Few western public officials understand the current geopolitical situation, and especially the rationale for promoting democracy in the Muslim world, as well as Sharansky does. Of those who do understand, I don’t think any can explain things as clearly as he can.
There’s a quite good interview with him now in the Jerusalem Post:
“Many politicians and institutions that should be promoting democracy and freedom are cynically reluctant to do it, because Bush raised the agenda,” Sharansky went on. “That’s why I give Bush an “A” for raising the idea, a “C” for implementation and I give his opponents, who abandoned the idea, an “F,” because they are attacking Bush not for inconsistency in implementing the agenda but for raising it. Their approach denies the people of the Middle East the ability to live in freedom.”
Sharansky called Bush “a lonely dissident for democracy in the White House” because of his lack of support. But he cited three cases where Bush could have and should have been more consistent in his insistence on democratization: the Palestinians, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
On the Palestinian issue, Sharansky tried unsuccessfully three times to persuade Bush not to allow the Palestinian Authority election last year that was won by Hamas.
“I told Bush before and after [the vote] that quick elections cannot replace the democratic process,” Sharansky said. “Elections require a free society. Elections have to be the last step of the democratic process.”
Sharansky credited Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for encouraging liberty in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. The 4,000 Egyptian judges who wrote President Hosni Mubarak that their electoral system had to be changed would not have taken such a risk without American support, Sharansky said. He praised Bush for pressuring Mubarak to release from jail a dissident for democracy, Saad Eddin Ibrahim.
But when the Iraq war became more complicated, the US State Department insisted on supporting loyal secular dictators such as Mubarak, despite their corruption, and Bush acquiesced, Sharansky said.
“America was afraid that if they would fight corrupt dictators, the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power in the Middle East. When America starts speaking powerfully, democratic dissidents are strengthened. But when America makes dictators allies, the dissidents are weakened and Islamic fundamentalism is strengthened. That’s why America should not support Mubarak or Saudi Arabia,” the former Soviet dissident said.
On the Saudi issue, Sharansky said he told Rice she was wrong when she included the kingdom in her list of “moderate countries in the Middle East.” He said that when he asked her what was moderate about the Saudi regime, she admitted that he had touched a weak point and from then on, she referred instead to “responsible Middle Eastern countries.”
“America has wanted for many years to make Saudi Arabia part of the solution in the Middle East, but if you believe in a link between security and democracy, it’s not possible,” Sharansky said.
“It’s true that Saudi Arabia is against Iran, but it’s ridiculous to say Israel has to make concessions to bring the Saudis on board the Middle East peace process. Bush said only leadership that brings democratic reforms can bring peace to the Middle East. That’s the last thing the Saudis want to do. Democratic reforms are almost as big a threat to the Saudis as Iran.”
It’s a short piece and well worth reading in full.
(via Kesher Talk)