Three-day meeting at UCLA hears reports on "The Middle East in 2005"
Almost every country of the turbulent Middle East came up for discussion in an important three-day conference at UCLA May 19 to 21. Organized by UCLA's Center for Near Eastern Studies, the sessions heard some twelve presentations by specialists from ten universities and two NGOs, as well as comments by a large number of discussants.
Each day took up a different part of the region. Day one heard papers on contemporary Iraq and on the history of Islamic constitutional practice in Iran and Afghanistan. The second day was devoted to potential solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The third day examined the situation in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Pakistan.
The first day heard papers on Iraq by political scientists Amatzia Baram of Haifa University and Eric Davis of Rutgers, separated by a historical discussion of Islamic jurisprudence and constitutionalism in Iran and Afghanistan by Said Amir Arjomand, a professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Amatzia Baram began by saying that he had read in a blog a denunciation of the rule that a 66% vote of the interim Iraqi parliament is needed to elect a president. The blogger had called this an imperialistic imposition. Professor Baram agreed that it was an imperialistic imposition, "but a very positive one." The alternative would be an automatic Shia majority free to choose a president without consultation with the Sunnis and Kurds. That would be more democratic than the long Sunni domination of the country, Baram conceded, "but not what is really needed." If it were not for the 66% rule, "Iraq would be today ruled by fundamentalist Shiites, not acceptable to other Iraqis."
The supermajority rule, Baram said, "provides the Iraqi people and parliament some chance to establish a stable and representative government."
The new rise of Shia power in Iraq, Baram pointed out, ends almost five hundred years of repression, "since 1534 when Suleiman the Great conquered Babylon." The Ottoman Empire viewed the Shia Muslims "as potential fifth columnist supporters of the Persian empire. That was not totally wrong, or totally right, historically speaking."
The treatment of the Shias actually deteriorated after the fall of the Ottomans, when the Saudis became the dominant Arab force in Iraq after 1920. The Shiites situation was better under General Abdul Karim Kassem (1958-63), but deteriorated still more after the Baathists seized power in 1963, especially after Saddam Hussein became dictator in 1979.
"The Shia community was very much against the Saddam Hussein regime," Amatzia Baram said. "The more the regime intervened to curb the autonomous power of the Shiite community the worse relations became." There were several attempted Shia uprisings in the late 1960s and 1970s, and an important Shia revival after the Iranian revolution of 1979. "The Baath regime was very paranoid. There was a great Shiite uprising in March 1991 after the Gulf War," which was crushed by Saddam Hussein.
The greatest danger in present-day Iraq, in Amatzia Baram's opinion, is that the ongoing terrorist attacks on the Shiites will unleash an enormous violent reaction from the Shiite masses.
The American invasion and occupation, Baram felt, is only one element of the difficult situation and is viewed differently by different segments of the population. "Even many Shiites are uneasy with the American presence. but the vast majority of the Shiites accept the American presence as the lesser evil. The Kurds accept it with pleasure. The Sunnis do not accept it."
The main danger, he said, is not the terrorists, but the potential reaction against them. Baram distinguished terrorists from the insurgents even though there is clearly significant overlap. "An insurgent is someone who tries to kill Americans. A terrorist is someone who targets Shiites deliberately. When they behead a journalist or kill Shiites on the holiest day of the Islamic year where you don't have Americans anywhere, that is terrorism."
The senior Shia leadership, he said "has shown tremendous restraint." Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani "and the three other high ayatollahs have been against any Shia anti-Sunni response. This is a tremendous asset. The danger I see is that their authority over this issue is eroding. The more Shiites who are killed deliberately, the more popular demand there is for a response." He pointed to attacks on Shiites at Baghdad University as a particular hot spot.
Another possibility, Baram suggested, is that if the killing continues the government may lose its public support, "like Germany in the 1920s." This could provide an opening for a new dictator. "The strong man might be Muqtada Sadr, a candidate for an Iraqi Shia Islamist cleric Saddam."
In addition to the insurgent/terrorist problems there are difficulties in agreeing on a constitution within the new interim government. "We have growing tensions between Sunnis and Shia, with Kurds largely on the sidelines. If there is no agreement on the constitution there is the possibility that Iraq will disintegrate, perhaps with some bloodshed. It is a possibility to partition Iraq three ways, but that is not the best solution."
Control of Baghdad, Baram said, will be the most contested issue if it should come to a division of the country. The city, he noted, is 70% Shia. "Also the Shia south has 60% of Iraq's oil reserves. Much of the rest is at Kirkuk in the north and the Sunni areas would be left with almost no oil. This could produce huge bitterness. A federal system would be the best solution in my view."
Iraq, Baram said, "has a more violent history than Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Since 1920 issues have been decided by the gun. A system of negotiating and haggling is very new and unusual for Iraq. Will it overcome the old tradition of deciding by the sword? Unclear. Will the future politics be based only on Islam or on a broader basis? The Shias would prefer that it be only Islam."
A key step will be to revive the economy. "They need to provide jobs, especially for the Sunnis displaced by de-Baathification. If you don't find jobs for these people the insurgency will go on forever. But many members of the Shia parties want revenge and are opposed to concessions to the Sunnis."
There are also differences on the degree of centralization of the new state. "Kurds want maximum power for the regions, the Shiites want maximum power for the center. The Kurdish president is encouraging other elements to demand local control over the oil."
Finally, Baram said, the Sunni opposition to Shiite control is not purely religious. "Sunnis remember 400 years of Sunni supremacy. The tables have been turned on them by a world superpower. There is a sense of rage against the Americans. But the Americans are not the main enemy. The main enemy is the Shiites. There is a certain disdain for the ayatollahs. How can the ayatollahs rule the country? We can never let these guys run our country."
As an interlude between sessions on Iraq, Said Amir Arjomand of SUNY Stony Brook reviewed traditions in the region on the role of Sharia law and religious leaders in historic governments, focusing on Iran and Afghanistan.
