The Freedom House has released the annual global survey on freedom in the world, Global Survey 2006: Middle East Progress Amid Global Gains in Freedom.

The freedom march in the world particularly in the Middle East and the change in the international political realities into new foundations for an international order further acknowledging freedom and democracy are not just rhetoric and hopes we are recurrently talking about. Actually, there is significant information we should contemplate in the Freedom Global Survey this year.

This good news is the best for my last post this year; enjoy it and drink freedom's toast tonight. A happy, prosperous and free 2006 I wish for all.

Here is the Freedom House's press release in addition to links to the files of charts and explanatory essay:

Charts and graphs

Explanatory essay

Global Survey 2006: Middle East Progress Amid Global Gains in Freedom

New York, December 19, 2005

The people of the Arab Middle East experienced a modest but potentially significant increase in political rights and civil liberties in 2005, Freedom House announced in a major survey of global freedom released today.

The global survey, "Freedom in the World," shows that although the Middle East continues to lag behind other regions, a measurable improvement can be seen in freedom in several key Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian Authority. In another key finding, the number of countries rated by Freedom House as Not Free declined from 49 in 2004 to 45 for the year 2005, the lowest number of Not Free societies identified by the survey in over a decade. In noteworthy country developments, Ukraine and Indonesia saw their status improve from Partly Free to Free; Afghanistan moved from Not Free to Partly Free; and the Philippines saw its status decline from Free to Partly Free.

According to Thomas O. Melia, acting executive director of Freedom House, "The modest but heartening advances in the Arab Middle East result from activism by citizen groups and reforms by governments in about equal measures. This emerging trend reminds us that men and women in this region share the universal desire to live in free societies."

"As we welcome the stirrings of change in the Middle East," said Mr. Melia, "it is equally important that we focus on the follow-through in other regions and appreciate the importance of the continuing consolidation of democracy in Indonesia, Ukraine, and other nations."

Complete survey results, including a package of charts and graphs, and an explanatory essay are available online. The Ratings reflect global events from December 1, 2004 through November 30, 2005. Country narratives will be released in book form in summer 2006.

On the whole, the state of freedom showed substantial improvement worldwide, with 27 countries and one territory registering gains and only 9 countries showing setbacks. The global picture thus suggests that the past year was one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring world freedom in 1972.

"These global findings are encouraging," said Arch Puddington, director of research. "Among other things, the past year has been notable for terrorist violence, ethnic cleansing, civil conflict, catastrophic natural disasters, and geopolitical polarization. That freedom could thrive in this environment is impressive."

Although the countries of the Middle East lag behind other regions in areas such as adherence to democratic standards, independent media, the rights of women, and the rule of law, the past year witnessed modest positive trends. Lebanon experienced the most significant improvement; its status improved from Not Free to Partly Free due to major improvements in both political rights and civil liberties that followed the withdrawal of Syrian occupation forces. Elections exhibiting increased competition in Iraq, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories; the introduction of women's suffrage in Kuwait; and improvements in Saudi Arabia's media environment are among other encouraging signs in the region.

According to the survey, 89 countries are Free, the same as the previous year. These countries' nearly 3 billion inhabitants (46 percent of the world's population) enjoy open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media. Another 58 countries representing 1.2 billion people (18 percent) are considered Partly Free. Political rights and civil liberties are more limited in these countries, in which the norm may be corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, and a setting in which a single political party enjoys dominance. The survey finds that 45 counies are Not Free. The 2.3 billion inhabitants (35 percent) of these countries are widely and systematically denied basic civil liberties and basic political rights are absent.

Aside from the Middle East, countries in the former Soviet Union were most notable for improvements in freedom during 2005. In addition to Ukraine, improvements were noted in Kyrgyzstan, whose rating improved from Not Free to Partly Free, and Georgia. Positive change was also noted in Latvia and Lithuania, two states where democratic freedoms had already been consolidated.

Further gains in the region will likely depend on the development of the kind of mature and credible opposition that emerged in Ukraine and Georgia prior to their nonviolent revolutions. At the same time, authoritarian leaderships in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, and, most importantly, Russia have adopted policies that will make it more difficult for the development of a genuine civil society and will impede the development of a democratic political opposition.

In Uzbekistan, state violence against demonstrators, the repression of civil society, and an overall decline in human rights conditions during the past year was sufficiently pronounced to warrant a decline in the country's Freedom in the World score to the lowest possible rating. Only eight countries worldwide earned a similar status as the worst of the worst, and two, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, are in Central Asia. In Russia-whose freedom status Freedom House lowered from Partly Free to Not Free one year ago-the Putin leadership's anti-democratic tendencies appeared, if anything, more pronounced in 2005.

Among the study's other findings:

  • The number of electoral democracies increased by three, from 119 to 122. This represents 64 percent of the world's countries-the highest number in the survey's 33-year history.
  • Of the four countries that registered an outright decline in status, the most significant was the Philippines. The decision to downgrade this country from Free to Partly Free was based on credible allegations of massive electoral fraud, corruption, and the government's intimidation of elements in the political opposition. The period since September 11, 2001, has witnessed steady progress in majority Muslim countries in regions beyond the Middle East.
  • The steady record of progress observed represents a powerful argument against the proposition that Islam is incompatible with democracy or is an impediment to the spread of freedom. Indeed, there has been a striking improvement in the level of freedom in majority Muslim countries over the past ten years. In 1995, 1 majority Muslim country was Free, 13 were Partly Free, and 32, or 70 percent, were Not Free. For 2005, the figures are 3 Free countries, 20 Partly Free, and 23 Not Free.

Regional Patterns

Democracy and freedom are the dominant trends in Western and East-Central Europe, in the Americas, and increasingly in the Asia-Pacific region. In the former Soviet Union, the picture remains mixed, while in Africa, Free societies and electoral democracies remain a minority despite recent progress. As noted above, the Middle East has experienced gains for freedom, though the region as a whole overwhelmingly consists of countries in the Partly Free and Not Free categories.

Of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 11 are Free (23 percent), 23 are Partly Free (48 percent), and 14 are Not Free (29 percent). Of the African countries, 23 (48 percent) are electoral democracies.

In Asia, 16 of the region's 39 countries are Free (41 percent), 12 are Partly Free (31 percent), and 11 are Not Free (28 percent). A solid majority of the region's countries, 23, are in the ranks of electoral democracies.

In East-Central Europe and the former USSR, there is now evidence of a deepening chasm. In Central Europe and parts of Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states, democracy and freedom prevail; in the countries of the former Soviet Union, however, progress has been decidedly mixed. Overall, 17 of the 27 post-communist countries of East-Central Europe and the former Soviet Union are electoral democracies. In addition, 13 of the region's states are Free (48 percent), 7 are Partly Free (26 percent), and 7 are Not Free (26 percent). Meanwhile, of the 12 non-Baltic former Soviet republics, 1 country is free (8 percent), 4 are Partly Free (33 percent), and 7 are Not Free (58 percent).

Western Europe consists largely of Free countries and democracies, with 24 states Free, 1 country (Turkey) Partly Free, and all 25 ranking as electoral democracies.

Among the 35 countries in the Americas, 33 are electoral democracies. In all, 24 states are rated as Free (69 percent), 9 are Partly Free (26 percent), and 2-Cuba and Haiti-are Not Free (6 percent).

In the 18 Middle Eastern countries, only one, Israel, ranks as Free (Israel is also the only electoral democracy in the region). There are 6 Partly Free states (33 percent), and 11 countries that are Not Free (61 percent).

Worst of the Worst

There are 45 states that are rated as Not Free, in which a broad range of freedoms are systematically denied. Among the Not Free countries, 8 states have been given the survey's lowest rating of 7 for political rights and 7 for civil liberties. The eight worst-rated countries represent a narrow range of systems and cultures. Cuba and North Korea are one-party Marxist-Leninist regimes. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are Central Asian countries ruled by dictators with roots in the Soviet period. Libya and Syria are Arab countries under the sway of secular dictatorships, while Sudan is under a leadership that has elements both of radical Islamism and of the traditional military junta. The remaining worst rated state is Burma, a tightly controlled military dictatorship.

There are two worst-rated territories: Tibet (under Chinese jurisdiction) and Chechnya, where an indigenous Islamic population is engaged in a brutal guerrilla war for independence from Russia.



