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9-08-2015, 23:58

THE ‘WAR ON TERROR’

New York, Tuesday morning, 11 September 2001, 8.44 a.m. New Yorkers were hurrying to start the day; the Path Line had emptied its passengers from New Jersey at the World Trade Center a few minutes earlier. Hundreds were already at work in downtown Manhattan in this mini-city of banks, shops and offices, the skyline dominated by the Twin Towers. A minute later incredulous spectators in the street below saw a plane approach and slam into one of the towers creating a ball of fire. A short time later another plane smashed into the second tower with similar devastating effect. It was certain now that this was no accident. The US was under terrorist attack. After an agonising interval the towers collapsed killing some 2,792 office workers and firemen in the upper storeys. The whole horrifying scene was broadcast from coast to coast on television emotionally involving every American. A third plane hit the Pentagon like a flying bomb causing great damage and loss of life. A fourth was also heading for Washington, probably aiming at the White House or the Capitol but was brought down by the action of courageous passengers en route in Pennsylvania killing everyone. The president was hastily flown to safety, the skies were cleared of all commercial aircraft, and fighter planes took to the air. The term 9/11 became the shorthand for identifying a threat from a different kind of enemy – from terrorist groups sheltered by countries far weaker than the US, sympathetic to their cause of hatred of the US and Jews the world over. By carrying the attack to the heart of the US, to the icons of the powers of finance and government, 9/11 proved a catalyst in the strategic thinking of the administration of George W. Bush and marked a sombre opening to the new millennium. When George W. Bush was inaugurated on 20 January 2001 the severity of the challenges that would soon test him lay not far into the future. At home he was determined to learn the lessons of his father’s defeat. What appeared to matter most to the voters was the economy and it was potentially not in good shape in a world downturn. Aggressive cutting of interest rates by Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, kept the consumers going as house prices soared. Wall Street with prices driven to extravagant heights began to slump as the dot.com computer upstarts with little earnings and projections to the sky imploded. The year 2001 was in business the annus horribilis. The unacceptable face of capitalism came into full view. Corporate greed, the connivance of respected Wall Street investment bankers and tax accountancy practices allowed the crooks to make hay at the expense of the innocent, it was also the decade of greedy punters buying shares. Exemplary was the bankruptcy of a huge company, Enron, in December 2001, followed by World Com and others in its wake. Spectators were regaled with millionaire directors being escorted in handcuffs to waiting police cars. Respectable Wall Street bankers had hyped their stock, and accounting firms had been creative in passing accounts. Arthur Anderson, one of the most respected, went bust as a consequence. Something had to be done to restore the battered image of capitalism gone wild. Congress tightened the rules, a good start. Fundamentally the US economy is the strongest in the globe. The adjustments in the new millennium have been painful. Bush followed traditional Republican policies and those of the conservative coalition that backed him in some areas opposing gay marriages, abortion and stem cell research. Deregulation reflected Republican views on the need for small government. As the Clinton years drew to a close, the economy was in a fragile state and Bush was not responsible for the bursting bubble of technology. He countered with large tax reductions. New jobs were created although not enough to mop up all those unemployed by the changing pattern of the economy. But traditional Republican policies were not the whole story. Bush wanted to exhibit a ‘caring conservatism’. Medicare for the elderly was increased; in the wake of 9/11 the intelligence services were reorganised into an enlarged ‘Homelands Security’ apparatus; Bush’s first term was particularly noteworthy for giving federal support to education. The ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ introduced national testing and standards, the federal budget for schools was greatly expanded. Inevitably, the deficit has ballooned not least because of the increased burdens of military operations and reconstruction in Iraq. President George W. Bush earned high approval ratings and in the November 2002 midterm congressional elections the Republicans gained control both of the House and the Senate. Americans trusted Bush’s leadership after the cataclysmic terror attack on 11 September 2001. When George W. Bush entered the White House there had been still room for discussion and debate about timing and priorities. There was a sense that a firmer policy abroad was required than Clinton had followed. The appointments of Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defence, and Paul Wolwowitz, old hands of his father’s team, shows that Bush was in sympathy with their views. Colin Powell, the general who had been in charge of the first Gulf War was the new secretary of state, Dick Cheney was the vice-president. Rumsfeld and Cheney during the Clinton administration had already reached their own conclusions where the new danger lay – the nexus between ‘rogue states’, weapons of mass destruction and terrorists. Bush too in his autobiography published in 1999 wrote that the US faced a dangerous ‘world of terror and missiles and madmen’, warning that, ‘Peace is not ordained, it is earned’. Bush went on to identify two countries, ‘that hate our values and resent our success’ – North Korea and Iraq. The listing was not exclusive, however, as Bush promised to deal firmly with ‘regimes like that’. Before the elections the presidential candidate did not use the word ‘war’, but he probably already recognised that the ultimate resort to force could not be ruled out as Clinton had done. This passage in his autobiography is not so very different from the dangers he encapsulated in the ‘axis of evil’ speech two years later adding Iran to the rogue countries. President Bush is no simpleton causing amusement because of his lack of spontaneity in speech and at times tongue-twisting phraseology. Many Americans underrate their presidents as they did Reagan. It is a healthy attitude even when wide of the mark. A graduate of Yale and the Harvard Business School, with commercial experience, Bush’s hard drinking days were long behind him as he embraced Christianity. His alliance with the evangelical wing of the Church aroused liberal concern and misgivings. His brash Texan manner, love of the ranch, the very regularity of his life now in a White House steeped in prayer conveyed a narrowness of outlook that was discomforting for some and inspirational to others. A ‘vision’ politician he followed his gut instincts, ready to lead with his chin forward, but not without guile and calculation. He expressed tolerance to religions other than Christianity as long as he believes they share ethical values; with so many people of Mexican descent in his home state, he is also mindful of ethnic and cultural diversity. Colin Powell became the first African American secretary of state and Condeleeza Rice, the national security adviser, in 2005 became his successor. A Republican at heart believing in meritocracy, in the spirit of American enterprise, stern law and order and in encouraging people to look after themselves, Bush wants to reduce government in most areas of life limiting the state’s responsibility to provide the means to improve their own lives especially through education. But hard political realities required compromises. His sense of righteousness was at times hard to bear in the wider world especially his brusque way of putting America first, spurning international cooperation when he judged it not to be in America’s interest. His strength lay in reducing complex situations to simple fundamentals. But this can become a source of danger too if insufficient attention is given to complex problems. In Iraq, he underestimated the difficulties of reconstruction and of creating democratic government after the military victory. He is also impatient of international forums, which require constant adjustment to the views of others. But allies could not be dispensed with altogether, they were useful not only diplomatically and militarily, but helped to convince opinion at home of the rightness of American action. Of the major powers though, only Britain was ultimately prepared to follow through. