Listen to the Arabs

Parag Khanna writes:

If Arabs are supposed to be lining up with the United States and Israel to contain the hegemonic ambitions of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then why did Syria host a “war council” of Iran and Hezbollah in Damascus last month? And why is Qatar exploring gas fields jointly with Iran?

The fact is that most Arabs prefer a modus vivendi with Iran — just as many tacitly collaborate with Israel on matters of mutual interest.

Rather than seeing themselves as trapped between Israel and Iran, the most common Arab objective seems to be to limit excessive American influence in their region.

Americans widely believe that the Arab world was elated by the election of President Obama over a year ago. That is so, but not because the Arabs want strong American leadership in their region; they’d prefer to run their own affairs with minimal American interference. From engaging Hamas to negotiating with Iran, Arab states are taking matters into their own hands. And that’s good.

In the run-up to the Arab League summit this weekend, the organization signaled to the Palestinian leadership that it backs direct talks with Israel on final status issues, and is moving toward creating an Arab peacekeeping force to stabilize Gaza and re-integrate Hamas into the Palestinian government.

Dealing with the Palestinians’ internal divisions in this way achieves America’s objective of subduing Hamas in a far better way than any American efforts to date.

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