Arjomand began by saying that constitutions have not been as central in Muslim states as they have been in the West, and that Islam has not been central in the constitutions of Muslim states before the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. In Muslim countries historically the state has been constructed first and the constitution added later.
In today's Afghanistan, Arjomand said, "There has been little discussion of Islam in the Loya Jurga because of the experience of the Taliban."
Iran had an important history of constitutionalism following the revolution of 1906-07, but Islam appeared there "as the limitation of the constitution, not the basis of the constitution. Taking Islam as the basis is an adoption of a Western ideology approach."
Similarly, among the Arabs, the Islamic tradition going back to the days of the Caliphate has been for the ruler to administer the government, making laws as needed without violating Sharia law, while religious leaders tend to the religious lives of their constituency. "Government limited by law has always been the Islamic norm," Arjomand said.
In Iran in 1906-07, "nobody said Islam should be the basis of the constitution. The aim of those constitution makers was the transfer of sovereignty from the sultan or shah to the people. A few months after the 1906 fundamental law was passed, differences appeared between the law and Sharia. The first Majles urged bringing law into conformity with Sharia, as the limitation on legislation."
Arjomand described this system, whose basic concepts dated "from the middle ages," as a two-power system: "the kings would maintain order while the prophets would provide religious guidance." This was the basis of Sharia constitutionalism. "The overwhelming position in Iran was that Sharia should be a limitation on government. Seeing Sharia as the fundamental basis of government is a Westernization, in the pattern of Western ideologies" such as communism.
Both the Egyptians and Ottomans in the past assigned jurists to reconcile various Islamic law codes to standardize written laws. "They generally threw in some European law and reconciled it also. In contrast, in Afghanistan under the Taliban, "given the complete victory of the clerical reaction . . . most mullahs made decisions without reference to written law."
Eric Davis of Rutgers University challenged the idea, central to contemporary analyses of both optimists and pessimists on Iraq's future, that politics are and must be defined by the three ethnic/religious divisions of the country into Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites.
"Iraq had a long tradition of civil society before Baathist rule," he said. Failure to understand a past in which many people thought of themselves as Iraqis first and Sunnis, Shiites, or Kurds second is "contributing to the failure to defeat the insurgency."
The present dominant paradigm that views Iraq as a tripartite entity, Davis argued, arises mainly from a massive project undertaken by Saddam Hussein to rewrite twentieth century Iraqi history to expunge the record of cooperation between the groups.
"Why did such an authoritarian regime feel the need to structure the way that Iraqis understand the past? Why use so much of the oil wealth to re-present the Iraqi past." His answer was that Saddam "wanted to erase the pre-1963 Iraqi nationalist movement, which had a record of consistent cross-ethnic political cooperation from the beginning of the twentieth century."
The June-October 1920 Iraq revolution was marked by large-scale cooperation between Shia and Sunni, Davis said. "They even asked Jews in Baghdad, the largest ethnic group in the city, to join in demonstrations and promised them equal and free citizenship." This kind of cooperation continued on and off over the next forty-three years until the Baathists seized power in 1963.
Cooperation took place formally between political parties but also in the rise of an independent press after 1908. "Cultural pages tried to reach across ethnic and regional lines," Davis said. He also pointed to the founding of the Baghdad College of Law in 1908 and the creation of many professional associations as signs of a growing civil society. In the 1920s this was supplemented by the formation of several hundred labor unions. "The Bush administration's idea of creating a democratic Iraq is not so far fetched if we consider the pre-1963 civil society."
However, Davis said, both supporters and opponents of the Bush administration's intervention in Iraq ignore the history of cooperation in a common national identity and view Iraq "through an ethnic calculus." This impedes the development of democracy or national stability and increases the risk that the government created in this year's elections will fail. "The potential negative consequence of failure," Davis said, "are a return to authoritarian rule that would accentuate ethnic politics, create rump states such as the Kurds, and require that American combat forces remain in Iraq with more deaths for Americans and Iraqis."
The neoconservatives in the Bush administration, Davis said, have a purely negative idea of how democracy will emerge: Everybody in Iraq wants it except Saddam, the Baath holdovers, and a few domestic and foreign jihadists. "Once the insurgency is defeated, democracy will emerge automatically. This is a cookie cutter model of democratic change. Everybody wants democracy and will create it if obstacles are removed."
The Bush strategy is further vitiated by viewing Iraqi politics purely as the three ethnic/religious communities and trying to shape institutions around those differences, and by adopting an economic strategy based on free markets but ignoring social welfare measures that had been central in periods when Iraqis worked together for nationalist goals and subordinated their ethnic differences.
The pessimistic critics of the American invasion, Davis argued, are mostly equally ignorant of the nationalist history of Iraq and see ethnic differences as an insurmountable barrier to national concord. In this view, "British colonialism forced a square peg into a round hole: Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites cannot coexist within a single nation state; each is committed mainly to its own ethnic subnational ethnic group." He dubbed this position "essentialism."
A slightly different negative position is to single out the long history of political violence and conclude that this preordains the future. "Since the modern state was founded in 1921 there have been many assassinations, they cannot break with the violent past. . . . There is no learning curve."
All these models, Davis concluded, "are deeply flawed conceptually." U.S. efforts to develop democracy "are largely at variance with Iraqi democratic traditions. The United States says nothing about the high unemployment rate -- almost 60% -- and its relation to stability shows the neoconservative blinders."
The basis of ethnic cooperation in the past, Davis said, "emphasized the social questions, stressed social justice, saw building democracy in social democratic terms, from Fabian socialism to Marxism." Cooperation based on this kind of mutual social welfare goals worked in the past and is the refutation of the pessimists' contention that the ethnic divides cannot be bridged. Even today, Davis said, there are important internal differentiations within the ethnic groups, "such as that between Ali al-Sistani and Muqtada Sadr who have very different objectives." Former U.S. governor of Iraq Paul Bremer's "effort to balance the interim government on a strict ethnic calculus strengthens ethnic identification by treating all actors as ethnic representatives first and Iraqis second."
