MIDDLE EAST: The Regional Development in the Middle East
Dr. Marwan Muasher

On Tuesday, January 13, 2004, Dr. Marwan Muasher, Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, previously Jordan`s ambassador to the United States, gave a lecture at the American University of Kuwait. The event was moderated by Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra. The following is a summary of Dr. Muasher"s lecture.

Dr. Muasher commenced his lecture by highlighting the 3 most pressing issues in the region; political reform in the region, the Iraqi issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Political Reform in the Region:

Muasher started by informing his audience "The Arab World needs to adopt a new political order to be able to address ever-increasing changes on the global arena. Anyone who calls for political reforms and more freedoms in the Arab world is condemned and branded an ally of Washington. Not so long ago Arab experts (through the UNDP) outlined problems in Arab societies which included lack of freedom, outdated educational system, human right abuse and trampling on the rights of women".

Muasher stated that "political reform should not be limited to one country alone but implemented in the whole region and should not be delayed; otherwise economic development without corresponding political advancement would be meaningless". He added "Political reforms are needed now because they may come later at a higher price".

Asked to clarify allegations that Jordan borrowed its new educational curricula from Israel? Dr. Muasher said that the "critics jumped to conclusion without initially reading the new curricula. He said Jordan"s review of educational curricula has been in the pipeline for years in coordination with UNESCO". He added "the critics will have something to say at whatever time the review was implemented. The opponents of reform and change operate by labeling".

Dr. Muasher discussed women"s role in the Arab world: "women"s rights are limited, despite popular claims, that women are held at a high esteem in Arab culture. Amendments of women"s rights in the region are needed in order to step in the right direction towards a more democratic state of mind.

The Iraqi Issue:

Dr. Muasher spoke about the mixed feelings towards the American occupation of Iraq. He emphasized that all Arabs have to lend a hand in aiding the Iraqis and help them to solve the problems they are facing in rebuilding their country. He went on saying: "Differences on the U.S. invasion of Iraq must not derail efforts to find a common ground on helping Iraqis achieve independence. The lack of Arab support for Iraqis would enable the US to prolong its occupation of Iraq".

The Palestinian-Israeli Issue:

Dr. Muasher believes that the Arab world seems reluctant to solve the security problems in Palestine. The Arab countries appear to be blaming the US and others, instead of taking actions to resolve the Palestinian problem. In his opinion "the matter has reached a stage where Israel is trying to make it impossible to establish a Palestinian state by constructing a wall through Palestinian territory. The wall will destroy attempts to achieve peace and worsen the already difficult conditions under which Palestinians live".

He added "where do we go from here? This is what we must ask ourselves as Arab nations. We have failed in our ability to talk to the Israeli public opinion and as well world public opinion. We have failed in taking stand against targeting civilians in all sides including Israeli civilians. In this we have made Sharon appear as a peacemaker. We have failed in making the best out of opportunities for peace. We are reluctant (while we should not) in promoting the Arab peace plan.

Dr. Muasher urged Arab states to take the initiative and tackle problems and causes jointly. "The Arabs have to practice self-criticism regarding many causes that concern the Arab nation. We must all deal with the issues (Palestine, Iraq and reform) with transparency and open thinking or else we will face a new catastrophe in Palestine, Iraq and in each Arab country".

The American University of Kuwait (AUK) is an independent, private, equal-opportunity, and coeducational liberal arts institution of higher education. Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra is the founding president of AUK.