8.31.2006

Middle East Totalitarians and Existential Choice

It is extremely important, in my view, to make distinction between what is "pragmatic" and what is "existential" in political choices in the Middle East. This will explain and clear so much the occurrences and enlighten the Middle East policy

This is an excerpt from the latest press conference by PM Blair and President Bush in Washington followed with an indispensable question of mine:

Q Thank you. Mr. President, and Prime Minister Blair, can I ask you both tonight what your messages are for the governments of Iran and Syria, given that you say
this is the crisis of the 21st century?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Want me to start? My message is, give up your nuclear weapon and your nuclear weapon ambitions. That's my message to Syria -- I mean, to Iran. And my message to Syria is, become an active participant in the neighborhood for peace.

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: The message is very, very simple to them. It is that, you have a choice. Iran and Syria have a choice. And they may think that they can avoid this choice; in fact, they can't. And when things are set in train like what has happened in Lebanon over the past few weeks, it only, in my view, underscores the fact they have this choice. They can either come in and participate as proper and responsible members of the international community, or they will face the risk of increasing confrontation.

And coming in and being proper members of the international community does not mean -- though I would love to see both Syria and Iran proper democracies -- does not mean to say that we insist that they change their government or even their system of government, although, of course, we want to see change in those countries. But it does mean Iran abides by its obligations under the nuclear weapons treaty. It does mean that Iran and Syria stop supporting terrorism. It does mean that instead of trying to prevent the democratically-elected government of Iraq fulfill its mandate, they allow it to fulfill its mandate.

Now, that's their choice. It's a perfectly simple one. They can either decide they are going to abide by the rules of the international community or continue to transgress them. And, look, in the end, that's the choice that they will have to make. But where I think they make a strategic miscalculation is if they think that because of all the other issues that we have to resolve and so on, that we are indifferent to what they are doing. There will be no side-tracking of our determination, for example, to make sure that Iran is fully compliant with the call that's been made on them from the whole of the international community in respect of nuclear weapons capability. And I hope they realize there is a different relationship that is possible with the international community, but only on the basis that has been set out.

My question is:

Could they make this choice?

Is the nature of this choice pragmatic or existential?

What the future is for totalitarian regimes if they take this course?

This is the time for political science and political thought to seek answers.

For my part, I believe that the nature of regime dictates its policy. This is definitely existential question.

Let us not hope and just work, I hope.

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