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair in 2004 saw their popularity plummet as difficulties in Iraq and the Iraqi prisoner abuse dominated the media. The new stance of American policy soon made itself felt. Bush repudiated the Kyoto Treaty; the US could not hope to fulfil the Kyoto Treaty requirements on the environment, though the main single contributor to pollution, without harming the domestic economy. Bush refused to sign up to the UN International Criminal Court, to try cases against individuals anywhere in the world. The Yugoslav human-rights abuses committed in former Yugoslavia had led to the setting up of a special court to try the principal perpetrators but it is not a permanent court; the existing International Court at The Hague can only hear cases between nations. In any case, the longdrawn- out trial of Milosˇevic´ did not inspire much confidence. The new UN International Criminal Court, however, is a permanent body of judges. Most significant in 2001 was the unilateral ending of the Anti-ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty by the US which, during the Cold War, had provided a deterrent against nuclear conflict. The Bush administration wished to free its hands to pursue efforts to provide an effective shield against incoming missiles. Did these policies mark a return to isolationism? In the twenty-first century ‘America first’ is no longer synonymous with isolation. The experience of 9/11, alone, was enough to dispel such illusions. The Bush administration sent the message that it would take firm action not procrastinate. One consequence of 9/11 was the reordering of priorities, Afghanistan replaced Iraq as the first ‘rogue state’ that had to be dealt with. A rogue state, according to the Bush doctrine, was a state aiding and harbouring terrorists or threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction. In Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden had established bases for al-Qaeda terrorists, Muslim fundamentalists dedicated to waging war against the US and the Jews. Until Osama bin Laden settled in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban regime, the US and the West had taken little interest once the Soviet Union had been driven out by the mujahideen armed by the West. The Taliban were in possession of the capital Kabul and ruled the greater part of the country they controlled with harshness, adopting an extreme form of Islamic law which denied women all education and human rights. They enjoyed the support of Pakistan even though most of the 2 million refugees who had fled the country were housed primitively in tents on the borders of Pakistan and in Iran. The events of 9/11 changed the American attitude of neglect. The Bush administration demanded the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden. Merely attacking the terrorist bases with missiles was no longer enough. If the Taliban did not give up Osama bin Laden and their support of terrorism, the Americans intended to get him. The Taliban chose to resist. In the war that the US unleashed the Bush administration secured broad international moral support but only substantial military assistance from Prime Minister Tony Blair and Britain. With armchair military experts predicting a long and bloody involvement in the inhospitable terrain of the country, the war was soon over. The Taliban collapsed in mid-November 2001. Carefully directed bombing and a few hundred allied troops had achieved the result. The secret weapon had been the longstanding rivalry and dissent among the Afghan war leaders. The Taliban had never subdued the whole country. The ‘Northern Alliance’ of a motley of rival warlords supported by Iran continued to fight a longdrawn- out civil war. Now, with the foot soldiers of the ‘Northern Alliance’, supported by American and British special forces, helped along by dispersing dollars on tribal leaders willing to turn on the Taliban, the regime was broken. The problem of reconstructing the country devastated by more than two decades of invasion and wars now faced the US and the UN peacekeepers. A transitional government headed by Hamid Karzai was installed after a UN-sponsored conference of Afghan leaders, but can hardly venture beyond Kabul and had to be protected by American soldiers. The US was happy to work with the UN as long as it supplemented and did not cross American policies. Aid came in but was only sufficient to prevent living conditions worsening; in the countryside, stricken by drought, the illicit trade in opium remained a main means of livelihood. Nation building is a long-term process with major cities and regions under the control of local commanders. To ensure that the country does not slide back into civil wars, the build-up of an effective Afghanistan national army is only in its infancy; from bases in Kabul and Bagram a UN-mandated international force of 5,000 peacekeepers operate, and 9,000 US troops hunting Bin Laden and other terrorists are stationed in the country. All this would not be achieved in just a few years. With the Taliban ousted from Kabul and al-Qaeda driven out of Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned its attention to Iraq. Saddam Hussein was defying the United Nations which demanded verification of the complete destruction of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and nuclear. Until satisfied Iraq was placed under sanctions and only permitted to export a limited quantity of oil to pay for food and medication. UN inspectors from 1991 to 1998 searched for the weapons and destroyed large quantities of chemical installing equipment that could no longer be replaced without UN knowledge. In December 1998 Saddam Hussein expelled the inspectors declaring sanctions should be ended and that Iraq did not possess any prohibited weapons. From 1999 to 2003 no one could tell whether he was lying. Of his ambitions to acquire them and, if possible, manufacture a nuclear bomb, there was little doubt in the West. The two ‘no fly zones’ protecting the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south were no guarantee that Saddam Hussein could be contained, in future years, by economic measures and from the air. In secret contacts with the help of Arab intermediaries Blair had attempted to persuade Saddam to comply with the UN security resolution to allow inspectors back in return for a suspension of sanctions, and held out hopes of their complete abolition. But appeasement only made Saddam more intransigent relying on the weakness and divisions of the West. The change of administrations in Washington and 9/11 broke the charade of UN resolutions and Saddam’s non-compliance. Intelligence sources were receiving reports that he was developing and hiding weapons of mass destruction. Without inspectors now for three years no one could be sure what was going on. The nightmare scenario was that when ready he would be able to threaten the West with his missiles and biological and chemical weapons or pass them on to a group of terrorists, even al-Qaeda. In January 2002 Bush warned that the US would not simply wait to be attacked but would strike first. He singled out Iran, Iraq and North Korea, ‘States like these, and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world’; containment was no longer enough while weapons of mass destruction were believed to be readied for use. The countdown for the removal of Saddam Hussein, ‘regime change’, had begun. A reluctant Bush was persuaded by Powell and Blair, who flew to meet Bush at Camp David in September 2002, to follow the UN route and put maximum international pressure on Saddam to disarm. Bush was sceptical whether Saddam would give way but on 12 September 2002, for the sake of broad support internationally and at home he went before the UN and delivered a powerful speech – the UN must ensure compliance with its resolutions or would be condemned to irrelevance. Saddam appeared to give way permitting the return of UN inspectors without conditions. Then on 8 November 2002, the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 threatening ‘serious consequences’ if Saddam was found to be ‘in material breach’ of the commitment to disarm, with a timetable set for disclosing fully all his chemical and biological weapons and programme on acquiring nuclear capacity, or evidence that they had been destroyed. The resolution was not as tough as it sounded. It set a date for disclosure but no final date for the destruction of such weapons if they existed; it set no date either for a final report by the UN weapons inspectors, imposing no time limit on their search. Above all, ‘serious consequences’ was