Iraqi violence, emerging Middle-Eastern democracies and democratic Lebanon relations, were some of the themes discussed by the Middle Eastern Affairs Forum yesterday. The forum meets every two weeks to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The "Ramadi Madness" video, featuring U.S. National Guard soldiers in acts of brutality on the battlefield, has raised the prospect of more torture perpetrated by US soldiers in Iraq.

Joel Gordon, UA history professor, thought the video illustrated some of the problems that U.S. soldiers are facing in Iraq, he said. Gordon thought that the video was indicative of problems soldiers have had fighting terrorists in foreign lands, he said.

It has its parallels in the French experience in Algeria, where the French were ordered to torture the Algerians, and the American experience in Vietnam, where soldiers faced stress fighting as an occupying force in a foreign country, Gordon said.

Najib Ghadbian, UA political science professor, spoke about how the Iraqi vice-president position is to be announced in April.

Ghadbian discussed how the Sunnis are not engaged in the Iraqi assembly or society and how Ahmed Chalabi is once again reemerging as a national hero and serious candidate for the office of Prime Minister.

The election has not made any difference in improving the security situation in Iraq, and the terrorist Zarkawi is still at large and is more important to capture than Osama Bin-Laden, Ghadbian said.

"The winds of democracy are wafting over all of the Middle East," said Adnan Haydar, UA professor and featured guest of the Middle Eastern Affairs Forum.

Haydar, who is Lebanese, brought a native perspective to the recent events in Lebanon. He discussed the emergence of democracy in Lebanon through the demonstrations over the past week.

Haydar touched upon many of the issues that are important to Lebanon, including how the Syrians will achieve a dignified exit, the importance of disarming militias, the democratic tradition in Lebanon and the Lebanese support of Hezbollah.

The consensus government that balances the influence of Christians and Moslems by splitting representation 50-50 is uniquely Lebanese, he said.

"What makes Lebanon great is the 50/50 government, it makes Lebanon the only real democracy in the region," Haydar said. "As a Lebanese I have a great deal of hope and joy in my heart."

The forum concluded by Haydar discussing the role of the United States in the region.

"The only issue for all Arabs is to produce a Palestinian state that is able to live and thrive next to Israel, if President Bush can do that he will go down in history a great man," he said.

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