The Besieged Lebanon

The forces of the old Middle East, the pre-2003 Middle East, through the totalitarian-terrorist alliance, are fighting to survive. After the consecutive failures in Iraq to restore the totalitarianism there as an indispensable guarantee to the Middle East status quo, which based on the authoritarianism and the interdependent system of despotic regimes to ensure their sustainability, the pursuit now is to encompass the nascent democracy in Iraq regionally and to stop the international pro-democracy effort to spread out in the Middle East.

I have frequently said that liberating Lebanon belongs to the same sense of the course of action of liberating Iraq. This course of action represents the international "new deal" in the Middle East through the strategic effort to end the cold-war era in the region besides the Soviet legacy there. The success in Lebanon is important as much as the success in Iraq; it is a requisite for the long-term stability and for the thriving democratic project in the region.

The totalitarian and terrorist forces are flouting the international community and the international resolutions by murdering the Lebanese symbols and cadres of the Cedar Revolution and by hindering the political reform of Lebanon and stalling the Lebanese people's ability to rule themselves and their country freely and democratically.

Lebanon now is besieged from outside and inside too. The terrorist groups, which directly attached to foreign governments characterized with the destructive role in the Middle East, are still holding their military bases on the Lebanese territory. Furthermore, some parties of those are playing the role of hindering the elected government from discharging its responsibilities in protecting the Lebanese sovereignty and democracy and ensuring the Lebanese independence and integrity through their participation in the government or/and their possession of weapons and their state of affairs as state inside the state.

The international powers must clearly realize the disastrous effects and consequences to inflict the stability and the democratic movement in the region and the geopolitical achievements of the Operation Iraqi Freedom too if they did not move quickly and seriously to ensure the full implementation of the UNSCR 1559. Furthermore, the international community holds the responsibility to protect the Lebanese people through decisive international measures.

The indecisiveness of the international community about the comprehensive war against Lebanon and its freedom and independence may ultimately cause Lebanon to be held as a hostage on behalf of some regional totalitarian regimes. In addition, it would let the Middle East reformers down and would serve the Middle East authoritarian status quo alongside many security risks.

Related posts:

The International Community Unifies Over Political Crimes in the Middle East



Defining the Iraqi Question

Supporting the new Lebanon

Related link:

Gebran Tueni

Samir Qassir

Here are some related articles:

Lebanon, When Will It End?

By Edward S. Walker, Jr.,

December 16, 2005
Middle East Institute Perspective

A week ago, Saad Hariri announced at the Arab Thought Conference in Dubai that he was going home — going home to re-energize his party and the cause of democracy and freedom in Lebanon. And so the forces of darkness had to send a message. And they had to send a message to anyone who would stand in the way of Syrian dominance in Lebanon or who would testify against the Syrian “Family.” That message was 200 pounds of C4 explosive that wiped Saad’s ally and outspoken critic of Syria, Gibran Tueni, out of the opposition to Syria and off the face of the earth. It was no accident that the technique used against Gibran was the same technique used against Saad Hariri’s father, Rafiq.

I don’t know who was responsible — whether it was the Syrian “Family” in Damascus or their cohorts in Beirut. As in the case of Rafiq Hariri, when challenging the security institutions of a state that is prepared to manufacture evidence and intimidate or eliminate witnesses, we are likely never to get the kind of certainty that would stand up in a court of law. Even the distinguished German investigator Detlev Mehlis, whom the UN Security Council tasked to investigate Rafiq Hariri’s assassination, cannot assemble a forensics case that is strong enough to stand up in court. But he has pinpointed where responsibility lies: with the Assad regime in Damascus and in Lebanon’s security apparatus. These are the forces that seek to neuter the Future Movement in Lebanon and to assassinate the soul of this nation. As Mehlis states in his initial report, Syria polluted the political environment in Lebanon. About this, there is no doubt.

Responsibility also must fall on the shoulders of those in the Arab world and in Paris and Washington, Moscow and Beijing who are willing to put stability before democracy. What was the message the Russians were sending to Damascus by threatening to stand in the way of Security Council action? What was this message other than “do what you like — we will pay any price, make any sacrifice of the Lebanese people for stability?”

First and foremost, America must answer the call. What do we gain by our sacrifice for democracy in Iraq if we are prepared to abandon the people of Lebanon? The example of long-term success in Iraq will pale when countries in the region see that the American President is feckless in the face of this immediate challenge to democracy in Beirut.

President Bush said Monday that “Thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East and the history of freedom.” All of the President’s rhetoric will be just so much hot air if we are not prepared to stand up and be counted when confronted by the forces opposed to democracy in the Middle East. And those forces are not only al-Qaeda and the terrorists in Iraq; they also include the anti-democrats in Syria and Lebanon.

What about the countries of the region and the Islamic nations that just met in Saudi Arabia? Are the presidents and kings so afraid of instability in Syria that they are not prepared to stand for justice? What about the Israelis who prefer the devil they know in Damascus to the unknown future? Is this the same fear that grips our State Department and National Security Council in Washington?

Why do we all have so little confidence in the people of Syria? They have been led by a tiny minority clique that has the advantage of being utterly ruthless. So this minority profits by the assumption in civilized countries that no one could be so amoral or so ruthless as to assassinate Rafiq Hariri and Gibran Tueni and the other recent victims of violence in Lebanon. The minority profits by the Louis XV syndrome of “après moi, le deluge.” But the French nation did not fall when Louis XV fell. And neither will Syria if the “Family” in Damascus is dethroned. Is it not better to have the Syrian “Family” collapse than to be complicit in the failure of democracy in Lebanon?

Secretary Rice said a few months back that stability is not our goal. Well, let us prove it. Allowing people, Islamists, secularists, Muslims, and Christians to govern themselves may be messy and may lead to instability and chaos, but Mr. President, if Iraq is the right war as you have said, then standing up for democracy in Lebanon is equally right.

No man in Lebanon epitomized the freedom from fear and the commitment to democracy more than Gibran Tueni. From his days with General Aoun to his role as managing editor of the crusading An Nahar newspaper, Gibran was a standard bearer for democracy.

How many more Lebanese heroes must die before the world takes action. Who is next on the Syrian hit list that everyone in the Arab world is talking about? Must Saad Hariri be next?

Author: Edward S. Walker, Jr. is President of the Middle East Institute. He previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, US Ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, and Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations.

Breaking The Assassins

By David Ignatius

Washington Post
Wednesday, December 14, 2005; A29

This is the time of the assassins in the Arab world. On Monday they killed a brave Lebanese journalist who dared to tell the truth about Syria. This week in Iraq they will try to kill people who want to vote. They kill wives to intimidate their husbands. They kill children to frighten their parents into silence. Their power is the ability to create raw fear.

The shame for America isn't that we have tried to topple the rule of the assassins but that we have so far been unsuccessful. We thought we were cracking the old web of terror when America invaded Iraq in 2003, but it's still there, in the shadows of the shadows. George W. Bush gets a lot of things wrong, but he knows that he's fighting the assassins. On days like these, I'm glad that he is such a stubborn man.

What is this struggle about? Listen to some Arab voices. Yesterday the front page of the Beirut daily An Nahar carried an open letter from the Syrian-born Lebanese poet known as "Adonis," perhaps the most famous writer in the Arab world. It was written to the paper's celebrated editor, Ghassan Tueni, whose outspoken son Gebran had been murdered the previous day by a car bomb. "We are witnessing the destruction of the soul and the spirit," wrote the poet, whose real name is Ali Ahmed Said. The people who killed Gebran want to create "a temple of fear."

The headline atop the newspaper's front page said this: "Gebran didn't die and an-Nahar will continue." For a paper that had already lost its fearless columnist Samir Kassir to a car bomb in June, it was a defiant statement to the assassins: Kill us all. We aren't going to stop publishing the truth.

I spoke yesterday with Hisham Melhem, the paper's Washington bureau chief. His voice was cracking with emotion as he spoke of his colleagues: "I shudder when I think of the courage of Gebran and Samir. They knew they were dead men walking. But they were never intimidated."

Amid the Bush administration's mistakes and lies about Iraq over the past three years, it's easy to lose sight of what is at stake in this battle. But this week brings it back to square one: It's about breaking the power of the assassins.

