Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Arab press

Al Jazeera isn't the only Arab news source. In the Jordan Times, Rami Khouri writes on a peaceful demonstration against President Hosni Mubarak's campaign for a fifth presidential term and a statement from the UAE minister of defense:

The second fascinating political development in the expanding Arab reform industry this week was the blunt statement by UAE defence minister and Dubai crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed Ben Rashid Al Maktoum, who hosts a three-day gathering in Dubai called the Arab Strategy Forum. In his comments, opening the meeting Monday, he spoke directly to his “fellow Arab leaders” and warned them that if they did not change, they would be changed. He said: “If you do not initiate radical reforms that restore respect for public duty and uphold principles of transparency, justice and accountability, then your people will resent you and history will judge you harshly.”

The very explicit warning was that lousy leaders would be changed, presumably by their own people, but, in view of recent American military moves in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps also by well armed, interventionist foreign powers.

He concludes:

It is a good sign that the Dubai leadership here would now speak out in such forceful and explicitly political terms about the lack of accountability among Arab leaders, at the same time that some Egyptians are saying the same things through peaceful street demonstrations. It is not clear where these twin dynamics may lead, but they are certainly worth watching in the months ahead.

The overall tone of his piece is hopeful, and that in itself is encouraging. I'd much rather the Arab people get rid of their "lousy leaders" than us having to do it for them again.