not the same as automatic war and who would decide what constituted a sufficient ‘material breach’? It was not clear whether a second UN resolution would be required before Iraq could be attacked. Only with the help of such fudges was the Security Council’s unanimous approval of Resolution 1441 passed. On 27 November 2002 an advance party of the inspectors arrived and, as required, Saddam handed them a voluminous report in December purporting to be a full disclosure of the forbidden weapons which they claimed to have destroyed. The inspectors found little except some missiles with a range slightly over what was allowed. Their reports to the UN in January and February 2003 were ambiguous; Hans Blix the chief UN weapons inspector asked for more time adding that Iraqi cooperation was improving and that the offending missiles were being destroyed. Saddam claimed to have no weapons of mass destruction but Bush and Blair were convinced he was lying. They were relying on secret intelligence reports, which have turned out to be unreliable when not totally wrong. Much of the information or misinformation was fed to Washington by Iraqi defectors. Meanwhile, the build-up of US and British troops continued until early March; 250,000 were stationed mainly in Kuwait with a division at sea waiting to enter in the north through Turkey. The onset of extreme heat and the need to not keep the troops waiting too long had set a military timetable to strike before April 2003. But internationally the conditions for the two allies were far less favourable than at the time of the first Gulf War when Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait placed him in clear breach of UN obligations and international law. In Europe the majority of public opinion was against war. In Britain public approval was linked to securing a second resolution from the UN authorising war. Already the previous summer Gerhard Schröder, Germany’s chancellor had electrified his election campaign declaring Germany would not participate in a war. Despite bad economic conditions at home it swung a wafer thin majority in his favour at the cost of breaching good relations with the US. In France, President Chirac was acclaimed for ‘standing up’ to the US and insisting that the UN could not be bypassed. Turkey, America’s staunchest ally, had elected an Islamic government in the autumn of 2002 and the new parliament would not permit ground forces through its territory and was alarmed that a war with Iraq would lead to Kurdish independence. For significant military support the US could only count on Blair who faced a deep split in the Labour Party if he failed to secure a second resolution. In Britain the majority of the public was opposed to war without UN approval. Diplomatic support, however, came from NATO’s new central European partners and, alone among the major powers, Spain. In Spain too public opinion was overwhelmingly against war but Prime Minister José Maria Aznar defied the mood at home. He did not intend to stand for re-election in 2004. On 10 March 2003 the prospects of UN support on the Security Council for a second resolution evaporated when President Chirac took the lead declaring that he would veto a second resolution authorising hostilities ‘no matter what the circumstances’. Powell’s attempt to win over the Security Council had failed, the evidence he placed before the Council of proof that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction was not convincing. Bush had gone along the UN route to the end. Perhaps if the weapons inspectors had been allowed more time as France, Germany and Russia argued, and found illicit weapons, the Security Council would have authorised the forcible disarmament of Saddam, but as there were none Saddam would have remained in power provided he had also fully disclosed his plans. Bush and Blair in any case were not willing to wait – there were too many ‘ifs’; the troops could not be kept for weeks on end in the desert. Blair secured a legal opinion at home that war was justified on the basis of past UN resolutions; with the help of the Conservatives he gained in parliament a decisive majority despite the opposition of a substantial section of his own Labour Party and of the Liberal Democrats. The case he made in a dossier, parts of which were subsequently found to be dubious, supported by intelligence reports including a claim that missiles and weapons of mass destruction could be readied in ‘45 minutes’, secured a majority in parliament with Conservative support as Labour was split and Liberal Democrats voted against. The ‘45-minute claim’ was not well supported; the real trouble was that it connected in the public mind with a threat to the British Isles, not to the region or the British bases in Cyprus. Actually Saddam had no missiles that could reach Cyprus let alone Britain and few left to counter an invasion. The dossier thus came to be misinterpreted. The intelligence report that Saddam could ready chemical and biological weapons in Iraq was not questioned by Blair. Convinced that Saddam Hussein was an immediate danger, he put the case more forcefully to parliament and the country than a dispassionate assessment of the evidence would have justified. When, after the war was over, Britain’s scientific advisor on weapons of mass destruction briefed the media secretly of his doubts, and then, after he was exposed to investigation, committed suicide, the subsequent Hutton enquiry exonerated Blair of blame but revealed the degree of ‘spin’ that heightened initially more sober assessments. In the US, Bush had already obtained congressional backing after his victory in the mid-term November elections. But suspicions were not allayed in the West about America’s reasons for being willing to go to war. Was the fear of weapons of mass destruction falling into wrong hands the true reason for attacking Iraq or did the US aim to gain control of the oil? Looked at short term oil was not the issue. Iraq’s oil supplies were not crucial to the West, war might well lead to Saddam setting fire to the wells and anyway it would take many millions to repair them and the infrastructure before substantial supplies of oil could be restored. Longterm oil was a crucial issue, not the oil of Iraq alone but the oil of the Middle East on which Western economies depended. If Saddam dominated the Middle East he could hold Western economies hostage. Iraq under Saddam threatened to destabilise the whole Middle East. He could increase tensions between Palestinians and Israel to the point of doomsday conflagration. That was the nightmare scenario. More immediate, was a genuine fear that Saddam could not be left to develop his weapons. In Blair’s words, ‘we knew the threat, saw it coming and did nothing’. Bush’s motives were multi-faceted. He concurred with Blair but was also determined to bring about a change of regime. Saddam was an affront, a ruthless dictator. He would finish the business begun by his father who had allowed Saddam to remain in power. Transforming Iraq and creating representative institutions there, would send a powerful signal throughout the Middle East that the era of dictators, theocracies and feudal dynasties was passing. If they remained unreformed and presented a threat, they would know that the US had the power and the will to act. A more democratic Middle East would remove regimes spreading hatred against the US. That was the hope and expectation. The sense of ‘mission’ proved hard to sustain when confronted with the realities the occupation faced after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Bush and Blair recognised that the Israeli–Palestinian problem could not be allowed to fester and poison relationships. The Palestinian authorities would have to eradicate the terrorists attacking Israel, a condition for Israeli withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian state. A stable Middle East was important for world peace and for the world economy. It would all be far more difficult to reach than even the difficult path Bush and Blair knew lay ahead. But was war justified in international law? The affirmative answer to that on strictly legal grounds proved contentious. Was ‘regime change’ a legitimate aim? It was not a new question. