August 18th, 2014
11:03 AM ET

What Middle East moderates?

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

Over the last decade, the United States helped organize Iraq's “moderates” – the Shiite-dominated government – gave them tens of billions of dollars in aid and supplied and trained their army. But, it turned out, the moderates weren't that moderate and they turned authoritarian and sectarian. Sunni opposition movements grew and jihadi opposition groups, like ISIS, gained tacit or active support from the population.

This is a familiar pattern throughout the region.

For decades now, American foreign policy in the Middle East has been to support “moderates.” Great, the only problem is there are actually very few moderates. The Arab world is going through a bitter, sectarian struggle that is, “carrying the Islamic world back to the dark ages,” says Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul. In these circumstances moderates either become extremists or they lose out in the brutal power struggles of the day. Look at Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian territories.

The Middle East has been trapped for decades between repressive dictatorships and illiberal opposition groups – between Hosni Mubarak and al Qaeda – leaving little space in between. The dictators try to shut down all opposition movements, and the ones that survive are vengeful, religious, and violent. There was an opening for moderates after the Arab Spring in 2011 and 2012, but it rapidly closed.

The best example is Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood had a chance to govern inclusively but refused. Then, without waiting for vindication at the polls, Egypt's old dictatorship rose up and now bans and jails the Brotherhood and other opposition forces.

All this leads to an underground and violent opposition.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. palintwit

    Sarah Palin = Piece of Sh!t

    August 18, 2014 at 11:07 am | Reply
    • So True

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      August 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Reply
      • palintwit

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        August 19, 2014 at 4:27 am |
    • islamwit

      Mohammed = Piece of Sh!t

      August 19, 2014 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      Sarah Palin is a fine, upstanding woman, and she deserves respect.
      I did not vote for her when she campaigned for national office, but she says many things that every USA citizen needs to consider.
      So does her successor, Mr. Ryan, for whom I did not vote.
      Campaigns address many issues, but Republicans are generally correct in their economic principles.

      August 20, 2014 at 7:40 am | Reply
      • palintwit

        Bwahahahahahahahahahah... bwahahahahahah !!!!!

        August 20, 2014 at 10:15 am |
      • So True

        Now THAT's FUNNY!!!! No matter who you are!!!!!!

        August 20, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
  2. Larry

    Moderate Muslims are a rare species. Majority of Muslims support and finance terrorism. That is why there are so many Muslim terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Al Shabab, etc. all over the world.

    August 18, 2014 at 11:56 am | Reply
  3. Recycle Bin

    You mean – what muslim moderates?

    August 18, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Reply
  4. The

    The "middle east moderates" are a rare as a "compassionate republican". So rare in fact that no one have ever seen one.

    August 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ The:
      Most Republicans are very compassionate. Perhaps you don't know any Republicans.

      August 21, 2014 at 7:57 am | Reply
  5. Indra

    The moderates are in southeast asia, turkey, ... middle east inherits lots non religion based problem (ethnic tensions,illogical borders, foreign powers playing proxy war,etc).Trying to frame the middle east problem as islam related problem is rather simplistic.

    August 18, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • Jose G.

      Turkey Muslims carried out one of the most horrendous genocides in history – they killed millions of Armenians just because they were Christians. Muslims in Turkey are not moderates.
      Taliban in south asia is shooting girls like Malala in Pakistan just because they want to go to school. These Muslims are not moderates at all.

      August 19, 2014 at 11:10 am | Reply
    • Ben

      It is not a middle east problem. It is a Muslim problem with roots in the Koran. After reading the Koran, nobody can be a moderate.

      August 19, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  6. Ferhat Balkan

    When you invade a country, remove it's leader and install a puppet government, you invite extremist groups. Saddam was a brutal dictator, but he maintained order and there were no terrorists in Iraq at the time. With the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq, the US planted the seeds of anarchy, violence and eventual turn to extremism. The Sunni minority was left at the mercy of the largely Shia led government of Iraq and they were oppressed ever since. What did the US really expect? You take away the law, you give the oppressed people weapons and you install a weak government that doesn't serve the interests of the people. What do you think will happen to Texas if you bombed them, took away law enforcement, fed them weapons and left them to fend for themselves? Do you really think that the right wing extremist groups will not rise up? The US should've never gotten involved in Iraq. This is the very reason why we see ISIS there today.

