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Bush Declares: Leaders of the Middle East, Tear Down Your Walls By: Dr. Walid Phares
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 03, 2005

President George Bush’s State of the Union address will be a momentous inspiration to millions of freedom-craving citizens of the Arab Middle East. As the President underlined, there is now a Taliban-free Afghanistan, a Ba'athist-free Iraq, and a window of opportunity for a Palestinian democracy. These promising realities are the result, not of coincidence, but of American resolve – of presidential resolve, ideology and action. Citizens of the Middle East who yearn for democracy understand this all too well – and that is precisely why they are so thrilled by Bush’s speech.

As soon as the President finished his last sentence and began greeting the legislators, my phone didn't stop ringing. From Baghdad, Beirut, Europe, and many U.S. cities, many of my Arab and Middle Eastern colleagues expressed their gratitude and confidence. They told me they wept when they saw one of their own – Iraqi female voter Safia Taleb al-Suhail – raising her hand to show the blue ink on her finger. They, and all Americans, were moved when she embraced the mother of the U.S. soldier killed in Fallujah. They cried even more when they saw the standing ovation celebrating the "courage of the Iraqi people, challenging the terrorists last Sunday."

An Iraqi friend asked me: “What Arab parliament, what international assembly stood by us as your Congress did when we were massacred and killed?" Viewers from Mesopotamia were in a historic solidarity with the vision President Bush enunciated on the Potomac.


The Presidential statement on Iraq is a direct answer to the popular statement expressed by the Iraqi people. America removed Saddam; Iraq espoused democracy. America freed a nation; that nation will be one of the strongest allies in the War on Terror.


And now, the domino effect takes hold: the liberation of Iraq is spilling over beyond the Tigris and the Euphrates.


For the first time ever, a U.S. President addressed Syria in a State of the Union speech. Never before has an American leader ever mentioned the Syrian reform movement. Accusing the Ba'athist regime of harboring terrorists, building weapons, and perpetrating violence, President Bush raised the hopes of that country's civil society to higher levels. Those Arab reformers – and one of them was on the phone with me – are now on the Middle East map. When 500 members of the greatest legislative branch on earth, from both parties, champion freedom for Syria's people, expect millions of men and women to take to the streets in Damascus when the time comes.


My Iranian friends were in disbelief when they heard the American president committing America to stand with "the democrats of Iran, if they stand for themselves." Tehran’s despots cannot expect to oppress their people much longer. "Even if nothing else happens after this speech,” an Iranian activist told me over the phone, "I feel I had enough of human recognition." He and his fellow reformers have not been so recognized by any administration in the past.


President Bush also crossed other lines last night. By asking Egypt to lead the Arab world towards democracy as it led it towards peace, the president responded to those who accused him of being one-sided in his call for change. For years, on al-Jazeera and scores of fundamentalists and anti-American commentators pounded America with a familiar accusation: the U.S. wants freedom for its enemies, but not for its allies. Last night, tBush's answer fell hard on the Arab world's inquisitors. The American president coaxed his own Arab allies to move towards democracy. More importantly, he defied policies established by the previous State Department, which barred touching the Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as it is the chief provider of our oil. The president spoke directly to them: Riyadh must open up its system, emancipate women, and move out of the Middle Ages with respect to human rights.


The praise for Jordan, Morocco, and Bahrain was right on target. Constitutional monarchies are making a few steps forward. And skillfully, Bush's speech elevated the issue of Palestinian rights higher – with recognition of their statehood. The president grabbed the historic opportunity to define its necessary terms: two states living side by side, with security for Israelis.


America’s commitment to freedom worldwide, and especially in the Arab world, has no equivalent in international relations. But the alliance between the American people and the democratic movements in the Middle East is a startingly new doctrine. In his first term, President Bush declared the strategy of fighting terrorism must be pursued with the spread of freedom. In his second term, Bush's administration is now fulfilling its election mandate of committing itself to build the alliances necessary to win the War on Terror.


Yes, Secretary Condoleeza Rice will be visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank to push for a new era of negotiations. Yes, President Bush will tour Europe to mend fences. But above all, the U.S. President has unleashed an unprecedented alliance for the 21st century: a coalition between the greatest democracy on earth and the peoples longing for freedom and democracy in the Middle East. An historic realignment in world relations is likely to follow.

Dr Walid Phares is the author of the newly released book Future Jihad. He is also a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington DC.

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