The Baath Party in Iraq ruled by its sheer brutality. I gathered reports from Iraqi dissidents and human rights workers in the early 1990s, when I was researching my novel about Iraq, "The Bank of Fear." These stories are sickening to recount, even now: The children of Shiite rebels in southern Iraq, dropped from helicopters to terrify the parents; dissidents who had nails driven into their heads; and prisoners beaten with metal cables until they collapsed or died. At Saddam Hussein's trial last week, a woman was speaking about how she had been beaten with those cables. Watching his arrogant scorn for the testimony of his victims, I remembered what the war is about.

The Baath Party in Syria has governed much the same way, though it saved its worst brutality for neighboring Lebanon. The Syrians maintained their mandate by demonstrating that they were prepared to kill anyone who got in their way: a president, a prime minister, a religious leader, a journalist. The price of speaking out was death. That was the message: This is the land of death. Enter into this theater of violence and we will swallow you up.

I think of my friend and teacher, Ghassan Tueni, who is grieving for his son today. When he received an honorary doctorate at the American University of Beirut last June, Tueni recalled the time he spent in prison in the late 1940s for defying the censors and repressors of the day. He read a copy of Socrates that had been smuggled into his cell and decided he would pursue a kind of Socratic journalism that would engage in a dialogue with readers and incite them to discover the truth.

"I have to say, with much sorrow, that much of what the Arab world suffers from is largely due to the fact that neither our diplomacy nor our press has dared, or even been allowed, to tell the people the truth about our state of being and where we stand in the world," Tueni said at the end of that speech. But that wasn't true. He did dare.

People like the Tuenis who refuse to be intimidated should inspire the rest of us. So should the millions of Iraqis who will vote tomorrow. They are trying to break the culture of intimidation and death. Americans should feel proud to be on their side.

No Premature Evacuation
Otherwise it will be open season on Arab democrats

Michael Young

Reason Online
December 15, 2005

It might please Bush administration officials to know that twice during the funeral on Wednesday of slain Lebanese journalist Gebran Tueni, the United States was applauded: the first time when the ambassador in Beirut entered the church where the funeral service was to be held, the second while Tueni's coffin was accompanied by tens of thousands of chanting, angry mourners to the cemetery. With a bit of luck, this item might even find its way into Arabic newspapers courtesy of the Lincoln Group.

Writing in the Washington Post last Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued, "Supporting the growth of democratic institutions in all nations is not some moralistic flight of fancy; it is the only realistic response to our present challenges." In other words, global democracy is the ticket to greater American security. If any institution in the Middle East can be considered democratic, indeed Babel-like in its diversity, it is Tueni's newspaper, Al-Nahar. Though the publication has often been described as a staunch critic of Syria, it has also been a house of many mansions, publishing columnists friendly with the Syrians, others with much-too-comfortable access to Lebanese intelligence chiefs, luminous polemicists, liberal clerics, dispassionate analysts, dusty stenographers, gifted novelists, world-class poets, forgettable apparatchiks, and many more in a daily feast of broadsheeted contradiction.

In being open to everyone else's agenda, the newspaper paradoxically retained its own independence, ending up mostly serving the agenda of its owners, the Tuenis—Gebran, but also his father Ghassan, who turned Al-Nahar into a national institution starting half a century ago and who has just buried his third and last child. That's why Gebran's assassination on Monday was viewed as such a national calamity: Not only was an elegant, charismatic figure obliterated in an instant, the institution of Al-Nahar was seen to be existentially threatened.

There was never any doubt that Syria was behind his murder. .......................But Tueni knew who was after him, as did the foreign ambassadors who frequently warned about the dangers to his life. He had been threatened by the Syrians, several times even publicly, if deniably, in their official media. Much the same can be said of other Lebanese officials, politicians, and journalists who either have been killed, have left the country, or remain virtual prisoners in guarded residences to avoid liquidation.

Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader at the epicenter of Syria's crosshairs, put it bluntly on Tuesday, telling Reuters: "Gebran Tueni and Al-Nahar were being threatened for a long time by the Syrian regime. ... We got the message. We will persevere." In an interview with CNN that same evening, he went further, ..............and accusing Syria, for the first time openly, of having murdered several prominent national figures, including Jumblatt's own father Kamal, President Rene Mouawad, and the Sunni Mufti Sheikh Hassan Khaled.

The Syrian regime today also stands accused of having ordered the February 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. A United Nations investigation of the crime is moving forward, and on the day Tueni was killed, the German magistrate in charge of the inquiry, Detlev Mehlis, released his second report describing his team's progress. The Tueni killing was likely timed to coincide with the release.

Mehlis pointedly wrote that "the investigation has continued to develop multiple lines of enquiry which, if anything, reinforce [the] conclusions" of his first report. UN investigators had earlier found, among other things, "converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in [the Hariri murder]"; and affirmed that “given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge.”

The relevance of all this may not be immediately obvious, though the fact that today Iraq is holding its second major election—and effectively its third countrywide referendum—in less than a year might help explain it. It's simply this: As Americans, no doubt legitimately, look forward to a drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq, their impatience shouldn't mean adopting an "after me, the deluge" attitude, because that would lead to open season being declared on the region's democrats—people like the Tuenis. In places like Iraq and Lebanon, as columnist David Ignatius wrote earlier this week, now is a time for assassins; "The shame for America isn’t that we have tried to topple the rule of the assassins, but that we have so far been unsuccessful."

On the day after Tueni's death, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, one Faysal Mekdad, proved how even the tedious functionaries of despotisms end up sounding like the ........ they represent. In a closed door session at the UN, Mekdad is said to have told another Arab ambassador, "So now every time that a dog dies in Beirut there will be an international investigation?" He was referring to the fact that the Lebanese government had, just the day before, requested that the UN investigation of the Hariri murder be expanded to include the dozen or so bomb explosions that have occurred since February, and that have killed not only Tueni, but also Samir Kassir, George Hawi, and several others, including three South Asian workers and an old man, and severely injured Lebanon's defense minister and a prominent television anchorwoman.

The Security Council might endorse the Lebanese proposal as soon as today, in a resolution supported by the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom—though Russia and China, never eager to tighten the screws on autocrats, oppose it. This resistance is worrying; a watered down or vetoed resolution could again undermine Lebanese efforts to investigate the crimes. Syrian intimidation and Syria's remaining allies in the Lebanese security services have helped delay previous efforts to uncover leads. The internationalization of Lebanese security when it comes to Syria, in the same way as the internationalization of security in Iraq (regardless of America's many blunders in the country), is essential to avoid a slide into something far worse.

That's not to say the U.S. should become fireman to the world. However, in those places where democrats have made headway, there may be a heavy price to pay for unreserved abandonment. As Rice observed about the Middle East: "When the citizens of this region cannot advance their interests and redress their grievances through an open political process, they retreat hopelessly into the shadows to be preyed upon by evil men with violent designs." Should this matter to Americans? One would have thought that 9/11 answered that question.

Reason contributing editor Michael Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut.

Full article


Gebran Tueni, R.I.P.


The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

At a rally of the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon this past March, among the chants of "Death to America" and the banners lauding Syria, some of the demonstrators brandished posters that threatened, in Arabic: "We are going to sweep Gebran Tueni from Lebanon."

That is what someone has now done, with the car-bombing Monday on the outskirts of Beirut that murdered the 48-year-old Tueni, who was Lebanon's leading newspaperman in the struggle for a free and democratic society. Tueni's assassination comes not only as a loss to the Lebanese, but a hideous affront to the free world. Coming within hours of the latest United Nations report from Detlev Mehlis's investigation into the February bomb assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, Tueni's death also underscores big questions about whether it is enough to wait upon the further findings of U.N. process--however admirably diligent that has been in digging into the affairs of the prime suspect, which is the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. In the matter of Lebanon's afflictions, Tueni himself spent years telling us what the problem was, and the direction he pointed was not only Syria, but Iran.

You had to meet Gebran Tueni. He was a cross between the hard-hitting journalists of legend and the courageous democratic politicians who do in fact stand up in today's Middle East only to end up jailed, exiled or killed for their beliefs. He played one of the leading roles in the democratic Cedar Revolution that swept Lebanon this spring, and was elected this year to the Lebanese Parliament.

