Mahmoud Sabit at PostGlobal

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. Sabit also works as a writer and producer of historical documentaries. Close.

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. more »

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Iran's Own Manifest Destiny

Cairo, Egypt - Middle East nations perceive the U.S. and the West trying to dominate the region through economic, political and military means. Iran's nuclear challenge to the West then becomes a welcome relief for many....

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All Comments (30)

Alicia Kirby:

Hi this is a bit of an urgent request, I am trying to get in touch with Mahmoud Sabit. I am writing from current affairs magazine called Monocle based in London. We saw that he was quoted in a Bloomberg and IHT piece on Cairo. Please get in touch if you know his number or email address. My contact details are

ak@monocle.com
+44 207 725 4388

Many Thanks

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Srikanth Raghunathan, Washington, D. C. USA.:

Mahmoud:

Thank you for a well-written piece with historical facts and figures. It is about time we (the U. S.) got to learn (again; yes, indeed) the history of that region.

I have posted my comments on many of the related topics here on Washington Post website. (I believe that they are worth repeating.) Here are some of them:

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. My fundamental question is - as much as I hate to ask this - who are we to dictate terms and conditions to a sovereign nation? What moral right do we (the U. S., the U. K., France, et al) have to tell other countries how to run their sovereign nations? I am afraid that the proverbial nuclear genie is out of the bottle. Guess what - France, U. S., the U. K., and Canada have been the worst proliferators of nuclear technology. Take India for instance: Canada, France, and the U. K. provided all the technology. How can we provide one country with the technology and deny the other? If we want to hold a moral high ground, we should have a uniform policy across the board. Even if we do have preferences, I am not sure that we can prevent the transfer of any technology to a third party. However, we, as a sovereign nation, always do have the right to say that we will not provide the technology.


Let us approach any problem, inlcuding Iran, with tabula rasa. Let us not go in to the negotiations on a high horse. We can always walk off the negotiations, if we do not agree with the terms and conditions. Let us approach it as if it were a business negotiation, with an open mind and without preconceived notions. Patience is a virtue that not many people (countries) have.


In the eyes of many countries, the U. N. has become a bully pulpit for us (the U. S.) and other so-called "Western Nations." It is time for us to restore some credibility to the U. N. Let us show Iranians and other "troubled" countries what good we can accomplish, and how to do it, through peace and economic reforms at home. After all, most of Humankind's brain is in its stomach! Even wild animals, when adequately fed, do not pounce on preys!


Let us address underlying issue (Palestinian crisis, at least as it is purported to be; I am not arguing that it is true). We have to remove all the obstacles, before we jump to a bullheaded stance and conclusions. All religions and cultures have rabid fundamentalists and fanatics. It is just that it Islam seems to have a much greater proportion of these nitwits. Unfortunately, it also seems that Islam has a strong proclivity toward demagoguery and rabble-rousing. Having said that, what is happening to Palestinians is no different from holocaust that Hitler unleashed on Jewish population. Bottom line: people are getting agitated without understanding the real issues. Let us focus on fundamental issues without getting caught up in the miasma that pervades all of the Middle-East.

I believe that the U. N. (not just the U.. S., the U. K., Germany, China, France), as an institution, should be empowered to negotiate and act. (See, the world has lost respect for the so-called Western Nations. Neutrality is sorely needed in this instance.) If negotiations do not work, then the U. N. should impose economic sanctions and arms embargo on Iran. We need to try everything, before we can gain legitimacy for our actions. Saber-rattling simply does not work, nor help.


Winning a war (be it of any kind - symmetric, or asymmetric) requires at least two things - will and material wherewithal. The "wherewithal" includes economic power, military power, technological power, and lastly, not the least, personnel. Lately, we (the Western countries) seriously lack (for whatever reasons - one could write a couple of tomes on these reasons alone) the willpower. We also lack human power (population). The only edge (very slight) that we have are technology and economy. Unfortunately, these two advantages are also evanescing fast. Ultimately, countries that have the greatest educated human resources will be clear winners. (We - the U. S. - is seriously lagging behind ther nations on this, because we would much rather spend money on wars than education!)


All I am asking the world community to do with Iran is take a deep breath; analyze the fundamental reasons for the issue(s); try to address them before we go to another war and lose our limbs, if not our lives, and many other countless casualties. As regards Iran (Mohammed Ahmadinejad), let us not make the same mistake that we did with Iraq (Saddam Hussein). I recall Ronald Reagan's phrase "trust, but verify" - let us do the same thing with Iran. Let us enagage them in constructive dialogue. If that does not work, then we must take punitive measures. Let us not rattle our sabers, unnecessarily, and lose credibility (whatever very little s left of it).


Now, let us ask ourselves what the fundamental reason(s) for this strife in this part (Middle-East) of the world is (are). Well, in two words - exploitation and expediency. It originated with the Colonial powers - Great Britain, France, Netherlands (Dutch), Portugal, Spain. They simply wanted to exploit the resources (natural and human) for their own benefits. When the going got tough, these Colonial powers decided that they would hightail it out of there! (This is how the State of Israel came about. Great Britain could not control the Jewish "terrorists," and hence, decided that it would partition the land rather than finding a long-term solution.) The same rationale holds true for Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and countless other nation-states. If there is one country that I blame for all the misery in Asia, that would indeed be none other than Great Britain, which is currently not so great, after all. Now, its power (economic and military) has been reduced to rubble. (What goes around, comes around!) However, I do not want to rewrite history, but only learn from our past mistakes.

Israel should cease trying to be a just "Jewish" state, but as a true democracy, wherein Palestinians and Jews have equal rights in all respects. (I am no fan of Hezbollah, Hamas, or other radical factions. So do not even try to address my non-existent predilections for religious fundamentalism and waste your breath.) The current situation reeks of erstwhile slavery in the U. S. religion has no place, none whatsoever, in today's politics.

