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From: Bart (
Subject:         Fr. middle east expert prof. juan cole
Date: December 18, 2005 at 8:23 am PST

Parties Jockey for Power in Wake of Elections;
Dulaimi willing to Ally with Shiites

Since Bush is going to say Sunday that the Sunni Arab participation in the elections suggests a near end of major guerrilla violence, let me just repeat what I said Thursday: the history of guerrilla insurgencies is replete with groups that simulaneously fought on both the political and paramilitary fronts. Listen to how angry the Sunni politicians are, as they speak out in the wake of the elections, both at Bush and at the Shiites, and you get a sense of how detached the Bush administration remains from reality.

A major Sunni leader whose list (the National Dialogue Council) seems to be doing well, Salih Mutlak, just came on Arabic satellite television and gave a strident anti-American speech. He addressed Bush, warning him not to believe that a fair election had just occurred in Iraq, and denounced the continued US military occupation of his country. He also lashed out at Shiite politicians. Mutlak is a secular Arab nationalist who still praises the Baath Party. Mutlak's emergence as a likely power broker in the Iraqi parliament is good news for Bush?

By the way, the assertion Bush keeps making that the political developments in Iraq will influence the rest of the Middle East is ridiculous to anyone who actually talks to anyone from the region. Arabs mostly believe that Iraq is laboring under an oppressive foreign military occupation. You can't bring up Iraq without them saying, "The Americans are doing such horrible things there." They think of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, and of the Ministry of Interior's secret torture cells, not of parliamentary debates. Few think the Iraqi elections are aboveboard, and few are very interested in them. In Beirut, the newspapers have been putting a short article on the elections below the fold every day since Wednesday, and that is about it. It isn't even really positioned as important news; the New York Times puts it higher on the page than most Arab newspapers.

An American living in Egypt who was teaching out in the provinces in a major city told me about recently witnessing a student demonstration that included a skit. Thousands of students had come out, and some grade schoolers were there in the front row. On the steps of an academic hall, Islamist students enacted a play about an Iraqi suicide bomber blowing up US troops, to enormous glee and applause. That's what most Arabs think about Iraq, on the outside. They don't want to emulate an American-occupied country. Bush's naive conviction that his project is exemplary reminds me of the way the Communists in Russia initially thought that all the factory workers in the West would want immediately to imitate their worker's paradise. Of course, few wanted to give up their unions and consumer lifestyle so as to become the wards of a one-party state. Likewise, American Imperial "democracy" strikes most Arabs as paternalistic and hypocritical, masking a police state of a sort they are all too familiar with.

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