Davis criticized Western leftists "who pooh pooh the chance of democracy." He also characterized the position expressed by insurgent groups that democracy is a Western import with no roots in Iraq as a fallacy. "Iraqis need to make historical reference to the traditions before the 1963 coming to power by the Baathist regimes, which came to power with the help of the American CIA."
The second day of the conference was originally scheduled to address alternatives for a peaceful conclusion to the long-running Arab-Israeli struggle. One speaker, Salim Tamari of Birzeit University in Palestine, who was to speak in favor of a unitary Israeli-Palestinian state was unable to attend and the focus of the day's presentations shifted somewhat.
Steven Spiegel, a UCLA professor of Political Science and associate director of the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations, opened the day with a discussion of the weakness of the Bush administration's commitment to working toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and some proposals for improving the situation.
Spiegel's central view was that the antagonists in the region have proved unable by themselves over many years to end the clash and that a determined United States intervention will be required to resolve the dispute. He distinguished three levels at which U.S. administrations have approached the Middle East: global, regional, and local, and critiqued each. A global approach begins with a worldwide aim, such as containing communism, and then simply applies it to a country or region. "A regional approach would take the region into context. A local attitude is like the Arab-Israeli, Iraq-Iran clashes without any overarching issues."
Three American governments, Spiegel said, have tried to apply a global approach to the Middle East. These were the Eisenhower, Reagan, and George W. Bush administrations. "Eisenhower and Reagan took anticommunism and get oil as their global imperatives." The earlier two differed, however, on their attitude toward Israel. "Eisenhower believed Israel was a burden, Reagan saw it as an asset." Spiegel rated the earlier global approaches as failures. "In both the Eisenhower and Reagan regimes, U.S. influence in the Mideast was weaker at the end of the administration than at the beginning."
In contrast, he said, "a regional approach is an attempt to define a policy in regional terms, to integrate the issues, play one problem off against another, and produce a policy that has some integration." In his opinion, only one administration "was partially successful with this approach." That was the first Bush administration with the Gulf War.
The most typical American strategy for the Middle East has been a country-by-country local policy. Steven Spiegel cited the Truman, Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Clinton administrations as examples of this. "What is distinctive of the localized approach is its pragmatic problem-by-problem, piecemeal approach." He noted that the local strategists were all Democrats while the globalists were all Republicans.
Regrettably, Spiegel commented, "all administrations saw the Middle East as a nuisance and a burden, so their policies were defensive: defend Israel, defend oil, oppose communism."
Steven Spiegel praised the Bush government for its dramatic support of the Roadmap, first issued by the Quartet (negotiators from the United States, the United Nations, Russia, and the European Union) in September 2002. But while Bush has been verbally interventionist there has been no follow-through.
The Quartet created around the Roadmap, Spiegel said, "failed to take any definite action." He added that "while it is not generally realized, [the Bush] administration is peculiarly inactive, even passive, on many Mideast issues with the exception of Iraq."
Spiegel felt that the Roadmap remains the most promising current initiative despite the American failure to pursue it. "The Roadmap is an extraordinary innovation," he said, "with specific stages and emphasis on political reform and democracy."
With its propounding of the Roadmap, "the Bush administration is the first administration to have the strategy of offense, trying to promote a new approach to the region to reorganize the region. This is a major revolution in American foreign policy. . . . I would submit that this is a revolutionary change in the international framework in attempting to apply goals to a regional conflict."
At the same time, he cautioned, the Roadmap's global goals, as distinguished from some of its proposals to the belligerents -- to fight terrorism, promote democracy, and halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction -- conflict with each other. "Democracy is a long-term strategy that will take not only many years but more likely many decades. Despite the successes in Iraq, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, the advances are ephemeral and may or may not be sustained and expanded."
Combating terrorism in the short term, Spiegel suggested, often undermines the conditions for promoting democracy. "Policy in Iraq proved to be based on false intelligence and the policy in Iran seems to be almost nonexistent: talking very loudly and carrying a very little stick. Combating terrorism is an extremely difficult policy to gauge the success of. You know if an attack takes place, but not if you have prevented an attack. The Iraq policy has boomeranged in that we have an enormous increase in terrorism in Iraq."
So policies to limit terrorism may be in contradiction to the policies needed to promote democracy. "In Iraq and in Iran we see the problems of contradictory global goals pursued simultaneously."
Specifically in the Israel-Palestinian issue, Spiegel said, "trying to apply a global policy in a regional context has limited the promotion of an Arab-Israeli dialogue." The goals of the Bush Mideast policy are at too high a level to focus on the specifics of a situation that doesn't directly involve its three goals. "One could argue that the attempt to prevent terrorism by the Bush definition has made it more difficult to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute."
Further, Spiegel suggested that by prioritizing the establishment of democratic institutions in Arab states this can be taken as a precondition for solving immediate problems, which will postpone addressing them into an indefinite future. "Since the 2004 election," Professor Spiegel said, "Bush has increased his rhetoric suggesting that democracy is a sine qua non as a precursor of resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute. He says the heart of the matter is the need for Palestinian democracy. You don't see any Israeli leader, left or right, talking in these terms. What happens in the years while democracy is being prepared? Bush has no answer. But the demographic clock and the terrorist clock are ticking."
Spiegel contrasted George Bush's presumption that lack of democracy is the core problem in Middle East violence to Egyptian President Mubarak's March 2004 claim that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the source of all conflict and no progress in the Middle East can take place until this has been resolved. Spiegel commented, "This is also one sided but it shows the great divide between Bush and the Arab side."
The death of Yasser Arafat and election of Abu Mazen "is a great opportunity," Spiegel said. He urged the Bush administration to reconsider its approach to the region, stating:
"My main approach is that instead of trying to apply a broad global framework to the Middle East that may inhibit progress, to use a combination of the regional and local approaches. On the local level this means a greater involvement in details."