I met Tueni twice. The first time was in 2002, when Syria's generation-long chokehold still imposed on many Lebanese a terrified silence. I had gone to Lebanon trying to judge the strength of the democratic movement beneath the Syrian gloom. Tueni had been speaking up for years, and I paid him a call at his newspaper. It was then headquartered in the bustling Hamra section of Beirut, not far from the seaside compound that housed Syria's secret police.

A brisk, trim man with a neat mustache, Tueni welcomed me to an office filled with figurines of roosters, small and large, dignified and whimsical. He collected them, he said--a rooster being the logo of his newspaper, An-Nahar, an Arabic name which he translated for me as "The Morning." Founded by Tueni's grandfather in the 1930s, and passed from father to son for three generations, An-Nahar was for Gebran Tueni not only a family business, but a vital trust. Seated behind his grandfather's desk, speaking in fluent English, he explained that his aim was to cover the full spectrum of Lebanese news and debate, to give voice to "Muslims, Christians, leftists, rightists." As a Lebanese patriot, he refused to be cowed by Syrian censorship. In 2000 he had broken his country's long silence by publishing an explicit call for Syria to get its troops out of Lebanon. He had no patience with the press self-censorship that tends to become the rule under jackboot regimes. "If you accept to enter the game of blackmailing, it's your fault," he said. "We try to have an independent paper."

Asked about the dangers of such a stance, he catalogued quickly that he had been shot twice, in 1976 and 1989; kidnapped briefly, in 1976; and exiled in 1990 for three years.

Tueni's defiance of despotic rule extended not only to Syrian occupation but to the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanese politics. He described Hezbollah as "an imported product from Iran. It has nothing to do with Lebanese identity." He went on to explain that Hezbollah is "a direct threat, acting in Lebanon like a state within a state," with "weapons everywhere." Hezbollah, he said, has its enticing side, building hospitals and schools, and providing free education to children of poor families--"but what are they teaching?" Hezbollah's strategy, he said, "Is to transform us into an Islamic republic." Tueni described Iran as providing Hezbollah's weapons and the funding, and Syria as providing "the cover."

Tueni saw democracy as the only acceptable future for Lebanon. He had no illusions that it would be easy going: "Just to talk about democracy, it's not a cocktail party," he said, "You have to work at it."

When I returned to Lebanon in March of this year, on a reporting assignment for the New York Sun, Tueni was working around the clock. He had moved his newspaper to new headquarters in the center of Beirut. The offices now looked out appropriately enough onto Martyr's Square, which had become the gathering place for the Lebanese democratic protests catalyzed by Hariri's assassination the previous month. An-Nahar was chronicling not only the Lebanese democratic movement, but signs of political dissent within Syria itself--amplifying the message throughout the Arabic-speaking world by way of the An-Nahar Web site (where today, in terms anyone can read, the rooster logo weeps (see http://www.annaharonline.com/).

In March Tueni was meeting with other organizers of the Lebanese opposition, trying to translate the momentum in the streets into major steps toward real independence and democratic change. I asked him who was the leader of these democrats, and he replied that part of the strength of the movement was that there was no single leader; instead, many leaders of various groups and communities had come together. He stressed that this was just as well, given Syria's propensity for murdering Lebanese patriots, "A one-man show would make a beautiful target."

The common goal, he said, was to "restore democracy so we can have elections, and then we can compete with each other." On the broader front, concerning the wisdom of charting a similar course for Iraq, he had no doubts: "George Bush is doing the right job in the Middle East for us, believe me." Tueni's only reservation was his belief that Lebanon, endowed with a rich pre-Syrian legacy of democratic institutions, deserved a chance to lead the way: "We really think if the big issue is about the Middle East, about changing the world, Lebanon is the answer."

An-Nahar's new building had armed guards and bulletproof security shields and doors. But sitting in his corner office with its big picture windows, not far from the spot where Hariri was murdered, Tueni seemed both brave and terribly vulnerable. I asked him if his own life was in danger. He said he expected a wave of Syrian-backed "assassinations, booby-trapped cars," but did not think that could stop Lebanon's democratic movement. "They can kill one, two, three of us" he said, but then they are "finished."

He paused and smiled, "Better," he said, if they stop at "one."

They didn't. Gebran Tueni has now become the latest casualty in a series of terrorist bombings that are an assault not only on Lebanese democracy, but on all those in the Middle East--or anywhere else, for that matter--who believe government should be a matter of civil compact, not of rule by blood and fear. The urgent question by now is not only who precisely gave the order or laid the bomb, but who will act to put an end to this terror, and how.

Ms. Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Her column appears here and in The Wall Street Journal Europe on alternate Wednesdays.



It is Christmas.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy New Year.

Instead of the Christmas card I planned to post, and in memory of the freedom martyrs
Gebran Tueni and Samir Qassir I will post their pictures to honor them in this Christmas. This is the first Christmas they would not celebrate, and it is only 13 days after the assassination of Gebran Tueni in Beirut.

They will always be in my heart and their thoughts, courage and struggle until death will always inspire me. Such people make me sure that freedom will prevail.

Merry Christmas


Views on Iraqi Question

Here are some articles of interest on the Iraqi question:

Related post: Defining the Iraqi Question

How to Exit Iraq

At First, Iraqi Soldiers Should Augment U.S. Forces, Not Replace Them

By Henry A. Kissinger

Washington Post
Sunday, December 18, 2005; Page B07

The administration and its critics seem to agree that the beginning of an American withdrawal from Iraq will mark a turning point. What divides them is the speed and extent of the drawdown and whether it should be driven by a timetable or by a strategy that seeks to shape events.

Though often put into technical terms, the issue is not the mechanics of withdrawal. Rather, the debate should be over consequences: whether, in the end, withdrawal will be perceived as a forced retreat or as an aspect of a prudent and carefully planned strategy designed to enhance international security. Whatever one's view of the decision to undertake the Iraq war, the method by which it was entered, or the strategy by which it was conducted -- and I supported the original decision -- one must be clear about the consequences of failure. If, when we go, we leave nothing behind but a failed state and chaos, the consequences will be disastrous for the region and for America's position in the world.

For the phenomenon of radical Islam is more than the sum of individual terrorist acts extending from Bali through Jakarta to New Delhi, Tunisia, Riyadh, Istanbul, Casablanca, Madrid and London. It is an ideological outpouring by which Islam's radical wing seeks to sweep away secularism, pluralistic values and Western institutions wherever Muslims live. Its dynamism is fueled by the conviction that the designated victims are on the decline and lack the will to resist.

Any event that seems to confirm these convictions compounds the revolutionary dynamism. If a fundamentalist regime is installed in Baghdad or in any of the other major cities, such as Mosul or Basra, if terrorists secure substantial territory for training and sanctuaries, or if chaos and civil war mark the end of the American intervention, Islamic militants will gain momentum wherever there are significant Islamic populations or nonfundamentalist Islamic governments. No country within reach of jihad would be spared the consequences of the resulting upheavals sparked by the many individual centers of fanaticism that make up the jihad.

Defeat would shrivel U.S. credibility around the world. Our leadership and the respect accorded to our views on other regional issues from Palestine to Iran would be weakened; the confidence of other major countries -- China, Russia, Europe, Japan -- in America's potential contribution would be diminished. The respite from military efforts would be brief before even greater crises descended on us.

A disastrous outcome is defined by the global consequences, not domestic rhetoric. President Bush has put forward a plausible strategy. It acknowledges that policy has been leavened by experience. But the crescendo of demands for a timetable suppresses the quality of patience that history teaches is the prerequisite for overcoming guerrilla warfare. Even an appropriate strategy can be vitiated if it is executed in too precipitate a manner.

The views of critics and administration spokesmen converge on the proposition that as Iraqi units are trained, they should replace U.S. forces -- hence the controversy over which Iraqi units are in what state of readiness. But strategy based on substituting Iraqi for U.S. troops may result in perpetuating an unsatisfactory stalemate. Even assuming that the training proceeds as scheduled and produces units the equivalent of the U.S. forces being replaced -- a highly dubious proposition -- I would question the premise that American reductions should be in a linear relationship to Iraqi training. A design for simply maintaining the present security situation runs the risk of confirming the adage that guerrillas win if they do not lose.

