December 15, 2005
Breeding Freedom in the Middle East
Tomorrow's historic Iraqi election is about a heck of a lot more
than choosing 275 new parliamentarians for Iraq's first full-term,
post-Saddam government. It's equally key to fomenting change in
next-door Iran and Syria, breaking al Qaeda and serving notice
on other Middle Eastern despots that their days are numbered.
This will be no ordinary
day at the polling booth. Iraqi voting will — once again
— shake the pillars of Middle Eastern terror and tyranny
like a political earthquake, creating (democratic) nightmares
for those who oppose the march of freedom across the region.
* Iran's vigorous
support for the Iraqi insurgency tells us that the mullahs' regime
is probably the one most troubled by Iraq's democratic political
Tehran's rulers —
both the senior mullahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad —
are under intense political pressure both at home and abroad.
Iran is increasingly
isolated internationally because of its dogged pursuit of an indigenous
nuclear (weapons) capability, as well as Ahmadinejad's increasingly
provocative anti-Israeli/anti-Semitic tirades and historical distortions.
Having freedom and
democracy right next door in Iraq will only turbo-charge the pressure
on the regime from Iran's youthful population (60 percent under
age 30), which is bristling under the mullahs' heavy-handed rule
and clamoring for greater political/social/economic freedoms.
* Syria, another ardent
insurgency co-conspirator, can't be too happy about the Iraqi
elections, either. The regime is already in deep trouble over
a U.N. investigation's strong suggestion that it's behind the
February killing of popular former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik
Hariri in Beirut.
And now many are pointing
the finger at Damascus over this week's assassination of the prominent
Lebanese parliamentarian and journalist, Gibran Tueni —
the fourth brutal murder of a prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese figure
since Syria's withdrawal this spring.
The success of tomorrow's
elections will surround Syria with democratic states — Turkey,
Israel, Lebanon and Iraq — leaving Damascus as the odd man
out in that "free" corner of the Middle East. How long
before the Syrian people become restless, asking, "Why not
* Al Qaeda is already
in a tenuous state in the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden hasn't
been heard from in months. Wherever he's hiding, it's unlikely
he's directly in charge of any aspect of the terrorist group's
worldwide operations. He's become a mere figurehead.
Meanwhile, al Qaeda's
wanton slaughter — shedding innocent Muslim blood from one
end of the world to the other — is disenchanting moderate
Muslim masses, alienating potential jihadists, discouraging new
recruits and undermining its financial base.
The carnage —
including last month's horrific wedding party bombing in Jordan,
the hostage-taking of Arab diplomats in Baghdad and the slaughter
of Iraqi women and children — has brought real backlash
against al Qaeda and extremism. Al Qaeda is slowly, but surely,
cutting its own throat in the Muslim world.
Moreover, al Qaeda
sees democracy as the most dangerous threat to its maniacal drive
for world domination. The success of pluralism in Iraq means another
nail in the coffin for its ghastly dreams.
Not surprising, an
Internet statement from five Islamic militant groups in Iraq —
including Abu Musab al Zarqawi's al Qaeda in the Land of the Two
Rivers — called tomorrow's election a "satanic project,"
promising to continue their bloody resistance to the Iraqi's political
10 to 12 million Iraqis going to 6,230 polling places won't go
unnoticed across the Middle East. More than 100 million satellite
dishes will flicker images of Iraqi voters into homes, businesses
and restaurants, reaching countless viewers.
also won't be able to ignore the fact that in just 32 months,
Iraq deposed Saddam Hussein, held free, interim elections (8 million
voting), drafted/approved a democratic constitution in a nationwide
referendum (10 million voting) and elected a new government.
These elections —
and Iraq's incredible political evolution — can't help but
have profound effect on people across the Muslim world, especially
those yearning for greater political freedom in repressive states.
Yes, tomorrow's voting
puts Iraq on a path to a brighter future. But, equally important,
it puts al Qaeda, Iran, Syria and other despots on notice that
the Middle Eastern democracy train has left the station —
and there's no turning it back.
Brookes is a Heritage
Foundation senior fellow. This article originally appeared
in The New York Post.
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