Spiegel said he supported Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policy of disengagement. "It is not the most brilliant policy but the only show in town. The point is that this is the first time that Israel has decided on its own, without pressure from the United States or any international body and without negotiations, to withdraw from a particular territory. This has enormous implications. It has severely divided the Israeli domestic arena, although the majority overwhelmingly support it."
If Israel withdraws from Gaza and there is no significant increase in violence from those territories, Spiegel said, "If that is successful the Palestinians will see that progress is possible. If it fails then the opposite will be the case. If disengagement succeeds no prime minister, no matter how right wing, will be able to avoid the peace process. If it fails, no prime minister, no matter how left wing, will be able to move the peace process forward. We need more on-the-ground effort by the United States to help this disengagement succeed."
Both sides in the dispute claim they support the Roadmap. But "in a way both sides are trying to avoid the Roadmap while proclaiming their commitment to it." This is happening, he said, by the Israelis concentrating on stage 2 of the plan, to scale down terrorism and armed extremist groups, while the Palestinian negotiators are concentrating on stage 3, establishing final borders for the projected Palestinian state.
Spiegel called for sticking to the Roadmap, "but going through stage 2 to get to stage 3." He added that the United States "needs to be committed to its own Roadmap." The U.S., he said, needs to be directly involved in details on the local level. But it also needs to involve the surrounding Arab states. "One of the great errors of the Clinton administration was not to have involved other countries, Egypt, Jordan. We need to bring in the states of the region. The Quartet shuts out most of the countries of the region. We need a new set of talks, both official and unofficial. There ought to be an official committee to deal with the Roadmap, a committee for regional discourse and education to move against incitement, committees on health and the environment. The Egyptian government has begun to put out feelers privately that it will consider promoting new multilateral talks. A new regional process would learn from the multilateral efforts of the 1990s but would go beyond it by involving elites in discussions of the steps, and of the public in anti-incitement. It would also deal with social issues, the culture of violence in the region, the importance of public education."
Khalil Jahshan, former president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, is director of Pepperdine University's Washington, D.C., intern program. He offered a more skeptical appraisal of the Roadmap and of Israel and U.S. positions in negotiations.
The Roadmap, he said, "was not a detailed peace plan. It was simply an attempt to separate the two parties from the hug of death that united the two parties since the beginning of the current intifada."
The steps and stages outlined in the Roadmap, he said, are "a sure recipe for endless discourse." In particular he scored the Quartet's plan for "failing to focus on the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the Israeli settlements." He dismissed the U.S.-supported peace plan as a project in which "Israel will control the lands while the Palestinians will control the terrorists." Jahshan also objected to President Bush's agreement to a proposal by Ariel Sharon that some Jewish settlements in the West Bank would remain as Israeli territory without agreement from the Palestinian side.
Professor Jahshan showed slides of maps of the West Bank highlighting extensive Jewish settlements in different periods and in different draft peace plans over recent decades. "Is the two-state solution still viable?" he asked. He replied: "In theory, yes. But it is impossible to achieve today because of the four years of violence and the terrible conditions imposed on the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation. The two-state solution, recognizing Israel as a democratic state living within the borders of 1967 and the creation of a democratic Palestinian state remains the only potential solution of the cycle of violence. It is not a just solution, but the only possible one. The other solutions, a Jewish state over all of Eretz Israel will not work. Neither will a Muslim state over all of historic Palestine. Pursuit of either would mean long-term violence ending in some form of ethnic cleansing."
Jahshan said that a proposal sometimes heard for a "democratic, secular Palestine" was not viable. "There is the option of a single secular democratic state, one secular democratic state instead of a two-state solution. It immediately faced insurmountable opposition because it faced the challenge of the reason for existence of the state of Israel. It has been raised by some Palestinian intellectuals but it is generally regarded as a veiled attempt to destroy Israel's Jewish character."
Khalil Jahshan expressed disbelief that Israel was prepared to abandon a substantial number of the Jewish West Bank settlements as part of a peace agreement. "Israel's expansionist settlement policy has left no room to carry out an agreement to exchange land for peace. 40-50% of West Bank land is under the control of Jewish settlers in homes, roads, and other installations. There is no room left for a viable Palestinian state."
Professor Jahshan said that "60-70% of Palestinians are willing to consider a two-state solution, but on 1967 borders. Not a peace process to share the West Bank with Israel but to hand over the West Bank for the Palestinians to create a state. There is no constituency among the Palestinians to share the West Bank with Israel."
Professor Jahshan claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had offered 86% of the West Bank in 2000 and that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offers only 45% today. A compromise splitting the difference, he said, "seems to mean an offer of 60%. No Palestinian leader will be able to sell that to the Palestinian people."
Khalil Jahshan also pointed to the Israeli security fence being built to separate Israel from the West Bank as including a land grab. "Of course Israel is entitled to build a wall to protect its citizens. But you build a wall on your side of the border, not on the other people's side of the border. Some people say it grabs 8%, some 10%, some more. If there is a formula of land for peace, every inch counts."
He displayed a slide of a drawing of a segment of the Israeli wall. "The wall has a road on each side, ditches on each side, so it is more than 100 yards wide multiplied by several hundreds of kilometers long, not to mention villages that are isolated from their fields or from the hospital. If Israel wants that, god bless them, but put it on their own side of the green line, not to try to prejudge the borders of the future Palestinian state."
Khalil Jahshan was critical of the Bush administration for its lack of active intervention in the conflict as well as for leaning to the Israeli side. The Clinton administration had been much more involved, he noted. "The United States raised hopes of Israelis and Palestinians sky high, then the Bush administration washed their hands of it saying this was a Clinton project."
In closing, Khalil Jahshan said that "both sides are exhausted by the violence, politically, economically, and psychologically." He felt that the Roadmap "has been rendered obsolete by inaction." In its place he called for a new "strategic document" that would jump directly to stage 3 of the Roadmap by focusing on "the permanent status issue of settlements, refugees, and borders."
