Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Can democracy solve the growing crisis in the Middle East?

Many people - particularly in America and Israel - don't believe that Syrian overtures for talks are genuine. But amid many reports that huge numbers of Iraqi refugees are causing concerns in Syria and Jordan, President Bashar Assad of Syria's comments in an interview with ABC news are worth noting. It is clear he fears a domino effect, with violence between Sunni and Shia in Iraq overflowing to engulf the wider Middle East. Some signs of this are already showing in northern Yemen, where a renewal in the Shia insurgency there looks like it may not be coincidental.

Assad's other comment, that the American ideal of bringing democracy to Iraq has done precious little good - "What's the benefit of democracy if you're dead?" he asked rhetorically - chimes with a thoughtful piece by former British soldier Zeeshan Hashmi in The Times. Towards the end he suggests: "Stop using the notion of democracy to justify loss of human life; we need to ensure that we create a more stable and less bloody future for coming generations. This is the least we owe to those who have made sacrifices. Political systems and doctrine can not effectively be imported from one region to another facing a different range of problems."

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