December 1, 2010

US credibility in the Islamic world hinges on consistent & principled diplomacy

    Wednesday, December 01, 2010   No comments

The Obama administration promised a new era with the Islamic world based on mutual respect and common interests. The US and the Islamic world must work together to end deadly extremism and dislocating suspicions.

The global relations can be balanced when each side of the equation is also balanced. While the US administration must respect the will and interests of its people, the Arab and Muslim leaders, too, must be asked to respect the interests of their peoples. Lasting relations are achieved when peoples feel connected, not just leaders do. When it comes to the Islamic world, the US is seen as a friend of some regimes not of the people. A couple of examples will illustrate the problem.

Nearly two years ago, the US condemned the Iranian regime for holding an election that did not meet the “standards.” Western media ran daily stories about protests and the government crackdown. The US and its Western allies continue to criticize the Iranian government arguing that it does not represent the will of all Iranians. Let’s assume that this true the purpose of this article; and see if US holds the same standard when dealing with other Muslim leaders.

This Sunday, the Egyptian regime held national elections where less than 15% of the 40 million registered voters participated. International observers were barred from monitoring the process. Before and during the elections, more than 700 members of the main opposition group (the Muslims Brethren) were arrested and several people were killed. Just today, Arab media reported that protests are still underway and at least one more person was killed. The regime harassed voters and relied on hired criminals to intimidate opposition figures. The outcome so far: all but half a dozen of the 508 seats went to the ruling party. The main opposition block (Muslims Brethren that won 20% of the seats in the 2005 elections) did not win a single seat in the first round held on Sunday.

Next fall, Egypt will hold its presidential elections and it is safe to predict that Mubarak or whomever Mubarak appoints to succeed him will win. The US will, again, release a statement saying that it is disappointed and Western media will ignore the story. But the peoples in the Islamic world want more than statements; they want consistency: the US should either hold all Muslim leaders to the same standard or keep quiet and let the peoples fight their own battles.

Surely, Iranians may have some problems with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; but here is the difference: In two years,Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, cannot and will not run again. Iranians will be electing their fifth different president in just 29 years. Egyptians, on the other hand, will be electing the same president who has been ruling for 29 years.


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