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
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.