Rami G. Khouri

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Latest by Rami G. Khouri


Haleh Esfandiari, or the evil of an often impressive Iran

Iran is at once impressive yet offensive. I want to embrace it, but it keeps pushing me away through its own misdeeds. Iran is widely demonized in the United States, much of Europe, and throughout Arab official circles and pockets of Arab society; yet it is also lionized among other quarters in the Middle East …

Rami G. Khouri

Bush's speech needs some clearing up

It is hard to know if we should be pleased or terrified that US President George W. Bush Monday signaled renewed involvement by the United States in Arab-Israeli peace-making. It is certainly vital to have direct American engagement in order to move ahead on this issue. But if such engagement is biased, half-hearted in spirit, …

Rami G. Khouri

Hezbollah between awe and hostility

Hezbollah, one of the most important groups on the Lebanese and Middle Eastern political scene these days, is also one of the most enigmatic. This week, the first anniversary of the Hezbollah-Israel war of July-August 2006, much attention in Lebanon has been focused on Hezbollah and its aims, which remain unclear to many people. Hezbollah’s …

Rami G. Khouri

A wonder that should put modern Arabs to shame

The designation last week of the modern-day Seven Wonders of the World via a global poll of 100 million people offered a nice break from the usual menu of depressing conflict around the world. We in the Arab world are especially pleased that one site, Petra in Jordan, made the list. Though all the winners …

Rami G. Khouri

Europe must extract itself from its Middle East mess

On my trip through Europe that has included discussions with a wide range of officials and specialists in Norway, Germany, France and Italy, almost every conversation turns to the question of what role Europe should play in the Middle East today. More and more Europeans seem to feel uneasy that their increased participation in Middle …

Rami G. Khouri

When in doubt, the world dislikes America

A new Pew Research Center Global Attitudes Survey published this week reveals that public attitudes towards the United States around the world continue to deteriorate, as they have for half a decade now, with particularly strong negative views about the US role in Iraq and American-style democracy. The massive survey of 45,000 people in 47 …

Rami G. Khouri

A peace envoy whom we can do without

I was in Europe earlier this week speaking with current and former officials, experts and diplomats about the situation in the Middle East, when the news broke of the appointment of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as special envoy of the Quartet for Arab-Israeli peace-making. It is hard to know if this is a …

Rami G. Khouri

Palestine between delusion and destruction

It’s hard to know who appears more ludicrous and despicable, the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas leaderships allowing their gunmen to fight it out on the streets of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, or an American administration saying it supports the “moderates in Palestine who want to negotiate peace with Israel. US Secretary of …

Rami G. Khouri

A Gulf on fire, if you haven't noticed

The Gulf states often attract attention for their fast pace of physical development, as striking new commercial and government complexes appear in the skylines of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait, Manama and elsewhere. Yet something more intriguing and politically significant than spectacular architecture is taking place in the Gulf these days, and its impact is …

Rami G. Khouri

What happens now after Resolution 1757?

UN Security Council Resolution 1757, passed on Wednesday to establish a mixed Lebanese-international court to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others in February 2005, has sparked intense and justified debate. This is indeed a historic resolution, especially coupled with the international investigation into the murders and …

Rami G. Khouri

Regional conflicts join up in Lebanon

In recent years I and others have been warning that the growing number of conflicts in the Middle East is pushing the region toward new forms of radicalism and trouble. The clashes between the Lebanese Army and the Fatah Al-Islam extremist militants that have rocked parts of North Lebanon since Sunday are the latest face …

Rami G. Khouri

How business and politics can partner for peace

I write this from Sweimeh, on the Dead Sea in Jordan, at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) Middle Eastern gathering of business, government, civil society and media leaders. Visible across the Dead Sea to the west is the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank and Jerusalem, and further west is Gaza, ravaged by Palestinian in-fighting, Israeli …

Rami G. Khouri

Jordan and the G-11: Match their bet, call their bluff

For a small country that usually does not make much news, Jordan is making a claim on the world’s attention this week with a series of fascinating consecutive events. King Abdullah II of Jordan has chosen the path of dynamic activism and big initiatives as the route to national well-being, though many around the world …

Rami G. Khouri

What is Caesar's and what isn't in the Arab world

It is hard to get away from a central fact of Middle Eastern politics and statehood: the significant role played by the military and security forces in the business of government and the exercise of public authority. This is a largely unaddressed issue in the galaxy of political and economic reform issues being debated throughout …

Rami G. Khouri

Turkey beyond Islamism versus secularism

The tempestuous current developments in Turkey are historic in their implications for the country and the Middle East. However, they are about much more than a tug-of-war between Islamism and secularism. The constitutional stand-off concerning the election of the next president – pitting the ruling, mildly Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) against the largely …

Rami G. Khouri

Why not adopt Norwegian pragmatism?