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815 the continental monarchs had wanted to crush revolutions in neighbouring states as a danger to their own stability. In response, Britain had laid down a ‘doctrine of nonintervention’; there could be no concerted interference by a coalition of countries in the internal affairs of another country unless what was happening in the country constituted an imminent danger to its neighbours. On that basis the League of Nations and the United Nations of Sovereign States was founded. Pre-emptive attacks are hard to justify in international conduct and law unless it can be shown the dangers and threats are imminent. Without evidence of such a danger, however brutal the regime, in international law, foreign intervention is not permissible unless authorised by the UN. But is such an interpretation of law appropriate in the twenty-first century? Can a country be expected to wait until a nuclear weapon has been built and is ready to be fired from an openly hostile nation? Ought not the gross abuse of human rights lead to intervention, though the conflict of national interests at the UN may not always make it possible to secure UN backing? International law and coming to the aid of innocent people may also at times be in conflict. A commission of wise men appointed by Kofi Annan proposed new guidelines. The Bush administration would have preferred to act with the United Nations, but ultimately, when it regarded its national interests threatened, was not prepared to defer to any international restraint. International law has limitations – that reality has been demonstrated time and time again. The UN has played important roles in international conflicts but is not the final arbiter in the real world. Before dawn on 20 March 2003 the war began in Iraq with a surprise missile attack on a complex in Baghdad. Intelligence had reported Saddam was there. The missile failed to decapitate the regime. This was followed by more devastating missile bombardment directed at Saddam’s palaces, as well as the ministries and command centres. Inevitably there were innocent civilian casualties in surrounding houses when a missile landed off-target. It bore the euphemistic description of ‘collateral damage’ which the US pilots had done their utmost to avoid. On paper a large regular army and elite Republican Guard divisions were defending the country. There was anxiety that Saddam when cornered would resort to chemical warfare. In Washington, Donald Rumsfeld was criticised for believing that heavy bombing and a relatively small armoured force would lead to rapid defeat. Those who said the war would be a ‘walk over’ were derided. As it turned out, Baghdad and practically the whole country was in allied hands in three weeks. Saddam’s armed forces exposed to heavy air attacks just melted away. Trouble came from the militias and fanatical Baathist party adherents who fired on the invading force. On 7 April the British forces took Iraq’s second city, Basra; two days later the Americans were in Baghdad, and during the following two days Kurds in the north occupied Mosul and Kirkuk. The oil wells remained intact. The war against Saddam was won by some 255,000 American troops, 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian and token support from 400 Czechs and Slovaks and 200 Poles. Allied casualties were light, more caused by accidents of ‘friendly fire’ than enemy action, some 150 killed, wounded and missing including the death of thirty-three British soldiers and airmen. Iraqi losses can only be estimated, possibly 2,400 troops and 6,400 civilians killed or wounded, but Iraqi deaths may well have been much higher. At least the war was no repeat of Korea or Vietnam. The much harder task of creating a stable post- Saddam Iraq without a strongman terrorising the people lay ahead. Power, water and electricity had to be restored in a situation where law and order had broken down and looting was widespread. Corruption, more than sanctions, had deprived the hospitals of essential medical supplies. The situation could not improve until the corruption and the insurgency were rooted out. The vacuum of power needed to be filled as speedily as possible and there were plenty of claimants after the war had ended in April 2003. Neither Britain nor the US wanted to remain longer than they had to. The occupiers proved ill-prepared for what lay ahead. The isolated attacks, in which the soldiers were suffering continuous casualties from fanatics, inflicted more lossess than during the war. The attacks became more widespread, better organised, aimed at Iraq’s fragile infrastructure as well as all foreign intervention. The UN headquarters in Baghdad were bombed causing heavy loss of life; the UN withdrew and only returned the following year with a skeleton staff. Local Iraqi discontent was being exploited by terrorists, some of whom infiltrated from outside Iraq. The capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 did not, as was expected, diminish the attacks on coalition forces. In 2004 they escalated and spread from militant Sunni to militant Shias. The fighting that erupted after April 2004 was the worst the country had seen. The Shia insurgency lessened in the autumn of 2004 thanks to the intervention of the Grand Ayatollah Alial-Sistani who brokered a peace in the holy city of Najav. The younger more junior Ayatollah Muqtada al-Sadr who formed a militant group known as the ‘Mahdi Army’ appeared ready to enter the political process leading to elections in January 2005 that will replace the interim government of Iyad Allawi. The biggest prize was the cessation of fighting and the insurgency in the north-east of Baghdad, the rundown quarters of Sadr City, where two million Shias live. The other insurgency of Sunnis in the so-called Sunni triangle west of Baghdad raged furiously in Fallujah. A particularly ruthless leader, a Jordanian fanatic Musab al-Zarqawi, emerged in 2004 inspiring more martyr car bombings, targeting foreigners and Iraqis working for Americans especially the Iraqi police not caring how many innocent civilian bystanders were killed in the crowded streets. The kidnapping of foreigners and their gruesome executions shown on videotape destabilised the country and undermined efforts of reconstruction. The capture and destruction of Fallujah by US forces supported by Iraqis in November 2004 did not end the Sunni insurgency. Some 138,000 US troops and 9,000 British were not sufficient to ensure peace and order, and the build-up of an effective Iraqi army will take time. But Bush was determined to succeed. The US and Britain expected to be greeted as liberators. Saddam’s brutal repression and murder of tens of thousands of Iraqis found in mass graves justified the belief that his fall would be greeted with joy by the majority of Iraqis. But the feelings of the Iraqis were always ambiguous. There was also a sense of humiliation at the defeat and occupation by foreigners. The interim Iraqi council gained no popular support, subject as it was to American control. The largely American and British troops became increasingly mired in the task of subduing militant groups of Sunnis and Shias. The restoration of normal life, supplies of electricity and medical services was slow. The two governments were shown to have prepared inadequately for the aftermath of defeating Saddam with wholly insufficient resources for the huge task of reconstruction. The use of heavy armour in cities, mounting innocent Iraqi civilian casualties, no time set for the ending of the military presence and the restoration of complete Iraqi sovereignty, played into the hands of a violent minority. The ‘exit strategy’ was not clear and the US administration could not abruptly change course before the November 2004 presidential election. The partial handover to a transitional Iraqi government at the end of June 2004, unable to conclude any binding agreements, was defined by the coalition as the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty. But coalition troops under foreign command remain. The eruption in May 2004 of the scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners undermined the acceptance of US and British troops even further. Now Washington and London had to concede that the provisional Iraqi government had the right to require their withdrawal. The abuse played into the hands of the terrorists with serious consequences for any Western intervention in the future. No one knows how high Iraqi civilian casualties have been during the war and its aftermath. Estimates range from 18,000 to 100,000. Despite Sunni threats and suicide car bombers, 8 million enthusiastic men and women cast their votes in Iraq’s first democratic election, January 2005. Bush’s unequivocal lead with Blair’s support and UN assistance sent a powerful message throughout the Middle East that the tide of reforms will, over time, prevail, even while terrorism scars the region. During 2005, Iraq was sent on the difficult path of parliamentary rule, agreeing on a new government and a constitution, preparing the way for the withdrawal of foreign troops. Many Muslims accuse the US of oppression in Iraq, feelings inflamed by the misdeeds of errant soldiers torturing Iraqis held in prison, and oppression in the Palestinian territories indirectly by the one-sided backing of Israel. In Arab eyes, after the Iraq war, the US is less trusted as an honest broker than in any earlier decade. