During his first term, President Bush repeatedly promised that an invasion of Iraq would set off a rush for democracy in the Middle East. From a speech on Nov. 6, 2003:
Iraqi democracy will succeed — and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran — that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.
That vision hasn’t come to fruition. The Bush administration has even had to lower its expectations for political success in Iraq. It is no longer aiming for “reconciliation” between Iraq’s sectarian groups, instead going for “accommodation.”
Not only is Iraq not inspiring democracy around the Middle East, but officials are too “busy” repairing their country to participate in the rest of Bush’s “freedom agenda.” During today’s press briefing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that while Iraqi officials were invited to attend the Bush administration’s Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, MD, this week, they “decided not to come” because they “have a lot of issues on their plate.” Watch it:
Labid Abawi, Undersecretary for Political Affairs in the Iraqi foreign ministry, confirmed that the “reasons” for Iraq’s absence had to do with “the busy schedule of the officials concerned.”
QUESTION: But the fact that you have all these Arab leaders in town — does it make Iran look more isolated?
PERINO: Well, I think Iran has decided to isolate itself. By their words and their actions they continue to, unfortunately for their own people, make themselves more isolated from the rest of the world.
Yesterday was a significant moment, not just because President Olmert and Prime Minister Abbas were able to forge an agreement about launching these negotiations but because they were roundly supported by over 40 countries that had joined them, including Arab nations. And so that was important.
QUESTION: And Iraq did not come. Why? And what significance does that…
PERINO: Well, they certainly were invited. I think that, obviously, they have a lot of issues on their plate, but they decided not to come. And it was unfortunate, but, obviously, they would have been invited.
QUESTION: Do you know the reason why they wouldn’t?
PERINO: I don’t.
QUESTION: I know they have a lot of issues on their plate, but…
PERINO: Beyond them being very busy, I don’t know. I’d have to refer you to them.