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s “hello to the Iranian foreign minister and her brief “businesslike meeting with the Syrian foreign minister Thursday at the international conference on Iraq in Egypt have generated considerable international attention. I join those who see these two gestures as small but significant steps towards a more rational American foreign …

Rami G. Khouri

The Winograd report only provokes Arab disdain

A combination of vindication, disdain, and renewed concerns about Israeli militarism are the dominant reactions in the Arab world to the preliminary report of the Winograd Commission released Monday in Israel. The commission harshly rebuked three senior Israeli political and military leaders for their conduct during last summer’s 34-day war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah Party, leaving …

Rami G. Khouri

Constructive currents flow below Middle Eastern civil society

We are often so obsessed with the problems and conflicts that define the relationship between the Middle East and the West today that we tend to lose sight of the constructive currents that flow beneath the surface. An unusual week of consecutive conferences and seminars in Amman and Beirut brought that point home to me …

Rami G. Khouri

The US is neither feared nor respected anymore

I’m not sure if it’s mere serendipity or anything more challenging, but every time I have come to Jordan recently my trip has coincided with the visit of a senior American official. Three weeks ago I was in Amman at the same time as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and this week my fellow …

Rami G. Khouri

On Islam and modernism: a talk with Sadiq Al-Mahdi

One of the prevalent trends that defines so much of what is both right and wrong about the Arab world today is the convergence between religion, nationalism, and politics. The three are used to practice unspeakably cruel violence against foes and innocent civilians alike, while simultaneously challenging unjust authority, resisting foreign military invasions and building …

Rami G. Khouri

Proving the intellectual skinheads wrong

The debate over democracy in Arab and Islamic countries continues to twist and turn, responding variously to indigenous forces and to erratic perceptions from the West, especially the United States. New evidence of the native Arab commitment to human decency and democratic political norms comes this week from within, in the form of yet another …

Rami G. Khouri

Recalling a thinker of Islam and modernity

Three years ago this week, the late Egyptian thinker, economist, public servant and activist Said Naggar passed away after a long and productive life. I remember Naggar from a time I visited with him in Cairo, and through my recollection of discussions I held with Egyptian colleagues on the challenges and problems facing the Arab …

Rami G. Khouri

Where columnist David Brooks went wrong

David Brooks’ column in the Sunday issue of The New York Times deserves a few thoughts from a colleague who has generally admired his work, but finds him now reflecting the troubling intellectual and ideological gap between the United States and the Arab world. One of the grave new threats facing both sides is the …

Rami G. Khouri

When Arab security chiefs conduct foreign policy

Two intriguing meetings took place this past week in the Arab world. In Egypt, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the intelligence services directors of four Arab states – Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Just days later, Arab heads of state met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for their annual …

Rami G. Khouri

Rice's show: Is it comedy or horror?

I sensed something was slightly unreal about the Jordanian capital Amman when I was there on Monday. The distorted reality, I quickly discovered, reflected the presence in town of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose Middle East diplomatic efforts increasingly look like a self-deceiving world of mirrors and make-believe. As she intensified the elusive …

Rami G. Khouri

Iraq's curse: homegrown brutality and foreign abuse

The fourth anniversary of the American-led war on Iraq this week has generated considerable analysis of the prospects for Iraqi stability, security and well-being. Most of what we read and hear is unsatisfying, because it examines the last four years in Iraq, and sees the country mainly through the lens of America’s presence and priorities. …

Rami G. Khouri

A new chance for Islamists in Palestine and Lebanon?

Mark this third week of March 2007 as potentially a historic moment of clarity on one of the most important political questions in the contemporary Arab world: How will the troubled, turbulent Middle East make the transition from dictatorship and autocracy to more democratic, accountable systems of government, while Islamist movements are the most popular …

Rami G. Khouri

Grand Bargain or Great Gabfest?

It is not a coincidence that serious political talks are taking place simultaneously these days between top Lebanese political foes, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the United States and each of Syria and Iran, Israelis and Palestinians, the Europeans and Syria, and, directly or indirectly, Israel and Saudi Arabia. For the past three years, since the …

Rami G. Khouri

Give Israelis peace, but take from them

Traveling from Beirut to Cairo on Monday, I read Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s statement that it was impossible for Israel to accept the 2002 Arab Summit peace initiative in its current version. I thought what a shame it was that she could not make the same trip as I had just made – between …

Rami G. Khouri

Enough gladiator games, the Middle East must talk

Suddenly; the diplomatic season seems to have broken out all over the Middle East. The main players perhaps have seen the looming catastrophe that hovers over this region, and decided to pull back from the brink. The most important meeting is the one this weekend between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. …

Rami G. Khouri