ان الشرق الوسط مهم
أنجلوس تايمز - 18/6/2007
هل يجب علينا أن نتخلى عن الشرق
الأوسط بهذه البساطة؟
the Mideast matters
we simply ignore the
AND RULE was an old maxim of Britain's empire. In the
Middle East today, there's certainly no shortage of
division. But who is ruling as a result?
lingering hopes of a two-state solution to the conflict
between Israel and the Palestinians evaporated last week
as the Islamist extremists of Hamas seized control of
the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas, leader of the more secular Fatah party, now finds
himself president of the West Bank only. The next Middle
Eastern peace plan will have to be a three-state
solution: Israel, Hamastan and Fatahland.
I say three? I meant four. Because no peace could last
long if it didn't somehow end the threat to Israel posed
by Hezbollahstan — the strip of Lebanon controlled by
the Iranian-backed terrorists whom Israel failed to
obliterate last summer.
even as hooded Hamas gunmen and Fatah forces traded
bullets in Gaza, and even as another anti-Syrian
politician was blown to pieces in Lebanon, Sunni
militants in Iraq destroyed the twin minarets of the
Golden Mosque in Samarra, finishing the job they began
last year, when they demolished its golden dome. Nothing
could be better calculated to intensify the sectarian
conflict there and push the country another step closer
to bloody partition.
don't forget Kurdistan, the semiautonomous republic in
northern Iraq that is set to be the third state in
Iraq's three-state (dis)solution. The Turks haven't.
They're currently massing troops on its border.
I said, there's no shortage of division in the Middle
East. But who gets to rule is less clear.
some time I have been warning that the next great global
conflict will begin in the Middle East, just as the two
world wars had their origins in Eastern Europe. The
lethal combination of ethnic disintegration, economic
volatility and an empire in decline (in this case, the
U.S.) makes an upward spiral of violence hard to avoid.
Add to that the demographic pressures caused by high
Muslim birthrates, the money generated by vast deposits
of oil and natural gas and the risk that the most
revolutionary power in the region will soon possess
nuclear weapons — and you have a recipe for Armageddon.
can the rest of the world do? According to Edward
Luttwak, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, the answer is: Ignore it. In a
recent article, Luttwak dismisses the entire region as
"the middle of nowhere," arguing that
overblown prophecies of doom are, after oil, the Middle
East's biggest export.
argument is twofold. First, we exaggerate the importance
of the violence there. After all, he writes, "the
dead from Jewish-Palestinian fighting since 1921 amount
to fewer than 100,000." And Iran, he says, is no
more of a threat to the West than Iraq was.
the same time, Luttwak insists, we exaggerate the
economic importance of the Middle East. In truth, it is
an underachieving region where "almost nothing is
created in science or the arts." Its principal
export is oil, but global dependence on that is
the only rational policy is one of benign neglect.
"Backward societies," he concludes, "must
be left alone, as the French now wisely leave Corsica to
its own devices, as the Italians quietly learned to do
all the commentaries I have read in the last six months,
this stands out as the silliest. Does Luttwak seriously
believe that the disintegration of Iraq (or for that
matter, of Iran, which he foresees) can be compared with
the trivial disorders of Corsica and Sicily?
in Iraq is claiming the lives of about 3,000 people a
month. Since 1998, according to the Memorial Institute
for the Prevention of Terrorism, Middle Eastern
terrorism has killed 24,289 people. Is this Luttwak's
idea of an acceptable level of violence? And would he
like to offer an estimate of how many people may die in
the next 10 years, as Iraq falls apart and the
Israel-Iran showdown reaches its climax?
more, it is simply ludicrous to claim that the Middle
East is economically irrelevant. True, the West is less
dependent on oil from the region than it was in the
1970s. But has no one pointed out to Luttwak the
trajectory of global oil supply and demand? The oil
fields of the rest of the world are likely to be
exhausted much sooner than those of the Middle East,
which today account for 62% of proven reserves, compared
with 54% in 1980. Meanwhile, Asia's economic boom is
causing an unprecedented increase in demand. If Middle
Eastern oil is so unimportant, why were crude futures up
to $67 last week?
from benign neglect, what is desperately needed in the
Middle East is a more effective policy of diplomatic
intervention — to establish some kind of rule amid all
worry is that with two U.S. aircraft carrier strike
groups off the Iranian coast and an admiral newly
appointed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
precisely the wrong kind of intervention may be about to
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