Copyright (c) 2008 The Daily Star
Saturday, May 24, 2008
A new Middle East, but not Condi's
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
The Doha agreement that resolved the immediate political crisis in Lebanon is the latest example of the new political power equation that is redefining the Middle East. It reflects both local and global forces and, 18 years after the Cold War ended, provides a glimpse of what a post-Cold War world will look like, at least in the Middle East.
Several dynamics seem to be at play, but one is paramount: the clear limits of the projection of American global power, combined with the assertion and coexistence of multiple regional powers - Turkey, Israel, Iran, Hizbullah, Syria, Hamas, Saudi Arabia and others. These regional actors tend to fight and negotiate at the same time, and ultimately prefer to make compromises rather than perpetually wage absolutist battles.
The Doha accord for Lebanon was much more than simply a victory for Iranian-backed Hizbullah over the American-backed March 14 alliance. It was the first concrete example in the Arab world of a negotiated, formal political agreement by local adversaries to share power and make big national decisions collectively, while maintaining close strategic relationships with diverse external patrons in the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The Lebanese agreement (unlike the failed Fatah-Hamas unity government agreement) is likely to succeed because all the parties know that to live together peacefully they must make mutual compromises. This accord has been forged in the furnace of Middle Eastern demographic and political realism, in contrast to the hallucinatory absolutism that often drives US-Israeli policy in the region.
Subject: "A HERETICAL THOUGHT FOR PEACE" (2003)
Osama Bin Laden has made Al-Qaeda's position crystal clear in his latest tape released on May 16. He said the fight for the Palestinian cause is the most important factor driving Al-Qaeda's war with the West and that was the primary reason for 9/11.
It sounds topical enough given the amount of attention that the Washington is presently giving the Israel/Palestinian peace quest. But, in truth, Bin Laden may well be behind the curve.
A two-state solution can no longer be a viable political goal, because: a) in terms of the demographics a Muslim majority in Israeli-controlled territory is less than a decade away, b) the Israelis have effectively created a single state encompassing both Jews and Palestinians. To all intents and purposes it imitates the South Africa of apartheid days, a unitary state with a minority group attempting to rule by oppression over a majority.
The only way to bring peace is to do what the white South Africans did under President F.W. de Klerk. As he once explained it to me, he felt compelled to negotiate with the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela, not because of the outside world's sanctions, but because he realized that South Africa was becoming unlivable for all and a way had to be found for the minority to live safely under the rule of the majority.
All Photographs Copyright 2008 Christopher Keeley