Daniela Santelices of Chile’s Que Pasa magazine interviews Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad of the Minaret of Freedom Institute on the War on Iraq.
Q. Arab people in the streets have been opposed to the US intervention in Iraq.
This has happened in Jordan, for example. But governments like these countries are in a special situation, because like Jordan, they receive US assistance and have had a friendly relationship with the US after
the Gulf War , though they opposed to the war. How do governments of the region like Jordan' must perform to avoid this popular rise but also to remain close to the US? How are they acting right now?
A. There are a number of factors that the governments in these countries expect to survive the current discontent. First, through their control of the media they think they can spin the unfolding of events to minimize any backlash. Second, the fact that Saddam was so unpopular with Iraqi Arabs and with religious Muslims makes it hard to believe that his overthrow, even at the hands of foreigners, by itself could threaten these regimes. The main thing are trying to do now, I think, is to find a way to recover from the fact that an Arab country was utterly unable to even slow down an invasion by a foreign power. The speed with which the capital city fell was humiliating in a way reminiscent of the 1967 War that alienated the Arab masses not only from America but from their own leadership. I believe that the Arab states are urging America to withdraw as quickly as it can now that its professed chief objective has been achieved, since such a withdrawal would prevent the Arab resentment from festering and spare them any consequences. It is important to remember that none if these countries are true democracies. For the reasons stated above the level of discontent is not now high enough to threaten a rebellion, but a prolonged American occupation of Iraq might change that.
Q. Do you think Arab people in countries such as Jordan could build a resistance like that in Lebanon because of the US intervention in an Arab country? In what way they can demonstrate their anger to the US and in which way the governments can control it?
A. A resistance like that in Lebanon is only likely if those countries are directly occupied themselves. Under the current circumstances I believe that peaceful resistance is the most promising course for the people of countries like Jordan to attempt to influence American policy. The boycott of American products is gaining strength. If the Arab governments had the wisdom to free up their economies to let the Arab people create their own substitutes for American goods, the people are angry enough to pay the additional costs and/or to endure the lower quality such goods may initially have in order to avoid American products. The success of "Mecca Cola" in the markets where it is available underscores the potential of such a strategy. Once American industry feels threatened, they may well pay attention to, and counter, the hijacking of American foreign policy by the neoconservatives. The governments of these countries have followed domestic policies that have prevented them from having robust domestic economies and thus kept themselves dependent on foreign assistance.
Q. Also, what do you think the US should do to end with the feelings against it?
A. The best thing America could do is to withdraw from Iraq immediately let the U.N. take over the rebuilding and the weapons inspections. Although this would not end Arab resentment over the war, it would prevent it from growing to proportions that would threaten the stability of states friendly to America. Since this is not going to happen, the second best thing it can do is to invite the U.N. and other allies to rapidly rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure without concern for whether they supported or opposed the war effort. It is inevitable that the reconstruction will not go smoothly, but if the United States goes it alone then it will bear all the blame for every hitch (like the recent looting). Above all it is mandatory that the Iraqis be allowed to rule themselves. The installation of yet another puppet government will only confirm the analyses of the most cynical critics of American motives for the war.