    August 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • Allan Kinsman©

      You have a good question,"what did you expect"? I think that is an essential question. I believe what they expected was someone easier to get their oil from. It didn't work out and won't. A failure in foreign policy no doubt but a continued failure in perception of the issues. It really goes to our over all relationship with others and to our deep penatrating problems at home which contnue to be ignored by the body politic and the media.

      August 18, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  7. Flores

    The basic foundation of Islam rests in extremism and terrorism. Moderates routinely get wiped out by mainstream Islam. ISIS Sunni Muslims have killed thousands of moderate Shiites in Iraq. Pakistani Sunni Muslims are burning the houses of moderate Ahmadi Muslims. Islam has no room for moderates or basic human values. Islam is built on a foundation of genocide, extremism and terrorism.

    August 18, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Reply
    • Jose G.


      August 19, 2014 at 11:10 am | Reply
  8. George patton

    What Middle East "moderates" you ask? There aren't any, just the so-called "extremists" and those who wish to sell out to the West!!!

    August 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  9. chri§§y

    @ Ferhat and @ Alan...expectation generally leads to disappointment! And Iraq is a prime example of what makes that statement true!

    August 18, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  10. chri§§y

    Sorry @ Allan for spelling your name incorrect!

    August 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  11. raven

    History will show that the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan was a major global error.
    Sorry Mr. Bush, but President Obama cannot clean your mess. We are still paying the price as will our children.

    August 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  12. bobcat2u

    This reminds me of a joke.

    August 18, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  13. Commenter

    It is the corruption Mam.
    In Egypt, the Western world – in particular the US – let democracy fails by refusing to call a coup a coup and permitting the military to depose Mr. Morsi with other words giving it “NO PROBLEM SIGN”. Now, whatever hopes there were to create a stable democracy are set back by years, if not decades.

    The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) overplayed its hand in Egypt. On the other hand, there is little doubt that it was fighting against a CONCERTED, SECRET CAMPAIGN to undermine its government and make it impossible for it to govern effectively. The military helped orchestrate the liberal protests several months ago that served as the pretext for the coup. And now the same corrupt, venal figures are back in power, killing MB supporters and doing everything they can to push the MB into extremism by showing that playing by the rules of democracy does not work. And, of course, one of the first things the new govt does is declare it illegal for a government to be overthrown by public protests, ridiculous isn’t it?

    Egyptians could have ousted Mr. Morsi and the MB at the next election. That would have given democracy in Egypt a real shot in the arm. Instead, corruption will persist for some time to come. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt that the unsustainable remains unsustainable until it becomes sustainable.

    August 18, 2014 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  14. chri§§y

    Lol yea @ bobcat, but this one doesnt have a punch line!

    August 18, 2014 at 7:41 pm | Reply
  15. chri§§y

    @ Commenter i was just wondering earlier, How could Egypt be so qualified to negotiate the cease-fire between Israel and Palestine after having that coup implemented in their country? If ever there was a reason for disqualification, i would think a coup would be it, wouldnt you?

    August 18, 2014 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  16. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    These so-called "moderates" that the right-wing news media talks about are those elitists who put themselves on the payroll of the West in order to increase their wealth. While they think "Allah Akbar" , they think "Capitalism Akbar-er"! In other words, these people are in it for themselves rather than Islam.

    August 19, 2014 at 8:38 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ My Troll,
      Please! Do not blaspheme and sign my name.
      Muslims say, "Allahu Akbar," not what you wrote.

      August 20, 2014 at 8:02 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        @ My Troll:
        There is nothing wrong with "elitists," to quote your term, which reminds me of Spiro Agnew's "effete snobs."
        You must have been a fan of Agnew's...or were you born by then?

        August 20, 2014 at 9:45 am |
  17. Tim

    Fareed is stating the obvious. There are plenty of murderous thugs in Islam. We never get to see any moderate Muslims who are out on streets protesting against the genocide on non-Muslims by ISIS or Boko Haram or Taliban.

    August 19, 2014 at 9:12 am | Reply
    • Jose G.

      A 7-year old Muslim boy holds a severed head of an innocent non-Muslim as his father cheers on. These Muslim people can not be called moderates even by a long shot. Muslim parents teach their kids hatred from early childhood. These children can not grow up to become moderates.

      August 19, 2014 at 11:06 am | Reply
  18. chri§§y

    That does NOT mean all muslems are like that. Just as ALL christians are NOT kooks! Enough of them but NOT ALL!

