Rami G. Khouri writes: Every once in a while the Middle East region experiences a series of major and simultaneous developments in several different arenas, indicating that something important is taking place. We are passing through just such a moment this week, with quite dramatic developments in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine-Israel, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and several Arabian Peninsula states, without any sign of what is truly historic and new and what is a passing phenomenon.
Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed to learn that nobody is in charge, as they had long imagined, or is pulling strings to achieve predetermined objectives, like the break-up of large Arab countries into a series of ethnic principalities, or the control of Arab countries by Islamist groups beholden to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States. Local dynamics primarily drive each set of major changes across the region, with cross-border linkages following as a corollary in most cases.
Iraq is pursuing its own post-war domestic conflicts and stresses and trying to figure out the balance among its Arab and Kurdish components, its Iraqi and Iranian interests, and the frail communalism among Iraqi Arab Shiites and Sunnis. The United States is pushing hard to revive a Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiation by focusing on three tactics that have repeatedly failed and probably will fail again: tripartite meetings with Jordan; talks between Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, who would not recognize a credible peace process if they found it in their soup; and, a proposed $4 billion development initiative for occupied Palestinian territories that focuses on economic development rather than liberation as the antidote to the depressed condition in Arab Palestine. [Continue reading…]