We, the U. S., are acting exactly like those Colonial powers, although our intentions are ostensibly magnanimous and noble. (I am sure that our Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves.) Why is that the Western nations are prepared to withstand the grind of war and poverty for many years, losing its precious resources (its people), alienating the populace, instead of finding a peaceful, long-term solution? There is something radically wrong with this picture.


If we were to drop tactical/strategic nuclear warheads, then we would have no basis for protection, but only total annihilation of the world, as we know it. I just want to ask: who let the nuclear genie out? I am sure that we have heard the expression "hoist with one's own petard." This is what is happening to all of us, now. Newton's third law says "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Unfortunately, this is also true in humanity.

We could insure that possessors of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) technology not to transfer, nor proliferate, to other countries. Let us see how many of those countries are willing to do it? Unfortunately, the adage "it is the economy, stupid" still rings very true. Proliferation is really a chain-reaction. Pakistan got its technology from China; North Korea got its technology from Pakistan and China; Iran is getting it from Pakistan and North Korea; Libya got, or is still getting it from Pakistan. Guess who provided, at least partially, China with the technology?


Education is the key. (I do not mean just "bookish" education.) It opens eyes and minds and let people appreciate and respect the strength in diversity and differences of opinions, without resorting to war and mayhem. Lack of education (ignorance) keeps people totally in the dark and make them fall prey to demagoguery. That is why the younger generations of Iranians are seemingly clueless to the world at large. Education is also the reason why many of the Israelis (Jews) are calling for peace in the Middle-East and equal rights for Palestinians (against Israeli government's policies) and an end to the violence. Lack of education is also why many of us (Americans) are ignorant and vote for the demagogues, fearmongers, and rabble-rousers. Europeans, generally, but not always, tend be "less closed-minded," because they travel around extensively. (Traveling could be educational and informative.) Let us ask ourselves something - how many of us have left our home base?

Here are my thoughts on what we (the West, especially the U. S.) should do to win the war on terror:

* read and understand history and learn from it. ( I like to say "History teaches us not WHAT to do, but what NOT to do" and "One who ignores history is doomed to repeat it.");

* understand that the separation of religion and state is a must;

* not support one faction, or another, in a conflict (e. g., Israeli-Palestinian conflict);

* insure that our global policies (especially the economic and foreign policies) are even-handed, fair, just, have a long-term view, and not for the sake of expediency;

* invest in a strong "defense," not "offense." In Teddy Roosevelt's words: speak softly and carry a big stick (a "really" big stick, but the key here is to speak softly, first);

* invest in education; and

* invest in economy (it is the economy, stupid - it is the battle between the haves and the have-nots - the demagogues and rabble-rousers just take advantage of the malcontents; if we take care of the basic necessities, then we would have removed the fuel from the fire).

Andrew New York City:

It doesn't surprise me that the views from people of the Middle East are as jaded as they are. On the one hand we in the West have not done a good job of selling the intention of creating a stable international community through the creation of interdependent, plural democratic states. Additionally Israel does act with too little regard toward civilian casualties too often. However on the other hand, only sub-Saharan Africa is further behind than the Islamic world in the development of technical and literal intellectual capacity. I reference UN development index studies that show how few patents have been issued from the Middle East as well as how few texts have been translated into Arabic and Persian dialects from other languages.
The response I have often seen seems to be.. "all answers are contained in the Koran--therefore all human interpretation of life / reality is essentially blasphemy..." Respective to Iran's mullah leadership...I think this mindset is what the West ultimately fears the most.
The biggest issue with Tehran is that the West has no confidence, in light of it's significant Islamist leanings, that it is worthy of the extreme responsibility that possessing nuclear weapons entails. To the West, Islam has unfortunately become much more associated with massacres of civilians (9/11, London, Madrid, Mumbai train bombings, Tel Aviv bus bombers) and the recurring rants of 'death to all who refuse to convert to Islam' than anything approaching the 'peaceful, forgiving religion' it is purported to be. This mindset which can be seen from the streets of Peshawar to Damascus scares the West and should scare everyone else when the prospect of nuclear weapons is added to the picture. And this is why Tehran, which hid its nuclear program from the world for 20 years and with its present Islamic extremist political ideology, should never be permitted to possess weapons of such power.

kt:

Mahmoud and Matthew,
Thank you for your productive discussion. I have no doubt that if you were heads of states important to the ME, things would be on a much brighter path.

David Kusel:

WHY NOT TO ATTACK IRAN

Iran has every right to an extensive civil nuclear programme, as do all countries. This right includes building uranium enrichment facilities to produce the fuel for nuclear power stations.

At present, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, she has voluntarily foregone the right to build nuclear weapons. Were she to withdraw from this treaty, she could build nuclear weapons without contravening any international law or regulation. And she has every right to do so. Four of her neighbours have armed themselves with nuclear weapons in recent years, while the Non Proliferation Treaty has been in effect, Israel, China, Pakistan and India.

The present Iranian regime is seriously opposed to the American view of how the world should be run.
This does not make her a "Terrorist State" to be "taken out" as the next election-winning step in G.W. Bush's "War on Terror".

On the contrary, Iran has always opposed Al Qaida. This terrorist organisation, which really does promote international terrorism against the USA and her perceived allies, has its roots in the xenophobic Wahhabite Islam of Saudi Arabia. It was nurtured in the Saudi financed madrasas of Pakistan which were part of the US's proxy war against the Russians in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia and the US spawned Al Qaida together.

