If you follow the news, you might not know about Bush’s trip to the Middle East, or what he said there. The NYTimes front page has one article, below a football story, but Al Jezeerah (the only “free” press in the Arab world) with three stories…If you really want a summary, go instead to Gateway Pundit’s coverage…includes photos and speeches…
After years of the Arab world stagnating under dictators (most of them supported by the US and European interests), Professor Mansur points out that Bush has introduced a new element into the volitile mix: A fledgling democracy….with freedom of speech, opportunity to make a living, and even to have a say in what is going on in your country, without having to obey the dictator or the mullahs fiat.
Iraq may not be paradise, but the corner is turned. The fact that ex Baathist government officials can now work for the new government in Iraq is big news, ignored (another successful Benchmark, meaning that another complaint of the Democrats has hit the dust). The Shiites will continue to hate the Sunni, and vice versa, but there is hope that both groups are so tired of war that they will cooperate enough to start on the important things of life: working to support one’s family and be prosperous.
As for the surge, even AlJezeerah’s Baghdad correspondent admits the streets are quieter, albeit he’s still afraid to leave the hotel and notes a lot of people lack gas and electric power…(a complaint that could be heard in Iran which is having a natural gas shortage).
A lot of the credit for the turn around goes to the surge…the mopping up battles going on in Iraq…StrategyPage has details.
In the meanwhile, to see how Islam is compatible with the modern world, and to see what Iraq might look like in ten or twenty years, just look to the south: the small Gulf states are prospering…and Bush’s visit there is important because the US essentially is keeping them safe and stable from other countries nearby trying to take them over.
Most Americans aren’t aware these small countries exist. The City Journal has a nice article on them. A lot of Filipinos live there and despite the article mentioning bad labour practices that need fixing, most prefer working there to Saudi Arabia. They are not democracies but enlightened monarchies, but there is freedom and prosperity, and hope for the future:
To their supporters, however, Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE offer the only plausible antidote to the spread of the Islamistsâ€™ grim destructive militancy. â€œWho is more spectacular: Osama bin Laden, who destroyed two towers? Or the UAE, which has built over a thousand?â€ asked Jamil Mroue, a Lebanese journalist and a newcomer to Abu Dhabi, as we gazed out at the tranquil gulf from his garden over Coke and shish kebab one night last fall. â€œWhose road will the Arabs travel: the one paved by MBZâ€â€”Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayedâ€”â€œto conquer time? Or Osamaâ€™s that seeks to reverse it?â€
So what about Iran?
Iran has many internal problems, including an imploding population, a big drug problem, many non Farsi citizens, a lot of oil but not enough refineries, and a lot of corruption, maybe not by the Mullahs but by their extended families (something we see here in the Philippines). They really could use cheap Nuclear power for electricity, but the danger is that they will use the reactors instead to make nuclear weapons, and then some of the hotheads in that government would use it to pressure nearby countries (such as the smaller Gulf states and Iraq) to join in a Shiite confederation, with of course the more rabid Iranians in control.
But when you talk of Iran, it’s not the same as Saddam’s monolithic Iraq.they plan to use it And Unlike Saddam’s Iraq, there is a lot of disorganization, so no one person is in control.
U.S. officials have a hard time getting used to the fact that no one is in charge in Iran. There are many different factions, which generally tolerate whatever the other faction does. Although technically a religious dictatorship, it’s more of a collegial setup, with much debate and bickering required before the majority of the factions can lean on one group to do, or stop doing, something. That’s how the Islamic radical factions in the Revolutionary Guard Corps were finally persuaded to stop encouraging terror attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq (U.S. and British commando operations against the Revolutionary Guard Corps operations helped).
You know that attack of small boats against Navy ships that everyone is arguing about? That was the Revolutionary Guard Corps causing trouble…and a lot of Bush’s rhetoric is to warn their keepers that unlike the Brits, whose sailors surrendered to a swarm of boats that attacked one of their small ships, that the US would shoot back.
So ignore a lot of the rhetoric: read between the lines.
The real danger is not the hot heads in their speed boats, it is that the hot heads making problems in Israel, via their proxies in Gaza who keep lobbing missiles into Israel.
Stratpage has an inresting note here about (Iranian backed ) Hamas…
If their missiles into Israel cause a war, the Arabs will be creamed, allowing Iran to stop into the gap….except of course this is nonsense: The real danger is that the hotheads and their proxies will go too far, and Lebanon will reignite into another civil war, or that Israel will get so mad they will destroy Iran’s nuclear sites in the same way they destroyed that unknown site in Syria last year.
That is why Israel is being pressured by Bush: trying to keep things quiet while things are getting stablized in Iraq, and the general prosperity of the region makes rhetoric against Jews less inviting than the possibility of prosperity.