Sonic Puke
It's all fun and games until somebody pokes out an eye

5/06/2003

Iraq War's Impact Spreads in Arab World
Positive effects of the liberation of Iraq turning up already in the middle east...

Radical regimes in Syria and Iran are suddenly toning down the anti-U.S. rhetoric and urging dialogue. Authoritarian leaders in Egypt and Jordan are talking - with varying degrees of enthusiasm - about democratization, while militants in the streets of Cairo and Amman predict a wave of new recruits to fight the American occupiers and their supporters.

Awed by Washington's display of firepower in Iraq, no one looks likely to claim Saddam's mantle as leader of defiance to the West.

Beirut regards Hezbollah as a legitimate resistance movement against Israel. But Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, seems worried too.

"In the end, we are facing a new reality," he told supporters after the U.S. victory in Iraq.

Iranian hard-liners are signaling a new willingness to consider the possibility of restoring ties with Washington, cut since the 1979 Islamic revolution and hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy.

Iran's former president threw his weight last month behind the idea of a referendum on restoring ties - an idea believed to have broad popular support despite official opposition.

After Washington charged Iran was trying to promote an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq, Tehran was quick to deny it.

"Tehran does not want any friction with Washington over issues concerning Iraq," said Hasan Rowhani, secretary of Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council.

Some have suggested Washington's professed determination to establish a democratic government in Iraq could have a domino effect in the region - depending on how it goes.

Some of those moderate allies have been taking democratic steps, even if small ones.

Bahrain had its first parliamentary elections in three decades last October. Qatari voters approved their first constitution this week and the first parliamentary elections are expected next year.

In Jordan, which has been without a parliament for two years, King Abdullah II promises elections will finally go ahead June 17.

"That'll get us back on the right track as quickly as possible," he said in a CNN interview. "We're not looking over our shoulder. I mean we're looking to the future and moving."

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