Amir Taheri on the Left in the Middle East:
Before the US-led intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003, much of the left in the Middle East shared the views of its American and European counterparts with regard to the United States.
“We looked to the left in the West and imitated it,” says Awad Nasir, one of Iraq’s best-known poets and a lifelong Communist. “We heard from the US and Western Europe that being left meant being anti-American. So we were anti-American. And then we saw Americans coming from the other side of the world to save us from Saddam Hussein, something that our leftist friends and the Soviet Union would never contemplate.”
Mustafa Kazemi, spokesman for the new Afghan front expresses similar sentiments. “Our nation is still facing the menace of obscurantism and terror from Taleban and Al-Qaeda,” he says. “Thus, we are surprised when elements of the left in the US and Europe campaign for withdrawal so that our new democracy is left defenseless against its enemies.”
For his part, [Walid] Jumblatt, the Lebanese leader, says he realized that his lifelong anti-Americanism had been misplaced when he saw “long lines of people, waiting to vote in Iraq, in the first free election in an Arab country.”
Samir Qassir, the Lebanese center-left leader, often spoke of anti-Americanism as “the last refuge of the scoundrel” in the Middle East.
“Politics is always a question of choice,” Qassir said in one of the articles before he was killed in a car bomb in Beirut on June 2, 2005. “Here in the Middle East we face a choice between democracy and alliance with the US on one hand and surrender to religious fanatics and terrorists on the other.”
Iraq’s parties of the left were shocked when the new Socialist government in Spain decided to withdraw from the US-led coalition in 2004.
“We had hoped that with a party of the left in power in Madrid we would get more support against the Islamofascists not a withdrawal,” says Aziz Al-Haj, the veteran Iraqi Communist leader.
Tareq Al-Hashemi, vice president of Iraq, has also gambled his impeccable progressive record on the success of the pluralist experiment in his country.
“Our enemy is Al-Qaeda, not the United States,” he says.
Skimming through Middle Eastern press these days could produce unexpected results. It is not rare to see a virulently anti-American article by an American or Western European leftist appearing on the same page of a newspaper alongside a pro-American article from an Arab, Iranian or Afghan progressive figure.
In Iran, for example, Hussein Shariatmadari, the ultra Islamist editor of the daily newspaper Kayhan and a theoretician of the extreme right, often admiringly cites such American leftist figures as Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Jane Fonda...
“Anti-Americanism is a luxury we cannot afford in the Middle East,” says Adnan Hussein, a leftist Iraq writer recently picked by the Financial Times as one of the 50 most influential columnists in the world. “Blinded by anti-Americanism, the left in the West ends up on the same side as religious fascists and despots.”