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians lies at the heart of wider deep divisions. Israel is the only genuine democracy in the Middle East and its political culture and Western orientation present a challenge to the Arab world. Israel was largely a Western ‘implant’, its first generation overwhelmingly coming from outside the region. Its military hardware has been supplied by the West ensuring that Israel maintained an edge of superiority over its neighbours. Israel receives the largest amount of aid from the US and Jewish fund raisers from all over the world. The Israeli economy and society are Western and in terms of Purchasing Power Parity its Gross Domestic Product per head is almost double that of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, all the more remarkable given the lack of its natural resources. Israel’s defeat of its Arab neighbours and occupation of land that once belonged to them is a source of Arab nationalism and deep resentment. The struggle against Israel and Zionism is a weapon in the hands of Muslim fundamentalists in secular-ruled Arab states, and also a temptation for secular rulers to exploit to gain popularity. A settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict would reduce international tensions within the region but it will not solve the internal problems of the Arab states or their relations with the wider world. Any settlement has to involve Jewish settlers leaving the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. Some hundred and forty Jewish settlements scattered throughout the territories of the West Bank and Gaza and populated by some 220,000 settlers, many of whom were recent immigrants and are militantly orthodox, are under threat and attack from their Palestinian neighbours. Arafat shied away from trying to reach an agreement; he feared loss of control and an assassin’s bullet if he compromised. Instead, he veered in the opposite direction. The provocative tour of Ariel Sharon of Haram-al-Sharif, underlining Israeli sovereignty, provided Arafat with the opportunity in September 2000 to launch a violent attack on Israeli soldiers organised by his Fatah militia who are easily able to inflame youngsters in the streets facing Israeli troops and tanks. The Palestinian youths threw rocks and home-made bombs, the militia attacked with guns and mortars. The Israeli army fired back. Every day the funeral corteges of young men, heroes to the cause, inflamed passions further. That is how the second intifada began. It was a gamble that sacrificed many innocent lives and misguided freedom fighters. The Israeli army hit back hard; they did not target civilians who were not involved, but the young nervous conscripts did not always exercise all necessary care, the helicopters firing into Palestinian offices and houses where Hamas leaders were believed to be, accepted that there would be civilian casualties, ‘collateral damage’. The first political casualty of the failure to reach agreement was Barak. For Israelis their security was the electoral issue that overshadowed all others. On 6 February 2001, Ariel Sharon, the hard man of Israel with an unsavoury past in the Lebanon, leader of the Likud party, was elected prime minister. Sharon had identified in the past with the policy of expanding the settlements as a way of controlling the West Bank and denying Palestinian statehood. Defying UN resolutions the settlements continued to expand, indeed they never stopped doing so. By the Palestinians this was interpreted as showing that the Israelis were never serious about fulfilling the Oslo Agreement of 1993 which was supposed to have led to a Palestinian state by 1999. The Israelis blamed the Palestinians for not ending the murderous attacks by Hamas and other terrorist organisations which sent suicide bombers to Israeli cities killing civilians indiscriminately. Nor was a stop put to the open incitement to what was called martyrdom. Suicide bombings were followed by Israeli reprisals which, in turn, led to the despatch of more bombers to cafés, bus stations, markets, wherever Israelis were to be found in large numbers. Living under terror, the majority of Israelis were more concerned about their own safety than historic justice for the Palestinians, or that casualties and the suffering in the Palestinian territories far exceeded that of the Israelis numerically. If the Palestinians could not put their own house in order, then were the Israelis left with any alternatives? Some Israelis deplored excessive use of force, all were weary after decades of conflict but doubted that peace was within reach. A measure of the weariness has been support for the idea of total separation and the building of a protective wall and fence. Construction began. It is not just one wall but several dividing Palestinian territories, where it will run depending on the final decisions. Clearly, large slices of the West Bank will be placed on the Israeli side to protect settlers and what is left won’t constitute a viable Palestinian state. Most of the fence and wall remains to be built so there is room for flexibility. But Sharon’s wall has strong Israeli support as the best way to stop the bombers getting through. Though the US counselled restraint, from a broader point of view the overriding US policy has been one of supporting Israel first, the Palestinians coming second. After the second Iraq war the US, the European Union, the UN and Russia have sponsored yet another initiative, the ‘Road Map’ to a peaceful resolution with a vision of two nations, Palestine and Israel cooperating and living side by side. Setting out a blueprint without enforcement or sanctions will not be enough in the absence of a readiness to make difficult compromises, the carrots of aid not sufficient to ensure success when the future security and prosperity of both peoples are at stake. Presented at the end of April 2003 it sets out strict goals and a tight timetable. The first phase was the most crucial. Within just one month, the Palestinians were to take immediate action to end violence, accompanied by Israeli supportive measures and security cooperation, and stop all incitement. Palestinians were to take steps to build up institutions leading to free elections. A condition of the Road Map was that Arafat appoint a prime minister and by implication reduce his powers. The Palestinian authority was to undergo fundamental reform. A more hopeful start was made when Mahmoud Abbas and his Cabinet were sworn in. The new prime minister made an unequivocal declaration that he was willing to end 936 GLOBAL CHANGE: FROM THE 20th TO THE 21st CENTURY all violence. After a short truce, violence resumed with Hamas killing twenty Israelis on a bus in August 2003. Arab neighbours, Egypt and Jordan are to be associated in a security cooperation plan forming, together with the US, an oversight board. The Israelis made security a precondition of delivering their supposedly ‘simultaneous’ steps – the ‘immediate’ dismantling of settlement outposts erected since March 2001 and a freeze on settlement expansion and easing the lives of the Palestinians. An independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and a final comprehensive and permanent settlement was to be reached in 2005. There was no attempt to spell out the solution to the most intractable problems, the territorial viability of the Palestinian state, the future of the settlements, the division of Jerusalem and the issue of the return of the refugees. The Israelis submitted reservations, the plan was not unconditionally accepted by them. The US gave assurances that during negotiations the reservations would be taken into account. Soon after the signatures and handshaking the Palestinians and Israelis were left to themselves. Pressure on Arafat secured the appointment of a prime minister of the Palestinian authority. The first one resigned and the second, Ahmed Qurei, appears to be powerless to restrain the murderous assaults by suicide bombers against Israel. The Israelis, with the lack of progress, did not dismantle any major settlements on the West Bank and made only a few efforts to stop their expansion. Negotiations at lower levels got nowhere. Both sides blame each other. Israeli ‘targeted’ assaults on Hamas leaders; the paraplegic sheikh Ahmed Yussin in March 2004 and his successor one month later. That missile strikes from the air kill and wound Palestinian bystanders was accepted by Israel as inevitable collateral