Less than two years ago Iran put members of Al Qaida on trial herself, while the US was complaining about Iran's failure to hand over Al Qaida prisoners, not about her support of Al Qaida!
Iran was discretely helping in the real war against terror, without making it too obvious that, in this case, she was on the same side as the USA.
(See the Swiss based ISN report 9/12/2004) http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=10337

Iran does support both Hamas and Hezbollah, which she sees as legitimate militias opposing Israeli occupation and aggression. Although this view is not shared by Israel and the US, much of the rest of the world has come round to the Iranian viewpoint, specially in the light of recent events. To many eyes, Israel's massive use of "state terrorism" against her Lebanese and Palestinian neighbours undermines the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

The Iranian president did not say that he wanted to "wipe Israel off the map"...this was a case of wilfull mistranslation. However, he does support the return of the Palestinian refugees and "one man one vote" in Israel. Much of humanity regards this as a legitimate, but impractical desire. But with Israel, desires like this earn their proponents top place on the list of countries to be nuked quickly...before it's too late!

If it wasn't so serious it would be funny, but Israel's hawks really are pushing for a US attack on Iran and its nuclear facilities. The coming war is openly discussed in serious Israeli newspapers where the advisability or otherwise of the use of nuclear weapons is debated.

The Bush administration now backs the idea and is only waiting for the right moment. They promote this attack as the next logical step in their "War against Terror" ......... failing to mention they now see it as their only hope of winning the coming elections, in spite of the Iraqi quagmire.

Added attractions of this lunatic, unjustifiable and illegal plan are that it pleases the powerful Jewish and Evangelical lobbies and it just might open a possible door to Iran's massive oil reserves.

Sadly those who govern the USA and Israel have their own plans for the Middle East and appear unworried by the sanity, justifiability or legality of their actions. The war they are planning endangers us all, not just Iranians, Israelis and Americans. But for Israel it is far worse...instead of saving herself with another pre-emptive strike, she really will be sowing the seeds of her own destruction.

Iran would never forgive, and unlike Israel and the USA she neither looses wars, nor counts her casualties.

Mahmoud Sabit:

Matthew
Many thanks for your comments and your kind words. I appreciate your interest in pursuing a dialogue. In terms of the Israeli narrative I have to say that I have debated this in the past, I am familiar with many of their arguments, I just don't agree with many of their points. I am also aware of their massive efforts from the 1950's to justify their position, and possibly I have seen too many manufactured arguments to take their position without scrutiny and without double checking every claim. Too often the Israeli position relies on stretching facts, distorting events, shifting emphasis or outright denial of facts that have outside witnesses. I have no doubt that many of these positions have come to be accepted as fact, when in reality they are inaccurate, also I am under no illusions, that these accepted 'facts' are actually considered the chronological record by many Israeli's themselves. Let's just say we can agree to disagree on a lot of these points. None of this has anything to do with any denials of Israel's existence, I don't dispute that, I don't even really dispute their arsenal of nuclear weapons, if it makes them feel safe enough to engage with the Arabs, and at some later date after a peace has been signed and enough time has passed and they elect to discard them, wonderful.
We are now in 2006, and this festering issue has not yet been solved, and that is one point, the second point is that as it continues to remain unsolved, the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated, and threatens to continue to deteriorated there are other forces on the horizon who are using this situation for their own agenda, at the same time they are looking to ally themselves with those elements in the region who have become extremist and have become radicalized as a result of the situation, incidentally as well as other factors, including some of the actions of the Arab Governments in the past. These people did not just spontaneously become extremists, oppression, perceived grievances, frustration , and a hopeless reality have driven them to become what they are. I made the point that Hezballah was created as a result of the occupation of Southern Lebanon in 1982, Robert Fisk has a good description of their emergence in his book 'Pity the Nation.' Hamas, emerged as a direct result of Arafats political party; Fatah and its failure to deliver meaningful results from their negotiations. I also gave the example of how President Gamal Abdel Nasser was goaded into becoming an implacable protagonist to Israel, when originally he was nothing of the kind. You can of course dispute this, and I would refer you to the Gaza raid of 1954, how he believed the had been deliberately fooled by the Sharett Government with whom he had been engaging in discreet communication, and the reaction of Egypt by beginning to arm and train Palestinian Fedayeen, as a result of the raid, rather than before it. The fact that Nasser was a favorite of the USA at the time, that until 1956 he had US advisors on his staff, Miles Copeland is a case in point and his book 'The Gameplayer' will shed light on this. In short my premise is that an unwillingness to engage on the part of Israel has been very responsible for this radicalization in the region. For the past few years little has been done to solve the issue, and perhaps the policy was to squeeze the Palestinians into total surrender, whether the intifadeh was a self inflicted wound or not, I would characterize it as an act of desperation, because in the final analysis the Palestinians will not surrender, they brought in Hamas. The other surprise was the actions of Hezballah who took several Israeli soldiers prisoner, ostensibly as an act of solidarity with the Palestinians and partly in reference to their claims on the Sheba Farms, with the possible bonus of provoking Israel, into a well planned ambush. Only a little before Hezballah's actions Israel had kidnapped several Hamas Ministers and political officials, I suspect this may also have been a trigger for Hezballahs actions. I also believe that the Lebanon crisis began with the election of Hamas and Israel's efforts to isolate the new Palestinian leadership.
With the aftermath of the Lebanon incursion, what new radicalization are we now to expect? It is here I tie in Iran and its nuclear ambitions, with a US military in Iraq, the example of the Iraq debacle, and the actions of Hezballah, Irans's threats towards Israel and how would all of this tie in with the nuclear issue? I am trying to analyze what Iran would do in their policy, and if they acquired nuclear weapons what we can expect them to pursue as a policy in reference to the opportunities that have presented themselves in the Arab Middle East. You may disagree with the premise for my argument, in that; Israel has not provoked extremism in the region has not been intransigent, has been open to negotiations and it is on the contrary the Arabs themselves who are deluded in their expectations of what Israel would be willing to give. As such you would be disputing my argument in reference to Iran? Is that the case? I hope you don't mind but I don't want to get too sidelined off the topic of Iran, in this forum. In answer to your question at this time I don't have any blog, and this is the only forum that I am involved with.

