The Repercussions Of Bringing Former Terrorists To Mainstream PoliticsWritten by Angelique van Engelen
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Some view moves of radicalists to mainstream politics as a positive transformation and it is surely to be hoped that organizations involved in decades-long strife in region that are now close to becoming involved in mainstream politics, will ultimately disarm. Yet their popularity might be evidencing real hardship on ground. Aside from what’s driving islamist vote, Israel’s reaction to a possible Hamas inclusion into PA might not be favorable and it might be unwilling to negotiate with Hamas leaders. But then, this might not turn out to be case. Prime Minister Sharon who is said by some to favor a peace process that is open ended might think he has a better negotiating partner in a Hamas partipated PA. It is also going to be interesting what is going to be happening with Hizbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah leaders have expressed opposition to disarmament that’s as strong as the Palestinian Hamas leaders. So far, this issue, groups’ status as terrorist and their unwillingness to recognize Israel as a state has always deterred countries like US to deal with them as mature political entities. This is changing. Word in diplomatic corridors has it that State Department might acquiesce in Hizballah's entry into Lebanese politics if it abandons terrorism and severs its political and operational ties with Syria. This US recognition of Hizballah could serve as a precedent for US acceptance of a political role for Hamas.
So far it looks like every major move that islamist groups make by definition will continue to go accompanied with pledges to hold onto arms. But one ought to bear in mind that often public rhetoric is different than any private action. The leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah, recently reiterated that his group will not give up their weapons. In an interview with Reuters he said that his party will keep its weapons and will not give it up, noting that this decision is because of continued Israeli occupation and risks of occupation against his country. He even snubbed UN, saying that its Security Council resolution demanding Hizbullah to hand over its weapons is ‘meaningless’ and ‘of no value’.
Meanwhile, in Iraq Al Qaeda’s Jordanian-born leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi also recently publicly rejected a call from new Iraqi president for militants to lay down their arms. Calling new Iraqi leader President Jalal Talabani an agent of US and Jews, rebels said they would continue their strife until Sharia law was established in country and never forgive leader for his "infidelity" and "spilling of blood of Muslims". It is not clear whether statement, posted on a website used by Islamist militants is authentic. It is a smack in face however of Mr Talabani, who has been quite lenient to those Iraqi’s who have taken to violence over past few years, saying a peaceful solution should be found with Iraqis who were ‘led astray’ by terrorism. He even invited them in to participate in democratic process and offered some convicted terrorists an amnesty.
Angelique van Engelen is a freelance writer who's lived in the Middle East for over three years. She runs www.contentClix.com, a writing agency based in the Netherlands. She also contributes to a writing ring http://clixyPlays.blogspot.com
Just how democratic is the Middle East getting?Written by Angelique van Engelen
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To truly affect Arab countries in heart of their political systems would first neccessitate an overhaul of legal system, in order for constitutions to be reformed, And this is something that needs most governments’ approval before it can go underway. The way an opposition party recently has started out in Egypt is an example of just how precarious it is to tread this water. To be legitimate, a party needs approval from incumbent rules, who control entire judicial system. The push for democracy hits a brick wall here. You can have as many programs as you like assessing possibilities for democracy in a society, but so long as working out practical recommendations of such programs remains an illegal activity, democracy will be a higly desirable, yet unachievable goal. What is needed is a change in countries’ judicial systems if any of over-researched ideas can begin to become plausible in reality. In a paper entitled ‘Beyond Liberalisation’, Daniel Brumberg, an associate professor of government at Georgetown University hits nail on head, drawing a sharp distinction between democracy and political liberalization. The latter is about promoting a freer debate and competition in media, civil society, and political parties. Democracy rests on rules, institutions, and political practices through which voters regularly and constitutionally replace or modify their leadership by exercise of representative political power. “Political liberalization is a necessary but far from sufficient condition for democracy, which is something that is effected when you have a most opportune intersection between demand and supply”, says Brumberg in his article which is published in Wilson Quarterly. Work on creating necessary ingredients for democratic pie has long gone underway and hopeful signals are being heard that puzzle might begin to come together. Civil society organizations are virtually agents of what Brumberg terms ‘a demand-driven model of slow reforms’. And now more than ever, given their refocused agendas. The grassroot demand combined with greater participation in discourse on possibilities of democracy is slowly bearing fruit. Incumbent Arab regimes are protected from all too dramatic challenges but will have to bow down to people demanding their rights. What was taking place in Lebanon and Syria last few weeks was a good testcase of how a power struggle is done peaceful way. Events have proved that governments do not necessarily cede control when street rallies take place. In a sense Arab people’s love for their leaders is something Western states might even envie. If democratisation in Middle East becomes a reality, these societies are likely to flourish in ways hardly seen elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if US role in Middle East will stay largely same as its Cold War programs to aid democracy, a policy whereby country aided its friends by supporting government structures and undermined its foes in hope that communist regimes would collapse. Later on friendly stance was seen as inducing terrorism. It remains to be seen whether in future, Arab states will lend themselves as easily for such accusations.
Angelique van Engelen is a freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for over three years and currently runs www.contentClix.com. She also contributes to a writing ring http://clixyPlays.blogspot.com