There have been many positive developments in the Middle East over the last 8 years, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a recent interview. Most significant is the fact that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. "And while Iraqis are struggling with their new democracy," said Secretary Rice, "they are now a multiconfessional, multiethnic, democratic state."
The Middle East remains a difficult region in many ways, said Secretary of State Rice, not least because of the radical Islamic groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaida that continue to threaten the democratic progress that has been achieved. Nevertheless, she said, the Middle East is now "seeing extremism exposed in ways that it was undercover preparing for September 11th [terrorist attacks on the United States]." As a result, many Muslims are turning their backs on radical Islamic groups, said Secretary of State Rice.
A case in point is al-Qaida in Iraq. While the terrorist group remains dangerous, al-Qaida is well on its way to defeat in Iraq, because the Iraqi people rose up against them. In addition, Iraqi troops are demonstrating that they are increasingly capable of protecting the Iraqi people from extremists, including the so-called Special Groups, Shiite extremist militias trained and supported by Iran.
The fact that the security forces of Iraq are going to be under the control of a democratic government, said Secretary of State Rice, will enable Iraq to be both a "bulwark against undue Iranian influence in the region, and a strong partner for the other states of the region." A stable and democratic Iraq could be a catalyst for reform and change throughout the Middle East.
The change that has taken place in Iraq is proof that democratic reform in the Middle East is possible. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "I hope that no one will ever again say that the Middle East is a place where people don't desire a democratic future, that somehow the Middle East is different, that it's an exception to the rule that human beings desire the dignity of being able to choose those who will govern them, to being able to say what they think, of being able to worship freely." America will always stand for those who desire freedom.