The better view is that the first fully trained Iraqi units should be seen as increments to coalition forces and not replacements, making possible the deployment of forces toward the frontiers to curtail infiltration, as well as accelerated offensive operations aimed at the guerrilla infrastructure. Such a strategy would help remedy the shortage of ground forces, which has slowed anti-guerrilla operations throughout the occupation. While seemingly more time-consuming, it would present better opportunities for stabilizing the country and would thus provide a more reliable exit route.

The combat performance of new units cannot be measured by training criteria alone. The ultimate metrics -- to use Pentagon terminology -- are to what extent they are motivated toward agreed political goals. What they fight for will determine how well they fight.

A responsible exit strategy must emerge from the systematic integration of political and security elements -- above all, the consolidation of the national government. Real progress will have been made when the Iraqi armed forces view themselves -- and are seen by the population -- as defenders of the nation's interest, not sectarian or regional interests. They will have become a national force when they are able to carry the fight into Sunni areas and grow willing to disarm militias in the Shiite regions from which the majority of them are recruited.

To delegate to military commanders the judgments as to the timing of withdrawals therefore places too great a burden on them. Their views regarding security need to be blended with judgments regarding the political and collateral consequences that a major initiative inevitably produces. Such a balance presupposes that all sides in our domestic debate adopt a restraint imposed on us by awareness of the grave consequences of failure.

The psychological impact, most immediately on the Iraqi political structure, will be crucial. Will the initial reductions -- set to begin sometime after last week's elections -- be viewed as the first step of an inexorable process to rapid and complete withdrawal? Or will they be seen as a stage of an agreed process dependent on tangible and definable political and security progress? If the former, the political factions in Iraq will maneuver to protect their immediate assets in preparation for the expected test of strength between the various groups. The incentive to consider American preferences for a secular and inclusive government in a unified Iraq will shrink. It will be difficult to broaden the base of a government at the very moment it thinks it is losing its key military support. In these circumstances, even a limited withdrawal not formally geared to a fixed timetable and designed to placate American public opinion could acquire an irreversible character.

If the experience of Vietnam is any guide, the numbers of returning troops could, in such an atmosphere, turn into the principal domestic test of successful U.S. policy. Pressures to continue or accelerate the withdrawals could be magnified so that the relationship to the political criteria of progress would be lost. A process driven by technical or domestic criteria might evoke a competition between Iraqi factions to achieve nationalist credit for accelerating the U.S. withdrawal, perhaps by turning on us either politically or with some of their militia.

The United States intervened in Iraq to protect the region's security and its own. But it cannot conclude that process without anchoring it in some international consensus. Geopolitical realities will not disappear from a region that has lived with them and suffered from them for millennia and that has drawn U.S. military forces into their vortex in Lebanon in the 1950s and 1980s, in Afghanistan in 2001 and in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and 2003 -- and has caused two U.S. military alerts (over the Syrian invasion of Jordan in 1970 and the Arab-Israeli war in 1973). The passions, convictions and rivalries of the factions in Iraq will continue. A regional system will emerge in that country in one form or another through our interaction, either with these forces or through our default. In that sense, Americans must accept the reality that their country can never make a total political withdrawal, though the size and location of the military presence will vary. It will always have to meld political and security objectives if the predominance of radical states is to be avoided.

The countries that are relevant to Iraq's security and stability or that consider their security and stability affected by the emerging arrangements must be given a sense of participation in the next stage of Iraq policy. The developing political institutions in Iraq need to be built into an international and regional system -- not out of obeisance to a theoretical multilateralism but because otherwise America will have to function alone as the permanent policeman, a role that any projected Iraqi government is likely to reject in the long run and that the very debate discussed in this article inhibits.

The time has come not only to define the strategic future in Iraq but also to broaden the base of political consultation in the region at large. A political contact group including key European allies, India (because of its Muslim population), Pakistan, Turkey and some neighbors of Iraq should be convoked after the Iraqi election. Political discussions between the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad and Iranian authorities regarding Iraq have already been approved.

These cannot be the sole contacts with Baghdad's neighbors. The functions of the contact group would be to advise on the political evolution of Iraq, to broaden the basis of legitimacy of the government and to reflect a broad international interest in the stability and progress of the region. As time goes on, the group could become a forum to deal with other issues affecting Middle East stability, including some of the causes of Islamic radicalism. A political framework is not a substitute for a successful military outcome, but military success cannot be long sustained without it.

The writer, a former secretary of state, is chairman of Kissinger Associates.

Our Troops Must Stay

By Sen. Joseph Lieberman

The Wall Street Journal
November 29, 2005

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood -- unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

Before going to Iraq last week, I visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has been the only genuine democracy in the region, but it is now getting some welcome company from the Iraqis and Palestinians who are in the midst of robust national legislative election campaigns, the Lebanese who have risen up in proud self-determination after the Hariri assassination to eject their Syrian occupiers (the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias should be next), and the Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Saudis who have taken steps to open up their governments more broadly to their people. In my meeting with the thoughtful prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, he declared with justifiable pride that his country now has the most open, democratic political system in the Arab world. He is right.

In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.

None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

The leaders of Iraq's duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America's commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

The leaders of America's military and diplomatic forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey and Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, have a clear and compelling vision of our mission there. It is to create the environment in which Iraqi democracy, security and prosperity can take hold and the Iraqis themselves can defend their political progress against those 10,000 terrorists who would take it from them.

Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

We are now embedding a core of coalition forces in every Iraqi fighting unit, which makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces. Progress in "clearing" and "holding" is being made. The Sixth Infantry Division of the Iraqi Security Forces now controls and polices more than one-third of Baghdad on its own. Coalition and Iraqi forces have together cleared the previously terrorist-controlled cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tal Afar, and most of the border with Syria. Those areas are now being "held" secure by the Iraqi military themselves. Iraqi and coalition forces are jointly carrying out a mission to clear Ramadi, now the most dangerous city in Al-Anbar province at the west end of the Sunni Triangle.

Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to "lead the fight" themselves with logistical support from the U.S., and that that number should double by next year. If that happens, American military forces could begin a drawdown in numbers proportional to the increasing self-sufficiency of the Iraqi forces in 2006. If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007, but it is also likely that our presence will need to be significant in Iraq or nearby for years to come.

The economic reconstruction of Iraq has gone slower than it should have, and too much money has been wasted or stolen. Ambassador Khalilzad is now implementing reform that has worked in Afghanistan -- Provincial Reconstruction Teams, composed of American economic and political experts, working in partnership in each of Iraq's 18 provinces with its elected leadership, civil service and the private sector. That is the "build" part of the "clear, hold and build" strategy, and so is the work American and international teams are doing to professionalize national and provincial governmental agencies in Iraq.

These are new ideas that are working and changing the reality on the ground, which is undoubtedly why the Iraqi people are optimistic about their future -- and why the American people should be, too.

I cannot say enough about the U.S. Army and Marines who are carrying most of the fight for us in Iraq. They are courageous, smart, effective, innovative, very honorable and very proud. After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: "I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates."

Thank you, General. That is a powerful, needed message for the rest of America and its political leadership at this critical moment in our nation's history. Semper Fi.

Mr. Lieberman is a Democratic senator from Connecticut.

The Pledge for Iraq

By Basma Fakri & Tamara Quinn

National Review Online
December 13, 2005

One of the most promising developments of Iraq’s election season — and proof that Iraqi democracy is rapidly developing — is a new campaign based not on electing any one party or establishing the political power of a tribe, region, or religious group, but instead focused on guaranteeing freedom and human rights for all Iraqis.

"The Pledge for Iraq" ( Ahad al-Iraq), as the campaign is called, is Iraq’s first nationwide issue-based campaign. It was organized by a group of Iraqi women activists seeking to ensure that human rights, rights for women, and political freedoms are protected when the next national assembly, which will be voted into office on December 15, 2005, convenes.

Although the campaign was organized by women, it is not focused only on women’s rights. Rather, these women, who are members of different political parties and are representative of Iraq’s diversity, want to guarantee rights that must be fundamental to all citizens if Iraq is to assume a lasting place among the world’s democracies.

