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The Bush Plan: Arab Media Reaction
Arab Newspapers Denounce Bush's New Iraq Plan
By AMER MOHSEN 01/11/2007 11:45 PM ET
Arab media reactions to Bush’s speech were almost unanimously negative. Some editorials and articles saw in the ‘new strategy’ a ‘more of the same’ approach, while others focused on the threatening tone towards Iran and its allies; most editorials, however, agreed that Bush’s speech exhibited a regurgitation of an old language that has proven its ineffectiveness and that has become, in the eyes of many Arabs, synonymous with destabilization and warfare.

Joseph Samaha, editor-in-chief of al-Akhbar described Bush’s speech as “testing for the nerves”. Samaha said that Bush’s lingo elicits in its recipient the same sort of “annoyance” that a “broken record” does. He added that Bush’s speech was a reiteration of speeches that were said before, “which only means one thing: Bush will not only persist in his destructive war, he also intends to deepen it and widen its scope”. Samaha said that the idea behind the new strategy conforms to the old Israeli adage: “What cannot be achieved by force can be achieved by more force”. The article carried the title “the meaning behind the words”; Samaha quoted phrases from Bush’s speech and wrote his own interpretation of the ‘meaning’ behind these terms. For example, Samaha writes:

“Bush says: Security, especially in Baghdad, has the priority, because that is where the sectarian violence is concentrated. The Iraqi government has given promises to help in that regard. He means: the essence of the solution in Iraq is military, not political, and the new American role will be related to the sectarian violence (which he does not call a ‘civil war’). We shall stand once with this camp and once with the other. And if we are not successful, we will blame the Iraqis because they did not help enough... He says: Iran and Syria are responsible for the deterioration in Iraq. We will confront those who deliver weapons to our enemies... He means: forget about dialogue with Tehran and Damascus, the US will deepen its war, and may spread it wider. And all that was said in the Baker-Hamilton report and the other recommendations for the creation of stable regional climate to remedy the situation in Iraq was senseless. I was not under the influence of the ‘neo-conservatives’, because in this regard, I am one of them.”

In Pan-Arab al-Hayat, `abdallah Iskandar wrote an article titled “the strategy of an announced failure”. Iskandar argued that when the US invaded Iraq in 2003, its strategy was based on an object “that did not exist in the country”: the weapons of mass destruction. Today, Iskandar says, the US is basing its new strategy on another non-existent element: the fact that there are Iraqi forces “that can be a neutral side and work for a unified state amid the sectarian divisions and infighting”. Iskandar’s thesis is that the situation in Iraq has changed and deteriorated a great deal since 2003, and that the new Bush strategy “could have been suitable at the eve of the invasion, but it came four years too late”.

In London-based al-quds al-`Arabi, the editor-in-chief, `abdel Bari `Atwan wrote that the governments of Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt do not want to be dubbed as a “moderate camp” and to be publicly seen as an ally of the American campaign, which risks to decrease their credibility among their citizenry. But the speech yesterday has revealed an American decision to engulf these governments in America’s war, and expects “blind obedience” from these governments, since “the American administration does not respect Arab leaderships, because these leaderships do not respect their peoples”.

Another element of the new strategy has been discussed in the Arab media. The new security arrangements that appear to be planned for Iraq in general, and Baghdad in specific, indicate a shift in the American thinking towards the Iraqi population: from being seen as a ‘liberated people’ into being seen as an ‘enemy population’. Plans to besiege and ‘cleanse’ entire areas of the country, and to announce whole neighborhoods and cities as ‘security zones’ magnify the repressive aspects of the American occupation.

The Lebanese daily, As-Safir, published a photo on its front page of an American bulldozer erecting a sand wall around the village of Burwana in Western Iraq, the caption likened the “new American plan” to “Israeli tactics in besieging the areas of the resistance”.

Subhi al-Hadidi wrote in al-Quds al-`Arabi about the new American security tactics that are expected to be enforced in Iraq. The article was entitled: “The new Bush strategy: quarantining Iraqis”. Hadeedi described the new measures, which might include erecting barriers between Iraqi cities and neighborhoods, registering the residents of each district and providing them with identification tags that they will have to wear at all times. Hadeedi said that “if not for the fear of being accused of anti-Semitism...the American officials would have used the term ‘ghettos’ to describe these areas”. Hadeedi predicted that these security zones will follow the model of ‘strategic hamlets’ that Amerians used in Vietnam and other modalities of colonial governance that were applied in Algeria and elsewhere.

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