The assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has forced the Lebanese to confront one another on the question of Syria’s role in the Lebanese political system and has pitted pro-Syria politicians with vested interests in the status quo against an increasingly vocal opposition movement backed by popular demonstrations.
In the coming months, Iraq’s newly elected National Assembly will face the major task of writing a permanent constitution for the country. Two other critical issues—personal status law and a security agreement with the United States—may also be thrust on its shoulders. All three issues are directly related to debates about the role of Islam and Islamic law in post-Baathist Iraq.
The elections were a success, but they do not ensure that Iraqis can now agree on a constitutional formula that accommodates the demands of all groups and keeps the country together. Democracy as separation of powers, checks and balances, and protection of individual rights has not proven enough to avoid conflict in other deeply divided societies.
Recent events in Egypt are again proving that far from championing democratic reforms, the Egyptian government continues to consolidate its own power. The January 29, 2005, arrest of Ayman Nour, a member of the Egyptian People’s Assembly and leader of the newly legalized liberal political party, Al Ghad (Tomorrow), serves as yet another example of Egypt’s persistent semiauthoritarianism.
The United States must let Iraq’s rulers govern with autonomy if insurgency is to be stamped out in the region