Anonymous:

29 countries supported Saddam with money, weaponry and intelligence during the Iran Iraq war. 6 of those countries are the same P5+1 countries that we see today. Saddam used chemical and biological weapons on both Iranians and his own people while the UN and the rest of the world turned a blind eye. Iranians don't trust the world anymore, especially if "all options are still on the table".
Pakistan has nukes, Iraq is a mess, Afghanistan's not doing too well and US military forces cover all surrounding land including Persian Gulf. Iranian government would have to be on drugs not to develop nuclear bombs. Oh ... one minor point! Peace in the mid-East starts by disarming Israel of its' nuclear bombs.

Anonymous:

Man,

PLEASE, PLEASE Iranians are not Arabs. Iranians are Persians. Iranians speak Farsi. Iranians are entirely a different race with a different culture than Arabs. However, Iranians as well as Arabs live in Middle East.

Anonymous:

1977

I like to add the following historical facts to Mr. Mahmoud Sabit post related to Camp David Accord in his comment to Darrell. In 1977 The Likud Party comes to power for the first time with Manachem Begin as prime minister and begins a drive for increased settlements in the West Bank and Gaza in the name of Greater Israel. In June, Prime Minister Begin states: "Israel will not be able, under any circumstances, to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines, and will not do it. ... We will not agree under any circumstances that in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, a state called Palestine will arise. ..."

In September Minister of Agriculture Ariel Sharon unveils "A Vision of Israel at Century's End," a proposal for two million Jews to live in the occupied territories that builds on existing plans for additional settlements, homes and infrastructure. The plan favors the western slopes of Samaria in order to divide Palestinian population areas and offers many incentives for Israelis to move to settlements. "Make no mistake about it, this government will establish many new settlements. That's what it was elected to do and that's what it will do," says Sharon.

1977 - 1980 Jimmy Carter Administration: In 1977 President Carter publicly calls Israeli settlements "illegal" under international law. The following year, the historic 1978 Camp David Accords are signed between Prime Minister Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, normalizing Israel's relations with Egypt and restoring Egypt's sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula. At the conclusion of Camp David, Carter believes that he and Begin have agreed that further settlement activity will be frozen while negotiations continue on finalizing all elements of autonomy for the Palestinians. Carter later will say that he "misunderstood what Prime Minister Begin said" regarding settlement activity. Israel continues building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In 1977 approximately 5,000 Jewish settlers were living in the West Bank and Gaza; 33,000 reside in East Jerusalem.
In 2005 Approximately 250,000 Jewish settlers are living in the West Bank and Gaza.

Matthew:

Mahmoud, thank you for your own insights and your responses. I think your writings do a great honor to your profession as a historian.

While I have several important disagreements I feel I need to raise, I do want to say that opportunities to strengthen moderates and make peace are always lost when one side fails to appreciate the other camp's narrative. As such, I think it is great that you so ably articulate these perspectives. And I agree that as you say, "If you consider [Arab] fears absurd, please understand that Israel's fears of annihilation by the Arabs are considered by the Arabs equally absurd."

While Jews and Egyptians have a long and ancient history interacting with each other, I want to dispute your statement that "Egypt [] had the bulk of the [900,000] you quote." In the year 1948 only 75,000 Jews lived in Egypt. Today the number is about 100. The largest shares of the 8-900,000 Jews in Arab countries came from Morocco(~250,000) and Iraq (~140,000).

Also, while the French and British fought for the Suez Canal because Nasser nationalized their financial, colonial interests, Israel was responding to Egypt's blockade of the Straits of Tiran, a legitimate cassus bella. It was a foolish adventure by the French & English, and the US interceded on behalf of Egypt.

Lastly, Barak's offer may not have been perfect from a Palestinian perspective, but negotiations are about compromise and the offer was a very serious offer of a real sovereign state that met the vast preponderance of their demands. The Palestinians would have become masters of their own destiny with a capital in Jerusalem. Just as Israel's settlement project in the West Bank is now seen by Jews as a self-inflicted wound, so too I should hope, the 2nd Intifada is likewise seen.

Are there other blogs you write on to continue our dialog?

Anonymous:

"Israel simply wants to be able to live in peace with its neighbors"

Though I keep seeing this quoted, I have yet to see ONE Israeli action that lends it any creedence. To live in Peace implies keeping the peace, not by giving people the peace of the grave.

"Iran's leaders have made no secret of their goal to eliminate the State of Israel. Israel's leaders have made no similar statements concerning any Arab/Islamic countries"
No, Just about the peoples themselves. See Golda Meirs statement about Palestinians.

"Iran has no threat that requires it to obtain nuclear weapons to defend itself." Have you been listening to ANYTHING the government of the United States has said? If so, you know what they have to protect themselves from.

Mahmoud Sabit:

Matthew
Many thanks for your insight, your point on articulating the Israeli perspective and their worst fears is well taken. For the Arabs xenophobia and paranoia did exist before, but my point was that President Sadat had hoped to bury such fears in 1979, it is reoccurring today. President Gamal Abdel Nasser before the 1956 war was engaged in clandestine talks with the Sharrett Government of Israel, this is well documented, Nasser was not interested in confrontation with Israel at that time, on the contrary, Egypt was looking for accommodation. In any case Nasser considered the biggest threat to be British Imperialism, which was still alive in the Middle East at the time. He also had other programs on the agenda, and Israel was somewhere quite low on the list. These talks were scuppered for reasons that had more to do with the internal political infighting in Israel between Prime Minister Sharrett and Ben Gurion. Which are well documented in the publication by Howard Neff 'Warriors at Suez' which attempts an even handed way to chronicle the events that lead to the 1956 War. In 1956 Egypt was militarily invaded by France, Britain and Israel, the pretext was that Nasser had, had the insolence to nationalize the Suez Canal. Until this event Nasser had been a well meaning Egyptian nationalist President, if he became a narrow, xenophobic, intolerant leader using inflammatory and extremist rhetoric, it is as a direct result of the naked aggression perpetrated against Egypt in 1956. The point is that this xenophobia that Egypt had at that time was successfully buried in 1979, the danger today is that this xenophobia is recurring across the Arab world as a result of the present sequence of events.
As for the expulsion of 900,000 Jews from the Arab world, I would dispute part of this. In the case of Egypt which had the bulk of the number you quote, expulsions of French and British nationals, many of whom were Jewish occurred after the 1956 war. Between 1956 and 1961 saw the nationalization, confiscation and sequestration of assets belonging to those Egyptians considered 'class enemies of the people,' which was quite a proportion of the Egyptian bourgeoisie, which also included members of Egyptian Jewry, and this period also saw a Nasserist reaction towards Egyptian Jews, many of whom decided to leave. Expulsions occurred to foreign nationals, Egyptian Jews found it intolerable to live in Egypt at the time, and consequently left the country, as did far more other Egyptians who had been victimized by Nasser's social engineering. Might I suggest you visit the website for the Jewish Community of Cairo, which has a number of interesting articles and comments on the subject. Hezballah exists because of Israeli excess during their occupation of Southern Lebanon, Hamas exists because of Israeli intransigence in their dealing with the Palestinians since Israel actually agreed that a Palestinian people might have lived in the former British mandate of Palestine, until then they had labeled all Palestinians as 'terrorists.' The Barak offer of 95% of the West Bank, was not considered sufficient by the Palestinian leadership, an opinion shared by UN resolution 242, which advocates returning land acquired through conquest in 1967. For the Palestinians it is not a question of 95% of the West Bank it is a question of the bulk of their land that has served to establish the State of Israel in 1948, they already felt they had given enough. As for the rockets raining down on Israel, it would be interesting to compare the tonnage of explosives that Israel used against Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Unilateral disengagement is just another word for imposing a solution because of an unwillingness to negotiate, it is a position based on overwhelming strength, not a position based on arriving at an equitable solution. The point that I am making is that cycles of intransigence, war and injustice are driving to even more extremist reactions. This is fertile ground for the ambitions of a Mr. Ahmadinegad, or those who advocate the most extremist of views. You accuse me of one-sidedness, well I'm not sure if many have actually heard the Arab point of view on this subject, it would seem that most opinions of what the Arabs believe or don't believe is more a subject of wide media interpretation. There also seems to be a case of amnesia as to what has come to pass for the situation to have reached its present reality, or at least an extremely biased view of the background to this conflict, if my posts are long it is because I realize that very little background is understood on the subject. And I'm trying to fill some gaps. The piece above was written as an analysis of the situation. If you asked me of my personal opinion of Iran and nuclear weapons I am horrified, because I live here, in the line of sight. At the same time as an Egyptian I am not interested in subsuming Egypt's hard won independence to some Pan-Islamic extremist agenda. As things are developing, this may well be a situation that we may have to face in the years to come. Also, I believe that there is a 'magic bullet' that will make the 'hard' men on all sides go away, and that is a definitive peaceful settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

(I)nsider:

As citizens of one of the greatest countries in the world Americans have a duty to protect their democracy.

They do that when they fulfill their jury duty. They protect their democracy when they go to the polls and vote. And some have to bear arms and defend their countries in foreign lands.

If you have not been among those who had to leave wife and infant children behind and spend your Christmas in a rat hole, or watch a friend die in your arms or had to wipe their brain off your face, you may owe it to them to step up, and defend America and its democracy.

You owe it to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, as well as your children and America's future generation to seek the truth, be informed citizens, and speak out courageously. And that is no easy task.

If you take your patriotic responsibility seriously, then I urge you to invest the significant time it requires to watch http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=-7828123714384920696 in its ENTIRETY. This is not about Arabs and Israelis. It is about the media and the fragility of democracy.

While I respect everyone's opinion, even when it has no basis in reality, we should beat the drums of war and violence with caution and responsibility, grounded in truth about what is happening around us.

To that end, I urge you all to read the Working Paper Number:RWP06-011 by John J. Mearsheimer, department of Political Science, University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. It is called "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy". You can download it at:
http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011/$File/rwp_06_011_walt.pdf

It is 80+ pages!! But if you care about America, and what is happening to it all over the world, read it. Read it for the sake of your children and in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice; then form your own opinion.

Matthew:

Mahmoud Sabit, you speak at great length and with intelligence, but your opinions are remarkably one-sided. The Palestinians, the Arab states, and you have chosen to see the worst in Israel, just as Israel fears the worst elements in the Arab and Persian world. As you have articulated the Arab perspective of their worst fears vis-a-vis Israel, I will seek to fairly represent the fears of the other side.

You suggest that Arabs are just beginning to catch xenophobic paranoia, but since 1948, Israel has had the leaders of Arab states like Nasser threaten to "throw the Jews into the Sea." Iran's Ahmedinejad denies the Holocaust and seeks nuclear weapons. Hezbollah and Hamas denies Israel's right to exist in their charters. Arafat and the PLO rejected Barak's offer of a Palestinian state with 100% of Gaza, 95% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and additional land from inside Israel to compensate for lost land in the W Bank. Israel left Gaza and South Lebanon only to have rockets rain down from those very regions. Most Arab states do not even welcome individuals within their borders if an Israeli stamp is on their passport. And of course there were the 900,000 Jews kicked out of Arab states in 1948.

My point is simply perspective. There is plenty of fear (justified & irrational) to go around. Let us not pretend that the Arab Middle East is a model of openness and civility. Both sides have suffered and both have ignored their better angels.