In a democracy barely two years old, the Pledge for Iraq represents a remarkable example of grassroots political activism and initiative. Learning from other democracies in the world, the Pledge for Iraq is similar in concept to the Contract with America, the 1994 Republican campaign platform, but with a twist: It is nonpartisan and all political parties and candidates are invited to sign on. The key similarity, though, lies in asking party leaders and candidates running for the national assembly to sign their names to a pledge that commits them to working to pass specific laws in the next national assembly. These laws — five of them — were written to protect political freedoms, human rights, and equality under the law for all Iraqis.

Why focus on laws? The Iraqi constitution approved in the Oct. 15 national referendum is vague on several crucial issues related to freedom and human rights, requiring instead that the 275-member national assembly define these legislatively. While amending the constitution is possible, it is likely to be a long and complex process. The laws included in the Pledge for Iraq are both focused in scope to appeal to a large number of Iraqis and broad enough to fill the most gaping holes. They include:

A law to secure freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly.

A law to preserve the existence of civil courts for matters of personal status (such as marriage and divorce) as an alternative to religious courts.

A law to ensure the professionalism and integrity of Iraq’s Supreme Court by requiring that all judges have advanced degrees in law and experience as practicing judges.

A law to strengthen the High Commission for Human Rights by enabling it to refer cases to the Supreme Court for review.

A law to enable the High Commission for Human Rights to enforce the right of equal opportunity for all Iraqis.

The main concern of the organizers of the pledge was that waiting until the national assembly was elected could mean waiting too long. The Pledge for Iraq was launched on November 1, and in little more than a month, it has received tremendous popular support, as hundreds of NGOs, civil-society organizations, professional associations, university presidents, and individual Iraqis from across the country have showed up to events or gone on-line to endorse it. Together the campaign’s organizers and supporters have canvassed Iraq’s new politicians in search of signatures. They will be on the front lines of helping to elect parties and candidates who support the Pledge and then holding them accountable once in office.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, it appears likely that the Pledge’s platform will have significant backing in the national assembly. Already, more than 100 current members of the national assembly, candidates and political leaders have signed the Pledge, giving their commitment to work to pass these laws in the next national assembly.

The organizers of the Pledge have been out spreading the word and gathering signatures from Mosul to Basra. One question they often hear is: Why focus on human rights and freedom when Iraq has so many more pressing issues like security, jobs, and restoring basic services? The answer, one that has clearly resonated, is that yes, those issues are crucial and every party will have their own ideas on how to best address those issues; but freedom and human rights are the base upon which we will solve those problems. What the Pledge for Iraq implicitly recognizes, both in its action and its platform, is that democracy itself is the long-term cure for present and future challenges facing the new Iraq.

The Pledge for Iraq is far greater than the sum of its five laws. Its goal has universal implications: “By this Pledge, we — the sons and daughters of the first civilization — hope to prove to the world that we are worthy of the freedom inherent in human beings.” This pledge will provide a common platform for all parties involved to build a safe, democratic, just, and prosperous Iraq. Whatever the outcome of the elections, on this point they have already succeeded.

— Basma Fakri and Tamara Quinn are co-founders of the Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq. Fakri currently serves as president.


New Site Feed for MEP

I would like to inform about the new feed of MEP. The new feed is powered by Feed Burner, it enables RSS and ATOM and delivers the suitable format to the news reader or for syndication, and it provides the relevant links to make a web-based subscription to MEP updates or to receive this updates via email, all for your convenience.

Best regards,



Defining the Iraqi Question

I have some criticism on my piece Iraq victory: Middle East salvation posted here. Unfortunately, this criticism was based on a political platform, it works as a political propaganda but it is not for discussing scholarly ideas. I am still waiting for such discussion and critique. Hence, I kindly ask who have any criticism concerning my thoughts to send it to me, to make sure that I have your thoughtful criticism.

I have to make something clear that I have nothing to do with the partisan polarization in the United States. The democratic movement in the Middle East has many friends and supporters from both parties. We need and seek to get bipartisan support to our cause. When we express the appreciation to President Bush, that is due to the FACT that he is the first American president who acknowledged the freedom and democracy cause in the Middle East.

In searching for something deserves a response in my article's criticism, I have found something interesting; the criticizer – he did not put his name -- said, "I'd like to ask Nassim Yaziji what he was on when he wrote, 'The war is worth all the sacrifices that have been made, and victory is inevitable, and not so far away.'….'Victory' is a pretty grand moniker to attach to such a dubious outcome….Back then it wasn't about the ensuring that the 'dream of freedom in the Middle East became 'a reality,' it was rather, about preventing Saddam's robot planes from dropping anthrax on New York City'.

For the American audience it is rightful to ask me for more explanation of my controversial say "The war is worth all the sacrifices that have been made, and victory is inevitable, and not so far away".

I will tackle that methodically. Then, first, we need to settle a methodology to define our terms. Any talk will be just a part of an endless political debate and political propaganda to the public, and will be meaningless without defining the terms of "victory" and "war" and clarifying their implications and settings in our discourse.

The "war on Iraq" was a war to overthrow the Iraqi Baathist dictatorial regime. The matter of WMD stockpiles and the full compliance with the international resolutions is a weak case, and for me, they are not the point.

The WMD stockpiles are obviously a means to communicate the public before the war. It is unrealistic to justify a war to the public with a geopolitical discourse. Nobody could be totally certain about those stockpiles – until now – in a country is larger than 400,000 km² and was ruled by an extraordinary dictatorship where transparency means death. Where the uncertainty, vagueness and bad intentions are just prevailed as the Baath Iraq, such claim of the WMD stockpiles is also uncertain.

The point of all is that Saddam and his regime are the danger and mean the danger; the perception of this danger has fundamentally changed after September 11. What was acceptable before 9/11 is not so after 9/11. The case of America under attack made this acceptance and overlooking impossible. In 2003 before the war, I said that Saddam is the WMD himself. The real issue, in my view, that Saddam in power has territory, money and scientists besides his personal banditry and criminal nature. Furthermore, he imposes a totalitarian Baathist regime on Iraq, and he has had a period of 12 years after his defeat in the Gulf war ΙΙ to react systemically by promoting the Islamization of the state and the society in Iraq in spite of the state's official totalitarian Baath ideology. This conduct, which its results have been visible now, somewhat indicates a huge mistake by the U.S. of keeping indifference to that in that period.

All that were a real danger but the realization of it entailed the 9/11. Many politicians and scholars are still skeptical of the existence or the scope of this danger. I indicated in my previous articles that the totalitarianism in its all aspects, religious and ideological could constitute an integrated system, a system of convenience and operation. And my evidence of that has become clear now through the regional totalitarian regimes' behavior concerning Iraq and the multinational forces there. Hence, the terror could be integrated into the totalitarian systemic behavior as an available and legitimate effective and fearful tool when the totalitarian system needs it.

Furthermore, on the "war on Iraq," it is obvious that this war did not intend to ensure the full Iraqi compliance with the international resolutions because the official objective of this war was changing the Iraqi regime not forcing him to do something.

Hence, this war was to break the Iraqi dictatorship through overthrowing Saddam's Baathist regime, and to install a democratic system in Iraq. Strategically, this serves many goals including:

-Reshaping the geopolitics of the Middle East; the region that has key importance to the international security after 9/11 and to the world energy security. And to tackle directly the American security concerns about terror.

-Establishing the shining center of freedom and democracy in the Middle East in Iraq which will be the base of the change and reform in the Middle East as a free and democratic country, besides removing the potential danger of the Iraqi totalitarianism and then benefiting from Iraq as an paradigm and operation center to cope with the other totalitarian rouge states in the region.

-Strengthening the American presence and power in the Middle East to ensure the American interests there in the long run, and to forestall the future movement of the future rivals of far east powers in this important region.

-Ending the late cold war era and the soviet legacy in the Middle East and weakening the flourishing authoritarianism there through denying the authoritarian regimes to get any political cover and through pressure them with ideas and policies.

-Deploying the change in the Middle East in promoting the foundations and bases of an international order can cope with world security challenges.

-Liberating Iraqi oil market from Saddam's regime and strengthening the U.S. reach to oil supplies.