damage. On the West Bank the Israeli wall and security fence, constructed to protect settlements and Israel, reduced the death toll in Israel and so gained public support. Ariel Sharon with the backing of President Bush embarked on unilateral solutions in 2004. He wishes to persuade Israelis to withdraw from Gaza and to accept the removal of some 7,000 settlers. That would leave over a million Palestinians in the control of Palestinians, supposedly the government of the Palestinian Authority, but Hamas is dominant in the Gaza territory. Likud turned down the plan, but a reshuffled coalition gave its consent; conflict in Gaza is still likely. The Road Map awaits resurrection as the only plan forward in existence. All that is happening in the present is not supposed to prejudice a final negotiated settlement of the remaining huge obstacles – the borders of the Palestinian state and Israel, the future of Jerusalem, compensation or implementation of the Palestinian ‘right of return’ and the future of Israeli settlements. Meanwhile the Palestinians remain cooped up, subject to searches and border controls for those fortunate enough to work in Israel, largely unemployed and dependent on welfare. The Israelis live under constant threat of terror, the economy is badly damaged by military expenditure and the absence of tourist income, and condemned by the Arabs and many in the Western world as well. The moderates on both sides have little prospect of coming together without fundamental changes. The preconditions for progress are absent – the democratic reform of the Palestinian authority, the suppression of Hamas and groups of killers (martyrs in the eyes of fanatics), moves on the Israeli side to ease the burdens on the Palestinian civilian population, ending Israeli strikes killing also the innocent and the removal of settlements. The death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004 provided a new opening. On the Israeli side, the formation of a Labour–Likud coalition between Sharon and Peres places the pull out plan from Gaza and a few settlements on the West Bank back on track for 2005. The Palestinians elected the more pragmatic Mahmoud Abbas in January 2005, who may be able to reduce the corruption of the Palestinian authority and could create an administration that can persuade Hamas to end suicide bombings and violence, bringing to an end the intifada and Israeli retaliations that have killed hundreds of innocents in ‘collateral damage’ although militants were targeted. Israel’s neighbours also want to achieve a settlement. Much too will depend on more even-handed pressure, above all from the US. The creation of peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a great prize to win, the road ahead still full of difficulties, twists and turns. Does the Muslim militancy mark the opening of new war of ideology and culture between the Muslim and the Western world in the twenty-first century? One-fifth of the world’s population is Muslim. Like other people, Muslims’ overwhelming wish is to live peaceful lives. Islam encompasses many different peoples. The Muslims of Indonesia have no more in common with those in Algeria than Christians in India with Christians in Germany. Some Muslims live in secular states, such as Egypt, others in countries where religious leaders exert great influence. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a feudal hierarchy, Syria by a clan-based autocrat, Morocco by a monarchy, Tunisia has an elective presidency, Iran a form of theocracy; they are all very different societies. There is far greater diversity than merely the divisions between Sunni and Shia. Muslims have generally been swayed by national allegiances rather than by common religious bonds; consequently, they are also divided among themselves. Fears in the West confuse a revival of Islam with the terrorist perversions of fanatical minorities. Since the 1970s there has been a strong resurgence of religion in the Muslim world. This revival criticises the values and questions the materialism of the West, asserting an Islamic identity after decades of Western colonialism. Both on an individual level and in the secular nations of the Muslim world Muslims have attempted to reverse the decline of Islam. But Islam has not turned its back on modern science and technology. In 1997 Iran was on the brink of achieving the complete literacy of its people; it also made birth control freely available. Reformers such as Mohammed Iqbal, the Indian philosopher and poet, revived the message of Islam in the twentieth century; his aim was to combine the Islamic way of life with the best elements of life in the West. Muslim communities have established themselves in the West and, despite racist attacks, have made a large contribution to national life, fostering a greater acceptance of multicultural societies. Such people have nothing in common with the fanatics who use their own interpretation of ‘holy war’ to sanction the killing of innocent men, women and children. Most Islamic organisations work peacefully and constructively within the political systems of countries they live in and condemn the terrorists out of hand. The danger is that frustrated youths despair of social and economic improvements in the West and in countries of the Middle East, oppose regimes relying on coercion, and turn to fanatical Muslim leaders for the promise of a new and better life. The resolve of militant Islam was strengthened enormously by the humiliation suffered by Arab armies in the 1967 war and by Israel’s occupation of more Arab land. Israel was the principal enemy target, along with any Arab leader who was ready to make peace. Egypt’s President Sadat fell victim to the terrorists’ implacable hostility. The Iranian revolution provided a boost to militancy and Iran provided weapons and training to the Lebanesebased Hizbullah (Party of God), who successfully fought to drive the Israelis out of their southern ‘security zone’. Radical groups also won the support of the poor by setting up, in close association with mosques, schools, clinics and social services in deprived urban areas from Cairo to Algiers. Events in Algeria serve as a good example. In Algeria radical Islamic groups have also caused thousands of deaths in an internal conflict against the regime. The West was forced to pay attention when Europeans became involved: bombs exploded in the Paris Metro and there were fears in France of unrest among the Algerian population. In Algeria the socialist policies of the only party, the FLN, who were in power from 938 GLOBAL CHANGE: FROM THE 20th TO THE 21st CENTURY independence until the beginning of the 1980s were ineffectual and the country remained economically dependent on France. The FLN then embarked upon economic reform and, in 1989, introduced a multi-party system. But these austerity measures caused hardship which, following the general Islamic revival, contributed to the success of a powerful new movement in Algeria, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). In the June 1990 municipal and regional elections the FIS defeated the FLN in the majority of councils, raising fears that the general election scheduled for June 1991, would produce an Iranian-style revolution. It was postponed until December when, despite government manipulation, the FIS won easily and routed the FLN. In January 1992 the military intervened and abrogated the election results. A few weeks later the FIS was banned. It was the end of the democratic process and the beginning of a bloody civil war. FIS leaders were arrested and their newspapers and publicity banned. Radical military groups were formed on the fringes of the FIS, terrorising Algiers and the surrounding villages. Their trademark was to kill all the inhabitants, even the children, by slitting their throats. The army appeared unable or unwilling to defend the population. The military regime tried to gain legitimacy by holding parliamentary elections in June 1997 but these were boycotted by the FIS. The carnage continued, and claimed tens of thousands of victims. Since 1992 more than 77,000 killings were committed by terrorist groups and their military. No UN or outside intervention stopped the killings and France did not intervene either. In May 2002 President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, elected in 1999, called new parliamentary elections, which he described as a ‘matter of life and death’ for the country. Moderate Islamic parties competed, five parties boycotted them. Bouteflika won but the turnout was low and the Algerian regime backed by the generals inspired little confidence that it could help Algeria’s economic decline, or advance the country to greater democracy and heal the violent internal dissension. Algeria, a country on the doorstep of Europe, is a challenge to human rights. The internal violence deters foreign investors. In the new millennium there is only the hope that the country’s decline can be reversed. How much longer in the new century can fundamental change be held up in the Middle East? The rulers of the Arab nations of the regions will resist a transformation according to the American model of democracy. Nowhere is this more true than in Iran. Ultimate power rests with the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, the successor of the Imran Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic who overthrew the secular Shah. The demand for change from mullah rule is voiced by the democratically elected parliament, the majlis and Muhammed Khatami, chosen by the popular vote of the majority of the people in 1997 and 2001. In 1999 a student-led outburst of protest was violently suppressed. The mullahs became more circumspect in 2003 with the shadow of the US threatening Iran, one of the three countries listed by George W. Bush on the ‘axis of evil’. