Thursday, June 30, 2011

Speaking Arabic

Yesterday, the French ambassador read a statement in Arabic with a North African accent.  All Russian diplomats who deal with the Middle East speak Arabic fluently.  The former Chinese ambassador to Lebanon was a woman who had a PhD in Arabic literature.  The British ambassador in Beirut speaks Arabic.  This is the most powerful and richest (used to be) country in the world.  We spent billions on the foreign service. Why can't this country produce Arabic speaking diplomats?  Jeffrey Feltman's Arabic does not exceed five words that he uses when the cameras are around to give impression that he can speak the language.  It has not been this way.  US diplomats in the region used to speak Arabic: Richard P Parker's Arabic was outstanding: I was able to talk to him about Arabic grammar.  Richard Murphy did interviews in Arabic and his Arabic had a nice Aleppo accent (he told me that unlike the rest, he did not study in Shimlan--there is an interesting book about "they spies school" in Shimlan).  And the US ambassador in Beirut today can't speak Arabic either.