We Still Need a Little Help From Our Friends

On November 9th, 2005, three suicide bombings inside hotels frequented by Westerners in Amman, Jordan, killed at least 57 people. Two days later, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the issue “Saudi Arabia: Friend or Foe on the War on Terror?” That same day, Iran rejected a proposal presented by Russia, the E.U., and the U.S. that called for uranium to be enriched inside Russia instead of Iran. The suicide bombings in Jordan highlighted one of the greatest issues facing many nations in the Middle East – terrorist attacks. Usually aimed at targets associated with Western nations, these acts display the blind hate held by some extremists. As many pro-American nations face a backlash from a violent minority in the Middle East, the US government applies continual and excessive pressure on many nations facing and fighting this insurrection. Reform movements are aiming to transform Egypt into a true “democracy.” But doing so would spell the end of its pro-American stance. Due to the fact that fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, Saudi Arabia is often targeted for the brunt of these verbal attacks. The nation is continually slammed for not doing enough and failing to reform. However, the very reform the US wishes for would undermine the stability of the nation and end its pro-Western stance. While officially Iran remains steadfast in its desire to procure its own “peaceful” nuclear weapons program, the statement from the Iranian President that Israel should be “wiped out from the map,” clouds Iran’s sincerity. Virtually all the Arab states in the Middle East that are pro-American and pro-Western are on the receiving end of a backlash from both a liberal West and an extremist, home-grown right wing. The pressure America places on nations to adopt democracy would undermine the very goal the US wishes to accomplish. Many Arab states and their people are, as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, untrusting of the West. A full and fair election in many Arab countries today would lead to the empowerment of the far right, dominated by anti-Western parties that use religion and unemployment to spearhead their campaigns. Recent municipal elections in Saudi Arabia highlight these very fears. The winners of the elections were largely those on a “Golden List” of candidates, those who received the endorsement of members of one of the religious establishments. While the election had little significance, it was apparent that, with the exception of the Shiite dominated east, the victors were typically those with religious credentials. In addition, further pressuring of allies in the region needlessly infuriates the masses – ending what little tolerance of US foreign policy still remains. If the US loses its Arab allies due to a frivolous issue put forth by senators wishing to do nothing more than appear tough for their constituents, how would the US ever be able to act to an issue of critical importance, needing the reaction of powers in the region with influence and sway? The era of gunboat diplomacy and unilateral action aimed at forcing change is coming to an end. The Iraq War has demonstrated that the difficulties in occupying and rebuilding a nation unilaterally are too great for even the greatest nation to bear alone. Elections in Arab nations and continuing violence have shown that the rise of an ideologue, much like the rise of the Ayatollah in Iran, is a distinct possibility. Excessive pressure applied onto many nations in the Arab could easily backfire and plunge the region into further disarray. If many in power continue to act in the same way, America’s and the West’s greatest allies in the Middle East would likely be unable to respond firmly and decisively to an issue of critical importance.