Reporters on the Job

Even US Mideast Friends Worried: Staff writer Scott Peterson researched the special report "Shiites Rising" over six months exploring the roots of the Shiite-led "axis of resistance" in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon (see story). He heard endless criticism about the United States – the chief target of that axis.

Some themes were familiar. As a veteran Middle East correspondent who first covered the region in 1990, Scott had heard them countless times before: Why is a superpower like the US jeopardizing its foreign policy to defend tiny Israel? Why won't the US allow Iran to have nuclear power? When are the "occupiers" of Iraq going to leave, and the killing stop?

As an American journalist, it's not getting any easier to operate in the area. The US has long been a favorite punching bag in the region – second only to the Jewish state. But Scott was struck, too, by the fresh expressions of real concern, and a sense of alienation, among would-be friends of the US.

"I have a complaint about the American people," Sheikh Hani Fahs, a Shiite cleric in Beirut who is well known for forging Christian-Muslim dialogue in Lebanon, told Scott during a long interview.

Until then, the conversation had focused on the chances of civil war in Lebanon, the Shiite mind-set, and Sheikh Fahs's own past close contact with the leader of Iran's 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. But peering at Scott through thick glasses, the cleric had something else on his mind, too.

"You [Americans] used to elect presidents who were enemies, but were sane. Now you have become as insane as we are," said Fahs, with more than a hint of sadness. "The Americans compliment moderation, but they feed and nurture extremism," he continued. "I've been asked five times to go to the US, but I'm not going to go because they have divided the world into two: We're either an enemy or an agent. They don't accept friends."

– David Clark Scott
World editor

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