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Time & Temperature in Doha

 
 
 
Call to make Arab states more responsive
2009-05-05
AMITABH JHA DOHA The Middle East is now living defining moments in its history that will determine the future of relations with the world in general and the United States in particular. The West, especially the United States, also has choices to revisit its stereotypical standpoints with regard to the region. These were the two basic conclusions of the plenary on ‘Neo Middle East: New Imperatives and Old realities’ at the Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future IV Conference here on Tuesday. Al Jazeera Network Director- General Wadah Khanfar argued that currently the state in the Arab world was going through a very tough time as it had become sort of ossified. “There is no legitimacy, no credibility, no popularity, no imagination,” he said, adding it had lost the ability to control and direct the people, even as the masses are looking up to the state for protection of their sovereignty or even future. This has resulted in a huge gap between the leadership and the people leading to disruptive movements,” he added. He said the problem is that while these movements have ground-level support, the global establishment is not ready to even consider its viewpoint as it prefers to deal with the unrepresentative state. “Interestingly, some of the nonstate actors are more openminded in their approach to other opinions than many of the states. Besides, due to popular support they are strong enough to have fought states militarily as well as politically. I suggest an understanding of and a dialogue with these movements,” he added. Former US Ambassador to Egypt and Israel Daniel Kurtzer talked about tactical choices before the Obama Administration with regard to the Middle East. “Among the regional issues on which the administration needs to finalise its positions — how much it can give and in return for what — were Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Jerusalem. It would also have to consider whether it was ready for tradeoffs. Besides, whether it would give up the option of covert action in exchange for Iran stopping support to terrorism, whether it would apologise for its role in Iran before the Islamic revolution with the latter doing the same with regard to taking US citizens hostage,” he added. Italian serving diplomat Robert Toscano reminded that though terrorism resulted in criminal acts it was a political phenomenon resulting more from injustice than poverty. Quoting a UNDP report, he said that regions in the Arab world which produced terrorism were not necessarily the poorest but certainly most agitated. “Use of force needs to be coupled with removal of the root cause which could be political as well. The present economic downturn and the resultant upsurge in unemployment is sure to add fuel to the fire of terrorism,” he added. The session was moderated by Steven L Speigel, director of UCLA centre for Middle East Development, and co-moderated by Malik Dahlan, principal of Quraysh Institution for Law and Policy, UK.

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