    August 19, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Reply
    • Tim

      That is exactly Fareed's point. Moderate Muslims are very few – almost non-existent. Almost all Muslims are terrorists or extremists but not all.

      August 19, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  19. chri§§y

    I understand that @ Tim. I was responding to the 2 bloggers posting before me.

    August 19, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  20. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I know many Muslims. Not even one of them is a terrorist.
    "Extremists?" How o you define "extremist?"
    An extreme Muslim would be very devout, always praying at appointed times wherever he is, submitting to the will of Allah, and bringing peace.
    I know Muslims who are extreme in that manner: very good people.

    August 20, 2014 at 8:18 am | Reply
  21. chri§§y

    @ Joey, while i agree that it isnt quite right to make fun of Sarah Palin i dont agree that she "deserves" our respect. She hasnt earned it, in fact shes done the opposite! The things she has said about the POTUS has earned ridicule if anything!

    August 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ chrissy,
      I didn't say that Palin was perfect, but I do say that she has earned my respect. I disagree with her on some issues.
      You know how strongly I support Obama. Someone who dislikes Obama is not automatically my enemy.
      HILLARY 2016!

      August 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  22. John Stidd

    Looks like the Caliph over-reached. Beheading the American, gave the US no way to withdraw from the airstrikes once the immediate goals were attained. Active US involvement now, even if only from the air will make ISIL a less successful recruiter of young talent, as Al-Queda will likely benefit from the lack of similar attention. The goal of displacing the new Iraq government has been less attainable near term. Iran watches as America does its dirty work.

    August 20, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  23. chri§§y

    I didnt say you had to agree with me or disagree @ Joey. Up until her latest national outburst about Obama i thought she was quite amusing in fact! Its just been lately shes acted like a bratty child having tantrums. And i dont find that amusing or worthy of my respect. Same as the "child" posting the kindergarten name calling at her expense! I find them both similar behaviour!

    August 20, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  24. John Stidd

    Will Khaled Meshaal be the next Yasser Arafat?

    August 21, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  25. We caused the muslim moderates to evaporate

    When America decided to cross the Iraq border illegally, in March 2003, and murder thousands of Iraqis, and displace or render homeless, millions of Iraqis, and completely destroy their nation, on false pretexts and trumped up charges, we created some very very very angry Muslims. Iraqis that were once moderate, and even showed some love for America, turned into people that hate us. We caused the Muslim moderates in the middle-east to evaporate. And now we wonder what happened to them??????????? Are we that dumb????????????

    August 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Reply
    • how else can war mongers stay busy?

      Good comment. One way to look at it (a rather sick way albeit!) is that: first America creates the Muslims extremists by bombing the crap out of any muslim nation it feels like......... and then, boy do they have their hands full............ trying to vanquish those "sicko" muslim extremists that seem to be sprouting up all over the place............ amazing stuff............. think about it............. how else can the war mongering Americans keep themselves so busy and so profitable?????? Over US $ 10 trillion of precious hard earned US tax payer money has been wasted on this amazing "war on terror" since 1990........... while a few 100 CEO's within the US military industrial complex became billionaires and the nation sank into US $ 18 trillion of national debt!!!!!!!!!

      August 25, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Reply
    • how else can war mongers stay busy?

      you work really hard to create the problem....... and then you work really hard to "solve" the problem............... and all the while your sneaky, greasy, murdering, lying, cheating, grubby paw, is in the wallet of the naive American taxpayer............. and the "debt" keeps on piling up .............. sickening............. 😦

      August 25, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  26. chri§§y

    Well wait til you see what they have in store for us "hard working taxpayers that are against war" after they have used us up! It aint peaches and creme thats for sure!

    August 25, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Reply
  27. Brigham Young

    America = out of control 800 lb Gorilla.......... Ha! Ha! Ha!.......... and it's a purdy dumb gorilla at that......... swatting mozzies in the desert, while Asia laughs all the way to the bank........... boink! boink! boink!............ gotta get those mozzies............. boink! boink! boink!........ oooops, run outta cash, never mind that............... boink! boink! boink!............. oh crap, have no jobs, never mind that............ boink! boink! boink!............ oh dear! half our country lives in poverty, never mind that............ boink! boink! boink!.......... sheeesh! half our people are divorced and on drugs, never mind that............ boink! boink! boink!.......... Yes Sir! gotta keep those war mongers rich rich rich.......... boink! boink! boink!........ shame on us Americans, who cannot see how low we have sunk................ 😦

    September 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Reply

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