Politics & Policy

Regional Renewal

If we stay the course, a new world is emerging.

Rep. John Murtha and his fellow Democrats are demanding we pull our forces out of Iraq immediately, before Iraqis are ready to defend themselves. They argue that the U.S. mission in the Middle East has failed and is turning the region against us.

They have it exactly backwards. Despite a long, hard year, we have much to be thankful for in the Middle East, and if we stay the course, we will be out soon.

Millions of Iraqis= have showed their defiance of the insurgents by risking their lives to vote for pro-democracy leaders and by approving their new democratic constitution, by a margin of 78 percent to 21 percent. On December 15, millions more will bravely show up at the polls to vote for a constitutional government despite the jihadists doing everything within their power to stop the elections from occurring.

What’s more, the insurgency is motivating tens of thousands of Iraqi men to sign up to serve in their country’s military and police forces and to train with–rather than against–U.S., NATO, Jordanian, and other coalition forces. Why? Because they desperately want to defend their families, friends, neighbors, and villages from the jihadists and give their children hope for a better life. Indeed, when it comes to recruiting for the Iraqi military, U.S. Colonel Peter Mansoor, former commander of the First Brigade of the First Armored Division in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, says, “We don’t have to convince Iraqis to show up . . . they show up in droves.”

Consider, too, what has just happened in Jordan. I have been in the Middle East since November 7 and have had the opportunity to express my condolences to a number of Jordanians–including the former prime minister and a leading evangelical pastor from Amman–after the worst terror attack in their country’s history. What has struck me from is how differently they and their countrymen are reacting to the recent al-Qaeda-sponsored bombings compared to, say, the Spanish.

Jordanians are angry–furious, to be more precise–and they should be. But the primary target of their ire is not their own government or ours. They aren’t trying to overthrow their king or drive all U.S. forces, advisors, and contractors out of the Hashemine Kingdom. Instead, they are furious at the al-Qaeda leadership for targeting innocent Arab Muslims, and a new public opinion poll shows how sharply sentiment has turned against the radical Islamic jihadists.

“Almost two thirds of Jordanians have changed their views of al Qaeda for the worse following suicide bombings against Amman hotels that killed more than 50 people last week,” finds a poll just published by Reuters. “The poll of 1,014 people published by independent Al Ghad newspaper also said 87.1 percent of respondents considered al Qaeda a ‘terrorist organisation’ and that 86.4 percent said the group’s attacks did not represent Islam. The poll by survey firm Ipsos did not provide a comparative figure, but in the past surveys had showed that al Qaeda enjoyed high approval ratings in Jordan. . . . Asked if last week’s attacks had changed their view of al Qaeda, 64 percent of respondents said it had changed for the worse while 2.1 percent said it had changed for the better. 31.9 percent said they had not changed their views.”

Even the family of terrorist leader Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, which lives in Jordan where al-Zarqawi himself was born and raised, denounced him and his barbaric activities in no uncertain terms. “A Jordanian doesn’t stab himself with his own spear,” said a statement by 57 members of al-Zarqawi’s family, including his brother and cousin. “We sever links with him until doomsday.”

This is an extraordinarily important development, and speaks to a larger trend throughout the Muslim world. As al Qaeda and its allies kill, maim,and wound innocent Arab Muslims and Christians in Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, and elsewhere, the jihadists are losing the battle for public opinion in the region and mobilizing moderate populations and moderate Islamic regimes to side more clearly with the U.S. and to fight radical Islam with even more vigor. Indeed, al-Zarqawi received so much pressure from the Jordanian people that he finally felt compelled to issue a statement insisting that he wasn’t trying to target Muslims.

In Lebanon, the Syrian-directed assassination of that country’s former moderate prime minister, Rafik Hariri, triggered a massive Lebanese backlash against Syria’s terror regime, forcing Damascus to withdraw its forces amidst international condemnation (even from the French). This week, Lebanon celebrated its first Independence Day in more than three decades without foreign troops on its soil.

The war on radical Islam in the Middle East has not been easy, and it is not yet done. We have suffered real casualties and American families who have lost loved ones are suffering real grief this holiday season. But we have much to be thankful for.

Why then are Congressman Murtha and his colleagues so eager to give up and call our mission a failure when the tide is finally turning our way?

Joel C. Rosenberg is the author of three New York Times best-selling political thrillers. His most recent is The Ezekiel Option. He is currently working on a non-fiction book about the future of the Middle East.


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