arab and Middle
Eastern colleagues expressed their gratitude and confidence. They
told me they wept when they saw one of their own – Iraqi female voter
Safia Taleb al-Suhail – raising her hand to show the blue ink on her
finger. They, and all Americans, were moved when she embraced the
mother of the U.S. soldier killed in Fallujah. They cried even more
when they saw the standing ovation celebrating the "courage of the
Iraqi people, challenging the terrorists last Sunday."
An Iraqi friend asked me: “What Arab parliament, what international
assembly stood by us as your Congress did when we were massacred and
killed?" Viewers from Mesopotamia were in a historic solidarity with
the vision President Bush enunciated on the Potomac.
The Presidential statement on Iraq is a direct answer to the popular
statement expressed by the Iraqi people. America removed Saddam; Iraq
espoused democracy. America freed a nation; that nation will be one
of the strongest allies in the War on Terror.
And now, the domino effect takes hold: the liberation of Iraq is
spilling over beyond the Tigris and the Euphrates.
For the first time ever, a U.S. President addressed Syria in a State
of the Union speech. Never before has an American leader ever
mentioned the Syrian reform movement. Accusing the Ba´athist regime
of harboring terrorists, building weapons, and perpetrating violence,
President Bush raised the hopes of that country´s civil society to
higher levels. Those Arab reformers – and one of them was on the
phone with me – are now on the Middle East map. When 500 members of
the greatest legislative branch on earth, from both parties, champion
freedom for Syria´s people, expect millions of men and women to take
to the streets in Damascus when the time comes.
My Iranian friends were in disbelief when they heard the American
president committing America to stand with "the democrats of Iran, if
they stand for themselves." Tehran’s despots cannot expect to oppress
their people much longer. "Even if nothing else happens after this
speech,” an Iranian activist told me over the phone, "I feel I had
enough of human recognition." He and his fellow reformers have not
been so recognized by any administration in the past.
President Bush also crossed other lines last night. By asking Egypt
to lead the Arab world towards democracy as it led it towards peace,
the president responded to those who accused him of being one-sided
in his call for change. For years, on al-Jazeera and scores of
fundamentalists and anti-American commentators pounded America with a
familiar accusation: the U.S. wants freedom for its enemies, but not
for its allies. Last night, tBush´s answer fell hard on the Arab
world´s inquisitors. The American president coaxed his own Arab
allies to move towards democracy. More importantly, he defied
policies established by the previous State Department, which barred
touching the Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as it is the chief
provider of our oil. The president spoke directly to them: Riyadh
must open up its system, emancipate women, and move out of the Middle
Ages with respect to human rights.
The praise for Jordan, Morocco, and Bahrain was right on target.
Constitutional monarchies are making a few steps forward. And
skillfully, Bush´s speech elevated the issue of Palestinian rights
higher – with recognition of their statehood. The president grabbed
the historic opportunity to define its necessary terms: two states
living side by side, with security for Israelis.
America’s commitment to freedom worldwide, and especially in the Arab
world, has no equivalent in international relations. But the alliance
between the American people and the democratic movements in the
Middle East is a startingly new doctrine. In his first term,
President Bush declared the strategy of fighting terrorism must be
pursued with the spread of freedom. In his second term, Bush´s
administration is now fulfilling its election mandate of committing
itself to build the alliances necessary to win the War on Terror.
Yes, Secretary Condoleeza Rice will be visiting Jerusalem and the
West Bank to push for a new era of negotiations. Yes, President Bush
will tour Europe to mend fences. But above all, the U.S. President
has unleashed an unprecedented alliance for the 21st century: a
coalition between the greatest democracy on earth and the peoples
longing for freedom and democracy in the Middle East. An historic
realignment in world relations is likely to follow.
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