Never a Dull Moment in the Middle East

The present flap in Lebanon is one more example of this:

The crises was sparked last week in Beirut when the government of Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora ordered the communication and surveillance network at Runway 17 of Beirut Airport be dismantled, claiming it was "illegal and unconstitutional"…

Hezbollah cried foul, claiming the network had been in place for years, adding that dismantling it was a red line because otherwise Beirut Airport would be "transformed into a base for the the CIA, the FBI and Mossad, referring to American and Israeli intelligence.  Hezbollah secretary general Hasan Nasrallah spoke just hours after the crisis started, saying the communication system and Shuqyar were "red lines" that could not be crossed. He reminded his audience that when Siniora became prime minister in 2005, one of the main points of his political program was "supporting the resistance" and giving it (Hezbollah) a free hand to wage its "war of liberation" against Israel in any way it saw fit.

And Hezbollah showed it had the "right stuff" to back itself up too, blowing away the government, the Sunnis and the Druze in one shot.

That illustrates the central problem in the West’s approach to "peace in the Middle East:" whom do you negotiate with?  The Israelis are in the same boat with Fatah vs. Hamas, while the U.S. tries to sort out an even bigger mess in Iraq with the Kurds, Sunnis, Shi’ites, the various factions in each and the foreign powers (Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, etc.)  In the region which invented power holder/power challenger/careerist politics, it’s sometimes hard to know where to start a "peace process," let alone finish one.

The Arabs and others in the Middle East are going to have to decide for themselves that they want stable, transparent government before we can even consider rationally negotiating with anyone.  Until then, we’re best off letting them fight amongst themselves and exerting enough damage control to minimise the effects of the chaos.

As far as Lebanon is concerned, my guess is that the Saudis, having been shamed by Hezbollah’s success, will do what they have to do to restore their honour.  It won’t be pretty either.

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