UN Security Council Resolution 1559 set up an inquiry commission to investigate former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri's murder after a UN fact-finding mission found that Lebanon's own investigation was flawed.

It also criticised Syria for creating a climate of tension before the huge blast on the Beirut seafront that also killed 21 other people.

On the question of foreign involvement in the investigation into al-Hariri's killing, Arab thinkers, politicians and intellectuals point out that there are some assassinations that have remained unsolved or mired in mystery.

For example, there is the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the African nationalist leader and the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (June-September 1960), who was killed under mysterious circumstances.

And there are some who believe the assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy were never been fully resolved.

Furthermore, statements such as "Lebanese citizens who have watched free elections in Iraq are now demanding the right to decide their own destiny, free of Syrian control and domination" made by US President George Bush in March, have provoked resentment in some Arabs who question others' right to speak on their behalf.

Double standards

Why, they ask, when it comes to Arabs, should the whole world be involved?

Bakri: Why did foreign troops not 
leave Iraq before elections?

Egyptian presidential candidate Nawal al-Sadawi says Arab countries have never tried to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

"We never said there should be a foreign commission to investigate the murders of Kennedy and King. We never interfered in their internal issues," she told Aljazeera.net. 

UN Security Council Resolution 1559 calls for an end to foreign military presence in Lebanon and the disarming of all militias.

The US wants Syria out of Lebanon before Lebanese elections, and stresses that there is no point in holding national elections with foreign troops still in the country.

Mustafa Bakri, editor of Al-Osbou weekly magazine, says he wants to know why the same did not apply for Iraq.

"Why were there 140,000 US soldiers in addition to thousands of other foreign troops in Iraq when the elections were held?" he asked in an interview with Aljazeera.net.

Disagreement

Arabs disagree on who is to blame for their setbacks, the inability to fully invest their resources and the slow development in their countries.

"The occupation of Iraq, the interference in Lebanon's internal issues, and the way the UN has been dealing with the Sudanese issue [of Darfur] are clear indications of double standards"

Mustafa Bakri,
editor of Al-Osbou magazine

Some blame the West and Israel for targeting them, and say the hands of those powers have continuously interfered in every detail of the Arabs' affairs.

On the other hand, there are Arab thinkers who believe the problem lies with Arabs themselves, accusing their communities of being lazy, dependent on the West, and corrupt.

The debate has grown since the recent wave of US calls for reform in the Arab world.

The calls have been seen by some Arabs as just another example of Western powers' arrogance - thinking they have the right to impose their model of political life on Arab countries.

They say they are evidence that there is a conspiracy to control Arabs.

Those who do not believe in the conspiracy say reforms are welcome regardless of their source, and blame Arabs for failing to apply effective changes to remedy their current hardships.

Internal weakness

Wahid Hamid, an Egyptian thinker at Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies in Cairo, Egypt, believes politics cannot be free from a belief in conspiracies, but that it cannot be held wholly responsible for a nation's problems.

Al-Sadawi: Foreign powers help
Arab rulers suppress their citizens

"I think we should simply imagine any community as a human body. Illness happens because there is an internal weakness. If your body is healthy, then it has enough immunity to fight diseases," he said.

"The same thing applies for any nation or community, I believe that our Arab nation's crisis is internal, and because we suffer internal weakness, foreign powers have been seizing the opportunity to steer our destiny according to their interests."

Seeking domination

Bakri says the opposite, believing the West has conspired against the Arab world.

"The conspiracy against us is so clear in Western officials' statements. What can we understand from constant calls for change and reform? Isn't that a clear indication that those powers are seeking domination?" Bakri asked.

"I think we should simply imagine any community as a human body. Illness happens because there is an internal weakness. If your body is healthy, then it has enough immunity to fight diseases"

Wahid Hamid,
Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies in Egypt 

"The occupation of Iraq, the interference in Lebanon's internal issues, and the way the UN has been dealing with the Sudanese issue [of Darfur] are clear indications of double standards."

Al-Sadawi believes internal and external factors should never be dealt with separately.

"Our internal hardships with our governments cannot be separated from outside pressures to keep the state of chaos and hindrance in our countries," she says.

"It is true that our rulers are the direct suppressors, but who is giving them power? Is it not their alliance with international superpowers?"