Two moving imagescaught my eye after the handover of formal
sovereignty to an interim authority in Iraq last week.
One was President Bush's scribbled note - "Let Freedom Reign!" -
on the message Condi Rice sent into a meeting of NATO leaders in
Istanbul to inform him that the handover was complete.
The other, a day later, was a picture in The New York Times of
two young Iraqi women, both lawyers, working for the Ministry of
Electricity in Baghdad. Their faces are vibrant and smiling. Their
joy is evident. "Even the work is very beautiful today," one said.
"The Americans are still in control. But soon we will have
Let's hope this is a portent of things to come. Iraqis are freed
of Saddam Hussein's long, dark tyranny. They have the opportunity to
move in the direction of democracy, perhaps with bumps along the
road, and possibly ending in a kind of democracy that is not
necessarily as we understand it in the West.
But the Iraqis are taking control of their destiny. Their tough
new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, has moved swiftly to bring Hussein
and his top lieutenants to trial on war crimes charges - a dramatic
early assertion of the interim government's authority. Such activity
would appear to be working to Mr. Bush's political advantage. Sen.
John Kerry, his Democratic opponent in the presidential election,
has supported the US war in Iraq, but faulted Bush's handling of the
Now, however, the president seems to have fulfilled most of
Senator Kerry's requirements. He has indicated willingness to send
additional US troops, initiated a training program to involve more
Iraqis in security operations, sought and gained the approval of the
United Nations, appealed to allies and NATO to share the
reconstruction burden in Iraq, and now established the sovereignty
of Iraqis over their own country.
On the face of it, unless Kerry embraces a far left Ralph Nader-
Howard Dean-type posture of criticism of the Iraqi policy - which
would alienate centrist voters - the senator would seem to have lost
traction on the Iraq issue.
Whatever the impact of all this on the American presidential
election, the more tantalizing prospect is what developments in Iraq
over the next few months may mean for the rest of the Arab world. It
is early yet to suggest that Iraq can emerge as the inspiration for
reform and parallel movement toward democracy in the Middle East,
and perhaps in other Muslim lands. …