This war is not concerning Iraq only but also the entire Middle East. And this war in sense and implications is not "Iraq war", it is "Middle East war."

After defining this war and its backdrop, I will define the "victory" term in this war.

Considering that the focal goal of this war is establishing the democratic state in Iraq. And the goal of the totalitarian and terrorist regimes and groups is to destroy this state. For some totalitarian neighboring regimes, the task is very clear that the new state in Iraq must fail whatever it takes. They know exactly that a next-door democracy is something unaffordable to the stability and sustainability of their rule. In addition, they need to convey a message, accompanied with a supporting show, to the world that they are the only option for stability in this region.

The jihadists, in their turn, want to expel the international presence in addition to its democracy from Iraq. And they need a sanctuary and operation base there.

Hence, the "victory" is the establishment of the Iraqi democratic state. This is to say, the establishment of the functioning state institutions under democratic guarantees and foundations, and through a comprehensive and inclusive political process.

Actually, this political process is almost done, particularly after forming the functioning representative government and the new Iraqi army and adopting a democratic constitution. This constitution must ensure basically the democratic political system and guarantees besides the human rights and democratic liberties, and those are adopted to large extent by the current constitution. The current disagreements on the some characteristics of the political system are an Iraqi issue subject to the Iraqis to tackle them through political compromise and by democratic means. It is normal for any constitution to develop through time and to have amendments.

The key political problem or deficit in the political process is the Sunni boycott of the political process and consequently the Sunni political marginalization. After the Sunnis made the wrong decisions and chose the wrong way to deal with the change in Iraq. Hence, the watershed in victory process in Iraq was the overwhelming success of the election of the full-term parliament to form the permanent government after the intensive participation of the Sunnis besides the all Iraqis.

Without this success and the inclusive and high turnout in these final key elections, the "victory" section in this article would totally change.

At this point, the final stake of the totalitarian and terrorist project on the exclusiveness and partiality of the Iraqi political system as a cover for the instability and violence in Iraq has failed. This will be a turning point in their destructive effort towards the chaotic and random violence against civilians.

Given the key achievements have been made besides the Iraqi economic potential and the wide international support, the main problem to claim "victory" is still the security issue.

The solely military thinking of this issue will be extremely misleading. The political considerations are essential and have determining quality in Iraq's security question. Currently, to arm the Iraqi National Guard and send them to destroy the insurgency in the Sunni west region, it may destroy the whole process and ultimately endanger the democratic project in Iraq, because that would be considered as a Shiite offensive on Sunnis.

The ability of Iraq to defend itself or the government to do so – as a condition to withdraw from Iraq -- is a term could not be perceived by the military sense only. It entails the political sense and considerations to deliver its meaning.

Hence, the inclusion of the Sunnis in the state's political institutions and political power is a key factor in the government's ability to defend Iraq. In addition, it gives the full legitimacy to the government's offensives inside Iraq and removes any political or public cover to the insurgency in the Sunni areas. This will fundamentally weaken it. Then the multinational forces could be redeployed toward more secure areas and to permanent bases keeping its supportive role to the Iraqi forces, along with a rolling reduction in the troops' number. Furthermore, the American and international responsibility to deal with the regional destructive role of some totalitarian regimes seriously is indispensable to ensure the victory in Iraq.

The violence is something familiar and somehow normal in the qualitative and historic changes in the political history. Building the first ever democracy in Iraq and the region in this comprehensive authoritarian environment is something could not be done in 20 months and smoothly. Nobody has expected that. Nevertheless, after establishing the state's new democratic political institutions, the security issue and its implications and requirements, including the political dues, is an Iraqi affair and is of the Iraqis' duties and responsibilities. Here the U.S. will just provide a supportive role inside Iraq and an essential role outside Iraq.

In the sense of this methodology I adopted in this article, I can say, "The war is worth all the sacrifices that have been made, and victory is inevitable, and not so far away". And after the latest elections in Iraq, and in case of no surprises happened, I can say also that the few next months would convey the good news to the American people who will receive their soldiers carrying honor and victory.



On December 10, I wrote on protecting Arab intellectuals: to Arab liberals, danger is real; fear is legitimate, citing Lebanon particularly in this post. On December 12, a prominent Lebanese journalist and politician, a symbol of the Cedar Revolution, the revolution of Lebanese freedom and independence, Gebran Tueni was assassinated after a long history of struggle against totalitarianism and dictatorship, when the other were silenced, to join his assassinated friend also, Samir Qassir.

I have just watched his funeral in an Orthodox church in Beirut and his farewell to his
journal and the Lebanese Parliament and to the people of Beirut who elected him a representative.

I am heartbroken, although Gebran and Samir freely chose death as brave hearts.

Gebran and Samir are alive and absolute free, as Gebran's daughter believes because the freedom does not die so is Gebran Tueni.


live forever in our hearts, we loved you and we will stay love you forever. You will stay the guiding light of us; you will stay our brave heart. Our promise to you is, you will be always alive and free, and we will stay the course.


Philadelphia Inquirer Highlights MEP

I have been told that my article "Iraq victory: Middle East salvation" included in a previous post has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is also available online at Philadelphia Inquirer's website here.

I kindly ask my dear readers to let me know when they find citations from my articles.

It is important to me to know how my methodology is perceived and discussed. This is a research necessity.

Best regards,

Nassim Yaziji



The newest issue of the Middle East Democracy Digest of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has included interesting articles. I will quote here one of them, a meaningful article in which the writer calls on the international community to establish measures ensure some protection to Arab liberals. He took into account the changing realities of the international conduct towards promoting the international role to heal the human rights and democratic liberties where deteriorated. He found the Security Council Resolution 1559 a milestone of the realistic deal with the pretext of state sovereignty.

Liberating Lebanon through unprecedented international effort is a watershed in the Middle East and international relations also. It represents, as I previously said, an international new deal in the Middle East and it indicates a new course of action by the United States. The international community and the U.S. precisely have yet to pay more attention to the importance and necessity of the free expression of Arab intellectuals as an indispensable basis to the comprehensive evolution and reform in the Middle East. Without diversity and dialogue there is no civilization, there will be just a system of violence -- in the wide meaning of the word – the indispensable foundation of totalitarianism and terror.

Arab liberals are still in need for protection, and as I said previously, to Arab liberals, danger is real; fear is legitimate.

Some related posts:

The bases of the U.S. Middle East policy

Freedom of Expression and Internet in Middle East

The International Institutionalization of Human Rights

U.S. Human Rights Policy

Supporting the new Lebanon

Here is the article:

Protecting Arab Intellectuals

By Ahmad al Baghdadi

Translation by Middle East Transparent
Middle East Transparent
October 18, 2005
Web site

The United Nations will soon find it imperative to establish an international court to judge authors of fatwas, articles or speeches that support or incite terrorism. It will certainly be a great day when criminal clerics are brought to such an international court to be sanctioned for their words of incitement. It remains unclear, however, if any international body will attain the power to judge sovereign states that implement laws that squash freedom, or throw intellectuals into prison for criticizing a religious point of view or even a certain era of history.

It is common knowledge, that Arab states have promulgated civil laws that claim to protect religion, but putting certain religious historical figures and dogmas above criticism This is a Muslim “special case”: No other countries, including those that claim a state religion, have adopted the barbarian attitude towards writers and intellectuals that is prevalent in Arab states. Arab countries where Islam is a state religion have laws that, in the name of protecting religion, severely sanction anyone who dares to write a critique of religious texts or figures. Such an attitude against intellectuals is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Arab states that exercise such tyranny have been spared any sanctions, thanks to the concept of national sovereignty. However, the Security Council Resolution 1559, which forced Syria to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon and requires the disarming of all militias, including Hezbollah, so that Lebanon can enjoy stability and peace, represents an international precedent for the United Nations to intervene in the internal affairs of member states. This represents an entirely new attitude on the part of the United Nations, for the Syrian presence in Lebanon goes back nearly thirty years.

This new interventionist attitude, which was supported by the United States and France, and is embodied in a Security Council resolution, points to the importance and the need for permanent members of the Security Council to intervene in order to safeguard people's rights to live in dignity and liberty. It is a fact that religious and racial minorities suffer from persecution. It is even the case for entire populations, such as the people of Iraq until the country was liberated from the dictatorial regime of the Baath. It is, also, in the case of Arab intellectuals, a situation to which not much attention has been given.

