Bernard Lewis Says "Change Will Come to Iran"
March 12, 2004
If no solution is found for the Middle East conflict, I expect the involvement of new players in the fray," according to the noted Orientalist Bernard Lewis, who has been busily engaged since 67 years in writing about Islam and yesterday to the Middle East countries. Mr Lewis, whose books on history have won international accolade, sees the cup as half full of muddy water.
He is of the belief that China and India will soon be dragged into the Middle East imbroglio. Even though the two countries are not interested in intervention at present, they will be forced to enter the game sooner or later for geo-strategic reasons.
He said, "I was expecting the recurrence of the classic situation and the happenings in the 19th century when powerful countries controlled the region. These powers now could be China and India, perhaps Russia instead of Britain and France as was in the past."
China and India, in his opinion, will not find it difficult to penetrate the region through existing active diplomatic channels, partnership, trade and military agreements and treaties.
Answering a question whether a miracle might happen with America succeeding in solving the Arab-Israeli problem, he said conflicts at present were solved only by a third party. "I don't see a desire for this in most Israelis, but Arabs have an interest in seeing the status quo maintained without too much variation either way." He said Arab states do not want war even though the current situation is cause for a lot of bitterness among their peoples. According to Lewis, bloody conflicts are to be found in every nook and corner of the Muslim world. These are useful to the regimes of the day for deflecting the anger of the masses away from them. Regarding Yasser Arafat, Lewis says if he became president of the independent Palestinian state, his position would rapidly deteriorate because in that case he would lose his halo as a tenacious revolutionary who fights for the freedom of his people and wins the recognition of the world. Politicians from all corners of the globe pay him visits while he gets huge economic aid and limitless donations. By contrast, his conversion to head of state would rob him of all the qualities of charismatic leadership while his people would hold him accountable for their poverty and misery. The world by and large will ignore Arafat, he reiterated. In all scenarios of Bernard Lewis, Arafat will not become the president of the independent Palestinian state. He said it would be better for Arafat to remain in the place where is available now.
Lewis said he was in an Arab country when they announced that Saddam had been captured. It was joy at first but later people got angry when they saw the TV footage. Murder or imprisonment, in their eyes, was acceptable, but humiliation was not. The footage created sympathy in the hearts of people for Saddam, even among those who opposed the policies of the Iraqi president.
Lewis said he was sure that the TV footage of Saddam had an impact on Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi's decision for change to avoid the fate of the former Iraqi ruler. People in the Arab world can't say what they want to say and what they feel, he said, cited the examples of journalists roaming about and walking on Baghdad streets during the siege. He said people in the Arab world are helpless and have no way to influence their rulers.
Lewis said that change had reached the ayatollahs in Iran and this would happen within two or three years. When asked about the nuclear danger, and who will succeed in the race, the power of change or the nuclear danger, he said this is really worrying "but we should always remember that ayatollahs would not use it against the residents of Iran but would direct it at the outside world". He said, "I believe the Iranians want to protect themselves by using these weapons as deterrent arms. Nuclear weapon to them serves as a protecting shield for the existing position and the regime."
Lewis opposed the Jordanian option because it considered the majority Palestinians in the kingdom as a domestic matter concerning Jordan alone and no outsider had the right to change the system of that country.
Regarding Syria, he dismissed President Bashar Assad's calls for talks, saying Damascus was a hopeless case. He did not find real evidence of desire on the part of Assad to reach peace with Israel, and what he was concerned was the new position in Iraq and his fear of an American revenge, Israel launching offensive against him as well as democracy and the complicated relations with Turkey.
He said a weak leader would not accept concessions, but only the strong.
Iraq for Lewis is fraught with hope despite the instability of the present order. He accused Al Qaeda of being behind the instability and disorder in the war-scarred country. If Iraqis succeed in setting up a real democratic regime and stable rule, this would amount to a quantum leap for the Muslim and Western worlds. This would be the road to reach peace with the Jewish state, because Arabs today are not accepting Israel, and those who insist on the right of return for all Palestinians want continuity of the conflict, not its end. http://www.khaleejtimes.com/Displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/editorial/2004/March/editorial_March31.xml§ion=editorial&subsection=editpagearticle
posted on 03/12/2004 11:36:06 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Iran Postpones Visit by U.N. Inspectors
Iran Postpones Visit by U.N. Inspectors As Atomic Agency Remains Deadlocked on Censuring Tehran
VIENNA, Austria March 12 Iran postponed a planned visit by U.N. nuclear inspectors Friday, and American and European delegates at a key atomic agency meeting debated how harshly to censure Tehran for not fully opening its nuclear activities, diplomats said.
The inspectors were to be in Iran next week as part of the International Atomic Energy Agency's examination of the Iranian nuclear program, which the United States and other countries claim is trying to make nuclear weapons.
Pirooz Hosseini, the chief Iranian delegate to the IAEA, denied that Iran was trying to pressure the agency's board of governors, telling The Associated Press the scheduled inspections were postponed because they would conflict with next week's celebration of the Iranian New Year.
When asked why the celebrations were not taken into account when the invitations were first issued, Hosseini said officials made "a simple mistake."
The IAEA declined comment, but diplomats, speaking anonymously, said the postponement appeared to be an attempt by Iran to tone down an agency resolution addressing Tehran's spotty record of revealing past nuclear secrets and cooperating with the IAEA probe.
Iran, which insists its nuclear intentions are peaceful, has threatened repeatedly over the past few days to reduce cooperation with the U.N. agency if its 35-nation board of governors comes down hard on the Islamic republic.
Consultations were set to resume later Friday, and Hosseini indicated some progress was being made.
"Step by step, there are some better understandings among the parties," he said without elaborating.
On Thursday, the nonaligned bloc at the board of governors watered down a draft resolution backed by the United States, Canada, Australia and European countries. The Western group then rejected the draft as being too gentle on Iran.
The deadlock left Australian, Canadian and Irish diplomats shuttling between U.S. and nonaligned representatives trying to bridge the differences. A Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity that U.S. patience was wearing thin.
Another diplomat said the United States and the Europeans considered the nonaligned modifications unacceptable because they did not sufficiently criticize Iran's record on nuclear openness.
Recent discoveries by IAEA inspectors of undeclared items and programs have cast doubt on Tehran's assertions that it has no more nuclear secrets.
An IAEA report last month accused Tehran of hiding evidence of nuclear experiments and noted the discovery of traces of radioactive polonium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.
The report also expressed concern about the discovery of a previously undisclosed advanced P-2 centrifuge system for processing uranium.
Iran asserts its now-suspended enrichment plans are geared only toward generating power.
But on Wednesday, Iran announced plans to resume enrichment, eliciting a negative response from Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA chief, who said it would hurt Tehran's chances of proving it has no interest in nuclear weapons.
posted on 03/12/2004 11:38:13 AM PST
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