May 27th, 2008On this day in different years

Chris Keeley

A new Middle East, but not Condi's

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is an interesting -- and encouraging -- perspective from Beirut-based journalist Rami Khouri, published in the DAILY STAR (Beirut).

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.

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Chris Keeley



To: Undisclosed-Recipient

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is a heretical article of my own, published five years ago by (among others) the International Herald Tribune, which matches the view of the merits (or otherwise) of American meddling in the Middle East evoked in Jonathan Power's new article circulated earlier today.

June 12, 2003 -- Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo)
June 12 -- Al-Quds (Jerusalem)
June 13 -- Jerusalem Times
June 14 -- Arab News (Jeddah)
June 16 -- Daily Star (Beirut)
June 16 -- Jordan Times (Amman)
June 21 -- Asharq Al-Awsat (London)
June 22 -- Sunday Mail (Nicosia)
July/Aug. 2003 -- Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
October 1 -- International Herald Tribune (Paris)
October 4 -- Al-Mustaqbal (Beirut)
October 5 -- Gulf Times (Doha)
October 26 -- Al-Eqtisadiah (Jeddah)

By John V. Whitbeck
In early June, the respected Pew Research Center in the United States released the latest of its global opinion surveys, which polled more than 15,000 people in 21 countries in the wake of the invasion and conquest of Iraq. The results attracted considerable attention in the American press.
A primary focus of press reports was the surge of anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. In traditionally pro-American Jordan, 97% of those polled opposed America's "war on terror", while, in NATO-member Turkey, 83% expressed an unfavorable opinion of the United States. The selection of Osama bin Laden by the publics of five of the eight Muslim countries surveyed (Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Palestine) as one of the three political leaders they would most trust to "do the right thing" in world affairs did not go unnoticed.
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Chris Keeley

article by Jonathan Power, published in today's ARAB NEWS (Jeddah).

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is a heretical -- and very wise -- article by Jonathan Power, published in today's ARAB NEWS (Jeddah).

Why the Middle East Doesn't Matter
Arab News
May 26, 2008

Jonathan Power



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.


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