Furthermore fear, pride, and nuclear weapons are a very unhealthy combination, and Iran's rhetoric & its actions do not inspire confidence in its capacity to act responsibly.

man:

Iran has shown that it does not have buildings and facilities that can withstand the force of earthquakes in this region. One should carefully consider the possiblity of an enormous spread of radiation from a failed facility in Iran.
Iran does not have jobs for many people, and does not give its people freedom to speak. These needs are more important than nuclear reactors. In western media the image of Arab men is hijackers, bombers, traitors, assassins, people who kidnap men and send rockets into Nazareth, killing Arab children on the street. We hear they want peaceful nuclear power, while the President of Iran attends meetings that end with mobs shouting Death To America. This is not peace. We never see new schools, hospitals, shops, highways, or factories in Arab nations. How can anything good come from Jihadist destruction? The good that can come from Islam has been set back a 1000 years by Jihadists. I believe more harm has come to Muslims from these people than has come from outside powers.

(I)nsider:

On April 26, 2006 Iran's supreme religious leader Khamenei stated:

"The Iranian nation and government advocate world peace and security and will never attack anyone in the future..."

According to the translation by Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History "Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian" and "He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse."

On 20 February 2006, Iran's foreign minister denied that Tehran wanted to see Israel "wiped off the map," saying "Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned," Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament. "How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not recognise legally this regime," he said.

Iran's official position, which has not changed since the beginning of the revolution is that there are over 3 million Palestinians living as refugees outside Palestine. They should have the right to come back and along with the Jewish people participate in a referendum that will determine the future structure of a fair, equitable, non-racist, non-apartheid non-colonial government in Palestine.

Mahmoud Sabit:

Darrell
Many thanks for your comment, I must say there are several points in your statement that I don't really agree with. The part about 'Israel being surrounded by countries that want its extinction.' Has not been true for a very long time. At the time of the peace process between President Anwar el Sadat and Prime Minister Menachim Begin, one of President Sadat's intentions was to dispel this impression. It is one of the important reasons that he went to Jerusalem, and addressed the Knesset. He believed if he could also dispel this acute sense of Israeli insecurity, he could go a long way in helping Israel achieve peace with all their neighbors. For without the inclusion of Egypt as a military threat to Israel, then Israel had very little to fear from the collective efforts of its other neighbors in any military confrontation. Which in comparison with Israel's military capabilities at that time was negligble. He was also hoping that Israel's leadership would make a similar political 'leap of faith' as he had done in terms of coming to a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians and the other Arab nations. This did not happen. In general terms, even today the Arabs would be delighted if Israel and the Palestinians came to a peaceful settlement. I should add that until the late 1990's Israel was not as important as you may think in the calculations of its neighboring Arab countries, they were far more interested in economic development, addressing their demographic problems, in short they have a lot of other fish to fry than to worry about Israel. It has been Israel's unwillingness to come to terms with the Palestinians that has now finally brought the situation to the fore. First we had Oslo, which was greeted in the Arab world with a collective sigh of relief, then we had the failure of the Barak-Clinton-Arafat talks, where the Arabs all groaned in disappointment, and finally the corrosive intifadeh. In all this time the Arabs have been hoping for a final definitive peace between the Palestinians and the remaining Arab states. To reinforce the point the Arab countries made their position clear at Beirut in March 2002 in their 'Arab Peace Initiative' Their salient statements were; "Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended" , "Enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all states of the region Bi-lateral security guarantees, including all Arab states in the region: "Establish normal relations with Israel" , As between any states in normal relations with one another "Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194" Essentially this means; please come to a mutually acceptable and mutually equitable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
These terms for a settlement are eminently achievable, hardly the statements given by ' countries that want it to become extinct.' Despite all this the Israeli's seem unwilling to engage, they have all the cards, the Palestinians none, as for the Palestinians being a threat to Israel's existence well the Palestinians are living by the skin of their teeth in the occupied territories, they are hardly in a position to threaten anyone. The Arabs are also well aware that Israel's future survival is based on having normal relations with her neighbors, the Arabs have offered Israel normal relations, and these so far have been ignored. Is it Israel's xenophobia, her insecurity? Or is there some other plan? Israel has nuclear weapons after all. You see xenophobia and insecurity are contagious and the Arabs are beginning to catch the symptoms. What does Israel really want? The Arabs ask. Regional subjugation? An arc of failed states around its borders similar to the Iraq debacle, so that they don't have to negotiate with anyone? Or perhaps setting the stage for a total transfer of the entire Palestinian population in the occupied territories to adjacent countries, in order to finally realize the Zionist dream of occupying all of the lands that constituted the ancient land of Israel? Maybe the deconstruction of Lebanon was a warning to future Arab objections to a transfer of the Palestinian 'problem' possibly a test of US and Western reaction. The impression given of the bombing of Lebanon was that it was not to address Hezballah, if that is what was intended then why did they not bomb Hezballah positions with the same ferocity, and limit their military response to them? If you consider these fears absurd, please understand that Israel's fears of annihilation by the Arabs are considered by the Arabs equally absurd.
Now we come to Irans' President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, a man who seems to have caught the contagion of xenophobia paranoia and insecurity in a big way. His previous statements suggest that he may believe that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was Israeli inspired, that it was a way for Israel to neutralize Iraq, and for the US a first step in its ultimate goal of subjugating Iran, and its petroleum reserves. He also sees the situation in the Middle East as being one of strategic imbalance, he is aware of the sense of Arab insecurity, uncertainty. He also shares it, the subjucation of the Arab world today, possibly Iran tommorow. He knows that one thing he can rely on is US political myopia and misjudgment, as witnessed in the Iraq fiasco, Iran has today probably more influence in Iraq through the Iraqi leadership than the US. He may also believe that the US and the West only respects power, that it must be dealt with through strength, through intimidation. We then see the recent Lebanon-Hezballah-Israel crisis which has served to exacerbate the sense of Arab insecurity and paranoia of Israel's intentions. Most importantly he detects the existence of a power vacuum in the Arab world, and wants to perhaps fill the void, nuclear weapons would strengthen his bid. It would also guarantee the future survival of Iran from any further intervention.