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein they have taken care not to provoke the US openly by appeals to the Shias in Iraq. With the return of Shia clerics who found refuge in Iran, the Shias are an important political factor in the future of Iraq, but the majority do not wish to copy the Iranian model knowing in any case that the US would not tolerate the setting up of an Islamic republic abusing human rights. Iran is poised on a delicate balance. In the new millennium sooner or later the mullahs will not be able to retain their grip on the levers of power and the lives of the people. They have been careful to allow the voice of opposition to be channelled through Khatami, a cleric and reformer as a safety valve for the popular discontent of a generation that has grown up since the revolution of 1979. But through the uncompromising judicial system applying sharia law, they have periodically cracked down on individuals and on street protests they deem in danger of getting out of hand. Khatami has accepted repression. He only wishes to change the balance not to overthrow the Islamic republic. His lack of success in bringing about any fundamental change, however, is increasing the possibility of a violent end. Khatami’s second term of office – only two are permitted – ends in 2006. Who will replace him? Confrontation between the majority of moderates in the majlis and the unelected clerics was resolved by forcing out the moderates in the February 2000 elections. A twelve-member Council of Guardians responsible to the Supreme leader appointed for life, the Ayatollah Khomeini, has powers that override the President and Parliament. The Guardians can veto any laws passed by the majlis that they declare to be incompatible with the constitution and Islam. They control parliamentary candidates and the judiciary which savagely punishes anyone denigrating mullah rule. When in November 2002 Hashem Aghajari was sentenced to flogging and death for blasphemy, attacking the religious rule of the ayatollahs and criticising the peoples’ readiness to emulate them like ‘monkeys’, the students erupted and were not pacified by Khomeini’s assurance that the sentence would be reviewed. Police and troops under the clerics came down hard on them and once more restored order. Iran is a country full of contradictions. Not as extreme as the hated Sunni Taliban, for instance women enjoy full access to education. From time to time the moral police makes examples of men and women behaving immodestly in a non- Islamic way, at other times outside Teheran they close their eyes to the freedoms practised by the younger generation. Surprisingly prostitution is widespread. The middle classes feel relatively free in their lifestyles, only conforming outwardly. The attractions of Western life are irresistible and not necessarily incompatible with Islam. But democracy cannot coexist with theocracy. There is much corruption, the police are paid to ignore a party; satellite dishes provide an illicit window to the wider world. Freedom of speech and information does not exist, newspapers are shut down, arbitrary arrests and exemplary punishments are commonplace. The morals police is particularly stifling in the cities, above all in sprawling Teheran inhabited by 12 million people. Despite the potential of oil and gas riches, the inefficiency of state control keeps most of Iran’s rapidly increasing population trapped in poverty with one in five unemployed. ‘Hatred’ of the US is artificially organised and not shared by the Iranian people who long for the riches of Western life denied them. Despite the atmosphere of fear and repression, Iranians were able to express their attitudes in the only democratic elections, despite their failings, held in the Arab world. They could choose and change the ‘sub-leadership’ of president and majlis, and do so in opposition to the will of the conservative clerics. After 2003 this was no longer true. The clerics banned more than 2000 of the opponents from standing as candidates at elections in February 2000. The outcome: a conservative Majlis is compliant now, and the previously reforming Khatami has lost the will to do more. The likely future? A split among the clerics and a less hands-on interference in the political and everyday life of the people is possible. Iran’s isolation as a pariah state, despite its place on Bush’s axis of evil, is breaking down as European nations have adopted a less hardline approach and wish to profit from business. But the freshly elected president is determined to maintain US pressure on the clerics to relinquish power and with it the threat of nuclear-based hostility. The clerics will not risk a devastating war with the US and will make the minimum concessions needed, especially in its nuclear programme. For a time the West will live uneasily with a difficult neighbour. Reform in Iran is encouraged by Western examples but it is likely that it will have to be brought about by Iranians themselves. The longevity of rulers whether secular or Islamic is one characteristic of the Arab Middle East, only death or revolution removes them. The list is long: Chairman Arafat (1953–2004), Egypt’s Mubarak (1981– ), Syria’s Hafez Assad (1970–2000), followed by his son Bashar more of a figurehead for the ruling Baathist party. The family heads of Arab clans raised to royalty have longevity inbuilt: in Jordan, King Hussein (1952–1999) and in Saudi Arabia, King Fahd. There have only been two supreme leaders – the ayatollahs – in Iran since 1979, and Gaddafi, one of the younger long-lived rulers, has ruled since 1969 in Libya. But a new generation is emerging during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Parliamentary sovereignty and free elections, the development of the political parties opposed to each other but working within an agreed constitutional framework took two centuries and more 940 GLOBAL CHANGE: FROM THE 20th TO THE 21st CENTURY to develop in the West. Even with the acceleration of historical change since 1945, it will take time before the Middle East’s cultures are reconciled with democracy and then they will not necessarily follow Western examples. That is what makes the outcome of the new beginnings in Iraq so important and fascinating. The West will need to show understanding and respect. Syria, like Iran, has supported terrorist groups against Israel. It, too, is under threat from the US. The death of Hafez Assad in 2000 ended three decades of repressive rule in Syria which, at the height of brutality in 1982, killed 10,000 fundamentalist Sunni Muslims threatening Baathist control. The Assads are members of the minority Alawite Druze sect, the majority of Syrians are Sunnis. Hafez Assad designated as his successor his second-eldest son Bashar, after his older brother, better trained for the role of autocrat, died in a car crash. Parliament changed the constitution to allow the dead president’s will to be done and speedily elected Bashar who had only returned to Syria six years earlier after the death of his brother, abandoning his training in London as an ophthalmologist. The Syrian elite are the military who had ruled under his father and wanted no change, and in particular not his uncle living in exile after a failed coup against his father. In old age, Hafez Assad had won something of a place as an elder statesman in the Middle East, courted by America and Britain to cajole him to make peace with Israel. Israel was prepared to return most of the Golan Heights but Assad would not compromise. His support of Hizbullah in the Lebanon fighting Israel placed him in line to join the ‘axis of