In the discussion period Khalil Jahshan was asked if he thought Palestinian insistence on the "right to return" to Israel by Arab residents displaced in 1948 and their descendants would be an impossible demand for Israel to accept as it would threaten the Jewish character of the state. Jahshan replied that in his opinion in practice very few Palestinians would choose to live under the Israeli government and that perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 might chose to invoke the right of return, a number small enough to not be unassimilable by Israel.
The afternoon session of the second day opened with a presentation by Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Los Angeles. Originally this slot was to have been a talk supporting a one-state solution by Salim Tamari of Birzeit University in the West Bank. Professor Tamari was unable to attend, and his replacement took the discussion temporarily away from solutions to the Arab-Israeli dispute and onto the ground of U.S. relations with Muslim-Americans. Salam Al-Marayati in addition to his role in the Muslim Public Affairs Council is also co-chair of the Interfaith Coalition to Heal Los Angeles founded in 1992 after the Los Angeles riots.
Mr. Al-Marayati said that his organization represented a Muslim moderate voice in U.S. policy making. He complained, however, that "In Washington the moderate Muslim is the one who comes to tell you what you want to hear. Washington likes to hear very pro-Israel Muslims. If the moderate Muslim is a Zionist Muslim it doesn't help us in dialogue with Muslim groups in the United States. There has to be a genuine representation of who you talk to." He contrasted the Bush administration's policy of selecting only people it agreed with to speak to here at home with its approach to Muslims in Asia. "In Indonesia they go the those who have influence with the masses, not the Muslims who fit a checklist of pro-American positions."
Al-Marayati did propose some requirements to be considered a moderate Muslim. He listed five characterizations:
That the person "renounce violence as a method of change." That they support women's rights "within an Islamic framework." That they accept the positions in the Quran that Jews and Christians "are people of the book, people of earlier revelations," not infidels. That they be committed to supporting democracy in the Middle East. And lastly that they be committed to advancing discussion.
The "vast majority of Muslims in the world believe in these five points," he said. He contrasted his type of moderate Muslim to "the capital hill litmus test," which leads the U.S. government to enlist Muslim speakers "who have no following in the region."
Al-Marayati described the situation in Iraq as a civil war, saying that the country is "mired in sectarian violence." Nevertheless, he added, "much of Iraqi society think that they would rather see the U.S. leave sooner rather than later."
He said that for Muslims the central issue in the Middle East is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He suggested that the Bush administration tacitly acknowledges this by imposing a pro-Israel criteria on American Muslims it establishes relations with. Al-Marayati ascribed the American government's narrow view to influence by an "iron triangle" composed of "the neocons, the religious right, and the Jewish community." He called on "liberal Jews and moderate Muslims" to create a counter constituency.
Al-Marayati then raised the issue of an allegedly desecrated second-hand Quran received in the mail by UCLA doctoral student Azza Basarudin. The book, said to contain anti-Muslim slurs, was purchased by Basarudin over the internet from Bellwether Books, a second-hand book dealer in Pennsylvania, through Amazon.com's independent book dealer Marketplace program. Books in this program are shipped directly from the bookstore and are not handled by Amazon. "We had a press conference about this as a hate crime, just as if a Jew received a torah desecrated with a swastika," the head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council said.
Salam Al-Marayati concluded by saying, "Our organization is committed to a two-state solution. We want our children to grow up respecting each other, and unless we get these problems resolved you will see more hate crimes and will see Muslim ghettos as we see in Europe. Al Qaeda is able to recruit in Europe because of the Muslim ghettos. They are not able to recruit in America."
The last speaker of the day was Sammy Smooha, professor of Sociology at the University of Haifa, Israel. He had originally been scheduled to address the topic "The Fallacies of a Single Binational State Option for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict." But as the presenter for the position Smooha was debating was unable to attend, Smooha ended up discussing both variants himself. The missing presentation had been billed to present Bosnia and South Africa as potential models for a unitary Palestinian-Israeli state.
Smooha began by examining the Bosnia and South Africa cases, where very hostile ethnic groups ended in reorganized unitary states. "Bosnia in 1995 became a binational state, a single state, binational for Serbs and Bosniaks and Croats." That is, the state explicitly acknowledged the ethnic divisions and constructed institutions that gave special recognition to each ethnic group. "South Africa is also a single state," Smooha continued, "not binational , no collective rights but only individual rights, no recognition of specific communities, it is civic democracy."
In addition to these recent experiences, Sammy Smooha noted some of the best-known older examples. "There are three Western binational states," he said, "Canada, Switzerland, which is trinational and 75% German but without ethnic dominance, and there is Belgium with French speaking Walloons and the Flemish."
"There is the case of Cyprus in 2004, where the European Union told the Greeks to join in a unified Cyprus. The Greeks rejected this as too generous to the Turkish part and so it did not happen."
In both Israel and Palestine, Smooha said, there are a growing number of intellectuals who advocate a unitary state, but this is not true of politicians on either side. One argument for such a state is fear that a separate Palestinian state would be so weak as to be a Bantustan like the sham black states created by the South African white government before it conceded power to a multiracial regime in 1994.
Successfully holding disparate peoples together in a single national entity is not the only experience of recent years Smooha pointed out. "In 1989 Yugoslavia broke up into four or five independent states to manage conflict of the southern Slavs. Most important was the breakup of the Soviet Union, into fifteen independent states, without any violence. Then Czechoslovakia broke into two states that had been together since 1920."
Most advocates of the one-state idea, Sammy Smooha said, "take South Africa as the model. One state, not binational, not biracial, where ethnicity and race are not legitimate political categories at all."
Trying to apply this pattern to the Palestinians and Israelis is a misinterpretation, Professor Smooha argued. "There was no separation in South Africa. It was integration based on inequality." From 1910 onward, "blacks were fighting for one state for everyone, one man, one vote. They didn’t want to exclude whites. So apartheid was only a means of domination, not a true separation."
Every party to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Sammy Smooha said, "accepts a two-state solution. The Palestinians have not been fighting for a single state solution. The radicals do want a single state dominated by the Palestinians. Israeli Jews, although only in the last five years, in their majority now support a two-state plan, with about 60-70% including the right wing."
