The fantasy of Middle East moderates


Fareed Zakaria’s analysis on the radicalization of once moderate Muslims in the region is spot on. Ultimately, the United States helped organize Iraq’s moderates, or the Shiite-dominated government, by giving them tens of billions of dollars in aid and training support. However, as the support grew, so did the opposition. As often happens in the Middle East, when one sect gets help, another feels the sting of competitive resources falling out of their hands. In this particular case, the Iraqi Sunni movements grew and Jihadi groups like ISIS gained ground because they represented a large group of newly marginalized Sunnis. The pattern of helping one sect and, in doing so, radicalizing another, is a simple pattern that has happened over and over. What Mr. Zakaria is trying to point out is that in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Palestine, moderates either develop into extremists because of changing political circumstances or they simply lose the power battle. When dictators try to shut down opposition groups, little space is left for moderation. The ones that survive the crackdown, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood or something else, become vengeful. Where a culture of political impunity begins, a culture of revenge develops. The fact of the matter is that moderates don’t do that well in elections. Not in America and not in the Middle East. Zakaria goes on to point this out with the example of Mahmoud Abbas. He heads the Palestinian Authority and is in fact a moderate. The West and Israel continue to postpone elections in the West Bank because they know he will lose to someone with a more attractive and decisive position. When war is happening outside your door and on your street, the guy who champions moderate rhetoric is less tempting to stand behind than the one who is up in arms while armed. When a regime like Assad’s uses illegitimate tactics to strike down opposition in Syria, the group that fights back the hardest is the only one with a chance. Get more of Fareed’s analysis on the subject at The Washington Post. It is worth the read.

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