Arab intellectuals have been subject to harsh treatment under their various political regimes. They have lived under oppressive laws, which allow political authorities to control their freedom of expression and other intellectual freedoms. Intellectuals have been humiliated by public prosecutors and subject to prison terms and fines for expressing their opinions. State authorities decide which books are allowed to be published, and which are to be prohibited.

The time has come for an international intervention in the same spirit as the pressure to remove Syrian forces from Lebanon. It is imperative for the Security Council to adopt a resolution that would create an international group to evaluate intellectual freedoms in member states. A list should be published indicating which states violate freedom of opinion and expression. These states should be the subject of permanent international scrutiny, which could take the form of periodical reports. And they should be coerced into modifying their laws so that they are brought into compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. International sanctions should be imposed upon states that not adhere to such requirements, and imprison people for their political beliefs and ideas.

The time has come a classification of rogue states to based on International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such a step would allow intellectuals to breathe the air of liberty after decades of oppression. History teaches us that states are only afraid of sanctions, the more so when dictatorial regimes are aware of their inherent fragility.

It is time for Arab intellectuals residing in the West to propose the adoption of a UN resolution providing protection to intellectuals who are condemned to live in their own countries.



I said previously that the totalitarianism constitutes one system. The totalitarianism has one nature in many aspects and shapes; it functionally develops a reciprocal structure and unified means under a consistent code of conduct. A comprehensive reading of the current state of the region between the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf will clarify and support this thinking.

The totalitarian dictatorships and terrorists are in alliance of convenience. Although they have two different ideologies and agendas, they have mutual basic interest and pursuit is to keep freedom and democracy out of this region.

Saddam had known this fact early and began soon after his defeat in the gulf war ΙΙ the Islamization of the state notwithstanding the official totalitarian secular ideology of Ba'ath. And he had a chance of about 12 years to do that without serious pressure – or intention – to end his rule or targeted directly at his regime. Finally, that produced an extraordinary fertile environment to terror.

May the history teach us?

Here are some stories:

Related post: Terror and democracy in the Middle East

State's Burns Condemns Iran's Foreign, Domestic Policies

(Source: Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

Calls for united economic, political pressure from world community

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns strongly condemned the Iranian government for its defiant pursuit of nuclear capabilities, its support for terrorism and its human-rights violations, and urged the international community to reassess its strategies for dealing with the Iranian regime.

In a November 30 speech at Johns Hopkins University Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Burns said, “In coordination with our allies and our friends around the world, the United States seeks to isolate Iran. It seeks to promote a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It seeks to expose and oppose Iran’s support of terrorism. And it seeks to advance the cause of democracy and human rights within Iran.”

Burns said that no one in the international community has serious doubts that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons’ capabilities. He asked why Iran would hide aspects of its nuclear program from the international community, deny the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its facilities, defy IAEA demands regarding its program and pursue casting and machining technology specifically related to nuclear weapons manufacturing if its intentions were limited to civil nuclear energy production.

In August, Iran unilaterally withdrew from negotiations with Britain, France and Germany, collectively known as the EU-3, aimed at providing Iran with alternatives to developing the nuclear fuel cycle. The nuclear fuel cycle can be used to produce nuclear energy for power plants as well as weapons grade uranium. Upon withdrawing from the negotiations, Iran restarted uranium conversion at its Isfahan nuclear facility in violation of its commitment under the November 2004 Paris Agreement with the EU-3. (See related article.)

Burns called on Iran to return to discussions with the EU-3, saying, “If Iran does not do so, then it will face at a time of choosing by the international community, a [U.N.] Security Council debate, and that debate will support and reinforce the work of the IAEA.”

The IAEA chose not to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council at its November 24 meeting in order to allow Russia an opportunity to negotiate alternative arrangements with the Iranian government, but Burns said Russia’s diplomatic initiatives have met with a cool reception so far in Tehran. (See related article.)


Burns also condemned Iran for its continued support of international terrorism in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories and expressed concern at reports that Iran may be supporting insurgent activity in Iraq. He also said that Iran is providing safe haven to al-Qaida operatives and urged Iran to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, which calls on all nations to deny safe haven to terrorists.

The under secretary condemned the Iranian government’s human-rights abuses “including summary executions, disappearances, torture and other inhumane treatment.” He said that these abuses have drawn severe international criticism, noting that the U.N. General Assembly has adopted resolutions for the past two years deploring Iran’s treatment of its citizens.

Burns expressed particular concern over the policies of Iran’s newly elected president, Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad. He said Ahmadi-Nejad’s confrontational policies have served to isolate Iran even further. In particular, he criticized the president’s defiant speech at the U.N. General Assembly, in which he asserted Iran’s right to develop nuclear capabilities despite its rejection of international nuclear safeguards, and his recent speech calling for the destruction of Israel.

“For a world leader to call for the destruction of a nation state and member of the United Nations is simply outrageous, and it is intolerable,” Burns said.

Given this recent turn in Iranian foreign policy, Burns suggested that the international community should reconsider its strategies in dealing with Iran.

“It might now be time to consider a different approach towards this new, more radical and certainly more intolerant Iranian regime,” he said. “Through its diplomatic contacts and its trade and its investment, the world does have leverage. And that leverage could be used constructively now to convince the hardliners in Tehran that there is a price for their misguided policies.”

He said Iran’s policy shifts, particularly with regard to its nuclear ambitions, already are undermining its trade opportunities, such as trade negotiations with the European Union, which now have been suspended, and are limiting its ability to attract foreign investment. He said this is weakening the Iranian economy and placing unnecessary economic hardship on its people.


Burns praised Iranian dissidents and human-rights activists as “heroes,” saying, “There is a clear struggle under way between the reactionary Iranian government and the moderate majority in the country.”

He said, “In vivid contrast to their government, the Iranian people are moving in a positive direction. We know that the Iranians, like so many other people who lack freedom, desire a more open society, freedom of opportunity, free and fair democratic elections and healthier and more constructive relations with countries around the world including our own country. Even from the distance our diplomatic estrangement imposes, we see signs of a complex multifaceted movement for democratic change in Iran.”

He said the United States has reached out to the Iranian people through a Persian-language Web site and radio programs and has supported democratic reform efforts through millions of dollars in grants to study human-rights abuses and support nongovernmental organizations carrying out democracy programs.

“Given the clear aspirations of the younger generation of Iranians, we hope that some day, Iran will become a powerful force for peace and democracy in the Middle East,” Burns said.

The under secretary’s prepared remarks on U.S. policy toward Iran are available on the State Department Web site.

International Community Denounces Terrorist Attack in Israel

(Source: Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

Quartet demands Syria take action against Palestinian Islamic Jihad

The United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia -- known as the Quartet when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- have condemned the terrorist attack in Netanya, Israel, December 5.

In a statement issued at the United Nations in New York, the Quartet repeated a demand that the Syrian government close the offices of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

News reports say that a suicide bomber detonated an explosion outside a shopping mall in Netanya, killing five people and injuring dozens.

The Quartet said that all involved need to "act decisively to ensure that terror and violence are not allowed to undermine further progress" toward a lasting peace. (See Response to Terrorism.)

Following is the text of the Quartet statement:

(begin text)

Quartet Principals' Statement on Middle East Peace
December 5, 2005

Quartet Principals consulted today on the situation in the Middle East.

The Quartet condemns today's terrorist attack in Netanya in the strongest possible terms. Representatives of Palestinian Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for the bombing through al-Manar television. The Quartet repeats its demand that the Syrian government take immediate action to close the offices of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and to prevent the use of its territory by armed groups engaged in terrorist acts.

The Quartet denounces all acts of terrorism and urges all parties to exercise restraint, avoid an escalation of violence, and keep the channels of communication open. The Quartet encourages and supports the Palestinian Authority's efforts to take immediate steps to prevent armed groups from acting against law and order and the policy of the Authority itself. The Quartet reiterates its support for efforts to assist the Palestinian Authority in the reform and restructuring of its security services.

The Quartet believes it is imperative that all involved act decisively to ensure that terror and violence are not allowed to undermine further progress in accordance with the Roadmap.
The Quartet will remain seized of these matters.

(end text)