Jews supported a two-state solution starting in 1937, Smooha said, with the Peel Commission, and in 1947 with the United Nations partition resolution. More recently, the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap have been based on a two-state solution.
Would a Palestinian state be nothing more than a Bantustan ruled indirectly by Israel? "This argument is really wrong," Smooha said. "It will be a new Palestine. It will arise only by agreement, not by a unilateral decision of Israel." The very history of years of violent confrontation testifies, Smooha said, to the fact that Israel cannot control or manipulate a Palestinian state. "A people like the Palestinians, supported by the Arab countries and the Arab world, and by Europe, how can you imagine that this is a weak people?"
In contrast, he said, a single state including both ethnicities would be a defeat for the national aspirations of both sides. "For Palestinians it would mean that Palestinian nationalism is defeated because they would not control the state. Zionism is for a Jewish state so it is a defeat for the Jews also."
For the Jews he said, even apart from the Jewish character of the state, there would be no interest in a state susceptible to Islamicization, and focused economically on the Middle East. Economically, Israelis' interests are in globalization and "to integrate into Europe and North America," not to look toward the economies of the Middle East.
The third day heard five presentations that in various ways looked at Afghanistan, South and Central Asia, and Pakistan. It opened with a discussion of the fragility of the U.S.-backed Karzai regime in Kabul.
Abdulkader Sinno, a native of Lebanon, is a professor of Political Science at Indiana University. He began his discussion of Afghanistan with a provocative question: "Why do you not have a bigger insurgency, given the history of opposition to the Soviet occupation?" It is certainly true that things have been much quieter in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion than they have been in Iraq or were in the days when the mujahadeen drove the Soviet army and its pro-Soviet regime out of Afghanistan. This is the country that beat back the Soviet superpower and was the training ground of a whole generation of Islamic jihadists. Is it perhaps too quiet? Sinno thinks so. "There is a veneer of stability that will not last," he says.
On the surface, the remnants of the Taliban stage low-level guerrilla actions while elections take place and life continues little affected. "In the 2002 local elections, about 1550 delegates in Kabul" set up a government and elected Hamid Karzai president. Karzai was reelected in October 2004 with 55.4% of the vote.
"What really happened after the U.S. invasion," Abdulkader Sinno said, "was the reemergence of warlordism. The Taliban did away with the hundreds of warlords. In the minority ethnic areas there were large dominant warlords, but among the Pushtun there were many petty warlords who produced opium poppies and taxed transportation, hundreds of them. In the north, warlords with a Tajik or other ethnic base had larger organizations."
The Taliban incapacitated warlords among the Pushtun and to a lesser degree among the northern ethnic groups. "After the Taliban was defeated, the warlords reemerged and resumed their predatory activities."
The United States has contributed to the revival of these local ethnic military leaders. "The U.S. used warlords to reduce its costs, used warlords to protect U.S. bases, and used warlords in Tora Bora, a key battle, to keep costs low. There they missed opportunity to capture Osama bin Laden; John Kerry was right. The warlords were rearmed and have revived the drug trade."
Sinno contended that there is less of democracy than there appears in Afghan elections. In the October 2004 vote, he said, "There was voter intimidation by the warlords in all regions. Many warlords traded voter intimidation for Karzai in exchange for material support." In Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan, he said, "170% signed up to vote."
Major warlords, such as Abdul Rashid Dostum, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Hazrat Ali, retain enormous power and command important local militia forces, Sinno said. "They call President Karzai the mayor of Kabul."
Sinno pointed out that the central army is only a tiny fraction of the size it was under the beleaguered and ultimately failed pro-Soviet government of the late 1980s. "The Afghan national army is completely under the control of the U.S. military. There is no Afghan military leadership. About 20,000 have been trained. In comparison, the pro-Soviet regime had 300,000 troops but was ousted by the mujahadeen."
There is also a police force that nominally has 35,000 members, "but many work for the warlords and wear uniforms." Similarly, the United States is trying to create a national guard, who wear a national uniform, "but many of these also are actually warlord troops."
There is little normal about the economy of Afghanistan. One source of income "is Western aid through Kabul and the United States including some donations from Japan and others." Since the U.S. invasion in October 2001, $8 billion has been pledged but only $3.5 billion has been delivered. In contrast, Sinno said, "the Soviets before 1992 were giving $4 billion per year."
Another major source of national income "is poppy cultivation for opium. This brings in $3.5 billion per year, half the GDP of the country, which goes to the warlords." There is a much smaller income derived from ordinary agriculture.
The major construction project in the post-U.S.-invasion period, Sinno said, has been a plan "to rebuild the circular highway that links major cities. They have only managed to build one section, Kabul to Kandahar."
There is a persistent insurgency but it is small compared to either Iraq or to Afghanistan in the Soviet days. The major reason, Professor Sinno said, "is the warlords' debt of gratitude to the United States for defeating the Taliban." Additionally, the local military leaders or warlords are not united in any national alliance.
The warlords wish to avoid antagonizing the United States and face its military forces unnecessarily. But, Sinno said, they feel little pressure to do so as the Karzai regime is very weak "Its institutions are not expanding fast, its army is very small, so the regime has little impact on the warlord areas. The regime is tolerant of warlord drug operations, which defuses potential resistance. The warlords are free to do whatever they want, so they have no reason to rebel."
If this modus vivendi exists between the central government and the regional ethnic military leaders, what is likely to undermine it? For Abdulkader Sinno the risk lies in the failure of the Karzai government to create a cohesive nation. "Tolerance of warlords is in contradiction to state consolidation. Either you create a strong centralized state or you tolerate regionalism. Attacking warlords will fuel insurgency, but not attacking them lets them get so strong that the weak central government would not be able to defeat them in the future." This is an equilibrium "that will not last," he concluded.