arabe:

l d'ont speake anglesh but l try tell you sameting , l want speake about arabe ,this people from islam but now 50/100 out islam think just kill people , if you now very good islam , never told about kill people , but same people undersdant samthing against about isalam , islam it's pacific,100/100 because l beleave this frome good, and good never give samthing bud. and l can tell you every probleme frome relegieon it's from isreal people . now l want told you about usa ,before usa it's the one dreams country for every people in the world , but now l think people against ,for this think for this dreams , this probleme from isreal people , now gouvernement of usa 50/100 frome juife isreale .l m sorry for usa . about Iran need help himselfe about isreal people . why 15/100 country in the world have nuclear ,but why one country frome moslem ,have this nuclear and you are against. l m against for every country in the world have nuclear. why no body can controle usa and isreal about nuclear ..china corea, rusland ,france ,italie ,andia, pakistan ,austria ,germany ,isreal, u.s.a : this country 100/100 have nuclear, but to day every body now just Iran have nuclear.

Mahmoud Sabit:

Zain, Jerry, Sama Adnan
Many thanks for your comments, I hope you don't mind my answering you collectively so to speak, but the following may address your views.
The situation in the Middle East is a case of political, economic and geo-strategic imbalance, the reaction by an empowered Iran is an attempt to rectify this imbalance in their favor. If the West or the US considered the Arabs, the Iranians and the Muslims in general no different to the now extinct Ashanti or the Iroquois then their policies begin to make sense, but that is not the case. The Middle East, the Muslim world, these are regions which for a millennia were independent parallel civilizations with the West, and civilizations in close contact with the West. They lost out and came under colonial tutelage, which was only discarded relatively recently. Their engagement as secular nation-states in their post-colonial period should have been supported by their former colonial tutors, this has not come to pass. As a reaction to this perceived failure, the trend of 'unity through Islam' has gained adherents, and it is these elements that Iran is targeting, they want to gain their support. The recent conflict in Lebanon with Hezballah was I believe a way in which to demonstrate the success of such a policy; unity of purpose, commitment to a more genuine cause, unflinching resistance to a ferocious military reaction. In contrast with the failed policies formerly applied by the Arab nation states of the region in attempting to deal with Israel initially through military means and later through a peace process. In Samuel Huntington's terminology from his book 'Clash of Civilizations.' A work whose conclusions I don't agree with, but whose analysis has merit; in its definition of civilizations and their core states, using his terminology Muslim civilization has no core state. In historical terms the last Muslim core state was the Ottoman state. Since its demise in the 1920's there have been several efforts to fill the vacuum that this unity had represented. Attempts to form mutual economic advantages, a unity of political and foreign policy and a collective security pact. In short efforts to rectify the imbalance. In the Arab world this was through the efforts of the secular Arab League, its collective failure at averting the Iraq-Kuwait crisis in 1991, led to War consequently rendered the Arab League almost irrelevant. Gamal Abdel Nasser's earlier efforts to fulfill this role was defeated in the 1967 War, Saddam Hussein's efforts at elevating Iraq as the core state also ended in failure. Their failure for whatever reasons represented a regional imbalance. Iran may now be attempting to address this imbalance, fill this vacuum.

Mahmoud Sabit:

Adam
As I understand your point that 'Iran uses the perceived slights by the west' to acquire a nuclear capability. The grievances of Iran are pertinent, they go well beyond mild 'slights' and they are not recent history either. There is a long history in the manipulation and interference in the internal affairs of Iran, first by the British and later by the US. The destitution of the Qajjar dynasty of Iran, despite their constitutional efforts, by a British inspired coup d'etat (1918-1926) led by their man; Reza Khan, later Reza Shah Pahlavy is a case in point. The diaries of Major General Sir Edmund Ironsides 'Diaries' 1972, make compelling reading on the subject. The later removal of Reza Shah Pahlavy, again by the British for his insistence on neutrality during WWII, when an Anglo-Russian army invaded the country in 1941, and installed his son as Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi. The deposition of the Shah by his elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1952-53, and his return through a CIA inspired coup led by Kermit Roosevelt. These are hardly slights, these are brutal interventions in a nations political development, however necessary they were deemed by the imperial power at the time. The eventual revolution that deposed the Shah in 1979 was rooted in this background, he was also considered too westernized, which in local parlance means that he was willing to impose western solutions to a traditional society, a society that wanted modernization, but not westernization if it meant trampling on their cherished traditions. That was the consensus that led to a revolution, and it was a real revolution, not some petty coup d'etat. Post revolution Iran is extremely wary of the West and its intentions, again because of this history, they don't want outside interference in their development. The West has also not been very reassuring in its intentions, which was partly my point in my comment. If Iran have a 'terrible track record in supporting groups that target civilians' well if we count the civilian toll of the recent Lebanon war, perpetrated by many who would consider Israel a group supported by the West. Or the civilian toll perpetrated by the US military in both the Iraq war of 1991 and the Iraq war of 2003, its hardly an argument, and Iran does not have a monopoly of this behaviour. With events out of control in neighboring Iraq, with a nuclear armed Israel over the horizon and with the indecipherable policies of Mr. Bush Jr. in the White House should one really be surprised if their leadership has an apocalyptic view of the world? Many in the Arab world, including the political leadership share your fear of a nuclear armed Iran, perhaps for different reasons, but still it is a real fear, the point is how to handle the situation. Going in with military force or imposing economic sanctions are not solutions, reassurance, equitable treatment, respecting the rule of international law by the US and the West would be a good beginning.

RA:

I don't think Iran alone has an apocalyptic view of the world. Even, the US under the God-fearing (or rather, feared by God?) republican party seem to have the same view. Their much touted war on terrorism have as their allies, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the former a financier of terror all over the world and the latter giving all its foot soldiers.

