Originally Published 2004-03-04 11:21:41 Published on Mar 04, 2004
Diplomacy commenced when the first human societies decided it was better to hear the message than eat the messenger. Messages to rulers are rarely purposeless; their timing and occasion are carefully chosen and the content crafted with care.
Will America heed the message?
Diplomacy commenced when the first human societies decided it was better to hear the message than eat the messenger. Messages to rulers are rarely purposeless; their timing and occasion are carefully chosen and the content crafted with care. 

One such message was delivered to the United States on September 28 by Prince Moulay Hashid, brother of the King of Morocco. He is by age and education in the category President George W. Bush would call modern and moderate Muslims. The occasion was an address to the Wharton Business School; the timing a month before the presidential elections. Morocco is cited in Washington as an Arab state that has gone ahead with a reform agenda. 

Describing himself as "a frank voice from the Middle East" the Prince addressed the neocon agenda in blunt terms and said the invasion of Iraq was neither about weapons of mass destruction nor about democratisation and oil. 

"It is, and always was, a war about re-making first Iraq, then the Middle East, into a zone of compliance with U.S. interests" and more generally about demonstrating the U.S. will and power to reshape the world in the 21st century in its own interest and on its own terms, forcibly if necessary. He referred to the scenario building for "World War IV" and said the proponents of the invasion were not disheartened by the turn of events and instead were "enthused by the prospect of wider and deeper conflict in Iraq and in the region." Their purpose was "nothing less than breaking or taming the Arab-Islamic world" and America "has the stomach to impose a new political culture on the defeated parties." 

Temporary upsets do not, therefore, interfere with the strategic goals of this approach. Comparing the situation to a seething vortex of conflict, he said a parallel vortex existed in the shape of the jihadi Islam that advocated a similar generalised confrontation. "It is the unavoidable duty of Muslims to combat and defeat any such ideology, wherever it appears and by any means necessary. It is also the right of anyone who is attacked by these forces to combat and defeat them." 

The third element of this turbulent mix, said the Prince, was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The world has seen "the President of the United States abandon decades of international and U.S. policy to embrace the agenda of the Israeli right... We now see the U.S. accommodating every Israeli project for Palestinian politicide." This enraged Arab and Muslim opinion and "at some point, of course - and not so incidentally, perhaps - Palestinian rage will be aimed directly at Americans." 

And so while the Iraqi war and occupation was the urgent issue, the central, underlying problem was the Palestinian issue. "The plight of the Palestinians is the egregious ongoing injustice in the world. It is the one complaint of Bin Laden's that had resonance. It is now joined with, and amplified by, the occupation of Iraq. This is the self reinforcing vortex of serious trouble." And given the perceived identification of interests that the neocons had succeeded in crafting between the U.S. and Israel, it would lead to more conflict. The prospects for the next ten years were, therefore, not good. As a result, the much-needed democratic reform in the Arab world "must now take a back seat." 

The only way to reverse the trend was for the U.S. to "change its policy and its direction, both in Iraq and in the war on terror" and make a renewed commitment to international law and institutions. It would also mean understanding that democracy could only be built in partnership with progressive forces in Arab societies in a process that would be complex and contradictory. "It will require accepting that groups whose agenda the U.S. will not like will become significant actors in this process." However "the political leadership with the will for these kind of changes does not seem to exist in the United States today". 

The Prince was specific in his prognosis on Iraq. The one unifying theme that cut across the insurgency was opposition to occupation. Democratisation could thus lead to "re-Baathification without the Tikrit element." The U.S. army was the prime source of instability. No matter what its exit brought, it must exit, and quickly. 

Moulay Hashid's speech, apart from being valid in diagnostic terms, was remarkable for its candour in faulting U.S. policy, in identifying its causes, and its implications. For a member of an Arab ruling family to be so critical in public is unusual if not unprecedented. The Prince could not have spoken in these terms without the knowledge and approval of his brother. Morocco has enjoyed a privileged relationship with Washington. It has been the venue, and the channel, for confidential parleys with Israel. It is far removed from the area of crisis and yet feels the heat intensely enough to convey its concerns publicly on the eve of an election. Have Arab rulers given up on Mr. Bush? 

The writer is a former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations and is currently Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Chennai, October 4, 2004.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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