Following the talks of the day, discussant William Beeman of Brown University said he thought that "warlord is a wrong term. They are just the local leaders who have been there forever. They did not arise just to plague the United States, they are what has always been there." He suggested "a Swiss-style federated power-sharing model in Afghanistan. This existed many years ago in practice."
Martha Brill Olcott, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, traced post-Soviet developments in the states of Central Asia and U.S. policy responses.
During the early years of the consolidation of post-Soviet states in Central Asia, 1991-95, Olcott said, American policy "was deference to Russia under the Clinton administration." After 1995 the U.S. "began to see Russia as a negative influence and began in a low-key way to do demonstration-effect projects to encourage democracy."
During the whole of the 1990s, however, U.S. involvement in the region was minimal. After September 11, 2001, it has increased its efforts to promote democratic and market reform and seek military allies.
Olcott reviewed the progress of reform in the five countries of the region -- Kazakhstan, by far the largest, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan. It has been rocky. Tajikistan, after its 1992-94 civil war, "made limited commitment to macro economic reform but this was limited by the scale of the drug trade," Olcott said.
She characterized Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan as the most democratic of the countries in the region, but commented that they "are backpedaling on economic reform."
The other two states are dictatorships that make no pretense of being democratic. "Turkmenistan is a Stalinist-style regime, and Uzbekistan is a slightly less repressive example of that type."
The United States has increased its interest in Turkmenistan because of discussions of a Trans-Afghan pipeline that would bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. The other U.S. special interest in the region has been Uzbekistan, for security reasons. "Before September 11 the Clinton administration used Uzbek bases to send drones to try to hit al Qaeda. This was abandoned by the Bush administration before September 11."
After 9/11 there was a revived interest in the region in Washington. "The U.S. looked to Central Asia as an ally in the war on terror." It has established the largest U.S. base in the region, outside of Afghanistan, at Manas Airfield in Kyrgyzstan.
In Olcott's view, the Bush administration has been "flip flopping on nation building" in Central Asia, going back and forth between seeing the countries of the region as locations for U.S. bases and indifferent to their governments or contrarily becoming concerned to promote market reforms and democratic institutions.
"The United States put Uzbekistan at the center of what regional strategy it did have, but Uzbekistan refused to have economic reform."
In 2004, she said, Washington "cut off some of the assistance to Uzbekistan because of lack of progress on human rights." In response, Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov "promised to have competitive elections in 2007 and permit opposition parties. This was the result of pressure from Uzbek delegates who wanted to win concessions from the United States. The elite around Karimov would like to break the Karimov juggernaut."
Uzbekistan, Olcott said, "is core to the stability of the area." There has been little political reform there, but "opposition parties have been able to resume activity in the country, although with restrictions. The brutality of the judicial system remains unchanged." Bribery is common. "The biggest thing that has happened is the ageing and decay of Islam Karimov."
Olcott briefly reviewed what she called "tipping points" in the region, when the United States briefly had, and commonly lost, opportunities to extend its influence. The U.S. has "very few levers in Kazakhstan," she said, but its limited influence has declined since 1997.
"In Kyrgyzstan we had enormous leeway in 1990s. The country was desperate for a U.S. base to balance the U.S. base in Uzbekistan." The base was built, but the United States did not follow up on other concessions that were offered.
"In Turkmenistan the tipping point was in 2002 when we did not back the attempted ouster of President Saparmurat Niyazov." In November 2002 would-be assassins opened fire on Niyazov's motorcade as he was entering the capital, Ashgabat. The president-for-life was unhurt but blamed a group of former high Turkmenistan officials living in exile. The dictator then launched a purge of suspected enemies.
The Turkmenistan opposition "needed U.S. and Russian support for a coup but did not get it," Olcott said. Since then, the Niyazov government has adopted a number of bizarre policies. For example, Olcott said, the government has "declared disease illegal." They have "closed all the hospitals except for the main one, closed 80-90% of the high schools. Everyone has to study the leader's writings. This is much worse than Uzbekistan."
The recent Ukrainian revolution, she said, has raised expectations of opposition elites throughout the region, particularly the hope that the United States will support regime change. "But the U.S. is completely against regime change in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan."
Uzbekistan, Olcott commented "is a deadly situation, a tragedy." There is widespread public dissatisfaction over the economy and the dictatorship that drives people into the streets even though they are being shot at by the government. "There are no secular opposition groups capable of mobilization. A successful dictator destroys such groups and Karimov has done that. There is a religions opposition and a small group of al Qaeda trainees. I am not too optimistic about oppositions chances in Uzbekistan."
Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph are both professors of Political Science at the University of Chicago and share a professional interest in the Indian subcontinent about which they have written widely, both individually and jointly.
Lloyd Rudolph opened this part of the program with a few comments on presidential styles, contrasting "imperative coordination," a top-down imperial style, with "deliberative coordination," which "relies on collegiality and reasoned argument and bargaining." He suggested that the Bush presidency relies on imperative coordination and that this has created problems in its acceptance in South Asia and the Middle East.
Susanne Rudolph then offered some impressions of current policies of India and Pakistan. In the nineteenth century, she said, Britain and Russia played the Great Game for influence where Britain had used Afghanistan and western India as a buffer against Russian influence. After the breakup of India in 1948 and the beginning of the cold war, for the United States, "Pakistan took over the role India had played as a buffer against Russia."
More recently, China has tried to obtain a foothold in the region through its Shanghai Cooperation Organization. "This was conceived as a regional alliance to balance U.S. influence but proved to be very weak," Susanne Rudolph said.
The most marked new trend in Central Asia and western South Asia, she said, "is the worrying expansion of militant Islam." Many in this current, "hope for a Central Asia-wide republic under Sharia law, or even a new Caliphate. Thousands of new mosques and madrasas have been created."
The end of the Afghan war, she continued, "populated Central Asia with a generation of war-hardened Islamic militants. This is a current that has links throughout the region. There is a broad overlap between militants fighting in Kashmir and those trying to kill President Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan."
