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IRAQ: The Arab media gang up on Rice
IRAQ: The Arab media gang up on Rice
Try as it might, the U.S. has apparently failed again to convince its Arab allies in the Persian Gulf to promise to step in with their cash and credibility in support of the fledgling, Shiite-led Iraqi government.
Tuesday, April 22,2008 17:01

Try as it might, the U.S. has apparently failed again to convince its Arab allies in the Persian Gulf to promise to step in with their cash and credibility in support of the fledgling, Shiite-led Iraqi government.

In a visit to Bahrain on Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to convince oil-rich Persian Gulf nations to relieve Iraq of billions of dollars of debt, open embassies in the war-torn country and help counter Iran"s growing influence.

She walked away empty-handed. Instead, Rice"s latest visit to the region has prompted a fresh storm of criticism against U.S. policy in Iraq, which is the subject of a big conference in Kuwait today.

Welcoming her there was a fiery column in the Kuwait Times lambasting U.S. efforts to bolster the Sunni Arab states" involvement in Iraq after triggering chaos in that country:

How do you want the Arabs to be involved? ... Is Baghdad a safe enough place to open an embassy? Or for diplomats to roam around and mingle? ... You are too sophisticated, Dr. Rice, to think that the Iraqi problem is opening embassies or money and that scrapping the debts will solve it... Your mission is very tough. The rift between Sunnis and Shiites is vast and won"t be easily healed. Leave alone the problems between the Kurds and Turkey and all the other abusers and exploiters who are pouring into Iraq in the name of democracy and all those who are benefiting from the misery of the Iraqi people.

In general, Arab opinion-makers offered few solutions to the ongoing Iraq crisis, but a lot of blame and criticism of the U.S., especially for past decisions.

A recent opinion piece (in Arabic) in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir by Sateh Nourredine argued that the U.S. failed to promote Iraq as a liberal Shiite state and an alternative to Iran:

From the first moment of the occupation five years ago, it was clear that America wanted to preserve Iraq"s unity, Arab identity, and democratic evolution, which are common titles for all the Arab leftist movements. But the lack of movement towards dividing the Iraqi state, which is ready to be implemented in the Kurdish north, and the holding of elections amidst deep Iraqi divisions, was not accompanied by equal focus on marketing Arab nationalism and portraying it as an Iraqi and regional safe haven as is being done today.

In today’s London-based pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, columnist Abdelbari Atwari called Rice"s demand to support the Maliki government as a bulwark against Iran "perhaps her most provocative and offensive" request:

That Iranian influence in Iraq is expanding and rising is only to be expected. This is because the architects of the U.S. war in Iraq paved the way for it by disbanding the Iraqi army, dismantling Iraqi state institutions, criminalizing the Baath Party, setting up Iran’s allies and militias as the new rulers, and providing them with money, weapons, and political and moral support. Now, these same architects are coming to demand that the Arabs fix what they themselves have ruined, and to support the sectarian hate-filled Maliki government that makes no secret of its loathing for the Arabs.

Among commentators, there is a strong sense that it"s not worth it for the Arab world to do anything the Bush administration wants, since the president"s term has only nine months left. Another Op-Ed article published recently by the Arab daily Al-Hayat, Patrick Seal called Rice"s goal of improving security in Iraq an impossible task:

She (Rice) is hoping to persuade Iraq"s neighbours to help the United States pacify the shattered and war-torn country — in other words to help repair some of the terrible damage the U.S. itself has done. It may be worth a try, but the prospects are highly unpromising… The time has surely come for the regional states to take their destiny into their own hands. They should convene a conference on Iraq — but politely ask Condoleezza Rice to stay away.

Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, left, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, center, and Kuwait Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Nasser Ahmad attend the Third Expanded Ministerial Conference of the Neighbouring Countries of Iraq in Kuwait City today. Credit: EPA/RAED QUTENA








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