Stephen Zunes : Middle East–Overview
This past week, the Arizona State Bar Association (SBA) held its annual convention. It appears that the ban on my participation is still in effect.
It was exactly ten years ago that the session in which an academic paper I was scheduled to present on the application of international law in conflicts in the greater Middle East was abruptly cancelled just two weeks before its scheduled presentation at the 2003 convention. No one in the organization?s leadership could explain anything objectionable in the paper, which they acknowledged they had not actually read, but were apparently convinced by a right-wing campaign that I was ?anti-Israel? and ?anti-American.?
It seems bizarre that right-wing pundits would be so desperate to use the recent anti-American protests in the Middle East—in most cases numbering only a few hundred people and (except for a peaceful Hezbollah-organized rally in Lebanon) in no cases numbering more than two or three thousand—as somehow indicative of why the United States should oppose greater democracy in the Middle East. Even more strangely, some media pundits are criticizing Arabs as being “ungrateful” for U.S. support of pro-democracy movements when, in reality, the United States initially opposed the popular movements that deposed Western-backed despots in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, and remains a preeminent backer of dictatorships in the region today.
Although President Barack Obama’s May 19 address on U.S. Middle East policy had a number of positive elements, overall it was a major disappointment. His speech served as yet another reminder that his administration’s approach to the region differs in several important ways from that of his immediate predecessor, but he failed to consistently assert principled U.S. support for human rights, democracy, or international law.
The killing of Al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden is not likely to have a profound impact one way or the other in the struggle against the terrorist organization and its allied groupings. On the one hand, Al-Qaeda may face a potential leadership void and internal divisions. On the other hand, the organization has decentralized in the ten years since the United States and allied forces drove them from their sanctuaries in Afghanistan and terrorist cells operate independently from bin Laden’s leadership and a whole new generation of terrorists subscribing to the apocalyptic and genocidal ideology has sprung up as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The unarmed insurrection that overthrew the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and the ongoing uprising in Egypt have opened up debate regarding prospects for democratization in Arab and other predominately Muslim countries. Many in the West are familiar with the way unarmed pro-democracy insurrections have helped bring democracy to Eastern Europe, Latin America, and parts […]
It was the second week in January in 1991. I was in the sanctuary of a large Catholic Church in Baghdad. Every votive candle in the place was lit, no doubt in support of prayers for loved ones in anticipation of the massive US bombing campaign — which was to be known as “Operation Desert Storm” – that was soon to commence. A member of our group asked the priest whose side the church would be on in the forthcoming conflict. He replied that “The Church can only be on one side. That of the victims.”
One year into their term in office, the Obama administration’s record on human rights has been a major disappointment. In part because the Bush administration abused the promotion of democracy and human rights to rationalize its militaristic policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has at times been reluctant to be a forceful advocate for those struggling against oppression. For example, Obama was cautious in supporting the ongoing freedom struggle….
In Cairo last week, President Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world, calling for a “new beginning” in the search for peace and prosperity in the Middle East. What he failed to address in this widely anticipated speech, however, were the repressive and corrupt regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. While eloquently promoting democracy, religious freedom, […]
President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo to the Muslim world marked a welcome departure from the Bush administration’s confrontational approach. Yet many Arabs and Muslims have expressed frustration that he failed to use this opportunity to call on the autocratic Saudi and Egyptian leaders with whom he had visited on his Middle Eastern trip to end their repression and open up their corrupt and tightly controlled political systems….
Reports by international human rights groups and from within Israel in recent weeks have revealed the massive scale of war-crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law, committed by Israeli forces during their three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Despite this, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has steadfastly stood by her insistence that the U.S.-backed Israeli government has no legal or moral responsibility for the tragic consequence of the war….