Pakistan's support for the Taliban before September 11, 2001, alienated it from the United States, but also "did not endear it to the republics of Central Asia under former Soviet era leaders." India has its own connections with the politics of Central Asia. "India provides military support to Tajikistan," Susanne Rudolph said. "Indian pilots play a big role in the Tajikistan air force."
India supplies one third of Central Asia's pharmaceuticals, Susanne Rudolph said. "Passage across Pakistan to Central Asia is a big issue for both countries."
Energy issues are important in relations between South and Central Asia. "India's energy needs are growing at a rate of 10% per annum. Caspian states are thought to control 40% of the world's gas and 6% of the world's oil. The possibility of one or more Central Asian gas pipelines has been under discussion for some time."
India's relations with Afghanistan, Susanne Rudolph said, have been the mirror image of Pakistan's. "They were friendly during the pro-Soviet government, strained under the pro-Pakistan Taliban, and now are warmer."
She discerned some possibility for the future of an India-United States entente versus a China-Pakistan entente. Within these possibilities, she concluded, "Pakistan is torn between its China alliance and its U.S. alliance."
Mumtaz Ahmad is a professor of Political Science at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. He described how Pakistan's military government has cultivated Islamic extremism as a weapon against India and its contradictory alliance with the United States after the U.S. overthrow of Pakistan's client state in Afghanistan.
The government of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf came to power in a military coup in October 1999 which resulted in the country's suspension from the British Commonwealth. Mumtaz Ahmad traced the Musharraf government's experience over the next few years in trying to promote Islamic militancy as a way to increase its regional power. Prior to September 11, 2001, Ahmad said, the foreign policy of Pakistan's military regime was focused on "its strategic relations with the Taliban and its support of armed rebel groups in Kashmir."
By the middle of 2001, Ahmad said, "Pakistan got stuck. Neither policy was working. The Taliban became a liability because of their repressive domestic policies, their links with militant groups in Pakistan, their anti-Iran and Uzbek rhetoric, and their anti-Shia rhetoric. They were ruining Pakistan's relations with Turkey, plus harboring Osama bin Laden."
At the same time in Kashmir, "the level of violence kept rising with the threat of provoking greater and greater Indian reprisals. So the military establishment's use of Islamic militancy to achieve their objectives had reached an impasse."
With its foreign policy stymied and the economy in deep trouble, Mumtaz Ahmad suggested that "9/11 could not have come at a more opportune time for Pakistan." Four days after September 11 Pakistan renounced its ties with its troublesome protege the Taliban.
"Musharraf's difficult task has been to unravel the only strategic victory won by the Pakistan military, the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan," Ahmad said. "Many young officers were sympathetic to the Taliban and even more so in the intelligence services, where many agents still have not forgiven Musharraf. They are suspected in assassination attempts on Musharraf's life."
Pakistan won a number of benefits from its turnaround: "lifting of sanctions, the end of international isolation, suspension of debts."
This left Pakistan with "a huge Islamic network on Pakistan soil" in which the country's military and intelligence services are deeply involved, Mumtaz Ahmad recounted. "They considered this a major asset in the event of war with India. Pakistan supported global jihad, spreading to Chechnya and the Philippines." In the new situation the "army high command are happy that they have scored a point against India by their new high-level alliance with United States," but the jihadist institutions and supporters linger on.
The civilian elite, especially those who are secularists, support the alliance with the United States and "hope for a permanent U.S. alliance that would break the links with the Islamic fundamentalists."
But among the broader masses there is a growing anti-Americanism. Professor Ahmad said this began with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan "but increased after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It is no longer confined to the religious groups. It is more widespread and can be witnessed across all sections of society. It is reflected in newspapers and even among the modern educated elite. Two Muslim countries have been the target of U.S. military action, and many people see the war on terrorism as a war on Muslims. Some fear that the United States may turn on Pakistan."
The political unease is accompanied by "growing violence and terror by leading militant groups in Pakistan itself. Some of these groups are suspected of having links with al Qaeda. There have been two failed attempts on Musharraf's life. There are also attacks on Shia by the militant outfits with known al Qaeda and Taliban links -- this has strengthened Musharraf's hand and helped Musharraf in mobilizing popular support."
Ahmad commented that the Pakistan military establishment are not themselves Islamic militants. "They tried not to permit Talibanism to cross the border into Pakistan. The military became more secular the more it sponsored Islamism outside of Pakistan."
One ominous tendency noted by Mumtaz Ahmad has been the increasing self-isolation of the Pakistani military from its own society. "The military is increasingly independent from civil society. It has its own schools, universities, hospitals, banks, and agricultural farms -- and even their own airline. This reflects the military's distrust of civil society to provide services, but also they want the military to become totally independent of the pressures of civil society."
For various reasons, Ahmad said, Pakistan is trying to improve its relations with India, a policy that has general popular support including from the religious parties. In part this is because of strong international pressure on Pakistan to end support of militancy in Kashmir. Pakistan's position in Kashmir has been made more difficult, Professor Ahmad said, because two of the principal groups it supports there have proved to have strong ties to al Qaeda.
"India is emerging as a world economic power while Pakistan is lagging behind in economic development. The movement in Kashmir is going nowhere. It is seen as terrorism by the world after 9/11." He said he expected to see further steps toward reconciliation with India.
On the home front, however, Mumtaz Ahmad said he expected Musharraf to continue to cultivate jihadist militants for political purposes. "Musharraf and the military are not unhappy to see the strong anti-American and pro-Islamist feeling, as it can be used as grounds to pull back from some American demands. There is little to suggest that the long-term relationship between the military and the religious right has been abandoned. As long as Musharraf keeps delivering one al Qaeda operative a week to Washington -- and there are some 1500 to choose from -- imagine how long he can survive for."
In its Afghanistan policy Pakistan "maintains links with the 'moderate' sections of the Taliban, a hedge in case the U.S. regime fails and civil war revives. The Pakistan military feels the United States erred in dislodging the Taliban, which destroyed Pakistani control of Afghanistan."
Published: Friday, May 27, 2005
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