New leaders, old patternsArab leaders aren’t bringing reform [Archives:2005/804/Opinion]

January 6 2005

By Prof. Abdulaziz Al-Tarb
For the Yemen Times

The Arab World has seen in the recent years changes in leaderships, including in countries such as Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Syria, UAE and Palestine, not to mention what occurred in Iraq and the alterations in other Arab regimes.

We are in a new phase of the development of the Arab political system.

However, what is remarkable is that these changes, which affected approximately half of the Arab world, were limited just to the change of individuals and were not real changes to the systems. Although we always call for injection of new blood into the top of the Arab governance, what has happened was a transfer and not change of authority.

Therefore, our expectations of the new leaders were not high, besides the volume of change did not live up to our hopes and expectations. I don't deny that it is unfair to compare new leaders with old ones who spent too many years in power as it is unacceptable to compare the last years of the former with the commencing years of the coming.

We should remember that past leaders such as King Hussein, President Hafidh Al-Asad, King Al-Hassan II, Sheikh Zayed and Yasser Arafat are historical leaders who spanned a long period on the political stage and have left vivid impressions.

We also do not deny that the new leaders have introduced some sort of liberal changes influenced by the spirit of the era especially that international and regional events suggest reform initiatives to be adopted in different degrees by various Arab regimes.

If we take the Arab-Israel conflict as yardstick to evaluate the new leaderships, we will see that they are more moderate and less linked to the situation and causes of the conflict in the area. The Arab world now is like the large family which has started to disintegrate. It has become characteristic that Arabs put a high price now to their particular states and not to their all inclusive nation. If there are no annual meetings and foreign ministers assembly at the Arab League headquarters, the picture could have been even worse.

If we try to foresee the Arabic future taking into account these changes, we will focus on Arab countries' attitudes towards major issues in the Middle East. We will choose four problems which are: Palestine-Israel confrontation, Iraqi issue (both are main issues in the Asian part of the Arab World) and then we move to the African portion to the Sudanese issue and the dispute over the Western Desert.

I want to say frankly that a particular ruler succeeding his predecessor, either in a monarchy or a republican regime, has not yet indicated an effective change. The heart of the issue lies in the essence of the political regimes and the philosophy of their performance of duties so that they have steady orientations opening the doors to freedom, hope and real reforms.

The Arab regimes now have two generations of leaders who express the presence of the nation in which the new spirit and traditional ideas interact. It is necessary that all try to conserve the deep-rooted principles and characteristics of the nation, adhere our values and be tenacious of rights.

We are in a bad need for a good perusal and analysis of what happened around us in regard to the four above mentioned issues, as well as a calm discussion of the nature of the traditional ideas within the frames of new leaderships concerning the following:

* Palestine-Israel confrontation after the death of President Yasser Arafat.

* Iraqi plight since the ouster of the former regime and preparation for the election.

* The Sudan crisis and the problem of Darfur after the pre-final agreement with the front in the south.

* The Western Deser, which is the most complicated of Arab-African problems.