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Stop Looking for 'Moderate' Shiites and Address Interests

Friday, May 30, 2008

Even those in America who call for a more humble American foreign policy and recognize the need to listen to foreign populations and global public opinion persist in deploying at every possible moment the most patronizing of monikers in describing their preferred allies: "moderate."

Over the past eight years, the condescending label of moderate has been applied to a variety of potential interlocutors in regional conflicts -- with never a positive result. Negotiations with so-called "moderate Taliban" proved a failure; Taliban interests and unity certainly outweighed any incentives the U.S.-backed Karzai regime could muster. The much lauded effort in Iraq's Anbar province to work with "moderate Sunni" may also backfire: Al-Qaida in Iraq has been weakened, but there has been no political progress on the national level and, thanks to U.S. weapons, the Anbar Sunnis are now armed to the teeth. Then there was the arming of the "moderate Palestinians" of Fatah over the "militants" of Hamas, which made the latter even more merciless in its takeover of Gaza, splintering the Palestinian state both geographically and politically. ...

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