Sunday, February 16, 2003
An Omanist - 16th February 2003, 20.35

Here is an interview between Yousuf bin Alawi, Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs, and the Indian Express. The Gulf Cooperation Council is sending a force of 6,000 to Kuwait to support their Arab neighbour but are at pains to point out that they do not belong to a 'coalition of the willing'. On the twin issues of 'regime change' and democratisation, the Omani kingdom is very conservative:

Is regime change in Baghdad an option?
No, regime change or exile is not an option. There is a legitimate government in Iraq, we may or may not agree with that fact. International law certainly recognises it to be so. There is no exercise on the cards for President Saddam Hussein to leave the country.

Does the US want to ‘‘democratise’’ the region?
The democratisation of Iraq is a matter of concern. It will take a long time. There is no prescription of medicine that you can take. War could lead to all kinds of crises. And yes, the disintegration of Iraq is a serious possibility, although disintegration doesn’t only refer to a change in borders but also the situation within. Lack of centralisation would create greater fissures within the state and give a handle to people not only to create divisions but also to control the wealth of the state.

Although the Westphalian tradition is adhered to for political purposes, the comments on democratisation are most revealing. Alawi argues that a "lack of centralisation", which is probably read as a strong ruling authority, the king or dictator, leads to parties that create division and try to control the wealth of the country for their own end. It appears that an Arab foreign minister of an ally in the Gulf is stating that Arabs or Iraqis are incapable of governing themselves since a democracy would negotiate the wealth of the state for different groups and this is deemed kleptocratic in practice. (Do the Arabs view the West as kleptocrats rather then democrats?)

The ancien regime in the Middle East is being undermined from both sides by Islamic theocracy and democracy, but its most telling flaw is its inability to initiate reform.


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