Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Middle East Wrap (or, the Weekly Falafel)

Well, we've been all excited about the Russians this week, and ignoring a few important issues in the Middle East. I present a quick recap:

Musharraf is resigning before his impeachment... probably. What's this mean for the War on Terror?

It gives Gilani and the ruling coalition a shot in hell at winning the favor of the Army. If Musharraf resigns voluntarily, it will be a sign that he approves in some way of the democratic process that took power from him--and so his loyalists may resign themselves for supporting it, as well.

In other news, the Syrians and Lebanese have in fact followed through with their Club Med promises and have begun demarcating their border, exchanging ambassadors, and formal recognition, which will officially leave the Syrians an inch closer to a pro-Western stance. Syria looks committed--Mideast peace now (probably) hinges Assad's willingness to speed-negotiate with Olmert (though, honestly, the terms should be pretty simple) for formal recognition and peace with Israel.

Given the mounting pressure, Hamas is responding as predicted--they are looking to get along with moderate factions that might be able to keep them afloat. They have turned away from their angered isolationism and seek the approval of Jordan and Fatah. Fatah has consolidated its power in the West Bank, and Hamas controls only the tiny strip of Gaza--a region very easy for the Israelis to police. Reconciliation with Fatah in a national PA union might be the only way they prevent themselves from being choked off. In addition, The West Bank's eastern neighbor of Jordan is restoring relations with Hamas after refusing to speak with them due to their terrorist tendencies. These are both big steps for Hamas, given the West's (and particularly president Bush's) support for Jordan and Fatah. Should Hamas require the support of the Arab League for survival, it will have to behave and stay privy to the whims of pro-Western states like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, lest they again become pariahs.

In Iraq, news of bombings against Shiite pilgrims is indeed tragic, but hope can be read into it--specifically, that there are no anti-Sunni reprisals. These kinds of attacks are clearly designed to provoke a renewed sectarian war, but they continue to fail. Now, unlike a four-year-old, extremists like Al-Qaeda in Iraq (most likely responsible for the violence) are not simply going to stop throwing sand when ignored (despite many folk theories to the contrary). But, if they are not able to instill sectarian violence, they will die. If the Shiites don't attack the Sunnis in response, then the Sunnis have no reason to feel threatened. If they don't feel threatened, then your average Mohammed is not going to give his hard-earned money to thugs with guns to stay safe (as was the problem in 2004-2007). Without money, Al-Qaeda is going to struggle to fund further suicide bombings, pay for adequate supplies for insurgents to go full-time, etc. As we've mentioned before, Al-Qaeda in Iraq is desperate, and exhausting itself to try and provoke any violence it can. Its continued failure, along with the Iraqi Army's maturation, makes it clear that Iraq is in cleanup mode. Now we need only wait for elections in October.
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