Jewish World Review June 28, 2004 / 9 Tamuz, 5764

Robert Stewart

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With today's surprise transfer of political authority in Iraq, can a thugocracy take hold? | The next few days will decide if Iraq will be a democracy led by Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, or a thugocracy governed al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The coordinated attacks across Iraq Thursday and Friday's blasts in Fallujah are an ominous sign that terrorists were pulling out all the stops in their effort to derail the handover of sovereignty to Iraqis. These will not be their last attacks, and they will succeed only if the coalition and Iraqis allow it by delaying the transfer of power.

If the reaction of the new Iraqi government is any indicator, though, the handover will succeed. Rather than call for a delay in light of the multiple attacks and scores of Iraqi deaths Thursday, the new Iraqi government called for resolve and a renewed effort against those who are attempting to "foil the democratic process." If his attitude and determination are mirrored throughout the new government-and among his allies-success is far more likely than current conditions suggest.

More is at stake than the form of government, however. Under coalition and Iraqi interim government leadership, many aspects of civil life are returning to normal-and in many respects, exceeding pre-war levels.

More than $30 billion has been pledged by nations around the world to improve schools, build roads, restore health care facilities and water sanitation, modernize agriculture, and ensure a stable flow of electricity to all areas of Iraq. But without a government to receive them, these funds will evaporate. If terrorists take charge, the pledges will be voided. Local funding streams are also dependent upon the creation of a stable regime. Iraq is currently capable of producing upwards of 2.5 million barrels of oil daily. Terrorists, however, have consistently attacked both production and distribution sites. The attacks hurt only the Iraqis, who benefit from the security and infrastructure the oil revenue provides. With Iraqis in charge, production will stabilize and grow. The resulting funds will continue to grow the economy and strengthen the nation. Under terrorist rule, the funding stream and its benefits will be choked off completely.

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In another portent of success, information sources and educational opportunities are growing at unprecedented levels. Independent news sources, including newspapers, TV and even talk radio are burgeoning as never before. These new, secular and independent sources of information are critical to reforms, and to opportunity.

The dearth of Internet access is key to the growth of repressive regimes. The Taliban banned its use, Hussein's regime allowed less than full access for fear of an independently educated populace. However, the increased access now being afforded in Iraq and the region is critical to stability. No nation on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism has an Internet usage rate higher than 10 percent of its population. Conversely, all free, stable American allies have Internet usage of more than 20 percent. Under Allawi, Internet access and other sources of news will flourish-even if critical of the government. Under al-Zarqawi, there will be only one source of news and information. The difference is stark.

Make no mistake, this is the last stand, and the results will impact far more than local economies and freedoms. If this experiment in democracy fails, the world will fail the mideast. If this hope for democracy fails, the genesis of a stable, thriving, self-governing group of Arab nations fails and no other nation will soon step in to rescue a people from tyranny, citing the Iraq example as proof that democracy can't sprout in this fallow land.

There will be more attacks in Iraq today, tomorrow and in the weeks to come. But it will be the Iraqi and coalition response to those bombings that determines whether the future remains as bleak as the present. Their actions will determine today's surprise transfers political authority in Iraq signals the genesis of democracy in the mideast, or just another day in a region bereft of freedom.

JWR contributor Robert Stewart, a former Army intelligence analyst, is now a writer based in Washington, D.C. Comment by clicking here.


05/18/04: Iraq's Governing Council leader's murder has only led to further recognizing of clear choice between stability and a government run by terror
05/13/04: Nick Berg video will backfire on Muslims
03/23/04: The killing of a ‘moderate’
03/18/04: They can not be sated — only stopped
03/09/04: Is Iraq a success one year later? Ask the president of the Iraqi Governing Council
02/13/04: Kerry swings at Bush, hits Clinton
02/03/04: The coming anti-lobbyist lobby?
12/30/03: Bush Doctrine, often derided, is paying dividends in peace
11/24/03: Isolationism does not breed immunity
11/10/03: President Bush, like Eisenhower before him, is signaling the beginning of a new epoch
10/21/03: Is this war being won? You bet, just don't ask the congressman with the embarrassingly bad timing

© 2004, Robert Stewart