John McCaslin

Iraqi journalists attending a workshop in Jordan last week faulted fellow journalists, including Arab reporters, for concentrating too heavily on negative stories in their country.

Meanwhile, a senior Jordanian official told The Beltway Beat in an interview in Amman that peace and stability will not arrive overnight in Iraq, despite pressure on the Bush administration by some in the United States to make it happen.

"Yes, there is destruction, but it is not all," Haider Zubeidi, director of Basra-based Shat Al Arab Radio, told the assembled journalists.

As quoted in the Jordan Times, he cited Iraq's "media boom" as one of many positive results of the U.S.-led invasion to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"For decades, Iraq has seen only one-party, one-color media," said Zubeidi, noting there are now "more than 120 radio stations in Iraq, including 15 in the south, and about 70 newspapers."

Akel Biltaji, adviser to King Abdullah II of Jordan, sat down with this columnist in the outskirts of Amman this past weekend and stressed that the reconstruction of Iraq - both physical and political - won't happen as fast as some in the West propose.

"We feel Iraq needs another 10 to 15 years," said Biltaji, whose country is bordered by the conflicts in Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon-Syria and Saudi Arabia.

"Jordan always warned our allies in the United States that it would take some time," Biltaji continued. "Look, it took the United States some 200 years to realize full democracy - do you remember the 1960s and civil rights? And yet we are expected to do it overnight? You can't.

"It's a process," he stressed. "Give (the Arab world) time to educate ourselves."

In a separate interview near Amman, Princess Basma Bint Talal, the only sister of the late King Hussein, who has worked on human development issues globally for more than three decades, told this column that she remains cautiously optimistic about Iraq's future but pleads for patience.

"It's fashionable to talk about 'sudden change.' But it is premature to say sudden. It is an evolving process," the princess says.

"The one positive thing we do have now which we did not before is a global consciousness of the Middle East," she says. "I do hope and pray that things settle down in Iraq, but it is going to take time."

HISTORIC EITHER WAY

Republican sources in Washington tell The Beltway Beat that Michael Steele - the first black ever to be elected to statewide office in Maryland and, since 2003, the first-ever Republican lieutenant governor of the state - will seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Maryland's longest serving senator.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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