Darrell:

Iran's leaders have made no secret of their goal to eliminate the State of Israel. Israel's leaders have made no similar statements concerning any Arab/Islamic countries. Israel is surrounded by countries that want it to become extinct. Israel has conventional and nuclear weapons to defend itself from such extinction. Iran has no threat that requires it to obtain nuclear weapons to defend itself. Its only need for such weapons is to deter others from attacking them in their continued surrogate war against Israel. Israel simply wants to be able to live in peace with its neighbors. Iran has done all that it can to make sure that Israel can never live in peace. If we don't deal harshly with Iran sometime in the near future, the whole world will suffer harsh consequences.

Sama Adnan:

As a Sudanese-American, I watch America's role in today's Middle East with a potent mix of horror and guilt. Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon and lack of democracy and human rights in the region are now inextricably linked.

Like most Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, as shown by many polls conducted in the past 2 years, I support a nuclear Iran, albeit, reluctantly. I would rather a nuclear-free Middle East but with the US-Israeli relationship inching ever closer, that seems to be a fantasy.

A nuclear Iran will be able to afford Palestinians and Lebanese a degree of protection which would be grealty welcomed by Arabs even if it projects its influence over a nervous Gulf Arab region. As more Islamist democrats are elected to office, the West will become more aloof to demands of Arab democracy. However, Iran will encourage these Arab democratic efforts, if only to increase its supporters, as is the case now with Hizbullah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the past year, the West has made it clear that democracy has increasingly become a non-option. Progress of democracy may seem an unlikely prospect under Iranian tutelage, however, with Iran and the US vying for control of the region, the Arab populations may have more maneouvering space to escape the suffocating grip of their sadistic rulers.

Jerry:

Mahmoud Sabit is right on. The Iraqi-Hizbullah-Iran-Shi'a alliance could also pull into it's orbit, Shi'a from Yemen, eastern Saudi Arabia, parts of Pakistan, the Emirates ... and western Afghanistan. All have Shi'a populations which could be Hizbullahized if Iran chose to make that move. Allied with Syria, Iran will be supportive of the Shi'ia in that land, as well.
From the point of view of the average Arab and/or Muslim of the Maghreb, there is every reason in the world to have nuclear power, and even nuclear weapons. While the Western World, led by the U.S., must consider Pakistan a growing threat ... again, no one's messed with Pakistan.
They are building a new reactor to produce MORE, not less, nuclear weapons ... if they choose to.
Israel is never held to the same standards as Pakistan or Iran.
So, from the point of view of Arabs and Muslims, especially Shi'a Muslims and Palestinians, and, again, Pakistanis, I'd say it would make total sense to just say: so what if we're making weapons?
Or, setting up a process where we could, if we had to.
I don't nuclear power plants nor do I want nuclear weapons proliferation. But these responses from the Arab and Muslim world come from a fear, and an anger, over American hegemonic projection into the Hub Of Islam. And, it's a given, that if the U.S. forces Iran to bow and scrape, Israel will remain strong enough to bomb any and even all Arab or Muslim states in that region.
Americans simply are not intelligent enough to peer into the information available that gives us Arabic and Muslim views on America. Nor, do they want to hear it.
The terribly disproportionate aerial and artillery bombardment of Lebanon, sparing Christian enclaves, destroying, utterly, the homes of a million or more Lebanese Shi'a clearly signal where the U.S. is -- it allows it's proxy, Israel, to attempt to destroy Shi'aism and the Palestinian cause.
The victory of Hizbullah is that it survived massive Israeli attacks. Syria wants dialogue with the United States, but the Bushistas simply want compliant Arabs and Muslims.
It is very disappointing, and even depressing, to think that the Bushistas are so megalomanical that they can't even think about negotiations.
Behind the walls of nationalism, are always people.
Arabs, Jews, Christians, Sunnis, Druze, Shi'a, Muslims in non-Arabic countries ... the United States and Israel ... we're all people of the Earth, and of God.
If Arabs and Muslims -- and there are probably a billion who would respond to this -- were treated equally, as human beings, I suspect we could return to world peace.
The Bush Regime is the most awful to ever enter the White House.

Adam:

A well written article. It seems to me that every argument made for Iran being allowed to attain nuclear weapons uses perceived "slights" by the West as a reason to have them.

Iran has a terrible track record of supporting groups that target civilians. It also has a leadership that believes in an apocalyptic view of the world. Those facts alone make me very scared of a nuclear armed Iran.

OscarMayer:

It is puzzling why current writers see Shites as a threat. I am not an expert, but I do not believe Shiites have attempted to export their revolution outside the Shite Triangle. In fact even the war with Iran was instigated by a Sunni Saddam.

The real threat to Western Civilization lies with the Sunni Moslems. This sect is much more expansionist, breeding radicals through state sponsored Madrassas in Saudi Arabia and through Saudi financed radical Islamic schools in Pakistan and other poor Islamic countries.

Every act of terrorism we have witnessed in the West, which originated in the middle East, was at the hand of Sunnis moslems. The principal sponsor of this terrorism is a Sunni Saudi Arabia. Even though bin Laden has had a falling out with the current Saudi regime, this Sunni gentleman hails from the same Saudi Kingdom that gave us 17 of the 19 terrorists who were responsible for 9/11.

I would rather see the Sunni/Shiite factions continue there inter-faith warfare and if that is not achievable, then let us tilt in favor of the shite faction.

Zain:

An excellent articulation of the complex forces in play in the Arab (and Muslim) world. I am originally from Pakistan and I still remember how Pakistanis (despite being predominantly Sunni) respected the Iranian revolution and respected the system it brought into play. This sentiment was obvious even during the turbulent years of Wahabi influenced extremist groups like Lashkare Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba carrying out terrorist attacks against Iranian citizens and interests in Pakistan. Part of this feeling could be attributed to a yearning for the same sort of social stability that Iran achieved post revolution, but a large part (IMO) also had to do with feelings quite similar to those you ascribe to the Sunni Arab world.

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