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EGYPT - Towards Creative Dynamism To Replace Reactive Actions.

Before asking what Arafat has done to prevent all this suffering the Palestinians have endured for so many years and what the oil-rich Arab rulers have done to prevent the likes of Sharon and Bush from making things happen the way they have happened in this part of the world, one is advised to ask the following question:

With so much happening to this part of the world as a result of decisions made by non-Arab actors, when is a better time for the Arabs to have a creative leader willing to engage these actors?

This leader need not be one person, or one government. For a collective leadership creative enough to engage these actors, there is no shortage of creative diplomats and/or strategists in the Arab world; certainly there is no shortage of such human resources in Egypt. Notwithstanding the size of its population and its various other resources, Egypt has the specifications and international friendships needed to assert itself as the leading power in the Arab world.

The leader must be one with the resources to act swiftly to find a common Arab denominator so that a collective Arab leadership can come up with an offer for the stabilisation of Iraq, an offer which the Bush administration cannot refuse in this year of US presidential elections.

Finding a common Arab denominator for Iraq is not too difficult and must not take too long. The one thing the Arabs cannot afford to have is time. They have a summit meeting ahead of them. If they plan it properly, preparatory meetings can set the common Arab denominator so that it is approved by the summit conference.

The common denominator should be part of a common Arab objective. The common Arab denominator is simple to define: A viable new Iraq becoming a model for the other members of a properly reformed Arab League to follow - but in their own time and on terms agreed upon only between the people and their rulers.

The common objective must be genuinely Arab, not part of an American objective or a joint US-EU initiative. It must be an objective to be worked out by the Arabs themselves and to be implemented on the basis of what positive experience should emerge from the new Iraq.

It happens that Iraq consists of all those five basic elements of Arab society - the ethnic, sectarian, tribal, geo-political and natural resources - which can make or break any of the 22 member-states of the Arab League. If the Arabs, helping the UN and contributing to a multinational force, participate in making the New Iraq Project a successful enterprise, they will be able to come up with a new project of their own.

This common Arab objective can be attained in a matter of months in certain countries, or after years of careful preparations in others. The socio-political circumstances of each country have to be taken into consideration. But what should not be negotiable is their common objective

This is definitely not Washington's Greater Middle East Initiative (GMEI). This should be The Common Arab Project (CAP), or any other name Arab rulers may choose to prove it has not been imposed on them from any foreign power.

To arrive at the common Arab denominator, the leader - be that one person or a collective body - must be able to convince as many Arab leaders as possible what the critics says: that the days of ruling people without their proven and verifiable consent are over. This, constructive critics say, applies to Arafat as much as to anyone else who thinks he can continue to hide behind his finger. Although Arafat is the only ruler in the region to have been freely elected by his people, he acts as if he is their leader for life. Trapped in Ramallah by Israeli forces, he still thinks he can win by keeping control over Palestinian security forces as well as outsmart both Bush and Sharon.

As it is now, critics say, the Arab League is a house of cards. It did not take much for the ruler to move Libya out of the league. Col. Qadhafi did reverse his decision a few years ago; but he remains unconvinced that the league is useful for Libya. At the preparatory meetings for the Tunis summit - planned for March 29-30 but postponed late on March 27 as President Ben Ali found that key rulers were not to attend and his US-inspired call for democracy was not to be adopted - Qadhafi's delegation wanted the event to include in its decisions mention of Libya to be praised for getting rid of its WMD and to be taken as a model for Arabs to follow.

This stronger wind of change is now blowing towards the Arab world, where critics predict houses of cards will collapse one after another. Even if Mr. Bush does not get a second term on Nov. 2, this wind will keep blowing in our direction.

Why wait until it has seized this region and heads have rolled? Why should this happen before some of them have realised that none could hide behind his finger?

Mr. Mubarak has the resources to bring about what the Arabs need - as soon as possible - beginning with a successful project for Iraq, while concentrating on Egypt to become a most prosperous corner between Africa and West Asia.

The US invaded Iraq; so what? It has happened, and we Arabs should make the best of it. The CAP is the only way to a better future for the Arab world.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Operations in Oil Diplomacy
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Apr 26, 2004
Words:926
Previous Article:EGYPT - Diplomacy For Arab-Western Parnership.
Next Article:IRAN - Focusing On The Non-Oil Sector - Part 5.
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