evil’. Assad was careful to draw closer to the US, providing intelligence assistance against al-Qaeda terrorist plans and voting for Security Resolution 1441. Assad also took care to avoid a direct confrontation with Israel which he had no hope of facing alone. The experience of the 1973 war was enough to convince him of the futility of armed conflict. What he could not bring himself to do was to conclude a peace. No peace, no war and continuing Palestine–Israeli conflict allow Syria to station troops in the Lebanon. Another benefit of his stance was for his weak and poor country with a population of just over 16 million to receive the undiminished attention of the international community. The state-run economy is inefficient and the standard of living dependent on the weather and the price of oil. The impact of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein will make Syria even more cautious. The link between terror, al-Qaeda and bin Laden pointed to Saudi Arabia. Yet relations based on oil and the defence of the royal house which had been close with the US and the West weakened during the Iraq war, when unlike the time of the first Gulf War, the Saudi Arabian royal family gave little support. In 2003, the US withdrew its large military bases which affronted Muslim fundamentalists and were one of bin Laden’s principal targets to attack. Under the ailing King Fahd, despite promises by crown prince Abdullah, reform made little progress. The younger generation with little prospect of gainful employment is restless, the economy declining and totally dependent on the fluctuations of the price of a barrel of oil. With the US bent on pushing democratic reforms, the royal family itself is divided on future policies. The conservative House of Saud, facing the menace of Nasser’s republican movement seeking to embrace the Arab world in the 1960s, appeased the one power in the country that would be able to rally the people against it, the Wahabi clerics who guard the two holiest shrines in the Muslim world. The clerical establishment is vehemently anti- Western, its religious teaching became a breeding ground for Muslim fundamentalism, Osama bin Laden was one of its pupils. Before 1993, when global terrorism first began to take hold with the activities of al-Qaeda, the US and the West paid little attention to the growing popular dissent with the royal ‘family’ whose hundreds of princes monopolise positions in the state and live in opulent luxury. It was quickly noted that Osama bin Laden was the son of a wealthy businessman in Saudi Arabia, a contractor and friend of the king. Although he had left Saudi Arabia and established his base first in Sudan and then in Afghanistan, the links with Saudi Arabia remained strong. Al- Qaeda receives money from Saudi Arabian private individuals and members of the ‘family’ all closely intertwined and recruits ‘martyrs’ among the Saudi Arabian youth. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers responsible for the atrocities of 9/11 were of Saudi Arabian descent. The presence of the ‘infidels’, Western businessmen and the US military on Saudi Arabia’s holy soil has been a prime target of al-Qaeda, and was demonstrated ruthlessly again in May 2003 when three compounds housing Westerners were simultaneously car bombed with devastating effect, killing and injuring many. In the new millennium the Saudi Arabian royal establishment of princes is caught between the extreme clerics inspiring terrorism, the discontented young without prospect of meaningful employment, huge debts, declining income, the US which demands the rooting out of terrorism and attempts to slow changes to a pace not threatening their feudal rule and privileges. They have begun to crack down on terrorism and hope they can hold on with a minimum of concessions. Egypt is the West’s most important partner in the Middle East. The fourth election of Hosni Mubarak in September 1999 to a six-term period of presidential office has maintained Egypt’s stability. Parliament is weak, there is a lack of party tradition essential to the workings of democracy. Elections in 1995 and 2000 to the parliament gave overwhelming majorities to the ruling National Democratic Party, but the opposition Muslim Brotherhood also secured a few seats despite interference in the electoral process which Mubarak publicly deplored. Democracy has evolved little in the last two decades. Long periods of office breed corruption in the bureaucracy. Mubarak enjoys wide-ranging powers under the constitution and used them to crack down hard on Islamic extremists whose most spectacular atrocity was the killing of tourists visiting Luxor in 1997. That an individual extremist may succeed in assassinating him, is one of the facts of life many Arab leaders face. His predecessor Sadat was assassinated and there have been four attempts on Mubarak’s life. In his midseventies in 2005, Mubarak may have to give way to a successor in the not too distant future who will be faced with demands for change. With a population in the new millennium of 68 million, it has been a struggle to find employment for new generations entering the job market. Purchasing Power Parity per head of population was $3,670 in 2000. Mubarak’s economic liberalisation has benefited industrial development but Egypt is still dependent on 2 billion dollars of aid received annually from the US. As a leader of the Arab world, the continuing Palestine– Israeli conflict places strain not only on relations with Israel but also with the US, closely identified with Israel. Public frustrations find an outlet in anti-American demonstrations. Nevertheless, Mubarak has been an anchor of stability in the volatile region, keeping Arab nationalism in check. Jordan is a small kingdom sandwiched in a volatile region. It lost the most admired of Middle Eastern leaders, King Hussein in February 1999. The country he ruled has a parliamentary constitution but was in reality dependent on Hussein’s initiatives. Urbane, educated in Britain and the US, after the disastrous war in 1967 when Jordan lost the West Bank, he became a mediator and peacemaker. In 1970, ‘Black September’, he ousted the militant Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) who threatened to undermine the kingdom. Then in 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel and shortly before his death attempted to broker a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis. Peaceful relations in the region are essential to the small kingdom of 5 million people, the majority of whom are Palestinians. Hussein appointed his son Abdullah to be his successor. With his Palestinian wife, Abdullah has held to the peace course set by his father and emphasised the equality of Palestinians and Jordanians in the kingdom. Jordan has a special status in the Middle East as guardian of the holy Muslim shrines in Jerusalem. This has given Jordan more weight in diplomacy than would otherwise be the case. In the new millennium the two regions were smouldering. Tensions burst into flame between Iraq and the West and Israel and the Palestinians. Peace in the Middle East depends on finding tolerable solutions to both. Colonel Gaddafi, the most unpredictable leader of the Middle East, lived up to his reputation in 2004. He shed his image of supporting terrorism, agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction, nuclear and chemical, that he had earlier hoped to construct and was received as a prodigal son by Western leaders. Sanctions were lifted and with Western investment in oil he hopes to restore his country. Islamic terrorists inspired by al-Qaeda have attacked all the established regimes in the Middle East whether secular like Syria, Egypt and Jordan or Muslim like Saudi Arabia. The common enemy has created shared interests with the US and the West. The defeat of Islamic terrorism is the priority aim of all and with it the preservation of stability. But shared interests had to be balanced against the growing Arab anger at the way the West has acted in Iraq since the second Iraq war as well as the US support of Israel. The one regime that best weathered this crisis without undue damage is Iran. The clerical leadership has posed no threat to the region; discontent among the younger generation with clerical authoritarianism was held within bounds. Democracy and freedom of the individual is a fine vision for the future but wherever authoritarian regimes have been removed a transitional phase with strong leadership has been one way forward. The challenge is to bring about accountability to the people, popular control of government, rather than necessarily slavish copies of the Western forms of democracy.

 

 

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