Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Countering Pan-Arabism - 12th January 2003, 19.45

Fouad Ajami, Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, wrote an article for the Jan/Feb edition of Foreign Affairs, that was shortened and published on syndication, including the South China Morning Post. Ajami calls for the United States to adopt a Wilsonian policy towards a post-war Iraq and establish a democracy. More interestingly, and harking back to the ideologies dominating this region, the author views this war as a possible tool for removing Iraq from the orbit of pan-Arabism.

It is not decreed that the Kurds, or the Shi'ites for that matter, will want sectarian republics of their own. The convenience that created Iraq in the 1920s may still hold, but it would have to be a different Iraq. A country of genuine pluralism, a culture that has traffic with Iran, Turkey, Syria and the Arabian Peninsula, and the inheritance of four decades of British tutelage, has treated the Arab world to a cruel idea of Arabism, racial belonging and merciless clan rule as well.

The "ownership" of a new Iraq would have to be shared; its vocation would have to be a new social and political contract between state and society and among the principal communities of the land.

But Iraq would also provide, as it did under British tutelage, a mirror for American power as well. A new American primacy in Iraq would play out under watchful eyes. There will be Arabs convinced that their world is being recolonised. There will be pan-Arabists sure that Iraq has been taken out of "Arab hands", given over to the minorities within, and made more vulnerable to Turkey and Iran, the two non-Arab powers nearby. There will be Europeans looking for cracks in the conduct of the distant great power.

If the United States does allow the formation of a federal, democratic Iraq, they will be striking a blow against Islamist influence and at the ideology of shared nationalism (Pan-Arabism), its ignored opponent, although historically, this ideology has motivated revolution and dictatorship since Nasser's coup.

One of America's key war aims must be the transition of the defeated country from a Pan-Arab Iraq to a Post-Arab Iraq.


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